Tuesday, May 19, 2015

INTERVIEW - Dark Days Gone: The Unexpectedly Bright Future of Coal Chamber

Photo by Dan Santoni

Imagine crossing paths with a former lover from your distant past. Would the meeting go well, or would it be an emotional train wreck? Would it be possible to rekindle the magic, or would the mere thought of being friends again be enough to turn you off? Reconnecting with someone who represents so much history and baggage is always a tricky thing, which makes the unexpected (and so far incredibly fruitful) reunion of Nu Metal veterans Coal Chamber so intriguing.

Today marks the release of Rivals, Coal Chamber's first album in 13 years. Easily of the year's most vicious Metal releases, Rivals finds the band (now comprised of original singer/current DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara, original guitarist Miguel "Meegs" Rasc√≥n, longtime drummer Mikey “Bug” Cox and later-period bassist Nadja Peulen) pummeling through perhaps their strongest effort to date. The album's many highlights include the menacing "I.O.U. Nothing" and "Suffer In Silence" (the latter featuring a guest vocal appearance by Al Jourgensen of Ministry.)

Considering Dez Fafara's heavily-tattooed image and imposing stage presence, it might come as a surprise to many that he is one of the most unassuming, well-spoken and insightful people in the business - a fact made crystal clear in the following interview. 

The obvious first question is, why now with Coal Chamber? Obviously, you've been very successful doing DevilDriver all these years. Why was it time to bring Coal Chamber back and do this new album?

We started talking in 2006, when Meegs came up and did “Loco” with DevilDriver in California. Then in 2009, he gave me a couple of songs that I demoed on. We listened to them, and they definitely sounded like old Coal Chamber. At that point, I don't think any one of us were at the point where we wanted to do that throwback music. Plus I [thought] the conversations and dialogue needed to be opened more. At that point, the mending started to heal in order for us to get together and go do a tour.

We started to tour in late 2011 into 2012. We went over to the Soundwave Festival in Australia. When you step out on tour in front of 50,000-60,000 people and they're singing all the words in a place you haven't even been...it was magnificent. It was like saying, 'Okay, we either struck a nerve back in the day or people have long memories.' I think it's a bit of both. As far as why now? I don't know; it could have happened in 2009. But in 2012 when we were at Soundwave, we were on these buses that bring all the bands back to the hotels from the Festival. Meegs was listening to some music in some headphones; I grabbed the headphones and said, 'What is this?' He said, 'It's just some music I'm writing.” I said, 'For who? For what?' He said, 'Just some stuff I'm writing, Dez.' I was like, 'Let me tell you, if your writing, the arrangement and the sound is this mature, this is probably the time for us to get together and see of we can do a new record.'

That being said, too, I would be remiss to not bring up the fact – and it should be resounding clear to everyone reading this – that if you ever have a chance to make up with an ex love or ex best friend who you had forever but had a falling out with over something stupid or a job that rightfully fired you and you want to go back to that guy and say, 'Thanks for firing me. I finally got my shit together because of it,' then you should do that in life. I don't want to live with regrets.

I think the timing was perfect was well. In 20 years of doing both Coal Chamber and DevilDriver, I had never taken time off. With DevilDriver, we did six records in 12 years. Most bands take a year off between cycles, but we never did that. We keep spitting out good music and just toured, clocking more road miles than literally any band on the planet. Finally, after Winter Kills came out – it debuted higher than any of the others and was extremely praised by critics and fans alike – [I thought], 'Okay, this is the time when we take off and regroup.' Mike Spreitzer, my guitar player, said, 'Yeah, I'm going to build my home studio and surf.' I said, 'I'm going to finish my studio here.' During that time, knowing that I had time off, Coal Chamber approached me and said, 'Do you want to do a record?' I said, 'I don't want to go anywhere to do a record.' They go, 'You have a home studio. You can sing during the day.' My main goal was to have dinner with my family every night...In over 20 years, I can't tell you how many times I actually have done that. I said, 'I can definitely record during the day and hang out with my family at night.' Then they came to me when the record was done [and said], 'You've still got a year and a half off. How would you like to do five or six weeks in the states with us?' I said, 'No problem; let's go do that.' Then after that, it was, 'Hey, do you want to take eight days and go do Monsters of Rock in Brazil with Ozzy, Judas Priest and Motorhead, and do Chile and Mexico City?' I asked my wife, 'How do you feel about me splitting just for like a week?' She said, 'No problem, honey. Go ahead,' because I had been home, you know what I mean? It all worked out very coincidentally, and give Coal Chamber adequate time touring for the new record and adequate time to make the record.

Now that you have this rare benefit of being back in the band roughly 20 years after the first album and 13 years since the split, and you're working together in the present tense, how would you say the band has evolved in that time – not only in terms of your personal relationships, but how you guys communicate and work together in writing songs?

Personally, it's just on a totally different level. Meegs is married, very mature and has his shit together. Mike's got a baby boy who is a year old and is the light of his life, and Mike is sober. This band would definitely not be together if he was not sober, so we all get behind him on that. The relationships have gotten to the point where communication is the top priority. The first night we were together in the rehearsal room jamming, my wife asked, 'What did you guys get done?' I said, 'Nothing but laugh.' Literally laugh at all the bullshit and everything from the past. We'd make little comments to each other – the kind of stuff we used to say to each other – and just start laughing. That kind of a thing made me really feel like there was something special going on, like, 'It's okay, man. I definitely want to do music with these cats.' So everything has changed. Musically, it is completely different. It's on a much more mature scale, both in writing and arrangement. I think the way we go about writing has always been the same – very old school, lock ourselves away in a room, write, share back and forth until we get it right, get a producer, make sure our arrangements sound correct and have him go through it with a fine-toothed comb – which we did with this record.

[The response] has been overwhelmingly positive. One thing that is apparent is that we didn't want to be part of some nostalgia trip and some '90s throwback sound. We definitely wanted to do something different and new, and I think we have.

Looking back at the band's history, you have had some changes in the past when it comes to the bass player slot. How do you think having Nadja back at this point in time most benefits what you're hoping to do moving forward?

When we first started touring [again], she wasn't ready; she had some other stuff going on. Everybody had to be totally together in their minds and ready to do it. She wasn't at that point. [When we] got back together for another round and talked about making a record, it was very much on the top of our heads: 'Hey, let's talk to Nadja and see where she's at now.' She was just in a really great place personally and with us. She's a monster on stage, and she’s an absolute monster in the studio. She came in and in four days just killed her parts. I don't know a lot of bass players on a record that's going to be of this caliber who can just go in and wail on it like that. She brings her own style to things, and she's a bit of a mediator between is as well. That has always been a fantastic part of her place in the band. And not so much now because there's never any conflict because the communicate is open, but now more so than when she hears us say something to each other that makes us laugh, she starts laughing and brings another perspective, like, 'Oh God, I remember' this or that and then we all start fucking laughing at her view of what she was seeing before the split. So it's critical.

How did Uncle Al get involved in the proceedings?

Great friend, longtime friend and a progenitor of a scene. The guy started Industrial music; you wouldn't have all those bands out there now without him. He's somebody I've always looked up to. Over the years, I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of great artists, and he was one of those dudes on my list. I was like, 'I really want to work with Al.' I think he understood the lyrics to 'Suffer In Silence.' Are you keeping something in for so long that you'll explode? Eventually, you have to let it out; otherwise, you end up suffering in silence. He was like, 'Okay, I'm into this.' He understands heavy music, but he also understands the Goth aspect of what we are. We could just as easily listen to The Damned and Bauhaus as we can Black Flag or Black Sabbath – or Soul music or anything with any kind of groove. There are so many diverse things within this band, but I think putting all those thongs together led me to the conclusion of, 'Lets work with Al, man.' I called him, he wanted to do it and he came down here. We had a big Italian dinner, and we drank a bunch of wine. He went inside my studio, and I think one of the key things is you've got to imagine listening to Al getting his vocal sound. All of a sudden, there's that Al Jourgensen/Ministry sound coming out of my sound booth at my house. It's pretty spectacular – a moment that was engraved in me. When he came over, he brought me this leather bracelet; he had engraved the date that we worked together, and it had my name on it. It was just a real cool night, man. Rarely do you get a different caliber of musician to do stuff like that, so any time you can have that happen is automatically a magical moment.

Interestingly enough, the band's been away for over a decade – a millennium in the music industry. Now that you're back doing it with Coal Chamber, how would you say the gap in time has affected audiences? Do you see a lot of guys in their 30s who were from the original era, or it mostly younger fans?

You know, it's really crazy. We do a Meet and Greet every night [for] 50 or 60 people before the doors open, then there's anywhere from 1,000 to whatever in the room. It's been very apparent to us that it's probably about 75 percent kids who were not even born when we released this stuff. Although we do have the 35-year-old cat bringing his nine or 10-year-old kid out to the gig to meet us, the whole front row is young kids. I don't know how that happens; it's a blessing for sure. But the diversity amongst the fans is really cool, man. And this is [on] the heels of a band that graced the cover of Kerrang! a million times, and Kerrang! will talk to us now and be like, 'Yeah, we'll come do an album review, but you guys are not really our demographic.' It's like 16 to 20-year old kids who read the mag, but Kerrang! hasn't been to a show and seen what's really going down. The United States was a real eye opener, and then we took it overseas. That was crazy. All of Chile and Mexico and Brazil...it was like young, young kids. I don't know how that happens, but you gotta feel like we struck a nerve somewhere down the line.

I had one kid who was like 17 say to me at a Meet & Greet, 'Dude, you started all this, man! You started all this scene!” I was like, “Started this scene? What scene? What bands do you think Coal Chamber started the scene of?' When he went through the list, I was Iike, “Huh. Okay.” I was actually taken aback; I was like, 'You know what? I see what he's talking about.' Anytime you can have influence on bands coming up, it's a good thing. When you get a diverse culture of people coming out to see you after being gone 13 years, you just kind of look up at the sky and say, 'Hail the Stars,' you know what I mean?

Who are some bands you're sharing stages with now who you watch and obviously feel that connection, that they got something from what you were doing back in the day?

It would be tremendously egotistical of me to point out bands, like, 'Oh, yeah. They directly took that from Coal Chamber.' I'm not even going to begin. But we did help a lot of bands come up. When we had Gold records, we took them out on tour and they are on the top pinnacle of their career now. It's good to see.

You're probably the only [interviewer] who hasn't asked me this, but everyone else asks me, 'So what do you think about this Nu Metal revolution coming back out?' It makes me laugh, because I'm thinking to myself, 'Dude, what are you talking about?” Slipknot are arguably one of the biggest bands on the planet next to Metallica and about as Nu Metal as it gets. System Of A Down, Korn, Deftones...I can just go on forever and ever. If you listen to and look at Five Finger Death Punch – Zoltan and those guys are good guys – they remind me of a Nu Metal band, in both their sound and their look. Obviously, that style of music has crossed through to different bands, and different bands have taken either the look or the sound or the arrangements that we all did and are putting it into current styles. Not only that, most of the large touring bands are from that era, so I don't think Nu Metal went away at all. It only became a dirty word when there was like a second wave of bands coming in that just did not fit what we were all doing and what we were all part of.

I talk to a lot of bands from the '90s who are now getting back into the groove and trying to see how things go in today's industry, which has obviously changed tenfold since Coal Chamber was active the first time around. But despite that, you had DevilDriver through all these major changes that have hit the industry – from social media to downloading. What have been some of the biggest lessons or experiences you've encountered in the last decade or so in this industry with DevilDriver that you hope to apply to Coal Chamber to maybe protect them from the issues that some of these bands are having coming back now because they don’t have that insight?

I think the main thing is communication. Then, in both bands, we make sure we do our own thing. In DevilDriver, we've done our own thing for 12 years. Only now in the last few years have people started calling us 'Groove Metal' or 'the California Groove Machine.' I take to social media and I'm like, 'Well, who else is in the 'Groove Metal' category, guys?' People come by and say, 'Nobody, just you guys.' That's a real killer thing. It's the same thing with Coal Chamber; it's like, 'Lets do our own thing,' It's why we didn't want to be part of some throwback '90s record; that's why we didn't want to do the nostalgic thing. We wanted to do what was coming out of us naturally now. So that will protect you; having your communication level open to the way it should be so you can talk anything out – both musically and personally. And then make sure that you're doing your own thing. If you're into a scene, by the time you're doing it and getting signed, it's going to be done and over with, so you might as well do something unique anyway and just throw it against the wall and hope it sticks. As an artist, that's what it's all about.

Don't skew your music toward any media outlet. That's another thing I would tell artists. I hear it all the time: 'Well, we've got to have our next radio track or we're done as a band. We've got to write a certain song that's got to be 2:58 or radio's not going to pick it up. In order to make this one TV show, we've got to cut a bunch of these lyrics and a bunch of this midsection, but we need the media outfit to help us to be the progenitor of what we're doing.' It's like, 'Wrong!' Maybe it's because I was born in '66 or raised by hippies or the rebellion within me, but art doesn't work that way. It's the same way a painter doesn't say, 'If I paint in these certain colors, I know I'm going to sell all my artwork at that show on Friday night.' That's the guy I don't want to buy and hang up in my house at all.

Be brave in what you do. Keep your communication open. Do something different and try to stand alone on your own merits. A perfect example would be 'I.O.U. Nothing,' the new song off of Rivals. I could have easily backed down the vocals a bit. It's hitting Active Rock Radio now, but is it going to go full bore Active Rock? Doubtfully, because I didn't compromise. I was like, 'No, I'm not taking that midsection down a bit. It needs to be heavy like that; that's where the art stands.' Just by the grace of the Gods, I don't have a label or anybody I employ around me who says, 'You need to change that for commerce.' We never skew our art for commerce or for the media. Those are the things that I would impart on new musicians.

What are Coal Chamber's longterm plans, and what are your plans in terms of DevilDriver? Are you looking to do both bands on a fairly regular basis moving ahead?

The thing is, me doing Coal Chamber really did happen coincidentally. I was taking two years off. I could easily record a Coal Chamber album and be home with my family; that's why I did it. I could easily jump out for a few tours with these guys and be home, but my main thing is making sure I finish off a nice, long break from DevilDriver and do some of these shows on the Coal Chamber record. But that being said, I'm going in to record a new DevilDriver record October/November of this year. There have been member changes, after we did Knotfest. Austin D'Amond is on drums and Neal Tiemann is on guitar. Neil and Mike Spreitzer working together is a whole other level of things going on...I'll probably start some shows in early 2016 with Devildriver, but right now, Rivals would be relatively new, so I definitely want to give it its time and due.

When people say, 'What is the longterm future of Coal Chamber?' that's what we don't get caught up in doing anymore. That's what we did when we were young; that's why we did so many tours with Pantera and Black Sabbath and Ozzfest and never came off the road. It ground the hell out of us and was one of the parts that separated the relationships, so we don't go there. We don't talk about the long term; what we do is say, 'Hey, was the last tour fun? Yes. Was it a success? Yes. Would you like to tour again? Sure, book it.' After the next one, we do the same thing. After this record, no doubt we'll be, 'How was the record received? Well. Did you have fun making it? Hell yeah! I had one of the best times of my life. I had laugh lines I'll never get rid of from having a good time. Would you like to make another one? You know what? Yes!' But that's how we're taking Coal Chamber. 

DevilDriver's a different mentality. You get a DevilDriver record out, and you light a flame through a rocket and you go. You burn down every city you possible can. You go city to city as long as you can possibly take it. After this long, I don't think Coal Chamber's going to work like that. We're going to take our time with it and go tour to tour and make sure we're having a good time going it. That's the key word here, man – fun.

This is not the easiest business in the world to survive in, let alone have the career you've had. Because you've got some traction now and some things in the rearview mirror, what do you see as the greatest key to longevity in this game?

My family and not thinking about this game. That's it. People say, 'How do you juggle two bands?' I say, 'I don't.' I put my family first, then I give the bands the time that they need. I believe the reason I've had the career I've have is because I have the strong support of a wife I've been with for a long time, and good kids that I've raised right, and I'm a very private and reclusive person with a handful of good friends. I can count my close, close friends on one hand. I'm not a 'backstage' kind of guy; I'm not a strip club kind of guy. I don't get caught up in any of the stuff that comes along with being in a band. I really don't enjoy the, I guess, fame that comes from it; what I enjoy is touring and being in different places. I enjoy being on the stage and doing music, and I enjoy being in the studio. But a lot of the extracurricular stuff can really get to me. 

To give you an example, it took the band a while to convince me to do the Meet and Greets, just because when you put me in a room with more than 10 people, I split. I've been that way since I was kid. I'm socially awkward to the point of, 'I'm outta here.' And I'm still working on that, even later on in life. I hand it to Coal Chamber, because when we did those Meet and Greets, I'd come out after each one and go, 'Hey, that was a good time.' It's a good time talking to that one person and hearing that one story or hearing that kid say how he found out about Coal Chamber, so I'm learning to work through that. Those things are what's helped me in a business that just absolutely eats its own. If you want to go ahead and get into the music industry, I'm not going to tell you not to, but I'm going to tell you to have a very thick skin. You'll learn a few things about yourself and other people in the first year. Trust me.  

*Some portions of the above interview were edited for clarity. 

Photo by Dan Santoni

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LIVE REVIEW - Faith No More, The Orpheum Theatre (Boston, MA) 5/11/15

Photo by Joel Gausten

First of all, how mind-blowing is it that Faith No More's history dates back nearly 35 years at this point? Almost decade-old veterans by the time they finally broke into the mainstream with 1989's The Real Thing, Faith No More offered a wild ride of unbridled ideas that helped usher in the Alternative explosion of the '90s. The massive success of the band's experimental sound signified a major cultural shift in mainstream music where a band as decidedly out there as this could actually sell millions of albums. (It was a wondrous time, wasn't it?) Returning in 2009 after an 11-year break, the band has successfully maintained their status as the ultimate example of how to balance commercial success with what the fuck? eclecticism.

Naturally, the band's May 11 performance at Boston's Orpheum Theatre was esoteric from the moment the pre-show music (a gloriously odd assortment of tunes that included “Moon River”) died down and the crowd roared. Decked out in white, the band hit the flower-covered stage with “Motherfucker,” one of the many instantly unforgettable songs featured on the upcoming (and absolutely arresting) reunion disc, Sol Invictus. It got better and better from there: Drummer Mike Bordin and bassist Billy Gould locked in as only a decades-long partnership could, while frontman Mike Patton's vocal acrobatics and playful audience antagonism was an enthralling as expected.

Admirably, the group developed a set list that played to their greatest strengths: While “Epic,” “Surprise! You're Dead!” and their classic rendition of The Commodores' “Easy” were expected highlights, the band earned full marks for delivering deeper, less accessible cuts like the 30-year-old “Mark Bowen” and two songs (“Last Cup Of Sorrow,” an amazing “Ashes To Ashes”) from 1997's still-brilliant (and often-overlooked) Album Of The Year. And there's something truly beautiful in the sight of bald, bearded Metal bros cheering the group's cheeky cover of The Bee Gees' “I Started A Joke.”

Looking around the Orpheum, it was difficult to ignore the many wide smiles in the crowd - the result of not only nostalgia, but of genuine excitement to once again take in something they simply can't with any other band. It must be gratifying for Patton and Co. to come back after such a long time away and have an entire theatre sing a verse of “Personality Crisis.” While a good chunk of their '90s peers failed to survive the ensuing years, Faith No More's return has reminded us all of the immortal power of a truly extraordinary song.

Faith No More's late '80s/early '90s arrival in the major leagues was a high point in an era defined by an impressive array of acts (Voivod, Living Colour, Prong, Soundgarden, Primus, the criminally ignored Mordred) that pushed Metal into new territories. Twenty-six years (!!) after The Real Thing infiltrated suburbia and widened the genre's vocabulary, the band is still one step ahead of the rest of us – and trying to catch up to them is still a joyous listening experience.

Official Faith No More Website

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Bill Ward: Accountable Beasts

Earlier today, my recent feature on Bill Ward saw an unexpected postscript when I was received word that Accountable Beasts, Ward's first solo album in 18 years, quietly appeared on iTunes last night for the world to purchase and experience. This jaw-dropping announcement was clearly prompted by iTunes' surprisingly swift processing and posting of the album, a process that (as explained in my interview with Bill) was originally expected to take a couple of months. No matter when and how Accountable Beasts' arrival on computers and in earbuds around the world actually came to be, the important thing is that the album is finally here.

Here are some thought at first listen:

It takes only the first 60 seconds of the album-opening “Leaf Killers” to inform us that Accountable Beasts (which features Ward handling lead vocals on all tracks) will be an intense ordeal. Chilling orchestration and operatic female vocals permeate the proceedings, giving listeners an aural haunted house tour more akin to Cradle of Filth than the mellower sounds featured on Ward's previous album, 1997's When The Bough Breaks. The power continues through the firery, near-Industrial charge of the title track, while the menacingly mid-tempo “Katastrophic World” is the track on Accountable Beasts that most captures the spirit of classic Black Sabbath, thanks to Keith Lynch's heavy riffing and Ward's unmistakable drumming. The Metal power displayed on “Katastrophic World” reaches its zenith on the raging “Ashes,” which finds Ward's most incendiary solo album performance ever matched by some truly scorching work by longtime Bill Ward Band guitarist Lynch.

However, those expecting a full-on Metal assault throughout Accountable Beasts will instead encounter an album that mostly feels more like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The experimental “First Day Back” mixes touches of Psychedelica and Funk to offer the album's most eclectic moment, while the keyboard-driven “D.O.T.H.” soars thanks to Ward's McCartneyesque vocals and the unforgettable female voices that accompany them. The Beatles feel can also be felt on the understated “As It Is In Heaven.”

Originally released in 2002 as a charity single, the urgent (and 9/11-inspired) “Straws” makes a return appearance on Accountable Beasts, offering a harrowing narrative of a man desperate to protect his family as war breaks out around them. ("How am I supposed to save you, in this chaos?/ Clinging, please don't die/ Where are the defenses we were promised?/ Oh, I hope that they've arrived.") The album concludes with the 10-minute epic ballad “The Wall Of Death,” another brilliant reminder of Ward's ability to step away from the confines of Metal and produce music of stunning beauty and depth.

Considering the media frenzy surrounding Ward and Sabbath lately, Accountable Beasts will surely receive more attention than any of his past solo endeavors. Thankfully, the album is strong enough to put the naysayers in their place and fascinating enough to encourage those new to Ward's previous non-Sabbath work to track down those extraordinary records and hear what they've been missing all these years.

It is quite possible that I'll post another review of Accountable Beasts in another six months or so once I've had some real time with it. As I've learned with Ward's previous albums, it's important to really study and listen to what he comes up with, as there is often much more going on with his solo work than meets the ear during the first – or 50th – listen. (Heck, I'm still examining and dissecting Ward One: Along The Way 20-plus years after buying it.) Taking in an album as intense and involved as Accountable Beasts in one sitting is a daunting – actually, an impossible – task. But exploring Accountable Beasts further is absolutely a journey worth taking, and I hope this quick review encourages you to join the ride.

Accountable Beasts is available on iTunes. More information is available at www.AstonCrossMusic.com and www.BillWard.com.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FEATURE - Beyond the Beasts: Bill Ward Moves On

Photo by Joel Gausten

If you're a fan of Black Sabbath, there is a very strong chance you've been paying close attention to the Internet over the last few days.

In postings found elsewhere on the Web, drummer Bill Ward and singer Ozzy Osbourne engaged in a very public war of words over events that transpired during and after the ill-fated reunion of the original members of Sabbath in 2011/2012. Unfortunately, the dark clouds generated by the situation have obscured some of the very positive news surrounding not only Ward's health, but his long-awaited return to music.

We're talking two bands and two albums here, folks. But before getting into all of that, let's back things up a couple of weeks.

As many diehard Bill Ward fans already know, Ward made other headlines late last month when he made a special guest appearance at the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp “Masters of Metal” event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Boasting the involvement of other heavyweights like Michael Schenker (UFO/MSG/Scorpions) and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), “Masters of Metal” allowed “fantasy campers” to jam with and learn from some of their musical heroes. Instead of showing up and immediately rocking out in Metal glory, Ward decided to give the campers an intriguing history lesson.

I didn't want to do any Sabbath music,” he says. “Normally, when an artist shows up, they play things that they're most famous for or things like that... Instead, I wanted to do things that were influential to me before Black Sabbath. That's an important part of music as well, obviously. We decided to do some regular standard things, some Blues things. We did some Hendrix, Cream... For the drummers there, I wanted to do simple Bo Diddley rhythms, “Not Fade Away” probably being the most famous of them all. I wanted to focus on what things would be nice for drummers to play. We included a Blues song called 'Im Going Down,' which is basically four-on-the-floor... I had two youngsters playing with me; one of them was 10. He played unbelievably good. He was absolutely brilliant!”

Ward was especially blown away by the high level of enthusiasm and skill evident among the various campers who took part in the festivities.

I think the youngest guys were like six, maybe seven years old, and then we had guys about the same age as me!” he adds. “Everybody could rock; everybody was really nice and just so ambitious and so happy to be there. [My time there] was a very high-energy, well-meaning four/five-hour ecstasy of fun. For me, it was very enjoyable.”

Of course, Ward's participation in Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp signified his long-awaited public return to the drums. Mere days after having a shoulder operation in early October 2013, he suffered a perforated diverticulitis and underwent emergency surgery. The illness stopped Ward in his tracks for months.

When I got sick, that took center stage, so my shoulder was almost abandoned by everybody; they said, 'We're going to have to go back to the shoulder,'” he recalls. “Normally, after you have an operation on your rotator cuff – which is not uncommon for drummers who slam – it's usually two or three days of rest, and then you start to work and exercise it and you get back into shape. I've done this before; it's happened before and I worked throught it. As long as you do all the exercises, that's that. But I arrived back in the land of the living back in February of 2014 with a frozen shoulder.”

Fortunately, this setback didn’t derail the timekeeper for very long.

My [current] activity levels are very high; they have to be,” offers Ward, who says that he's now drumming four to six hours a day. “Because I did have something of a busted-up wing, if you like, I've really worked hard on that. But I'm playing at full capacity. By May of last year, I was definitely in shape to be able to play for sustaining amounts of time.”

Ward's time behind the kit these days is divided between his long-running Bill Ward Band (BWB) and a second, yet-to-be announced project (currently a trio) with guitarist Joe Amodea (who is the six-stringer featured in the much-discussed Instagram video made public last week). BWB is the group behind the soon-to-be-released Accountable Beasts, Ward's first solo album in 18 years. In addition to longtime BWB members Keith Lynch (guitar, keyboards), Paul Ill (bass) and Ronnie Ciago (drums), the album will feature contributions by drummer Walter Earl and an array of session singers including Ward's daughter, Emily. Ward's drumming will be heard on seven of the album's nine tracks.

Those familiar with Ward's 1990 solo debut Ward One: Along The Way and 1997's When The Bough Breaks know that the music released under his own steam (and often featuring his lead vocals) is usually a reflection of his softer, more soulful side. How does Accountable Beasts compare to these two previous releases?

It's much tougher; it kicks harder,” he reveals. “Most of the stuff is pretty heavy on it. It's very current lyrically. I don't intend to be current with anything; I just write the music and allow it to just be whatever it is. But when I listened to it in hindsight - we did the final mastering on January 6 of this year - I thought, 'Oh my God! A lot of the stuff we're writing about is on TV every day. Most of [the album] is about religion; most of it's about war. It's the stuff that makes the world turn 'round every day. It's about people's souls being ripped to pieces. I guess it could be called morbid, but at the same time I'm also hoping it can be called energizing and respectful lyrically. I've worked really hard on trying to produce something that would mean something to the listener who's drawn in by the music.

We got pretty crazy on this one,” he adds. “We just played; it was like, 'Fuck everything.' I wanted to go back to a place that I really know well, and that's playing hard.”

Accountable Beasts' life began around 2008, when Ward sought a creative way to take a breather from Beyond Aston, the solo album he has worked on in bits and pieces since the late '90s.

I tried to do something really stupid,” he recalls. “I tried to go, 'You know what? Let's keep [Beyond Aston] on hold and let's just put out something quick now.' It had been a while, and I thought, 'This is taking a long time; let's just do a quick album.'

Songs were written, plans were set...and then the realities of life took over.

I don't always have a huge budget to do these things, so we do it piecemeal,” Ward explains. “What I thought was going to be a relatively quick album [to] just get it out there to the public turned out to be nothing like that... I spent a year with Black Sabbath in 2011; I spent half of 2012 waiting to see what Black Sabbath might want to do in case they changed their minds. I re-kickstarted the finalization of Accountable Beasts in May of 2013. It took another while to get the final mixes – and of course it didn't help with me getting sick. I lost about five months.”

Heath and issues within Sabbath weren't the only roadblocks, as Ward also had to confront the challenges of ever-evolving technology.

While we're going through this process of trying to make music, times change - but so do electronics, hard drives [and] digital inputs,” he observes. “We [were] looking around and going, 'Oh my God! A lot of the things we started out with are all obsolete!' One of the biggest things I realized is that most people listen to music on earbuds. I was still laboring under the impression that people were going to be listening to this thing on speakers! It dawned on me that we would have to change all the mixes to an earbud mix. In the fall of 2014, I earbud-mixed every single track on Accountable Beasts; we went through everything again until we go it working in the earbud so it will hopefully sound good to the listener from an earbud point of view. I picked up some earbuds for about $25, and we did the entire album on $25 earbuds... That 'quick album' turned out to be an excursion for, what, six years?”

The self-released Accountable Beasts is expected to arrive on iTunes (complete with an extensive digital booklet) within the next couple of months.* Physical copies will also be made available.

Once Accountable Beasts is in the world, Ward will devote time to concluding Beyond Aston. He plans to be in final mixing mode by this September to finish things off. (One confirmed track, “Poppies,” is an emotional anti-war number inspired by the tradition of wearing a poppy on November 11 in honor of those who perished in battle.) Not surprisingly, Ward couldn't be more excited to reach this point with Beyond Aston after so many years.

It's fucking great; it's beautiful, man,” he says of the album. “I hope other people will like it. I think it's one of the best things I've participated in since Master Of Reality.”

The impending arrival of Accountable Beasts and Beyond Aston not only represents the final step in a years-long journey for Ward, but also serves as a reminder of the talents and contributions of his longtime cohorts. Keith Lynch has been a major part of Ward's solo endeavors since before Ward One: Along The Way, while Ill and Ciago have been part of the team for nearly two decades. Clearly, Ward has found a special combination of musicians that works.

The biggest and most important thing is they let me be who I am,” he explains. “I'm all over the place; every time I get up in the morning, I don't know if I'm going to be writing a song or not writing a song. Usually, I'll write something every day or come up with ideas all the time - 24/7 - and they let me be who I am. They let me go to wherever I've gotta go. They know that I'll come to them when I've got something in a rough working format, and then I'll ask them to see what they can do and explode on or where they want to go with [it]. They're very patient, which I think is the most important thing in the Bill Ward Band. They're all good musicians; there's a lot of ebb and flow. They allow me to be me. I need to have that; I need to be able to have the room to say, 'No, let's go here' and try different things all the time.”

Music isn't the only way that Ward has expressed himself in recent times. As previously discussed on this site, Ward unveiled his special fine art series, Absence of Corners, in the summer of 2013. Boasting 15 fine art pieces and billed as “a collection of rhythm on canvas,” Absence of Corners was created by Ward in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based visual art team SceneFour. As described on the project’s extensive (and aesthetically amazing) website (www.billwarddrumart.com), Ward “utilized a sophisticated formula to create the collection’s visuals, using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms are then studied and developed into abstract artwork that showcases a dimension not normally seen by the human eye.” Each numbered piece in the collection comes signed by the man himself.

In May 2014, Ward appeared at the Annapolis Collection Gallery in Annapolis, MD for a special two-day event that included public discussions of his art, private VIP receptions for buyers and (on the first night) a celebration of his 66th birthday complete with a vegan cake. In addition to providing an opportunity for Ward to showcase and discuss his various art pieces, the Maryland events offered the drummer a chance to connect with several fans and admirers in an intimate setting.

Meeting everybody, sitting down with everybody, holding hands, hugging each other and doing all of that communication was such an honorable thing to do and be a part of,” he says. “For me, it was just like man... I was on fucking fire, you know? It don't get no better than that, when you're meeting everybody that you love, and you know that they love you.”

Although the Maryland jaunt was ultimately a joyous occasion for Ward, he admits that the experience did come with some ups and downs.

When we did Absence of Corners [and] when we were in Annapolis, I was still in a lot of grief,” he shares. “First of all, I was grieving the loss of one of my best friends; that was Ozzy Osbourne. I missed him so much; it was just devastating to me. When I did the presentations of the paintings, there were some things that I was describing about some of [them]... and I know I was crying. I was still very much attached to all of the things that had held me tightly in Black Sabbath. There was my loyalty [and] love for the band. To create the things that we created together for years and years and years... I was in the grief of recognizing the new reality that I was [no longer] part of that. I don't want to bring up the issue because I've already very clearly stated it publicly, but there were some things that were going on that were really not okay for me. It was really painful to read some of the things I had read. I'm not saying that I've been a victim, as I've been told just recently, or [say this] out of self-pity, because I wasn't in any self-pity, either. I don't live there; I always get up and get going again.”

Despite recent turmoil within the Sabbath camp, nothing can take away how much the band's music has meant to people. Two months ago, the first Black Sabbath album – and the true start of what we all know as Heavy Metal – turned 45. Why does Ward feel this album continues to resonate so strongly for so many?

I believe that the first album has always been current,” he replies. “We were able to put something together that was completely current then and is just as current today. When you've got something that makes sense every day for 45 years, then you've really got something. Unfortunately, some of the things we were talking about, singing about and playing about are never-ending topics. War, hardship, addiction, losing one's self, losing one's soul, looking at things that we have to confront and overcome... it's exactly the same story today. I can put that record on right now – in fact, I probably will – [and] it's still one of my favorite records. The song 'Black Sabbath' is still the rallying point... Black Sabbath is a band you can hold onto and say 'Yeah!' and have something to bring comfort and whatever it brought to the individual listener... I think all of that is still in that album, and it continues to provide nourishment for everyone who can receive the nourishment from it. I think it's just generational. Unfortunately, we have exactly the same hardships - even worse in some cases - now than we did when we did [the album]. Things were really bad when we did that; the world was fucking on fire. And it's on fire now. Put the TV on today; the fucking world's on fire.”

With two new albums ready to go and and two bands to keep him busy, Bill Ward is not about to let his critics have the final word. Looking back at his tumultuous recent past, Ward says he found his greatest inner peace the same way he has since childhood – through music.

Where I've had to find solace is in moving ahead, embracing myself as a drummer and knowing full well that I'm utterly capable of playing,” he says. “In fact, in my trio where I only play drums, I've made it hard on myself, and I did that in Black Sabbath as well. I'm the hardest person on me – harder than my fellow band members could ever be. I find solace in being able to work past my difficulties, put myself in a position where I deliberately or unconsciously deliberately play in a trio where I have to play much harder than I would in Black Sabbath. I'm doing things now with bass, drums and control of cymbals at high speed that we never, ever even came close to doing in Black Sabbath. I'm always striving for the betterment of myself, and I find solace in that.”

*Update 4/26/15Accountable Beasts was quietly and unexpectedly released on iTunes last night. Go here or ordering info. Read my review of the album here. 

Bill Ward and Joel Gausten (photo by Cory Danziger)

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Friday, April 17, 2015

INTERVIEW - From Strangers to Stars: The Continuing Saga of UFO

left to right: Vinnie Moore, Paul Raymond, Phil Mogg, Rob De Luca, Andy Parker (Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions)

There are very few guarantees in life, but you can always count on UFO to deliver the real thing.

For nearly 50 years, UFO have consistently earned an international cult following by being one of the world's most durable and dependably strong Hard Rock acts. Fueled by original members Phil Mogg (vocals) and Andy Parker (drums), the current version of UFO (which also features former Spread Eagle bassist Rob De Luca taking the place of ailing original member Pete Way, guitar hero Vinnie Moore and longtime keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond) recently released the excellent A Conspiracy Of Stars, an album that easily lives up to the band's reputation. Perhaps best known for their legendary (and utterly bulletproof) 1979 live album Strangers in the Night, UFO is currently on the road in support of the new album (see dates below). Earlier this week, Vinnie Moore took a break from his touring activities for this quick, fun interview.  

You wrote the majority of the material on the new album. As a key songwriter for the band, what, in your opinion, makes a great UFO song? How would you describe the definitive UFO sound?

I think a big part of it is Phil’s voice. Once he sings over the music, it’s like the final stamp of authenticity. Musically, it just has to rock. The band has touched on different musical influences over the years - such as Blues, Melodic Rock and Metal - so there is no one formula for a song. It can be many different things.

What was [producer] Chris Tsangarides' greatest influence on A Conspiracy Of Stars? How did he most help the band accomplish what it set out to do this time around?

He stayed out of the way and just recorded us. That was probably the best thing that could have happened. He sat back and let the band be who we are without trying to influence the process or direction.

This is Rob De Luca's first appearance on a UFO album. What makes him the best choice to carry on the bass position in the band?

Rob has played with us live for many years now. He just seems to fit in stylistically and personally.

What is the current status of Pete's health? 

Actually, I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything recently, but hope to run into him on the upcoming UK tour.

Despite some breaks along the way, the core trio of Phil, Paul and Andy has stayed together for decades now. As someone who works so closely with them, what would say is the magic formula that makes the three of them work so well together?

The amount of alcohol that they consume collectively binds them together (laughs). They get along on a personal level and have been together for so many years that I think it just feels right for them.

The guitar position in this band was a rocky spot for many years, but you're 12 years into it at this point. For you, what has been the key to longevity in UFO? 

We all like what we are doing and have worked hard to keep things moving consistently over the years. We have never really taken too much of a break. We are having a lot of fun and the formula has been simple: new record...tour...new record...tour.

What is status of your solo work at this point in time? What can fans of your personal discography expect from you down the road?

I have a new solo instrumental album that is finished and will be coming out in the next few months.  

What are the greatest challenges of being a Classic Rock act touring and recording in their 46th year?

Making sure no one dies onstage or chokes on their own - or anyone else’s - vomit.

Why do you feel UFO hasn't achieved more success in the US despite producing such consistently strong material?

I really don’t know. I certainly knew who they were and was a fan as a kid. Maybe they didn’t get the promotion and push that they should have gotten. One example...I think they missed the whole early MTV video era that could have taken them to a higher level.

Eddie Trunk is definitely someone who has done a lot to promote UFO here in America. What impact has his support had on the band?

It is hard to measure and quantify these type of things, but it definitely hasn’t hurt.

Strangers in the Night is considered by many – this writer included – to be one of the greatest live albums of all time. Why do you feel this particular release still holds up so well after all these years?

It’s an exciting record, and so it has stood the test of time. Just like many records of that time period, it takes you back to wherever you were in your life at that point. People love to be brought back to their past - the good ol' days.

What does the future hold for UFO?

We just want to keep things going for as long as we are enjoying it. 

Current UFO tour dates:

Fri 17 England, Cambridge – Junction
Sat 18 England, Wolverhampton – Wulfrun Hall
Sun 19 England, Manchester – Ritz
Tue 21 Ireland, Dublin – The Academy
Wed 22 N. Ireland, Belfast – The Limelight
Fri 24 England, Glasgow – O2 ABC
Sat 25 England, Newcastle – O2 Academy
Sun 26 England, Leeds – O2 Academy
Tue 28 England, Nottingham – Rock City
Thu 30 England, Bristol – O2 Academy

Fri 01 England, Falmouth – Pavilion
Sat 02 England, Exeter – Phoenix
Sun 03 England, Salisbury – City Hall
Tue 05 England, Brighton – Concorde 2
Wed 06 England, Oxford – O2 Academy
Thu 07 England, London – HMV Forum

Official UFO Website

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Monday, April 6, 2015

Misfits Memories: How 'Earth A.D.' Changed My Life

Last week, the official lineup for the 2015 This Is Hardcore Fest in Philadelphia was announced. In addition to long-running scene stalwarts like the Cro-Mags, Slapshot, Biohazard and Killing Time, this year's event (held July 23 at Union Transfer and July 24-26 at the Electric Factory) boasts a July 25 headlining set by The Misfits, who are being billed as performing their 1983 album, Earth A.D., in its entirety.

Of course, today's version of The Misfits is vastly different than the band that recorded that album more than 30 years ago. If you venture out to This Is Hardcore to check out this special set, you will see bassist Jerry Only handling lead vocals (a role he's had for nearly 15 years now). On guitar, you'll see Only's son, Jerry Jr., who joined the band last year. On second guitar, you'll likely see either former Black Flag/DC3 member Dez Cadena (who has been playing with The Misfits since 2001 but recently announced an indeterminate break from the band to tend to health issues) or Soulfly/Il Nino/Cavalera Conspiracy player Marc Rizzo. On drums, you'll get a bona fide Hardcore guy in the form of Eric “Chupacabra” Arce a.k.a Goat on Murphy's Law, Skarhead, Harley's War and Crown of Thornz, who has played in The Misfits on a full-time basis since 2010 after filling in on several occasions in the prior decade.

Of course, the Earth A.D. announcement prompted a strong – and, in some cases, incredibly negative – response from fans. Personally, I'm thrilled by the news. And here's why...

When I was growing up and first discovering Punk and Hardcore, The Misfits were a huge deal to me. Being a North Jersey kid, I'd spot the poster for the Doyle Fan Club around – or see that amazing cover art for the full-length album version of Evilive – and marvel that a band that cool came from the area.

Although I was (and remain) a massive fan of Walk Among Us, it was Earth A.D. that knocked me over with its sheer power when I first heard it. I was already well into bands like Slayer and Metallica by then, but there was nothing that sounded that raw and menacing to my ears at the time. (I had a similar experience years later when I heard Hellhammer for the first time, but that's a story for another blog.) Later, my Earth A.D. cassette (yes, I said cassette) was a constant for me throughout my senior year of high school, when I'd often leave at the end of the day and immediately head over to Jerry's and make noise with him (and sometimes Doyle) for a couple of hours.

When I started hanging out and jamming with The Misfits in early '95 (the history of all that can be read here), I knew about 30-35 songs from their back catalog, but very little from Earth A.D. The reason for that was simple: There is a massive difference between the basic 4/4 I-can-play-this-in-my-sleep drumming on most of Walk Among Us and the frightening, breakneck precision of ROBO's performance on Earth A.D. Sure, the band live circa '82/'83 was an adrenaline-fueled train wreck, but Jerry, Doyle and ROBO are as tight as the Bad Brains on Earth A.D. (Just listen to “Green Hell” if you don't believe me.) In my mind, there was no way a 17-year-old version of me was going to be able to pull off that kind of speed and skill behind the drums– let alone on ROBO's old kit, which was what Jerry and Doyle had in the rehearsal room in their family's machine shop at the time. But I gave it a try, once bashing out “Green Hell” with Jerry and Doyle in a roomful of hopeful vocalists waiting for their moment to audition. I got through about three quarters of the song with flying colors before I missed one of those fast-as-fuck cymbal hits and it completely fell apart. Oops!

Left to right: Doyle, a 17-year-old/green-haired me and Jerry Only in 1995, probably moments away from attempting "Green Hell" (Collection of the author)

(A few weeks later, I went up to the machine shop and got the chance to see Doyle, Jerry and Chud bang out a good chunk of the Earth A.D. material the way it should have been played. I still remember literally feeling the power of Doyle's guitar hit my chest, and how well Chud handled those songs. When I saw that, I had no doubt that he would definitely be the drummer in the new Misfits.)

Looking back over The Misfits' vast and sometimes-turbulent discography, it's clear that Earth A.D. contains some of the heaviest and most brutally innovative work the band ever created. Have a listen to “Bloodfeast.” What other Misfits song (besides maybe “All Hell Breaks Loose” off Walk Among Us) demands such a varied drum performance? Without a doubt, ROBO was the strongest drummer the original Misfits ever had. As a songwriter, Glenn Danzig was beginning to greatly expand his musical vocabulary with Earth A.D., a trend he continued with his work in Samhain. If Walk Among Us represents The Misfits on Mars, then Earth A.D. represents the band's reign in Hell.

Naturally, the album's cover matched the brutal sounds within. According to legend, infamous Punk artist Mad Marc Rude spent more than 300 hours creating that piece. Not only did it perfectly represent the record's musical and lyrical content, but it also created the template for the years' worth of gore-infused Death Metal album covers to come. I was fortunate enough to meet Mad Marc in the summer of 1996, when he turned up at the Vernon, NJ stop of the Warped Tour with my buddies Sal and Dan Canzonieri of Electric Frankenstein. Although our conversation was brief, I'll never forget the guy. He was fucking intense – loaded with tattoos (including, if I remember correctly, one of Woody Woodpecker on his neck) and looking like he had lived very hard. Sadly, Mad Marc passed away in 2002. Those interested in checking out more of his incomparable art should definitely check out this Facebook page, Electric Frankenstein's Monster EP and his work in Dwarves frontman Blag Dahlia's brilliantly batshit 1998 novel, Armed to the Teeth with Lipstick. Additionally, a documentary on Rude's art and life, Mad Marc Rude: Blood, Ink & Needles, has been in production for years now and is said to be ready for wide release at some point later this year. Here's the trailer:

In addition to being my favorite album art of all time, Rude's Earth A.D. piece grew in personal significance when I accompanied Jerry and Doyle in the spring of '95 to the home of a fellow they called “King Resin,” who was making wall plaques of the album art out of a mold. The guys were nice enough to present me with the eighth Earth A.D. wall plaque ever made:

Painted versions of the plaque (along with a Jerry Only model and a “Pusshead” [sic] plaque), were later made available to the public, as seen in this rare order form from 1995:

Listening to Earth A.D. in 2015 brings back some strong memories for me. I can still see Jerry Jr., then just a little kid, asking his dad how much longer he was going to be doing band stuff at the shop that day because he was bored and wanted to leave. Another time, I redeemed myself in the Earth A.D. realm when I was jamming with Jerry and Doyle and we kicked into “Death Comes Ripping.” I hit the tune with as much energy as I could muster, and I absolutely slayed that fucker. When it was over, Jerry said I played the song too fast and needed to slow it down next time! Yeah...there I was, playing “Death Comes Ripping” on ROBO's drum kit and being told I played a song from Earth A.D. too fast. I consider that a major achievement to this day! (Unfortunately, I don't think that particular moment was recorded. Damn...) Above all, I remember Jerry putting in a lot of very long and hard days to get The Misfits going again. One minute, he was picking up boxes of t-shirts; the next minute, he was off to visit with Basil Gogos or Ed Repka to pick up artwork. After that, he'd head back to the shop, unload the stuff he picked up, handle a bunch of phone calls and then hit the practice/weight room to bang out a few songs before planning out more band-related stuff in the shop's large conference room. I spent a lot of time at the shop in that era, and it wasn't uncommon to see a typical Misfits-related workday for the guy start at 7:30am and end around 11pm. Jerry Only is the hardest-working, most professional musician I've ever known, and he's earned every penny he's made.

Earth A.D. was the soundtrack to a special time in my life. The album is irreplaceable to me.

With all that said, let's go back to the complaints concerning The Misfits' performance of Earth A.D. at This Is Hardcore. I find it amusing that some people will decry the idea of the Jerry-led Misfits playing an album without certain key members, but nobody seems to mind that the current Cro-Mags are selling a t-shirt with the words Best Wishes on it when nobody from today's lineup played a note on the album of the same name. I see no problem with either example, as I'd rather see these two bands honor their pasts instead of denying that there was a history before their current incarnations. It's also worth noting that before his medical problems recently took him out of the game, Dez served as the guitarist for The Misfits longer than any other six-stringer they've ever had (and that includes Doyle). Something else to consider: Jerry's stint as the band's singer has outlived the Danzig era (six years) and the Graves era (five years) combined. Simply put, there isn't a band on this planet - including a Jerry-fronted one - that can survive as a international touring act for nearly 15 years by sucking – regardless of whatever notoriety or success they achieved in the past. The reputation of the Danzig years might have allowed Only to get his foot in the door when he brought the band back in '95, but it is his talent, determination and drive that has kept him in the room for two decades and counting. If people from all over the world didn't come out in droves to see the Only-fronted Misfits play all these years – and the band didn't still put on a decent show - there wouldn't be a Misfits in the present tense. The band is obviously doing something right.

Yes, Jerry's voice cracks under the pressure of the material at times, but Danzig's been out of breath every time I've seen him perform in the last 10 years. That doesn't mean that these guys fail to deliver plenty of power from the stage; it's just that we're talking about guys who are in their mid- to- late 50s playing high-energy music they developed when they were in their 20s and 30s. You're not going to see or hear an exact replica of what they gave us in the '80s or '90s. Get over it and just enjoy the fact that these guys are still at it in 2015. In the case of today's Misfits, go on YouTube, watch videos of the current four-piece band and seriously ask yourself if you could bring the onstage energy that Jerry does at 56 years of age. I know I can't do it today at 38.

Twenty years ago, people said there couldn't be a Misfits without Glenn Danzig. Well, Jerry Only has proven everyone wrong ever since. Now he's taking on the heaviest and most challenging album in the band's discography from beginning to end while most people his age are enjoying AARP discounts. That is fucking Hardcore, and I'm going to make every effort to be there when The Misfits hit the stage in Philly.

Go here for more information on the This Is Hardcore Fest.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com