Archive for July 2013
I’ve been a fan of Black Sabbath since the mid-70s when one of my my older brothers, Robert (RIP), brought home Paranoid. Somewhere around 78 or 79 he gave me their debut album for Christmas and it was one of the first pieces of vinyl that I ever owned. I’ve spoken many times before about his influence on me musically and and his love for Sabbath was certainly passed on to me. I f’n LOVE Sabbath…Ozzy, Dio, Gillan and Martin eras. But my love for them doesn’t give them a pass. In fact, it may make me more critical.
I’d never seen Sabbath (by name) but I did see Heaven & Hell twice. I saw Ozzy live in 1988 and to be honest he was horrible. At that point he was a shell of his former self. Last night I would have called him a shell of a shell of his former self.
Lots of cards were in play with the recent Sabbath reunion. No Bill Ward on the album because of a contract dispute (read: $$ and Sharon). Iommi’s lymphoma which was caught early but is still being treated for every 6 weeks. No Ward on the tour. A new album that I think is boring, autotuned vocally and severely over-processed. Bill couldn’t have saved the album.
Sabbath opened the recent leg of the tour in Houston the night before and the reviews of Ozzy were pretty awful.
The show was opened with Andrew WK doing a DJ of the same songs that most venues would have played prior to a concert…DIO, Slayer, AC/DC etc. Sharon must have gotten him on the cheap! I would have preferred an opening band.
Sabbath opened up with War Pigs then went into Into the Void(!). By the second song Ozzy had pulled out his inner ear monitors. He was motioning during War Pigs that his inner ear sound was jacked up. The band sounded great the whole show. Tony and Geezer were just incredible to watch and listen to. Touring drummer Tommy Clufetos (Alice Cooper, John 5, Ted Nugent) did a fine job on everything except for the song Black Sabbath. He played most of the songs pretty spot on but was doing something weird on that one that just didn’t seem to work. He also did a drum solo and even as me being a drummer (retired), I really don’t like most drum solos, especially from metal bands. But Ozzy said it best last night, “Rat Salad…I need to take a fucking break!” So I can easily see why there was a solo. Ozzy looked worn out. Metal band drum solos are typically just a bunch of double bass, quads and triplets. zzzz. I’d prefer to not have a solo or to watch one where a drummer is showing me their chops. But that’s just my opinion. The crowd loved it and that’s what mattered. And let’s be honest here, does anyone think Ward would have been good live at this point? From what I have seen on Youtube and read in reviews of the reunion tour, dude had a tough enough time keeping up as it was.
I will say that I thought Ozzy was better than I expected him to be, but he wasn’t great by any means. Strapped to his teleprompter, still not getting words right (same in 88 actually) and being flat for a majority of the show. Sure his drug use is that of legend and in general the guy probably doesn’t know where he is half of the time. His wife, who did save his life, seems to be money hungry and continues to prop him up like a puppet.
He sounded best on God Is Dead? and the other new songs which makes sense as they were written more about how he is able to sing now. I was happy to see Dirty Women in the set, unfortunately he couldn’t keep up in it. Snowblind was another highlight.
I know my opinion on this is a minority opinion, but I’d respect Ozzy more if he’d just say, “That’s all, folks. I just can’t do it any more.” I have a list of performers that fall into that category for me.
But all the above taken into account, I had a really good time and have zero regrets about going or about the high ticket price ($115+fees). I felt it was the last time I’d have a chance to see Iommi and watching Geezer is always a treat. He’s still a beast on the bass. And Ozzy sounded better than what I had expected, so there’s that.
I did hear someone say before the show that they loved “Tommy Iommi.” That one always cracks me up.
As we were walking out after Children of the Grave (Yes, I left before the Paranoid encore), I heard Ozzy say, “Thank you, Houston!” He must have walked away from his teleprompter again.
We’ve FINALLY got our 2 songs on Bandcamp for purchase. They’ve been remastered and sound a little different (read: better) than the version on our recent cassette release. Only $0.99 each. Our 7″ of this recording should be out by the end of summer.
My love for Fates Warning’s early work runs deep. Much of that is because of the magical vocals of John Arch. I recently caught up with John and he graciously agreed to answer some questions. Enjoy!
It’s been just over a year now from your shows at KIT 2012 and Hartford. Time has flown by and I must say that I’m still a bit in awe from the Hartford show. It was the best show I’ve ever seen. But enough out of me…
Can you describe your experiences from those 2 shows? Any after-effects?
JA: Well Sean, everything leading up to the shows caused a few sleepless nights. Although I had a reasonable time to prepare, it was still a daunting task for me. Besides having the Type A personality and not performing for the better par of two decades, I was most concerned about my voice holding up to the rigors of music I found difficult to sing 20 years ago. I guess there was no point stressing because contracts were signed, and there was no turning back. It was a better part of seven months of singing directly into a concrete wall so everything would sound as dead as possible, and that really helped with my pitch, vibrato and endurance. There were some good nights and some not so good nights, but as the dates quickly approached there came the realization that though I never feel fully prepared, I had to accept that whatever I bring to the table will have to be the best I can do. I found myself in Germany thinking, holy shit, how did I end up here?! We had little time as there was only two and a half days to rehearse as a band for the first time together ever. I hate to use the word surreal, but that is the best way to describe the feeling when we hit the stage. I guess I was so amped up that an hour and a half felt like fifteen minutes, and before I realized it was time for an encore. How we made it though with very few if any major blips that I noticed, I’ll never know. I guess everyone did their homework and came prepared. I know there are professional musicians like the guys that shared the stage that night with me that do this often, but for me it was a personal high point.
You ask about after effects, Sean. After the Webster show there were many pictures taken with myself and the fans, and in everyone of them I had a huge smile for the sense of relief that we had brought back to life the music of the past 28 + years, and everyone at the shows really enjoyed it. After a slight decompression and some sleep, what I walked away with from this experience is that the most rewarding part was the fans. The more energy I threw at them, they gave it back ten fold. It was that energy, the heads banging, and the fists in the air that motivated us.
While we could sit and talk Fates Warning all day (or at least I could), how was it writing and recording both the solo album (2003) and the Arch/Matheos (2011) records?
JA: Well Sean, as for myself, A Twist and Sympathetic Resonance respectfully had the same protocol.
I think there was a bit more apprehension with the solo effort because of the two decades between my last recording and ATOF. I think both Jim and I were both curious as to see if there was any creative energy left for a collaboration of musical ideas. I think once all the formalities are put aside, the work begins with a hyper focused vigilance which leaves one banging their head against the wall for the next line. It must be like writing a novel or something where the first word or idea that is the hardest. After such a long hiatus, creating something from nothing becomes a curious concept, but once the ideas start to flow you enter a zone where life’s problems are less intrusive and the mission to see the light at the end of the tunnel becomes paramount. That is the part I enjoy the most. The solo effort was cut short because Jim had prior commitments, which was unfortunate because the ideas were still coming.
Here we are years later, but not two more decades at least. Sympathetic Resonance was finally an effort for a full album. I think because of A Twist of Fate, the studio seemed a bit more familiar to me. Jim and I resurrected our collaborative nature, and maybe it might happen again. I think when some time goes by, and you have true life experiences to draw from, It makes for more honest unpretentious lyrics.
I was actually enjoying the self indulgent theme the lyrical concept was heading. I had a well of personal experience to draw from and Jim’s compositions were driving this energy out of me which was kind of therapeutic. We had a good head start because Jim had quite a bit written and things came together at a good clip. I think because Jim and I have very similar work ethic, and neither one of us is ever satisfied,
It is a comfortable working environment for me. All said and done, it was a rewarding experience. I was able to silence some of the demons I deal with and find the courage to put myself out there. The true sense of relief comes when it falls on different ears and positive things come from it.
To deviate away from the same old music questions for a bit, I’d like to hit you up on a more personal level. You spent time in the Air Force (San Antonio?), how long did you serve and what was your role? Thanks for your service.
JA: Since I am long winded, I’ll keep this one short. Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas for boot camp. Chanute AFB Illinois for military vehicle mechanic training and I was stationed 103rd tactical fighter unit Windsor Locks Ct.
I know that you’re a bicycle enthusiast as well as a Harley rider. What bikes do you currently own? Do you have any favorite places to ride either cycle?
JA: Yes Sean, I like two wheeled things. I got into Mountain biking over 20 years ago and have been hooked ever since. After the initial “fuck this it’s to hard” phase, I found it was good for me. Besides the Endorphins, adrenaline and other good chemicals released, it is just plain fun. I told myself when I first started riding that I wanted to just have fun with no pressure. It wasn’t long before that concept flew out the window and I got involved with racing. After 3 or 4 seasons of that I decided it was a big commitment. In order to stay competitive, there is a lot of training and traveling involved. These days I enter a few select races like 24 mtb race or the Mount Washington auto road race among others, but I’m having more fun without the competition. Favorite rides you ask? Moab Utah, Colorado, and the good old fashion rooty, rocky, slimy, steep terrain of New England. Bikes currently owned are: Santa Cruz Blur LT, Santa Cruz Blur classic, Intense 6.6, Yeti ASR5, SC Heckler, Cannondale Liquagas, Lemond Steel, and a Harley Dyna Low Rider.
Besides the cycling, what are you up to these days?
JA: Just Like any working man that has chosen the path of least resistance, working 50 hour a week, house and yard work, fixing broken shit, like three cars all with duct tape over the flashing engine light, Kid in college, and trying to squeeze in riding time. Not enough hours in a day, and not enough vacation time. Just think these are the good times.
I do want to get back into a music discussion a little bit. As you know, especially from those last 2 shows and via the Internet in general, you’re often referred to as a legend. Are you comfortable with that?
JA: I’m not sure I believe in that term “legends”, and I certainly don’t associate the definition of the word with anything I’ve done. I don’t mean to get all righteous about it, but there are many people in our presence that are far more deserving of accolades such as the single mother working the grave yard shift to feed her children, our brothers and sisters that are no longer with us that died in senseless Wars.
The folks who volunteer to make this world a better place, the list is endless. To answer the question…No Sir.
Can you tell me what you’re currently listening to? How about some of your all time faves?
JA: I’m a fan of many genres of music. Some of my pre-metal day favorites are the early prog of Yes, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk, Queen, Tull, Styx, Zeppelin, Pat Travers, Aerosmith, Kansas, and a ton of others. No use getting all cerebral digging up obscure bands when the fantastic four will do for my main metal influence: Dio, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden.
These days I listen to anything from Revocation, Lamb of God, to Sevendust, and ASG is one of my new favorites. Usually while working on a project or something I will punch in a prog band into Pandora and see what comes up, that has been a way to hear some bands I probably would not have heard otherwise.
Without naming names, some are better than others.
Lately I have been shying away from the airy synthetic keyboard oriented over processed music with operatic singing style, It’s just not my flavor this year. I find myself regressing to the old school stuff to get my fix.
Are there any plans to do any other recordings (solo, Arch/Matheos, guest spots)? Do you tool around at home with any writing even if not intended to put it out?
JA: There is nothing on the burner as we speak, mainly because my schedule is full as it is. I have been approached for projects, but it takes a lot of time and energy for that. Music for me unfortunately not my life’s work and has been like the ebb and flow of the tide. It seems when the time is right, and I am open to the idea is when things happen. I am known to not stray to far from my comfort zone, or step outside the box. There are reasons behind that, some obvious and some not. I have been approached by many bands over the years and either the music had not inspired me in the least, or it was over the top whereas I couldn’t imagine vocals over it. I am satisfied with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. Life is full of surprises and we will see.
Usually when I’m tooling around the house, it is with some sort of tool in my hand fixing something. Although it would be a good idea to write fleeting thoughts down before I forget them, but honestly I don’t usually walk around with ideas flowing. The creative thinking for me only happens when my ass is to the fire when I have committed to a project. It again feels foreign to me until I become engrossed in the music and engage the left side of the brain which apparently takes extended naps otherwise. Once in the zone, it is undoubtedly where I feel most at peace with the mind being to busy and focused to dwell on negativity. It is a good place to be, and maybe I’ll find myself there sooner than I think.
Do you know how hard it was to write these questions and not end all of them with “…and you’re awesome?” Thanks for your time, John, and thanks for your contribution to the music that is so near and dear to me and will be forever.
JA: Thanks Sean, and peace Bro
Nektar was in town last night at a little place on the east side of Austin called Cheer Up Charlies. Little is the understatement of the century. This place was tiny. 20 people inside and you’re uncomfortable, I kid you not. No matter, they were playing there and I had to see them. And it was FREE! There was a suggested donation at the door and I dropped in $5.
I was introduced to Nektar’s music through Iron Maiden. They covered King of Twilight as the B-side of the Aces High single. Because of that I picked up their albums A Tab In The Ocean and Remember The Future. While not my favorite prog rock stuff from that era, it was enjoyable. And if Maiden liked them, that was good enough for me back in those days.
Prior to the band hitting the stage, I met their current bassist, Lux, and merch guy, Nicky. A friend had conversed with Nicky earlier and discovered that he was in the seminal British punk band UK Subs. An original member even. Weird world, eh?
Any way, Nektar takes the “stage” (read: the floor) and the room was filled with quite a few folks who were there specifically to see them. I was pleasantly surprised by that. The band seemed a little annoyed by the venue and understandably so. It was a Wednesday night in Austin and this show could have been booked easily at a more suitable venue. Again, no matter. They sounded really good. The band features original signer/guitarist and drummer Roy Albrighton and Ron Howden, respectively. The keyboardist was a German named Klaus Henatsch and on bass was Lux Vibratus, an American. He was a fantastic bassist.
I stayed for just under half of the set as there was another show that I had already paid admission to see. Not to mention that it was completely uncomfortable in there. Glad I got to see some legends last night.
Hold the presses! Are you rubbing your eyes to make sure you’re reading this correctly? Did someone highjack The Metal Files? Dude…Cheap Trick, Chicago, Pat Benatar? What the hell’s going on around here? (said in a Mike Muir voice).
Yes, my faithful readers (all 4 of you), I saw Coolio last night. Voluntarily on purpose even. A little history. It was 1994 when his album It Takes a Thief came out and Fantastic Voyage was blasted all over MTV and the airwaves. I liked that song and picked up the cassette. It grew on me but never really got into anything he did after that. To be truthful, I generally don’t like rap or hip-hop and don’t even know what the difference is between the two. Can anyone explain the difference between the two? There were a few songs from the early 90s from those genres that I did like, but it was all of that radio friendly party stuff.
I had read on Friday that Coolio was playing Scoot Inn on June 30 and decided to go. I tried getting some friends to go with me without any success as seen below. I went alone, which was fine.
Local rapper Click Clack opened the show with a 30 minute set. I didn’t hear any of it. Yes, I was there but I tend to drown out that stuff. Then after about 20 minutes, Coolio comes out and opens with From the Bottom To the Top. He had his nephew and cousin co-singing/rapping with him. His cousin, Jarez, is apparently an accomplished saxophone player and he showed that in a few songs last night. The dude was really good.
While I know that Fantastic Voyage would be the encore, I was hoping for some older stuff from the Thief album. I wanted to hear Count Line, Ugly Bitches and Mama I’m In Love Wit a Gangsta. No luck. They of course did Gangsta’s Paradise and 1, 2, 3, 4.
Overall the show was fun albeit short. The encore version of Fantastic Voyage only included the first verse and chorus. WTF? How do you not do the whole song?
I’m tryin’ to find a place where I can live my life
And maybe eat some steak with my beans and rice
A place where my kids can play outside
Without livin’ in fear of a drive-by
I was wondering before I got there what the crowd would be like. There may have been about 200 people there. I’ll tell you this, I was the most “street” person there. The place was filled with douchebag looking fratboys and sorority girls. It was so vanilla that I thought I may have been at a Dave Matthews concert. No shit. Oh well. It was cool for what it was and I got to meet him on my way out to my car. Nektar, Steely Dan and Black Sabbath reviews coming soon!