Saturday, August 25, 2018

ENUFF Z'NUFF "Diamond Boy"

(c) 2018 Frontiers Records

  1. Transcendence
  2. Diamond Boy
  3. Where Did You Go
  4. We're All The Same
  5. Fire & Ice
  6. Down On Luck
  7. Metalheart
  8. Love Is On The Line
  9. Faith, Hope, And Luv
  10. Dopesick
  11. Imaginary Man
Chip Z'Nuff--Lead Vocals, Bass
Tony Fennell--Guitars
Tory Stoffregen--Guitars
Dan Hill--Drums, Percussion

We all do it.  We all try to take a good thing and make it last as long as we possibly can.  Whether its an athlete trying to squeeze another season out of their aging body, a guy trying to get another washing out of that favorite t-shirt that is so threadbare you can count chest hairs through it, or a kid trying to get just a couple more hours in the pool before applying more sunblock.  If something is good, why not keep it going, right?  Bands are composed of people, and as such, are subject to human nature as well.  And, because of this, some bands....MANY bands...try to hang on too long and end up doing more harm than good to their legacy.  To me, Enuff Z'Nuff is one of those bands.

The band's first two albums are excellent collections of power pop/glam rock and are both must-haves for anyone who is a fan of that scene from the late 80s/early 90s.  But, for my money, Enuff Z'Nuff has released only one really good album since their best effort, Strength, and that would be their third record, Animals With Human Intelligence.  2010's release, Dissonance is an outlier in the band's career, as it is actually a surprisingly good record, even if it doesn't quite reach the greatness level that those first couple of records do.  But in between, there have been a lot of 50/50 albums, and a couple of real bombs, and the vast majority of the material without Donnie Vie at the microphone has left me rather disappointed.  Unfortunately, Diamond Boy does much the same as most of those other albums.

When you are a band who has now released 14 studio albums (not counting their quirky, but decent covers album, Covered In Gold) it is not a good thing when you can really only count the number of really good-to-great albums on one hand, but that is where Enuff Z'Nuff falls for me.  Unfortunately Diamond Boy doesn't move the band onto hand two.  There are a few songs here that are worth considering for the live set, most notably the uptempo, poppy, "We're All The Same", the trippy, psychedelic "Where Did You Go", which really has that classic EzN sound and feel, and probably the hardest-rocking track on the album, "Faith, Hope & Luv", which I find myself really liking, especially with its great, gritty guitar solo and killer groove.  "Fire & Ice" is pretty good, too, and has a definite Beatles-esque quality to it, especially with the nicely layered vocals, and the bluesy, groove-heavy "Metalheart" (don't let the title fool ain't metal), is good...not great...but good and worth a listen.

But on an album that is 11 tracks long, you need more than 4 pretty good songs...and one really good carry it.  Obviously the intro "Transcendence" is a throw-away track, and the title track is absolutely stupid, lyrically, and I can't bring myself to listen to it, especially with the overly processed vocals used by Chip.  Yeah, it sounds like the band is trying to channel its inner Cheap Trick, but it fails.  "Down On Luck" is just so ploddingly slow that I find myself almost lulled to sleep.  The same can be said of the tired-sounding shuffle of "Love Is On The Line", which references falling asleep a couple of times in the first verse, which just seems to be a tease, if you ask me.  "Dopesick" has a little more oomph...a little...but its just as boring as the others mentioned here, and the album's closer, "Imaginary Man", makes little to no effort to pick up the pace or mood of the record. 

It's not that Diamond Boy is horrible; in fact it has a few pretty good spots, as I mentioned above.  But overall, the album is too slow and bogs down all the time.  I mean, its not a good sign when a mid-tempo number is considered fast compared to most of the songs on an album, and of the two uptempo songs here, one of them is just stupid (the title track).  If there were a couple more nice rockers like "Faith, Hope & Luv" in place of a couple of the multiple 60s lullabies on the record, Enuff Z'Nuff might have something to work with.  Alas, there aren't and the band doesn't.  Additionally, Chip Z'Nuff is simply not Donnie Vie on the microphone, and all the processing and filtering in the world won't change that fact.  I also think Vie's writing contributions are seriously missed throughout most of this record.  Diamond Boy is an okay record, but again, it does nothing to advance the band, in my mind, and really gives the impression of a band just playing off of the name and recording so they have something to sell at shows. 

Maybe its time to stop trying to stretch out this good thing, Enuff Z'Nuff... 

Rating:  A decent EP is not a great album, but that is what Diamond Boy is, at best...a decent EP with a lot of subpar stuff surrounding it.  Rock this at a 5.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

JUDAS PRIEST "Firepower"

(c) 2018 Epic Records

  1. Firepower
  2. Lightning Strike
  3. Evil Never Sleeps
  4. Never The Heroes
  5. Necromancer
  6. Children Of The Sun
  7. Guardians
  8. Rising From Ruins
  9. Flame Thrower
  10. Spectre
  11. Traitors' Gate
  12. No Surrender
  13. Lone Wolf
  14. Sea Of Red
Rob Halford--The Voice
Glenn Tipton--Guitars
Richie Faulkner--Guitars
Ian Hill--Bass
Scott Travis--Drums

Judas Priest and I have two things in common.  We are both 48 years old...and we both still have metal in our veins!  Lest anyone think that the years have robbed Judas Priest of anything, they come roaring back with their 18th studio album, Firepower.  Yes, I know that Judas Priest has released three other albums since Rob Halford's return, and while all three had their moments, not Angel Of Redemption, not Nostradamus, and not Redeemer Of Souls have had the full complement of crushing drums, rumbling bass, screaming twin guitars, and...that voice!  Yes, they had elements of legendary Judas Priest, and yes they each had some great Judas Priest songs.  But for me, you have to go back to 1990's metallic must-have, Painkiller, to find such a perfect mix of speed, power, intensity, and musicianship as is found on Firepower. Priest, my friends!  This is EXCELLENCE!

Rather than break down the album by songs, I chose to break it down by individual performances, largely because there are are absolutely ZERO songs here that I don't either really like or absolutely love, much like I felt about Painkiller.  I don't even dislike the instrumental, "Guardians", which says quite a bit.  So, if you are going to talk about Judas Priest, the most obvious place to start is with the Metal God, himself, Rob Halford.

I think it would be fair to say that Halford has not sounded this powerful or this on-point since his first Halford album, Resurrection, which is the best Judas Priest album the band never made, in my estimation, or possibly Crucible, the 2002 follow-up, which suffers in comparison to Resurrection in the songwriting department.  Again, yes, Halford had some great vocals on the last few Priest records, but not since those two solo albums has Halford really unleashed the metal demon that fuels him.  Combining his absolutely precise enunciation with his expert range control, Halford absolutely punishes the microphone on this album.  I have read a few interviews with him where he states that he hasn't had to do this much studio work, perhaps EVER, but all that hard work clearly pays off here.  And while he doesn't unleash shrieking metal hell as often as he used to, it is still definitely in him to do so.  From the way he lays into the chorus of "Evil Never Sleeps",  or the sonic blast found on "Flamethrower", Halford fully earns his legendary nickname and reaffirms his seat upon the throne as the king of metal voices.  And it's not just the screams, either.  The emotion he packs into his performances here is about as good as he has ever put on record.  No, he doesn't shatter glass as often as he once did, but the ominously powerful vocals he applies to songs like "Children Of The Sun", the album's huge, sweeping ballads, "Sea Of Red" and my personal favorite, "Rising From Ruins", or the creepily sneering "Spectre", should serve to remind the doubters that few can so fully master their range and delivery as this living legend.

Jumping to the bass work of Ian Hill, it is amazing to me how much his instrument continues to drive the train after all these years.  Always consistent, always pulsing through the veins of each of the band's previous album, Hill sounds refreshed here, his bass more energetic than on albums past.  Perhaps that is due in large part to the meatier, crunchier songwriting that is employed on this record, with shorter, punchier songs for the most part, as only three songs here stretch out to beyond the five minute mark.  As the lone remaining founder of this legendary band, one could excuse Hill for phoning it in if he so chose, but that is not the case here, as his presence is felt all over this record.

Hill's rhythm section partner, Scott Travis, returns to the kit for his seventh album with the band.  The playing from Travis has, like Hill, always been steady, but has never really jumped out at me.  And while he doesn't rip into any thundering solos or blast through some bizarre sort of drum fill, his presence is definitely noted here, especially with his cymbal crashes and big kick drum sound.  Perhaps it is due to the extra bursts of speed on this album, which were frequently lacking on the previous couple of records, that really draw the drums out, as you can't help but appreciate the skill required to play at such a pace and keep perfect rhythm.  At least that's the case with me.

The real question for a lot of people was whether or not the guitar tandem of Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner would manage to step up and bring out a sense of power and melody not really heard from the band since Painkiller, in my estimation.  A lot of people point to the 2011 retirement of K.K. Downing as the moment when the Judas Priest guitar stylings really changed.  I get that to a point, as Downing is a legend in his own right.  However, I don't think the band has really had that big, full, metallic Judas Priest sound to their guitars since Painkiller, especially with the change in tuning and approach found on the Ripper-fronted albums, Jugulator and Demolition, both of which found the band abandoning their classic metal sound for thrashier, and at times, more nu-metal guitar parts and song structures.  That can't be blamed on Faulkner, as he was not even around at that time.  The same can be said of the last three Halford-fronted releases, which I felt got a bit long-winded, drawn out, and plodding in places, with the guitars frequently sounding bogged down.  That is not the case here, not at all.  Despite the implications by Downing that co-producer Andy Sneap may have contributed to the guitars on the record (he reportedly claimed Sneap, not Downing, actually played on the album), there can be no denying that this is the sound most closely associated with Judas Priest, combining classic metal elements of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith, and Screaming For Vengeance with the all-out metal assault that was Painkiller.  Containing some of the fastest, crispest playing ever put down by the band, Firepower is a metal guitar album for the ages, in my opinion, and simply must be heard.  Heck, the riff in "Traitor's Gate", alone, is worth slapping down some cash to hear, I believe, not to mention the riff-fests found in "Lightning Strike", "Necromancer", and the title track, among others.

The production here is excellent, with co-producers Sneap and Tom Allom, along with mixer Mike Exeter, really bringing the band to life on this record.  Again, as I mentioned earlier, the production team used multiple takes to get the best of each performer.  Allom, of course, was at the helm for several of Priest's biggest albums back in the day (interestingly, not Painkiller, however), and his return seems to indicate to me that the band knew something wasn't working quite right on the last few records.  That problem has been remedied with this production team.

So, is this the best Judas Priest record of all time?  Obviously, people are going to have varying opinions, but since you are reading this, you must want mine.  In my mind, it is definitely the best thing the band has put out in nearly 30 years, but it doesn't quite top the absolute metallic greatness of Painkiller.  It's close, no doubt, but it isn't quite there.  Classic metal fans are likely to point to British Steel or Stained Class as the band's most epic moment, and cases can be effectively made for Hell Bent For Leather or Screaming For Vengeance.  For my money, all of these would be in the top 1/3 of the band's releases, with Defenders Of The Faith just missing that list.  So, if forced to rank them, I would slot them like this...

6--Stained Class
5--Hell Bent For Leather
4--Screaming For Vengeance
2--British Steel

Not a perfect record, which would be extremely difficult on an album that is 14 tracks long, but it is the best true "metal" album I have heard this year, and one of the best of the last 3 or 5 years.  If you haven't already snagged this album, I have no idea why, as this review is actually a couple of months late in coming.  Go get it.  Now.

Rating:  Supremely crankable, Judas Priest is back; long live the Priest!  Crank this to 9!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

BROKEN TESTIMONY "Holding On To Nothing"

(c) 2018 Thermal Entertainment

  1. We Never Learned From Our Mistakes
  2. Control
  3. One Day
  4. Fade Away
  5. Instead We Hid From Them, Just Like Our Fears
  6. Blessing
  7. Medusa
  8. We Smoke Them Away, Thinking They'll Burn Off
  9. Unknown
  10. Vitality
  11. But They Just Stain Who We Are Inside
Judge Page--Lead Vocals, Guitars (solo on 9, 10)
Bryce Chism--Vocals (2, 6, 7), Drums
Nic Delvaux--Guitars (solo on 3, 4)
Justin King--Bass

Additional Musicians
Jacob Porter--Additional Vocals on "Fade Away"

I am not going to lie.  When I first received this CD, took a look at the band name, the ummm...interesting...cover art, and the way the song titles were laid out, I thought I was going to be reviewing a death metal band, or at least some kind of brutal metalcore.  Despite these things, however, Broken Testimony is most definitely NOT death metal, or metalcore, utilizing a more post-grunge, alternative hard rock/modern hard rock sound than anything else.  Except, it really isn't that modern sounding, either.  Let me explain...

Broken Testimony is a four-piece out of South Carolina, who has been performing together for only a couple of years.  Despite the relative lack of time together, the guys managed to put together this debut album, which is performed almost 100% exclusively by the band, with only a single guest vocal earning outside credit, which is kind of unusual for such an inexperienced band.  Usually with new bands, there was some bigger band that discovered them and helped them out in the studio by dropping a few guitar solos or co-lead vocals or something.  Not the case here.

The album starts off with...and is broken up by, and ended by, a series of musical interludes.  The first, "We Never Learned From Our Mistakes" is probably the coolest of the four here, and it features a thunderstorm and alert sirens while some mellow guitar strumming goes on over the top.  "Control" kicks in shortly after this intro ends, and almost immediately it is obvious these guys were big fans of the modern rock scene of the mid-2000s, early 2010s, as thoughts of older bands like Staind, Breaking Benjamin, Crossfade, Chevelle, and a few others start to permeate my mind.  The guitar work, in particular, is very reminiscent of what you likely heard from these bands around 2008, 2009, 2010, with the combination of clean and harsh vocals also recalling that era of hard music.  The mix on the drums sounds off to me, as they are pretty flat sounding, but overall, "Control" isn't a bad song at all.

"One Day" is more melodic in its approach, really reminding me of some of my favorite stuff from Staind, although Page's vocals aren't as deep or as emotional as Aaron Lewis' vocals are...but, really, whose are?  Page misses a couple of notes here, whether for dramatic effect or not, I really can't say, but overall, this is one of the best songs on the album, and is really where I think the band finds their sweet spot, stylistically.  Delvaux delivers a decent solo, one that is befitting of the style of the song, and the bass line here is pretty cool, so "One Day" has a lot of what it needs to be a really strong song.  Once again, the drums just sound off, which is unfortunate, as they do detract a bit from the song, and I get the impression that Chism is a much better drummer than the mix represents here.  Just a hunch. 

"Fade Away" continues in the Staind style, with a somber sounding guitar riff introing the track before the bass comes rumbling in over the top of some pretty powerful drum thunder.  Again, Page's vocal style is very reminiscent of the approach used by Lewis, but once again, he seems to miss a note or two, especially when he reaches back for a powerful vocal thrust, which seems to throw him off a bit.  The drums here are much better than on the previous few tracks, and again the band seems most comfortable in this style.  Once again, Delvaux offers up something of a solo, although, much like Staind, Chevelle, and their ilk, the solo really isn't the focal point of any song, so don't expect any Van Halen type of hammer-ons or string bending here.

We hit another interlude at track five, and this one comes off as a bit darker than the first.  There are some vocals to this one, sounding like they are lifted from a movie, but it is one I am not familiar with.  The "music" here is more just atmospheric noise behind the narration, and this track is just a wasted 1:50 to me.  Sorry...I'm not an intro/interlude/outro guy in general (you can find my complaints about these things all over this review site).

"Blessing" brings the music back to life with a really cool drum cadence and a funky bass line that is somewhat reminiscent of somthing Korn might have done several years ago.  The overall track doesn't sound this way, but the first minute or so is pretty cool.  From there, the verse sections are fairly laid back before the harsh vocals kick in on the pre-chorus sections, and then Page pours on the anger in the choruses themselves.  The thick, down-tuned guitars are pretty crunchy here, but I can't say that "Blessing" really does a lot for me, musically.  Lyrically, the song seems to be about killing someone, and is fairly dark and twisted, to be honest, especially when you consider the band is made up of teenagers and early twenty-somethings.  I mean, lyrics like "Plotting in disguise, With no haste, I could not wait..." combined with "No question, I had no doubt, Her skin felt so cold, As I gazed down into her eyes..." are kind of creepy, at least to me.  Maybe I'm reading too much into these words, who knows.

"Medusa" is up next, and is one of the angrier sounding songs on the record.  Page has an edge to his vocals throughout the song, and the lyrics scream of a friendship/relationship destroyed by deceit and lies.  The guitars churn angrily throughout the song, and the drums take on a tribal pattern that just feeds the angst here.  Easily the best of the hard-hitting tracks here, for my money, and a good type of song to make the far more melodic tracks like ""One Day" or "Fade Away" pop all that much more.

Too quickly we are disrupted by yet another interlude, this one called "We Smoke Them Away, Thinking They'll Burn Off".  Again, we have some ambient noise from the guitars in the background as a narrator reads through a passage by Alan Watts, one of those "deep Eastern thinkers" that my college philosophy professors probably still drool over to this day, but that really do nothing for me.  Go ahead and Google him and the words to this interlude and you will find him pretty easily.  Just wasted CD space, in my opinion, and I got an "A" in philosophy, but whatever...

The last two actual songs on the album are "Unknown" and "Vitality".  "Unknown" is a pretty stark, dark-sounding song from the outset, but lyrically seems to be rather hopeful, to be honest.  We find the band back in Staind mode for this one...and the drum mix issue has returned, also, sounding very flat.  A decent song, but not one that does anything to really set itself apart from the rest of the record.  "Vitality" ramps up the aggression slightly, still sounding a lot like Staind to me, but with more chugging guitar riffing going on and some harsher edges to Page's vocals.  I like the way the chorus is layered upon itself, and the track is one of the top three or four on the disc, to be sure.  

Things close out with the outro, "But They Just Stain Who We Are Inside".  I found a notation online that says these interludes were taken from a poem that Chism wrote called "Cigarettes On School Buses", but I'm assuming that is where the track titles come from, and that Chism isn't trying to take credit for Watts' work.

Overall, the band sounds to me like they have quite a bit of talent and a definite passion for the style of music they play.  The issues are that the production, especially on the drum mix, comes off fairly flat on about half of the album, and this style of rock is not really one that is popular today.  Had this come out in that late 2000s/early 2010s timeframe I referenced earlier, I wouldn't be surprised to hear Broken Testimony in the Octane mix.  As it stands, even with updated production, and a bigger recording budget (which I suspect is the root cause of the mix and the off-sounding vocal spots, where only one or two takes were likely used), this would still not sound like anything you hear on satelite radio or modern/active rock stations.  Maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing, and you have to play what you love and what you sound like, right?  To me, Broken Testimony sounds like a band that really loves Staind, Breaking Benjamin, and some of the other bands I mentioned, and, as such, they have incorporated those styles into their own music.  And there's nothing wrong with that or with being true to yourself.  Just don't expect the world to come meet you at where you are if they have already moved past the place you are standing in.  That is especially true of music...

I found an acoustic set from the band on YouTube that gives you a pretty good idea of where they come from musically, as it is VERY reminiscent of the unplugged show Staind did, musically.  If you want, you can check it out below.

The packaging is solid, with lyrics to all the songs included in the multi-fold digipack.  There is a black and white band photo under the clear tray, along with a thank you section and credits.

Rating:  For what it is, Broken Testimony's "Holding On To Nothing" is rockable.  I give this debut effort a 5.5.

Friday, August 10, 2018

TALKIN' TRASH WITH....Luke Easter (ex-Tourniquet, current solo artist)

For more than 20 years, Luke Easter could be found fronting the pioneering Christian thrash metal band, Tourniquet.  However, after five studio albums, an EP, and a final vocal appearance on that band's 2014 album, Onward To Freedon, Luke Easter has stepped away from the metal madness and returned with his own excellent solo effort, The Pop Disaster.  Now, Luke steps up to a mic of a different kind as he takes some time to Talk Trash with us here at Glitter2Gutter!  Check out what Luke's been up to, where he comes from, how he got there, and what's next as we discuss metal, Morrisey, and the completely overrated stature of Klondike Bars!!

G2G:  Luke Easter, the former vocalist for Tourniquet, and now a budding solo artist, has been kind enough to join us to Talk some Trash!  Luke, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.  I've been a fan for years!  How have you been?

Luke:  I'm well.  Busy.

G2G:  I can imagine!  I just got your new CD, The Pop Disaster, and it is obvious that you have been busy....

Luke:  Yeah, between finishing and releasing the record, and all of normal day-to-day stuff, there's not a ton of downtime.

G2G:  Normal day-to-day stuff?  Come're a rock star!

Luke:  I wish!  I saw a bumper sticker once that said, "Working Musicians Have Day Jobs". That's very true in most cases, I think.

G2G:  Well, if you aren't a rock star, you sure run with a crowd of guys who are in/have been in some signigicant groups.  Josiah Prince from Disciple, Jesse Sprinkle from Poor Old Lu and Demon Hunter, David Back from Guardian...that's quite a collection of known artists in the Christian rock and metal world.

Luke:  Don't forget Tim Gaines (ex-Stryper).  I have been fortunate enough to have made connections with some very cool musicians over the years.  Almost 23 years with my previous band gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people, and some of them I am lucky enough to be able to call my friends.

G2G:  I think there's a perception out there that all these Christian bands run in the same circles and all know each other.  Is that necessarily the case?  Or, is it like any other industry, music or otherwise, and its about networking and relationships?

Luke:  It's networking and relationships, at least in my experience.

For instance, Tim, I've been a fan of since the first Stryper record came out.  We'd met a couple of times in Southern California back in the day, so he was aware of us.  We had a European date in 2008 and needed a bass player, so we called Tim.  We've stayed in touch off and on since.

It's similar with David.  I bought First Watch when I was 17 or 18, and I've been a fan of Guardian since.  We played shows with them, and I've stayed in touch on and off with him and Jamie (Rowe) over the years.  Actually, David heard demo versions, a long time ago, of a couple of songs that are on The Pop Disaster.  He gave some good feedback, and in a lot of ways, helped me believe I could make this project a reality at some point.

Jesse, I've been a fan of since the Poor Old Lu days.  He is one of the most versatile, creative drummers I know.  I love what he brought to the table for this record.

Josiah is a newer friend.  I actually had never met him until this past March.  We'd only interacted online.  Kevin Young (lead vocalist of Disciple) has been a good friend for a long time, and he pointed me toward Josiah early on when I was trying to figure out who was going to play on the record.

G2G:  Even with all that experience and firepower backing you, the idea of venturing into the solo world had to be scary, didn't it?

Luke:  The solo thing is something that's always kind of been in the back of my mind.  Kris, my producer and guitar player, and I have talked about making a record together since high school.  I didn't start out doing the metal thing; my tastes have always run more to the pop/rock/hard rock side of things, although I am a metal fan.  I always wanted to showcase this other side of me, however.  I'd brought it up in the past, but I was always asked to hold off on doing anything.  So, the timing was perfect for doing it now.  Yes, I would have loved to have done it sooner, but I don't think I was ready.  I don't think I would have been able to assemble the talent and have the right songs ten years ago.

G2G:  Okay, I promise not to dwell on the past, and we're going to definitely spend some time on The Pop Disaster, but I'd be slacking if we didn't talk some Tourniquet for a minute.  How exactly did you end up in such an a progressive way...thrash metal band?

Luke:  I did the whole garage band thing with my friends in high school.  I was the world's worst bass player!  Then, I decided to go for it and try to be the singer, and I played with a local band for a couple years doing that.  I figured out how to sing and not lose my voice, and I learned how to be a part of a band.  I also started figuring out how to craft decent songs.  That ran its course, and I wanted to go to the next level.  I figured I'd either be good enough, or I'd find out quick that I wasn't and I'd cut my hair and go to school or something.  Bryan Gray from The Blamed is a friend of mine, and back then he was in a band called Rocks In Pink Cement.  We'd done shows together, and he is the one who told me to try out for Tourniquet.  I honestly didn't know I could do any of the stuff I ended up doing with that band, but I went for it and sent them a tape.   A couple of weeks later, I was in LA auditioning.  A week after that I was back in LA rehearsing, and a week or so after that, we were kicking off the Pathogenic Tour in Oklahoma.

G2G:  That had to be a daunting situation, stepping into the lead vocalist role to tour for an album you had no part in making (Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance).  Were you at all afraid of how fans were going to accept you since your style is so different from Guy Ritter (original Tourniquet vocalist)? 

Luke:  I wasn't.  I was excited to actually be in a working band doing a tour.  I didn't sound like Guy and I didn't try to mimic him.  I sang the songs my way, but tried to be as respectful of the originals as possible.  But, I wasn't really too worried about folks liking me or not.  I was more worried about remembering all the words!

G2G:  How many songs did you have to learn?  And did you have any background in medical terminology, since so many of those early Toruniquet songs used so much of that stuff? (Laughter)

Luke:  (Laughs) I did not have a medical background!  I had to learn about 12 or 14 songs, I think, and I only had a week or so to learn them before rehearsals started!

G2G:  Holy "Gelatinous Tubercles of Purulent Ossification", Batman!  (Laughter)

Luke:  (Laughter) No pressure!

G2G:  You mentioned buying the first Guardian record (First Watch), being a fan of early Stryper, and being friends with members of The Blamed.  Did you come of age in that early Christian rock/metal scene of the 80s?

Luke:  Not really as a part of it, but I was definitely aware of it.  I grew up in church, and the early 80s were a great time, in a lot of ways, for new music in that world.  So, I was aware of the new bands who were coming up, but I was just a music lover for a long time.

G2G:  I was pretty similar.  I was into all the LA bands, and eventually the thrash scene, as well, and just loved the harder music of the time.  Then I had a friend who introduced me to Saint and Whitecross and Jerusalem, and I steered HARD into the Christian rock and metal scene.  I discovered bands like Messiah Prophet and Bloodgood and Barren Cross and Neon Cross, and from there found the thrash scene, like Deliverance and Vengeance and Sacrament...and of course, Tourniquet...

Luke:  Kris, whom I mentioned before, turned me on to Tourniquet right after STB (Stop The Bleeding) came out.  He also played on the demo I sent when I was trying to get the audition.  And now, all ths time later, he played guitar and produced my solo debut!

G2G:  Did you grow up in a musical family?

Luke:  Not really.  My father sang at church occasionally, and my mother was a very average piano player.  But, in terms of being serious about music, no, it was not a musical home.  They didn't seem quite sure of what to do when I decided I needed to be in a band.  I really don't think they were that supportive until I did my first album.

G2G:  Getting back to Tourniquet for a minute, I always tell people that you are to Tourniquet what Jon Bush was to Anthrax...darker, grittier, angrier, a singer, and that the band evolved due to that.  Is that a fair assessment?

(Tourniquet...Luke, Ted, Aaron)
Luke:  I guess so.  Jon is a very different vocalist than Joey, and I'm definitely a much different sounding singer than Guy was.  Like I said earlier, I never tried to mimic Guy when we'd do the earlier stuff live, but I tried to balance respecting what he had done on the records with making those songs my own.  Same thing in the studio.  I just tried to do the best thing for the song, and to follow the direction I got from whomever was producing.  I just wanted to make my mark and to create a solid body of work.

G2G:  Honestly, I prefer both you and Jon, although I love where both bands came from and, seemingly, are returning to.

Luke:  Thanks!

G2G:  Have you ever had any real contact with Guy Ritter?

Luke:  The first time I met Guy was at a club in Santa Clara, California.  The band played and some friends and I hung around after to meet them.  I've hung out with him a few times at Gary's (Gary Lenaire) house back in the early days of my time with the band.

G2G:  What about Gary then?  Are you still friends?

Luke:  Gary I recently reconnected with.  Things weren't great between us by the time he left the band, and it kind of went downhill from there for a while.  We reconnected over social media a year or two ago, and we hung out for a bit at the NAMM show in January.  I did a vocal for a track he just released. (Check out "Vainglorious Hypocrisy" HERE) It's good to have him as a friend again. It was cool to do something with him.  We were only on two songs together back in the day.  I think folks will enjoy hearing the two of us together again in a totlly different context.

With the new song...people forget that Gary and Guy started that band (Tourniquet).  They were a big part of initially defining that sound.  When I heard this new track for the first time, it hit me how much Gary's style impacted the sound of those first few records.  The stuff we did after his exit was good, but it sounds completely different.

Sometimes things are greater than the sum of their parts.  I used to love Dream Theater, but since Portnoy left, they just don't do it for me.  There's some kind of X-factor missing, at least for me.  Having had a bit of time and distance, I'd say that we took a hit in some ways when Gary was out of the band.  Like I said, we did some good stuff after, but it wasn't the same.

G2G:  I have to ask, how does a guy go from those harsher, darker vocals I mentioned, to those you used on The Pop Disaster?  I know I told you in a previous conversation that I hear some Sebastian Back in your voice on a couple of tracks, but I hear a lot of Mike Tramp from White Lion on about half the record.

Luke:  I am a big fan of bands like Bon Jovi, Extreme, Stryper, Def Leppard...all the great 80s bands.  I also love a good pop song.  Melodically and structurally, my brain works more in those terms, and its really the way I tend to approach singing.  If you listen close to a lot of the stuff I did previously, you can hear a lot of hints of that.  The harsher, darker growls and such are what I ddin't know I could do prior to joining that band.  I figured out how to do it on the road.

G2G:  So with The Pop Disaster, were you making a Not-A-Tourniquet record, or were you
making a Luke Easter record?

Luke:  I'd say a Luke Easter record.  I mean, left to my own devices, I'm not going to write a metal record, so it was never going to sound like that band anyway.  I did toss out ideas if they reminded me of the past work, but I had already decided early on that I wanted to do a pop/rock record.

G2G:  Okay, now the next question, which you know will be asked due to your history and your bandmates on this this a Christian record?

Luke: What makes a record Christian?

I read a thing once where Bono stated that the Psalms are the original blues.  I know a lot of people cherry pick the ones about how amazing God is, but there are also a lot that are complaints, and that are about how the writer's lot in life sucks.  I know that to many people, a record falls into the Christian category if it's loaded up with sermonettes about salvation, and if it name-checks God or Jesus every other line.  If people applied that same criteria to the Bible, the Bible wouldn't pass the test.  There's history, genealogy, and poetry in there, along with a lot of killing and a lot of sex.  And the Gospel!  So, I don't know how to answer that question, really.

I wrote a handful of songs about life.  Stuff I've experienced, stuff I've seen others go through, and stuff I think about.  I am a believer.  I self-identify as a Christian, and to whatever degree of success, I try to live that out.  What you believe, what you value in life, will come through in you, whatever you do.  So I guess it kind of is, but at the same time, maybe it isn't.

G2G:  I was chatting with a friend about music one time, and he asked me about why Christians never sing about sex.  He said, "you guys like sex, right?"  I laughed at him and said, "Sure.  And I'll bet atheists and satanists like ketchup, but I've never heard King Diamond sing about it..."

Luke:  (Laughter)  Tell him to read Song of Solomon...

G2G:  The point of course being what you talked about...what you value in life.

Luke:  Exactly...

G2G:  As a father, I am very careful about what I deliberately expose my kids to, because there is so much out there I can't control.  My kids listen to about 90% music that would be identified as Christian or "positive rock"...bands like Disciple, Skillet, TFK, 7eventh Time Down, Manafest...stuff like that...which I also listen to a lot of..

Luke:  That's cool.  That's your job as a parent, right?  Set boundaries and prepare them to be able to make good choices when it's time.

I don't want to come off as unconcerned about the Gospel, but in reality, salvation is a starting point.  It sets you on a path.  I think that Christians, in general, but definitely a large chunk of the Christian music world, have turned it into the be-all/end-all final destination, and the culture is the worse for it, in my opinion.

G2G:  I started a discussion on Facebook the other day about the fact that I just don't relate to most of the 80s bands I grew up with and felt way more connected lyrically to bands of the 90s and 2000s.  It's not that they offend me or anything, I just don't feel as connected to it now, other than for nostalgic reasons.  The grunge/post-grunge bands sang about emotions and things I can relate to.  I don't relate to the party-all-the-time stuff.  I think that's part of what drew me to Christian music at I liked but not with messages I couldn't relate to.  Same thing with the "positive rock" bands of today...great message about real emotions and relationships, and yes, sometimes God, but still great music.  I get that on The Pop Disaster; real emotions, real experiences...

Luke:  Exactly.  I like Poison, but I don't spin them like I did back in the day because I'm more grown up.  When you're a teenager, everything is about sex and partying and rebellion, at least for a lot of kids.  So music like that is appealing, because it's about what's most on a young kid's mind.  I think that's why Bon Jovi has had a longer shelf life.  After New Jersey, the songs became more about life and less about girls and partying.  The band grew up with their audience.  I think that's why the Corabi album is my favorite Crue record; there's still sex and parties, but there are other more grown-up themes on there.  That's always the goal when I write.  I need it to be genuine.  I don't want to waste my time making songs that don't really have more to them than just being catchy and singable.

Steve Taylor had a great line in one of his songs.  "If music's saying nothing, save it for the dentist's chair."  In other words, don't just be backround noise; say something worth listening to.

G2G:  Kosher Womack of One Bad Pig sang/screamed, "You can sing about whatever you want to, but if you're just making a bunch of noise...shut up!"

Luke:  Yes!  Totally!  Even if it is just a pop song!  Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but she's writing from the heart about real things that resonate with people.  That's why she's so successful.  It's pop, but at least it's got some depth.

G2G:  Alright, you mentioned "pop", so that leads me to the new record...not the bunch of noise part, but what you were saying about writing about real things.  I love "Life Goes On"...I can't stop playing it.  Tell me about that song...

Luke:  "Life Goes On" was the last song written and recorded.  We had all of the others in various stages, and it occured to me that I couldn't imagine any of them opening the record.  I needed a song with that feel to it tat had a more upbeat lyric.   Then I couldn't come up with anything...for weeks!   There were some time constraints we were working under, so Kris told me if I didn't have something by a certain point, it wasn't going to happen.  No pressure!

G2G:  (Laughter)  No...none...

Luke:  Kelly, my wife, and I were at the airport headed to Disneyland, and the whole song pretty much popped into my head while we were in line for boarding.  I immediately emailed the lyric to Kris, and we had it basically arranged and in production within a week or so.

G2G:  Disney IS a magical place!

Luke:  Disneyland is one of my favorite places in the entire world.

"Life Goes On" is a different type of song for me.  I've always tended to write from a more pessimistic/fatalistic point of view, which I suppose is fine in metal...or if you're Morrisey...

G2G: (Laughing at the Morrisey comment)

Luke:   ...but I wanted to try to break out of that a bit.  There's still some of that in there, but I think the relative positivity of the chorus saves it from being a lament.  It gives it a lift so it's more of an acknowledgement of reality, but an exhortation to keep going because it'll get better.

G2G:  Another track I absolutely love is "As Damaged As You Are".  To me, it's really an anti-judgement song, that we are all struggling, all carrying our own baggage, and that no one is spared that human condition...even when we put on a smile or a mask or whatever...

Luke:  When you're in a band, people think you know stuff, that you've got some special insight into things, purely by virtue of being on a record or on-stage.  It's tempting to buy into it, but even if you don't, there's still pressure...real or present a certain way so you can maintain that facade of having it all together and having all the answers.  But really, we're all broken in some way or other.  And it's not even just band people.  Pastors, teachers, mentors, whatever...everyone has felt the need to put on a mask so they can hide their brokenness.

G2G:  Tell me about "Sideways".

Luke:  I started that song about eight years, or so, ago.  All of verse one is still the same.  I just made one tweak to a line in the bridge because it seemed to harsh to me, and verse two was written maybe two years ago.  I had a couple of friends whose marriages imploded around the same time, and that is the genesis of that song.

G2G:  I love the snarky attitude of "How To Die Broke And Alone..."

Luke:  That's another one that took awhile to finish.  Some people choose not to be good people.  They take their loved ones for granted, they mistreat and abuse people, and eventually they wind up bitter and lonely.  Usually with no grasp of why their choices did them in.

I'm happy with that one.  It has a "Dizzy Up The Girl"-era Goo Goo Dolls meets "Left Of Self-Centered"-era Butch Walker vibe, at least the way I hear it.  Kris was invaluable in giving that song its shape.  It was too long.  He hacked it down to size and really gave it shape.

G2G:  Tell me about "Sleep".  I love the arrangement and the strings on that one...

Luke:  That one and "Misspent" are the oldest songs on the record.  I wrote them and Kris and I did demos for them, and they sat for a long time.  The original demo for "Sleep" was way more uptempo and had drums, electric guitar...the whole deal.  When we decided to do it for The Pop Disaster, we were asking ourselves what we could possibly have been thinking when we originaly did it.  So we slowed it down, stripped it down, and lowered the key a bit.  The violin was Kris' idea.  We originally were going to have a bass line, but it wasn't working, so we decided to go the cello route.  That really made the song work.

Someone I'm really close wit was going through a really difficult time in their life.  When we'd talk, they'd tell me how stressed they were in their life and how they couldn't seem to sleep anymore because things were so bad.  "Sleep" came out of those conversations.  I think it works well as a bookend with "Life Goes On".  They're similar topically, but where "Life Goes On" is about not giving up, "Sleep" is about letting go and not getting dragged down.

G2G:  I have to know...where did the album title come from?

Luke:  A blend of insecurity and being aware of what I'm known for.  Obviously whatever name I've made for myself, whatever reputation I've had up until now, has been because I sang in a metal band.  This record is decided not metal, and I was concerned how it might be received.  So. I decided to give it a tongue-in-cheek title.  Thankfully, the respose has been very positive.

G2G:  Well, to me, it's anything but a disaster.  You pulled it off extremely well.

Luke:  Thanks.  I can't tell you how good it feels to hear that from people.  I like the record.  I'm proud of the work Kris and I did, and very pleased with everyone's contributions.  It would have really been a bummer if it had ended up being a literal "pop disaster".

G2G:  Alright...completely different tack.  Let's say I was to pull up at the Easter house on a typical day.  What is Luke probably doing?

Luke:  What time are we talking about?

G2G:  (Laughter)  Ummm...6:27 PM.

Luke:  Finishing dinner whilst watching something on Netflix, most likely.  How about you?  What's going on at Casa de Arttie at 6:27 on an average evening?

G2G:  Wow!  Gotta respect anyone who "whilsts" you!

Luke:  I like words.  Especially semi-anachronistic ones.

G2G:  (laughter) Who doesn't?!  I like pulling out atypical words in typical scenarios.  Anyway, let's see....6:27 PM at my house...I'm probably finishing up making supper, since my wife frequently works later than me.  Being a teacher, my day is usually done by 4 or 4:30, at least in the classroom.

Luke:  Cool.  How old are your kids?  Marie is your wife's name, right?  How long have you been married?

G2G:  Wait a minute!  Who's doing the interview here?!  (Laughter)  My oldest is 11, and my youngest is 6.  Marie and I have been together for 20 years, married for 13.

Luke:  Nice!

G2G:  And you?

Luke: No kids.  Met my wife when I was 20, and we've been married 21 years in September.

G2G:  Awesome!

Luke:  She is...

G2G:  Are you a sports guy?

Luke:  No, I don't get it.  I'm competitive, but not like that.  And I don't understand the attraction of  watching overpaid people playing games. I really, really don't understand folks using the word "we" when referring to the object of their fandom.  I'm a Megadeth fan, but I've never seen them play and then told people how awesome "we" were last night...

G2G:  (Laughter)  I hear that a lot.  I've always been a sports guy.  Played baseball, football, wrestled, ran track...even played basketball in junior high and as a freshman.  Competitive powerlifter, armwrestler, and bodybuilder for a time, also.  Now I just lift for me, and I coach baseball, soccer, and wrestling for my kids.

Luke:  That's awesome.  What do I know?  I geek out over Star Wars and Doctor Who and stuff like that.  I imagine there are people who don't uinderstand that at all.

G2G: Doctor Who?

Luke:  New Who or Classic Who?

G2G:  Classic.

Luke:  Classic...I'm not as well versed, but I like Pertwee a great deal, but Tom Baker was the first Doctor I was ever aware of, so I have a soft spot for him.

G2G:  Tom Baker, for sure!  Loved him!  See, I have what I like to call Life-ADHD.  I'm into too many things for my own good.  Sports, music, history, comics, wife needs to run into some kind of inheritance so I can retire and have more time!  I need like 35 hour days!

Luke:  I feel you!  I just know I was supposed to be independently wealthy by now...

G2G:  Well, I'm adopted, so I keep waiting for someone to show up and tell me I've inherited an island kingdom somewhere...

Luke:  (Laughs)  I survived by telling myself I was adopted, but I guess that's not the same thing...

G2G:  Has anyone ever told you how much you and Dan Chandler from Evans/Blue look alike?  I was trying to find some images for this interview and I was like, " that Luke or Dan?" (Laughter)

Luke Easter
Dan Chandler

Luke:  I don't even know who that is!  (Laughs)

G2G:  (sends Luke a picture of Dan...)  I interviewed Dan a few years ago...great dude...

Luke:  He does look like a younger me!
G2G:  Alright, Luke, I like to wrap up interviews with some sort of game, and you just happen to get to be the first to play a new one called "Take It Off and Turn Me On".  It's pretty simple, so are you ready?

Luke:  Okay...I think...

G2G:  (Laughter)  Okay, here we go.  Take a band off of my list of bands to see because they were just not that good...

Luke:  Third Eye Blind...Jenkin's version...BORING!

G2G:  Turn me on to a band I have to hear...

Luke:  Sons Of Apollo.  Their debut is the best record Dream Theater never made!  Why?  'Cause it's got Mike Portnoy and Dream Theater doesn't!

G2G:  Yep, I actually have that album.  Good stuff!  All right, Take It Off...a movie off my must-see list because it simply wasn't a must-see...

Luke:  Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  #rianjohnsonisamoron  (Laughter)

G2G:  Turn Me a book I need to read...

Luke:  A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles.  Best novel I've read in the past 10 years.

G2G:  Take It Off...a band from the 80s hair bands that simply needs to call it quits...

Luke:  Ratt.  Ratt without Blotz I can deal with, but Ratt without Warren?!  No...

G2G:  Turn Me a food I have to try...

Luke:  It's a toss-up between the chips and queso or the street corn at Torchy's in Austin, Texas! 
ROAD TRIP!  I miss Austin...

G2G:  Never been.  Been to Dallas/Ft. Worth, but never Austin.  Okay, Take It Off...a food that is simply terrible...

Luke:  Wow, lemme think...  Klondike Bars.  Seriously, Klondike Bars.

G2G:  What?!

Luke:  On paper, they seem awesome.  Ice cream?  Yes.  Chocolate shell?  Yes.  But in reality, they have a weird aftertaste, and the ice cream isn't that good.

G2G:  So I guess the answer to the jingle is there is NOTHING you would do for a Klondike

Luke:  Nope...

G2G:  Okay, Turn Me a television show I need to watch...

Luke:  If you've never seen Orphan Black, you need to remedy that, ASAP.  Ozark was great, too.

G2G:  Nope, never seen either...

Luke:  Orphan Black, then.  It's super cool, very interesting, and original.  And timely...

G2G:  Take It Off...a show that I have no need to see because it has just run its course...

Luke:  Is Modern Family still on?  I tried watching it once.  It wasn't funny.  That or the equally unfunny, Big Bang Theory...

G2G:  Really?  Hmmm.  I think they're both still on.  I don't have television, though.  Just Netflix.  Turn Me a place I need to go...other than Austin...

Luke:  San Francisco.

G2G:  JK Northrup keeps telling me that...probably to see the Giants play.  I've just never been drawn there...

Luke:  Dude, you're breaking my heart...

G2G:  Full disclosure, cities scare me.  I grew up 10 miles from the nearest town of 600 people.  My closest neighbor was almost a mile away.

Luke:  Ha!  I was born in The City (San Francisco) and was raised 20 minutes south in a little beach town.  I'd never want to live in a city proper, but I get really squirrelly if I'm too far from one.  I need culture and an airport nearby at all times.

G2G:  Well, I was 45 before I flew for the first time...

Luke:  I was like 9, or so.  Flew to DisneyLand...

G2G:  Turn Me the best band you've seen perform live...
Butch Walker

Luke:  Butch Walker.  Extreme is a close second.

G2G:  Oddly, Extreme is a band I've never seen, and I've seen most of the name 80s bands...  Okay, Take It Off...a song on the radio because you just can't stand hearing it again, for crying out loud!

Luke:  I don't listen to much on the radio...hmmm...Sports Talk!  Yes!  Axe the sports talk!

G2G:  Turn Me the best kept secret at DisneyWorld...

Luke:  I've never been to DisneyWorld, but I've been to DisneyLand a lot.  I'd have to say the best kept secret is this; if you go to town hall and tell them you're celebrating a special occasion, they give you a badge that has the same theme as what you're celebrating.  You know, like your first time there, your child's first time, a wedding anniversary, whatever.  It doesn't happen on every ride, but the cast members have the discretion to pull you our of line when they see the badge and whisk you to the front of the line.  It makes the Magic Kingdom a wee bit more magical.

G2G:  Alright, last one...Take It Off...which social media app should come off your phone?

Luke:  Snapchat.

G2G:  I've never used it...

Luke:  Snap's interface is ridiculous.  I don't get it.  I'm Facebook primarily, but I use Twitter and Instagram a bit.  Most of the Snapchat stuff has been ported over to Facebook now, anyway, so Snap's a bit superfluous at this point, in my opinion.

G2G:  So now that the new record is out there, what's next?  Are you going to try to play out a bit, or maybe do a video or something?

Luke:  I'd love to do shows.  I'm trying to figure that out.  I'd like to do a couple of lyric videos, also.

G2G:  How can people get their hands on The Pop Disaster, because, honestly, they need to hear it...

Luke:  iTunes, Amazon, all the various and sundry streaming services, or at my site, 

G2G:  Is there some Luke Easter merch out there yet?

Luke:  Not yet, its in the works.  Lame answer, I know, but I was focused on the record and didn't make sure my merch game was good to go.  It will be remedied soon!

G2G:  So, there's a possibility of more Luke Solo stuff in the future?  Odd Star Wars pun intended...

Luke:  (Laughs)  Yes, definitely.  I do not plan on this being a one-off thing.  I already have ideas for the next one.

G2G:  Well, I'll be in line for it, because I honestly really like The Pop Disaster.  I have no doubts it will show up a time or two on our year-end best-of lists.  It is truly an excellent effort and I hope that people go in with an open mind and enjoy it for what it is.

Luke:  Wow!  Thanks!  That's awesome!

G2G:  How can people best stay in touch with Luke Easter?

Luke:  The website.  It's a landing place for the release at the moment, but the full site will be up very soon.  Also on Facebook and Twitter, obviously.

G2G:  Luke, this has been awesome!  We've "known" each other for some time through the internet world, but never really had the chance to chat like this.  I hope you had some fun, as well...

Luke:  This has been great!  Thanks for all the kind words, and thanks for making time for me!  I appreciate it more than I can say.

G2G:  Best of luck with The Pop Disaster, and be sure to stay in touch!  We'll do this again!

Luke:  Definitely!  Thank you.


So there you have it.  Great guy to talk to, and if you still haven't snagged The Pop Disaster, I can not overstate the importance of grabbing it.  We'll have the review up soon, but go get it and hear it for yourself.  It's not metal, but it is a great melodic rock record that most of you will likely find yourself falling in love with.