Monday, March 24, 2014

Oderus Nolongerwithus

Oderus died so he could go to Hell and give Fred Phelps a ride on the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu!

Rest in Peace Dave Brockie, a vastly talented and creative man - and one funny fucker. My deepest condolences to his friends, family and associates.

- Joel Gausten

Photo credit: Randy Blythe/


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

James Williamson Streams New Song, Comments on Scott Asheton's Passing

As previously reported on this site, legendary Iggy and The Stooges guitarist James Williamson is in the process of finishing Re-Licked, a collection of re-recorded version of rare Stooges songs, for release later this year. While on a break from the road, the members of the live touring version of The Stooges got together and recorded music that was originally penned by Williamson and singer Iggy Pop in 1973/74. These songs were never properly immortalized in studio form since the band didn't have a record deal at the time. Re-Licked will offer fresh takes on Stooges tracks such as "I Got A Right," "Rubber Legs," "She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills," "Wild Love" and others, with vocal duties handled by a vast array of guests including Jello Biafra, Mark Lanegan, Ariel Pink, Lisa Kekaula (The BellRays) and more. 

The first single from the project, "Open Up & Bleed"/"Gimme Some Skin," will be released on Record Store Day (April 19) and boasts vocals by powerful Blues singer Carolyn Wonderland. 

The Re-Licked version of “Gimme Some Skin” is currently streaming at Classic Rock Magazine. 

In other news, Williamson has released an official statement on the passing of Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, who died on March 15 at the age of 64:

To all my friends, Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts around the passing of our friend and bandmate Scott Asheton last night. My only comfort is that he reached out to me in an email about a week or two ago saying that he was thinking of me and the good times we had together and that he would like to make some music with me. I responded but he never got back to me again. I guess that was his way of saying goodbye for now… Anyway, my heart goes out to his immediate family Liz, Leanna Raquel Asheton and Kathleen Asheton. He was one of the good guys and a friend of mine.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

REVIEW - S.O.A.: First Demo 12/29/80 (Dischord Records)

In addition to consistently adding new releases by current bands to their always-intriguing discography, D.C.’s Dischord Records has devoted considerable time in recent years to reaching as far into the dusty crevices of their recorded archives as possible to uncover previously unheard (or at least widely uncirculated) early demos from some of their most popular artists. This ongoing project includes the 2003 release of Minor Threat’s 1981 demo as a 7-inch EP and the 2012 CD/10-inch release of the extraordinary 1984 demo by Rites of Spring. Now, the label has officially released the eight-song demo recording by State Of Alert (S.O.A.)

Of course, S.O.A. is best known as the very first band to feature the great Henry Rollins. When these eight songs were recorded at the end of 1980, Rollins was a 19-year-old kid going by his real last name (Garfield) and hanging around with friends like The Teen Idles. Joined by guitarist Michael Hampton, bassist Wendel Blow and drummer Simon Jacobsen (later replaced by Ivor Hansen), Rollins fronted S.O.A. from October 1980 through July 1981 with the same youthful, raspy exuberance that fueled his early work with his next band, Black Flag. First Demo 12/29/80 is exactly what you’d expect from a band of this age bracket from this era in underground music: The whole eight-song package is over in less than eight minutes, while the usual subjects (cops, fights, etc.) are attacked with the expected amount of vitriol. Sonically, the record sounds a bit like Damaged-era Rollins fronting Agnostic Front circa United Blood. The songwriting is as choppy as the playing, but you can definitely feel the anger and passion come through in the music. Also of note is the fact that the demo’s strongest number, the mid-tempo “Public Defender,” is the only number that doesn’t hit you in the face like a pre-Ritalin freight train.  

In many cases (especially on “Public Defender”), the performances showcased on this demo EP are more energetic and maybe even a bit cleaner than the music featured on S.O.A.’s lone official release, 1981’s No Policy EP.

Two of the songs featured on First Demo 12/29/80, “Disease” and “Stepping Stone Party,” were originally released on Dischord’s legendary Flex Your Head compilation, while “Gonna Have to Fight” later resurfaced on No Policy. The rest of the songs on this translucent red-colored record (beautifully packaged in a fold-out sleeve with reproduced show fliers, rare photos and even Henry’s hand-written ad for a drummer who “must have an attitude”) are unreleased versions. 

Although Rollins is the most prominent person attached to S.O.A., it is important to mention that the other members of the band later enjoyed interesting times in the music world. Blow became a member of Iron Cross, whose song “Crucified” (from the must-own Skinhead Glory EP) was later covered and immortalized by Agnostic Front. Hampton later played with Hansen in The Faith and Embrace before joining forces with Rites of Spring members Guy Picciotto, Brendan Canty and Edward Janney in the amazing (and sadly short-lived) project One Last Wish. He also played with Jacobsen in the Dischord band The Snakes. 

As for Rollins, First Demo 12/29/80 represents the man’s first step in a musical journey that resulted in some of history’s most powerful sounds. Within 12 short months of recording this demo, he had moved out West, joined Black Flag and posed for Ed Colver’s fake-blood-and-pre-smashed-mirror photo for the cover of Damaged. In December 1980, Rollins recorded eight songs in under eight minutes; in the early ’90s, he recorded a 14-minute song with the untouchable Charles Gayle. That’s one hell of an aural narrative. And thanks to Dischord, we can all finally experience this very first chapter.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

More Power: James Williamson on Scott Asheton, Unheard Stooges & Beating the Bootlegs

Photo Credit: Mick Rock (Order Raw Power-Legacy Edition:

Author's Note (March 16, 2014): I'm profoundly shocked and saddened to learn that Scott Asheton of THE STOOGES died last night at the age of 64. I had no idea that as I sat here last night writing a positive update on Scott's condition below, he was in fact leaving this world. It was a mere 13 days ago that I spoke to James regarding Scott, and all seemed to be going well. Now, I'm playing "Head On" from The Stooges'  Georgia Peaches live CD and remembering the man and his incomparable style. What a drummer. What an influence. Goddamn, I'll miss hearing that guy play. My deepest condolences to James and the rest of the Stooges clan on their loss. Thank you, Scott. You were fucking great.

It’s been an interesting few days for James Williamson.

Nearly two days after I published a full-length interview with Williamson regarding his upcoming Re-Licked album, Rolling Stone followed suit and ran their own story on the Stooges-centric project. Less than 24 hours later, the Rolling Stone piece was revised to include a statement from Iggy Pop’s spokesperson, indicating that all might not be well with between the singer and the rest of his band. While this was later followed by another statement from Iggy that sort of calmed things down a bit, this level of media activity/controversy has made Re-Licked one of the most talked about and anticipated/debated releases of the year. With news of the album going viral and Williamson tearing it up at SXSW this week, it doesn’t appear that the buzz surrounding this latest chapter in the Stooges saga will die down any time soon.

And that’s a great thing, because some serious justice needs to be served.

When it’s unveiled this fall, Re-Licked will finally present a number of classic Stooges tunes in a properly recorded form for the first time. When Iggy and The Stooges called it a day in 1974, songs-in-progress like “I Got A Right” and “She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills” were deprived of an opportunity to live on as legitimate studio recordings. Instead, these treasures were left to exist for decades in a perpetually recycled and regurgitated form, appearing on an ever-confusing slew of re-titled/re-assembled bootlegs. It’s become so wacky that not even Williamson can verify the source of some of the material that’s appeared on the market over the years. For example, a 2009 Cleopatra Records LP called More Power claimed to include 11 songs “recorded 1972-1973,” even though accurately placing the origin of the album’s versions of “Open Up And Bleed,” “Gimme Some Skin” and other tracks is a true head scratcher for the guitarist.
“I think I might have seen the album; I don’t even think I have a copy of it,” he says. “[The bootleg songs] come from a lot of different sources…I know they didn’t come from me. They could have come from Ronny Asheton’s basement, or Scott Asheton’s. Who knows what the source of [those recordings] was. If [More Power] has those songs on it, though, they would have to be live tracks, and could have come from the people who actually recorded the live tracks to begin with. We played those songs quite regularly back in that time, more like ’73-’74 in the last series of tours we did…They would not have been studio [versions]. ‘I Got A Right’ could have been kind of a demo thing, and actually ‘Gimme Some Skin’ might have been a demo thing too, so that’s possible - but certainly not ‘Open Up And Bleed.’ They were never recorded in a studio…It could have been a good rehearsal, though. We did some Detroit ones and things like that where they weren’t bad.”

So what does Williamson feel about this ever-growing pile of unofficial Stooges releases in the marketplace?

“What can I say? I don’t have any control over it,” he says. “If people want it, that’s going to happen no matter what we do. I think I’m flattered that all these years later, people are still buying that stuff. Even though it sounds like crap, they still want it because the songs are good. Sometimes, [the bootlegs] have other historical value and so forth. What I’m really hoping is that people will appreciate this fresh look at all this stuff that’s done properly.”

Although the songs on Re-Licked will certainly feel different without the presence of the Asheton brothers, fans can take solace in the fact that Williamson is offering one hell of a replacement rhythm section. Mike Watt’s talents and exploits in the music world are the stuff of legend, while Toby Dammit (a.k.a. Larry Mullins) once held his own in the mighty Swans. While nobody can ever replace Scott and the late Ron (just listed to “Head On” from the Georgia Peaches live disc included in the 2010 Legacy Edition of Raw Power for immediate confirmation of this fact), Watt and Dammit are more than capable of rising to this considerable challenge.

“They’re very, very good and we now have a lot of time together out on the road,” Williamson says.  “We have become very tight as a three-piece, and then of course there’s [Steve] Mackay on some of [the tracks]. It’s a fresh look at it, really.”

As for Scott Asheton, Williamson reports that the timekeeper – sidelined from touring in recent years over health concerns – is doing pretty well these days.

“He’s getting stronger and stronger,” he says. “He played on the last [Stooges] album, but it’s different to be in the studio. You stop and start when you want to or need to; you can control all that stuff. But when you’re playing in The Stooges, especially live, you don’t stop at all, really. It’s like one hour of continuous energy expenditure. Frankly, I don’t know how Ig does it. For me, it’s okay because I’m just standing there playing the guitar, but Toby Dammit is 20 years younger than we are, and it kicks his ass every singe night when we play live. Having Scotty more my age, pushing 65…it’s a real challenge. I don’t know if he’ll be strong enough in 2015 or whether he’s just gonna stick to the studio. We’ll find out, but I do think he’s doing much better.”

With all this talk of unearthed material, one has to wonder if there is anything from the post-reunion Stooges sitting in the vaults. According to Williamson, not everything that was recorded for Ready To Die was included on the album. One tune in particular, “Popular Pants,” could end up in the world sooner rather than later.

“I love that song,” he says. “I think it’s both funny and really sounds good, but it was more acoustic so it didn’t hold up against the rockin’ tracks very nicely. It was just too different, so we didn’t put it on there. But it’ll show up.”

An extraordinary collection of re-recorded Raw Power-era rarities on the way? The possibility of unheard Stooges material hitting the masses? This tale is far from over.

Visit James Williamson’s Official Website for regular updates on Re-Licked and other news.

Check out my previous feature on James Williamson HERE. 

Photo by Tanya Alexis


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Still Bleeding: James Williamson Adds Raw Power to Long-Lost Stooges Tunes

Photo by Tanya Alexis

It only took one album to make James Williamson a Rock legend.

In 1973, Williamson was an integral part of the creation of Iggy and The Stooges’ Raw Power, one of history’s greatest Rock albums. With Williamson on guitar, Iggy Pop on vocals, the late Ron Asheton on bass and Scott Asheton on drums, this incarnation of the band blazed the trail for Punk to come with tracks like “Search And Destroy,” “Raw Power” and “Shake Appeal.” An absolutely bulletproof release, Raw Power still sounds as fresh and aggressive today as it did 41 years ago.

When the always-reckless band imploded in 1974, a number of songs written by Williamson and Pop were abandoned without receiving proper treatment in a recording studio, surviving only in an ever-growing series of bootlegs of dubious quality and origin. Fast-forward to 2014, and Williamson is resurrecting and recording a number of these songs (including “I Got A Right,” “Rubber Legs,” “She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills,” “Wild Love,” “Heavy Liquid” and more) for Re-Licked, the debut release on his own Leopard Lady label. These new recordings will be fronted by a wealth of talented vocalists such as Jello Biafra, Mark Lanegan, Ariel Pink, the extraordinary Lisa Kekaula of The BellRays and others to be announced soon. In addition to Williamson, the music on Re-Licked is supplied by his current Stooges bandmates – bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen/fIREHOSE), saxophonist Steve Mackay and touring drummer Toby Dammit (Iggy Pop/Swans).

Fans will get a taste of the upcoming album next month when Williamson releases a limited-edition vinyl single,“Open Up And Bleed”/“Gimme Some Skin,” at independent record stores worldwide on Record Store Day, April 19th. Both songs feature the outstanding talents of Texas-based Blues belter Carolyn Wonderland. The album’s next single, “I Got A Right” / “Heavy Liquid,” will appear later this summer and feature vocals by Kekaula.

Re-Licked is the latest story in Williamson’s whirlwind second life as a working musician. After retiring from the music business at the dawn of the ’80s, he became a Silicon Valley executive thanks to his work in the electrical engineering field, eventually landing a position as vice president of technical standards for Sony. An early retirement buyout from the company in 2009 coincided with an invitation to re-join The Stooges, who had initially reformed in 2003. Before long, Williamson was onstage with his guitar for the first time in decades – and that sound was back. Last year, the Williamson-produced Ready to Die – his first album with Iggy And The Stooges in 40 years – was released on Fat Possum Records.

Williamson’s enthusiasm for Re-Licked was impossible to ignore when I phoned him earlier this week for the inside story on the project.

I’ve been listening to the single for the last few days now, and it’s been blowing my mind. To hear those songs in this light is really something else.

I’m just so psyched about this project so far! Its bringing new life to these tracks; its really great.

How did the idea to exhume these songs come about?

It’s been something we’ve been kicking around for a lot of years. We were originally going to record those songs back in the day because we had a deal with Columbia and were assuming that they were going to renew our contract. We were out on tour and writing all this new material and performing it, so that’s what you get on all those bootlegs that are out there. Of course, Columbia didn’t renew our contract. We didn’t have a record deal, so we never recorded them, but the fans have always been saying, ‘I wish they would re-record those songs.’ We hear that, and Ig and I were talking about it before we did the last album...I think that the conclusion we came to was, ‘No, let’s do new stuff. They’re always going to compare the young Stooges with the old Stooges’ version, and it probably wouldn’t be so great.’ So we didn’t do it. We’ve been touring steadily for the last four, four-and-a-half years. We announced at the end of last summer that we were going to take all of 2014 off, so that kind of gave me the time to go back and say, ‘You know what? This is on my bucket list and I want to get it done.’ We already had a touring band – Mike Watt, Toby Dammit and Steve Mackay – who already knew a bunch of these songs. We’re very tight after having toured so much, so I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go in there with these guys and try one.’ That’s how the first single came about.

I love ‘Open Up And Bleed;” it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been part of writing in my life. My wife and I were thinking and talking about it, and [I] said, ‘You know who would sound killer on this song? Janis Joplin.’ Of course that wasn’t an option, so I went through a lot of different channels to try to find somebody who could sing like that – a woman who could really belt out a song. I found a couple of them, but I really wasn’t feeling the love on it, and I kept searching around. My old buddy from boarding school in upstate New York, Michael Adams, is in Austin, TX and shot me a YouTube of Carolyn Wonderland singing, and man…I talked about it again with my wife and said, ‘That’s my girl!’ I tracked her down through a whole bunch of different sources, and she was totally cool in doing it. She just kills that track.

You have some other singers in this project who are equally mind-blowing – like one of my favorites, Lisa from The BellRays.

Oh, man, yeah! Once I did [the first] single with Carolyn, then I was really encouraged that this was going to be a fun project. I went back in the studio and cut another six tracks with the band. At first, [the idea] was [having] one or two singers, but then once the word got out, like everybody wants to sing on this record! I had to pick from a really good roster of people. Mainly, we’re tracked down at Dave Grohl’s studio in Northridge [CA]. They have an old Sound City Neve console down there; the stuff sounds really good. I also got plugged into this guy Joe Cardamonewho’s from Icarus Line. He’s been very helpful to me in a number of ways, one of which is he’s got a little inexpensive studio. If I’m doing vocals and stuff, I can go in there. I’m kind of bankrolling this myself, so it has been very helpful, but he also came up with Lisa. So we got Lisa in there, and she just floored me…I mean, really unbelievable. Wait ’til you hear her sing!

The cover of the single is very striking. What can you tell me about the artist involved in that?

On the last song of our last show in San Jose at the end of last summer, all of a sudden, onstage comes this whole group of girls – good-looking girls at that – who were just painted. They’re like nude, and you can kind of tell that they’re nude, but you kind of can’t because they’re painted. I was just struck by what a spectacle it was because they looked eerie in a way and they brought so much to the party. We didn’t know they were going to come onstage; the promoter set all that up with the artist, Trina Merry. She does body painting; that’s her deal.

After that, I [contacted] the promoter and wanted to know who that [artist] was. I got in touch with her and started going through all the various different things that she’s done. Check her art gallery out; it’s just amazing.

For the first [single], I didn’t have enough time, so I selected a piece that she had already done. That thing is amazing! I believe it’s derived from a Salvador Dali piece or something similar to that with bodies, but she had her painted people in there, and that’s an amazing photo. I used that, but moving forward you’ll see a bunch of stuff from her. In fact, in the teaser [video below], she painted the face that I have on. I’ve got a bunch of stuff that you’ll see moving forward that she was involved with because she’s just so talented and it’s so much fun to work with her. I’m really happy about that find.

This new record is a further chapter in your second life in the music industry. What was the most surprising thing for you when you got back with Iggy in ’09 and stepped into that role again – whether in the music business itself or as a musician touring after all that time?

It was a couple of things that struck me right off the back. Number one, that the audience approval for us was just off the chart. I had never experienced anything like that in my life because back in the day, we weren’t very well liked at all. There were a few pockets of fans and so forth, but the biggest show I might have performed at might have been 2,000 people. But my first show [back with The Stooges] was 40,000 people going crazy. It was a whole different deal. The next thing that struck me right away was how professional Iggy had become. Back when we were doing it [in the ’70s], you never knew what you were going to get on a show night. We might not [have been] able to show up, or we would be late. We certainly never did more than about a 20 or 30-minute show. So, yeah, he had become very, very professional over the years. Even though he’s still very spontaneous, he’s always there on time, is prepared and knows what he’s doing. That was a big change.

The last Stooges album [Ready To Die] has been out for about a year now. Of course, that was the first one that you worked on in some time. Looking back on that record now, what are your thoughts on that music? If you had a goal going into that album, do you feel it was reached?

I do. I feel very proud of that album. I know that the reviews on it were a mixed bag, but the whole spectrum was so great. On one hand, some people were panning it or kind of badmouthing the Ig, like he’s too old to be doing this, or that talking about tits and stuff at his age was kind of creepy. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some gushing reviews of that album, including [from] the guy I’m doing SXSW’s speech with next Friday, Buzz from The Melvins. He went apeshit over that album. It’s never been something we put too much stock in because we’ve never really gotten really good reviews on albums, but they stand the test of time. So [with] this one, I felt pretty good, [and] it’s selling pretty well – for these days, actually very well. So I think the fans like it, and that’s what we’re doing it for.

What does the future look like for The Stooges?

Well, you never know at our age! (laughs) I can’t worry about it too much. We announced at the end of last summer that we’re talking all of 2014 off, so that’s what we’re doing and that’s why I have the time to make this project that we’re talking about. The plan is to go back out in 2015, but that’s a long way away. I’ll just take things as they go. Right now, just getting this project out is consuming my time, especially when you’re trying to do everything yourself like I am. It’s a bigger role than I had planned on, to be honest with you (laughs).

I was one of those kids who bought a vinyl copy of Raw Power and was hit by the lightning bolt. It’s 41 years since the release of that album. As someone who was partly responsible for that album’s creation, why do you think that particular recording continues to resonate for so many people?

First of all, there’s great songs on it. It’s just like saying, ‘Why does everybody keep playing these Stones, Led Zeppelin and Beatles songs?’ It’s because they’re great songs. I think the songs on Raw Power are so great that no matter what anybody did to the mix and how mishandled it was over the years, it still sounds good. Of course, it made me sound good because practically all you can hear is the guitar and vocals on it (laughs). It’s just a cool album, and it was a historical album. Certainly, it had broken some ground at the time.

I think that now, the kids going back - the twentysomethings and so forth - are doing kind of what we used to do when we were their age. We would hear the English guys come over and play the Blues, like Cream and Jeff Beck and all that stuff. We thought, Man, these guys are fantastic’ until we figured out, ‘Hey, those aren’t the real guys. These are the real guys,’ and then we’d go seek them out and listen to them. I think we’re kind of like the old Blues guys of these days.

Read a followup to this feature HERE

James Williamson's Official Website


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Pretty Reckless: Going To Hell (Razor & Tie)

“Subtle” is not a word you’d use to describe Taylor Momsen. 

While that other Taylor is producing the musical equivalent of passing notes in class, Momsen is jumping on the desk, ripping off her shirt and slipping the teacher the tongue. More Iggy Pop than Katy Perry, the 20-year-old former Catholic schoolgirl and Gossip Girl actress is known to give her live audiences a bit of barely-covered-nipple topless action from time to time, while the cover of Going To Hell - her second album with her band The Pretty Reckless - shows her wearing nothing but black paint. (She shows off even more skin on the vinyl edition). Hell, the album even opens with the sound of a female orgasm. Although some of the more conservative and/or cynical members of the public might be unimpressed by such blatant “sex sells” exploitation, the fact remains that anyone unwilling to look beyond a bare ass on the cover and simply listen to the actual music will miss out on experiencing one of the finest albums released so far this year. 

Available March 18 on Razor & Tie, Going To Hell is as musically satisfying as it is aesthetically pleasing. Boasting a strong, soulful voice sometimes reminiscent of a young Theo of The Lunachicks (especially on the Punky title track), Momsen fronts 12 songs that are strong enough to appeal to the Rockers on the Sunset Strip (yes, they still exist) and inspire a shy girl in Momsen’s home state of Missouri to get her first leather jacket and swap her red lipstick for black. The album’s true masterpiece, “Sweet Things,” is a glorious five-minute mix of Sabbathy Metal (complete with an acoustic breakdown!), Psychedelica straight out of Strawberry Fields and – cuz why not? – Death Metal growling. It’s a truly impressive piece of work – and powerful proof that this band is far more than a fleshy gimmick. 

Other highlights: Shades of “We Will Rock You” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” drive the shamelessly anthemic “Heaven Knows,” while the Marilyn Mansonesque “Why’d You Bring A Shotgun to the Party?” is sinister enough to keep the Hot Topic contingent happy. “Fucked Up World” offers a brilliant how-to guide on finding the perfect balance between the artistically edgy and the musically accessible, while “House On A Hill” could inspire classes on how to write a modern day power ballad. Although The Pretty Reckless succeed in rocking through most of Going To Hell, the album’s three softer numbers (“Dear Sister,” “Burn” and the closing “Waiting For A Friend”) showcase another dimension of the band’s sonic arsenal and make one hope that this direction is explored at greater length on future releases.  

Sure, Going To Hell is an unapologetically commercial release. Sure, plenty of fans will buy this just to see Taylor Momsen without clothing. But unlike most of the “Rock” albums to hit the mainstream marketplace these days, this album will stand on its own 20 years from now – naked singer or no naked singer. Why? Because great songs are great songs, period. 

Going To Hell is available for pre-order in a variety of bundles HERE

Photo Courtesy of MSO PR