Monday, December 28, 2015

Remembering Lemmy

Back in 2010 when I was a guest on The Classic Metal Show, host Wendell Neeley asked me the traditional Classic Metal Show question: “How has Lemmy from Motorhead influenced your career?”

Here was my reply:

Lemmy is not a pinup model. You’ll never see Lemmy as a judge on American Idol; you'll never see him host the Grammys because he doesn't fit in the traditional mold of what you'd expect a public figure to be. So why does he do it? He does it because he HAS to, because it's in his blood, in his nature and in his spirit. That's what I've learned from Lemmy – to do what you want to do, and do what you HAVE to do, and not worry about, 'Is the mainstream going to get this?' You do what you have to do and live the life you want to live, and that's what Lemmy's done.”

More than that, I owe my entire professional career to Lemmy. In 2000, I got hired for my first full-time post-college job - serving as the managing editor for a music magazine - on the strength of a Motorhead live review I wrote for an area paper. A week later, I had Nikki Sixx on the phone for an interview and was paying bills doing something I love. How many other people can credit their life's work to Lemmy? I'm sure the list is endless.

What a discography...Listen to those Motorhead albums. That is the real thing. Listen to Hawkwind. How innovative was that bunch during Lemmy’s time with them? Those are absolutely perfect records.

Philthy. Wurzel. And now Lemmy. Talk about a bunch of scraggly, rough, dirty and completely inspirational motherfuckers.

Goddamn. Lemmy's dead. That guy meant something. I hope he died happy.


LIVE REVIEW - The Security Project/Casey Desmond, Tupelo Music Hall (Londonderry, NH) 12/13/15

Left to right: Trey Gunn, Jerry Marotta, Brian Cummins, David Jameson and Michael Cozzi of The Security Project (photo by Joel Gausten)

As previously discussed on this siteThe Security Project is a collection of musical heavyweights exploring the early years of Peter Gabriel's illustrious solo career. Heavily focused on the singer's four eponymous albums from 1977 to 1982 (known among fans as Car, Scratch, Melt and Security), The Security Project has none other than the singer's '77-'86 drummer, Jerry Marotta, keeping the beat. And when this intriguing supergroup hit the stage at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH on December 13, the results were extraordinary.

Considering that Marotta's Security Project bandmates have also carved impressive individual niches performing left-field music (Trey Gunn with King Crimson, Michael Cozzi with Shriekback and Sky Cries Mary, Brian Cummins with Marillion's Mick Pointer, David Jameson with Beyond The Wall), it came as little surprise that the group succeeded in honoring the esoteric spirit of some of the most challenging material in Gabriel's 40-year post-Genesis adventure. 

The Londonderry show's many highlights included the Car numbers “Moribund the Burgermeister and “Humdrum,” Melt's “I Don't Remember” and “Intruder” and Security's “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “The Family And The Fishing Net.” The Security Project also had plenty to offer visually, as the mere sight of Gunn's Warr guitar and Jameson's Eigenharp proved that the evening would not be a typical Rock show.

Photo by Joel Gausten

In addition to beautifully echoing Gabriel's trademark voice, Cummins displayed the emotional depth necessary to capture the heart of this music. From being visibly moved during “Biko” to inspiring pin-drop quiet awe with his surprising acoustic rendition of show closer “Mercy Street” (from 1986's So), the man flawlessly demonstrated the difference between a mere tribute act and a group that truly feels the music they perform.

For a band devoted to exploring such high-brow music, The Security Project's performance at the Tupelo Music Hall was a lighthearted affair. The crowd joined the band in wishing Gunn a happy 55th birthday, while Marotta took center stage towards the end of the set to share some often amusing thoughts on his work with Gabriel. (“What kind of a guy writes things like I've tasted all of the strongest meats and laid them down in coloured sheets?” he quipped, referencing Genesis' “Back To N.Y.C.” off 1974's The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. “What the fuck does that mean? I've been singing that for years. I don't have a clue...”)

While high-caliber musicianship was expected from The Security Project before any of the group's members even walked on stage, equally captivating opener Casey Desmond was a pleasant surprise. The Boston-based singer and one-time The Voice contestant's all-too-brief set offered intriguing Ray Of Light-meets-Little Earthquakes Dance Pop that accentuated her commanding stage presence. 

Casey Desmond (photo by Joel Gausten) 

Desmond's set was bolstered by accompanying electric violinist Mei Ohara (an experimental New England musician whose “Bystanders” video and 2013 track “If You Keep Me Unkempt” are particularly fascinating) and Cambridge, MA synth master Avoxblue. Later, Desmond joined Cummins for an emotional cover of So's “Don't Give Up” and later brought up Ohara to join her and the rest of The Security Project for a spirited run through Melt's “Games Without Frontiers.” This exciting combination of musicians was easily the highest point in an evening full of unforgettable moments. (Furthering the night's King Crimson connection, Desmond's self-titled 2005 album featured an appearance by long-serving bassist Tony Levin.)

Left to right: Mei Ohara, Casey Desmond and Avoxblue (photo by Joel Gausten)

Either collectively or on their own, Desmond, Ohara and Avoxblue are creating some of the most exhilarating current sounds of this or any other scene. See them as soon as you can.

(On a related note, The Security Project guitarist Michael Cozzi's former Sky Cries Mary bandmate Joe Bass is currently battling cancer and can be helped through a special GoFundMe page set up to raise money for his treatment.)


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FEATURE - Exploring the Eponymous Four: Trey Gunn on Peter Gabriel's Early Years

The Security Project. Photo by Eric de Bruijn (

Any band comprised of members of some of the most revered groups in history would earn plenty of attention regardless of the sounds they made, but what The Security Project offers the world is truly special. Formed in 2012, The Security Project finds master musician Trey Gunn (King Crimson) joining forces with keyboardist David Jameson (Time Machine/Beyond The Wall) and drum legend Jerry Marotta (Hall & Oates/Stevie Nicks/Paul McCartney) to perform the music of Marotta's one-time bandleader, Peter Gabriel. On December 13, music fans in New Hampshire can experience this rare combination of musicians in person when the band brings its show to the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry.

Although Peter Gabriel boasts a massive discography on his own as well as with Genesis, the members of The Security Project focus on the earliest, most experimental period in the singer's long-running solo career. Currently, the band's set utilizes material from Gabriel's first four eponymous solo albums (released from 1977 to 1982) and 1983's Plays Live. (Marotta served as Gabriel's drummer from 1977 to 1986.) Gunn sees working with the group as an opportunity to explore music that has moved him throughout the years.

“I really love that older material a lot,” he says. “In fact, the third record [commonly known among fans as Melt] was just one of those lightning bolt records for me. I was like, 'What the hell is this? What am I listening to? This is so cool. I can't tell what the sounds are; I can't tell how the music's put together, but I just love it.' That record had a big impact on me.”

With The Security Project, Gabriel fans can enjoy a journey through an era that hasn't been explored by the singer for quite some time.

“The idea was, 'What if we really took seriously this older Peter material that [he] doesn't play anymore?'” Gunn explains. “Peter got so huge with the So record and onward; he really focuses on his big hits, so we thought, 'What if we really dig into the older, darker, epic pieces from that period that he doesn't approach anymore for whatever reason? Let's do the things that Peter's not doing [from] this era that we really love.' To me, it was just this great way to explore what I think is just some really awesome material.”

In addition to the three original members, the current lineup of The Security Project includes guitarist Michael Cozzi (a veteran of UK Alternative group Shriekback and the brilliant Seattle-based act Sky Cries Mary) and vocalist Brian Cummins, whose ability to recreate Gabriel's vocal stylings is downright stunning.

“Peter's voice was so specific; it's so particular, and that's one of the beautiful things about him,” offers Gunn. “You either go authentic to his voice, or you go sideways. Brian can do a little bit of both, but he really has Peter's phrasing. It's really fascinating; I can't quite put my finger on the whole thing about why this [group] actually works. By all rights, it shouldn't work, to be honest. (laughs) By all rights, it should be lame, but it's not. It's actually really amazing.”

Since Gunn has been so intimate with Gabriel's music for so long now through The Security Project, what would he say is the man's greatest strength as an artist, particularly during the period that the band is representing?

“One of the fascinating things about going back to any music from that time period – but more specifically Peter – is that this is pre-computer music,” he replies. “It wasn't made on computers; there wasn't digital editing. There was very little editing, because all you could do was punch in and out on 24-track analog giant tape. Music has changed its internal structure so much [since] that time period by computers and putting music onto a grid and being able to edit performances. Music has become a lot more square; it fits onto a grid now. Sections are in symmetrical shapes; that's pretty much how most modern music is made... But [with] these earlier records, the shapes and the phrases and the geometry of the pieces are so unusual and different. I actually was kind of shocked to find this out.”

Gunn cites Melt's “Intruder” as a perfect example of this phenomenon.

As he says, “I thought the song was just Phil Collins playing this drum groove. It just kind of went along and did these different things, but [I thought] that it was basically kind of the same thing all the way through. But it's not; there's a lot of form to it, and the form is very strange. There are little groups of 2/4 bars here, a phrase extends, a phrase gets chopped off and there are funny sections and this beautiful structure inside the whole piece that I had no idea [about].

“Even when you take Peter's music then and put it next to music that was going on at the time, there was just a freedom and a creative flow to it,” he adds. “It was all very musical; it wasn't abstractly constructed. It's frickin' brilliant; it sounds crazily fresh even now – even post-Nine Inch Nails, Tool and all this music that's happened since then.”

Not surprisingly, Gunn's fascination with Gabriel has greatly informed his own work. His latest solo release, The Waters, They Are Rising, features a combination of live performances based on Gabriel's “Here Comes The Flood in addition to music from his score for the film Every Beautiful Thing

Fueled by some of the most adventurous minds in music, The Security Project delivers a truly unique spin on an artist already known to stretch the boundaries of convention.

“It actually is its own thing,” says Gunn of the experience. “It actually is working at a deep, artistic level, and it kind of surprises me. To be honest, the idea of doing a tribute [and] cover material is not inherently interesting to me, but this works.”

The Security Project performs this Sunday, December 13 at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, MA. Go here for tickets. Go here for The Security Project's official website.  


Sunday, December 6, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - The Danse Society: Reincarnated

A staple of Gothic Rock compilations and a band responsible for more than few unforgettable tracks in the 1980s, The Danse Society have experienced enough twists and turns in their 35-year career to keep fans – including this music writer – busy and confused as they try to piece together a coherent narrative on how Reincarnated came into being.

After releasing a series of albums including 1983's stellar Heaven Is Waiting, The Dance Society (powered by the charismatic voice and gender-blurring good looks of singer Steve Rawlings) ground to a halt in 1987. Fast-forward 22 years, and original members Paul Gilmartin (drums) and Paul Nash (guitar) get inspired to bring the back back. Bringing in keyboardist Dave Whitaker (who originally played in the band towards the end of their '80s run), they briefly reunited with Rawlings before recruiting Italian singer Louisa “Maethelyiah” Pile. This version of The Danse Society released two well-received albums (2011's Change Of Skin and 2013's Scarey Tales) before Gilmartin abruptly left the band in 2014 under acrimonious circumstances. With Whitaker soon joining him, Gilmartin assembled a new Danse Society with singer Brian O'Shaughnessy, bassist Ade Clark, keyboardist Darren Guy and guitarist Elliot Wheeler. In October, this version of The Danse Society unveiled Reincarnated, a collection of newly written material and re-recorded classics.

First off, let's address the all-important frontperson issue. Gilmartin has done the completely unexpected and enlisted a straight-out Rocker in O'Shaughnessy, best known for his work with Oliver Dawson Saxon and New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) stalwarts Seventh Son. Certainly more Ian Astbury than Ian Curtis, O'Shaughnessy brings a decidedly hard edge to Reincarnated, turning Gilmartin's Danse Society into something more akin to the Hard Rock leanings of Craved In Sand-era Mission than the Siouxsie And The Banshees vibe achieved by the Maethelyiah-fronted group on their previous two albums. New guitarist Wheeler is another brilliant addition to the unit, bringing in truly inventive playing and songwriting skills that meet (and very often succeed) the standards set by the original '80 band.

In addition to bringing in an unlikely frontman and a powerful new six-stringer, Gilmartin (who now steers the ship solo following Whitaker's recent departure to focus on studio work) has the audacity to begin Reincarnated with “Message In The Wind” - the exact same song that opened Scarey Tales just two years ago. It's a ballsy move, but the risk pays off because Gilmartin and Co. don't merely reenact “Message In The Wind” and the five original-era tracks included on Reincarnated – they completely reinvent them. The brightest moments of the re-recorded material include the new band's take on the 1983 track “Belief” (which is so drastically different from the original that it's almost an entirely new song) and the Heaven Is Waiting tune “Red Light,” which is given new life here thanks to Gilmartin's additional percussive flair and a particularly strong performance by Wheeler.

With Gilmartin fueling the proceedings, it comes as little surprise that Reincarnated is a drummer's dream. The beat is right up front in the mix throughout the album, while the brilliant title track is a drum-heavy instrumental piece that mixes the tribal vibes of PiL's The Flowers of Romance and Killing Joke's Fire Dances with admirable aplomb. Other highlights of the record's Gilmartin/Wheeler/Whitaker songwriting team include the O'Shaughnessy-driven “Child Of Paradise,” the Closer-era Joy Division dirge of “Seance And Heresy” and the exceptional “More Than Dreams” and “Glory Or Grace.”

One quibble: The new track “All That Shines” unnecessarily utilizes the same drum pattern as 1983's “Come Inside” (already included in re-recorded form on Reincarnated) even though the simpler beat on the fantastic demo version of the number would have served just fine.

Reincarnated ends with the magnificent “Towers,” a track recorded circa 2010 during the brief reunion with Steve Rawlings. Bolstered by the original frontman's presence, the track is as close to the classic Danse Society sound as either current incarnation of the band will get at this point. Those with a careful ear will pick up on the fact that the music on “Towers” was also used for the title track of 2011's Change Of Skin. It works better here.

While it remains to be seen what will ultimately come from the moniker tug-of-war between the Gilmartin and Nash camps, Reincarnated stands on its own merits as an album that not only lives up to the Danse Society legacy, but also points to an intriguing future for this formidable combination of musicians.

Order Reincarnated