Sunday, July 16, 2017

Deep South Storm Front

The recent flap between the Dickies and War On Women at the Warped Tour got my brain bone squirming a bit. This sorta ridiculousness pops up every so often and always makes for low comedy. I'm not much a fan of either one. I respect the Dickies as originators of American punk rock, even if their humor is a little overbearing and sophomoric for my taste. Of course it was the same-said overbearing and sophomoric humor that got them in trouble with War On Women - who themselves are about as unique and interesting as a bottle of Cheeze-Whiz. And as equally formulaic. But of course music isn't the agenda with bands like War On Women. It never is. They may well be very intelligent and well-intentioned, but holy hell does the music suck balls.

Oh sorry, was that sexist...??? Or homophobic? I have a hard time keeping up with the rules and regulations.

See, I generally don't count myself as "political". I have friends all across the spectrum. I'm all for civil rights, mutual respect and individual liberty. But even in the worst taste, there is a difference between a poke, a rib and a jab. Clearly I am not the go-to guy for answers but it would seem to me that this disconnect and war of ideals is predicated on the paradox of subjugating one's own individuality to the will of a collective. And naturally confusion and confrontation is the only result. Everyone just tries to shout each other other down. Nothing is learned and nothing is affirmed other than the unconscious knowledge that people are generally stupid and selfish.

And stupid music offends me worse than selfish politics.

Anyways.

We were back out on the road recently and were able to showcase a bit of the new material. Here's what happened:

ATLANTIC BEACH - June 29

We all met up at Barry's place early in the morning. Roadies Brandon and Todd are also along for the trip. We are loaded for bear, fuel up the van, pick up some coffee and donuts, a few bottles of water and soon are on course for Florida. Our destination: Atlantic Beach, a suburb of Jacksonville. I work a night schedule, so sometimes when we take off for these trips I pretty much go straight from work and get in the van. It is about a seven hour ride to Jacksonville, Florida, so I made the most of it buy sleeping as much as possible. I didn't do too badly, either. The van isn't exactly the most cozy or comfortable place for more than a light snooze, so it was something of an accomplishment.

We arrive around 3pm. A friend of the band have invited us to his place for barbecue. He is called "Country" but I think he said his name is Aaron. His place is really nice, situated in a neighborhood built along a canal that mazes up to backyard docks. A bunch of his coworkers and friends arrive and we soon are stuffed on barbecue and mac & cheese. A couple of the guys here are in the opening band, 'Walk With Wolves'. They are former members of Ringworm, a Florida band I remember from way back in my MBW days. They are all cool folks.

We have been given some motel rooms at a Holiday Inn from another friend of the band. It might sound silly but this is a bit of a treat from our usual Motel 6! We are all pretty grateful for this act of generosity. We check in, change and have a bit of time to kill before our scheduled load-in time. We reconvene in the lobby before heading out to the club. It has started to rain lightly and I hope we can get there and loaded in before it picks up.

The club is called The Harbor Tavern. It's a basic square cinder block building. The bar is along one wall and is sorta dived off from the other half of the building by a small half-wall that is about waist high. The other half of the building is set up for bands. The stage lines the front wall. It's pretty small and cramped. There isn't enough space to backline, so the bands have to store their equipment along the far wall. We load in just before it starts to pour.

Walk With Wolves are really cool, a no-nonsense punk rock band with some hardcore leanings. Their guitarist has a gold sparkle Telecaster that I envy. I watch most of their set and dig it. Some people are slam dancing and accidentally fall against my amp case. Fortunately all our stuff is cased up good, so the risk of damage is pretty minimal. In fact the damage risk is to the people that hurl against it.

I usually feel anxious setting up, but tonight I feel pretty comfortable, taking my time to get ready. It's a tight fit onstage with no room to move around much, but then I ain't much for moving around. I'm given the ok to actually turn up my volume, which I happily oblige. Truthfully, my sound is kinda dialed in  - changing it even slightly can alter the tone. But it still sounds ok, so I figure the hell with it. Jeff takes the stage and soon we are into the set. By the third song I can't see, my eyes are stinging from the sweat that pours into them. I instinctively lean into the volume, jack-hammering my guitar harder than usual. I stare into the crowd but everything is a blur. I sense the motion of the slam dancing. I make a mistake of playing a song out of order. We recover pretty easily but I get mad at myself for the misstep. I take it out on my guitar during the encore. It's a pretty hot set.

After the show I meet Brandon Fergus. He's the roadie for the Murder Junkies, Sham 69 and a bunch more. He drove 800 miles to catch this show, and I'm pretty humbled. Brandon caught flak several months back from some skinheads in Seattle, getting rolled by a bunch of them. Typical skinhead shit, 6 on 1. I was impressed by Brandon's fortitude; he didn't back down or quit. He just got stitched up and kept moving forward. I told him I didn't know if I could do the same. Back in the old days I once aggravated some skinheads so bad at an ANTiSEEN show the band had to back their van up to the stage door to get me out. Another time they surrounded me in the parking lot and one of them roughed me up a little before cooler heads prevailed. Of course, I probably deserved it. I was such a prick when I was young. Anyways I was lucky. I hope I never have to be forced into a situation like that again. So hats off to Brandon Fergus.



HATTIESBURG - June 30

When this run across the Deep South was first scheduled, we had a date in Birmingham, Alabama. Unfortunately the show fell thru, so we were quickly rescheduled for Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This was ok by me, as this is home of Walt and Heather Wheat, longtime friends of the band who always generously go above and beyond, opening their beautiful home to us and feeding us like kings. This stay was no exception. Ribs, sausages, macaroni, green beans, roast beef, homemade pie... it was a nonstop smorgasbord.

The club is called The Tavern. This is where I played my second show after joining the band. It's located in a converted storefront, a very basic layout with the stage along the front wall. We load in and wait it out. I'm surprised to run into an old acquaintance from Charlotte, a guy named Steve Okruhlica. He lives in Mobile, Alabama now, about two hours away from Hattiesburg. He's friends with one of the opening bands, 'Future Hate', so he decided to make the trek up. It was good to catch up with him.

I watch Future Hate and am really impressed. They are a female fronted punk band that aren't  afraid to show off their musical chops. After their set I talk with them a bit and learn they also have a side project call CCCR which is the same band with a different singer, our pal and illustrator Jamie Vayda Craw. At any rate they were pretty cool and I enjoyed it a lot.

Our set is pretty solid, again I am encouraged to turn my volume up. I have a bit of a problem with unwanted feedback, but it only adds to the chaotic fury of the music. We really charge thru the set, leaving little breathing room for ourselves or the audience. Its a small town and as such a small crowd, but they show us big respect. I like playing here.


NEW ORLEANS - July 1

It is only about two and half hours from Hattiesburg to New Orleans. This mean we could spend the day enjoying the hospitality of the Wheats. I can tell Jeff's voice is pretty shot. The third day of a trip is usually when his voice gets weak, and true to form this trip is no different. The downtime is probably helpful. Walt took Clayton and the boys out to his backyard gun range for some target practice while I stayed inside and watched old Godzilla movies.  After another hefty meal we finally loaded up into the van and headed out.

New Orleans is a seriously depressed city. You can feel the degradation and desperation hanging in the air like the thick haze of smog that obscures the skyline. However the crowds we draw here are always cool - and not a calculated cool like some major cities. The people here seem pretty genuine. I like playing New Orleans.

The club is called Siberia. We've been here several times before, even before I joined the band and was working as a roadie. The club doubles as a restaurant that serves "Slavic Soul Food". I usually look forward to eating here because the food is so killer but I am still stuffed from eating earlier at the Wheat Compound so I abstain.

Sometimes parking here is tricky. We are lucky and get to park directly in front of the club, which makes loading in a lot easier. The backstage is actually a curtained off area in the rear of the club, whereas the stage is at the front. So whatever we cant backline, like the drums, we have to carry thru the crowd to the stage. The stage is deep enough that we could probably backline the drums but we leave the space for the opening bands.

I while away time sitting in the van. Jeff prepares himself for the show, but its pretty clear his voice is gone. He's trying to get it to break enough to power thru. Usually it gets raspy enough he can pull it off. Not tonight. It only gets worse. We are suddenly faced with a dilemma: try to do a sub-par show or cancel? Neither option is appealing. We discuss what to do and can't seem to reach a decision. I tell Jeff he needs to do what he feels right - if he decides he can do it, I'm ready to play, if not, I'm ready to go home. I don't feel it's my place to force him into a decision that could possibly hurt him, physically or psychically.

We get in touch with the promoter and the decision is made to cancel. It's a bummer, but it's the correct call. With ANTiSEEN it's everything or nothing. It would be a cop-out to give a half-assed show just to collect a payday. That would be an insult to not only our own integrity but to the people that paid to see us. I've seen the band make some cancellations before due to illness and bad weather, but this is the first since I've joined. We quickly tear down our stuff and load out. Fortunately the folks here are pretty understanding, if understandably disappointed. We all are disappointed, though none more so than Jeff himself.

The promoter very generously gives us some cash for gas money. We later discover some people tried to claim we took all the money and ran. This of course wasn't true at all. I think that rumor got properly squelched quickly however. We tend to get all kinds of insults and accusations hurled at us, all of which is as equally insulting as it is depressing. But 'thief" is probably the lowest. And if there is one thing this band never does it is rip people off. I don't know how much blood Jeff needs to spill, how much time we need to lose from our families, how many miles we need to put on our van or how much of our own money we need to spend - but fuck these naysayers.

My conscience is clean. 




 

The new album OBSTINATE is at the presses and should be out any time. We will be playing a record release set at Repo Record in Charlotte on July 29at 6pm - and its FREE. So come check out the new tunes we'll be playing along with some of your longtime favorites and pick up the new album while you're there. 

The new split with Malcolm Tent is out NOW, so get on it!! We cover one of Malcolms tunes called 'Do It Now' and a Tunnel Rats song called 'Don't Tell Your Mom'. I'm pretty proud of it. Malcolm covers ANTiSEEN on the flip, doing his rendition of 'Animals, Eat 'Em' and revisiting an old song of his own, 'My God Can Beat Up Your God' (which A-SEEN covered many years ago). Malcolm and ANTiSEEN have an association that goes back almost to the very beginning, and he also was responsible for releasing the first MBW record, so it is an honor and pleasure to share vinyl with him. 

Also on deck we are playing Ground Zero in Spartanburg, SC on August 19th with EYEHATEGOD and NEGATIVE APPROACH!! This show promises to be flat out killer, so mark your calendars and make plans to be there! Also on the horizon is our return to the MUDDY ROOTS FESTIVAL Labor Day Weekend, so keep your eyes and ears open for the details as always on Facebook and at www.antiseen.com!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Obstinate...

Working on  this blog sometimes can be frustrating. Although I'm not exactly writing at my full strength it still takes a significant amount of time, usually with many false starts, dead ends and multiple rewrites. I'm not a proficient typist and my computer skills are, shall we say, limited. I know my grammar and punctuation is dicey (or is it 'are' dicey?). Occasionally I finally break pace and get about three-quarters into a post only to accidently miss-key something and erase the whole goddamned thing. But it still remains one of my favorite things to do, a nerdy hobby that finally has something of legitimate purpose. 

So, uh... yeah, once again I have lost another draft. I was writing my memories of how I came to join the band. I'll probably revisit that subject again at a later date. Right now it's too daunting to start over and rewrite. There's still plenty of stuff in the works that I wanna write about and really the timing is just about right to discuss the new album. So check this mess...

Last year, after recording the "WE'RE # ONE" record and touring Europe, we came home and sorta took a break. We all had our next project in mind, a full length album. This would be the first full length LP of new material in nearly 15 years, so in my mind it was very important. I wanted it to be a little different, something special - after all this was my first real album since joining. It might be ANTiSEEN's umpteenth album, but it is my first. So mentally I set the bar high.

At some point  I approached Jeff with the idea of trying to do something cohesive, almost a sort of concept album. Not necessarily something that told a linear story like 'Tommy' or 'The Wall', yet still generally thematic. Each song would stand independent of the other, but when taken in a larger context, the theme would be apparent. It was an ambitious idea, particularly for an ANTiSEEN album, but I felt confident it was something we could accomplish. Jeff seemed skeptical, but he didn't shoot the idea down. He asked what the concept would be. 

Times change, we don't. 

He liked it. In fact he already had a title for the next project. It fit perfectly with what I was talking about. "OBSTINATE". With that idea in mind we began puzzling together different ideas for songs. We all worked on each song with pretty much equal involvement. Some of the ideas took a little time to gestate and evolve and I personally didn't want to force it. I was enjoying seeing the songs take their own respective direction without consciously discussing what it should be like. Different influences flooded in - from the obvious hardcore punk and heavy-metal to funk, soul and country - all carefully woven and lovingly crafted with the subtlety of a sledgehammer...

In the midst of our work we were often interrupted by our continuous schedule of shows and the external forces of our own individual lives. We never lost focus and always managed to drive forward, even when we lost the lease on our practice facility and were forced to vacate. We quickly rented a tiny storage facility; a cramped sweatbox that gave our endeavor an almost- 'Rocky'-like feel. We were really preparing for another heavyweight contest - no draws, no disqualification. 

We recorded again up at Eddie Ford's place. Eddie is the lead singer of Self Made Monsters. He had previously opened the tiny rehearsal studio behind his house to us when we recorded "WE'RE # ONE". We were very happy with the results so we decided to return. Barry supervised the recording. Gooch got a head start recording his parts mostly alone without accompaniment - one of the craziest things I've ever encountered. By the time I had arrived he was halfway finished. I set up after he was done and began the laborious process of tracking my guitar parts. The playback in my headphones only offered a hint of what we were doing, but as the session progressed I could feel we were on to something pretty strong.

Jeff did his vocals the day after I recorded my parts. I wasn't present for that. He brought in his brother Greg and also Doug Canipe, both long serving veterans of the band, to assist in the backing vocals. I believe Gooch and Eddie were involved as well.

Over the years the band has had members who also happen to have certain skill sets and talents that might otherwise go unnoticed. Jon Bowman and Phil Keller, having played bass and drums respectively during the 'New Blood' era, still are heavily involved. Jon had developed a knack for recording and mixing long before he joined the band, and has assisted on virtually every ANTiSEEN release in the last ten years. It was the task of Jon to mix and master the new recording. Phil has always had a keen sensibilty for art and design. He has laid out the artwork for the album cover and, as always, knocked it out of the park. 

When I finally heard the final mix and saw the artwork I was pretty overwhelmed. I knew the performances were strong, I knew the songs were there but this was beyond what I expected. We have made an incredible album. This is something I have no hesitation on holding next to any of ANTiSEEN's previous albums. Call it bragging, call it arrogant, but I'm proud I've participated in creating a record that carries the ANTiSEEN name. I feel very strongly that it stands both as a tribute to Joe Young and as testimony to what the band is today and will continue to be in the future. Which aren't mutually exclusive ideas. No, it is in fact very much the same... 

Obstinate


We hit the road for another long weekend across the Deep South at the end of the month. Jacksonville/Atlantic Beach, FLA, Hattiesburg, MISS, and New Orleans, LA are all in the line of fire. We are gonna be rolling out some of the new songs and polishing up some stuff from the recent reissues so it's gonna be a lot of fun. Hope to see old friends and make some new ones so come out!! Details as always on www.antiseen.com and our facebook page.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

No Time To Turn....



I've been a KISS fan my whole life.


There. I said it.


I'm originally from Roanoke, Virginia. Or more accurately, a suburb in a neighboring county outside of Roanoke. Which is to say I'm from basically Nowhere. It was the summer of '76. I was not yet five years old. I lived in a rural area that had limited television reception. We could only pick up one station - and even that could be somewhat dicey at times. My viewing habits were judiciously guarded by my uber religious mother. Sitting in front of the family television one afternoon a commercial flashed across the screen trumpeting an upcoming concert featuring four ghoulish characters equipped with electric guitars. My memory is that it was black and white stop-motion footage but we're talking forty years ago, so I could be wrong. All I knew is that it was the absolute coolest thing I'd ever experienced. In thirty seconds my life was irrevocably changed.


This was my introduction to KISS.


I mean, I hadn't yet heard a single note this band played but I sorta intrinsically knew it had to be... something. Of course I started asking questions. And the answers were even more bizarre; stories of these four monsters crushing baby animals with their spiked-heel boots, vomiting on their audience, and passing buckets to collect spit and puke to drink down. A babysitter intoned that a friend had witnessed them in person, returning from the experience covered in blood. All kinds of craziness that I should've known better than believe, but again, I was four. Seemed liked a reasonable proposition to me. And it scared the shit outta me.


Which of course only added to the allure.


Sometime shortly thereafter my brother and I were riding with our Pop in his truck. Pop always had the radio tuned to country and western. This was still the days of mono AM static. You would drive under a bridge and the signal would disappear completely. For some reason Pop had allowed my brother to commandeer the radio dial. He studiously turned the knob until finding the local Top 40 AM station. The song that came cackling thru the dashboard speaker was instantly memorable and I bobbed my head along to the beat. My brother looks at me and says "This is that band you like, the freak band." It was the song 'Rock & Roll All Nite'  - and I've never forgotten the moment.


After I quickly outgrew the lurid rumors KISS became the singular obsession of my pre-teen years. Generally speaking, my entertainment was largely whatever my imagination could afford, but I collected every shred of KISS stuff I could - which unfortunately wasn't a lot. My religious nut mother was terrified of their influence. My Pop, on the other hand, got it. So there was a push/pull duality on what was and was not allowed. I sorta had to sneak stuff in thru whatever channels I could. KISS were perennially on the covers of 16 Magazine, Super Teen and Tiger Beat, which were somehow easily obtained. My room was papered with portraits and centerfolds from the magazines. I conned my grandparents ignorance on the subject resulting in several albums I'd otherwise never obtain. It was as rebellious as I knew how to be at eight years old. Their appearance as superhero rockstars in the infamous TV movie 'KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park" not only captured my imagination, it catapulted it. I pretended to be them, wailing away on an imaginary guitar and dancing about my bedroom. I scrawled their likeness on every corner of paper I had. School assignments typically carried an artistic rendering of Gene Simmons wagging a blood soaked tongue or Ace Frehley shooting laser beams from his eyes.


In the spring of 1979 we were visiting my Grandparents for Easter. Pop was sequestered off in the front room, studiously scanning the newspaper. My brother and I had long since learned to tip-toe around him while he read. When  triggered, his anger was like that of a caged animal with a volume and intensity that terrified me far beyond anything else I could conceive. And his temper had a short fuse. In fact, I'd wager it had no fuse at all; he seem to possess only two emotions - anger and rage. He wasn't physically abusive, but he certainly was a scary man. I avoided him like the plague.


We sat quietly in the next room, probably watching TV when he bellowed for us. He had these weird foreign expressions he would use; something like "idio shipsio" and "balli balli". Usually he ran them in tandem, citing the urgency of whatever he wanted to see us for. All I knew was that it meant to stop whatever I was doing and report straight away. He was seated in his chair, his arms resting on his chest and the newspaper folded neatly on his knee. The old man had this ability to shift his voice into that of a butter-smooth radio DJ, a stark contrast to his otherwise generally sharp angry tone. His use of the DJ voice meant the subject was serious. "Boys", he spoke calmly and evenly, "it says here in the paper..."  - here he paused for dramatic effect, patting the paper and holding the moment for maximum impact before continuing - "KISS is coming to Roanoke."


My heart leapt into my throat and my brother and I spun our heads towards each other to confirm we actually heard correctly. KISS was coming to our hometown. Meaning live and in person. Ace. Gene. Peter. Paul. The show of shows, the defining moment of our generation. KISS. Live. In Roanoke. We started to hoot and howl, excited at the mere thought. It was almost beyond our realm of comprehension. Pop had to settle us down before leaning forward in his chair. He was quite serious. Again, the velvet smooth butter voice delivering the knockout:


"Would you like to go?"


This was like Christmas.. no, better than Christmas! This was the apex moment towards which my young life had been on a steady trajectory towards since that fateful moment I first saw them on TV. This was the summation of all my juvenile hopes and dreams, the realization of a dream that once seemed like a hopeless aspiration. And yet, here now, my own father was giving me his blessing, ushering me into the Valhalla of my rock and roll fantasy...


Uh... just one thing.


Pop was virtually refereeing my brother and I amid our excitement. He corralled us once more, calmed us down and then provided the caveat: "Russ", he said, still in DJ mode, "It says you have to be at least ten years old to enter". Now, of course this was a lie. Looking back I realize that my parents had already conferred on the subject and it was decided that I was not going to be allowed to go. I'm sure this wasn't even open to discussion or debate. However the quandary lied in how to allow my brother to go and not me. So somehow they developed this age limit ruse. I mean, I was eight; I wasn't smart enough to believe my own parents would actually lie to me.


So, yeah, I missed out on seeing KISS in the waning moments of their prime.


The following six years was fairly tumultuous, personally. My parents divorced and my mother remarried a much older man. We moved twice in three years, smack dab in the middle of my awkward transitional teenage years. I had difficulty in making friends, and spent a lot of time alone with a pile of Circus and Hit Parader magazines and my trusty KISS records spinning on the turntable. But KISS had changed. The following six years were tumultuous for them as well. They lost two original members and dropped their trademark facepaint and stage costumes, forever altering their special formula. The records were nothing like the KISS of yore; the sly unapologetic sophomoric wit was worn into clumsy chest-thumping macho bravado. The musicianship transmogrified into soulless million-note-per-second flash trash. There was no style or heart, just the cold desperation of a band that had thoroughly lost the plot trying desperately to be liked. Steadily declining into a void driven by hack session musicians and mediocre records, KISS became 'Kiss', just another anonymous heavy-metal band. They weren't special any more. They weren't unique. They weren't exciting. They weren't fun. They weren't KISS.


Oh, sure I tried to keep up, feigning excitement whenever they released a new album. I saw them three times in this era. The first time was in 1985, also my first concert. I had no point of reference, and being it was my first concert, it was still pretty exciting, if a bit anti-climatic (A soundboard quality bootleg of this show is available online, but it's incomplete). The second time I saw them was better, but Ted Nugent opened and basically blew them off stage. The third time was in 1990. I had quit even buying their records at this point, but by then they wisely had begun weaving in a generous amount classic KISS material into the set, so I got suckered in. It was a disappointment. I remember walking thru the parking lot after the show and telling a friend that unless the original band reunited, I was never gonna waste my time with them again. 
 
In 1996 the inevitable reunion occurred; and all wrongs seemed to be righted. No parental guidance needed, thank-you very much, I was well on my own and on my way. Finally given the opportunity I had been so cruelly denied seventeen years prior, I stood in line at the box office the morning the tickets went on sale. I got there early, but this was the era of a 'line lottery' - you would draw a number and that would be your position in line. I drew a '9' - ninth in line. However not every number was drawn, so I wound up actually being like, sixth in line. The doors finally opened to the ticket counter and there are multiple windows, which allows me to be third in line to my ticket window. I couldn't believe my luck - I was sure to score awesome seats... maybe even... front row.


We waited for the clock to countdown the seconds. At exactly 10:00am there was a virtual explosion of activity as the windows opened and the printers began spitting out ticket after ticket. Everything moved with rapid-fire precision as people scored their primo seats. Except my line. The printer had jammed. UGH! Just my luck. So typical. I don't remember how long it took to fix it, but it was a good five minutes. By the time I finally got my tickets the floor and most of the sides had already sold out. My seats were about 3/4 towards the back and half way up the side. Typical. But I was in, right? I was gonna finally see KISS. Not 'Kiss', KISS!!


The show was incredible. It was the validation of something I had clung to since before I was even old enough to go to school. They met and exceeded every expectation. I waned to preserve the moment in some way, and during the song 'Rock and Roll All Nite' I turned to look up at the back of the hall. Everyone in the building from the front row to the highest cheapest nosebleed seats were on their feet with their hands raised in the air. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed. It was as good as KISS could or would ever get for me. I grinned the whole time, so much so that my face literally hurt. I remember rubbing my cheeks on the way home.


I took my son to see them on their "farewell" tour. In a sense, it was a legitimate farewell, as the original line-up disbanded shortly thereafter. Obviously the band has sadly trudged on with the same dogged cynicism of their awful Eighties era. KISS are once again merely 'Kiss'  - only now they are their own tribute act, with session musician hacks costumed and painted in the guise of the original members. It's so hackneyed and contrived it almost defies logic, yet darkly brilliant in its own contemptuous way. At least the Eighties 'Kiss' had some modicum of integrity, however compromised. No need for such now, 'Kiss' exists in it's own self-contained context. Die-hard fans still blindly buy anything shilled out stamped with a logo or likeness, including concert tickets and, more stupefying, new mediocre albums.


I suppose at this point in my life I'm forced to concede that in the end, KISS is in fact exactly the commercial enterprise their critics derided them as. Maybe I was suckered in as a naïve kid impressed by the flash and volume. I still reserve defense (or at least solace) in the fact that for about four years they recorded six albums full of scrappy blasts of ballsy teenage rock and roll. Drenched in the sweaty desperation of a million kids condemned to a life of monochromatic boredom, KISS in all their ghoulish comic book glory were, in point of fact, a reflection of our own imaginations, dreams, fantasies and aspirations.


If I'm condemned to be lost in the past, then judge me guilty. Because sometimes, just sometimes...


Ignorance is bliss.

 


 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Ballad of Repo...

We recently were invited to participate in Record Store Day with a live performance at Repo Record in Charlotte. For those not aware, Repo and ANTiSEEN have a long standing relationship dating back over thirty years. Jimmy Parker, aka Jimmy Repo, has employed members of the band at different times and was responsible for releasing the 'Raw Shit' album and 'The Destructo Years' compilation. So when he asked if we would come play we were more than happy to do so. 

I first discovered Repo in the summer of '89. Back then the store was located in a tiny little strip of shops nestled in an embankment off Central Avenue you'd scarcely notice if you weren't looking. Somehow I spotted it and wandered in one day. It was awesome; a cramped room so full of records you barely could move in the place. I found a copy of KISS 'The Originals' there. It was and is a rare find. I paid $18 bucks for it and it remains in my collection to this day. Back in those days Repo also had a large selection of bootleg albums. This was long before the internet; finding live recording and lost studio outtakes weren't as readily found as they are today. So it was a really cool treasure trove of stuff. I was at Repo at every opportunity, sometimes just browsing endlessly, absorbing the atmosphere and wishing I had more money.

Of course it was at Repo I first bought ANTiSEEN records. I remember they had a little display on the counter with copies of the 'Blood Of Freaks' EP. I went for the LP instead; 'Honour Among Thieves'.  Eventually I discovered Joe Young was working there. Sometimes there would be three or four other fans sorta hanging around while Joe held court. Of course it was good for business - we always left with an armful of records. 

I was with a friend once when Clayton came in. We were pretty impressed to see him; he was like a bona-fide star to us. My friend said "man - there he is! Go talk to him!" Jeff has always cut a pretty intimidating presence. There was no way I was gonna approach him. "You go talk to him", I said. My buddy shook his head and said "no way!"  So we just stood off to the side, gawking like the fanboys we were. 

Eventually Repo outgrew its location and relocated to it own freestanding building just down the street. In the spring of '91 GG Allin was released from prison and came to Charlotte to record the 'Murder Junkies' album. Repo hosted an autograph signing with him while he was in town. They set him up in the stockroom. I was ushered back and there he was - dressed in all black with a leather jacket and wearing a toboggan. It was almost surreal. Clayton manned another table filled with stuff GG was selling while GG signed stuff and told stories. It was memorable afternoon. 

Repo later expanded with the addition of two other locations. One was a store that only carried CD's, no vinyl. It was run by Joe Young. The other was more of a bargain/junk shop. It was run by Jeff Clayton. After a couple of years the stores were all consolidated into one location out on South Blvd before quietly closing. Repo Records sorta fell into legend after that; a place spoke of with fond remembrance in an era when anything seemed possible. 

At some point in the early 00's Joe Young and his brother Jeff opened a record store of their own up in their hometown of Lenoir. It was also called Repo, but wasn't necessarily related to the old Repo, as Jimmy wasn't partnered in it. Meanwhile Jimmy was involved with record shows that popped up around the region. At some point they worked a deal out with Jimmy where they sold him their stock and returned to Charlotte to re-establish Repo Records. 

The store remains a vital stop in Charlotte, a place where treasures are still found for those willing to search. I've pulled quite a few scores there. In this age of internet instant gratification, there is still something emotionally rewarding in searching thru piles of old records for an illusive title, oddball pressing or rare insert. 

Fast forward to Record Store Day, 2017. I arrive about ninety minutes before our scheduled performance time. My son Cody has come along, which is always a good thing. Jeff, Barry and Gooch are already there and setting up. We've commandeered the rear corner of the shop where a large garage bay door opens to the outside. The weather is nice and everyone is in a great mood. I set up my rig and tune my guitars. 

We are promoting the release of our new reissue, 'The Complete Drastic Sessions'. 'Drastic' was the first ANTiSEEN record, released way back in 1985. This reissue features the full EP on one side and a second side of unreleased outtakes from the same session on the other. Jeff contacted the bands original bass player, Bill Cates to come and sign copies. When Bill arrives I'm pretty stoked to meet him. Although "out of the loop" all these years, he looks like he could walk right out on stage and still fit right in. I take him to the stockroom where Jeff is preparing for the set. It's a cool moment to witness; they haven't seen each other in over thirty years.  

People start to gather around the area where we are set up to play. We launch into a set mixed with a cross section of songs that cover all eras of the band. Although somewhat more laid back than a normal show, the crowd seems into it. There is a small spillover crowd outside the bay door as well. It's a great turnout. Soon sweat stings my eyes and I can no longer see anything. We blitz the set, it feels really good. 

After the set a table is et up for Jeff and Bill to sign records. The rest of us sign a few things as well. My pal Brian Hase has driven down from Arlington, Virginia. He has recorded a tribute song to the band, called simply "ANTiSEEN". It's pretty badass! We take some group photos with Bill and then Brian as well. It's sorta like bridging the past with the future. ANTiSEEN endures. 


It has been three years since we lost Joe Young. Actually, we never truly lost 'lost' him; we still carry his spirit with us. I unapologeticaly emulate his sound, while hopefully injecting it with a little bit of style and energy of my own. And the legacy continues on the new album 'Obstinate', which is close to being pressed. I don't know the time frame yet, but I suspect it'll be out before you know it. We are putting together some travel plans for shows this summer, so make sure you keep your eyes open. Oh and dont forget the 'The Complete Drastic Sessions' and 'Honour Among Theives' reissues - these are beyond killer!!  As always, everything is available at www.antiseen.com so get on it!!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ain't No Place Like Home...

Having recently relocated to a new practice room we've been largely focused on putting together the new album. Upon completion we find ourselves moving yet again and are currently in flux. We've been trying to put together a summer tour but it appears that it won't be happening. Of course these obstacles are met with eager challenge; we never stop moving forward. We completed rehearsals and recording sessions of the new album, assembled a new set list and tackled some old haunts and stomping grounds. Heres how it went down:


SPARTANBURG - April 7 

My son Cody has recently developed an interest in the band. A week or two prior to this show he called me up inquiring if he could get a copy of the ANTiSEEN history book, 'Destructo Maximus'. He and his friend Owen decided to catch both of these weekend shows. As it turned out, Clayton and our merch guy Todd Goss were driving to the shows on their own, so we had extra room in the van. I asked the others if Cody and Owen could tag along with us and they graciously agreed. It was cool that my son could get a first-hand peek at what its like when we travel. 

We meet up with the Gooch and our trusty roadie Brandon at Barry's house and all pile into the van. Soon we are cruising down I-485 at a pretty good clip. We figure we've bypassed the snarling mess of Charlotte's Fridays afternoon traffic, but when we are fed off onto I-85 we find ourselves in a virtual parking lot. Traffic creeps slowly down the interstate all the way to the South Carolina state line. It is what it is.

We decide to make a pit stop to grab some grub, exiting off into some god forsaken town that time has left behind. Hardee's seems to be the most vibrant and hip joint in town, but that doesn't stop people from gawking at us as we enter the restaurant. We queue up to the register, a brigade of patches, pins, denim and leather. The Gooch leads the charge, sporting a full length black fur coat and swanky bell-bottom trousers and square-toed boots. 

If we seem odd to them, they seem equally odd to me. The staff all appear to be products of inter-familial relations; cross-eyed, hump-backed, cleft lipped and snaggletoothed. I can't decide which eye to look at of the person taking my order. They communicate in some sort of monosyllabic speech drenched in hillbilly drawl. As I order the cashier dutifully repeats it into a microphone: "cheebuh, huhduh, fruh, puh..."  The food I receive is scarcely edible. I try my best not to taste it.

The club is Ground Zero. We played here exactly one year ago which was a lot of fun, so I have been looking forward to returning. The soundguy is Clayton's son-in-law, Jake. He's really helpful and on his game. Kerrie is here, too. Some other friends have already turned up. I say hello to Stick Elliot and am pleasantly surprised to see my old pal Fred Laney. Tonight is shaping up to be a good one. 

When we finally hit stage it feels really good. The volume hits like freight train - I have asked for a lot of guitar in the monitors, probably more so than I should have. The bass reverberates under the stage, causing a weird echoing delay. Barry later called it a "wobble". We play thru it, making eye contact and communicating accordingly. Although we haven't practiced the set as much as I would've liked, we are all on point. At the end of 'Sabu' I hold my guitar aloft and accidently hit my headstock on a low hanging I-beam, knocking it out of tune. We launch straight into 'Cactus Jack' and I try to quickly pull it together, but the guitar stubbornly drones. Fortunately the drone was somewhat in the correct key - nobody seems to notice. I almost relish the challenge - we've come a long way since I fist joined, and I'm proud of how tight the band is. 

I put together the set list for these shows, and purposefully included some songs I have difficulty playing. I am admittedly not a "musician", nor do I pretend to be one. I have enough ability to saw away the punk rock power chords and I can make my amp feed-back and drone. I love it. But sometimes these songs are deceptively difficult. It would be easy to sort of nudge them to the side in favor of other songs, but in my way of thinking, they deserve respect and dedication. I try to play them as well as I can, not only for the benefit of fans excited to hear them, not only for the sake of any given performance, but for the legacy of what Jeff Clayton and Joe Young spent thirty years building. And I never want to take any of it for granted, ever. 

It's a small crowd but they are all pressed against the stage chanting our name. It feels good to connect with people thru this music. There is a great catharsis in the volume and energy of performance. When the crowd gives the same energy back its pretty special. After the day-to-day bullshit drudgery of my job, bills and responsibilities, it's good to be reminded that their are others not unlike myself, just as disenchanted and disillusioned. What I've been lucky to be brought into is made better knowing that I can share it. 

And its killer. 



HICKORY  - April 8

As much I as I sometimes enjoy travelling, I'm kinda glad these shows are close enough to come home every night. The dichotomy of the atmosphere in a dark, noisy bar versus the quiet comfort of my own home is weird to me sometimes. It's sorta odd to come home after a show, shower and climb into bed and recall that only hours before I was onstage. It feels like travelling from some strange world in a different universe, particularly when coming home from an extended trip. I can remember coming home from a gig in New Jersey right after I joined the band and noting that I had seen the skylines of New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond, Raleigh and Charlotte all in a single night. And as quickly as it all happened, it was over. I was returned to the solitude of my bedroom facing the reality of my everyday existence. It's a good thing; it keeps the ego in check - nobody is gonna ask for an autograph when I clock in at work... 

We reassemble in the afternoon, same bunch as the day before; Barry, Gooch and myself along with roadie Brandon and my son Cody and his friend Owen. We hit the highway towards Hickory and decide to stop at a Cracker Barrel to eat. For the uninitiated, Cracker Barrel is a combination restaurant/store that serves 'home cooking' and sells random tacky gifts and candy. I've read that it was a favorite spot for the Ramones to stop. Anytime I eat here I always imagine what it would be like seeing the Ramones huddled in a corner eating country fried steak and collard greens. 

Barry picks up a pack of jellybeans on the way out. They're called "Bean Boozled" and mix traditional flavors with gross flavors such as rotten egg, sour milk and even vomit. They goad me to try some but I ain't having it. I don't get the appeal. 

The club is called The Wizard Saloon. Situated in the basement of a mom 'n pop restaurant, it enjoys a reputation as a somewhat seedy biker bar. At some point long ago, intrepid kids talked their way into allowing punk rock shows here and for a few years it hosted a steady run of bands. I've played here several times before when I was doing my own thing. The sound was usually bad and the guy who promoted the shows always ripped off the bands. In spite of this, I've had some good shows and memories here. In 2003 I partnered with Jeff "Biggy Stardust" Williams of the Dead Kings, filmmaker Jason Griscom and Gideon Smith to do a performance of ANTiSEEN covers in tribute and honor of the bands 20th anniversary. We called it "Brothers Of Freaks" and it went over great. I would be lying if I said it wasn't satisfying to come back here as a member of the actual band. It closes another circle. 

Before taking the stage I run into Clint Harrison of the defunct Flat Tires. He's "retired" from music and now travels the country doing welding work. It's good to see him, he's been a longtime friend and ally. Although he and I seldom see each other, Clint is someone I've always enjoyed hanging out with. I once went to see the Flat Tires and after the show Clint and I sat at the bar knocking back shots of Wild Turkey and getting irrelevant. The night ended with the bar closing around us and finally being escorted out the door. We stumbled out like drunk soldiers off to oblivion. It's probably to our benefit and general good health we didn't hang out more often. It's too bad the Flat Tires disbanded; it seemed they were just right on the verge of really taking off. 

My son Cody helps me set up, I really like having him around this weekend. I tune up and we do a line check. We get situated and rip into the set. The club has a proper PA now, and a quality soundguy to run it. The stage isn't much higher than the floor, so the crowd are right up on us and in our face. We get right up on them and in their face. It's an older crowd; many have been fans for literally decades. Still a few youngsters are present, some appear no older than 8 or 10, attending with their parents. It's cool to see the multi-generational span of the audience. They with us all the way as song after song are knocked over like dominoes. It's a great set.

After the show Clint comes up and tells me how much he enjoyed it. I appreciate the compliment, it means a lot. Ross from the Beatdowns is here. He was right up front during the set, going off and shouting along to the songs and almost acting out the lyrics. We joke about his "interpretive dance". He was also a fan of the Mad Brother Ward stuff so it's cool he's kept up with me thru everything. 

It feels good to hit some "home" spots and deliver. On the way back to Charlotte Barry and I discuss the possibility of jump-starting Hickory back to life, especially as clubs in Charlotte have fallen. Maybe we can spend some time concentrating on the Mid Atlantic, and possibly even on up and down the eastern seaboard. We were hoping to hit the West Coast this summer, but as mentioned above, it doesn't look promising at this point. There are still a lot of places I've yet to play, I wanna hit 'em all. All in good time. I just gotta be patient. 

Meanwhile we've made good on our threat to record a new album, and if all goes according to plan it will see release in the early summer. The album will be titled "Obstinate" - which I believe requires no explanation. I've heard some early mixes and it sounds killer. Adopting a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, we again recorded at the 'Monster Lab' of Eddie Ford with Jon Bowman mixing and Phil Keller doing the art layout. ANTiSEEN has grown into an extended family of close friends and allies working hard to deliver something we can all be proud of. 

This band has never been shy to mix in a myriad of stylistic influences and this album is no different. What makes it cool is we don't sit down and discuss what sort of style a song should be, rather allowing it to take direction and shape it accordingly. So from southern funk to avant noise, it all seeps in organically, never convoluted or forced. Of course, it's still filtered thru our own patented brand of destructo rock, so don't get the wrong idea. This album is gonna knock the teeth to the back of yer skull....

We are also gonna do an in-store appearance on Record Store Day, April22nd at Repo Records in Charlotte. We'll play a full set and have plenty of cool stuff available including the 'WE'RE # ONE'12", the 'Southern Hostility Demos' LP and the release of brand new 'Complete Drastic Sessions' LP!! And if that ain't enough, original 'SEEN bassist Bill Cates will be on hand, so bring along your copies of Drastic to get signed along with the new "Complete Drastic Sessions" LP. Oh and its FREE ADMISSION!! So ya gots no excuses!!


WE wanna see YOU!!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Texas Blood (a tale from the road)...

Several years before Joe passed away I was already touring fairly regularly with the boys as a merch man. One year we were touring across the deep South, through Texas and up into the Midwest. It was the "New Blood" line-up: Jeff and Joe, bassist Jon Bowman and drummer Phil Keller. CJ Whitt was the roadie in this era. We were in a rental van for this trip, a pretty cramped situation but we pulled it off. I didn't keep a journal back then, but I remember the trip fondly and thought I'd share some of the highlights...

The tour started in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We connected with the wild and woolly one-man-band Joe Buck Yourself. He was opening the dates for us on this run. Bruce Rohers from Maximum Rock & Roll had flew in to follow along as well. We stayed at the beautiful home of Walt and Heather Wheat, which is always a treat. It was a great start to the tour.

The following day I decide to ride with Bruce in his little rental car. The next show was in Memphis. We speed off down the back roads of Mississippi. Along the way he regaled me with tales of old school dementia punctuated with blasts of obscure punk rock on the car stereo. However I sensed he was probably still a little drunk from the night before. Or maybe hung-over. Or at least, a really really bad driver. I grabbed onto my seat for dear life as we bobbed and weaved across the highway. A few near misses with semi-trucks left me white-knuckled. I gently suggested he pull over and let me take the wheel.

At some point he casually mentioned his luggage was lost by the airline when he flew in from California. "What are you gonna do?", I asked. "Oh, its in Jackson. We're gonna go get it." Uh... He had not mentioned this detail before I decided to ride with him. Jackson was an hour out of the way and the boys didn't know where I was. Great. I figured he had a road map, but no. This was still the era before GPS was common. He was just sorta figuring it out. "C'mon", he said. "How many airports is Jackson gonna have?" Hard to argue that reasoning.

True enough we found the airport with no problems. We quickly recovered his luggage, refuel and eventually were back on the highway, hightailing it towards Memphis. "So,"  I ask, "you got the address to the club, right?"

"No - I thought you did!"

We continue to zip along I-55 knowing it would eventually feed us into Memphis. We rolled into town in the late afternoon and somehow guess our way to the club, arriving only about thirty minutes after the boys. God has mercy on babies and fools.

A few days later we are in Texas. Bruce has disappeared without a trace. We are staying with Phil "Whiskey Rebel" Irwin. The Whiskey Rebel (or 'Reb' for short) is a true renaissance man; author, chess master, and guitarist for the legendary Rancid Vat. We spend some downtime watching old videos of Portland wrestling and drinking.

Reb is a seasoned drinker, which is not to be confused with a drunk. A drinker is something that, as Bukowski once noted, takes endurance. For the record -  although I drink, I am not a drinker. I don't possess the fortitude or strength of will required to be a drinker. I wisely avoid trying to match Reb's prodigious intake..

We have a day off between shows in Austin and San Antonio. We decide to spend our free night in Austin. Jeff and Phil stay behind at Reb's. CJ, being a lucky bastard, knows a young lady he chooses to spend his night with. Joe, John and myself head to the legendary Continental Club to see Dale Watson. It is rare for Joe to go out. Joe lived close to the ground, was responsible with his money and had little interest in sightseeing touristy shit. However he enjoyed the smooth croon of Dale Watson, so he decided to come along.

Here, even in "weird" Austin we stand out in the crowd. We grouse about the $4 Lone Stars, but it doesn't stop us from repeatedly swilling them down. Watson takes the stage and we stand right down in front. Evidently this is a bit of a faux-pas. We discover he area directly in front of the stage is for dancing. Aw shit, ain't that too bad. We don't move.

Watson of course can't help but notice us. After a few numbers he looks down and asks "y'all ain't from 'round here now, are you?" Nope. "Where you boys from?" Joe says "North Carolina!" Almost as if by cue the band immediately launch into George Jone's 'White Lightining'. When it was finished Watson dedicated the song to us and we all raised our bottles in unison; a Texas salute to our shared cultural heritage. It was a killer night.

The next night was San Antonio. Most of the crowd was Hispanic, and they could teach the hipsters of Plaza Midwood in Charlotte a thing or three about rockin', believe me. It was one of the coolest stops on the tour. There was a kid hanging out that caught my eye. He was decked out in a studded jacket covered with the patches of left-wing anarchist crust punk groups. However he was also wearing a Skrewdriver t-shirt and sported a rebel flag bandanna. And he was Hispanic. I mean you wanna talk about "fuck all y'all"?? This was the guy. To me, he embodied the spirit and attitude of what ANTiSEEN is all about; not kowtowing to preconceived notions or dogmatic ideals, secure in your own individual identity without regard to what is or is not politically correct or acceptable.  

Bruce suddenly reappears. He's a little more subdued than before. I can't remember what he said happened, but we were all admittedly a little concerned. We hang out a chat a while and take a quick snapshot with Clayton. He had to return back to California after this night. He and I would keep up with each other after this tour via a few letters and a couple of drunken late night phone calls. Sadly, he passed away the following year. I barely got to know him. Bruce was a vital link in chain that connected the outcasts and desperadoes of the punk rock underground. His column in MRR was an important force that, if not always right, was always real. A lot of discovery was written into those columns, figuratively and literally. Bruce wrote with the honesty and passion of a fan. He was one of us.

We truck it clear across Texas up to Lubbock. It took all day, but I enjoyed traveling across the Texas desert. As we cruise into the outskirts of town we pass a prison. High chain-link fences topped with razor-wire and ominous guard towers surround dark forbidding looking buildings. "Hey, look", I joke, "There's where we're staying tonight!" Little did we know it was a special prison for the criminally insane. Of course that would be probably be appropriate as well. It was as if I were living out some old country song; sneaking past a prison like outlaws in the West Texas desert with my best friends and not a care in the world. It's the little things that really make these trips special. However we were about to experience some of the big things that makes things memorable, too...

The club in Lubbock is packed this night and the crowd is into it. A lady has gifted us a brick of hash butter, much to the delight of Joe, Jon and CJ. Jeff, Phil and myself, being the straight guys, roll our eyes. A couple of days later I would be persuaded to eat some cookies made with this butter. Stupidly I half a plate of cookies. I didn't know any better. The guys thought it was hilarious, but it was a pretty miserable experience... But that's another story.

Anyways.

So the boys are plowing thru their set. At some point the hash lady starts trying to talk to me. It was way too loud for me to hear her, and really it wouldn't have mattered even if I could hear her. She was clearly on something and making very little sense. I could only make out every third word, but she was laying down some heavy trippy rap about the Shroud of Turin or some such. You know, cosmic maaaan....

Suddenly the band sorta shutters to a halt. Next thing I know a kid comes running past the merch table with Clayton in hot pursuit, ready to kill. I give chase to the both of them. We are met at the door by security who for some reason let the kid pass and stop me and Clayton. For a second it looks like Jeff and the bouncer are gonna go at it, but cooler heads prevail. I'm trying to figure out what the hell happened and Jeff is beside himself with rage.

I go back to the merch table to discover Phil sitting down with a towel pressed against his head and blood pouring down his face. The cosmic hash lady is administering first aid, or some cosmic variation thereof. Jon tells me the kid threw a pint glass and hit Phil in the head. He's cut pretty bad. Jeff has calmed down and checks out Phil's cut. It would rightly require a trip to the emergency room, but Phil decides against it. Clearly the show is over. We still get paid, however. Nobody seems too upset at the short set; it was certainly memorable.

The promoter has generously provided us with a solitary hotel room for the night. Yep, one room for six people. The weather is nice so I opt to sleep in the van. While Jeff helps pick glass out of Phil's head the others come down to hang out in the van. They've scored some weed, I guess from the same cosmic chick that gave them the hash butter. They all are a bit unnerved from the evenings events and decide to unwind with some beer, a couple of bottles of cheap whiskey and indulge in a little bit of smoke. 


There is a strict rule about holding when we travel. Jeff, Phil and myself never do anything at all, save for the occasional drink. We're the boring old farts. So the other three usually would disappear to smoke on their own time elsewhere. However tonight there really isn't anywhere else to go. Soon the van reeks of skunk and everyone is a little bit boozy and finally relaxed.

Suddenly Phil appears, a big bandage covering his fresh wound. "Hey," he says, "Can we go find a store? I've lost a lot of blood. I think I should probably get some orange juice." 


Wait... what? This ain't the goddamn bloodmobile. I tell him flatly "No".

"Aw, come on. It wont take five minutes."

I think its a bad idea to go anywhere but the others all say fuck it. So against my better judgment I'm soon pulling out onto the deserted midnight streets of Lubbock...

The street is one-way, sort of a service road that runs parallel to the highway. To go the opposite direction you have to travel several blocks before there is a bridge that takes you to the other side or exit out onto the highway. It's pretty frustrating, and nothing is open. Fortunately there is no other traffic. The place is so dead that it feels almost ghostly. We ride in circles and I keep feeling like we're gonna get trapped on an exit with no way to turn-around. After about twenty minutes I finally I give up. Sorry, Phil, no orange juice for you pal. He's a bit crestfallen but accepts defeat.

I've gotten turned around by this point. By the time we make it back, I'm lost. I speed past the motel, realizing it at the last minute. Shit! We're on a one way street and the only way off looms ahead; an exit to the highway leading out of town. God knows if there is anywhere to turn around. I stop. I look behind me. The hotel is maybe half a mile away. Its the middle of the night, there is no traffic and I say to hell with it. I slip the gear into reverse and start trekking backwards the wrong way down a one-way street. The others are impressed how well I can drive in reverse. We are almost to the parking lot when I suddenly spot another vehicle slowly cruising up. It's the only other vehicle we've encountered on this little midnight run.

Unfortunately, its a police car.

"Uh-oh, boys", I say. "We're in trouble." Sure enough the lights start flashing and I stop.  Empty beer cans and open whiskey bottles are scattered throughout the cabin, which stinks of weed. Clearly there is no getting out of it. As if his night hasn't already been bad enough, poor Phil is an innocent bystander caught in this mess. We open all the windows hoping maybe to air out the cabin a bit.

I watch the cop slowly amble out of his cruiser .He looks like he's pulled straight from the set of a movie; the stereotypical redneck cop: silver-haired, pot-bellied and red faced. He's about thirty feet away but just stands there shaking his head with a incredulous look on his face. "Son," he asks in a raspy, high-pitched Texas drawl, "What the hell are you doing?"

I start to stammer out an apology, how we missed our turn and I didn't think we could turn around without going back out on the highway. The whole time he's just standing there by his car, still shaking his head. He still doesn't approach our van. "Well all ya gotta do is go up a block, turn left, hang another left and there you go", he says in an exasperated tone, as if this should be obvious.

He doesn't ask If I have been drinking.

He doesn't ask for a license.

He doesn't ask for registration.

I stutter a quick thank-you and start to pull away still not convinced this isn't some sort of trap. Sure enough, he follows us closely around the block. We are all convinced he's gonna follow us into the parking lot. I mentally prepare myself for the worst. But he merely toots his horn, tosses a wave and disappears into the night. We all nearly faint. Did this really just happen??

Joe Young is mightily impressed;  "Russ, you were cool as a cucumber! Talk about grace under pressure! You kept us all outta jail tonight!" I appreciate the accolades but still cannot help being pissed off. This whole event wouldn't have happened had we not gone out looking for the magical blood repleting properties of orange juice. I understand Phil is injured, and I'm truly sympathetic, but goddamn. I walk into the motel lobby searching for a snack machine. All I want is a candy bar and a soda. 


The soda machine has orange juice





I guess it should be of no surprise that we have been working heavily on a new album. That's right. NEW. ALBUM. I gotta say it's something I'm pretty proud of. The title is  "OBSTINATE" and it's gonna be a hard, fast ride - ten blasts of punk rock with a pretty sweet blend of different stylistic influences added to the mix. We've been tracking at the infamous Monster Lab of Eddie Ford. With a little bit of luck this will be out sometime in early summer. and then... the road. But that's news for another time.

Until then...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Music City Showdown...


Hello again and welcome back. It's been a while since I last posted. I'm gonna try to step it up a bit in 2017. I might get a little 'off-topic' from time to time, so... indulge me. This will still primarily be a running tour journal but occasionally I'll take a sidebar and explore other avenues. Hope y'all come along for the ride. But first, its business as usual, and the usual business is hitting the pavement and taking the noise to the people...


JOHNSON CITY - Jan 20

Our tour party has recently seen a change with the arrival of our new merch man, Todd Goss. Todd has history with the band going way back to the 80's. He was their soundguy for many years, accompanying them on several tours all over the world. He also recorded the Southern Hostility album and a bunch of singles. After discovering we were down a merch man he volunteered his services. It sorta goes without saying he fits right in.

We made a bit of a late start for this trip, heading out in the midst of Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. Our usual west bound route out of town was compromised by a five mile traffic jam so we alternated our plan and headed north, bypassing the congestion. It added a few extra minutes and miles, but wasn't too bad. I snoozed most of the ride. I awoke after sundown, only the slightest hint of light peeking from behind the Smoky Mountains. It was a pretty decent ride.

The club is called The Hideaway. I've been here many times before, but this is only my second time actually playing here.  The Hideaway has been a staple of the East Coast underground touring circuit for many years. It's very basic, no-frills and punk rock. There are no pool tables or televisions and the décor - what little of it there is - looks a little shoddy and run down. Yet the place still seems to radiate its own energy, especially when it fills up with the hillbilly refuse of East Tennessee.

We load in quick. Jeff and Barry take-off to get the hotel rooms while the rest of us walk down the street to find something to eat. We wander into a cavernous sports bar of some sort. Its an outpost of high douchery - rednecks and hillbillies of the worst varieties fueling up for a night god knows what. Between Gooch's bell bottoms, Todd's waist-length dreadlocks and our black leather jackets, we look like aliens from another planet and get funny looks walking in the door. We take a table and a waitress sets us up. She seems to dig our mess; people like us aren't her regular sort. No matter, we quickly eat and split back to the club.

The room is full by the time we get back. It's a larger crowd than what we had here last time. The guy who runs the place is called Tarvo. He's always done the band solid whenever we're here. He works hard, darting between bartending and running sound. I'm pleasantly surprised to discover he has stocked some porter stout and indulge in a bottle. Its his birthday and the opening bands all dedicate their sets to him.

We hit finally hit stage. The first song is almost always the most difficult. We rarely soundcheck, preferring to do a quick line check right before we play. I usually spend he first song gauging the atmosphere; from the sound to the lights to the crowd itself. All the while I'm trying to lay down the heat and get into the zone - the intangible psychological ground where practice transfers into performance. Sometimes it all comes together in a flash and sometimes it takes several songs. I'm on point and by the second song I'm steadily in the zone. We play virtually non-stop. I put together the set list for these shows and feel it flows well. Jeff improvises at one point and tells us to play 'Cop Out', which isn't in the set but we have no trouble playing it. I'm really leaning into it at this point and it's over before I know it. Loud, fast, hard.

After the set some of the members of the other bands come and ask me about my Hiwatt. I like that my rig draws attention, but I find it difficult to answer questions, particularly when they are about technical things. All I know is LOUD. But I enjoy talking with everyone. Johnson City is one of my favorite places to play; unpretentious and a whole lotta fun.


NASHVILLE - Jan 21

After the requisite IHOP breakfast we head on towards Nashville, Tennessee - Music City, USA. Crossing time zones affords us a little extra time to make a side-stop on our way into town. The destination is the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, resting place to about two dozen country & western music legends. Here we pay our respects to George Jones, Johnny Paycheck and Porter Wagoner, all personal favorites of mine. We also see the graves of Marty Robbins, Webb Peirce and legendary producer Billy Sherrill. Tammy Wynette and Jerry Reed were also on the agenda but we unfortunately didn't have time. I'm hoping to return again.

The club is called The Cobra. We arrive shortly before our scheduled time. It takes a few minutes before the door is opened and we can finally load in. Tom O'Keefe shows up. Tom was the bassist for ANTiSEEN from 1988 to 1995. He now lives in Nashville and works as a tour manager for major label acts. He has recently completed a tour for Weezer. We sit and chit-chat a bit, catching up.

The promoter arrives. His name is Geoff, and he has brought an incredible feast of meatloaf, sausages, collard greens and macaroni & cheese! Southern soul food! It's awesome and I fill myself to the point I almost feel sick. Kinda stupid of me to do, but holy cow was that some good eatin'!! He and his lady really go above and beyond providing clean towels, water and cold beer. They've really done a great job putting this show together and we very much appreciate their hard work and hospitality.

One of the opening bands are called Tank Rats. They seem to be a good bunch of kids. They are all decked out in their punker gear - lotsa studs, spikes, patches and crazy haircuts. The drummer is stoked to be playing with us and has us all sign a guitar. I watch some of their set and they're a pretty tight outfit  - no frills, barebones punk rock. They've clearly brought out their crowd, and go over great. Our friends Before I Hang were to play with us but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. They all live in southern Mississippi, and severe storms resulted in a tornado outbreak that has essentially shut down the region. The upside is they are all okay. It sucks they can't be here, but obviously their safety and welfare are paramount.

We finally set up and get ready to play. The stairs to the stage are located at the front of the stage, right in front of where I set up. Directly overhead hangs a PA column. It feels very cramped on my side of the stage. I carefully tape my pedals and cables down so as to not trip or knock them over. We run a line check to set the levels and allow ourselves a few minutes before starting the set. There's a really good sized crowd here. This can still happen when a show is put together and promoted properly. Again, I'm grateful for the hard work that went into this.

Walking back up onstage I make a mental note to be careful of the steps. We are starting the set with 'Death Train' which begins with a slow wash of feedback. So I am facing my amp with the stage steps now directly behind me. I gotta be careful when I turn around not to misstep and fall offstage. Gooch hits the four count to kickstart the song and I carefully spin around only to somehow knock my cables lose from the tape. The band has launched without me - there is no guitar. I quickly piece it all back together and find my spot. Talk about an anti-climatic start! It's both embarrassing and hilarious. Barry grins and shakes his head. Just another one of those random "Spinal Tap" moments that every band experiences more that they care to admit...

I recover straight away, and we drive on thru. The set feels good and we get a great response. I can't really see much between the PA blocking me and the lights blinding me. I can tell they're slam dancing and can hear the applause. Several kids are pressed against the stage. A girl keeps reaching towards me, I don't know what for. She climbs on stage at one point but I don't pay any attention to what she does. I'm too absorbed in my own thing, playing loud and hard. The set is over before I know it. We hit 'em with an encore of 'Cop Out' 'Up All Night' and 'Cactus Jack' - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Ain't nobody kicking outta that three count. I walk off the stage feeling pretty damn good.
 
After the set we talk with some of the locals. This is my first time playing Nashville and can't wait to come back and do it again. After a few minutes we finally tear down the gear and load out. It's a long ride home.

On thru the night...



We have been really rolling along with new material. So far I've been very pleased with what we've done. Barry has a keen sense of development - he's pulled out some really cool ideas for my riffs that I might not have considered. Sometimes I crudely record myself on my phone in a fit of inspiration and send the idea Barry. Pretty soon he's produced a fully finished demo with all the instruments. From there we can start to figure out phrasing and alter the structure accordingly. Gooch almost always comes up with some sort of inventive abstract drum idea that can completely take the idea to another level. It's pretty cool to see how the process unfolds. It's not really a studied or deeply considered thing, so I don't wanna be academic about it, but here's an example to give a general idea how it comes together:

I'll use 'Fight Like Apes', the lead-off track on our new record.

My initial idea was something sorta old school hardcore; big blasting chords with a simple progression, a staccato double time drum beat and a single repeated verse. Barry heard something a little different. He and Jeff were already collaborating ideas to reflect their love for the 'Planet of the Apes'. It didn't take long for our ideas to be married. Gooch came outta left field with an amazing rhythmic beat that reminded me of Motorhead. Once we got finished with it, the song had morphed into something decidedly more metallic, yet still anchored by my basic hardcore punk riff. This gave the song a little more depth and resonance than my original idea.

We've also been working on a song built around a riff Barry has had for a long time, titled 'Whats In It For Me?' For at least the last year we've come to it, let it go, came back to it, developed it more, let it stew a bit, and then worked it some more. Each time we've made slight alterations in the arrangement and progression. It keeps getting a little better even with the slightest change. Barry and Jeff are polishing the lyrics for it and it will be apart of the next batch of songs we record. In this case the changes aren't as pronounced as they were with 'Fight Like Apes', but it still was allowed the time to develop organically without forcing any convoluted ideas. Personally I think it has a cool underlying southern funk vibe, which wasn't intentional. It's just how it developed.

The recording process itself is somewhat laborious. Tom O'Keefe once joked that it takes a lot of time and effort to make a record sound like it was recorded in fifteen minutes. Fortunately modern times generously provided the confluence of having the right people and the right technology to allow us to complete recordings at our leisure. So now we can make our records sound like they were recorded in twenty minutes! So far we've been recording the bass and drums "live" and then adding guitar and finally, vocals. Even though I was the vocalist in my other band, I don't participate in the vocal tracks. When I first joined we discussed whether or not I'd sing any. I declined. I'm a guitarist now. That's my voice. I'm quite satisfied to fill this spot with the respect and grit it deserves...  
 
Of course there are many auxiliary allies working behind the scenes as well. We try to keep as much "in house" as possible. Former members Jon Bowman and Phil Keller are still very much proactively involved, Bowman in the mixing/producing and Keller in the artwork/design/layout. Mark Rainey has been a longtime champion and advocate of all things ANTiSEEN. His label TKO Records is our home. He also now operates his own pressing plant, Cascade Record Press, which is responsible for the killer new vinyl we've released. John Hayes, former owner of the late Tremont Music Hall, has helped us keep pace on so many levels it would be impossible to name them all. Jamie Vayda has risen in recent years with a steady tide of amazing artwork for the band, the zenith of which is the recent comic book insert of the "We're # One" record. And of course Christian Brooks at Bucket City booking agency, who ensures we put many continuous miles on our trusty old van to come see all you cool people. Many long laborious hours are dedicated selflessly and thanklessly to produce something we all can be proud of. These are some good folks we are proud and lucky to have in our corner.

As we stare down 2017 we have some pretty big stuff in the works, including a fairly audacious and somewhat intimidating plan that  - if it gains traction - I'll report on very soon. Suffice it to say we wanna hit YOUR town this year! A split with Malcolm Tent is on deck, and it looks to be killer. Details are forthcoming. The new Southern Hostility Demos album is out NOW and believe me, it's badass! Also in the works is an album of the complete Drastic sessions - some truly rare archival stuff you're gonna NEED. So 2017 is gonna be a busy year;  keep your eyes and ears open with our facebook page and website, www.antiseen.com !!

And as always I appreciate the comments, emails and blog visits. Hit me up anytime!