Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Bury The Needle...

It has been five years now since we lost Joe Young. What follows is a rewrite of a blog I wrote several years ago. I've expanded it somewhat from the original. I've removed the original post and will let this stand in it's place, sort of a "director's cut" version. Take some time to remember "Mighty" Joe Young today...  dig out your favorite Joe record and PLAY IT LOUD...

There is a certain amount of risk when you write about someone like Joe Young, simply because he wasn't an easily defined character. It's always interesting to discover the different types of people from all avenues of life that Joe knew. Interesting, but hardly surprising. Joe was a unique and special person, able to engage in simple conversation, deep discussion or sharp debate and never underestimate or demean you. He never really judged people he disagreed with and as such maintained a lot of varied and interesting relationships. I saw a lot of different facets to Joe's personality over the years, so some of you reading this maybe will have different impressions or memories of him. They are no less valid than my own. 

There are a couple of memories of Joe that stand out for me personally. Perhaps the earliest memory was meeting him at the original location of Repo Records in Charlotte, where he worked. That little shop was about the coolest place on Earth for about eighteen months. I bought my first ANTiSEEN record there in the fall of '89. I remember seeing their flyers there - it would become something you look forward to, a new flyer announcing the next show. The place radiated excitement. I remember seeing Clayton there one afternoon. I was too terrified to speak to him. Later the store relocated to Morningside. This was the location that held the infamous GG Allin in-store appearance. It was my routine to stop in every week. One afternoon Joe called me up to the counter and asked if I wanted to hear some new stuff ANTiSEEN had just recorded (one song was 'Date Rape', I can't remember the other). It felt really cool to be allowed a little special privilege.

I can remember the night of the first show of my first ever band, opening for ANTiSEEN at the Milestone. Just the fact we were asked to open was huge to me, I thought it would be something we would have to work up to. However as soon as they discovered I had a band they were adamant we could open up. Anyway, there was some confusion that night over whether it was all-ages or 18+. The band had assumed that it was all ages and advertised it accordingly, however the club had not agreed to this. It was one of the few times I saw Joe really angry. There were a lot of kids standing around in the parking lot, unable to get in. He started to round them up and snuck them in thru the stage door to see the show for free. ANTiSEEN probably lost money that night, but it was on principle. That was just the nature of his character. 

He really seemed to like the band I was in at the time. I had initially started on drums but moved over to guitar after our first show. We became notorious fairly quickly by smashing our gear at the end (and sometimes earlier) of our sets. I would drape my amp with a communist flag, with no sense of irony or intent. Just cheap flash. Joe got it. We played a show when the Berlin Wall was coming down and I made a quip about being 'lost' without a Cold War. He thought it to be riotously funny and still mentioned it from time to time even up before he passed away. In an interview with MRR he mentioned us as his favorite North Carolina band. It meant a lot.

Later as I began travelling with the band to shows across the south regularly, he started to slowly change. He seemed to be going through some weird personal shit. He became less outgoing and more reserved. He cut his hair and started carrying a gun. I don't know what happened but he changed into this odd character full of paranoia and suspicion. I got on his nerves during this time. He wasn't rude to me, but definitely kept me at arms length. He finally snapped at me one night when I was introducing the band. I was in full 'Mad Brother Ward' mode, barking out insults and just being generally obnoxious. As I was about to make the introduction he basically told me to shut up and wait a minute. He wasn't ready and I wasn't paying attention. I knew I was out of line and it kinda ruined the night for me. I mean, Jeff had yelled at me a bunch of times (and still does) but I'd long since learned to roll with it. Joe's rebuke was different because it was so unexpected and out of character. I don't think he liked the Mad Brother Ward stuff. Perhaps he saw it as more derivative and mean-spirited without any real focus or direction, but maybe that's just my own self-criticism. I don't know, it really wasn't an issue for me. He once gave me a nice write up in the local free paper but he never came to see me play anymore. This didn't really phase me. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate his opinion, I was just off in my own orbit by this point.

Eventually he admitted to me that he wished the band didn't invite me along. It wasn't that he didn't like me. It was easier and wiser if they kept their personal lives separate from their fans. He knew that I would eventually break shitty. I think maybe for him the drama wasn't worth what little I brought to the table. The weird thing is he explained all of this to me in a very casual, non-judgmental way that I totally saw the logic of.

Anyway, he was right. I eventually broke shitty. But that's another story. 

When I came back around I was glad to see he was more like the Joe I had met years before at the record shop. He seemed to recognize maybe a little maturity on my part as well. I wouldn't say either one of us had exactly 'mellowed', but we were both certainly more laid back. He engaged me more in conversation and it seemed we had more in common. I even started to travel with the band again. I think we had all come full circle, friendships that were too deeply rooted to really die out.

I sometimes would make drive up to Lenoir and spend an afternoon with him at the little record shop he had opened there. We talked a lot about music and politics. One of his big heroes was Lyndon Johnson. He loved the seedy underhanded workings of old-school Texas politics the way I loved the same workings of old-school pro wrestling. I teased him once, claiming his Libertarian views couldn't mask that he was really just an old-school Blue Dog Democrat. He laughed good naturedly at this but remained adamant he was really a conservative at core. But I knew his heart was too big for simple definition. And he knew that, too.

When I started to play with Jeff in his side project the Mongrels, we were injecting some A-SEEN material into our sets. I didn't want to appear that this project was intended to supplant Joe or ANTiSEEN, so I was concerned that Joe might be critical or defensive. To the contrary, he was very complimentary. After a Mongrels show one night he came backstage, gave me hug and told me he was proud of me. It certainly was one of my proudest moments. See, Joe was my primary influence. It was Joe Young's playing that showed me that, hey - I can do that. And one thing that I have learned since - not everyone can. 

There is a fact that I've always loved about the whole ANTiSEEN thing... Joe Young wasn't a guitar player. When Jeff Clayton was starting the band he asked Joe to be the guitarist. Joe lied about being able to play. In point of fact, he didn't even own a guitar. But he made it happen and made it work. To me the attitude behind this was way more punk rock than any of the boorish and contrived attitudes I still see put on display by people that couldn't carry Joe Young's strap. It speaks a lot more about the individual - and the integrity of said individual. If punk was ever a battle for hearts and minds, then Joe Young had more going on in his own heart and mind than the proverbial "smashing of the state". Moreover, when he did work at the proverbial "smashing of the state", it was with a lot more than lip service - he got neck deep in the shit, running for public office and shaking up his city to the point of probable conspiracy... 

But I digress.

It was the guitar, though, right? That snarling, droning table-saw buzz that sounded hideously ugly and repellent. This was the heat. Joe created a void of white-noise feedback that was infinitely more powerful, expressive and unique than anything else that existed - metal, punk, hardcore... you name it. That sound set the band apart from everyone and anything else. An advanced guitarist with a musicians training wouldn't be able to do what Joe did. It was raw and unstudied, flying by your wits and throwing yourself willingly into the fire. This attitude put ANTiSEEN in a class all their own, unmatched and unrivaled. Each record was more powerful and crushing than the one before. Even in the clinical confines of a professional recording studio the venomous hiss of Joe Young could not be adequately captured or contained. It's natural habitat were the stages of anonymous dirty bars and clubs across the world where, as if in almost secret, a devoted cult would genuflect before the altar of god-almighty noise...

This is Joe Young's legacy.

Joe spent his last birthday while on the road. The band had played in Kansas City that night. It was the last time we saw Devon Ward, aka 'Commander PP' of Cocknoose before cancer claimed him. We knew he was seriously ill and the night was an emotional one, but also a very happy one. We instinctively knew it would be our last time together. We had once collectively branded ourselves the 'Confederacy of Scum'.  We were outlaw; the rejects of the rejected. We were under-underground, the last of a breed. On this night in Kansas City we met one last time, reveled in our history, laughed long and hard and let our music shake the earth. Looking back I see it was really sort of the end of an era.

Later as we loaded our gear the owner of the club came over and handed Joe a case of Old Style beer and wished him 'happy birthday'. When we got back to the motel he and I sat alone and went to work on that case of beer. We talked until sunrise, swapping tales of ex-girlfriends, crazy road stories and getting seriously buzzed. It felt good to have finally connected with him as a true friend. I enjoyed seeing him on the road, in his element. He was content to while away the time watching a baseball game on TV before taking the stage and leveling audiences with his signature guitar snarl. He had been all over the world, made dozens and dozens of records and had become a true punk rock legend. I asked him, as it was his birthday and he was well into his fifties; how long did he see himself able to keep it up and continue. He thought about it for a while, sipping his beer.

Finally he grinned and said simply, "forever".

Sunday, April 21, 2019

2019 Spring Tour Journal...

We have returned from another tour, one I personally feel to have been a rather historic one for this band.There were several factors making this tour different. First, Gooch quit the band. He did so without warning or announcement. We showed up to practice one afternoon and his shit was gone. This led to the second factor - Barry was on the drums. Since Barry had already been the drummer in the past, it was obvious that it would be quicker and easier to recruit a substitute bassist and have Barry take over the drum chair. Third, since Barry was back on drums, we needed a bassist. After making some contacts it was decided that Malcolm Tent would do the job. Finally, our longtime roadie Brandon was sidelined with back surgery, so we had to call in a substitute. Enter Drew Toth, a longtime friend and fan. Todd Goss was along for the ride to sling merch for us, the only thing unchanged on this trip.  

Personally I was stoked. Malcolm is a long standing and respected ally. Long before I had even heard of the band, Malcolm and ANTiSEEN had already formed a deep rooted friendship. They first connected via the infamous "War Between The States" comp, which featured both ANTiSEEN and Malcolm's band at the time, Broken Talent. A few years later A-SEEN recorded a cover of Broken Talent's song "My God Can Beat Up Your God", making the song their own. We play it to this day. Malcolm would go on to found the legendary record store Trash American Style and his own label, TPOS Records, which issued a handful of A-SEEN records. It was Malcolm who also released the first Mad Brother Ward ep. So this fell together pretty easily and readily. 

Time was of the essence; Gooch quit with the tour two weeks out. We needed to find a way to make it work. Cancellation was not an option. We weren't going to let this defeat us. We sent Malcolm a list of songs we wanted to do and he got busy on his end while we got busy on ours. 

We practiced several times without the aid of a bass, giving Barry opportunity to work out the rust. Playing with Barry was a major adjustment for me. I've not played with any other drummers since joining the band. His style and approach is vastly different than what I had become accustomed to. I had to make some awkward changes to my pick attack, which is already unorthodox to begin with. Still, it was working. After a few sessions it started to come together. 

Malcolm arrived two days before we were set to leave. He drove in to town, straight to our practice room. We didn't waste much time on pleasantries, settling into the business at hand. Malcolm spent a few minutes plugging into Barry's bass rig, making adjustments and dialing in his sound. We momentarily considered what course of action to take - one song at a time or drill the set. Malcolm said to drill it, and we could hammer out the bugs as we went along. He had clearly done his homework. We played the set exceptionally well considering it was our first time actually playing together. We made a few notes and went back on the areas we felt needed attention. Malcolm's style of playing wasn't too different from my own, so we locked in pretty easily. We met again the following evening and got to work. It was coming together really well. After a few intensive hours we finally had the set put together. We then packed the van, ready to travel...



ATLANTA - APRIL 4

We arrive in Atlanta early enough to avoid the city's dreaded rush hour traffic. Drew, our roadie for this trip, has flown in from his home in Michigan. He meets us at the club. Drew is a big guy, a former Marine. I figure if there is any trouble I'll know where to hide - behind him. He's actually a pretty soft spoken and reserved character and its apparent he'll fit right in. Having someone on the road with you is tricky business. The wrong crosshatching of characters can make for some heated and tense situations. Drew proves to have the right combination of patience and initiative. 

The club is called The Earl. There's a restaurant in the front. The other bands have not yet arrived. There is no local support, so we will play first.  A guy named Anderson runs sound. He's very cool and we get loaded in and set up onstage quickly. We are given the rare opportunity to soundcheck, which we use to give a few numbers another run-thru just for security. This is essentially a new line-up and we are all eager to pull this off. 

The backstage greenroom is already stocked with deli-trays, water and beer. We are also given menus to order food from the restaurant, which is included with our deal. Meanwhile the other bands arrive. We've played with EHG a few times before, so we are already acquainted. However I've never met the Obsessed. They are led by the legendary Scott "Wino" Weinrich. He looks like a heavy dude so I cut him a clear path. 

Soon the room is filling up. Our old pal Mondo Braswell of Taped Fist shows up with a bottle of cheap wine. This is a long standing tradition between he and I, something we jokingly refer to as the "Last Resort". He has Little John Hinds with him, a good dude. Zach Hembree is also here. So is Josh Mayfield from Hellstomper. About twenty minutes before showtime my nervousness kicks in. It's do or die time now. 

We take the stage and launch into our opening song, "Death Train Coming". This is my first time playing Atlanta. I'm nervous and excited and drive hard into the song, knocking my low 'E' string out of tune slightly. There's no breaks so I play the first three songs this way. Fortunately it isn't terribly noticeable. I pull back and relax a bit. It's easy to get ahead of and outside of yourself when playing. That's how mistakes are made. I find my zone and everything falls into place. We are all solidly on point. whatever mistakes we make are small and insignificant. The crowd are really into it. I have heard horror stories about jaded crowds in Atlanta, but this is not what I now experience. By the end of our set the crowd is calling for more. It's amazing we've pulled this off with minimal preparation or practice.   

After we finish we need to clear the stage for the other bands. We do our best to get everything off quickly. This proves a bit trickier than expected. It's something we'll have to improve. Drew has never done this sort of thing before. He's a little nervous and we keep reassuring him that he's doing fine. It's raining as we load out. I manage to jack my shoulder really hard - the pain will linger for the rest of this tour. After loading everything out I sit backstage and chat a bit with Mike Williams and Clayton. The subject is old punk rock - bands like the Dils and DOA. Universal reference points that show how similarly aligned our bands are.  

The Obsessed take the stage and are great. There's no real pretense with this band, its about as authentic as it gets. Wino was doing this stuff long before it ever got popular. His credibility is well established. Eyehategod then follows. Their band is now down to a four piece but still pack a serious punch. Interesting fact: Jimmy Bower only uses four strings. The sound and volume of his guitar is mammoth. To me they sound better than their records. There's not a lot of showmanship - just four guys secure in their own ability the move the earth. 

After the show Barry seems to be in bad spirits. Drew asks me if he's done anything wrong and I assure him everything is fine. Still I can't help but feel I've done something to piss Barry off. We check into a motel. I shower and hit the sack, passing out watching Star Trek on TV. 


NASHVILLE - APRIL 5

I didn't sleep good. Recently I have been having circulation problems. I'll wake up often with my arms totally numb. It's also starting to occur when I play guitar. I know I'll eventually have to go see a doctor but for now I'm just kinda dealing with it. We hit a Waffle House on the way out of town and head towards Nashville. I ask Barry if he was angry about something last night and he doesn't know what the hell I'm talking about. He was fine all along. 

The venue is called Little Harpeth Taproom. It's actually a craft beer brewery in warehouse sitting right under the Nashville skyline. It's a bit of a weird place, all the brewing equipment is located towards the front with a lot of stock stored along the sides. In the rear there is a big stage and PA, as if almost an afterthought to utilize the space of the warehouse. The staff here are all really cool. The soundguy, Ben, knows Malcolm. 

The other bands are already here. All the guys hump gear. There are no rock star egos. There is work to be done and everyone lends each other a hand when necessary. The Obsessed have the most gear of all the bands and no roadie with them to help. Drew immediately volunteers his services. It's just the nature of his character. I watch Wino set up his gear. He plays thru two different stacks and several different heads. He really seems to enjoy toying with all his stuff, and its easy to see why. It's cool stuff. 

Tonight the club provides our meal, ordering Greek food. I get a lamb pita. It's really good and a welcome departure from the usual road fare. All the same I'm feeling sore and run down. My shoulder still hurts from the night before and now my knees are aching. It's only the second day. Just age I guess. I know I'm not in the shape I need to be in. I make a mental note to try to make improvements to what I eat, how much and how often. But I know the primary culprit is soda. I rarely drink anything else anymore. 

When we launch into the set it's hard to hear each other. The sound guy did what we asked but we asked for the wrong things. Sometimes that happens. My guitar sounds gnarly but is a bit too noisy. I don't have it dialed in to the room correctly. I'll have to remember to take a little extra time when we set up from now on. I'm also learning to pace myself out for the set we've been playing on this tour. All the same, we still are pretty well on point. I'm pleasantly surprised how tight we are getting. The are some core fans up front but its largely an indifferent crowd. They aren't familiar with us but we reel them in and win them over. At the end Jeff throws a mic stand and hits me. It was accidental. I was screaming at the crowd.


SPARTANBURG - APRIL 6 

We are off to a bad start today. We forgot stuff at motel and had to doubleback. Also Barry somehow broke his kick pedal, so we stop in Knoxville to get a replacement. Ultimately we roll into Spartanburg late. The doors are already open and we have to load in our gear in thru crowd.

The club is called Ground Zero. This is sort of a "hometown" show for us, not ninety minutes down the road from Charlotte. We play here often. A lot of people have driven down including original ANTiSEEN bassist Bill Cates as well as old friends Glen Hincemen, Mike Thrower, Dave Norton, Randy Sexton and Fred Laney. Our usual roadie Brandon shows up to catch the show as well. It's good to see him on the mend.  

We hit stage and it feels pretty solid. We've come together really well. I sometimes think I perform better under pressure. At one point during the set I notice a cell phone laying onstage. I wonder how the hell it got there - did somebody throw it? Was someone taking a picture and lay it down? Jeff notices it, too. He swipes it away with his foot and we keep charging along. I am playing my no.2 guitar tonight. We are playing "Masters Of The Sky" in our set and no.1 has a slight intonation problem and sounds a wee flat on the "clean" parts. I love playing this song. My Teles really have a snappy snarl to them when I play them clean. I suspect the flat chord has more to do with my fingering than the guitar itself, but whatever. I think we are playing strong and the crowd is into it. 

After the set I notice I've somehow sliced my thumb on the knuckle. I wipe away the blood and grab the cell phone that was on the stage. I realize it's Jeff's. I still don't know how the hell it got there. We load offstage a little quicker than the previous two nights but I feel we can still be more efficient. I'm very cognizant of the space and time of the headlining bands. I don't want to be in their way anymore than is necessary.   

Outside the club there is a guy with a table selling serial killer action figures. They are hand made. Jeff and I both buy a couple. I talk with the guy who makes them and he tells me that he's had trouble trying to sell via social media outlets but still has a shop on Etsy. It's called Straight To Hell Toyco.

Rode up the highway a bit before stopping for the night. It's weird to have been so close to hom. My son Cody calls. His band, The Boron Heist, held an album release show in Charlotte. He tells me it was pretty successful. I'm really proud of him. He puts a lot of work into his band it it's starting to pay off. 


LEXINGTON - APRIL 7

The hotel we stopped at was nicer than where we usually stay but for some reason I couldn't sleep. I ordinarily work a night schedule, so I'm not used to trying to sleep at night. It fucks up my circadian rhythm. I feel like I have jet lag. We have a long ride to Kentucky today so we roll out early. We hit a Golden Corral for breakfast, where we discover fried bacon - something I never knew was missing from my life. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves we pile into the van and hit the highway. 

Ride felt long, longer than it actually was. Tomorrow's ride will be even longer. This is the reality of touring. It's a lot of time spent cramped in a van or standing around waiting. Drew says the whole thing is an eye-opening revelation to him - he tells me "you travel hours and hours and hundreds of miles on little to no sleep, unload and set up all your equipment to play for thirty or forty minutes so some people can watch you do "Fuck All Y'all" live..." 

That's pretty much the discipline. 

The club is called Cosmic Charlie's. Its in a new location. ANTiSEEN played their old location years ago. I like this new one better. It occupies a building that is long and narrow with bay doors on either end. One side is where the stage is located. It's a big stage with a barricade. Sorta unusual for us but whatever, it's no big deal. The Obsessed have already loaded in. We backline our gear in front of their stuff. The soundguy is named Eric and is pretty cool. 

The backstage greenroom is stocked with drinks and snacks. I'm not too shy about getting into it. I sit and talk with Brian, the Obsessed's drummer. He's a good dude. I tell him he looks like Johnny Paycheck and he jokes about getting a cowboy hat. He's one of those cats that is incessantly drumming on something. He seems to always have a pair of sticks in his hand. His story isn't too different than my own. He fell into his position sorta by accident a few years ago. Suddenly he's touring with one of his musical heros. He tells me he still has moments when he looks over at Wino and kinda goes "whoa". 

The set tonight is the best yet. Our monitor mix is excellent.  Noel, Adam and Stacy from the Hookers and Savage Master are down in front. It's a pretty big crowd. Although these have not been "our" audiences per se, they seem to really dig it. We are starting to really fire on all cylinders now and are seriously drilling the set. I'm not pacing myself as I should but I can't really help but indulge myself. I'm playing pretty hard. I somehow manage to pinch the tip of my pinky on my fretting hand. Weird. 

After the set we load out quick and I collapse on a backstage sofa. I'm shaking and can't breath. I feel like I might pass out for a second. Jeff asks if I'm ok and somebody tells me to breath. I assure everyone I'm fine. Eventually I settle back down. Jeff catches a ride back to motel with the Savage Master folks. I go outside for some air. The weather is really nice. Barry is tearing down his kit outside, out of the way. I sit with him and chat with a security guy named Omar, who's a good dude. 

I wander thru the crowd during the other bands sets. I watch EHG close out the show from the back of the room. They have been playing a new untitled song that I've been digging. It's like a cross between the Black Flag songs "Damaged" and "Nothing Left Inside" but has this cool blues lick turnaround in it. It's a really killer song.
 

CHESAPEAKE  - APRIL 8

Up at sunrise for the long trip to Virginia. Just another brutal run. I don't think Drew has slept at all, but his spirits are high. You have to find some sort of inner-space Zen on travels like these. The van has a way of closing in around you. Drew notes we don't talk much in the van. I never really considered before but he's right. We all sort of instinctively go into our own head space for the only privacy we have in the van. 

Somewhere Malcolm takes the wheel. I plug in my iPod and am surprised to discover he has never checked out the Suicide Commandos. And Malcolm is surprised to discover a newfound appreciation of early Blue Oyster Cult. The dichotomy of these bands sorta illustrates how varied our collective tastes are. Somewhere just outside of Richmond we settle on Grand Funk Railroad, which we all agree is about as perfect as road music gets. 

I lived in Chesapeake for two years back in the mid-80's when I was a teenager. Driving into the area is a bit odd - I remember it but it holds no real sense of nostalgia for me. We arrive early enough to locate a motel and check in. The place is a dump. It may well be the worst we've ever stayed in. There's dirty underwear and soiled towels in the bathroom. It smells of cigarettes even though the room is supposedly non-smoking. Oh well. At least the A/C and TV work.

The club is called the Riff House. It's a small roadhouse with a very low ceiling. It legal to smoke inside here and the place reeks. EHG already here. We helped Obssesed load in. Reid Raley, the Obsessed's bass player, is singing our song "Animals, Eat 'Em". He seems to always be in a good mood. Like Wino his set-up is pretty large - two full Ampeg rigs. it must be a bitch lugging those things around. It's like constantly moving refrigerators every show.They cram all their gear onstage, it's a pretty tight fit. The soundguy is named David. He proves to be really competent and cool. 

Ryan Gillikin has come down from New York, and the Delfederate Army guys drove in from Delaware. A storm comes rolling in drenching the place with rain. I factor the weather with it being a Monday night and anticipate a poor turnout but am happy to be proven wrong. It's a smaller crowd, sure, but still pretty decent. 

Our set is hot, figuratively and literally. Sounds good onstage. The soundguy has his room dialed in. We blitz our set and Jeff smashes his washboard to bits against the overhead rafters. It's a cool way to climax the set. Fortunately he has brought along more than one. Afterwards I shake a lot of hands. People have been really receptive to us this trip. The rain lets up and we load out. 

Returned to the motel, showered and crashed out watching Rollerball. 


CHAPEL HILL - APRIL 9

It was short ride today. I snoozed thru most of it. We roll into Chapel Hill in the early afternoon. The town is nestled in among the cities of Raleigh and Durham. We've played this area several times since I've joined. Chapel Hill is the home of the University of North Carolina. It's a pretty stereotypical college town. There's a lot of shops and restaurants that cater to young people and their interests. I am not young nor do I share their interests. It seems there is an ice cream shop every fifty yards, and they are all packed. Most of the kids look dumpy and dumb. It's a virtual zombieland.

The club is called the Local 506. We've played here before and I like it. The staff here are cool. We arrive to the club and decide to load in the front door rather than the back. This will leave more room for the other bands to park. The back entrance is pretty narrow and they will need the space. We go to unload our gear out of the van and discover the load has shifted. a heavy duffel bag is resting on the door lock and preventing it from releasing. Fortunately Barry is a Goddamn Professional and sorts it out. 

After load-in Malcolm and I walk down the street to a record shop. There's little of interest here - a few overpriced jazz reissues that I can score cheaper back home. We return to the club empty-handed. Then Wino invited me to walk to a vintage guitar shop. Supposedly it good distance away but I figure the walking and fresh air might be a counter-balance to the time we have spent in the van. Plus how often does one get to go to a vintage guitar shop with Wino? He tells me he's a bit of a mark for old junk-brand guitars like Kay and Harmony. Unfortunately after walking several blocks he realizes we are headed the wrong direction. Somebody calls the shop but it's too close to closing time for us to make it so we just go back to the club. 

Barry and I decide to hit the pizza shop next door to the club. I think I've eaten here everytime I've been to this club, even when I come up to see other bands play. All the usual suspects arrive. Greg Clayton shows up with Joe X Ross. Andy Miller and Slayer Dug from KIFF show up with Jon Adam and John Wolf. Mike Pilmer is here, too. He knows Malcolm thru his DEVO connections.I think I spot Josh Kelley but I'm not for certain so I don't say anything (sorry Josh if that was you). An ex-girlfriend of mine from years ago named Demi lives in Durham now and decided to come out. We have not seen each other in years. She has long since married and has two boys of her own. She still looks great and its nice to catch up.  

The soundguy, Scotty, is very cool. He compliments my sound as I dialed in at line-check. Before I know it we are into the set. I try to find myself in the first few songs. Sometimes I get this weird distracted feeling as if something is wrong. It's just nerves. I get my head together and try to focus my energy more. It feels to me like these audiences don't quite know what to make of us. By the time we go into "Nothing's Cool" though, we have them. Every time. They are with us right to the end. This proves true at every show on this tour. Tonight is pretty strong, I feel really good about it coming offstage. 

After the set I hang out. The weather is awesome and I'm in a great mood. It's been probably the best night of the tour overall so far. 


JACKSONVILLE - APRIL 10

Another long ride today. Skipped the opportunity for an early breakfast. I slept pretty deep. On the way out of town we came upon a wreck. There was a flipped vehicle but didn't appear anyone was hurt. I think everyone is a little edgy. My boss contacts me and informs me I'm getting a raise. Feeling pretty good about that. When we roll into Jacksonville we ride straight to a hotel. We have rooms reserved at a Hampton Inn courtesy of Robert Morris, a longtime fan. Somehow he gets a hookup and passes it along to us. It's a much nicer place than what we usually get. 

The club is called Nighthawks. It's semi-circle room with the stage on the circular side. The stage is small and obscured by big PA columns hung from the ceiling. It isnt a foot high and is made of slick parquet flooring. There is only enough room for one band onstage at a time so we have to load on right before we play. No real problem, the stage door opens out to where we have the van parked.

The rest of the club is sort of a backwards 'L' shape. You walk down a corridor and thru a tiny game room onto a back patio. This where they have the bands set up merch. It's a relatively smart set-up except for one problem - nobody goes back there. I kind of figure that the locals know the drill. I figure wrong. There is a guy doing DIY distro of underground metal. I buy a bootleg Black Flag shirt from him. There is also a guy selling tacos back here. I buy one of those, too.  

The turnout is small tonight. I'm told there is one of those scene things where the beach people wont come to the west side and vice-versa. So shows sometimes suffer. Whatever, we still play the same. There is a small group of loyalists up front. At one point during the set Jeff gets the slick parquet flooring of the stage wet and I nearly do an unintentional James Brown split. 


TAMPA - APRIL 11

Slept pretty good. Barry texts me to come take advantage of the breakfast buffet. Its probably the best continental breakfast I've had at a motel in the USA.  As we load our bags  into the van I meet a guy who appears to be an maintenance worker for the hotel. He's a grizzled old cat named Les and claims to be a former Lynyrd Skynyrd roadie. We had already planned to go pay our respects at the Skynyrd graves, which is where we travel to next. We find Ronnie Van Zant and Leon Wilkeson but none of the others. We do however find the grave of the bands namesake, Leonard Skinner. 

The ride across Florida was was only 3hrs but felt 6. We hit rush hour traffic and creep along down into Ybor City. It is hot. Roosters and chickens roam the streets freely. It's been over twenty-five years since I was last here, back on the first tour I ever worked as roadie for ANTiSEEN. They played a different venue about two blocks from where we are tonight. The place seems a lot nicer now than it did then. I remember there was a record store where the staff got excited when the band came in. I guess it's gone now. All I see are restaurants and specialty shops. And the damned free range roosters. 

The club is called the Crowbar. It's a cool midsized venue with a nice layout. The soundguy Paul is really cool and helpful. A guy shows up looking for Reid from the Obsessed. Reid is buying a big Fender head from the guy. While he works out his business we walk down the block to a Subway for dinner. The weather is cooling and feels nice. When we return to the club the doors are open and people are coming in. It's a good sized crowd. These are metal crowds and it feels a bit weird. There's a guy selling leather stuff including a full hood thing. Very Iron Maiden, or at least maybe Spinal Tap. 

Jeff has been feeling a little rundown down to day and we discuss cutting the set short but he rallies and decides against it. We take the stage and grind down into the set. The mix onstage is great and I'm deep in the zone, glaring out into the crowd unsure of their reaction. It feels pretty great but I can't really read the audience. The stage lights blind out anything but silhouettes. I play harder. At the end of the set I throw my guitar into the air and let it slam down on the deck, howling out feedback.   

Afterwards I change my shirt and go back out into the club. People come up and shake my hand. I guess we went over pretty well. I meet Bobby Butcher from A Killing Tradition. He's a good dude. I also get to catch up with the Murder Junkies roadie, Brando. He tells me he tried getting Francis of the MJ's out but... no luck. There's not much time to hang out. We are leaving for an all night drive to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and the home of our friends Walt and Heather Wheat. Once everything is packed we roll out onto the highway. It's odd to me that I can be onstage sweating buckets with my guitar cranked while people gawk at me and then be alone in the back of a van staring up at the stars just a short while later. 


HATTIESBURG - APRIL 12

We drove all night to get here. I got the rear seat but still didn't sleep too well. The Wheat homestead is always a highlight of any trip across the south. They always go all out, opening their beautiful home to us. As always there is a full breakfast spread waiting when we arrive. Chowed down, took a hot shower and finally crashed. I have always slept on the floor here in the past - I feel like an imposition to dirty the sheets. Last time Heather left a note on the pillow insisting I use the bed but I still slept on the floor anyway. This time I decide to compromise - I sleep on the bed in my sleeping bag.  

Wake up after a few hours and feel a little disoriented - it's odd not having to play.  I get to do a load of laundry. Walt grills steak and there is another full spread of baked potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, salad and rolls. I get so full I feel gross. Little John, who pulls double duty as drummer for both Savage Master and Before I Hang shows up with his lady. Joel Rivers, the Before I Hang bassist, also drops by. After dinner Malcolm did a brief acoustic set, which we broadcasted on Facebook live. 

I finally check out my guitar. I busted a saddle on the bridge. It's the second time I've done that. It happened to my no.1 guitar once. It seems in other wise good shape. All my tools are packed away in the van so I'll have to work on it when we get to the club tomorrow. I stay up late jibber-jabbering with Walt, Malcolm, Drew and Todd. Everyone finally retires for the night. I return to my room and find some wrestling on TV. Eddie Ford from Self Made Monsters calls in to see how things are going. We talk for long while. His band is finishing up a new album and I'm anxious to hear it. They're one of my favorite bands. I finally crash out about 3am. 

NEW ORLEANS  -  APRIL 13 

I woke up with chest congestion. Great. Going back home sick I guess. Awesome breakfast as always. So grateful for this family. After that I kinda snoozed the day away while Drew goes target shooting with Walt. Had another large spread ready for lunch. It was more than I could eat and I felt kinda guilty not really laying into it. Finally we gather on the front steps for our traditional "family" pics. It's always a treat to come out here. 

On arrival into New Orleans we get a little turned around. Some roads are built directly over others and it takes a minute to get our bearings. When we get to the club I'm a little surprised to find the Obsessed already here. The other bands played Miami last night and made the thirteen hour kamikazee run straight to NOLA. Those guys are true road dogs. They immediately begin telling us about Miami. Apparently we didn't miss much. 

Zach, EHG's tour manager rolls in shortly thereafter. He has put this whole tour together, booking the dates and securing the guarantees. He also sells merch and drives the EHG van. He's the unsung hero of this whole thing, and I'm deeply impressed of his work ethic. I never take a moment to talk to him, mainly because he is always busy. The guy is a machine. 

The club is called The Howlin' Wolf. The stage is huge, covered with red carpet. There is a garishly painted back wall. it almost looks like the set of a children's TV show. Otherwise the club is kinda divey. The backstage green room is sufficiently stocked, though. After loading all our gear in I settle down to work on the no.2 Tele. Fortunately I have everything I need to repair it. I've played it nearly every show on this tour but I decide it wiser to use no.1 tonight. Wino notices me checking out my stuff and offers use of any of his guitars, if necessary. I'm pretty taken aback by this offer. I thank him and assure him it won't be necessary. Pretty cool gesture on his part. 

Set times seem forgotten and the bands start late. There are three local bands playing before us, making it a six band bill. I'm all for local support acts but it's getting a bit ridiculous. Six bands will wear any audience out no matter how good they all are. The sound guy seems clueless. It takes an unusually long time to get a line check. Finally we launch the set. 

It's a pretty large crowd. The set is really good, the sound is not. My monitor is weak. Anytime I step away from my amp it all disappears. I can hear the drums and that's all the really matters. I make visual cues when necessary. The crowd is into it. Jeff smashes his scrub and Barry kicks over his drums at the end. 

There is a storm system moving its way across the city and its pouring rain. We wait for it to let up before loading out. While standing next to the van a couple of guys come up mumbling about cocaine. I don't know if they are asking or offering. Either way I'm not interested and tell them so. They leave in a huff. NOLA is always a weird stop. 

I watch a bit of both the Obsessed and EHG's sets. They have been consistently great. I wait for the end of EHG's set to hear that new song again. It's killer. Afterwards the backstage is packed with people. Wino comes over and shakes my hand. He tells I have great stage presence and play forcefully. This is a huge compliment. I tell him its been an honor to share the stage with them every night. Jeff introduces me to Pepper Keenan. Pepper is raving about the band, calling us the "redneck Ramones". I also meet Sammy from Goatwhore. We make our goodbyes. Everyone agrees we should try to tie this package together again at some point in the future. It's been a pretty big night and a great tour.

On the way out of town we take Drew at the airport. It's been good to have him on this tour. I feel kind of bad seeing him amble off into the terminal, but also a wee jealous because I know he's going to make it home before we do. We pull off and hit the highway and hit a traffic jam. It's a big wreck and looks pretty bad. I couldn't even decipher what kind of vehicle it was. Cops and medic weren't even there yet. I always shudder a bit whenever I see these wrecks. We had an accident once up in Pennsylvania. Back then the band was pulling a trailer. We got struck by another vehicle and ran off the road, flipping the trailer. Fortunately nobody was hurt. It could've been way worse. These people we see now are not so lucky. There are some people laid out in the middle of the road with their friends standing over them. Others are rushing over to help. It's a bad scene, one I'm happy to pass behind. 

Stopped for gas and switched drivers. Jeff takes the wheel and immediately makes a  wrong turn. He has a hard time deciphering the GPS and curses at it. Barry and I find it hilarious. We all have had our moments with the damned contraption. We double around and are soon back on the highway. I take some pills and crash out. 

HOME - APRIL 14 

Woke up just south of Atlanta when we stop for fuel. The lady at the station is asking a bunch of questions but I don't  really pay attention. She says I must be the "quiet one". I climb back into the van and sleep a little more. Woke up again north of Atlanta - we are at a stand still. It's another wreck, this time involving a semi. It doesn't appear too bad but it has traffic blocked for at least an hour. It's late afternoon when we finally make it home.

Now that it's over I can fully appreciate what it took to make this thing happen. Malcolm really stepped up and delivered without so much as blinking. The same can be said of Drew Toth. He had the unenviable position of doing a large amount of shitwork, with little sleep and an uncomfortable seat in the van. He never complained or backed down. Todd Goss sold a shit ton of merch for us this trip. Everyone had a responsibility and pulled their own weight. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. 

As for ANTiSEEN... well, we move forward. We have an upcoming recording project that will occupy our immediate future. Songwriting will continue for whatever we decide to do next... single... 12"ep... full length album... 

Anything is possible.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

And The Band Played On...

A couple of weeks ago I took an opportunity to see a local band called No Anger Control. They are probably the most popular punk band in town at the moment and deservedly so. They're great band, no mistaking the obviousness of that fact.The singer, a lady called Tiff Tantrum, is the best front-person this town has seen in more than a decade. As the band readied themselves Tiff addressed the crowd saying "we do this for you!" And then they fired away, drilling their music with skill and precision - short bursts of anthemic songs that incited the crowd to pump their firsts and chant along. However whatever transcendent energy the band was sharing with their audience was not connecting with me. I was left feeling very alienated. This wasn't a contemptuous feeling; I wasn't given anything other than a warm reception by the people I interacted with. The music itself was perhaps a wee too clean for my taste, but it was still enjoyable. What was I missing? 

Finally after about six or eight songs, I simply left. I went home trying to puzzle the dichotomy of why I find what I do with my band fulfilling while watching younger bands leaves me cold. I'm not sure there is an answer for that other than some sort of subconscious nihilism that allows for little outside of my own self satisfaction. Unlike Tiff, I don't do this for you. I do this for me. You are more than welcome to strap yourself in and take this ride with me, but there are no promises. The only thing for certain on this trip is that nothing is for certain. 

I'm not sure where I came off the rails.My adolescence was absorbed by a floundering social skill rescued by the growling strength of heavy metal. Of course punk rock would ultimately become the poison of choice but really, the endless sub-genre definitions are of little importance anymore. Great rock and roll stands regardless of the title held on its mantle. And if it is indeed sonically subjective (and I argue it is not) than it at least still remains best when not given to some quasi-idealistic subjugation. Drill in deep past the membrane and blow my goddamned head apart. Looking back the only thing I was ever rebelling against was the confusion I felt at not understanding where I fit into the picture. Even now, at 47 years old I'm still not sure I fully understand. The only difference is now I don't care

But I digress. 

I scored a drum kit when I was about 17 and taught myself some very rudimentary basics - one TWO three FOUR - and, duly inspired, started my first band. We called it "Failure" a name I thought to be dryly comical. Initially it was just myself and my friend Brad on guitar and vocals. We would regularly occupy the backyard tool shed and blissfully blast away all our teen-aged discontent. We eventually added a few other guys to complete a line-up and played our first show in the summer of '91. However I started to realize the expense and hassle of maintaining a drum kit. I decided to switch to guitar.

Ah... the guitar.

I mean, I couldn't play a lick, figuratively or literally. I had largely been informed by Heavy Metal, which was deeply rooted in the European traditions of musical virtuosity; the more accomplished the musician, the more credible their craft. Which of course is total bullshit. Luckily I was totally energized and inspired by Punk Rock, which eschewed virtuosity for immediacy - it left no room for anything other than the honesty of the performer. Again, the brute strength of the almighty power chord. I could do that. Soon I was playing along with all my favorite punk rock songs - more or less. Tuning was still a bit sketchy but the aggro was there. And I was all about some aggro, let me tell you what. I could find cheap guitars at a local flea market - easily obtained and just as easily destroyed - which I would gleefully do at our subsequent shows. 

Something about the volume and power of a loud distorted guitar still gets me metaphysically erect. I realized wisely and early it was less about the dazzling dexterity and flash fluidity of fingers scaling the notes with breakneck speed than it was the crushing, triumphant thunder of slashing power chords driving the whole point home for good. Even at 13 years old, listening to my trusty copy of Judas Priest's "Defenders of the Faith" LP, I was much more turned on by the ominous opening chords of "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll" than I was the seven (!!!)different lead breaks on "Rock Hard, Ride Free". A few years later it was the singular big opening bass chord of "Death Train Coming" on Southern Hostility. And then the opening barrage of chords of the Who's  "Heaven and Hell" from the expanded version of Live At Leeds. And so it goes. Simple yet so very effective.

I thought I had perhaps found acceptance when I finally got into punk rock. I quickly learned there was a lot of convoluted and contrived posturing and posing. The music provided release amid bomb-blasts of sonic fury, but the rules, regulations and dress code only served to de-fang and declaw. Suddenly everybody was suspect to me. Their music was secondary; a cheap, easily disposable medium that did little other than to rigidly and narrowly define their aesthetic. After that the faces and names were as meaningless and interchangeable as the music they made. Their pose proved to be little more than the proverbial bluster and fury signifying nothing. The Scene

I'm not so certain I've ever outgrown this perspective. Fast-forward to today and my attitude is as defiant and self-serving as ever. If I compliment a band, believe it as sincere because I will not gratify someones ego in effort to reaffirm my own social standing. Of course you might wanna think twice before soliciting my opinion. As Peter Green once wrote - "don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to..."

There was in an era before the internet where people not unlike myself - disenfranchised, disillusioned, cynical and suspect - searched for alternative avenues of communication and connectivity. Something that championed the raw visceral force of high octane chainsaw rock & roll without much notice of the ideology behind it. Something apolitical if not outright apathetic. It was punk rock's unwanted orphans that somehow found each other and created something positive out of negativity.
Far less self-conscious and contrived, less didactic and pedantic, more self-assured and... 

Obstinate...


On a closing note I want to take a moment to address the proverbial elephant in the room. Gooch has quit the band. I won't go into the reasoning or details. Now I want to make some things perfectly clear: first, we are NOT cancelling upcoming gigs. The tour with eyehategod and the Obsessed IS still happening. Also we are NOT seeking a new drummer at this time. So please don't contact us about the position. We will make announcements regarding the situation at a future date. I've been an ardent fan of this band for thirty years. I've seen the countless line-up changes. The faces and names might come and go but one thing remains consistent. 

ANTiSEEN is here to stay.