Sunday, December 27, 2015

#Goodbye Tremont...

I've already written at length of the importance Tremont Music Hall has played for this band. Penny Craver extended her welcome from the minute she opened the doors twenty years ago and it continued thru subsequent owners Dave Ogden and John Hayes. ANTiSEEN has enjoyed relationships with many good people and establishments over their history, but few have been as strong or as appreciated as what we have shared with Tremont Music Hall. However it extends beyond what we ourselves shared; in addition to hosting many famous and infamous national acts, Tremont stood as an open door and proving ground for the inexperienced and untested. It was a venue that allowed discovery and exposure.To see it closed and shuttered is a disheartening reality check on the state of underground and independent music.


The first show I remember seeing there was the Flat Duo Jets. Dexter Rombweber seemed to be channeling out some serious shit that night. After the set he walked to a corner and slumped against the wall. Nobody approached him; it was just too intense. I also saw Iggy tear it up in one of the best shows I've ever seen. After his set I got to meet him. It was usually pretty easy to meet your musical heroes at Tremont. I saw X there twice, both times were great but I think the second time might be in the top five shows I've ever seen; they just were on that night. Afterwards I got them to sign a setlist  (handwritten on lined yellow notebook paper no less) and Billy Zoom complimented my Motorhead t-shirt. I saw Rollins Band on their West Memphis Three benefit tour doing all Black Flag songs. Keith Morris was with them and did the first third of the set - a killer show. I got to see Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvain play together to a crowd of about thirty people (way to go Charlotte). I was able to get Throw Rag booked which of course proved to be great.


As Mad Brother Ward I had some pretty strong sets of my own there, too. It was also where I played what I thought would be my last ever show  - until I was recruited into ANTiSEEN. To find myself suddenly thrust into the position of being in the band that closed the club forever is surprising  and almost feels somewhat undeserved. So it was not something I wanted to take in stride. Although I try to treat every show as important and special in their own in individual way, this one I knew held a little more gravitas - not only for me personally, but for the band, for John Hayes and  - I dare say - for Charlotte Music. This truly was the end of an era.


The show was an all day affair featuring local acts from across the musical spectrum; rock, alternative and hip hop. Tremont employed both its stages; one act performed on one while another prepared on the other. This kept the pace of the show from dragging and the energy from waning. It also allowed sufficient set up time. We actually had loaded our equipment in a day early. When I arrived I simply had to position my gear and perform a quick line check. Even with ample preparation and a solid road tested set, I was still pretty nervous. I knew this wasn't exclusively "our audience". This was a cross section of people who simply wanted to be present for the last waning moments of Tremont Music Hall; from the die hard fans to the casual curiosity seekers. It was important to leave an impression.


We took the stage in a haze of fog and set the tone with 'Self Destruction'. It was quickly followed with the anthem 'Queen City Stomp'. We blitzed from one song to the next with short respites to acknowledge what we were a part of. Then back into the fray: 'Stormtrooper'. 'Wifebeater'. 'Cactus Jack'. 'Cop Out'. The audience was soon a swirling mass of frenzied excitement; stage diving, slam dancing and pumping their fists in the air. I stood at the lip of the stage staring deep into the crowd. I wanted to remember this moment. I wasn't only a performer onstage, I was part of something I hoped was a shared, communal experience.


At the end of the set Jeff introduces club owner John Hayes. John straps on a guitar and joins us for the closing songs. I always love it when we have a second guitar. It just sounds monstrous. John has joined in with the band a few times before. We wanted to include him in the final moments of Tremont's last stand. I surge into the opening chord of 'Fuck All Y'all' and the place erupts. People have jumped onstage to sing along, I'm so deep in the zone I barely notice. The song climaxes as Jeff ignites his scrub board. It explodes. He lifts the flaming remnants in the air and smashes it down on the stage. John follows suit by smashing his guitar. People scramble for the pieces. With the amps ringing out a wash of feedback we all take to the lip of the stage - the final curtain call.



Tremont Music Hall is closed.


Thank you Charlotte, and goodnight...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Motor City Madhouse & Chi-Town Heat...





Power to the people, motherfuckers!!!


Can you tell I've been to Detroit again? Ah yes, Detroit Rock City - spiritual wellspring of cross-cultural bravado and inspirado. Less reality than mythology nowadays, but whatever. I am unabashedly and unashamedly wet-nursed on the myths and legends inscribed in vinyl and passed down from one generation to the next. Somebody's gotta do it. I mean after that, whattaya got? Anymore its a land that time forgot, paved over with the pacification of techno-trinkets, gizmos and toys. So-called 'millennials' enjoying the stupor of obviousness and allowance - there's really nothing left to rebel against anymore. Simply purchase some convoluted brand name ready-made rebellion (Occupy/anti-war/Free Tibet/insert your favorite here) and be a part of the gang, maaaan...


And yes, even cynicism such as mine is passé, too - but I've been employing it since at least the last thirty years (stop acting surprised, already!) so I give myself a pass. Personally I was never one to follow any sort of leader or movement, no how. I'm a street walkin' possum with a heart full of apathy. I felt/feel the same ambivalence towards the left wing loony-tune politics of the MC5 as I do the cuckoo conservatism of Ted Nugent. And yet it still somehow confuses people when I profess to being a fan of both. Whatever dogmatic principals espoused - however righteous or wrongteous - never meant much to me. I have a brain of my own, thank-you very much, capable of reasoning and sorting out what I feel to be morally and ethically correct. After that all I really need is some sort of genuine transference of emotion; bring it like you mean it. Kick out the jams, motherfucker.


Otherwise you're just wasting everybody's time.



DETROIT - Dec 11


We trekked out of Charlotte early, perhaps a bit too early. By mid-afternoon we were on the outskirts of Cleveland and with plenty of time to kill, took advantage of taking in a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I won't labor debate on the validity of the RRHoF, but it's a swell museum if you happen to be into that sort of thing. I am. There is much to feast yer eyes on and mine were stuffed on the endless display of cool stuff: from Hank to Hendrix and all things in between and beyond. Johnny Ramone's Mosrite was a highlight. We scurried about the place like excited little kids at the zoo; all wide eyed wonder and awe. After a quick perusal of the gift shop (where the money changers scored on this easy mark) we were back in the van and on the road to Detroit.


The club is called Corktown Tavern. We played here last spring. The building sits a block away from the site of the old Tiger Stadium. Its a two story tavern with the stage located upstairs - a wee bit of a job to load in. We knock it out in rapid order and after some beef stew and a long neck bottle of Schlitz I await the festivities to begin.


Our pal Drew Toth arrives with his wife Lorie. Drew operates Juggernaut Graphics and has come with a hefty load of freshly printed ANTiSEEN hats (check out www.antiseen.com for details on how to get yours). He and I have a long conversation about music, culture and musical culture. I try to reassure him that, despite my self-sanctimonious ramblings here on this blog I am in fact, an OK guy... Drew is definitely top shelf; a quality person I've been fortunate to meet.

'Punk Rick' Scullion arrives from Toronto with his trademark omnipresent grin. He's another character I look forward to seeing. I fist met Punk Rick in Pittsburgh years ago while working merch. He has videotaped scores of bands over the years and amassed an impressive collection of archived shows. He has not yet seen this line-up with Gooch and myself, so I'm eager to impress him.


Lance Runngren arrives on a badly injured leg. He had a car accident about a month before and is hobbling about with the aid of a cane. He's also the guitarist for Busby Death Chair who are opening the show. As with last spring when we were here, Lance has generously opened his home for us again to crash after the show.
 
Our set is a good one. We tear into our set and I pace myself a bit until I find my zone. Sometimes while playing I can almost lose myself in mental isolation. I have a moment of stark awareness while playing 'I Don't Ask You For Nothing' - it was one of my earliest favorite A-SEEN songs when I was a teenager. Here now, onstage over twenty-five years later, I'm again struck with the realization of the position I occupy. I lean into the songs ringing them out for what I personally desire. Sometimes its a selfish trip, but I truly believe Joe Young would want me to make it my own. The Corktown is an excellent room - it just sounds great in there. The crowd slam dances as we churn out one song after another. I love the taste of my own sweat when we play. I love that it stings my eyes.
 
After the set the sound guy shakes my hand. He tells me that his boss said he would love us. "I've head that before", he says. "But this time he was right. I knew something was up when half the old school punk rock royalty in Detroit started showing up!" It's a great compliment.


As we load out I look at the skyline of Detroit. I can't help but kinda smile. "You know," I tell Barry, "maybe I never made it to Cobo Hall, but then I never thought I'd ever even make it to Detroit..."


Not too shabby.




LOMBARD - Dec 12


Before leaving Detroit we are treated to lunch at Zeke's Rock & Roll Barbecue, We were given the same treat the last time we were here and it was much enjoyed and appreciated. The place is really cool and the food is incredible. We stuffed ourselves and then were soon back out on the highway. We were making a little extra time to make another side stop  - this time to visit the Home of the Gooch.


Gooch is originally from Indiana and his parents still live there. We roll in just after dark and are met at the door by his father. He leads our scruffy little troop into a beautiful home. Gooch's mom has laid out a spread for us to chow down. We relocate to the recreation room downstairs - a cool spot with a pool table and retro furnishings. Gooch's parents are cool and they are all clearly happy to see one another. We hang out for about an hour before heading back out.


Lombard is a suburb of Chicago. We roll into town amid a misting rain reflecting the neon and florescent light of an endless maze of shopping centers, convenience stores, fast food restaurants and gas stations. This is the heart of middle America; a suburbanite utopia of middle class self indulgence. Here lies the final resting place of the American Dream:Tastes great, less filling. Have it your way. You deserve a break today.


The club is called Brauerhouse. It is situated on the corner of a strip mall, a restaurant that doubles as a music venue. For some reason or another the promoter doesnt actually come to the show. Instead we are directed to the restaurant manager - a large and marginally scary looking guy who seems annoyed he has to deal with us. However the sound guy is very cool and accommodating. He is called 'Flash' and readily answers our questions as to where we load in and where to set up merch. The load in is awkward - we have to park on the far end of the building and walk our equipment along a long narrow hall to the other side. Eventually we get it together and are settled.


People are already arriving. Some are wearing ANTiSEEN t-shirts. I also spot a Cocknoose shirt. A lot of GG Allin paraphernalia as well. I retreat to the tiny room that serves as the backstage. Soon the first opening band are blasting away. Their set is short; maybe twenty minutes. Then the next band takes the stage. Evidently their drummer is MIA so they have called in a substitute. Apparently very last minute - he doesn't arrive for another half hour, delaying the entire show. Eventually they get it sorted out and knock off a set that climaxes with a few choice Black Flag covers.


My friend Ann shows up. She moved to Chicago several years ago and we try to meet up anytime I'm out this way. Last time thru she was busy, but this time she made it. I have enough time for a quick 'hello' before getting my equipment ready.


The crowd is small, maybe forty people, but most are fans. They sing along and shout requests.There is an older guy standing in front of my side of the stage rocking out the air guitar. It's pretty funny but also pretty cool. We charge thru the set and it feels really good. Rivulets of sweat drip on the neck of my guitar making it difficult to play. I readjust and keep focus. There's no drum monitor so I try to make sure Gooch and I are on point. We communicate with our eyes and it holds together. There's a lot of synergy in this line-up.


After the set I say good-bye to Ann and start to pack up. While doing so I spot a guy from the opening band with the drummer problem. I introduce myself. His name is Jake. I ask what was up with the drummer. Apparently their regular drummer was sick and they decided there was no way they were gonna miss an opportunity to play with ANTiSEEN. So they winged it with a guy who didn't really know the songs.I tell him it was impressive, considering the deceptively difficult Black Flag tunes. He seemed really excited to have played with us.


We finish loading out. A quick pit stop for gas then the overnight drive back to Charlotte. Gooch takes shotgun and plays DJ on the stereo while Clayton takes the wheel. Sitting in the back I try to sleep but can't. I stare off into a dark horizon dotted with the strobing red beacons of of a windfarm. The van catapults on thru the night... 




We are now poised for the closing of Tremont Music Hall. It has been our honor and privilege to have been offered the rather dubious position of being the last band to ever play there. I suppose its a rather bittersweet proposition. There's a lot of history for this band at Tremont covering twenty years and three owners. This will also very likely be the last time we play locally for awhile. So make sure to make time, because this will be history after Saturday night...





Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Smoky Mountain Reign

Hello again everybody. I don't update this blog as often as I would like in part due to chronic laziness and also the simple fact that sometimes there isn't much to write about. That isn't to say we haven't been busy - more on that in a second. First a quick little recap of our recent weekend trip in the Great Smoky Mountains...





CHATTANOOGA TN - November 20


We arrived in town early at the invite of our old friend Tom Hughes and his wife Kristi. They extended us the generous hospitality of an awesome barbecue dinner in their home. Tom is the guitarist of Hellstomper as well as Lookout Mountain Daredevils. He has converted his attic into a pretty cool little home studio filled with a varied array of instruments, amplifiers and other assorted musical goodies, gizmos and gadgets. We spend time talking shop as he shows me around. Pretty soon it's time to head on over to the club.


The club is called JJ's Bohemia. Its a long narrow sliver of a room lined by a bar. The tiny stage is awkwardly positioned right next to the bar facing the opposite wall eight feet away. I've been here before when I worked merch, so I know firsthand the cramped space usually makes for a fun show. We load in, our equipment spilling out around the stage. There is just nowhere to put it. We soon sort it all out and people start piling in. Our pal Mondo has driven up from Macon, Georgia. Also in attendance is 'Chicken Farm' Eric Sanders, subject of the underground documentary "My Name Is Eric". Soon the room is filled with plumes of cigarette smoke and loud music. I escape to the fresh air and relative peace out in the van. Barry and I go over a few parts of songs. We are opening our set with 'Self Destruction', an old favorite of mine. We've only practiced it a handful of times and Barry wants to ensure he has it down correctly. We also discuss another new tune to the set, 'Reconstruction'. This is the one I've been having trouble with. We go over both and decide we feel good about them.


A bit of a surprise is the appearance of Tom O'Keefe. Tom was the bass player during the "classic" ANTiSEEN era covering the years of 1988 to 1995. It was Tom who first suggested I ride along with the band way way back around 1991. He's since gone on to enjoy a successful career working in the music industry as a Tour Manager for major label acts. I tease him occasionally via Facebook due to his work for "big time" musical acts, but the very real truth is he paid his dues the hard way. It was Tom who ran his phone bill up to astronomical figures helping set up deals and shows for the band. He even generously helped my first band get some shows back around that time as well.


We spend time catching up. The contrast of his world to that of mine is almost funny. He's about to go out on tour with Weezer and discusses some of the amusing details of that. We talk about production logistics and how freely money is spent in the world of corporate rock. Sometimes the transportation costs of getting a band and crew from Point ' A' to Point 'B' is more for one day than I earn in a year. Meanwhile ANTiSEEN have to carefully manage every last dime ensuring all our expenses are covered correctly, all the while enduring jabs from know-it-all punkers who think we are "rock stars" because we have a guarantee. 
  
I talk about songwriting with Tom; his playing, style and sound. It's fun for me to pick his brain because I am such a huge fan. It isn't too often you get to sit down and pow-wow with your musical heroes. He tells me funny stories about how songs were put together, how he approached his playing and what his influences were. I confess my nervousness about playing in front of him - this will be his first time seeing me play with the band. He assures me I was the logical choice to replace Joe. I laugh and tell him he may feel different after he sees me play...


After getting the high sign we load out gear onstage. It barely fits. People pile around the front and we are soon into the set. I'm not certain but I believe the PA is only for the vocals. There's a single monitor on my side of the stage but it's a useless prop. My guitar sounds wrong, I'm not sure what the problem is. It distracts me somewhat and I also am trying to pace myself to keep my energy up and consistent. I'm not so sure anyone notices. They are all busy jumping around, slam dancing and singing along. At some point there are fights in the crowd. I pay it no notice whatsoever. We reach 'Reconstruction' and Chicken Farm Eric jumps onstage with his tambourine and jams with us. Its a cool moment.


We start off 'Hammerhead' sorta wonky - Gooch's bass drum beater has broken. Fortunately Joe Thomas, drummer from Lookout Mountain Daredevils is on the spot and we soon have the bass drum fixed. Tom joins in on vocals for an encore of 'Haunted House' and then its over.


Afterwards Tom gives me a big hug and assures me I have his endorsement. The emotion and importance of this doesn't hit me for another 36 hours, and I feel pretty good about it now as I write this. To have the endorsement and support of Tom, Greg Clayton and Joe Young's brother Jeff means a great deal. I've had people look me straight in the eye and tell me point blank it's not the same for them anymore. Well, no kidding. It's not the same for me either. But I do know this - we are as good as this band has ever been, and I'm pretty goddamned proud of what we are doing. And if thats bravado, braggadocios or flat out arrogant... then good. To someone else this may be just another noisy band but to me it was something that gave me insight, enlightenment and direction. It was something I am very lucky to have had and to now be a part of.





ASHEVILLE - November 21


After a Waffle House breakfast and quick stop at a music store to replace Gooch's broken beater we are back out on the highway burning up miles across the Great Smoky Mountains. We trek back into North Carolina to the sleepy mountain city of Asheville. Populated with neo-hippy liberals and rising tides of millennial hipsters eager to escape the grizzled hard-nosed demands of Corporate America, Asheville enjoyed a bit of a boom in the early nineties. In may ways it is much like the stereotypical college towns we occasionally find ourselves in; lotsa coffee shops, craft beer bars, art houses and comic book stores. It is very trendy and generic with a collectiv(ist) arrogance masked by a pretentious fake smile.


The club is called the Mothlight. Its a pretty nice place with a sizable stage and modern PA. It appears to be a club more suited to the indie and acoustic styling that caters the atmosphere of this town. I'm over-tired and feel run down; I have no patience for a sound guy giving me heat on my volume. I have come loaded for bear; trigger happy and eager to level off the rose tinted sheen of this towns naive peace and love culture.


We arrived in the early afternoon with lots of time to kill. After loading in we check out some of the shops and soon work up a hunger. Barry and I both are craving McDonald's McRib sandwiches. The others split off for a burrito place while Barry and I soldier off on foot in search of the Golden Arches. We figure surely there has got to be a McDonald's close by. They seemingly exist on vitrtually every street corner in America, right


Wrong.


We walked what felt like forever. We finally gave up and settled for a pizza place. Not the greatest pizza place, either. Staffed by disinterested millennial hipsters grudgingly trying to swing rent to evil slum lords, the wait was over twenty minutes for two slices of mediocre cheese pizza. I scarf it down with the same reluctant enthusiasm it was no doubt made with. We then return to the club.


The green room is located downstairs. It is equipped with a large sectional sofa, a television and dozens of VHS tapes but alas; no VCR. However there is a ping pong table we make sport of for awhile. Eventually I crash out on the sofa for nap. I am awakened by some kids, presumably members of one of the opening bands. They hang out and the room soon reeks of a peculiar skunky odor. After a bit they retreat upstairs. I try to go back to sleep but the rumbling noise of the show soon begins. I'm pretty groggy so I sip some water. I need to get my energy up. These trips are hard on me simply due to my regular night work schedule. Flip-flopping my schedule for the weekend is difficult and I never get much sleep. It leaves me feeling groggy and sick. I am somewhat startled by my reflection in a mirror; my eyes are bright red and beset by underlying dark bags. I look old and feel older. The water seems to help and as I change my shirt I make a mental note to keep myself hydrated while we play.


Eventually we hit stage. The sound guy is actually very cool, he says nothing about my volume. The monitor mix leaves a little to be desired but at least I can hear myself. As with the previous night I'm pacing myself a bit. We hit a stopping point and I swill some water and shake off the cobwebs. Pretty soon it comes together - we are firing on all cylinders and my energy improves. I feel focused and steadily on point and get in the zone; my magic spot where I can channel out my angst and frustration of my straight job and other general random stupidity. My Hiwatt roars with the chords I strangle out of my Telecaster. The release feels good. Before I know it the set is over. Sweat stings my eyes as we walk off stage.


After the show I speak with some longtime fans. They thank me for keeping the band alive. This band ultimately is the product of over thirty years of Jeff Clayton's hard work, not mine. All of it would be a pointless exercise without the people who come out to the shows. It's awkward for me to accept the compliments but they are appreciated. I assure them it is they who keep it alive.
 
I finally arrive home just before dawn. I chuckle to myself and sing "Success Story" by the Who in my head as I take a hot shower:



"...just got home / six and the birds are singing
I need a drink / and my clothes are wet
ooh and my ears are still ringing...."








After much innuendo, implications, promises, threats and attempts, ANTiSEEN converged in the early hours of a recent Sunday morning at Tremont Music Hall and finally got down to the business of recording several new songs. The session was assisted by former A-SEEN bassist Jon Bowman and his brother Jordan (drummer of the mighty Flat Tires) and yielded about eight songs.I was gonna write some lengthy detailed description of the recording process but truthfully its actually pretty dull and uneventful. Fortunately we were all on the same page, trying to capture the proverbial ' lightning in a bottle' by going for energy and excitement rather than the laborious exploration of various techniques to get the perfect "sound". We took the opportunity to re-record some old standards in addition to the new songs simply because we felt we have been performing them well as of late and frankly, we just could. Why not? Exactly where, when and how these recordings will be released is currently being planned and hopefully by the turn of the year we'll be able to announce all the details.


Meanwhile I suppose I have some things on my mind I wanna address. We have been confronted with the news that our home club Tremont Music Hall is permanently closing in December. I've already written at length on this blog what Tremont has meant to this band. We've also learned our friend Joel Greenfield in Pittsburgh has closed his legendary 31st Street Pub, truly one of the best bars in America. We've heard reports of the shuttering of Red 7 in Austin and the Masquerade in Atlanta in addition to the demise several more clubs across the country. These closings sorta underscore the unfortunate truth of what I've already written in this blog.


Things are pretty bad at there, y'all.


It depresses me that so much of what I've devoted my energy and interest in has evaporated right before my eyes. If I am to be totally candid, I'm not surprised. I've seen most of what passes as popular at virtually every level and frankly its all pretty goddamned terrible. Sophomoric, half-baked clumsily cobbled together outfits either in third rate wholesale imitations or absurdest amalgamations of every conceivable horseshit concept disguised as 'eclectic' all the while plastering their names via graffiti art or cheap stickers on backstage walls and bathroom mirrors assuring us of their importance and greatness... god knows, a clever logo can take you pretty far. 


But don't fool yourself for one minute that major mass media hasn't got you pinned. Even the outside realms of mainstream acceptance offer a myriad of avenues for the rise of banal mediocrity at virtually every level. They have formulated a method that speaks to every angst, ideology, frustration, alienation, depression, hope, dream and aspiration that all you gotta do is choose your preferred size and color, plug in, tune in and fuck off...  I suppose it only stands to reason that as each succeeding generation lay claim to their own ground the real estate was gonna get devalued, desecrated and destroyed. I mean the endless sub-sub-sub genres of empty meaningless labels (neo-pagan-post-blackened-math-core???) designed to codify and define someones ego-driven pursuit at self-appeasement only amounted in splitting a hair so often that nothingness is all that remains...
 
So nothingness is where we find ourselves. Oh sure, you have the random festival that arise here and there, but frankly I'm just not the festive sort; I don't bowl and I don't have fun fun fun. If this music and culture is to survive there must be a reckoning; somewhere, somehow, someway something has got to occur to reawaken, restore and reestablish the angst ridden dangerous drive of uncompromising hate-fueled rebellion against this stagnant, politically correct, "hey brother can't we all just get along" dogma of the Almighty Cool.
 

And I just don't see that happening.







Meanwhile we soldier on, doing what we do and enduring the random stupidity of the aforementioned politically correct crowd. Apparently the show in Asheville was being attacked by some pseudo-activist punker types who saw ANTiSEEN as an invading mongrel horde come to rape and pillage their precious little mountain hamlet. It's almost funny; these stupid crybabies who seem to know so much about who we are and what we're about - completely unaware that the four members of this band are probably on four complete different corners of the political spectrum. We are, however, united in our delight at pissing people off. So joke 'em if they can't take a fuck.


Fortunately there are still those with enough common sense, reason and sanity to make all our efforts worth while. I don't mean to sound sappy or condescending; we truly appreciate all the support we receive. And contrary to what the PC Thought Police might tell you, we receive anyone and everyone, no blood test or loyalty oath or even simple agreement required. Just love for the loud, fast, hard... and the rest can sort itself out. Because every trip, no matter how grueling or how far, is worth it when we get to play. We try to give you all 120% no matter the size of the crowd or club. And as I've already stated on this blog before - this is no vehicle to cheap, easy entertainment or ego trip for me. I care very deeply about this band, its music and its legacy. I did long before I ever joined and I will long after I'm able to play. And I intend to keep playing even as at it all withers away.


Even Nero fiddled as Rome burned.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

a PhD in Industrialized Religious Fetish...

This band seems to be in perpetual motion. Even our downtime is spent preparing, planning and plotting. We are currently working up a project that I personally feel is one of the absolute coolest things this band has ever done. Hopefully all will go according to plan and we can pull this off - because its gonna be flat out killer. I don't wanna divulge too many details but suffice it to say there's some pretty talented people in our corner helping to make it all happen. Meanwhile we've been travelling like politicians on the primary trail; pressing the flesh, kissing hands and shaking babies all the while preaching thee almighty gospel of Destructo Rock and winning over a few converts along the way...

CHAPEL HILL - September 24

Chapel Hill is your typical little college town cozily ensconced in its own festering shit pile of hipster elitism. I've had to travel here on occasion to see bands that Charlotte clubs were either unable, unwilling or too ignorant to book; groups like Radio Birdman, Blue Cheer and DTK/MC5. Of course college towns always prove more lucrative for these bands, although one kinda has to question how relevant any of the aforementioned bands are to the average twenty year old hipster tooling around in Mom's Volvo grooving to a mix of post-post-alternative lesbian techno pop or whatever meaningless obscurities that gives these kids wet panties and hard-ons. Whatever, all I know is if only for a night, Chapel Hill was gonna shudder with the thunder of ANTiSEEN...

The club is called Local 506. It's been in operation for as long as I can remember. I once rode up here to see Cocknoose play. It was a wild night that saw them nearly incite a riot with some self-righteous feminist lesbian types that got a wee too physical when chairs started flying. The 'Noose were told never to return and we rode back home laughing all the way. That was over twenty years ago, however. Now I'm older and more mature.

One of the opening bands features my old pal Brad Mullins. Brad and I started our first band together as teenagers. We were young, good looking, bright eyed and eager. We were also arrogant and confrontational. Our calling card was to smash our gear every show. One memorable set ended with police and firetrucks lined around the club we were playing. We were told never to return and rode back home laughing all the way. That was over twenty years ago, however. Now I'm older and more mature.

*ahem*...

Brad helps me out before the show with a little combat surgery on my Telecaster. Its good to catch up with him. Whether it was with my first band, or during his brief stint as guitarist in the Mad Brother Ward thing or just jamming for fun in a practice room somewhere, I've always felt my best work was with Brad. Some people you just sorta have creative chemistry with. Unfortunately he and I have also had the proverbial love/hate relationship that too often accompanies creative chemistry as an unpleasant side effect. Truthfully, it has largely been rooted in pettiness and jealousy on my part; Brad Mullins remains the single most talented person I've ever known.

I kill time upstairs above the club in their 'green room'. Our roadie Brandon, Gooch and I sip beer and swap tales of crazy ex-girlfriends. It starts to rain outside. Suddenly a girl appears with a shady looking guy who walks into the bathroom and slumps on the floor. He seems oblivious to our presence. She disappears briefly during which time he rolls up his sleeve and appears to tie off. She returns and closes herself in the bathroom with him. We all sorta look at each other. Ordinarily I would say something but with all the recent heavy travelling and random stupidity that seems to find ways into our orbit, I simply shrug it off.

When we finally hit stage I'm somewhat surprised to see a strong turnout, about 100 people have braved the gloomy weather. It's good to see familiar faces in addition to the other assorted random locals and college students. Andy Miller and Slayer Doug from KIFF, Jon Adam and several other of our Raleigh friends have driven over. John the Baptist has came up from Wilmington. Jeff's brother Greg is here, as is former ANTiSEEN sound guy Todd Goss. Todd recorded my personal favorite A-SEEN album Southern Hostility. He's one of the few people whose opinion matters to me. I hope I don't disappoint.

It takes a few songs for me to find my rhythm and when I finally do, I break a string. Fortunately I was prepared, my backup guitar sat tuned and waiting. I quickly switch out guitars while the band plays on without me. I keep my wits and fall right back in line and am able finish the song. Its a nice save. We continue on and I have to mentally readjust. My backup guitar sounds slightly different and I'm not as fond of it. The crowd doesn't seem to notice or care. We grind our set out to a finish and are called back for an encore. We hit 'em with three more tunes and call it a night.

It occurs to me later that despite the transient and fluxing nature of Chapel Hill, ANTiSEEN has still managed to secure some deep roots and strong ties. It was a great way to kick off this short run.


BALTIMORE - September 25

After a quick IHOP breakfast we soldier forward on the highway. The sky is overcast and gray but our spirits are high. The trip is pleasant enough and we roll into Baltimore amid rush hour traffic. I've never seen downtown Baltimore before. My limited exposure to the city has been in its rather hellish bombed out ghetto neighborhoods, so its a bit of an eye opener to me. Downtown is really clean and nice. People throng about, many in costumes for what appears to be a comic book convention. We glide though before rolling up to our destination for the night.

The club is called Club Orpheus. It is a industrial/goth dance club. Painted red and black, the room is basically square; a bar occupying one side and a dance floor the other. It is capped with a loft overlooking the dance floor. There is no stage, rather several makeshift risers presumably designed for dancers to perch upon. The dance floor itself is to serve as the stage. One of the opening bands has already set up using the largest riser for their drums.They make noise for no reason readily apparent. 

Everyone seems to be dressed as extras from a Marilyn Manson video - even the security are decked out in eyeliner and spiked collars. I feel somewhat out of place and conspicuous in my jeans and flannel shirt; a bright blue interloper amidst black clad Goth rockers.We examine to periphery, noticing what appears to be "torture" devices; chains hanging from the ceiling and wooden saw horses with shackles. A large wooden 'X' looms in the corner close to where we set up merch. I eyeball it curiously and one of the studded security proudly announces it to be the "best built Saint Andrews cross on the East Coast". I assure him I'd much prefer a soft bed and a fluffy pillow. He doesn't find this to be funny and storms off. I I can't help myself. The staff are all pretty cool folks but the whole BDSM thing is just so ridiculously cheesy to me. One fills me in on the rules; the things that are and are not legally allowed. "I've seen some sick shit here", he assures me. I tell him my sex life too, is "sick" - sickeningly normal.

The opening bands are all devotees of rockabilly and the Misfits. "Gothabilly" if you will. They blast away with in all the requisite accoutrements - think The Munsters meets Sha Na Na by way of KISS; lotsa Halloween props and face paint. The locals seem to eat it up. Each band all boast how proud they are to play with the "legendary ANTiSEEN!!!", but curiously none stay to watch our set. Oh well.

We have to move some of the weird risers when we set up our gear. Gooch is set up on the large riser. I personally hate drum risers, too heavy metal for my taste. No matter, we quickly get it together and are soon into our set. People gather around the dance floor as we play. I'm feeling pretty comfortable although am somewhat pacing myself. The PA really isn't suitable, the guy is only running vocals. I think it makes Jeff work harder than he needs to, but we manage to play through it. For some reason we get lost at the end of 'Up All Night'. It kinda shudders and lumbers to a halt. We don't let it derail us, however. We quickly charge forward and its a pretty hot little set. We encounter another problem when the PA cuts out during 'Nothings Cool'. The sound guy makes a quick fix and we carry on. I notice rivulets of blood on the floor. Jeff has opened himself at some point. I seldom notice anymore. At the end Gooch up-ends his drums, a good spontaneous emphatic exclamation mark in counterpoint to the theatrics that have surrounded us all night.

After the show we hang out with some of the locals. Barry and I try to gauge what the best plan would be for getting into Philadelphia. The Pope is visiting Philly and there have been warnings of bad traffic, security checkpoints and closed roads. I also reason it might be hard to find a motel with any vacancies. We get some advice from some locals and try to formulate a plan. I am not optimistic but Barry thinks it's all grossly overstated. He calls it "Y2K like madness". I hope he's right. 


PHILADELPHIA - September 26

We catch a Waffle House breakfast before making a side trip for a music store. Seems when Gooch knocked over his drums he managed to sever the lead cable to Barry's bass. I take the downtime opportunity to research traffic reports out of Philly. It's only a quick two hours up the highway but with all the Pope hysteria it could take much longer. I discover a website with live feeds from DOT cameras around the city. Things don't look bad at all, in fact the highways look practically deserted. We had determined an alternate route but instead decide to gamble it on the interstate.

We sail straight up with no problems whatsoever. Entering into Philly we see where the roads are closed but it has no bearing on where we are headed, a place on the north side. Unlike South Philly which is rather innocuous hardscrabble working class neighborhoods, North Philly is more run down and sketchy if not outright ghetto. We maze our way thru one-way streets lined with old tenement houses, dirty corner stores and shady looking bars. I figure even Rocky Balboa would probably side step this place.

The venue is called The Compound. It is not a legal licensed club, rather an old warehouse that occasionally hosts shows. Ralph Miller's Rusty Knuckles outfit is staging an event called 'Freedom Road' as the finale to a bike run. Unfortunately the run was cancelled due to weather and most folks in Philly are unaware the event is taking place because they cannot advertise what is essentially an 'illegal' show. it doesn't deter us, however. It takes a minute to figure out our way in, but  we are soon parked in a little alleyway behind the building. On the opposite side there are some folks with tents, presumably they are camping out here. There is barbecue and a small bar serves drinks. I reckon the idea was to stage a small scale semblance of the Muddy Roots Festival.

After quickly loading in our gear we have plenty of time to kill. We locate a suburban mall to go see a movie. Barry and I decide to skip the movie and instead walk around the mall. Its a giant place, larger than any mall I've ever been to - an endless labyrinth of Foot Locker, Victoria's Secret, FYE and food courts. On the opposite end there's a music store and I decide to get a few little things. They have a cheap Telecaster on sale. It looks like someone dropped it; a long ,deep gouge scars its face and the tail end is dented. Barry suggests I could probably talk them into a deal but I decide it would still require too much money to bring it to my personal specs. We wander over to a giant arcade place and wind up dropping a chunk of change on some games before joining back up with the others.

After returning to the Compound I wait it out in the van until show time. When given the 'OK' we load our gear onto the tiny stage and it leaves no room for Clayton. As with the night before, the PA is inadequate. A tiny monitor sits on the floor but is useless. We simply remove it and get down to business. It's a small turnout, maybe about 30 or 40 people. Barry and I stand at the lip of the tiny stage while Clayton takes to the floor. Everyone crowds around and we blast though the set. I'm in the zone, feeling really confident and having a good time. Suddenly a flash of fire erupts above us. Someone is on an upper balcony above the stage and blowing fireballs. The lamp oil is misting down and soaks the floor. Personally I find it annoying and distracting. No sooner is that over when suddenly a girl appears with a large firework stick in her hand. She's trying to ignite it. I look at the oil-soaked floor then back at her and think, 'this is not gonna end well'. Fortunately someone else sees her folly and quickly spirits her away before she kills us all.

The set is great, I feel really good coming off stage. I towel off and quickly tear down my gear and load out. I meet some cool folks after the show. I discover some people have travelled down from some French Canadian province to see us. It's this kind of dedication and devotion that gives ANTiSEEN its own unique aura. I feel lucky to have been included in it.

Pretty soon we pack up the van and are back out on the highway for another all night drive home...


October is gonna be largely devoted to recording and writing. We are playing a special free show at the Thirsty Beaver in Charlotte on October 30th. Its a tiny place and is sure to pack out, so get there early. We have our old pals Self Made Monsters opening and trust me when I tell you they are not to be missed. We also have a few little 'treats' cooked up for the Halloween holiday and it gonna be a whole lotta fun...  no tricks!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Southern Comfort...

We've been tearing up and down the highways of the southeast this month in hit and run skirmishes of Destructo Rock. Along the way we always encounter some of the coolest people and places. I know speaking from a personal level that this first year as an active member of the band has been a very good one. If it were to all end tomorrow I'd have a pretty deep well of memories to reflect on. Certainly nobody can ever replace Joe Young and nobody is trying to redifine this band or rewrite its history. I can only hope I've added to it. And you folks out there that come to the shows, buy a t shirt or record or merely just read this blog are all included. We do this together.




ROANOKE VA - Sept 5


I was born in Roanoke and lived there until I was 12. I still have family and friends there, but for reasons personal to me, the place holds little in the way of nostalgia and I seldom ever visit anymore. This wasn't gonna be a homecoming of any sort, however I had a personal agenda to perform well. I played there once before with the old MBW band and it was one of the worst shows I ever gave. I wanted to return and vindicate myself, even if only to myself. Sometimes yourself is the stiffest competition you've got.


I remember coming to Roanoke with the boys over twenty years ago. They played at a place called the Iroquois. After their set we had a tense stand-off with some of the local punk rock scene kings. Words were traded but these guys were simply outmatched and outclassed. The verbal beat down was enough to send them home to rethink their shit. This go 'round the current crop of would-be and wannabe scene kings simply stayed home. More on that in a bit.


We arrived early in the afternoon and made a little side trip up to the crest of Mill Mountain. The city erected an 80ft neon star and overlook at the peak. I suggested as it was not too far out of the way it would be a cool spot to take some pics. Unfortunately the impact was somewhat lost as it was daytime and the star wasn't lit. Still, its a trek I almost always make when I visit. You can see most of the Roanoke Valley from up there. Even though I don't have much connection with Roanoke anymore, it still is my home. When I die I'd like my ashes scattered at the foot of the star, because hey - what better tombstone than an 80ft neon star??


The club is called Backstreet Cafe. Its a cool tiny bar, the kind of place where you have to move the pool table to make room for the band because there is no stage.The room is a basic rectangular shell lined to one side by the bar. It reminds me of the kind of place you might read in a Bukowski or Elroy book. Seedy. It was once (and possibly still is) a gay bar and is run by a cool transgender woman named Deanna. True fact: a man once entered the place and shot seven people, killing one. 


We are told of a local band's effort to derail the show. It's the tired "racist" thing again. I ask who they are and am told their name. I recognize them as the band I once brought to Charlotte. Although they were a stupid and boring cliche of a band I still tried to ensure they got paid enough to cover their expenses. I'm sure they would claim ignorance and it doesn't really matter at this point. That they would blindly make accusations and aspersions of my personal character is pretty telling. They don't know me or my friends, and the fact we are playing a gay bar is an irony clearly lost on their elitist punk rock snobbery. Deanna assures me the truth of the matter - they're jealous they were not asked to open.

Our set is a little ragged and the crowd turnout wasn't so hot but I thought it was a lot of fun. The crowd that were there were seriously into it. Lotsa slam dancing and jumping around. I love shows like this; where the people are up on top of you and its hot, sweaty and hard to breath. The volume and feedback of my Hiwatt sounds killer in this little room. It all makes me play harder.
Overall I feel we tore Roanoke a new asshole. It was a lot of fun and we met some great folks. Hopefully we'll get to come back soon.




SHREVEPORT - September 18


We left out on Thursday night to break up the long ride out to Shreveport. The ride was actually pretty fun; everyone was in a pretty good mood and laughing a lot. We encountered some bad traffic outside of Atlanta due to an accident, but otherwise made it down halfway across Alabama before stopping for the night. The motel was a bit dumpy but we were too tired to care. We made it on over to Shreveport the next afternoon a bit frazzled and road burned but still in good spirits.


The club is called the Back 2 Back Bar. The name is, presumably, because there are two separate rooms serviced by a bar split between them. Back to back, get it? Its actually the bar for a hotel that has been taken over by a cool biker dude whose name I cant recall. He is very welcoming and we quickly load in our gear. The stage is small with a PA that is probably more powerful than the room requires. The room itself is dotted with tables and chairs, a remnant of an era when this was a more formal hotel lounge. Disco lights illuminate the floor in a dizzying array of colorful patterns.


The promoter soon arrives, a guy named Matt. He quickly orders our food and gives us keys to two hotel rooms he is providing for the night. We are somewhat surprised when he tells us the rooms are at a different hotel. After eating he volunteers a runner to take us over to the hotel we are staying, so Clayton and I go on over to check it out. It is easily the nicest place we've stayed since I've joined. Clayton and I kinda grin at each other on the elevator. He says this is more like the treatment the band receives in Europe. This promoter has his shit down, and we are really grateful.

When we return to the club I kill some time outside talking with a guy named Joey Corman. It's his birthday and he's driven over from Texas with his girlfriend to catch the show. He used to wrestle on the indy circuit, so we nerd out on wrestling talk. I talk a bit with another guy whose name I don't catch. We talk gearhead stuff. The people showing up are all really cool. One of the opening bands is 'Jethro Skull' featuring our friend Scott Lenard. The night is shaping up to be a lot of fun.


When we hit stage everyone crowds around in front. Its a small turnout, but a rowdy one. We blitz thru our set and I quickly find my zone. I was somewhat nervous due to out lack of practice but everything is on point. I lean into the songs content to blast away with abandon. The crowd push, shove and slam, often falling at our feet. To me, this is what I always sort of envisioned as kid reading about the "rock & roll underground"; a tribe of disparate and disillusioned outsiders, hidden away in some forgotten dark bar eager to blow off steam and expel some of whatever heinous bullshit they contend with in everyday life.
   
The set was great and Matt the promoter readily invites us back. I look forward to it.






NEW ORLEANS - September 19


Before leaving Shreveport I suggest we ride over to the old Shreveport Memorial Auditorium. This is where the old Louisiana Hayride radio show originated. It was on that show in this building that Elvis became a star. The show was the chief competitor to the larger and more established Grand Ole Opry out of Nashville. The Hayride program was decidedly more rowdy and raucous, and served as the roots of what would become rock & roll.

After taking some pictures we have to locate a pharmacy. Kerrie somehow managed to turn her ankle and sprain it the night before. We luck out and find a Goodwill and score her some crutches. She's bummed and we try to cheer her up. These road trips - especially one as long as this one - are already uncomfortable enough. To have to endure chronic pain makes it harder. She's a tough little lady and hardly complains. Pretty soon we are rolling on down the highway to New Orleans.

We arrive in town around seven. We always seem to get turned around when trying to find this club. We've been here twice before so the locale is becoming somewhat familiar. We quickly find it and have the usual trouble with parking. The club staff however are very helpful and we soon have a good spot by the front door. New Orleans is kind of a scuzzy place. Its a weird mix of poor and middle class mingling together in an uneasy mix of mutual apathy. Bums pester for money and smokes, with people indulging them as often as ignoring them. You can drink on the street here, and apparently police turn a blind eye to folks openly smoking pot. Oddly, the atmosphere is less dangerous than relaxed. Not everything is as you see it on TV.


The club is called Siberia. Its a relatively small venue that doubles as a restaurant. I've come to look forward to this place because it serves awesome food. We are met by Walt and Heather Wheat, close friends from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Walt plays guitar for 'Before I Hang'. Tonights show is serving as the 40th birthday party for their drummer, John Littlejohn. John soon arrives and so does Josh Mayfield from Hellstomper. Josh plays guitar in one of the opening bands, 'Mudsex'. Everyone catches up after load in.


The place soon is crowded. ANTiSEEN have always enjoyed a good following here. Most of the people are your garden variety crusty punk types; tatooed and pierced ruffians in tattered denim vests adorned with assorted spikes and studs and the patchwork of various band logos. They mingle and mill about in front of the club clutching their beer and smoking. Some kids sit across the street content to listen to the music from a distance.


The shows here start late; the first band doesn't go on until nearly 11;00. I miss the opening bands but Barry, Gooch and our roadie Brandon all rave about the first band. Truthfully I'm uncomfortable in crowds and prefer the solitude of the van. I know it might come off somewhat antisocial or worse, snobby, but although somewhat difficult to explain it actually helps me prepare for our set. Even after a year of doing this I still find myself nervous. I carry a lot of expectation on my shoulders - mostly my own expectation. I want every set to be exceptional and memorable. As I will discover this evening, it isn't always an easy goal.


We finally take the stage. Most people are still lingering out front. It takes the first two songs for the room to fill up. I don't mind, I'm trying to find my zone. I can't seem to catch my rhythm and unlike Shreveport, everything I do feels awkward and stilted. I try to play though it, briefly finding point on occasion but mostly its an uphill battle. I collide with Clayton at one point, jamming his elbow with the neck of my guitar. Sweat stings my eyes and I can taste the salt on my lips. Usually this is a good thing but tonight its only derailing me.


About halfway thru the set we play 'Masters Of The Sky'. It's one of my favorite songs to play. Usually if I'm not on point I can find my feet on this song, however tonight it doesn't happen. Then as we follow though with 'OD For Me' I break a string. At first I think its my 'G" string, something which I can get around. Unfortunately its my 'A' string and I'm forced to stop. The song shudders to a halt. I've played guitar off and on in bands since I was 19 and never once have I broken a string onstage during a show. It doesn't throw me. I handle it pretty well, playing it off by pretending to pay Clayton a "fine". While changing guitars Clayton takes the opportunity to bring John onstage and wish him happy birthday, gifting him with a full set of ANTiSEEN Voodoo Dolls. The crowd joins in singing 'Happy Birthday'.


The set resumes and I still never fully find my feet. I repeatedly drop my pick, something else I rarely do. I play the final two songs without a pick. I try to salvage all I can and we finally power though to the finish. I'm lucky to have the solid rhythm section of Barry and Gooch to carry me. They help make this set a success. I feel pretty lousy afterwards but Barry thinks it was strong. I ask Brandon and he agrees it was a really fun set. People shake my hand and everyone seems really happy with the show.  


This was another valuable lesson I've learned. Sometimes when you're in the moment things aren't necessarily clear. Your thoughts can become clouded with irrational thought. I shouldn't expect too much from myself, true, but then I should never let that be an excuse to perform badly.However this night in New Orleans I realize I didn't perform badly, I did exactly what I needed to do. I never lost focus, never held back and never quit.


I was in fact, precisely where I needed to be.  



     

We head out again this weekend for a round of shows that will see us in Chapel Hill, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Philly show should prove interesting considering half the town is going to be shut down due to the visit of the Pope. We are used to such obstacles however. We will make every effort to make it into Philly and do what we do. Hopefully those of you in the Philly/ Jersey area will brave the traffic. We look forward to seeing you. Same goes for our friends in the DC/Baltimore/ Delaware region and of course all our old pals in the Raleigh/ Durham area. We want to see all of you.


We are also still working hard on new material. I know its a bit of a tease, but give us some time and hopefully we'll start seeing some new releases in the new year. Meanwhile keep your eyes open for more stories from the road and beyond and thanks for reading this.


If anyone wants to correspond hit me up at madbroward@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Holiest of Rollers Never Step Foot Inside a Church...

Our pals in Lookout Mountain Daredevils posted a review they received in the pages of the venerable old punk magazine 'Maximum Rock & Roll'. I wasn't gonna really interject myself into this, but goddammit shit just gets too stupid not to pass comment. They received a negative review, which would be perfectly fine if it weren't for the fact that the reviewer gave up his shit by basically admitting he had little appreciation for rock & roll. So he gave essentially a non-review; a not so clever dismissal of "sped-up Chuck Berry riffs" (which sounds like something good to me) and lyrical content (which is to say it isn't the oh so vital political dissertation that gives those MRR folk hard-ons).


The real problem with MRR  (or really any other nameless "zine") is the complete lack of cognitive reason and thought to objectively review a record (or anything else for that matter). This due to the obvious and increasingly troublesome realization that most people don't possess the depth of knowledge or understanding - never mind taste - to demonstrate any objectivity because they simply cannot distinguish quality from crap. Criticism has become bad manners, as if the idea of forming a negative opinion is somehow counter revolutionary in the erstwhile progressive mindest of the new era. I mean Jezus H Christmas, is this 1969 or 2015??


Lets get with the program already because there aint a whole hell of a lot of rock and roll bands left these days. The Dictators rattled the dry dead bones years ago with a song called "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" and presciently included the line 'our generation / is not the salvation' - because they knew the kids weren't gonna buy it no how, nevermind FM radio. Seriously - where do we go from here? We already hit the wall charging at full speed at least twenty years ago - and sure one could argue it was a glorious, gore-ious crash, but when the dust settled and cleared all that was left other than the trusted old guard (god bless 'em) was cheap imitators; costumed affectation drilling out the same old, same old, same old - only without any heart or conviction because its all a disposable and trivial interest at best anyhow. The only reason any of it appears in any way credible is because what stands next to it is so utterly worthless as to make the obvious seem exceptional.


Sorry, but hatred is a valid human emotion. Oh, I don't mean unwarranted and blind baseless hatred masking ones own low self esteem, insecurities, phobias and fears; I mean pointed, directed hate. The hate that defines ones own integrity. The hate that establishes the bullshit one will not tolerate. The kind of hate most people are far too chickenshit to ever allow be shown because they don't wanna get kicked out of the goddamned party. There is a carefully constructed and cultivated culture of cool; and god knows its far more important to be cool than it is to be good.


I just recently moved again. For the last four years I had been living in a tiny little house nestled snugly off a side road somewhat hidden away from the frenzied hustle of the city and it has been a good little spot for me. It was far enough away from the annoying obviousness of so-called 'alternative' plasticized culture that has developed like a bad rash over certain quarters of the city, yet close enough to stealthily sleaze thru when warranted.


Now I have returned to the heart of it all. Once a seedy strand of low-income refuse, this neighborhood has seen its rebirth as the haven of the artsy-fartsy and neo-hippy idealists. Naturally this attracted the hawkish eye of real-estate barons constructing a maze of pricey apartment buildings and 'upscale' restaurants inhabited by young, upwardly mobile Caucasians in polo shirts and colorful sundresses. One has to appreciate the irony of seeing these children of privilege stomp about spouting off standardized rhetorical game-plays of "diversity" and "tolerance" while surreptitiously whitewashing and cannibalizing the whole goddamned neighborhood. They practically choke on their tongues while preaching equality and brotherhood, intoning the virtuous piety of the oh-so-saintly liberal city council and their noble efforts to preserve, protect and defend the local landmarks and culture...  only to act shocked and surprised when same-said council members sell out the zoning to evil corporate commercial interests.


The neighborhood has homogenized into a hellish sanctuary of the media directed drones and sheep in wolves clothing;  hipsters, hippies, yuppies and... me...


This isnt to say I'm sitting off to the corner as some sort of bullshit modern day Holden Caulfield. I am a creature of habit too, I suppose. Although I do not engage in the trivial bar hopping and social grandstanding that pulsates the heart of the neighborhood, I usually can be found at "my" bar, the Thirsty Beaver Saloon. It's a place where I can communicate non-verbally with the bartender who supplies me with my beer on sight. A television blinks away in the corner with reruns of Hee-Haw on continuous loop. The jukebox is free and loaded with old-school country, choice rock & roll and old r&b. It's a cool little spot, but isn't without faults of its own - it's popularity rose quickly as the proverbial "dive bar" that for whatever reason attracts the bridge and tunnel crowd, eager to slum it up in a "real" honky-tonk.


Loud annoying girls appearing as though they have just stepped off the reject line at a casting call for some inane Lifetime television drama  - or perhaps Jersey Shore - teeter and stumble about in high heels like wounded foals. Drunk on Fireball Whiskey they furiously try to feed the jukebox money unaware it is set for continuous free play, only to then stare in confusion at the lack of recognizable names on the playlists. They are surrounded by large boy-men clad in tight black tee-shirts reading 'TAPOUT' and 'AFFLICTION' who are only too eager to fight. Then there are the Real Housewives of Wherethefuckerever, corralled and clustered out the front door, chain smoking like its their job while their polo and cargo attired husbands swarm about the bar burying the bartender in endless requests for imported beer only to grudgingly settle for PBR.


Fortunately there are the regulars, no more or less sober or sane, but at least you can relate. We don't laugh with the tourists as much as laugh at them. Somehow amidst the mindless morass we manage to have a time of our own, safely ensconced in our own little corner of dysfunction and discontent. Here we find some solace and understanding... or at least tolerance if not acceptance. Sure, we might bristle and hiss among ourselves from time to time; alcohol isn't always conducive to good behavior or bright ideas. But we do alright.


It is here at the Thirsty Beaver that ANTiSEEN will preform in October. The boys that own the bar are longtime 'SEEN fans, even including ANTiSEEN albums on the jukebox - the only local joint that I'm aware to do so. The band has played here a few times before. It's a tiny spot with no stage. You simply set up in a cramped corner and get down on it. The regulars are all eager for the band to return. The tourists wont have a clue.


Oh yeah... It's gonna be a goooood time...



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Keep On Ruinin'...

I had the good fortune to see Self Made Monsters again the other night. Cramped into a tiny backroom of a nameless local bar they managed to whet my appetite for some much needed authenticity. It always does me some good to see the Monsters engage and enlighten, even if only with a tiny handful at a time. The quizzical and smug looks of those peeking in on the action only to weasel away served to affirm my belief that even in the dark recesses of the underground the lumpen punker will always prefer to swill at the trough of a palatable pablum.

Lead Monster Eddie Ford and I were discussing recently how we've had to endure a certain amount of hate and derision from people online. Now to be completely candid, he and I both have been guilty of hurling our own individual brands of hate and derision online as well, so we surmised we should expect to - if not get as good as we give -  expect take one on the chin every now and again. I at least try to temper comments of my own with a modicum of depth and reason (which probably still doesn't raise me above much more than just another random troll - but hey, I give myself credit for effort). I cannot always say the same for those who target me. 

I've been accused of a lot of things - some of which I must shamefully cop to - but a bold-faced pathological liar isn't one of them. The recent flap over a cheaply produced "biopic" film of a local musician sorta confused me. Sadly people such as me - who once counted themselves friends and allies - have been left to feel dismissed and disregarded in this selfish pursuit of attempting to achieve legend without actually putting forth the requisite effort. Same-said local musician made a very concerted and concentrated effort to remove individuals from his life that would've surely cast the looming shadow of suspicion over the accuracy of the film. To be sure, I seriously doubt any one of us would wish for their life to held to public scrutiny or examination. However if you're going to open yourself up for public exhibition, you better be prepared to face the consequences and critiques. Moreover, when you display yourself in an openly fraudulent manner before people who've known you all your life - you really better be ready for the consequences and critiques.

A co-conspirator of this nonsense once called me a 'sycophant' for helping Jeff Clayton. When I consider how frequently Clayton and I disagree and argue - and how widely known he and I are to have done so - it sorta makes me wonder if said accuser even knows what a 'sycophant' is. Because given his own eager efforts to attach and elevate his own name with Clayton's it would seem the accusation at the very least, hypocritical. His involvement in the aforementioned indie film project underscores this point. GG Allin somewhat presciently called him 'The Opportunist'. Another clueless bum who forever attempts to define himself not by what he has achieved (which is nothing) but who he claims to have known. The unending tired boasts of alleged friendships with random bigdealsowhat 'names' eventually led this male groupie to send a pithy email to Tremont Music Hall (which was naturally shared with everyone) touting the ridiculous and riotously hilarious claim of his own name having "market value".  

It’s also kinda ironic some people get upset when I merely state the obvious truth. Ryan McGinnis contacted me after my last blog applauding my comments regarding Chris Piegler. He felt that I demonstrated remarkable restraint and I assured him I edited out some of the more damning commentary. I'm not generally given to baseless grievance and I call the truth as I see it. Personally I felt that many of Pieglers so-called "friends" were too quick to come and grandstand on his grave in (yet another) ill-conceived and self-serving display of "unity". It turned the whole sad affair into a very hurtful exercise to people already mourning the loss of a friend. It’s very telling that those who propagated the affair still don't seem to recognize this fact. 

In the interest of full disclosure - although friendly, Chris and I didn't see eye-to-eye. He once held glowing praise and admiration for ANTiSEEN but as he became more eagerly involved with the 'scene' he increasingly grew unable (or at least unwilling) to distinguish the line of demarcation between Jeff Clayton and Joe Young  - people he had known for years -  and the darkly satirical pisstake of their art. He questioned me once about the band and their "attitude". Even after breaking kayfabe and (over)explaining it I realized he was too far gone. In truth, Chris was too easily given to the standardized political dogma practiced by kids who didn't possess the intelligence or wit to figure it out.

To the outside lay-person the petty jealousies, in-fighting and power grabs at what surely is the biggest nothing ever would ultimately seem cheap unwarranted drama. Compound this with the increasingly disturbing fact that in Charlotte, our local music writers are our local music performers. So, you can see how easily and readily objectivity and honesty is gonna get compromised and diluted. I mean talk about a conflict of interest. God forbid I daresay anything critical - lest I be an asshole...

Clearly we all suffer from the same psychosis that sets our grey matter spasmatic whenever we hear the distorted squall of electric guitar. And the sad truth is that we are all an endangered species growing older and rarer every second. The reality is I feel those have worked long and hard for what they have achieved and are due the respect and honor afforded our efforts (goddamned sycophant that I am). I will not abide those who would undermine and defeat those efforts. Perhaps I should know better (and probably do but just don't care) but speaking for myself, it is more than mere music here…

 

 right?

 

 

 

 

We're ready to burn off the summer heat with some shows across the Mid-Atlantic and southeast. September will see us trekking points from New Orleans on up to Philadelphia. All pertinent info is found at www.antiseen.com. We just confirmed a Charlotte gig for Halloween eve, Friday October 30 at the inimitable Thirsty Beaver Saloon, and its gonna be absolutely FREE. So ya got no excuse to miss out. Meanwhile we are set to finally put some new tunes in the can and hopefully have them ready for release in rapid order. Moreover some really killer unreleased stuff from the vaults might be seeing the light of day soon as well. So dontcha dare blink cause its like, all happenin' maaaaan.....

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Come and a-Listen To My Story...

It has now been a year since I've started this blog. It started off pretty decent but my readership has declined as of late. It is a bit discouraging however I chiefly started this for my own personal journal of my time in the band.  I suppose some of it gets rather monotonous after a few entries. There are moments of excitement but generally much of what a band does would seem laborious to those not actively involved. It's somewhat a challenge to come up with clever and interesting ways to write about what we have going on without repeating the same ideas. If I were to inject a little of the cynicism and contempt I'm somewhat notorious for then maybe I would generate a little more interest, but this really isn't the forum for that.


Waitaminit... This is my goddamn blog, of course this is the forum for that!


So here's a story.


I was the proverbial late-bloomer. I was already 17 before I really discovered punk rock and just barely missed out the last waning moments of the era when it still held any relevance whatsoever. My friend Rebecca once said she remembered when I was 'green' - meaning my inexperience and naivety was still pretty apparent. Despite my best efforts, I discovered very quickly and very hard that punk rock was just another stupid social order - a fashion show predicated on worn out political clichés set to the tune of either very ineptly played heavy-metal or soulless pseudo-pop redefined and re-imagined as 'punk rock'.
 
So yeah, the green got scrubbed off hard with cynicism.


About a year and a half ago my friend Chris Piegler passed away. Although he and I weren't particularly close it was a sad loss. Chris was a perennial face in local music going back way, way, way back before I ever got hip to shit. He played keyboards in several pop groups before switching over to bass and trying his hand at punk rock. However his approach was almost always positive - or as I told his former bandmate Ryan McGinnis - he ushered people thru the door that I jealously guarded. I've not made myself the most friendly and approachable of people at times, so it should be of no surprise whatsoever that my attitude to the local 'scene' has left me with a somewhat less than stellar reputation. I've always reveled in the fact that I'm considered a dick, because frankly; I am. In contrast Chris was a fixture and virtually every show, no matter how big or small. He didn't just talk the "support" rhetoric, he walked it as well; perhaps more so than anybody I've ever known. As such he sort of became the defacto figurehead to a scene he in fact had relatively little involvement in. Just goes to show how far a smile and handshake will take you. Ironically despite Chris' best efforts to encourage and support other bands - most comprised of people less than half his age - his own shows were like bomb scares. It was as if Chris devoted his time, energy and dedication only to be rewarded with ambivalence, disinterest and a total lack of caring.

Here's another story:


Recently my personal favorite band Self Made Monsters released a new album. They have been together nearly twenty years. Their line-up has remained largely unaltered in that time. More than a mere band, they are truly a brotherhood; four guys thinking singularly and acting collectively to deliver some of the most potent rock and roll music anywhere. They are as honest and genuine as a band can be in this day and age and play for all the right reasons. I have watched with envy as they have been able to easily maneuver and grow as their skills have improved. They have outlived bands that have been celebrated, signed and forgotten. I've seen them numerous times and they never phone it in. Honestly I don't think they know how to do it any other way. They have outlasted trends in taste, fashion and style. There is no conscious calculation to how they present themselves or their music. It is raw honesty, and that's a mighty rare thing.
  
I find it pretty lousy that they haven't ever received the recognition and respect they so very much deserve. It's a sad testimony that the derivative convoluted staleness that garners high praise and hero worship in this town clouds over and drowns out something as mighty and great as Self Made Monsters. I guess umpteenth-generation Cult clones and dullards plying bad grunge rock shall be forever fashionable.


And yet another story:

Several years ago a somewhat famous "rawk" personality came thru town peddling his brand of solo acoustic singer/songwriter shtick. Being a fan I pulled myself off my otherwise disenfranchised ass and scurried down to the Tremont Music Hall. It was a typical turnout for Charlotte; about thirty wayward souls had wandered over to the South-End venue. Actually that wasn't too shabby for a Sunday night. I figured it would make for a more intimate and interesting set. After all, "rawk" guy playing solo acoustic leaves a lot of room for connecting with such a small audience. I had seen him many times with his full fledged "rawk" band - his stage banter was always witty and personable, even if he did crib some one-liners and asides from old Motorhead bootlegs.


His set was predictably brief and uneventful. Rather than engage with the audience he simply phoned it in, talking between songs as if reciting from a script. Every step was carefully measured and executed. The small crowd appreciated it, but he didn't seem to appreciate the small crowd. He played well, delivered his set with smooth professionalism but just seemed...  not there. Even now years later writing this I'm still not sure if he was disappointed, angry, sick or just apathetic.


He disappeared after his set so anyone wanting to get something signed or maybe just say 'thanks' or whatever missed out. Personally I managed to salvage my night later in the ladies room at the Thirsty Beaver with a girl I met celebrating her twenty-first birthday.
But that's another story...

Anyway. I'm not sure if the big picture is coming together very clearly here, but indulge me...

In January 1993 I was travelling with ANTiSEEN on a two week tour across the south. Green Day were simultaneously touring the same route. They had not yet released their breakthrough 'Dookie' album but were very obviously the Next Big Thing. We were almost always in the same city at competing clubs. FEAR was a day or two ahead of us, and if memory serves correctly, the Bad Brains were a day or two behind us. So needless to say we had competition.



One of my fondest memories occurred on this tour. We were in Gainesville, Florida, home of Tom Petty, Patron Saint Of Mediocrity. It was gonna be good to if not shake the foundations, at least jostle them somewhat.


The venue is called the Florida Theater. It is a cavernous place with a huge stage covered by a mammoth Van Halen style light rig. Two old rocker dudes appear out of the darkness. They look like the lost bastard brethren of Jim Dandy Mangrum - long thinning locks of bleach blond hair capped with bandannas to mask the receding hairlines. They wear silk shirts buttoned barely above the navel, revealing greying chest hair matted across tanned, aged leathery skin. Tight stonewashed jeans tucked into snakeskin cowboy boots finishes the look. Rock and Roll is clearly serious business to them. Introductions are made. One does the lights, one does the sound. "Yalls equipment truck comin'?"asks one. We explain everything is in the van. "Y'all aint got no Marshall stacks?" he asks incredulously. Sorry, no.
We load in and blow these old dudes minds with our gear; a single Fender Super Twin, a Sunn Bass head resting on a single cabinet holding a fifteen inch speaker and a small four piece drum set. "Man, thats all ya'll got?" Uh, yeah. "What kinda music y'all do?" Punk rock. "Y'all mean like thrash metal??" Uh, no. "Ya'll know Jackyl?? Thems friends of ours up in Atlanta!! We party with them awlla tiiiime!!!"


It wasn't like these guy were rude, just curiously clueless and a little cheesy. It took a while but eventually our common bond was made: we all loved pro wrestling. "Hell yeah brother, Badstreet USA!! Freebirds man, that was the shit!!" After that anything we wanted was A-OK. They went straight to work, the light guy eagerly climbing a giant ladder way up into the mammoth light rig to realign spots so everything remained uniform. The sound guy listened to my advice politely and adjusted the controls accordingly. They couldn't get over our "tiny" gear but were mightily impressed when the boys launched into a number at sound check.


The promoter noted with slight nervousness that Green Day were at another club down the street. Learning it was sold out, he suggested the turn-away might reroute over to our show. Well if any did it was of no consequence. About thirty people came out to this large hall that probably held about 2500. They stood at the front of the stage in a single line leaving the rest of the giant room sadly empty.
 
The boys came out to the intro music of Elvis' 'American Trilogy'. I'm not ashamed to admit great pride in inventing this gimmick. When mixed with the impressive lighting cued for dramatic effect, it's a showstopper. When the boys launch into their set its a deal-sealer. If they were disappointed in the turnout, you'd never be able to tell. They pop off one song after another, hitting every spot with rapid fire precision. The tiny crowd are really into it, shoving side to side, jumping up and down and hollering out requests. Clayton leans down to share the mic often, and people crowd around him shouting along with the lyrics. Its an intense set, one of the ten best I ever saw them give. At the end of the set Greg kicks over his drums and they leave the stage awash in the droning feedback of their guitars
.
The crowd roars for an encore. They seem either oblivious or uncaring that the drums are knocked over. I shrug and tell the soundguy that there wont be an encore. He's grinning like a schoolkid on the first day of summer. "Man, that whupped ass!!" They bring the houselights up, but then the next thing I know the boys come back out. Greg starts to set his drums back up. The crowd cheers anxiously.


"Well" says Clayton, "we kept hearing somebody asking for 'Jailbait'... We ain't played it in a while but we'll give it shot." And away they go, taking requests one after the other and playing songs they hadn't played in ages. They must have played another thirty minutes of unrehearsed songs all by request.


Afterwards they sat around signing records for everyone, answering questions and just shooting the breeze. It was totally spontaneous, an immediate and swift connection between the band and its audience. What could have been a miserable disaster or at least a forgettable random show instead turned into something that resonates with me to this day. It isn't even so much simple professional courtesy, its the drive to connect, to share something intangible with an audience no matter how large or small.

I suppose in many way I'm still naïve. I still stupidly believe in the importance and power of this music. It is about the only thing in this fucked up world that has any sense of permanence and definition. I feel forever out of step with standard convention and taste. People can (and do) laugh at my stubborn snobbishness and contempt. I have no shame and am not sorry - I cannot be so easily placated with whatever sewage comes dribbling down the pipe. I see so much of the stale, dry, boring and obvious. None of which would be quite so offensive if it weren't so goddamned prevalent. I think the Lazy Cowgirls summed it up best: "what's important - how it looks, or how it is?"


Sadly it seems anymore the answer is all too clear.


It's sorta ironic - here amidst raging rhetoric regarding gay marriage, confederate flags, gun rights and illegal aliens -  I sit ambivalent. Oh sure, I have opinions and ideas, but nothing strong enough for me to get angry over. Music, however, is another matter entirely.

Bad culture offends me worse than bad politics.





 

We've been trying out a few new ideas this summer, chiefly by playing more local shows than normal. Our Sunday "matinee" set at our home club Tremont Music Hall a few weeks ago was an interesting experiment. When I was a kid these sort of shows were common however now it seemed to confuse people. Which isn't to say we wont try it again. For those of you that missed it there were some songs in the set we've not played in a while and may not play again for a while. We've been changing out tunes pretty regularly so you can always expect something a little different. I personally do not feel I performed at my best due to the heat but the crowd certainly didn't seem to mind. It goes to show you can't always be too self-critical. The great response of everyone chanting our name at the close of the set was, although surprising, very much appreciated.
 
We returned to Raleigh two weeks ago for a show I personally was looking forward to. The last time we played Raleigh I suffered some equipment problems that threw me off point. Thanks to the generosity of 'Slayer' Doug Smith from KIFF and Demon Eye's Erik Sugg we managed to pull it off, but it wasn't what it should've been. So I was looking for a little redemption this time around. Of course as fate would have it the day before the show I managed to zip the ring finger on my left hand with a razor knife. I was concerned that I would be unable to play but with a little super glue and some Teflon tape I soldiered on thru. It was worth it - we pulled off the redemption I was seeking with a pretty strong set I feel really good about.


This past weekend found us over in Gastonia. Some questioned our reasoning for playing in such an unlikely locale. One thing I've always admired about this band -  they've never turned their nose to any town, and always preform at top level no matter the size of the city or the stage, or if there even is a stage. The set in Gastonia was one of the five best since I've joined. It was one of those rare nights when everything  and everyone falls together. We were firing on all cylinders and the set was pretty explosive. The crowd was crazy, slamming and dancing like spastics. The owner and staff of Freeman's Pub were great, too. Personally I look forward to going back.


Finally, as promised (or threatened depending on your perspective) we are about to record some new tunes. We debuted one at the Raleigh and Gastonia gigs called 'Can't The Working Man Get a Little Rest?'. The feedback has been positive and I feel really good about everything we've got worked up. I can't say too much about the plans for release yet, but I'm certain y'all will dig it. More shows are in the works heading towards fall. September is shaping up to be extremely busy and we're still working hard on something that  - if we can make it happen - will be really, really killer.  So be sure to check in on www.antiseen.com and our 'like' us on facebook for all the action.


Until next time.