Sunday, June 12, 2016

Passages...

We played Wilmington, North Carolina again recently. We played here about a year ago and it was great. As with last year, our pal John The Baptist once again hosted a pre-show cookout at his place. John is the brain trust behind Mystery School Records, releasing cool stuff by the likes of Self Made Monsters, Lookout Mountain Daredevils and Shitcan Dirtbag. We stuffed ourselves and appreciated the generosity and hospitality.

The club is called Reggie's. It has changed somewhat since the last time we were here. Before, the stage was barely more than a couple of inches high with a few crude floodlights and a simple PA for vocals. Very basic but functional and cool. I remember last time as being really fun with the crowd right up on us. They've since upgraded with a larger stage, proper PA and lights. It's still pretty basic but still pretty cool. We load in and the staff here are great. There is sometimes a weird disconnect between a venue and the bands they book. We are too often met with apathetic and unhelpful people staffing a club that would seemingly rather be closed than have you play. Not Reggies. Everyone here is helpful and friendly. Its becoming a favorite place to play.

Andy Miller from KIFF has driven down from Raleigh and brought our old pal John Adams with him. I was pretty flattered they drove the two hour trek to get here. It was great to hang with them a bit. A pretty decent crowd had turned out for the evening and I was getting anxious to play. John Baptist did a good job promoting this gig.

There's a record shop that shares space in the same building. I killed time there last visit, but it was unfortunately closed this time. I sit backstage for awhile before relocating to the van. I can hear the first band start. They called Bastard Brigade and are led by Eddie Oakes of Patriot. They play an Anti-Nowhere League cover, which makes them pretty OK in my book. They are followed by a band called Slomo Dingo who are fronted by a guy wearing what appears to be a dress or blouse and has sideburns that extend down to his waste. John The Baptist's band played third. They are called Street Clones. Despite their street punk sounding name, they are more quirky and irreverent. I like the diversity of acts, its mixes things up and is a welcome change to the sometimes stale repetition of hard core and/or heavy metal bands.

We finally hit stage and it takes me about two songs to get in the zone. I worried momentarily that I was gonna be off point but quickly fell into place. The crowd is great, they come right up to the lip of the stage and pump their fists. Clayton offers the mic on choruses and they crowd around chanting along. We play some new songs and they all go over well. About two-thirds into the set my fingers start to bleed. I enjoy the sensation and play harder. The set feels really good and the crowd seem to be getting off on it. Gooch knocks over his drums and I toss my guitar on the stage letting the feedback howl.

We pack up and say our good-byes. Its a long ride home, interrupted straight away by the State Highway Patrol. They're doing a license check and the traffic slows to a crawl and snarls back about a mile. Jeff is at the wheel and I fish for the registration. We roll up and a cop sneers at us. Jeff tries to hand him his license and registration but the cop yells in Jeff's face "Pull up the next officer!" Jeff merely shrugs. "If we had been playing some Hall & Oates he'd have been nicer", he chuckles.

We roll up to the next cop. He is somewhat nicer however another two start shining flashlights into the van. They seem almost disappointed that we aren't loaded with underage girls, open bottles of liquor and smoking grass. Instead they see some wore out and tired guys eager to just get the hell on home. Too bad the revenue collectors of the State can't collect a bill from us this night. They grudgingly let us pass and we are on our way.

Sometimes the irony gets to be a bit much. The stupidity of the everyday Joe Normal types - be it police or the cable guy or supermarket cashier - is expected and easily endured. I guess to them we are radicals and rebels, a threat to the so-called "American way of life" with our loud rock music and tattoos. But then we get heat from sanctimonious punk rock PC types as well. Sure, its as equally expected, just a little more difficult to endure. We were reminded of the latter last week when one of our Europe shows was cancelled because the club was "uncomfortable" with our promotional material. The offending image was... the United States flag.
The overtly judicious politically correct social justice warriors of the underground see us as redneck insurrectionists, racist boogiemen come to pervert and corrupt the open minds of punk rock youth. Their endless crowing about equality and prejudice seems to go right out the window when you fall outta line with their goosestep. I mean, all I really wanna do is play loud guitar, right? I ain't nobodies prophet and I ain't nobodies martyr. I don't care what you think, how you talk or what you believe.

In the end I suppose it makes for good fuel for creative energy. As an adult I still find myself channeling a lot of my frustrations and contempt with and through music. It allows me a very real sense of release. I argued with a local scene king once about what made great rock and roll. My contention was that, as his parents encouraged and financed his musical pursuits, he was given too much free reign. There was too much allowance for him to ever understand release thru rebellion; be it sexual, psychological, spiritual or however one need define it. As such he could never truly understand catharsis and never truly experience transcendence. There is only the superficiality of a convoluted pose. And to me, that's why I feel 90% of all music being made anymore is totally worthless.

I feel somewhat lucky to have had music as an outlet for all my pent-up shit. And for as long as I can remember, I've always loved music. I mean like, more than anything. This goes back to even when I was a toddler. The Beach Boys "Fun, Fun, Fun", Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" and the Stone's 'Satisfaction" were all songs I readily knew and loved before I ever even entered school. Oh, and Herman's Hermits "Henry The Eighth". For some reason I called that the "Energize Song" presumably because my four year old ears misheard the "'Enery!" lyric. KISS albums were an obvious early favorite as well. Not only did I like the music, KISS records always included some sort of swell novelty - stickers, tattoos, posters...  It was way better than Cracker Jack.

But what I really liked were dark songs. I still clearly remember the very first time I ever heard "Detroit Rock City" and being spooked by the fact the guy dies in the end. "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean was a favorite. Also a weird dark little recitation about a Vietnam army platoon getting attacked called "Routine Patrol". It was credited to 'C-Company Featuring Terry Nelson'. Later on I dug death songs like Bad Company's "Shooting Star", "The Legend of Wooley Swamp" by Charlie Daniels and of course "Don't Fear The Reaper" by BOC.

So I suppose it would make sense I would gravitate towards harder edged music. I remember coming home in the afternoons and blasting the family console stereo with an 8-tack tape of AC/DC's 'High Voltage'. The line in "Rock n' Roll Singer'"about "all the other shit that they teach the kids in school" was just about the coolest thing ever to my pre-adolescent sensibilities. And AC/DC sang about hell. I mean like, a lot. This was pretty exciting, too. There was just something intangible in this dark, dirty rock and roll music that really spoke to my desire for rebellion. Of course it was mostly vicarious; I was a pussy.

When my mom remarried we moved and it proved to be pretty difficult. It was my seventh grade year and I was really an easy target. Adolescent cruelty is particularly harsh because you are only just beginning to grow into yourself both physically and mentally. I suspect most of you are all too well aware what it was like to be the outsider 'misfit' kid in school. I've always felt that the very things that we were once criticized and insulted for are in fact the very things that defined who we grew to be. If you are anything like me  - and again, I suspect most of you are - you weren't content with the status quo. Mainstream stuff just wasn't cutting it. Standing on the sidelines left room for a lot of awkward confusion. I didn't have the right jeans, the right shoes, the right haircut, the right anything. Even the nerds looked at me sideways. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was developing my own individuality  - I may not have ever made it to middle class, but I ain't standing in the middle of the road either.

Anyways I spent a lot of time alone with my records. I had an ancient set of earphones that swallowed my head and blew out my eardrums. I amassed a collection of cheesy rock magazines like Hit Parader and Circus which I would read and re-read over and over as I played the records. I was absorbing it all like having walked across the desert and happening upon an oasis. I wanted to forget the reality of the seven hours of hell called public school. I wanted to escape the expectations of my parents. I wanted to erase all the embarrassment and shame of whatever failure and defeat I had encountered socially. I wanted.... out.

As if the adolescent expectations of junior high weren't enough, I also had to contend with the pious demands of my religious zealot mother. She is full bore, hard core, hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist - which meant she had me in church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night laying a pretty heavy guilt trip on my teenage psyche. Everything I loved, everything that felt good, everything that brought joy and provided some sense of direction and purpose to my life was a sin. I mean, I don't condemn the church, or any practitioner of something that brings light and meaning to their lives, provided you don't shove it down my throat. It's just that it only ever gave me a sense of hopelessness and shame. It has been something that was so deeply indoctrinated in me that I've spent much of my life trying to reconcile it. I'm sure a therapist would have a field day picking thru the rubble of my brain, but you can't fix crazy...

Fortunately, despite the fear mongering and condemnation of my parents and my church, I never could reject music. If anything it only gave it all a greater sense of luster and mystery. When I was about 14 the infamous Led Zeppelin bio "Hammer of the Gods" was released and became required reading. All of the lurid tales of hedonistic excess seemed to suggest that everything I was taught was true. However 'This Is Spinal Tap' was released around the same time as well, and it influenced an innate sense of cynism that had me questioning the veracity of such fables. At least until I discovered GG Allin.

But that's another story...

As we are now writing new material I try to harness a lot of the same energy that I felt as a kid, and still too often experience and feel as an adult. My coworkers think I'm some sort of half-cocked dimwit reveling in a state of suspended adolescence - and they're probably right. I'm not like them. I don't strive for their approval. I do, however, strive for approval to myself. And I'm my own worst critic. Everything I do in this band I wanna make a little better than the effort that preceded it. Anything less is a cop out. This band deserves nothing less than everything I've got.

We are busy preparing for the euro tour later this summer. This is my first trip out of the country and I'm pretty excited if perhaps a little nervous. We've been assembling a set that currently is up about sixty-five songs. Obviously we can't play that many in a single set, but what it does mean is that we can mix it up a bit, so we wont be playing the same set every night. It's a bit of a challenge but we're firing on all cylinders. I don't mean to sound like a broken record but this rhythm section is strong. I feel really lucky to tread the boards with these guys.

Meanwhile we are also occupied preparing our next release, a 12"EP titled "WE'RE # ONE!". I'm really excited for everyone to hear it, hopefully I'll have full release details next time I post. As an added bonus this record includes a vinyl sticker and will be on colored vinyl - with no two being the exact same. And to top it off, we are including a full 24 page comic book illustrated by the talented Jamie Vayda. Vayda has worked his ass off on this thing, and believe me, it's killer. We're awfully proud and honored that he dedicated so much effort and time to deliver something that I think everyone is really gonna love. Besides, there's nothing Gene Simmons has that we can't have ourselves. Who's on board with building an ANTiSEEN pinball machine??








In closing I want to extend condolences to the family and friends of 'Bandana' Cloninger. Bandana sadly passed away last week after a series of health issues. He was a fixture at most every A-SEEN show across the south for many years, instantly recognizable as the grizzled old dude covered in tattoos and clothed with the patchwork of bands he respected and supported.

I personally didn't know Bandana too well. I had been pretty intimidated by this burly character that radiated a sense of warranted danger and whose mileage clearly outpaced and out-lapped my own. So believe me it meant a lot that he was so very supportive and welcoming when I joined the band. His presence at the side of the stage was so commonplace that it was almost expected and always welcomed.

It is a presence that will be missed.

Godspeed Mr. Bandana.