Monday, May 2, 2016

ARMORED SAINT "Win Hands Down"

(c) 2015 Metal Blade

  1. Win Hands Down
  2. Mess
  3. An Exercise In Debauchery
  4. Muscle Memory
  5. That Was Then, Way Back When
  6. With A Full Head Of Steam
  7. In An Instant
  8. Dive
  9. Up Yours
John Bush--Lead Vocals
Jeff Duncan--Guitars
Phil Sandoval--Guitars
Joey Vera--Bass, Vocals
Gonzo Sandoval--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians
Eric Ragno--Piano, Keyboards
Pearl Aday--Vocals "With A Full Head Of Steam"
Kayleigh, Jezebelle, Giuseppe--Vocals on "Up Yours"

Armored Saint is one of those bands that, unless you were TRULY into metal back in the 80s, you probably heard about but didn't actually hear.  Oh, sure, you might have heard an early song or two, most likely "Can You Deliver", and they may have owned the CLASSIC Symbol Of Salvation album, which I think is one of the 100 truly must-own metal albums of all time, but most people would likely be hard pressed to name a dozen Armored Saint songs...again, unless you are a true, dyed-in-the-wool metalhead.  

But you know what?  Armored Saint doesn't care if you've never heard of them.  They play because they love to play, and to heck with everyone that doesn't understand or believe.  You know how I know that's the attitude they have?  Because NO ONE keeps playing for 30+ years with little to no recognition unless they are in it for the love of the music and for what they are doing.  And that describes Armored Saint to a "T".

2015 saw the return of the Saint with what I consider to be one of their three best albums ever, in Win Hands Down.  Now that John Bush has returned to the band full-time following his long stint in Anthrax, the band has come out swinging for the fences, in my opinion.  Yeah, they released a couple of "okay" records while Bush was with 'Thrax, but Revelations was really nothing to write home about with the exception of "After Me (Comes The Flood)" and a couple of other above average tracks, and the new material on Nod To The Old School really did nothing for me.  But, with La Raza, the band took a solid step back in the right direction, even though I think that record lacked the focus and intensity of Symbol... or this newest record.  

Win Hands Down is a solid chunk of metallic hard rock that is excellent at its best and very good at its worst.  Kicking off from the very get-go with the angry screaming of Duncan's and Sandoval's twin guitars and Gonzo's thunderous drum sound, it is obvious that the Saint is here to kick some teeth in as the title track, "Win Hands Down" comes blaring from the speakers! A big, scream-along chorus, ferocious power chord grooves, and Vera's signature bass rumbling deliver on this traditional-sounding Armored Saint track that could easily have slid into the mix on Symbol Of Salvation, shoving its way into the mix right after "Dropping Like Flies" and just before "Last Train Home", in my estimation.  Even the atmospheric..dare I say trippy...interlude at 2:40 doesn't slow down this machine, as the ripping guitar solo at the 3:22 mark just blazes away anything resembling doubt about how great this track is!  Bush is in top-notch form vocally, and everything on this track works to near perfection!  

"Mess" has a bit of a throwback sound to the intro guitars, which is pretty cool, and the urgency here is undeniable.  Again, Gonzo has some massive drum lines in this track, backed up perfectly by Vera, and the guitars just chew through your ears all throughout the track.  The overall pattern and rhythm of the song is a bit odd, to be sure, especially going into the choruses, and there is some downright strange instrumentation used right after the first chorus...is that a sitar???...but, again, it works for me and I really like the sonic experimentation here.

"An Exercise In Debauchery" is definitely an old school Armored Saint-sounding track with a much more accessible chorus than "Mess", and some truly frenetic guitar work throughout.  Vera gets the chance to step up to the forefront and drop some truly great bass SOLOING into the mix at about the three minute mark, which simply has to be heard.  

"Muscle Memory" is an interesting track, showing a band that has matured and has become introspective as it has grown longer in the tooth.  A bit more laid back in approach than the first three barnstormers, "Muscle Memory" has some cool guitar effects layered into their classic 80s metal sound, but the song is written with a wisdom and understanding of one's legacy that the guys in the band couldn't have even begun to approach in their younger days.  One of my favorites on the album, the song reaches Iron Maiden epic territory with its seven-plus minute running time, with hints of Ragno's keys being interspersed throughout and some cool percussion sounds thrown into the mix. 

"That Was Then,Way Back When" turns the pace back up a bit with a galloping, metallic rhythm guitar line and a straight forward drum attack, but it lacks some of the real grit and the teeth of the first few tracks despite the inspired interplay of Bush's vocals and a quirky solo section after the second chorus.

"With A Full Head Of Steam" is an interesting number, starting off rather sparsely with some simple bass rumbling and rim-shot drum work under a laid back guitar riff, only to burst forward in a...pardon the title-borrowing here...full head of steam as it charges into the first verse, which finds Bush trading off a couple of lines with Mrs. Scott Ian, Pearl "My Daddy is Meat Loaf" Aday, who sounds decent here with her husky-yet-still-feminine vocals, although she still pales compared to the powerhouse vocals of Bush.  The guitar solo here isn't typical Armored Saint material, and comes off as something far more modern than most of the other stuff on the record, although Vera's bass work is still something to behold.  Not a horrible song by any means, and it has some interesting time changes throughout the track, but this one took several spins before it really clicked with me.

"In An Instant" is a really strong track about the Boston Marathon bombings that packs a good deal of emotion, interspersing acoustic guitar sections with some equally hard-hitting, angry moments.  Again, this is a track that only an older, wiser Armored Saint likely could have written, and is one that shows not only the depth of the band lyrically, but also gives them a chance to stretch their musical muscle and step outside their normal metallic box.  A top 4 track for me on this record for sure.

"Dive" starts off with a really cool piano intro and Bush actually singing, rather than snarling, on a track that reminds me a LOT of some of the things Queensryche was doing with their slower, more progressive material on Empire or Promised Land.  The only true "ballad" on the album, "Dive" really impresses me with its ability to incorporate a new approach, experiment with atypical Armored Saint instrumentation, and a softer vocal approach from Bush.  Not saying I would want an entire album of this type of material (which I jokingly called "Armored Floyd" when I was describing it to a friend of mine), but as a stand-alone moment on this album, it works very well and I like it a lot.

"Up Yours" closes the record with the most acerbic, biting lyrics on the record and finds the band in a rather chippy mood as it finishes things off in rip-roaring fashion, even incorporating some screamed "up yours" chants from Bush's children, Jezebelle and Giuseppe (not sure who Kayleigh belongs to) into the final run through of the chorus.  Showcasing the fact that these "old guys" still have their chops, a raging guitar solo rips through the middle section of the track, leaving little doubt that while time may have matured the band from an overall songwriting stance, they are still metalheads at the core and are at the top of their game when they are snarling, spitting, and screaming in your face...up yours! 
  
The packaging is pretty good...for a digipack...grrrr....and the booklet contains all lyrics, thank you's, writing credits, etc.  There are no band photos, at least in the traditional sense, but otherwise its a nicely done package.

A great return for a criminally overlooked band, Win Hands Down easily made the top twnty albums of the year for me and is the album from the band I turn to most outside of Symbol Of Salvation.  If you haven't done so, seek out both of these albums immediately, and go ahead and snag March Of The Saint and La Raza while you're at it.

Rating:  Utterly crankable, Win Hands Down is a really, really good record.  Crank this to 8 with no hesitation!


  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

FIERCE HEART "Fierce Heart" Re-issue

(c) 1985 Mirage Records

(c) 2016 AOR Blvd Records

  1. Echoes
  2. Fierce Heart
  3. Out For Blood
  4. Lion's Share
  5. Search And Destroy
  6. Heroes
  7. Never Gonna Make Me Cry
  8. Bad Maureen
  9. Loose Lips
  10. Getting Lost Inside Your Love (Bonus)
  11. Bad Child (Bonus)
  12. Power To Rock (Bonus)
Larry Elkins--All Vocals, Bass
Rex Carroll--All Guitars
Chris Lord-Alge--Drums and Fairlight programming

It took thirty-one years, but Fierce Heart's one and only release, the self-titled Fierce Heart record, has finally received a proper reissue.  I say "proper" because this album has been "reissued" no fewer than three times previously, once by Retrospect Records, once by some company called Unidisc Music (an unauthorized release, I have been told), and one other time by some bootleg label (Russian, I believe) that didn't even put their name on the outside of the product (and trust me...its a bootleg, no question).  I am told by other collectors that there are at least two other boots out there as well, so who knows how many times this album has been knocked off, and by whom?

One thing should be obvious, however, with this many people willing to make illegal copies of a record.  There's a market for them.  Why?  Quite simply, its because the album is a very, very good piece of early-to-mid 80's polished hard rock, not overly far removed from much of what was starting to explode out of the Hollywood scene, despite the fact that the "band" (really only Larry and Rex) was actually from Chicago.  Now, I know, I know, people are going to say this sounds "dated", which is a term I hate.  Of course it sounds "dated"...it was written and recorded 30+ years ago!  Do you expect it to sound like it came out this week?  Look, if you don't want music to sound like its "from the 80s", don't buy music FROM THE 80's!

Now, AOR Blvd has promised that this is a remastered version and that some of that "80's sound" has been updated, but that's a lot of hooey.  Is it remastered?  Yes, no question.  Does this reissue sound better than the bootlegged copies I have or have heard?  Yeah, absolutely!  There is no question that the original nine tracks sound very crisp and clean.  The Russian (I'm assuming) disc, for example, sounded like it was recorded straight from vinyl, so there was a hiss to the sound, which was annoying, and the others sounded rather tinny to my ears.  Also, there are some volume issues on the previous versions I have/have had.  Those issues have largely been cleared up, as AOR Boulevard has obviously boosted the volume on this new release, making it much more listenable at a decent volume (meaning you don't have to turn it up to 8 to get decent volume out of it, which, in turn, increases the noise factor on just about any pre-2000 CD, in my opinion).  But regardless of what you may have read into the statement that the sound is "updated", it still sounds like 80's hard rock, as it should.  It's not like they brought back the layers of guitars that Rex mentioned in his interview with me, or that they changed the drum machine out for a live drummer.  Additionally, the three bonus cuts are all very demo sounding, with little to no mix to them at all.  Still cool to hear, and, if I'm not mistaken, a couple of these riffs were lifted from these songs to eventually become Whitecross riffs, as they are VERY familiar to me.  (Note--Rex verified this when I got the chance to update his interview, which you can read HERE).

Musically, the album sits somewhere between Journey and a band like Dokken, or the lesser-known band, Eyes, for example.  It's harder-edged than the poppy stuff Journey had their greatest success with, but not as glammy or "hairy" as the hair metal acts of the time.  Relying on strong songwriting, killer guitar riffs, big hooks, and catchy choruses, this album is exactly what most radio stations were gobbling up.  I would go so far as to say it is one of the truly underrated gems of its time as far as this type of polished hard rock goes.  Elkins actually is a rather strong singer, sounding at times like a younger version of Jeff Scott Soto on power rockers like "Lion's Share", and the backing vocals throughout the record are also superbly done, as is evidenced on a track like "Heroes" or "Bad Maureen".  For his part, Reynolds was also quite a gifted vocalist on the three tracks presented here, with a bit more upper-end to his range, which is really shown on the ballad, "Getting Lost Inside Your Love".  However, it is Carroll's guitar work that really steals the show on the majority of these tracks, whether it is the tight rhythm work on "Out For Blood", the hook-laden "Bad Maureen", the catchy-as-sin title track, or the demo-form shredder, "Power To Rock".  "Bad Child" also shows some flash from Carroll, but this song also features one of the best rhythm sections on the whole project and I think it really showcases an edgier, harder sound that would have translated well with the later 80's crowd as hair metal and harder-edged rock were starting to really dominate.  It's really too bad that there is no way to get the original source tapes from this record and to have it properly mixed, as Carroll has told me that there were usually dozens upon dozens of guitar tracks laid down for these songs and that the sound was huge at one time, but, true to the 80's mentality, the tracks were condensed down, the drums (drum machine) was pushed out front, and the sound comes off as a watered down version of what it could have (should have) been.

If you have another version of this record, and you enjoy it, I highly encourage you to seek this new remastered version out, as the sound quality is definitely cleaned up and superior, and the bonus material is a nice addition.  Additionally, the packaging on the reissue is top-notch, with all of the lyrics now included, as well as a new cover, new tray artwork, and an interview with Rex and Larry included in the booklet.  Rex also covers some...but not nearly all...of the issues we discussed in his interview on this site. Kudos to AOR Blvd and Rex for putting together a really nice package here.

It really is too bad that this band didn't get the shot it deserved (to find out why, check out our newly updated interview with Rex Carroll HERE), as I think mid-80s radio would have eaten this record up with the correct push.  As it stands, this is a piece of melodic hard rock history that many still have not heard in a good, clean sounding version, which is exactly what AOR Blvd provides here.

You can order the project directly from Rex's website at www.rexcarrollmusic.com

Rating:  An album I have long-enjoyed is given top-notch treatment here, and the music really is strong here.  Crank this to 7.5.

Back To Reviews Index  

Saturday, April 30, 2016

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...CAREY "KOSHER" WOMACK of ONE BAD PIG!

It's been more than twenty years since Christian punk/thrash/crossover pioneers One Bad Pig last released an album, but that is all about to change, as the Swine have entered the studio to record a new, Kickstarter-funded effort for 2016!  Lead screamer, Carey "Kosher" Womack was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to talk all things One Bad Pig with us, to talk about the long layoff, and about why the band feels now is the perfect time to unleash the Pig once again!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

G2G:  Carey, first I want to thank you for taking time out of your recording schedule to talk with me for a bit...


Kosher:  Absolutely, although I must say that in this case, its not taking time from my recording schedule but from my songwriting, teaching, and pastoring schedule.  I'm in Tennessee currently, where I'm getting ready to teach an Old Testament course at Bethel University, as well as getting ready for weekend worship.  I'll next be in Austin with the guys for recording the week after Mother's Day.  I do want to say thanks so much for doing this interview, as well as for your great support of our new project!

G2G:  I have been such a big fan of the band for so long...I feel like I know you and Paul Q-Pek (guitarist) and Daniel (Tuchek--bassist) on an almost personal level.  In fact, I've corresponded with Paul and Daniel through the mail, of all things!

Kosher:  Awesome!  Thank you!

G2G:  So...is it okay if I call you Kosher?  (Laughing)

Kosher:  Of course...Mr. Parker...

G2G:  (Laughing)  Okay, so, for those not familiar, One Bad Pig is a skate/punk/thrash crossover band that has been together...in one form or another...since the early 80's.  More than 30 years now.  And you've never officially broken up...

Kosher:  Yep...still squealin'...

G2G:  How does the band and your style of music continue working after all of these years?

Kosher:  Well, while our music definitely isn't for everybody, neither is it very specifically and narrowly for a very specific group of people, either.  What I mean by that is our music has never been confined to one very narrow genre.  While its fair to call us a punk band, you can't say that we sound like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols or some other classic punk band.  We also don't sound like the pop punk bands that exploded in the late 80's and the 90's.  We've always been a bit of our own thing, mixing in elements of thrash, metal, and rock n roll, all with plenty of hooks that can be appreciated by anybody.  And, of course, everything we do is topped off with a big dollop of humor and with a real passion for what we are singing about.  So...we don't limit ourselves to a particular time or genre or sound, and we are able to reach and appeal to a greater cross-section of people across different age groups and periods of time.  At least those are my thoughts...you can tell me if you think I'm right...

G2G:  I would agree with that.  There are so many different elements to your sound, especially as you transition from album to album.  There has been a definite evolution to your sound throughout your studio records, but its always still One Bad Pig, without question.  So, can we expect continued growth on this new album?

Kosher:  Oh yeah!  Everyone will hear what is unmistakably One Bad Pig...very familiar...but you'll also hear some new sounds that are brand new to One Bad Pig.  Among other things, this is the very first studio album we have ever done with two guitarists in the band, and Lee Haley is a very different guitarist than Paul Q-Pek, so you really get to hear some great new flavors in each and every song.

G2G:  Speaking of members, One Bad Pig has had something of a revolving door of members throughout the years, with you and Q-Pek being the two consistent cogs in the machine.  Do you keep in touch with members who may have drifted away from the band through the years?  Do you hear from Streak (bassist on Smash), for example?

Kosher:  Unfortunately, Bryan "Streak" Wheeler is the guy that has been the hardest for us to keep up with.  He has had some tough things happen in his life since his time in the band.  Lift him up in your prayers.

Mike Connell and Jon Taylor we keep up with occasionally through social media.  I even saw Jon in Jackson, Tennessee several years ago when he moved to a similar area of Tennessee that I had.

We bump into Kevin Phelan every now and then, but we've connected with him a good deal more recently as he worked with his dad, Carl Phelan, on the "One Bad Pig Forever" book project.

As far as Phillip Owens (drummer on all previous studio albums) goes, God is using him in some astounding ways, and I still regard him as a part of the band that just isn't able to participate in this project.  And that's not to lessen Paul Roraback's contribution as the drummer to this new project, or his place in the band, at all.  He's been great.

G2G:  That's awesome to hear.  So, I have to ask you...why after all of these years, why did you guys say, "you know what?  It's time to unleash the squeal one more time?"

Kosher:  (Laughs)  Well, it was a combination of things.  In January and February of 2015, I made a trip to Austin to be with my dad.  I made it a point to try to arrange a get-together with the guys from the band, and as it turned out, Paul (Q-Pek), Daniel, Phillip. and Lee were able to come out and meet at one of Austin's Chuy's restaurants (a New Mexican twist on Tex Mex with a cool, quirky atmosphere).  Doug Van Pelt showed up as well.  (Interviewer's note:  Doug was the long-time editor of Heaven's Metal Magazine)

Whenever we get together, it's a blast...and it was once again!  We had a great time reminiscing and laughing...mostly laughing...and the conversation turned to whether we were at all interested in trying to get together to do something for our 30th anniversary, which was approaching.  We were all intrigued by the idea, knew we would have fun with it, and felt the Lord would use it.

But...on the other hand...we are all very busy with our lives, responsibilities, and families.  And, being in a band is expensive.   It costs a lot of time, energy, effort...and of course money...and so we had to consider whether it was worth it to try to put something together.

We sensed that our culture needs Jesus more than ever.  We talked about how there were many who walked with the Lord...both in and out of bands...back in our heyday that no longer did so.  But WE do, and WE are just as passionate about Him as ever...if just a bit less energetic and idealistic.  We felt that our continued commitment and conviction to follow Jesus was a statement in and of itself, and we felt like we still had a message to share.

Plus...there were also rumors of a possible AudioFeed booking, but nothing was concrete.

So...fast forward a couple of months, and we were gathered at the house of Carl Phelan, the father of
our founding bassist, Kevin, and grandfather of one of Flyleaf's guitar players.  Carl had already written a book about that band (Flyleaf), and he was working on a self-published book project about us called, "One Bad Pig Forever".  So, we all gathered at his house to have a MAJOR recorded reminiscing session to help him with his research.  Well, we also watched a video of the very first one Bad Pig performance, at the 1985 Zilker Park Labor Day Christian Music Festival.  It was awesome, and really got us excited and thinking even more.

So, again we talked about getting together and about possibly playing AudioFeed, which had become a genuine invitation by this point.  We wondered if we could make it financially work without losing our shirts.  Phillip was interested, but not absolutely positive, as he had to leave a bit early.  We discussed the idea of doing a crowd-funded recording project to stir the interest in the band and to get out the message we had such conviction about...plus, it helps to have new merchandise to helps to provide capital to cover our costs to AudioFeed.  So, we told AudioFeed "yes", but Phillip said he would have to bow out as his daughter was getting married, he was working extra, and he was leading worship at a major conference in Italy, and simply couldn't make his schedule work.       He was disappointed to not be able to participate, but encouraged us to go ahead and play the show with another drummer if we wanted to, which we agreed to do, although we hoped Phillip could still be on the new record.  He is just such a good drummer, writer, singer, and especially friend and brother.  But, as it turned out, Phillip felt it would be too much of a drain on his time and energy at such an important time for him and his family and the ministry that God had called him to.

(The "A Christian Banned" demo)
G2G:  That's too bad because Phillip has basically been there forever, other than the A Christian Banned demo...

Kosher:  Absolutely,  It was very hard, no doubt.  But at the same time, the others of us felt a new
project was absolutely essential to make the trip to AudioFeed in Illinois possible financially...plus, we were excited about it!  So, we agreed to explore drumming and recording possibilities and to see what transpired as we continued to think and pray about it.
(2016 L-R: Roraback, Tuchek, Q-Pek, Kosher, Worley)

Some of the guys had gotten to know Paul Roraback who had been the drummer in Grammatrain and who had also spent a couple of years with Bloodgood.  He had moved to Austin and had done several projects of artful, tasty progressive rock, in which he played guitar and sang.  He had self-produced and recorded these projects...wait for it...at his home studio!  So the Austin-based guys got together with him, prayed about it, and he agreed to drum on the album and to record and engineer the project at his home studio.  Praise the Lord!  Paul is a fantastic brother with a great family who loves the Lord and shares a lot with us.  We have been having a great time getting to know him and spend time with him.

G2G:  So how did the idea to go to Kickstarter come about?

Kosher:  Well, crowd-funding has really changed the music world.  When our deal with Myrrh Records came to an end, Christian record labels were being bought out by secular giants, and they were trimming the rosters to only the artists they felt had big commercial potential.  That meant that not only were bands like us parting ways with Myrrh, but so were awesome artists like Phil Keaggy and The Choir.

In the years since that, the world of technology, the Internet, and crowd-sourcing has made music a lot more feasible for the little guy, so it seemed the obvious...and likely ONLY...way for us to go.

G2G:  Personally, I've been on-board with the band almost since the beginning through the Christian metal underground music and magazine scene of the 80's, so I was glad to contribute to the Kickstarter fund and just so excited that you guys are back and doing a new record!

Kosher:  Thanks for being with us all those years, Arttie.  Those stories mean a lot...

G2G:  Was it hard to get back into "Kosher" shape, vocally, after just being Carey for so many years?

Kosher:  To a certain extent, I was NEVER in Kosher shape!  (Laughing)  If I didn't have my voice loud enough in my monitors, I would just keep pushing harder and harder in a lot of shows to try to make sure I was heard.  So keeping my voice from getting shredded was always a challenge.  That said, the years have made hitting the high notes harder to hit, and its taking some work to try to get the stamina back.

The other challenge is that we've always written and rehearsed tuned together before...and sometimes to a small extent, after...going into the studio.  But now, with technology, I'm hearing a rough mix of tracks for my rehearsal purposes before even arriving in Austin to record vocals, not having worked through them live with the band.  After all these years, that is actually particularly hard.  I also have a weird timing issue, partly due to me being a music fan first, before being a musician.

I'm also going to need to get into MUCH better shape physically.  I've lost a lot of weight in the last year, but I really need to get my cardio up for a proper Pig gig!

(1991 album, I Scream Sundae)
G2G:  Too many ice cream sundaes? (laughing)


Kosher:  Yeah, too many ice cream sundaes and a lot of other stuff for the prior weight gain!  But, or course I was never a little guy.  It's more about spending too many hours in front of a screen or in a car and not enough chasing my kids, working outside, playing basketball, swimming or running.

G2G:  Back to your voice for a second.  Was it a conscious effort to get something akin to a pig's squeal at the top end of your vocals...as in "Bowl Of Wrath" or "You're A Pagan"...or is that just how your voice comes out?

Kosher:  Actually, on that particular squeal at the beginning of "Bowl Of Wrath", that was some kind of little toy that I think Phillip had picked up.  We recorded it on several tracks, slapped some effects on it, and there you have it.

However, I think Billy's (Billy Smiley, producer on all previous OBP records) favorite part of recording was when we got to a part where I was doing some really serious squealing/screaming.  They'd get me going on it and I would watch him just doubling over with laughter in the sound booth.  The fact that Billy is still rocking and getting ready to release the Union Of Saints And Sinners today is that I gave him an injection of youth through all that laughter he enjoyed at my expense.

G2G:  I want to take you back to the 80's for a minute.  It seems to me that there was a lot more of a Christian metal community at that time.  I mentioned to someone in another interview...maybe it was Rey Parra or Rex Carroll...that I always had this sense that everyone at Pure Metal Records, or everyone at Sanctuary Church...whatever...that they all just hung out and barbecued and were great friends and such.  Is there any reality to that belief?

Kosher:  I think there was a lot of community that occurred, but not necessarily centered in the labels.  That may be more true of some labels than others, though.  For instance, in our time with our first label, Pure Metal, we were geographically isolated from the label itself, from the other bands on the label, etc., and we basically did nothing with them.  Community occurred when there was real opportunity for relationship, especially for bands who were in it with sincere motives, when we found ourselves at an event or at a show together.  There was an instant camaraderie born of shared purposes and commitments.  And, if we were in it for the Lord, we tended not to take ourselves too seriously or have a prima dona complex.

(Bloodgood's 1986 self-titled album)
So, that's why you would see the guys from Bloodgood, Whitecross, and other bands bigger than us banging their heads on our live video.  We wore Bloodgood's wireless mics for that  show.  There was definitely an "all for one" or perhaps better said, "all for THE One" attitude on a lot of occasions.

I also think the Sanctuary bands had a community because they lived near each other, they worshiped together...at least in some cases...and they shared similar spiritual leadership.  But, once again, it comes down to relationships.  That's the basis of real community.  And, if shared relationships with the Lord are involved, the process is facilitated and hastened, partly because "How shall brothers walk together, except they be agreed".

G2G:  I talk with Rex Carroll from time to time...just yesterday, in fact...and he said much the same thing.  Which kind of leads me to my next question.  There seems to be several more Christian bands hitting the mainstream now...Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Red, Flyleaf, etc., but they all play festivals with secular bands and tour with secular bands...not that there's anything wrong with that at all.  But I do wonder if there is that same sense of camaraderie there.  The 80's Christian scene just seemed so tight and so organic...  Maybe that was due to the more underground nature of the scene...

Kosher:  Well, it's a much different strategy in the model you are talking about today.  I suspect that much of the ministry that takes place in those circumstances are the Christian bands forming authentic relationships with other bands, roadies, tour personnel, etc.  Not all will be open to their relationships with the Lord, but some will.  And, the are actively bringing light into the world.  They may not shut down the music and preach a sermon with an altar call, like Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band/Rez)...or even your's truly...but they are not in an atmosphere that is conducive to that.  I hope that they are doing it that way because they feel called to do so.  If they're serious about serving the Lord, that's a tougher road because its a more lonely, more challenging atmosphere.  But, I believe God is using many of them in great ways.

G2G:  Did you encounter any bands who were in the scene for the wrong reasons?  There are a couple of regularly mentioned instances...

Kosher:  Yes, but I'm not naming names!  (Laughs)  Bear in mind that a lot of people in many of these bands were young and immature, getting their first taste of fame...even as a medium perch in a small pond...away from home, and perhaps they had spent more time emulating their rock and roll heroes than Jesus.  Others wanted to commit their music to the Lord but weren't sure what that meant.  And of course, we were all human.  We were assuming roles that carried great responsibility, so we were role models whether we liked it or not.  But the proper role to play was not perfect saint on a pedestal.  Ideally, we would model a humble,authentic desire to serve and followJesus, while being real but not parading our brokenness.

All of us in One Bad Pig had our moments, as we.  One of us had an interaction with a girl...nothing scandalous, but not appropriate...that later came to the attention of Glenn Kaiser.  He called me up and asked that we deal with it biblically and seriously, and we did.  I, myself, had more than one instance in which I was confronted about significant sin of one kind or another.  We took it seriously, we involved our pastors, I repented, and I took steps to change my behavior.

The bands to be concerned about were the ones willing to portray themselves on a pedestal and the ones...sometimes the same bands...who had little-to-no interest in authentically serving the Lord or walking closely with Him.  And, while I know I saw that on several occasions, we need to be careful about where we point our judging finger.

Look, some of these bands were being forced into the ministry band mold, and they were not even called to do that.  All believers are called to be true to the Lord, but our specific callings, especially vocationally ad publicly, can be quite different.  Some of these bands had members whose faith was not truly owned by them or fully formed.  Some were just playing a role.  I think its a key question for any believer in the arts; what exactly is God calling ME to do with my art?  Some people will say that being evangelistic or message-driven with our art is just propaganda and that it is bastardizing the value and authenticity of our art.  I would argue that our art, such that it is, is not "selling our faith", or some such thing, rather it is so much a part of who we ARE and what we are ABOUT that it IS an authentic expression.

G2G:  Looking back now, did you have any inkling that One Bad Pig would be recording a new album some thirty years after this thing started?  I know you couldn't have known specifically, but did it ever occur to you that you might be onto something really lasting and special?

Kosher:  Thinking about when or if we thought that we had something special...in a way, EVERYTHING that has happened has been a huge surprise.  But, at the same time, from very early on there have been inklings.

I don't know how much your readers know about the origins of the band, but it was really kind of an accident.  In fact, it was a joke.  Two threads of events among a certain group of friends in Austin, Texas led to the birth of the Pig.  In Thread 1, as I am sure is the case in many locales, a bunch of us who were interested in edgier Christian music had managed to find each other.  One regular activity that we developed coincided with our weekly Christian rock radio show.  Paul Q-Pek was a disc jockey at KIXL, an AM Christian radio station that allowed him a slot on Friday and Saturday nights where he could play whatever was hot and rocking in the Christian scene.  Some of us got the idea to go down to some of the punk and metal clubs in town after the radio show and engage in street witnessing with the kids and people who were there.  I can remember running down the sidewalks with a couple of friends singing early Undercover and Altar Boys songs acappella.

G2G:  I would imagine that was a sight!

Kosher:  Right?!  Well, Thread 2 is that several of us had heard about the first ever Cornerstone Music Festival in the summer of 1984.  A guy named Curtis Tarpley and I drove up to that first one together in my VW Bug.  It was AWESOME!  For Cornerstone '85, we brought Q-Pek and Melvin Gene "Freedom" Noble, a West-Texas bred Jesus hippie who was totally into JPUSA (Jesus People USA), creators of the festival.  We stopped in a suburb of St. Louis at a Pizza Hut for lunch, and they
(KSHE's SweetMeat)
were doing a promotion with a local rock radio station, KSHE, selling these wraparound chrome sunglasses with the KSHE logo on it.  We thought it was a tough looking pig (which turned out to be a female pig named Sweet Meat), and I saw that and said, "Man, that is one bad pig!"  Paul said that sounded like the name of a punk band, and it was the start of a running joke that would last the entire trip...and then beyond!

So, weaving those threads together, a bunch of us had been working on planning a local Christian music festival in Austin caled the Zilker Park Labor Day Christian Music Festival.  After we got home, we thought, "why not play a short set as One Bad Pig, as sort of a joke?"  Our weekend radio schedule began adding music rehearsals to our agenda after that.  Freedom wasn't able to play, so we found a bass playing friend, Kevin Phelan.  We decided we needed a drum kit, so we recruited a young drummer from Q-Pek's band, named Phillip Owens.  We worked on covers of some Lifesavors and Undercover songs, and I wrote the lyrics to an original song that Paul set to music.  It was called "Anarchy Is Prison", and it was directed at the anarchist philosophy espoused by at least some punks.
Well, on Labor Day, we did our thing and it was outrageous!  It was also ROUGH!  (Laughing)  It was also, by far, the most aggressive act at the festival.  We went into it with a bizarre combination of treating it as both a joke and something serious at the same time.  As the band cam on stage, a svelte, shirtless Paul Q-Pek, with a full head of hair leading the way, I came barreling down the hill from behind the audience, screaming and leaping onto the stage to deliver something never seen or heard before...PIG MUSIC!  Playing up the pig reference, I delivered a sermonette that riffed off of George Orwell's Animal Farm, screaming at the crowd, "We are One Bad Pig, YOU are One Bad Pig!", saying that we were all unacceptable to God unless washed clean by Jesus' blood.

The thing is, despite offending our share of the crowd, a large number responded positively, even if they hated the music.  We prayed with some audience members backstage after the show, and a friend led one person to the Lord, bringing them over to pray with us.  People said they could sense God using One Bad Pig that day.  From there we started working our way into clubs that we had been witnessing outside of.  Repeatedly, we had the experience of seeing an open door, praying about it, then walking through.  I don't know that we ever foresaw the scope of the impact we were to have, but all along the way we kept getting glimmers, and open doors, and we kept walking through.  It was as though God was giving light for the next few steps but never really telling us the final destination.

Now, it was not all one smooth slope.  There were all sorts of bumps, lulls, and interruptions along the way,  Yet, one thing kept astounding us--God would use something foolish in the eyes of the world, something that started as a joke...our band...and if we would just make ourselves available and allow Him to use us, He would do just that,

G2G:  Here am I...

Kosher:  Exactly.  So, in a sense, every new step and every new opportunity was...and is...a surprise we would never have anticipated along the way.  But, on the other hand, He's done it so often that all these surprises aren't surprising at all.

G2G:  You mention offending a segment of the crowds at your early shows, and I was going to ask about that, so it worked out perfectly.  Did you have a lot of push back, a lot of doors shut in your face due to your look, sound, name, etc?

Kosher:  Absolutely.  In fact, that's the source of the name of the first, self-released demo EP, A Christian Banned.  There was a local punk label who liked us called Unclean Records.  The owner really wanted to sign us.  However, he was distributed by a big punk distributor in California and they refused to sign us because we were "too Christian", even though punk was all about self-expression.  Within a day or so of hearing that disappointing news, we were turned down to play a coffeehouse hosted by a local church that met at a shopping center.  We had even previously played there.  Why?  Because we were "too worldly".  So, we found ourselves, in the words of the great Mark Heard, "...too sacred for the sinners/And the saints wish I would leave/Now I'm stuck here in the middle..."

G2G:  Alright, let's fast forward to a bit more success for the band, because it really isn't all that far down the road that you find yourself working with a man many consider to be THE original punk...the original rebel...Johnny Cash...

Kosher:  Yep.  What an honor it was to work with Johnny.  That voice was AMAZING!  He was so humble, and he really wanted to serve the Lord and to contribute to what we were doing.  Very cool.  We need a lot more like Johnny around.  It was very clear that he wasn't a perfect man, but his transparency about that and his need for Christ made his faith and testimony that much more real and powerful.

(L-R: Phillip, Kosher, Johnny, Daniel, Q-Pek)
There was actually talk later of us getting to do the Tonight Show, or something like that, with Johnny, but that talk never got very far.  We've never really been able to do "The Man In Black" live before, but this summer we're going to get to do it, at least on one or two occasions.  There's an Austin band called The Band In Black that started by doing Johnny Cash covers, and now does originals in that same vein.  Their singer, Jason Birdwell, does a pretty mean Johnny impression, and he's going to do it live with us a time or two.

G2G:  So, how did the Johnny Cash teaming even come about?  You aren't exactly likely to show up on the same radar screen very often...

Kosher:  We had several special guests on our first two records with Billy Smiley, and we really wanted everything on our third record, I Scream Sunday, to be just us, unless we had one REALLY special guest on the album.  So, the Johnny Cash connection started as a case of our people talking to his people, specifically our A&R guy, Mark Maxwell.  After it became a realistic possibility, Paul Q-Pek worked up the great arrangement of the song, "The Man In Black".  I recorded my vocal part and a scratch vocal of Johnny's part.

As the time approached to make some final decisions, a few things happened.  I had gone back to Austin to leave the mixes to the other guys, and we got invited to a John, Jr. 18th Birthday Bash being held at a massive club out in the boonies outside of Nashville.  I had read Johnny's book, The Man In White, a novella about the Apostle Paul's conversion upon encountering the Man in white on the road to Damascus, and I was impressed.  A lot of people were.  Even Billy Graham called it the best fictional treatment of Paul he had ever read.  But I was not only impressed with the book, but
also with Johnny's forward to the book in which he explained how he came to write it and much about his spiritual walk.  I wrote him quite a long letter explaining what we were about and what I hoped would be contributed to our mission as a band by his participation in the project.

The record company flew me back out to be there for John, Jr.'s party. and we went with the hope and expectation of meeting Johnny and spending a little time with him, getting to pitch the idea of him doing the duet.  But, as it turned out, this place was packed with hundreds and hundreds of country music elite.  It was filled with smoke and warm bodies an is perhaps the most crowded place I've ever been in my life.  We finally saw Johnny and June take the stage, along with John Jr., and a bunch of others.  But, not very long after that, Johnny announced that June was not feeling very well and that they were unfortunately going to have to leave early.

They started up an aisle from the stage with a press of people and security all around them.  I began to fight my way through the crowd as quickly as I could and spilled outside the door at the top of the stairs just after Johnny had done the same.  With trepidation, I called out to him and told him who I was and handed him this letter.  The next day he called and tld his manager that he wanted to do this One Bad Pig thing.

G2G:  Awesome!

Kosher:  So...the record company flew me back to Austin and then back out again for the recording session.  As we waited for things to get underway, we heard of several print publications that were going to come out and record the session for posterity.  This also included the Crook & Chase country television show.  We were so excited that we were going to have a larger audience to spread the gospel to with this opportunity!  One by one, we learned that none of these organizations were going to be able to come and cover the session that day, however.  We were disappointed.  Not only that, but Johnny was also quite late in arriving.

After a period of time, Daniel suggested we go outinto the larger recording room and spend some time in prayer.  We circled up and began to pray.  It was during that time that Johnny showed up, and he explained to us that he had been on a deathwatch at his mother's bedside.  However, he told us he really wanted to do this with us and he felt he needed to get away for a little while.  Daniel invited him to join the circle and pray with us and we did so.  What a powerful time!

Johnny was incredible.  I cringed every time Billy Smiley would offer a suggestion or ask him to do another take, but Johnny was great and always humble obliged.  Afterwards we posed for pictures and shot Silly String at each other.

As I was traveling home that night, I was reading in Mark's gospel about how Peter protested when Jesus said he was to be arrested and killed.  You might remember that Jesus told Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!"  As I read that passage, I heard the Lord speak to me, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are concerned about the things of men rather than the things of God.  I didn't need you today to proclaim my name on some television show.  I needed you there to pray with one of my children."

Even as I tell you that story today, Arttie, I get tears in my eyes.

It was only last year when we were reminiscing for Carl's book project that I learned that Johnny's mother recovered from that illness and went on to live a few more years.  By the way, I've learned that Carl has had some health probles and I encourage everyone to lift him up in prayer.

G2G:  So, Kosher, as we speak, you Kickstarter goal has been met and surpassed, including the stretch goal which allows for vinyl pressings of the new record.  What does it feel like to you guys to still mean so much to your fans after all these years?

Kosher:  We are thrilled!  And humbled!  It just blows us away what the Lord continues to do, and we are doing our dead level best to really make it worth everybody's while.  We're bathing it in prayer and working really hard.  The creativity of the guys in the band is awesome.  You know, Billy Smiley was the producer on all of our previous releases, and he's already let us know that he really likes how it's sounding.

It's also great to know that not only will we really get to do the CD, we will also for sure now be able to do the vinyl record.  That is so cool, and we are stoked.

I don't know how many shows we are going to get to do with this, but I do know that just like always, it's going to be 110% mayhem and 110% ministry all the way.  No holding anything back.

G2G:  You teack at a college, correct?  I teach high school, myself.

Kosher:  Really?

G2G:  Yeah, I work with juvenile offenders and struggling kids...

Kosher:  That's awesome, Arttie.  I'm a full-time pastor, but I am teaching an Old Testament course as an adjunct at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee this semester.  I truly enjoy it.

When I lived in Austin, I worked over a decade in a hospital/treatment center for head-injured and multiple-diagnosis behavioral disorder patients.  Most of that time I spent working in an accredited school they had on campus.  Then, the last year and a half in Austin, I worked with our county's juvenile offender intervention program, intended as a last gasp attempt before the kids hit the state system.  So, I have some ideas of what you're dealing with.

G2G:  That's awesome...

Kosher:  When we moved to Tennessee and I went back to finish college, I got my degree and teaching certificate in Exceptional Learning and Development (Special Education).  That was before going on to seminary, even though that was the plan all along.

G2G:  I am also endorsed in Special Education...

Kosher:  Very cool...very cool...

G2G:  So, do any of your students know the "Kosher" side of Mr. Womack?

Kosher:  I've mentioned it, but so far they seem pretty unimpressed.  (Laughs)  I'm going to tell a good story from back in the day on Monday, though, so we'll see where that goes. (Laughs)

There's a guy that comes into the math class that meets in our room right after us who connected with me around St. Paddy's Day...you know, all things Irish.  He really likes a lot of the Irish punk bands
(Chicago punks, Flatfoot 56)
like the Dropkick Murphys, so I referred him to Flatfoot 56.  By the way, those who like that kind of thing will be particularly interested in one song on the new record...

It's funny where Pig connections come up, though.  We have some kids at church who go to high school in the next county up.  Their band director, it turns out, is a big Pig fan!

G2G:  So, you're packing up the Pig van for a big show.  How many cans of Silly String go?

Kosher:  Well, I guess that depends on the money left over from the Kickstarter campaign!  (Laughs)  Just kidding...mostly!  In general, we have two cans per band member per show, plus two for our onstage hand, and a few backups.  So, for a standard show, around 15 or so.  For a really big show, with maybe more active stage hands, more like 25.

Pretty early on, particularly when we were a four piece, we decided if we were going to travel with one extra person, we were better off traveling with a stage hand than with a sound guy, and we were right.

G2G:  How about guitars to smash?
(The One Bad Pig SMASH logo)

Kosher:  It depends.  How many guitars can we find cheap?  (Laughs)  Yeah, that's right Pig fans, we;re not out there smashing $5000 guitars...or $500 guitars for that matter...night after night.  We usually go to a pawn shop and say, "Do you have any guitars that you don't have out right now?

Maybe something that's in such bad shape you're embarrassed to put it out right now...", and we go from there.

Of course, we take donations, as well.  (In his best advertisement voice)  Do YOU have a guitar whose better days are way behind it?  An instrument that fights instead of plays?  A six-string that screeches unknown notes instead of sings?  Bring it to us and we will help it go out in splinters of glory!  (Laughs)

Anyway...what were you asking?

G2G:  (Laughing)  How many do you take?

Kosher:  Oh, yeah.  At least one more than we think we'll need.  For a small, routine show, it may just be me smashing one guitar, or perhaps me and an audience member.  For a bigger gig, we'd like to have multiple smashes, and it depends on what we can afford.  Of course, we offered as Kickstarter rewards the opportunity to smash a guitar with us on-stage at either the Audiofeed Festival or the album release show in Austin on June 24.  To be honest, we haven't completely planned our stage set ye, so who knows how many stringed instruments we may have?

G2G:  Do you still give on-stage haircuts?

Kosher:  (Laughs)  Let's Be Frank, Arttie, big hair, long hair...it's not nearly the problem it was 25 years ago.  And, government regulations are likely much more stringent today.  I'd rather eat a Bowl of Wrath!  Frankly, I don't care if a guy's (or girl's) hair looks like a Birdnest, I'm not likely to give them a haircut.  In fact, I may tell them to Take A Flying Leap!  And, if someone doesn't like the way I'm answering this question, I say, "Take A Look At Yourself!"  Ask me if I'm scared; tell me if you See Me Sweat!  (Interviewer's note...all of the above entries in capital letters are titles of One Bad Pig songs that Kosher was throwing in for amusement...)

Actually, we have a large back catalog of songs filled with antics, and we're not going to be doing each and every one of them.  Not likely to get many two and a half hour sets these days.  And we want to play a bunch of these great new songs, so...I don't know about the haircuts.  We'll see what happens.


G2G:  My kids are 8 and 4 and are big "Big Bad Pig" fans, as my 4 year old calls you.  He loves "For A Good Man" and "Birdnest" and "Smash The Guitar", while my 8-year old loves "Never Forget The Cross" and will sing "We Want You" at the top of his lungs.  I realize you don't play out a lot now, but did you see a lot of multi-generational families at shows?

Kosher:  It's funny, but we've seen a lot of young children, down to toddler age...

G2G:  Piglets!

(One Bad Pig's label debut)
Kosher:  (Laughs)  Piglets, yes!  We've seen a lot who love One Bad Pig.  We don't know exactly what that says about our musical credibility.  Purple dinosaurs, Teletubbies, Bad Pigs?!  I can remember when A Christian Banned came out, how a couple were absolutely delighted at how much their 2 year old loved to dance crazily to One Bad Pig.  I think we've seen the growth of the multi-generational thing as the years have passed and parents, like you, have passed it on.  However, we haven't gotten to see it a ton at shows because we've played so seldom over the last 10-15 years.  Since we're hoping to do at least a little flurry of shows with this project, it will be something fun to watch out for.  We'll definitely be looking for the Parker kids!  (Laughs)

(New album artwork!)

G2G:  Well, now that the album has been fully funded, and the name has been dropped (Mitch Connell Presents Love You To Death is the title, with Connell winning his name on the cover as part of the Kickstarter campaign), it seems natural to ask if this will be the "swine song" for the band, or more of a rebirthing of sorts.  Could you see the band doing another record...maybe even just an EP every now and then?

Kosher:  Here's a good rule of thumb for One Bad Pig:  never say never!  Personally, I can't stand EPs!  If you've got five good songs, designed a cover, mixed and mastered, and paid to have them pressed up, by all means, take a little more time and give us five or ten more songs!  That's one of my little pet peeves.

But, to your question, who would have ever believed that God would use us like He already has?  Who would have ever believed we would record again after 25 years?  Let's not get in a hurry and decide what God's going to do a year from now.  As a matter of fact, right now I'm working on a song about giving God room to work, giving the Holy Spirit room to breathe.  So, let's just see what happens.

G2G:  Any chance this new tour...or at least these new shows...could be recorded for a new DVD or live album?

Kosher:  There is indeed a chance, but we don't know what will come of it right now.  The best chance to see the Pig is to make it to Austin, to Audiofeed in Illinois, or to try to line up having us come to your community, wherever you may be.

G2G:  Carey, it has been amazing to talk to you after all of these years of loving what you do.  I'm so very happy that you guys have met your Kickstarter goals, that you have a new album and some new dates scheduled...it just makes me smile!  For those who want to know, how many dates do you currently have lined up, and where?  Is there a website of some sort people can follow, or just Facebook?

Kosher:  Arttie, I've enjoyed this as well.  Are you planning on going to Audiofeed?  Hoping I can bump into you.

G2G:  Kind of like the Pig, never say never... (Laughs)

Kosher:  (Laughs)  Awesome.  At this point, I think Facebook is probably a lot more current than our website.  As we make changes to get the website more current, we will announce it on Facebook.  We'll also announce project updates, new live shows, and perhaps some teasers on Facebook as well.
If someone wants us to get a message directly to or from them, they can message us and give us their email address.

We'll be keeping our Kickstarter supporters regularly updated on that page, also.  We also want to leave information about basic pre-orders and where those can take place just as soon as we can get that set up. 

As far as shows, right now we only have the two "Written in Stone" dates:  Audiofeed in Urbana, Illinois from July first through the third, and in Austin, Texas on June 24.  That's the album release show.  We also have a date in mind, June 30, in or around Camden, Tennessee, but nothing is concrete, so more details will some as we can finalize them.  Other than that, we have a few possibilities being discussed, mostly in Texas.  In terms of doing much more traveling, that depends upon the level of interest and who wants to help us make it happen.  We just want the Lord to use us.

G2G:  Thanks again, Carey...sorry, Kosher...for sharing so much with us.  I've really had a blast!

Kosher:  Blessings to you, your family, your website, and your students, Arttie.  And thank you.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There it is folks...straight from the Pig's mouth!  Be on the lookout for the new One Bad Pig record sometime in June of 2016, and keep an eye open for the band to possibly play a show or two in the Midwest this summer.  You can check out the band's website at www.onebadpig.com , but as Kosher said, it is not overly up-to-date.  Facebook is a good way to track the band and their schedule, and you can do that here.  There is also a One Bad Pig fanpage on Facebook at this location.  AND...if you haven't had a chance, check out our review of Swine Flew right here on G2G!


Back to Talkin' Trash
Home

Friday, April 8, 2016

CHEAP TRICK "Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello"

(c) 2016 Big Machine Label Group

  1. Heart On The Line
  2. No Direction Home
  3. When I Wake Up Tomorrow
  4. Do You Believe Me?
  5. Blood Red Lips
  6. Sing My Blues Away
  7. Roll Me
  8. The In Crowd
  9. Long Time No See Ya
  10. The Sun Never Sets
  11. All Strung Out
Robin Zander--Lead and Backing Vocals
Rick Nielsen--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tom Petersson--Bass, Backing Vocals
Daxx Nielsen--Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians
Tim Lauer--Keyboards
Zac Raye--Keyboards
Bennett Salvay--Keyboards

Cheap Trick has returned with their first album of new material since The Latest, which came out over seven years ago, believe it or not.  Not only is this their first new record in quite some time, the new album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello is also the first album to feature Rick Nielsen's son, Daxx, on drums instead of long-time Cheap Trick skinsman, Bun E. Carlos.  This fact alone has led to much consternation and debate among members of the band's loyal fanbase, as Carlos was a beloved figure who, somehow, remains a member of the band "but he's not touring and he's not recording", according to an interview Zander did recently.  

Huh?  

Anyway, back to the new album.  Cheap Trick made no bones about the fact that they were attempting to get back to their classic sound on this album after meeting with mixed results on most of their output since the late-90's.  And, largely, the soon-to-be-Hall of Famers succeed in doing just that.  In fact, as far as style and approach goes, this album could have come out just as easily in the early 80s following Dream Police or All Shook Up.  The songs, for the most part, have that classic-era Cheap Trick sound, and I have no real issues with Daxx Nielsen's ability on the drums, as he does nothing to distract from the overall feel and sound.  I'm guessing that growing up around one of the most famous American rock bands of all time has rubbed off on the younger Nielsen just a tad.

As for the rest of the band...and by that, I mean the long-term, dare I say "REAL" members of Cheap Trick (sorry, Daxx), they are all in fine form here, with Zander's voice still sounding very strong and clear, and Nielsen's guitar rocking as if it was still the band's hey day, and Petersson's basslines bump and jump and throb all over the place, keeping the tracks bouncing right along in true Cheap Trick fashion.  

As for the album itself, things start off in a very nice way, as the band comes out rocking with "Heart On The Line", a catchy, upbeat number co-written by Greg Giuffria that sounds like it's straight from the Cheap Trick playbook of old...but I knew...just KNEW that I had heard this song before.  So, after much searching, I finally figured it out...the song appeared on the Sahara album from House of Lords back when Giuffria was in the band!  The song is definitely given a Cheap Trick makeover, as it is far poppier and not as "hair metal" in its approach, especially in the production of the drums and the tone of the guitars.  Regardless, this is a really good song to start the album off, and one that had my attention immediately.  "No Direction" chimes in next and sounds equally strong and every bit as comfortable, The first real treat for me is the more mid-tempo, slightly darker sounding "When I Wake Up Tomorrow" which showcases Zander sounding particularly strong and in charge of this track, with Rick's guitars ringing strongly in the background on this moody number that has hints of the Beatles...and David Bowie...slipped in for good measure.  The album is really starting to find its retro-inspired stride, as far as I'm concerned, but then we slip just a bit.  

The first stumble for me is "Do You Believe Me?" which is pretty good...not great...but its missing something.  It sounds almost bored in its tempo, and the lyrics don't really do anything for me, although Zander does his best to pull what he can from what he has to work with, and Rick adds in some nice guitar acrobatics in a long, extended solo section that is actually probably too energetic for the plodding pace the bass and drums have set.  The lull is short-lived , however, as "Blood Red Lips" pumps some fun and life back into things with a song that sounds like a hybrid that melds Cheap Trick and T-Rex together, and it has one of those rhythms that just screams for fans in the crowd to clap along (which is probably what reminds me so much of T-Rex...).  "Sing My Blues Away" is a nod to 80s-era Cheap Trick and it has a very familiar feel and style and its a nice quasi-ballad, although not of quite the same caliber of "The Flame", which I think it could most easily be compared to.  "Roll Me" is a very solid rocker that is one of my favorite tracks here, which leads into something of a Cheap Trick tradition...the cover song.  Personally, I LOVE what the band does with Dobie Gray's "The In Crowd" here, with Zander doing a really good job of throwing a nod to the song's past while still sounding like himself...and sounding like he's having fun.  Maybe not as instantly memorable as their take on "Don't Be Cruel", but a really, really fun cover, nonetheless, and another of my faves from the album.

"Long Time No See Ya" is a solid enough rocker, but it comes across as somewhat cookie-cutter in its approach.  Not a skipper, but not a bit hit, either.  "The Sun Never Sets" is, in my opinion, boredom set to music.  It is rather uninspired both musically AND lyrically, which is not often the case with this band, but "All Strung Out" manages to end the album on a fairly high note, although it really does feel like Cheap Trick trying to grunge up their sound or something, if you can imagine that.  Even the title sounds like a tongue-in-cheek poke at the drug-addled grunge rockers of the 90s.  It's not going to likely make any fan's greatest of the band compilation, but it did put a smile on my face, perhaps because I was seeing humor where maybe I shouldn't have been looking for it.  Who knows?

Personally, I like the production on the record, as it is crisp and clean, without sounding overly polished, which I think was a real problem with several of the band's albums in the late 90s/early 2000s.  Everything is pretty well proportioned, with no one instrument getting buried...or getting extra amounts of push in the mix.  I think Rick carries a very nice tone throughout the record, allowing his guitar to remain true to its classic tone and voice, but also letting himself get a bit experimental...even frenzied...on songs such as "Do You Believe Me?"

Is it the best album Cheap Trick has ever done?  Nope, but with 17 albums under their belt now (studio albums, that is), I easily put it in the top half, with the first five and 88's Lap Of Luxury all being ahead of Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello by varying degrees.  It is, however, possible that this new record could nudge its way into the top 6 at some point, but edging out any of the first five classic albums is going to be a stretch.

Zander and Nielsen have both said they have no intentions of slowing down despite the Hall Of Fame induction later this year, and Zander has actually said they would love to get back to the days of putting out a new album every year or so.  If they are all this solid...or better...be sure to seek them out, as Cheap Trick proves they still have the chops, they still have the energy, and they can still rock, even if the band is in something of a "Comfort Zone/Cruise Control" mentality in spots.  Its been 40 years folks...I think they deserve at least a bit of slack if only 8 of 11 songs are good-to-great on an album.

Rating:  Crank this to a very respectable 7 and have fun with an old friend!


Saturday, April 2, 2016

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...RYAN HUDSON of Love And A .38!

What happens when this Nebraska Husker hooks up with the Oklahoma Sooner that fronts one of our favorite new groups, Love And A .38?  Pretty much what you'd expect...nothing but mayhem!  Check out the review below and get the chance to better know Ryan Hudson of Love And A .38, as he gets down to Talkin' Trash with Glitter2Gutter!



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

G2G:  Ryan, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us...

Ryan:  No problem, Arttie!  I appreciate you taking the time...

G2G:  Okay, before we go any further, I have to ask about the name.  Love And A .38 is one of the coller band names I've heard in some time.  What's the story there?

Ryan: (Laughing)  Ahhh...man...I was hoping you wouldn't ask that!  (Laughing)  To be perfectly honest, there is no story.  Just thought it sounded cool after some brainstorming.  Seemed like as good of a name as anything else, so we just started using it.  We've actually been tire of it the last few years, but all bands get that way.  I'm not sure that there are any bands out there that really like the name of their own band.  Just one of those weird things, I guess...

G2G:  Man, you have to work on a cool back story there at some point...

Ryan:  (Laughing)  I actually used to just lie when people asked about the name.  I'd make something up on the spot and see if it would get printed.  It was a fun game for a while.  If I looked hard enough, I could probably find a dozen different origin stories that I BS'd my way through.

G2G:  Soooo, its an honor to actually get the truth?  Is that what you're telling me?  At least that's how I'll take it!

Ryan:  Exactly!  World exclusive, right here!  Ryan Hudson finally drops the charade!  (Laughing)  I'll probably go back to making up stories though, and nobody will ever know if THIS one was true, either!  It's a vicious cycle!  Haha!

G2G:  Dangit!  (Laughing)  Okay, so Nomads just dropped recently and from what I've seen and heard, pretty much nothing but positive words have been passed around.  You have to be proud, I would think.

Ryan:  We really are.  It took a long time to get that album out there.  Basically, everything that could have gone wrong did.  Murphy's Law, you know.  But, we knew we had some really good songs and we were confident in the vision that we had for the album and what t would sound like...what it


would FEEL like.  So, we just kept plugging away.  It was sort of surreal when we finally put that baby out in the world considering it had completely consumed my life for two years.  But it sounds like people are picking up on what w were trying to covey, like people GET it.  Which, as an artist, is about as great of a reaction as you can ever hope for.  So, it was definitely worth the time.

G2G:  No Spinal Tap drummer implosions or bizarre gardening accidents, I hope...

Ryan:  Nah,we keep our drummer chilled to 78 degrees Fahrenheit at all times to avoid such an instance.

G2G:  As all smart bands should!  Okay, so...Nomads...we love it here at Glitter2Gutter, and we truly feel like your simplistic approach to just good hard rock is something that has been sorely missing in music for a time now.  Is Nomads who you've always been or was there something of an evolutionary process to the band's style and sound?

Ryan:  I do think that this is what we've always been at the core.  I just think that it took us a long time to figure out how to convey it.  We're rockers, no two ways about it.  But, as with anything, it takes a while to find your footing.  Now, is that who we're gonna be six months or a year from now?  Who knows?  Bands always evolve.  But, all I can promise is that whatever direction we head in, it will be honest and it will be rock.

G2G:  Tell me a little bit about making the record.  Are you a lyrics first band, a music first band, or something else altogether?  And does everyone contribute to the songwriting?

Ryan:  We're definitely a music-first band.  Well, usually.  My favorite way for a song to come out is to just organically start jamming.  Maybe someone has a riff or a beat and we just all start playing it together.  Once we've got a good groove going, I'll just start to sing on top of it.  See what comes out.  Once I have a good idea for how the song feels, that really informs me about what I'm going to write about.  The lyrics have to work with the tone of the music, or at least it has to be a conscious decision to make it NOT work with that tone of the music if that's the way it goes.  Every once in a while, I'll just cruise in with a mostly finished song that I wrote on my own, but I prefer to keep it all inclusive.  Let everybody get their fingers in the pie.  It's more interesting that way.

G2G:  How long have you been together?  How did Love And A .38 come together?

Ryan:  It's been kind of a long and winding road.  Domo, Justin, and myself have been playing together for probably about four years now.  There were a couple of other lineups before that, dating all the way back to 2009 or 2010.  I'm actually the last remaining guy from the lineup that played the first show as Love And A .38.  But, it takes awhile to figure out the right group of guys.  And renaming a band is a pain, so we just stuck with this.  (Laughing)

G2G:  Or at least that's your current version of the story, right?

Ryan:  Exactly.  I can't let everyone know that all my current band mates are cyborgs.  At least, not yet.  The world isn't ready.

G2G:  So, tell me about Nomads.  Is there a meaning to the name of the album...an HONEST meaning, that is?  (Laughing)

Ryan:  (Laughs)  Right.  Well, there absolutely is.  We've got Domo to thank for the name.  We were kind of beating our heads against the wall, trying to decide what to call the record...we even set aside a full night to sort it out together.  I remember I came in with a full page worth of notes...probably 40 different possible album titles.  And Domo had, I think...2?  (Laughing)  But, as soon as we heard Nomads, we all pretty much knew that was the one.  Making the kind of music that we make, and doing it the way we do, we really don't have a "home" in the musical world.  There are so many little scenes that have splintered off from the great tree of rock-n-roll now.  But, we don't really fit into any of those scenes.  We're not heavy enough for the metal crowd, but TOO heavy for the current folk-rock revival crowd that has somehow found it's way to mainstream radio now.  And, really, those are about the only two viable branches in the rock spectrum right now.  Not to mention how marginalized even those are in the grand scheme of things.  Which is...just a travesty, I think.  There may be no stopping the course that the world has set on in regards to turning music over to machines, effectively robbing it of the humanity and the need for a soul to express itself that made our species invent music in the first place.  But, we play music with instruments and we do it honestly...warts and all.  That music just happens to come out as stripped down rock and roll, which in this world, makes us Nomads.  And we're okay with that...

G2G:  Alright, lets talk songs for a minute.  Every artist yells at me for asking them to pick favorites, so I have earplugs in right now.  Soooo...if you had to...gun to your head HAD to...what would you say is your favorite song on Nomads and why?  What's that song's story?

Ryan:  I'd have to say my favorite song on the album is "Just Like Regret".  I just think it really does some cool things musically that a lot of our other songs don't.  I really love the campy nature of the verse and the push-pull that it creates with the heavier sounding chorus.  And, it is a TON of fun to play live!  It's actually one of our darker songs, lyrically.  It is essentially about a girl who is at the end of her rope, in a really dark place.  And it is sort of narrating what is going through her head...but in a story-telling fashion.  Something we'd never tried before.  I really like how it turned out.

G2G:  Tell me about "Oh My God"...

Ryan:  That's actually the first song we wrote for the record.  I still remember very vividly when the chorus first came to me.  I was in the shower of all places!  (Laughing)  I jumped out, grabbed my guitar, and hammered out the rest of the skeleton of the song in like 20 minutes.  We decided to put it out as our lead single for the record because it sort of represents a good mix of where we've been and where we're going.  And, its a call to arms.  We figured that a good way to get back on the scene after taking so long making the album was with a solid kick to the teeth...and "Oh My God" felt like that.
(Still from the "Oh My God" video)

G2G:  Did you get dressed before grabbing the guitar?  I know people are gonna wonder, so I'll just ask and get that out of the way...

Ryan:  Well, it was cold out, so I put on socks...

G2G:  (Laughing)  My personal favorite track is "Born To Make Me Die".  I just love the feel of the song and it gets stuck with me every time I hear it.

Ryan:  That one was a lot of fun to record.  We got to break out all the cool percussion stuff on that one.  Shakers and bells and all sorts of neat little toys.  And I got to learn what it is like to multi-track whistling!  (Laughs)  I actually played half of the rhythms on the record, and that one was a song that I didn't write any of the music for, so I learned it like an hour before I laid my part down!

G2G:  Now, I've done some research and I have three words for you followed by a question mark.  "Sunglasses At Night"?

Ryan:  Ha!  Yeah, man!  We started covering that song for fun in the EARLY days of the band!  And it always went over like gangbusters at gigs.  And, for a minute, we were really pumped on the idea of just recording and releasing a bunch of singles back-to-back.  Eventually it got to a point where we wanted to lay something down, but we didn't have an original that was ready enough.  So...we decided, "What the hell?".  I still trip out when I hear the original because we changed the entire structure of the song and in my head THAT is how the song goes now!  (Laughs)

G2G:  So, are "Never Surrender" or "Boy In The Box" going to get the Corey Hart-meets-Love And A .38 treatment?

Ryan:  We'll have our people call his people!

G2G:  You have people?

Ryan:  Sure.  You don't?

G2G:  I have no people, no...  Anyway, in all seriousness, at least for this interview what passes for seriousness, you seem to have embraced the idea of using technology to your advantage, like you said, pumping out several singles ahead of anything else...

Ryan:  I think you have to these days.  The music world has changed...A LOT...and nobody has really figured it out yet.  And by the time someone DOES figure it out, it will have probably already changed again.  So you can't be afraid to think outside the box a little.  Try some new things.  Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss.  Just gotta keep trying.

G2G:  I see that you also have an EP out there, with a killer cover, by the way.  Is that all digital, or can people find hard copies?

Ryan:  Thanks, man!  There are still some hard copies floating around.  I think Amazon has some still, and we've got 'em on the website, too.

G2G:  Wanna play our Trash Talker's Speed Round?  I'll just spout off some random things and you go with your first answer...

Ryan:  Let's do it!

G2G:  Alright...here we go...  Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons?

Ryan:  Paul

G2G:  Is rock n roll dead, like Gene says?

Ryan:  Not in a million fucking years!

G2G:  Baseball, hockey, or golf...pick a sport with a stick!

Ryan:  Hockey!  We;re all big LA Kings fans, actually.

G2G:  I'm a baseball guy...Royals fan from the 70's...but I respect hockey.  Fun to watch, especially live.  Alright...Pearl Jam or Nirvana?

Ryan:  Oh, man...Nirvana.  But its close...

G2G:  Suddenly, you're transformed into Blake Shelton.  Miranda Lambert or Gwen Stefani?

Ryan:  Miranda Lambert!  I'm from Oklahoma.

G2G:  (Laughing)  So, if I say Sooners or Huskers, you obviously say...

Ryan:  BOOMER SOONERS!!

G2G:  You're losing the speed round in a game with no score!  (Laughing)

Ryan:  Where there's a will there's a way!  Haha!

G2G:  Prince is...?

Ryan:  A musical genius!

G2G:  The next Super Bowl halftime show should be...?

Ryan:  Cancelled

G2G:  Lip-synchers can...?

Ryan:  Piss off!

G2G:  Fritos, Doritos, or Cheetos...which gives you your "Oh Face"?

Ryan:  None of the above!  Flamin' Hot Munchies has Cheetos AND Doritos!

G2G:  Rock star you'd stand in line to meet?

Ryan:  Steven Tyler

G2G:  Rock star you'd stand in line to hit with a pipe wrench?

Ryan:  Oh, man...uhhhhh....Axl Rose...IF he ends up getting the AC/DC gig and then pulls an Axl and shows up four hours late...

G2G:  Fat Elvis or Fat Axl?

Ryan:  Fat Elvis is the alpha and omega...

G2G:  Is Metallica even relevant now?

Ryan:  I like to think so, but they're skirting the edge...

G2G:  Best concert you ever saw live?

Ryan:  Cheap Trick/Aerosmith...2004...Bossier City, Louisiana.  Floor seats.  It was as much the experience as the performance.

G2G:  Wow, nice!  I saw Aerosmith with Seven Mary Three opening...I was on the rail at the front of the stage.  Pretty sure Steven Tyler spit on me, and it may have been intentional!

Ryan:  He's the reason I started singing, so I'll always forgive him for his weird career decisions.

G2G:  Heard his country stuff?

Ryan:  I heard the single.  It's not bad, but I prefer my country to be Outlaw country.

G2G:  Amen....Huskers and Sooners agree, folks!  I've actually met Waylon, Willie, and Johnny Cash...

Ryan:  Johnny's old house isn't far from here.  I went and checked it out a couple of years ago.  They have a "guard horse" at the gate.  Its like a guard dog...but bigger!  He looked serious, so we left!

G2G:  Haha!  Band that must reunite for one more record?

Ryan:  Curveball...My Chemical Romance...

G2G:  Band that should NEVER record again?

Ryan:  Van Halen.  The last record made me sad.

G2G:  Guilty pleasure band...besides Corey Hart?

Ryan:  Does Kelly Clarkson count as a band?

G2G:  Sure, why not?  If Pink fights Kei$ha, who wins?

Ryan:  Oh, dude...Pink.  All day, every day...

G2G:  Have you ever actually called 867-5309?  And with what area code?

Ryan:  Yes, I did!  I was living in Oklahoma at the time, so it must have been a 405 area code.  I was young...don't remember who answered, but it was a business.  Poor bastards.

G2G:  (Laughing)  Ever call a number off the bathroom wall...you know, since Faster Pussycat did so well with it?

Ryan:  Never have...maybe later tonight!

G2G:  Ryan, it's been awesome!  I've had fun, and I hope you have as well.  How do fans get in touch with you, get your gear, and find out where to hear Love And A .38 live?

Ryan:  Thanks, man!  Great interview questions!  We've got everything that links to EVERYTHING on our website, www.loveanda38music.com  Thanks again, Arttie!  It's been a pleasure!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So there you go, folks.  A really fun interview to do...assuming any of what Ryan told me was true!  Be sure to head over to their website, grab Nomads and even their earlier EP, and let them know you love what you hear.  I truly hope we hear more from these guys because I love what they are doing and wish for nothing other than a long future for the guys.

Back To Talkin' Trash

Home