Sunday, October 21, 2018

The 35th Antiversary...

There used to be a yearly Battle Of The Bands deal at my high school and I would  sneak in early to watch the bands set up. I always found being around bands exciting, even if just seeing a group unload their gear. One year there was a band in particular that I knew the guitar player in. They were your garden variety hair band, only minus the hair. Sporting little more than standard mullets they nonetheless tried fluffing out their locks with ample amounts of Aqua-Net. Although they were deliriously mediocre and uninteresting, for some reason they strutted around school as if they were already rock stars. Looking back it's hilarious to think of how goddamned seriously those kids took themselves.

Anyway, this guitarist kid and I once got into a bit of shoving match at a party. I had started getting hip to the idea that there was a lot more to making music and being in a band than just trying to score girls, getting signed and all the other nonsense in pursuit of the fantasy of making it as a rock star. I was already preaching the gospel of ANTiSEEN pretty heavy at this point. And he tried to dismiss them as a loser band that couldn't be "real" and make "real money". I told him that he was a cheap sellout and questioned his integrity. Things just escalated from there. Suffice it to say I was literally kicked out of the party. 

I was used to it by that point. I had always been out of sync with everyone else. Sure I had a small circle of friends, but generally my ideas and interests were ridiculed and shamed. The point of this is to say that way back in 1990/91 when ANTiSEEN first asked me to ride along and help, it really was a giant boost to my self esteem. That might sound kinda dumb but my life turned a corner when I first started travelling with the band as a would-be "roadie" back then. I discovered a way out, above and beyond what my high school friends believed to be exciting and important. 

Contrary to popular belief, being an actual member of this band wasn't something I aspired to. I only ever wanted to be "The Help" - a guy that in addition to all the everyday stuff of loading gear, selling merch, etc, could also be one they could trust for an honest, objective outside opinion and have that opinion count . I learned the hard way that achieving this meant learning to communicate my ideas in a constructive manner. My blunt assertions usually caused more harm than good.  

Frankly I never thought I could find my place in this band. I had come close to joining once before after Doug Canipe quit. Jeff called one evening and we discussed the possibility. I instead advanced the idea of taking on Jon Bowman, which they did. Another occasion many years before he sorta floated to possibility of me playing bass but I don't think he was serious. Joe and Jeff Young had also tried to talk me into joining as a drummer once as well. Never mind that my drumming skills are, shall we say... limited, I just didn't think I could fit into the band dynamic.  

So... yeah. The irony is not lost on me to find myself now playing guitar in this band. The occasion of the 35th anniversary is something I feel strangely disconnected from and yet deeply rooted in. I can't resolve it and I won't try to. The circumstances under which I came to join the band weren't ideal. However despite the odds I think we've all given it everything we've got and in the process managed to emerge a stronger band. 

I'm often asked "what's it like?" That is a difficult question to answer because the answer is complex. People generally see only the end result via a show or a record. They think of being in a band as a recreational activity where you hang out with your friends and party or whatever it is that people think bands do. However in my experience to achieve any semblance of "success" you've got to put in the work. Sure, the work can be fun - but often times it can still be work. Some of it is spent in solitude while trying to puzzle random pieces of ideas and thoughts into some tangible working form. From there the process extends to rehearsing - where the ideas you've labored on for so long are no longer sacrosanct. They became torn apart, restructured, re-purposed and repeated over and over until you get it right. And I don't mean that negatively, its merely part of the process. It's how a good idea becomes a great one. 

Then there is the travelling. Long, seemingly endless hours out on the highway. Sometimes the trips are full of eye-popping scenery and sometimes they're mind-numbingly boring. There are even those trips which can take 12, 14, 16 hours just to get from one point to the next. You start to recognize travel plazas and truckstops because you've stopped there several times before. Air travel is decidedly worse but it allows me to do things I once only could daydream of. There is more time spent travelling than all the rest of it combined. 

Mind you, this isn't an exclusive fraternity. Very often I've encountered other bands out on the road doing their own thing. Most have day jobs not unlike ourselves. Some have torn up roots and thrown caution to the wind, gambling their prospects in any given town on any given night. The unifying factor is that we are all out there trying to make something out of our lives beyond the day-to-day demands of a so-called "normal" lifestyle. 

I hope to have imparted some of these ideas with this blog. 

So again, it's a bit of a paradox. I've experienced this band from both the inside and outside. I'm keenly aware that this anniversary is largely the anniversary of Jeff Clayton and what he and Joe Young spent thirty years together building. But it's also something to celebrate with past members, all of whom give up large parts of their personal lives to do all of the aforementioned. And most importantly, its something to celebrate with the fans. Without the people who spend their time and money to see us play or buy our albums or wear our t-shirts, etc. This is a pretty special thing. 

Over the course of the last six or eight weeks we've had to endure some pretty serious darkness. We lost friends and loved ones during this time, all people we were close to. These have been some difficult and painful weeks. In this atmosphere we were still busy with the legal legwork of our upcoming Japanese trip while also working as hard as possible to put together this show. 

I'm not ashamed to say I feel we persevered and accomplished what we set out to achieve. 


The venue is called the Neighborhood Theater. It is located in an area referred to as "NoDa" - a reference to North Davidson Street, which intersects with 36th Street.The old neighborhood has enjoyed an economic boost as property values have risen, spurred by new development such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs and the omnipresent condominiums. The old Theater was originally built in the 1940's but over the decades the area degraded into poverty and crime. The waning days of the Theater had it showing porno films to bums and transients before shuddering it's doors at some point in the 80's. It met its revival in the early 00's when resurrected as a live music venue. In the time since it has metamorphosed into a fairly upscale independent music venue hosting acts of all genres. 

The venue consists of two rooms: one is the theater itself. I don't know if the stage is original or not. There is an old curtain that runs along the back of the stage where a movie screen no doubt once occupied. On the other end of the room is the soundboard and above it, a balcony. The smaller room where the bar is located. There is also another smaller stage and an area for merch sales and then a hallway leading to restrooms. This room is open on one end for a full view of the large room and stage. A roped-off area of tables lines this spot as something of a VIP/reserved seat area. 

When we were initially offered the opportunity to play here I think we were all a bit surprised. The timing was perfect however as Tremont Music Hall had recently closed. I was a little apprehensive about how the venue would treat us. Typically the larger more "upscale" venues tend to defer us with contempt. Once, in Texas (I won't dignify the club by naming it) we were given no instruction or help with our load in. We parked in a spot we weren't supposed to park and loaded in the wrong door. After allowing our merch guy set up all of our wares they informed him he had set up in the wrong spot and would have tear everything down, move to the correct location and set it all back up again. And there is no doubt they did that all of that shit on purpose. 

Fortunately, we encountered no such snootiness here. The staff here are all on point, friendly, helpful and work hard. There are guys ready to help wheel the gear in and help load it all onstage. Everything moves with a determined purpose yet also casually and relaxed. Nobody is rushing us. My son Cody has come along to help. We unpack my stuff and set up. My old friend Phil Strickland is running sound for us. I met him years ago and would have him run sound for my shows during the Mad Brother Ward run of the early 00's. Phil played in the instrumental group Husky aka Watch Husky Burn. Their album "Circle The Wagons" has been a mainstay on my trusty old iPod for years. He's a really laid-back, good-natured guy and very patient. I'm really happy he's agreed to do this for us. 

Having an actual soundcheck is a rarity for us. Ordinarily we only do what is called a line-check - where we quickly set sound levels right before our set. However with this show things are different. We are including guests for this show and need to sort out the particulars. It takes more time than I expected. Gooch is set up on a riser, which makes him difficult to hear without the aid of the stage monitors. However the monitors don't appear to work correctly. I can't seem to get a correct level established. We run a few songs, slowly bringing things into a relative good order. I'm still not quite content but resolve to play thru whatever issues I may have. That instinct has served me well so far. 

After soundcheck I make a quick run back to my place to change clothes. I also grab a towel and clean shirt to change into after the show. I decide I have no appetite. This is fairly routine. I'm always pretty nervous before we play and it zaps my appetite. I force myself to eat a protein bar and sip on an energy drink. I try to think of any other last minute things I might need but I'm falling into the moment. There will be no more time to think - I simply take the rest of the night minute by minute. 

After returning to the club I put my stuff in the dressing room and make my way to the smaller second room. We are gathering with many former members of the band for a sort of meet and greet/autograph signing. Initially I was sorta dreading this. I always feel awkward in social situations and prefer to find a spot to be alone before a show. However this is a lot of fun. In addition to the many former members we are also joined by Kelly Dean, the Dean Of Sods. The Dean keeps me laughing the whole time.The evening is off to a great start. 

The first opening band is Taped Fist, led by our old pal Mondo Braswell. I've seen his old band, Pier Six Brawlers and knew Mondo was a great frontman. His new band plays a solid set of old-school style punk rock as he parades about shirtless and howling up a storm. Apparently their drummer had only just joined the previous week but he nailed it. They are followed by Jocephus & The George Jonestown Massacre who grind thru every gear in Rock & Roll with surgical precision. I mean they almost sound prerecorded they are so tight. They opened for us a year ago and got such a great response we invited them to open this show as well. 

Former A-SEEN bassist Tom O'keefe is serving as the Master Of Ceremonies for the evening. He takes the stage for an introduction as we gather together behind the curtain. After he speaks our "intro" music is played, Elvis' "American Trilogy". I lead the band onstage and am met with a loud roar from the crowd. It's a much larger crowd than I anticipated. I strap on my guitar and then we are into the set. I'm pacing myself a bit, as this set is over twice as long as our normal set. The issues I had at soundcheck aren't as bad now. I can hear the drums much better and sort of map out a territory where I can take visual cues if necessary. 

We roll thru the first third of the set before introducing our first guest, Malcolm Tent. Malcolm has always been a unique individual. He brought the world many off-beat and unusual recordings via his infamous TPOS label while also running the legendary record shop Trash American Style (heavily featured in the documentary "I Need The Record!") TPOS issued several ANTiSEEN releases as well as the first Mad Brother Ward record. He also wrote the song we are about to play, "My God Can Beat Up Your God". ANTiSEEN reworked and adopted this song as their own many years ago. He bounds onstage from the audience (from the wrong side of the stage, natch). Clad in a bright neon green sparkling shirt he looks like a New Wave Neil Diamond as he and Clayton trade off versus. It's really cool. 

We ran a very informal online poll trying to gauge what songs to be included in the set list. The song with the most votes was a surprise, "Shittin' In High Cotton". The recording featured local music legend Scott Savage on harmonica. Savage has long since retired and retreated deep into the hills, so we needed to find someone who could play the song. Fate interceded as we had already recruited Jason Moss to play harmonica on our new "Dying Breed" record. Moss fronts his own old-school honky tonk outfit here in town. He takes the stage and helps blast the tune out of the water. 

The guest spots have been carefully spaced across the set rather than lining all of them up in a row. We have put a lot of time into building a set that we felt best reflected the bands history while also playing personal favorites. Songs like "Burning Money" and "Masters Of The Sky" were reintroduced to our set lists after I joined. Over the last few years we also started dipping further into older material that had not been played in a long time such as "Cop Out" and "Destructo Rock", both which are in the set tonight. And for this show we also added two songs from the first ANTiSEEN record, "Drastic. And to put the boot in, we invited original bassist Bill Cates to play as well. 

Bill reconnected with the band around the time we released "Obstinate". Personally speaking it has been a treat to finally meet him. I was tasked with the responsibility of helping him relearn the two songs we had chosen to play, "Psycho Path" and "She's Part of the Scene". This was also a thrill. It plugged me straight back into what is was to be a fan newly discovering the band. 

Bill takes the stage to a large ovation. We launch into the songs and blitz them pretty hard. Bill is grinning like a kid. I don't know how much he's actually playing but it doesn't matter. He's an original, a part of the foundation on which the entire history of this band is built. This moment is his and I feel lucky to get to share in it. 

The last guest of the evening is a bona-fide punk rock legend, Wimpy Rutherford, original vocalist of the Queers. He has also fronted the reunited Jabbers, replacing the late GG Allin. It's a GG tune he joins in on,one recorded by the band with GG himself called "Cock On The Loose". I make a mental note to steer clear of Wimpy because when he takes stage, he takes over. He prowls the stage like a caged tiger, spitting out the lyrics with a venom that washes their sophomoric humor away. It's a cool spot. 

We then kick into the final third of the set. My energy is still with me and I can lean into the songs pretty comfortably. We spike thru "Cactus Jack" before slowing it down for "Nothing's Cool", wringing out every sludgy chord for maximum impact. Then we drive it in with several more songs before climaxing with "I Piss You Off" from the Obstinate record. Jeff sets his washboard ablaze and holds it aloft before smashing it down into a million pieces. People scramble for the debris as we leave the stage. 

Tom goes out to rally the crowd but they no prompting. He introduces us each one by one before we lay into the encores. The finale is, of course, "Fuck All Y'all". At the breakdown spot a large cloth-covered object is rolled onstage and as the song roars to its end, Jeff uncovers it revealing Joe Young's guitar rig. The crowd erupts to see the Telecaster and the Super Twin stand poised and ready. Jeff smacks the strings and it belches forth the legendary tone of Mighty Joe Young - the proverbial final note. We walk ofstage leaving Joe's rig to stand alone, droning out a melancholic hum. 

It was an emotionally powerful moment. I knew what had been planned but I hadn't really counted on the impact it would have. I knew it would be a powerful tribute but didnt anticipate to so see people teary eyed, if not openly crying. Even now as I write this days later, I still am hearing testimonials of what it meant to people seeing Joe's rig onstage once more. 

Ive been a tiny part of this bands history. I'm lucky to have ever been involved at all. Personally Jeff and Joe inspired me in so many ways that I almost take it for granted. Almost. When I think back to myself as that wide-eyed kid that snuck into the old high school Battle of Bands I can't help but feel a little proud. The kid I knew that played guitar and bragged of his own impending stardom has long since disappeared into a hazy memory. 

My own motivation to do what I do in this band is simple: to pay tribute and respect to the memory of Joe Young and to help propel Jeff Clayton to new destinations and accomplishments with the strongest music possible. 

Thirty five years

There were many folks involved in helping pull this show off. I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge them as they played important roles. Our longtime loyal roadies Brandon and Todd Goss, also our "auxiliary roadies" Jeff Williams and Cody Ward. Phil Strickland on sound and "Punk Rick" Scullion who captured the night on multi-camera video. Tom O'keefe for flying in and MC'ing the event. And of course all the crew of the Neighborhood Theater for welcoming us in and treating us so well. This was the best experience I've personally had with a "big" venue in the United States.   

And of course, our most sincere thanks to all of you. You are what makes all of this possible and we are grateful for the support and respect you've shown. 


Friday, October 5, 2018

Last Of The Dying Breed...

While gearing up for the big anniversary show we're readying the release of The "Dying Breed" 12" EP (available at www.antiseen.com) Now that it is finally here I can discuss what it is, what it means and what we hoped to have achieved.... The initial idea of this record started as something a little bit different. Originally it was conceived as a sequel to the "HELL" covers comp from 1994. While considering possible tunes I happened upon the idea of doing covers of bands we actually knew. Bands that maybe inspired us in different ways over the years. 

Here's a little rundown of the tracks and the bands that originally recorded them:

"On Fire" by Knifedance - 

Knifedance was a Cleveland based band that blurred the line between the Dead Boys and Black Flag. With admirable dedication and persistence vocalist Tom Dark has remained a standing presence in the Cleveland underground to this day. The climatic closing track of their album 'Wolf Hour' and a longtime personal favorite of mine, "On Fire" really summarized the intensity of this band. 

"Jump Up" by White Cross - 

The legend of this Richmond, Virginia band looms long and large. Clayton has often regaled me with tales of seeing White Cross back before ANTiSEEN had even started. Vocalist Crispy is the guy who coined the term "destructo rock" to describe the SEEN's frenzied style. "Jump Up" originally appeared on their 1983 album 'What's Going On?'.

"Run You Down" by Dead Kings - 

Anchored by Jeff "Biggy Stardust" Williams and Steve "Stabb Frehley" Wensil, the Charlotte-based Dead Kings courted controversy and chaos for over a decade. Initially a stripped down trio clad in t-shirts and jeans, they would later add a second guitarist as their shows gradually grew into theatrical spectacles with costuming and stage props that resembled a TV game show in Hell. Inspired by a true life event, "Run You Down" comes from their 2000 debut album 'Muder City or Bust'.

"Hook" by Self-Made Monsters - 

North Carolina's best kept secret is one of those rare bands that continue to grow and mutate while retaining a style and identity that is uniquely their own. Sorta like if Darby Crash fronted Hawkwind playing Sun Ra covers dusted with the desert sand of Fu Manchu. "Hook" appeared on their first full-length album 'Dragging Our Knuckles'.

It's Like Taking Candy (From A Baby, Baby) by KIFF - 

Keeping their tongue firmly in cheek, Raleigh mischief makers KIFF (Knowledge Is For Fools) blend up a large influence of classic punk, metal and rock without succumbing to the cynical irony so often employed by lesser bands. Both individuallly and collectively they've been loyal friends and supporters of ANTiSEEN for many many years. This song was originally recorded on their self titled debut album.

"Crazy Horses" by the Osmonds - 

Ok, so... the Osmonds?? This is an old favorite that occasionally gets play but let's look at it for what it is - a hard rockin' number that vents out a decent blast of angst from an otherwise overly sheltered and sanitized group of boys looking for the way out and getting way out. And if that ain't all of us, then I don't know what is. 

"Fred Kirby" by the Loose Lugnuts - 

I often use the word "scrappy" to describe these guys. Garage Country if such a thing exists. Led by the brother combo of Brian and Mark Wilson (who also run the now legendary Thirsty Beaver Saloon as well as the Tipsy Burrow restaurant in Charlotte), this band often can be found playing marathon sets loaded with classic country standards punctuated with oddball covers of Lou Reed, Lindsey Buckingham, Warren Zevon and whatever else they take a notion to playing. However this song, an original appearing on their 'Half Tight' LP, really sums up a lot of what we have felt watching Charlotte go "World Class" at the expense of our local culture. 



Of course there was obviously a learning curve for me to discover any of this stuff. Way, way back when I was in high school my friend Eric and I would jet around in his Volkswagen Rabbit (!!) blasting out the Sex Pistols "Anarchy In The UK" as loud as that car's little 5 watt speakers could go. It was about the only punk rock I knew at the time, as I had mostly dismissed it all as tuneless junk. But that song... Holy hell did it ever get into my blood. In the summer of '88 it was about the absolute most badass thing happening - and it was already over a decade old at that point. I had struck the tip of an iceberg totally unaware I was about to sink into glorious oblivion. 

My mom and step-dad were heavy hitting holly rollers, so my avenues of rebellion were congested with giant loads of confusion and guilt. Light peeked thru the cracks via the over-amplified decibels of heavy metal music - the absolute ultimate in sin and perversion according to the Church. I didn't buy into any of that Satan shtick - then nor now - but I sure liked the grinding crunch of electric guitar. Problem was I also didn't buy into much else of what would become the cliched humor claimed as territory via the likes of Spinal Tap and Bad News. I mean, I tried... but whatever. 

It was the Misfits that proved to be the shove into the fray. I picked up a copy of Danzig's self titled debut late that same summer, unaware of the connection. Metallica had released the "Garage Days" EP the summer prior summer and the best tracks on it were arguably the Misfits covers. My friend Scott stitched it all together for me:

I liked Danizig. 
I liked Metallica. 
Danzig was the singer of the Misfits. 

I would like the Misfits. 

They would prove the gateway in which I finally and fully embraced punk rock. Suddenly heavy metal - which I had previously believed to be supreme in aural domination - was now embarrassingly weak and wimpy. Metal reinforced the ancient, boring ideology of virtuosity in the neo-classical European tradition. Punk was a more direct line of current that patched me into what the fuck it was all about, right here, right now. I mean, sure, later I would come to realize there was room on my plate for both... but I had just discovered electricity, right?? I wasn't down with slaying the fire-belching dragon before riding a valiant steed into the halls of Valhalla with a vestal virgin on my arm, drinking from the mighty chalice as demons bowed before me and angels sang my name... Fuck all that noise, I just wanted to 1,2,3,4 and... GO. Don't think about it, don't talk about it... 

It all flooded in quickly with the obviousness offerings from the bottom shelf... I mean, my tastes were only yet developing. I quickly and wisely realized that even amid all the stock and trade punk rhetoric of tolerance and acceptance the ugly truth was that punk as a movement was as tired, conservative and cliquish as anything else I had encountered in the seven hour daily hell of high school. All of it stuck together in a cut and paste style as readily xeroxed as the fanzines that preached the word. And by this point I'd had quite enough of being preached at, thank you very much. 

I've always believed in rock & roll as a vehicle for personal liberation. And even as late as I discovered it, punk rock offered me a sense of hope in those waning desperate moments of my youth when anything was still possible. I saw the light thru the cracks and scurried my way into a whole new approach to my life. To see it degraded into a fascistic, intolerant temperance crusade of either right-wing or left-wing ideology is beyond depressing. 

If punk rock ever reflected a MAD Magazine sensibility, then ANTiSEEN has always been much more National Lampoon. We are far darker, more irreverent and less didactic. I've always felt that the dark satirical wit of this band often reflects light back on the latent prejudicial attitudes and repressed feelings of erstwhile moral crusaders hiding behind their own pious hypocrisy. Anybody looking to plug into our thang is only gonna get confused. We ain't set ourselves up to be leaders or figureheads. Leave that self-righteous pomposity to poindexters on the internet.

Of course because of our dark humor we get labeled with every "-ist", "-ism" and "-phobia" there is. The great irony is anyone taking the time or interest to actually engage or understand this band, our families, who our friends are, who we've toured with, who we've supported, or any other part of our history would recognize the obvious out and out stupidity of such claims. We really don't feel we're "better" or "different" from anyone else. We go to work, punch a clock and try to stay above our bills and outta trouble. 

We considered a lot of our friends to be of the same ilk, a little bit outside the standard norms, possessing an attitude and approach that prevent them from being quite so neatly categorized. In our way of thinking...  

The "last of a dying breed"... 


And a very sad post script - 

Jeff "BBQ" Young passed away and it has hit us all pretty hard. He was there from the very beginning of the band and remained a perennial presence throughout it's history, even after the passing of his brother Joe. Jeff was the proverbial jack of all trades, which proved to be a giant benefit when the band started to tour longer and more regularly. For years and years it was Jeff that drove the van, loaded the equipment, sold the shirts, bounced the bozos and stitched the wounds. Everybody who knew him has a Jeff Young story. You don't have to go far to find a really great Jeff Young story because this was a guy who could make going to the gas station a memorable event. He was one of those rare characters that immediately felt like an old friend. I mean, for me it's hard to remember ever actually meeting him at all. He just immediately accepted me as he seemingly did with so many others. Just a big, big heart. 

Anyways. Rest easy old friend. You were loved a lot and will be missed a lot.  



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Far Out - Far East....

As I've stated in previous posts, just because we've been quiet doesn't mean we haven't been busy - this fall is gonna see a lot of action. And of course, as promised - BIG NEWS....

First order of business is the 35th "Antiversary" Show on October 13th at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte. We've been hard at work putting together a setlist that really celebrates the history of this band. With such a large catalog of material it gets kinda tricky deciding what we should play. There are the obvious standards we of course always play, a few obscurities we play because we want to, and then there are the "deep cuts"; older songs that maybe haven't been performed very often, if ever at all. It's not that we don't wanna play all the favorites, its that there are so many favorites to chose from. Any which way, I promise there will be some surprises.  

The new 8 song 12" EP "The Dying Breed" is being pressed as I write and will be available at the anniversary show. This is a record that we spent a lot of time and consideration on. Sort of a companion piece to "Obstinate", it reflects what we feel is a tribute and homage to what we've been influenced and inspired by over the years. Attitude, integrity, independence and even a little heartfelt nostalgia... I think its definitely gonna pleasantly surprise people. 

Ok, so it took a little longer than I expected but as promised, here is the BIG NEWS:

ANTiSEEN is going to Japan.

This has been in the works for many months. There have been moments where it seemed  it wouldn't happen, but then suddenly a new development would occur and renew our hopes. I know for Jeff and Barry the dream of one day playing Japan has been giant. Personally, I never thought I'd ever play outside of North Carolina, let alone Japan, so it's almost beyond my comprehension. If you had told me five years ago that I'd be tear-assing around the world with a Hiwatt amp and a fleet of Fender guitars, I'd have laughed in your face. I would have told you I had neither the money, time nor desire to do any such thing. Yet here I am, a middle-aged punk rock holdover grinding out high volume power chords and trying to keep my stamina and endurance in respectable check. It's a lot tougher than it looks. I'm very conscious of the fact that I am doing things in my 40s that most people do in their 20's. 

I recently picked up the Wayne Kramer autobiography. The first few chapters deal with his coming of age amid the early 60's Detroit music scene. He writes about the time in a way that made me remember what is was to be discovering new music and new ideas and approaches both to music and more importantly, life itself. I mean, not to sound sappy or anything, but it brought and continues to bring light thru the cracks. It's funny what can motivate you. There is a point when its less about popularity or success than the deeply instilled desire to purge whatever frustration and angst that gets welled up inside via the channels and avenues of over-amplified sheets of distorted noise. A point when words like 'violence' and 'aggression' become terms of sonic dominance. A point when all that is left is whether or not you're honest with yourself

And if I'm being honest, I suppose it is a sad admission that I am a man of limited interests. I sometimes wish I were more enamored with a larger variety of stuff, but alas I sorta wallow in the faded memories of my youth. The world seems to spin faster than anyone can keep up... I suppose at the end of the day we are all just trying to grab hold of a little piece of something to desperately cling to that gives some sense of direction and belonging. Its bad enough we can't have any enjoyment without first debating and dissecting the politics of the subject (is it guilty of being '-ist', '-ism'  or '-phobic') while the abject debasement of simple quality and sheer integrity is seemingly eschewed outright... And sure, everything I like is old... coz there's just more spark and spirit in the past, when the world wasn't quite so inter-connected and there was still plenty left to ones own imagination. And I've always preferred my own imagination to the grim reality of everyday life.

However since being brought into this band a lot of stuff I once could only imagine have become reality, And the irony is now suddenly confronted with the reality of the situation, it all becomes intimidating. Even now, four years into it I still get nervous before every single show. I can't afford to lose step and make the band look bad. I have to deliver, every time, all the time. With this band nothing is predictable or "B" grade. Every show develops its own unique sense of timing, rhythm and flow. Sure, there are "off" nights, every band has them. For me the pressure and demand of my own desire for enduring quality sometimes clouds my ability to enjoy what I do. Sometimes it's tough to strike a balance. However when the parts do all fall into place... it's tough to beat. 

So, yeah, trying to wrap my head around this Japan trip is difficult. It just feels so much bigger than anything we've ever done. I personally don't have 35 years invested in this, but I've been around for most of it. And in just my short time as an actual member I have had some pretty stellar moments... it's been a pretty swell ride. On this, the occasion of ANTiSEEN's 35th anniversary, I want to just say thank you - whether you buy the records, come to a show or just simply read this blog, suffice it to say that I've been very fortunate to enjoy so much strong support from the fan base since joining the band. 

It means a lot.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Model Citizens and Hostile City Sweat...

Hello again. In case you were wondering what the hell has been happening, we've been hard at work on a TOP SECRET recording project that you'll all be hearing about really SOON...  After that we are purposefully taking the rest of the summer off from playing any shows... maybe. My personal plan is to commence writing material for the next full length album. Barry and I already have made a demo for one song and I've got several others I'm puzzling together. There's no window or time-frame on any of this, though. We can work on this at our leisure, meaning we have the time to sort out exactly what we want to do. Ever onward and upward.


This doesn't mean we have been sitting our asses - we recently played a couple of gigs and here's what happened:

Durham - JUNE 16


Although only two hours up the highway, we took an early start up to Durham. Our pal and longtime superfan Jon Adam invited us to his place for an afternoon cookout. Along for the ride this trip is my son Cody, subbing for our roadie Brandon, who is out on injury reserve. Jeff has already gone up to spend the weekend visiting his brother Greg, so another longtime pal, "Pyro" Dave Wynkoop has taken the vacant seat.


We arrive at the Adam abode and are welcomed by a yard full of familiar faces. Andy and Slayer Dug from KIFF and other assorted folks from the Raleigh/Durham area. Jon has prepared a giant feast which get gobbled down while everyone catches up and discuss very important topics of relevance, such as who wrestled who on which card in 1983 or who played on what album by such-and-such band. These things need debated, and often. Its good we can meet like this to solve these pressing issues.


With several hours still left to kill, I retreat with Jeff and Greg to Greg's place where we while away the time watching ancient episodes of Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Greg attended the tapings of these shows regularly as a kid and can be spotted in the audience from time to time. We watch three or four episodes before piling into Greg's truck to meet the others at the club. It's time to go to work...


The club is called The Social. Housed in its own building on a busy street in downtown Durham, it is surrounded by newly developed condos and parking garages, very much like Charlotte has "grown". We arrive to find the place packed with another event - some sort of modeling photo shoot. The models, both male and female, mingle about in front of the venue. They are all very well-scrubbed, clean-cut, sharply dressed and dare I say - almost freakish looking. The men all have neatly coiffed hair and sculpted eyebrows. Some appear to wear eyeliner. I note the clubs website and Facebook page has no mention of our show at all. It appears the club has double-booked. I begin to wonder if there will even be a show.
 
After making the necessary inquiries, we discover that the has club scheduled for this event to end at 8pm, and then for our show to start at 9. So there's a weird changeover as one crowd disperses and is replaced by another. Fortunately the staff here are very cool and accommodating. The guy who appears to be running things is really cool, even though he makes mention he's heard things about our band "both good and bad". I assure him it's all true. He laughs and that breaks the ice. After that everything runs like precision clockwork. Even the opening bands are all on point and have their shit together. And even better, a sizable crowd starts to develop.


The opening bands all play relatively short sets. The opening band is called EGON. They play a pretty good set of trashy rock and roll. They are followed by the Beatdowns who have been around in various incarnations for close to twenty years. Then there is A Killing Tradition, a band from Florida steeped in a Mentors/Murder Junkies influence. They have driven up from Florida for some Carolina dates.


We finally take stage. I quickly learn the monitors are not working. The soundguy takes them offstage as I set up my rig. Normally this would be cause for concern. However the stage is small and we are cramped together close, so hearing each other isn't going to be a problem. However I am a little concerned that we aren't sufficiently practiced enough. We open the set with "We Got This Far (Without You)", something that we haven't played in a long time. I feel like I make a major mistake in it but nobody seems to notice. I realize I am concentrating too hard and need to loosen up a little. Sometimes mistakes are born from too much thought. This isn't prog rock. You gotta let your gut carry through when your brain doesn't. I momentarily reset as we blast into the second song. The rest of the set is fine.


After the set I talk to some folks, sign a few things and wait to load the gear back into the van. Again the staff are all very cool. I wish more clubs were as efficient and friendly as this one. What initially appeared to be a possible disaster turned into a pretty great night. I look forward to coming back.



Philadelphia - JUNE 30


Eric Perfect is an old friend and ally of the band going back well over twenty years. Perfect was the drummer for Rancid Vat during their 'Hostile City' era. He also runs Kadillac Tattoo, which was celebrating its 25th Anniversary. He invited us up to play the festivities and we of course said yes. We left out on Friday morning, driving all day to Philly. I work nights, so I clocked out and headed straight to Barry's to jump in the van. I had hoped to sleep on the way up but wasn't very successful. The long ride was made even longer when we decided to try to avoid tolls. Somehow we wound up trying to navigate our way thru Baltimore in rush hour traffic - a rather messy situation.


We finally made it back to the highway and arrived in Philly at sunset, winding our way across town before arriving at Kadillac Tattoo. We came up a little early so Gooch could get some tattoo work done. However priorities demanded we head out for some cheese steak sandwiches first. After filling up on the local grub we went back to the shop and unloaded the gear since we are going to be playing in the back parking lot. Afterwards we hung out while Perfect tattooed the Gooch. A guy who works at the shop generously allowed us to stay at his place, so when Gooch was finished we headed over. Philly streets are narrow and lined with row houses. We had to park the van several blocks away and hoof it. When we finally get to the house I found a bedroom, pulled up a big ol' piece of floor and passed out.


We get up in the morning and head to an IHOP. We are met by our old pals Geoff and Kathleen. Geoff used to front the Bad Vibes and now is vocalist for Done Deal, a really powerful band who seem to be gaining some serious traction. I had chance to see the Bad Vibes twice but I prefer what I've heard with Done Deal. Its a killer hardcore band. Plus Geoff is a stand-up solid good dude. It's good to catch up with him.


We still have a bit of spare time to kill so after breakfast we make a short trek over the corner of Swanson and Ritner, location of the old infamous ECW Arena. After that we drive on to the Philadelphia Musuem of Art, location of the steps that Rock Balboa famously ascended. We make a half-hearted effort to find a parking spot but it is too crowded and crazy so we decide to push on.


When we arrive to the shop there is already a small crowd. Some are just random customers but most are here for the party. Some have come as far away as Canada. The first band starts not long after we get there. They are called Please Die and feature Steve McCarthy from Limecell on bass. Limecell is on the bill, too. Also playing is Workhorse III. All of these bands share members and Steve is in all three. He has a busy, hot afternoon. Eric Perfect plays drums for both Workhorse III and Limecell. All of the bands are really good. We played with Limecell at my first show in Philly and they really impressed me then. My opinion remains unchanged. Workhorse III is fronted by Lisa Christ Superstar, an underrated guitarist and gutsy frontwoman. They really deserve greater recognition.


We finally set up our stuff and fortunately the shade has spread across the lot. Since its outdoors and there is only a vocal PA we have to adjust our volume accordingly. It is really hot and I curse myself for forgetting to bring a towel. Sure enough once we launch into the set the stinging sweat pours heavily into my eyes. We make a few missteps that would ordinarily set me sideways, but the atmosphere here is more relaxed than an ordinary show. We shrug it off and have fun. Jeff decides to toss in a new song we worked out over the spring, a cover of an old White Cross song called "Jump Up". We haven't practiced it or played it in awhile, but pull it off perfectly.


Afterwards everything sorta winds down. We hang out for a little while longer before piling into the van for the long ride home. It still sometimes strikes me as odd that we can pull these trips off. I mean it isn't that complex, but its still interesting to me that I can see the skylines of over a half dozen cities in a single night. Nobody other than me probably even considers this stuff. There are still places to I need to see. I'm lucky to have these opportunities.

Of course the major focal point this year is the big 35th Anniversary show in the Fall. By this point the only way you haven't heard about is if you're lying. This is a pretty big deal for me, personally. I've been in attendance for 10th, 20th, 25th and 30th Anniversary Shows. Now I'm a part of it. In my way of thinking, this is the most important thing I've yet participated in since joining. I'd be lying if I said it isn't more than a little intimidating although also exciting. We're putting together a solid set stacked with old favorites, some deep cuts and a few other surprises.


The show is happening on Saturday, October 13th in Charlotte at the Neighborhood Theater. Our special guest is Jocephus & the George Jonestown Massacre, back due to popular demand. Opening the show is Taped Fist from Macon GA. Former A-SEEN bassist Tom O'Keefe is gonna be on hand hosting the nights festivities. All pertinent info can be found on our website  - www.antiseen.com  - so don't miss out.


In another week or two I expect to announce another MAJOR surprise, so keep yer eyes and ears open...!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Little Ain't Enough....

We've been keeping a fairly light show schedule this year, which I'll explain below. Meanwhile here's a rundown of the recent gigs:

SPARTANBURG - March 17

Back at Ground Zero again. I've come to enjoy playing here, the vibe is always great. We got paired on a bill with South Carolina punk rock stalwarts the Independents. They've been around for years, fronted by Evil Presley and anchored by guitarist Willy B. They're a mix of Misfits style pop-punk fused with a heavy ska influence. I'm surprised to see my old pal Jamie Jones working merch for them. She once played bass in the Beatdowns long ago. Now her boyfriend is the bassist for the Independents. I think she was only 17 when I first met her. It's cool to see she never really "grew out of it", unlike so many other kids from her era.

The opening band is from Tampa, Florida. They are called the Scurvy and are led by Brandon Ferguson. Brandon also roadies for older punk groups like Sham 69 and the Murder Junkies. Apparently they had a few shows strung together including this one, but they were all cancelled. So they simply drove all the way up from Tampa for this one show. I think it was worth their while; they get a positive response from the crowd. 

A lot of old friends and familiar faces have turned up. A fan from Pittsburgh named Herb Gailey altered his vacation plans to come to the show. I'm always impressed when fans of the band come from great distances or make special arrangements to catch a show. Darron Hanby is here, too. He's been making all our area shows here lately, from Spartanburg to  Charlotte to Hickory. It's cool to have such a dedicated following. 

We play before the Independents. My son Cody has come along on this one again. He helps me set up. The club PA has changed somewhat. The monitors have been hung from the ceiling, an unusual but practical approach. We do a quick line check and gather to the side. Jeff has made the club play a Cher song before we go onstage.We haven't played in several months so I can't help but feel a bit rusty. I'm glad we are on "home turf", so to speak. I put the set together. It is mostly comprised of new material from"WE'RE # ONE" and "OBSTINATE". I wasn't too sure how playing mostly new stuff would go over, but it all works. Pretty soon we are powering thru the encore. 

After the set we take some group photos and I catch some of the Independents set. We talk a little with Brandon from The Scurvy about maybe trying to put together something for a Florida run somewhere down the line. We'll see. It would be cool trip. After that we load up and hit the highway home. Always a good time at Ground Zero!


WILMINGTON - April 7

We rode down to Wilmington in a cold rain. Hard to believe it's spring. I slept a good bit of the way. I wake up amid a discussion of how divisive the climate of social media has become. Although politically we disagree even among ourselves, we all agree the vitriol and contempt people hurl from the safety of their Facebook accounts is overwrought. The self-sanctimonious virtue signaling is as equally annoying and hypocritical. We aren't perfect nor do we pretend to be. Ultimately all of the chaos serves as grist for the mill. With this band anything and everything is fair game. And more often than not, our satire gets taken at face value and our seriousness gets dismissed as a joke. Of course, we ain't gonna spell it our for anyone. Let 'em wonder. Its all just static to me. 

We arrive in town late in the afternoon. Despite the gloomy weather John 'The Baptist' Bridges has invited us to his place for grub. John is the man behind Mystery School Records. The tiny label is responsible for a voluminous amount of releases representing a wide array of music from the fringe. He's been responsible for issuing our last few releases in CD form. He and his wife always show us incredible hospitality when we visit, opening their home for us to eat, kick back and relax. He's proven to be one of the best friends this band has, and we are fortunate to have quite a few. 

The club is called Reggie's. This is our third or fourth time here. We are headlining an all day event put together by a local fanzine called Gray Matterz. There are artists and comedians in addition to a large number of bands representing a wide variety of styles. My initial thought is that it will be a clumsily thrown together DIY affair. No matter how well the intentions, these events are usually clusterfucks. However Im very pleasantly surprised to find this one is pretty well organized. Other than the unavoidable rain and mud of the parking lot, everything runs smoothly and according to schedule. The Gray Matterz folks have done great work with a monster job. 

We take the stage right at our scheduled time. We open the set with "Fight Like Apes", only the second time we've played it live. The first time we tried it was about two years ago. We didn't feel very good about it then, figuring we would revisit it later. It was only recently we decided to try it out again. It came together much better than previously and when we launched our set with it this time, it clicked. The rest of the set was a little more varied than the one in Spartanburg, crosshatching familiar older tunes with the newer stuff we've been playing. We crush it pretty handily before returning for an encore of "Death Train Coming" and "Fuck All Y'all". 

We make it out of Wilmigton in good time. Usually we hit a police checkpoint on the way out, but this time the road is free and clear. We encounter sleet and snow along the way but it doesn't slow us down. 

Few things can...



Ok so... whats been happening? Seems like things have been awful quiet as of late, doesn't it? Why the light schedule?  Well, we've actually been pretty busy. We are neck-deep in some recording projects including the early stages of writing the next full length album. Also, as I write this Mystery School records is shipping "WE'RE # ONE" on CD. It includes some singles tracks as a bonus. We've also got a deluxe 12" reissue of EP ROYALTY that will feature some unreleased outtakes from the HONOUR AMONG THIEVES album as well. 

We do have a few more shows on the horizon, including Durham NC on June 16 and a return to Philadelphia on June 30. And of course the big 35th Anniversary Show in the fall... and after that.... we shall see. 

But it might be pretty big news...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Wolfpack Rides The Night...

Ten years ago, as ANTiSEEN approached its 25th anniversary, it became apparent that once again there was going to be another shift in their line up. Both bassist Doug Canipe and drummer Greg Clayton had tendered their notice leaving Jeff and Joe looking at an indefinite length of downtime. Jeff in particular was eager to keep busy, so while discussing the situation with him one evening on the phone, I suggested he make another solo record. 

At first he was skeptical but soon we were making a list of possible candidates. Initially the chosen line-up included Barry Hannibal on drums, Jimmy King on bass and Andy Krouse on guitar. Barry was an obvious choice as he and Jeff had so much history together. Jimmy was also an old friend and locally known having played in popular area bands since he was a teenager. I had suggested Andy because he had played with me in the Mad Brother Ward band. Although younger, he was a bad ass guitarist. 

I was tasked with making contact with Jimmy and Andy to see if they would be interested. Andy was aloof. He didn't expressly decline, but it was pretty clear he wasn't interested. I've never really figured out why. Jimmy didn't hesitate. However he had a caveat: he wanted to bring along a drummer, a guy named Jeremy Holcomb. Jeremy had served time in a indie rock band called the Talk, who had toured nationally but never got off the ground. Given his background, I wasn't sure he would be a good fit. Plus Jeff really wanted Barry. Jimmy made a strong case for Jeremy, assuring me he was a "slugger". It wasn't exactly "take us both or not at all" but it seemed his eagerness for the project would be diminished if Jeremy wasn't included. 

I figured at this point the deal was sorta shot. I didn't think Jeff would want to proceed without Barry on board, nor would he have the patience to see if another guitarist would be interested or available. However he sorta surprised me with agreeing to use Jeremy Holcomb.Then Jimmy told us that Mike Hendrix was interested. A longtime local legend and excellent guitar player, Mike was the leader of the high octane rock outfit the Belmont Playboys. A Clayton/Hendrix combo was gonna be a big deal. Suddenly things were falling together in ways I had not anticipated. 

The biggest surprise came when Jeff casually mentioned I would play second guitar. Although I had been helping assemble the band, I had not considered being a member. I could play punk rock power chords with the best of them, but the idea of playing with the caliber of musicians we were putting together intimidated me. Moreover, I had no equipment. Jeff can be pretty persuasive though, and before I knew it I was scrambling to get some guitar gear. 

Eventually we all assembled for an inaugural practice, basically a trial run to see if it would actually work. We knocked around some old punk rock cover songs, feeling everything out. Jeremy proved to be a good drummer, but he wasn't very well versed in the background the rest of us came from. The minor obstacle left things pretty loose but it still showed promise. I was just trying to keep up. Everyone was really supportive and helpful. It was clear I needed better equipment. The guitars I had were serviceable, but the amp rig I had clumsily put together sounded like ass. Fortunately Jimmy hooked me up with a sweet Fender amp and I was on my way.

Eventually we stitched together a set list of choice cover tunes and a few old ANTiSEEN standards. Our first show was on February 2nd, 2008. The show was a bit of an event due to the "all-star" line-up. We sold out the club and played a somewhat ragged but fun set. I don't really remember too much, it sorta whirled by really fast. We had set ourselves up in a pretty large way. The question now was when, where and how to repeat it.

The next show came about three months later. By now we were really starting to gel. We booked into the Milestone and the resulting show was one of the 5 best sets I've ever participated in. It was just one of those rare nights when everything falls into place. I was more confident in my position. Jimmy and I stood off to the side slinging our guitars like long lost bastard sons of the MC5 while Mike flashed away licks a'la Johnny Thunders. It was a great show and I felt pretty proud and lucky to be a part of it. 

We headlined the annual Plaza Midwood 4th of July Pig Pickin that summer. This event was a pretty big deal; a bar-b-cue festival featuring fireworks and live music attracting hundreds and hundreds of people. I went in feeling supremely confident, but the show was a disaster. The sound crew hired for this event really didn't seem to have any clue what they were doing. To be fair, it was outdoors, and running sound outdoors is tricky business. The sound crew just didn't seem to have any way to compensate. I also think they weren't used to high volume hard rock. The PA couldn't keep up with what we were doing. It sounded like pure shit. Our onstage monitors weren't near powerful enough and nobody could hear what the other was playing. Fortunately Jeremy was right on point, nailing it together and keeping it from falling to pieces. It didn't help that steady drizzle of rain started to fall. We were just up against the elements. 

We rallied with another set on August 16th, Elvis Presley's birthday. We added a few covers of the King in tribute. We had also added the Sex Pistols song "Satellite". I also wanted to try to write some original material but nobody else was too keen on that. Everyone had full-time gigs they were focused on. This wasn't gonna be a vehicle for extra-curricular exploration. However we did start thinking that our take on some of these songs was unique enough to warrant recording a few. We had totally revamped the ANTiSEEN song "Warhero" as well as an old Mad Brother Ward song called "Need It Bad". We also decided to do a version of a song Clayton had recorded with the Australian band Rupture called "If I Had A Thousand Dollars (I'd Be A  Millionaire). Truthfully, we could've easily recorded everything we had been playing but finally whittled it down. 

We recorded late that fall at the home studio of Justin Williams, who had played with Jeremy in the Talk. Justin had some old analogue recording gear and had us set up in different areas in the house. It was interesting to see drums set up in the living room and my rig in the kitchen but we got a really good ambient sound. I was able to lay down my parts in one take and felt pretty swell about it. I also remember watching Mike rip the closing lead on "Warhero" and we all cheered. It was an amazing moment that we were lucky to capture on tape. The record came out a few months later and it still remains a proud moment for me. 

We played our final show in Raleigh around this time. It was a terrible set. We made every amateur mistake imaginable and stumbled thru the gig like we had never played together before. Honestly, it might be the worst show I ever played. To be fair, I think we all were in different places and heading different directions. Whatever the reason, it was pretty clear the project had run it course. We only met one last time for a photo shoot for the local free paper. We had been awarded "Best New Band", which was ironic in that not only were we all longtime veterans of Charlotte music, but the band was already finished.

The Mongrels was something that I remember with fondness, an adventure that I never would thought I'd get to participate in. Having recorded and performed with guys that I looked up to and respected was really humbling and gratifying. We made a really great record that I'm super proud of. I could've easily walked away from that project and felt justified. No regrets. It's now a part of Charlotte music lore. Perhaps someday when the planets align and we have nothing better to do, it might happen again. 

But lightning rarely strikes twice. 


As I write this we are readying a set for some shows in the coming weeks. March 17 will see us back in Spartanburg with the Independents, and April 7 we finally return to Wilmington, NC for Gray Matterz fanzine's 2nd Anniversary Party at Reggies 42nd St. We are also busy working on new recording projects that are coming together slowly but surely. So as always, keep your ears out for our rumbling thunder and we will see you all SOON.