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!!