Author/journalist Joel Gausten talks with guitarist Michael Abdow (Fates Warning/Ray Alder/Solo) about his new solo album, Séance in Black, and Fates Warning's current status and possible future.
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Monday, September 25, 2023
|Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle|
“Joel! Joel! You’ve gotta hear this band another student played me—Mr. Bungle! ‘My Ass Is on Fire’ is incredible! I can’t stop listening to it!”
Those were the words my old drum teacher, the late Keith Necessary, shot off as he bounced excitedly into the room one day in 1991. Keith was a true pro musician who had kept the beat for bloody James Taylor, for fuck’s sake, so his enthusiasm instantly carried weight for me—especially since a band with a song called “My Ass Is on Fire” typically wouldn’t be in the guy’s wheelhouse. Hell, Mr. Bungle wasn’t in anyone’s wheelhouse when it delivered its eponymous Warner Bros. Records debut—still one of the most beautifully batshit major-label albums ever released—32 years ago.
Formed in California in 1985, Mr. Bungle began as a high school Metal band with a penchant for the bizarre. Musically, the band’s 1986 demo, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, fell between Possessed and Fishbone. Weird, right? Well, by the time Mr. Bungle scored its big record deal a few years later (a feat undoubtedly helped along by the fact that the group’s frontman, Mike Patton, had recently reached hitmaker status with his other band, Faith No More), its sonic shitstorm of eclecticism had reached epic proportions. This musical mindfuckery lasted for another nine years and two more albums before the band called it a day in 2000.
|Scott Ian of Mr. Bungle|
Fast-forward to February 2020. Seemingly out of nowhere, a revamped incarnation of Mr. Bungle—Patton, original guitarist Trey Spruance, original bassist Trevor Dunn, Anthrax/Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.)/Motor Sister guitarist Scott Ian, and drummer extraordinaire Dave Lombardo (Slayer/John Zorn/Grip Inc./Misfits/Suicidal Tendencies/Testament/Dead Cross)—hit the stage for a handful of shows comprised largely of material from The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. Although the group’s fanbase was delighted to have it back, more than a few followers balked at the lack of music from its Warner Bros. era in the set. (Frankly, there’s something so perfectly Mr. Bungle about the band reforming to primarily play its primitive material from the mid-’80s when 95 percent of its audience had anticipated something else entirely.)
Later in the year, this lineup released The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, a studio re-recording of several tracks from the original 1986 tape along with a sprinkling of covers and renditions of tracks written in the old days but never recorded. A Halloween 2020 livestream event was later released as The Night They Came Home.
|Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle|
Earlier this month, Mr. Bungle brought its Easter Bunny-centric live show back on the road for a handful of dates that included its first Boston show in nearly 24 years. Hitting the stage at Roadrunner on September 11, the band savaged the crowd with … a cover of Fred Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (?!?!). The esoterica escalated from there.
One moment, the band was blasting through the Easter Bunny track “Anarchy Up Your Anus.” The next moment, it was delivering a note-perfect version of Spandau Ballet’s “True.” (Really.) The evening’s covers repertoire included D.R.I.’s “I Don’t Need Society,” 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” (!!!), Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” (with expletives added for flavor), Corrosion of Conformity’s “Loss for Words,” the intro to Slayer’s “Hell Awaits,” S.O.D.’s “Speak English or Die” (rechristened “Habla Español o Muere”), Timi Yuro’s “Satan Never Sleeps” (dedicated to the recently departed Pee-wee Herman), and “Cold War” by Massachusetts underground legends/Grindcore progenitors Siege. When the band got around to playing, you know, Mr. Bungle songs, it stuck to 1986 apart from an incendiary run through “My Ass Is on Fire” during the encore. The WTF? nature of the band’s setlist felt like either the most outstanding travel playlist of all time or just a really good afternoon on WFMU. Either way, it was glorious.
As much fun as the packed Roadrunner crowd had that evening, seemingly no one had more of it than Scott Ian, whose wide smiles toward the photo pit during the first three songs just screamed, “Man, look what I get to do right now!” Roughly 18 months shy of 60, Lombardo still reigns as one of the greatest living drummers in Metal (even if the band’s frustratingly murky light show left him obscured in darkness for most of the night), while the ever-versatile Spruance and Dunn still perform with Zappa-meets-Zorn smarts.
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Top L-R: Doug Graves, Cunnus (The Metal Witch), Fancy Cymballs,
Bottom L-R: Kandi Moon, Wendy Stonehenge, Lorfin Terrafor
Photo Credit: Tash de Valois (New Pleasure Photos IG: @newpleasure.photos)
Glitter Wizard is both a dream come true and an utter nightmare for a music journalist.
On the one hand, the long-running San Francisco-based band’s sprawling musical vocabulary and eclectic discography are enough to make even the most jaded scribe stand up and take notice. On the other hand, how in the ever-loving hell does this journalist even begin to do the band’s esoteric explorations justice with mere words? Simply put, Glitter Wizard is something you need to listen to and see live—and not simply read about—to fully understand.
With my nifty get-out-of-jail-free card of an introduction out of the way, please allow me to direct your attention to the band’s latest release, Kiss the Boot. Out now on Kitten Robot Records, this six-song EP is simultaneously the most accessible and most head-scratchingly unconventional chapter in the group’s history. A drastic departure from the band’s past efforts (which at times have sounded like Master of Reality-era Sabbath jamming with Fun House-era Stooges), Kiss the Boot finds Glitter Wizard in full-on Sweet-meets-Slade ’70s Glam mode—complete with a cover of “Suffragette City” (a tune by some guy who had a hit or two back in the day) and a suitably outlandish image that straddles the line between piss-take and sincere homage.
What do Glitter Wizard’s Kiss the Boot’s originals sound like, then? Oh, Christ, here comes the tough part. Okay … imagine The Darkness covering The Supersuckers with Kim Fowley in the producer’s chair.
Yeah, that’ll do.
To take in some of the Kiss the Boot phenomenon for yourself, check out the freshly baked video for “Glitterati”—which sees the band transformed into puppets performing on the fictitious (and brilliantly ’70s) variety show Pop Toppings—below.
(Seriously, watch this thing. This is the best video you’ll see this year. Trust me.)
Although Kiss the Boot is unlike anything else Glitter Wizard has ever conceived, guitarist Lorfin Terrafor sees it as just another example of the band’s moving-target nature.
“[Our fans] are seeing a different chapter, and that’s kind of the beauty we’ve always had with this band. If you sat down and listened to each album, they’re all quite different. The excitement the fanbase is having is, ‘Wow, this is something completely different!’”
Delivering “something completely different” is the spirit behind the Glitter Wizard’s annual “Hallorager” events—full concerts that pay tribute to a specific artist each year. Past honorees include The Damned, Funkadelic, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd, The Seeds, Blue Öyster Cult, The Cars, The New York Dolls, and Alice Cooper. Currently, the band boasts more than 100 songs—including the most extraordinary and original rendition of a Black Sabbath song this writer has ever heard—in its covers repertoire.
“Every time you cover a song, you learn about how other people play,” bassist Kandi Moon explains. “You can get into their mindset, which helps us switch gears but not force it.”
Kiss the Boot was conceived during the COVID-19 lockdown, which found the members of Glitter Wizard trading demos remotely instead of their traditional practice of writing songs together in person.
“It was cool to experiment with the songwriting; it was more melody-based instead of Lorfin coming up with crazy riffs and [singer] Wendy [Stonehenge] trying to figure out where his vocals go,” observes Moon, who relocated to San Diego during the pandemic. “[This EP] was kind of built around his vocals, and we got to demo stuff—which we hadn’t really done before. Regardless of the direction it goes from here, I’d like to continue the demoing, because I think it roots out a lot of bullshit and you can really hear what works and what doesn’t.”
Paul Roessler, a veteran musical alchemist whose career has included stints with The Screamers, 45 Grave, and his group, Twisted Roots, recorded Kiss The Boot at LA’s Kitten Robot Studios.
“Being Screamers fans, we were stoked!” Moon says of having Roessler involved in the project. “It was like, ‘Seriously? Paul Roessler from the fucking Screamers is going to record it?’ I just wanted to go hang out with him. (laughs) He still has the synth with all the broken keys and stuff from The Screamers in the studio. Paul was great; he was very easy-going, super-accommodating, and willing to try everything.”
Roessler speaks well of the experimental—and ultimately liberating—nature of the Glitter Wizard sessions.
“When they came in, they said, ‘We want to record two different drum sets. We want to record a really live drum set, and then we want to record really dead drums.’ I try to be super-efficient—getting people in and out and saving them money. I was like, “For your six songs, we basically have to completely change the drum sound?’ (laughs) I thought to myself, ‘Oh, okay … that’s fancy,’ but I’ve got to say, it was fucking awesome. For the dead drums they made, they put towels over them and taped the shit out of them. It sounded so great; I didn’t even want to change them. It was cool that they had that much vision. Some songs had a Ringo, dead drum sound, and other songs had big, live, bombastic drums. I would have done a lot of that stuff on the back end [with mixing], but they wanted to do it on the front end—and that was revelatory and awesome.”
This approach is exemplified on the Kiss the Boot track “Sugar Beat,” an instantly memorable slice of ‘70s-style Glam.
“[Glitter Wizard manager] Bruce [Duff] and I kind of researched different tonal qualities for the drums to give it that muted-tom slapback mixed with the clap—like that classic Gary Glitter sound,” Moon recalls. “We tracked six tracks of all five of us clapping, so there’s like 30 claps on there drenched in the slapback delay. Bruce [who mixed the record] was like, ‘The feedback from the delay is louder than the clap,’ and that’s what gives it that weird, crunchy, slapback delay sound to it.”
Not surprisingly, the bassist left Kitten Robot Studios thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with a kindred sonic soul.
“Paul definitely has a lot on his plate [at the studio], but he was in it. He was picking up on stuff that I didn’t even notice […] He’s got a great ear.”
Kiss The Boot isn’t the first time that Glitter Wizard has worked with a Punk legend in the studio. The group’s 2011 album, Solar Hits, featured none other than Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay on the tracks “Mirror Man” and “Summertime.” Mackay, who previously played with Glitter Wizard keyboardist Doug Graves in the band Liquorball, was a very welcome addition to the album sessions.
“When we found out that Steve was an option, it was basically a no-brainer,” Terrafor says. “It was like, ‘Are you kidding?!’ [The Stooges] was my favorite band growing up; that was what brought me into music. The moment he walked in, I just giggled!”
Naturally, Mackay’s appearance on Solar Hits stood out a mile—and not just for the obvious reasons that any Stooges fan would expect. While recording “Mirror Man,” he hit a bum note but soldiered on through the end of the track. Although Mackay was initially upset with himself for the goof, Terrafor and the rest of Glitter Wizard were pleasantly surprised by how well it fit the song.
“We listened back to it and said, ‘You know, we’re not too bothered.’ Sometimes, mistakes are hidden gems!”
The guitarist adds that Mackay suddenly dropped his sax and started yelling during the recording of the raucous freakout ending to “Summertime.”
“He was like, ‘I’m sorry. I was caught up in the moment! I felt the song really hard. I just wanted to yell.’ We were like, ‘That was perfect! You couldn’t have done anything better at that moment.’”
Twelve years after sending a sonic charge through a Stooge’s body, Glitter Wizard is still delivering the same experiences to audiences. With Kiss the Boot already the most acclaimed release of the band’s career (and with talk of European dates in 2024), this assemblage of try-anything musos is poised for an adventurous future—in whatever unpredictable direction it decides to go.
As Terrafor says, “Right when you think you get to know us, there’s a wild card!”
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
|Photo: Heidi May (www.facebook.com/officialhenryrollins)|
If you don’t think there’s a mental health crisis in this country, you’re not paying attention.
Driven by the pandemic, a precarious economy, and the perpetually fractious state of politics, the collective mindset of American citizens is exhausted at best and dangerously depressed at worst.
New Hampshire hasn’t been immune to this trend. With its $7.25 minimum wage, staggering human services backlog, and ongoing opioid crisis, the “Live Free or Die” state serves as a distressing microcosm of where our nation stands in 2023.
According to an August 7 article in New Hampshire’s Union Leader newspaper, “data from American Medical Response (AMR) show the number of suspected overdoses in the state’s two largest cities [Manchester and Nashua] in July are at the highest they’ve been since 2018.”
Is there an antidote to such self-destruction? Henry Rollins thinks so.
At 62, the world-traveling spoken word artist, actor, TV host, and former Black Flag/Rollins Band frontman has seen and survived it all. A journey through his numerous books and recorded speaking shows reveals a life of childhood abuse, depression, financial ups and downs, interpersonal woes, intense personal discipline, and an unwavering will to move forward. Once you get past his stern stare and intimidating musculature, you’ll discover a disarmingly polite, empathetic, straightforward, and goal-focused man who gets things done—the kind of person you can always depend on to come through without a shred of runaround. (Since his first appearance on this site in 2014, Rollins has maintained the fastest interview request response time of the hundreds of artists I’ve dealt with over the years. Respect.)
Rollins will share some of his hard-earned experiences and worldview with a New Hampshire audience when he brings his spoken word tour to a sold-out show at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord on September 22.
Considering that his performance will occur down the street from many of the city’s behavioral health centers, it’s no surprise that the topic of drug use came up in our recent exchange. Although he had dalliances with drugs in his earlier years (and detailed some of these experiences on a 2017 episode of his Henry & Heidi podcast), he has shunned illicit substances for decades.
“I tried marijuana and LSD—interesting but nothing I wanted to make a career out of. It was never a matter of having to resist any temptation; I just didn’t enjoy the effects. I found it all to be depressing. The more I saw drugs and alcohol do damage to young people around me, I concluded all drugs and alcohol were traps to marginalize those young people and neutralize the masses. Basically, it’s what The Man does to keep the people doped and docile. That alone is enough to keep me away from any and all of those poisons. As soon as you’re high, you’re prey to law enforcement. I will never give them that advantage.”
Rollins’ ability to rise above life’s tribulations comes down to keeping his body healthy and his mind sharp. Not surprisingly, having great tunes at the ready has helped him along the way.
“For me, music is a great anti-depressant. It’s also great company. I’m an extremely solitary person, and while I don’t feel the need to be with anyone, I do like having music on.”
As for his diet, he keeps things very simple—and avoids the kinds of comfort food that often provide temporary mental relief for many folks but ultimately leave them in even worse physical and mental shape than before they downed that meat lover’s pizza or drive-through cheeseburger.
“I eat a lot of spinach and other vegetables, [along with] Athletic Greens super-food powder and beet extract powder once a day. Post-workout, which is six times a week, I usually take these two with a scoop of vegetable-based protein and then nothing until I’m done with work for the night, which is around 2330 hours. For me at least, diet is perhaps the most important thing I do for my mental health besides going to the gym. You have to stay up on it, and it’s not always easy, but this is what I do—no matter where in the world I am.”
These things sound great, but are they easier said than done? Just look at the arts. It’s no secret that many creative types often lean on questionable habits to help fuel their output. This writer knows plenty of fellow scribes or musicians who are afraid to get sober out of fear of losing their creative thing without the crutch. After all, no writer wants to stare at a blank screen as nothing comes to them. Naturally, Rollins has some no-nonsense advice for anyone who’s holding off on getting clean for this reason.
“I’d say they’ll probably get a lot more quality work done without the stimulants, and they might find the work they did while under the influence will be inferior to what they’ll achieve without the ingredients. If I write a book, I want to be able to put my name on it, not my name along with ‘and Heroin.’”
With COVID-19 on the rise again and gas prices in New Hampshire nearing $4 a gallon as of this writing, it appears that everyday survival will remain a struggle for many citizens as this country gears up for another presidential election. If the recent Republican debate is any indication, we—especially our young people—are about to experience yet another wild ride. Based on Rollins’ various travels across America, how politically minded would he say people in their late teens/early 20s are these days? How can getting involved in activism locally (or beyond) help a young person channel their stressors in an outward direction as opposed to keeping them inside and burning themselves out?
“In my vision for the U.S.A. being in a better place at the end of this century than it was at the beginning, I would hope all young people who can vote will do so. I would like them to see the truth: It’s their time, their country, and their future. If they don’t get on it, a bunch of pasty old white men are going to do their best to create a world they won’t even be alive long enough to suffer through. The young must take the power from the old at every possible opportunity. There’s no need to ever burn out—you just keep making things better with the understanding that most, if not all, established power structures are money-minded and that your health and happiness are not in their calculations. This is why bad food, drugs, and stupidity are so easily accessible and in such great supply in the U.S.A. Freedom is a tricky thing. You see how many adults obviously can’t handle it.”
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