NATURAL BORN KILLER: Juliette Lewis channels Iggy Pop on stage at the 2004 Warped Tour
By Metal Dave (The following originally published in the San Antonio Express-News, 6-26-2004)
Juliette Lewis is on the phone sounding every bit like one of her flirty, fun and yet scary Hollywood movie characters.
The topic is not acting or past films with Robert DeNiro (“Cape Fear”), Brad Pitt (“Kalifornia”), Woody Harrelson (“Natural Born Killers”) or Johnny Depp (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”). The business at hand is punk rock, the Vans Warped Tour and Lewis’ debut in both as the vampish lead singer of her impressive new band, Juliette and the Licks.
The tour stops Sunday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Gates open at 11 a.m.; music begins at noon. Tickets cost $27 at Ticketmaster outlets.
“What’s so great is I’ve always had the odds against me, even in my (acting) profession,” she says. “I’ve never been the popular girl. I’m really used to proving myself. I like naysayers. I like people to doubt me. I’m cocky as hell, but in the right way (laughs)!”
Juliette and the Licks are supporting their debut album, “Like a Bolt of Lightning.” The punchy eight-song album (“It’s not an EP, dammit, it’s a short album,” Lewis said, laughing) is spiced with the sounds of the Stooges, Dead Boys, David Bowie and the Clash.
“It was really important on this first album that it be un-produced-sounding,” Lewis says. “I was inspired by Iggy and the Stooges and the Dead Boys and those bands that work within their limitations. We just had a week to record. I got a mix I was happy with and it got kind of a live vibe.”
LICK IT UP: Lewis’ debut album was inspired by vintage 1970s punk rock.
Juliette and the Licks features H20 guitarist Todd Morse, former Hole drummer Patty Schemel, bassist Paul III and Austin-based guitarist Kimball, formerly of the Rise. The 30-year-old actor, who name-checks Blondie, the Pretenders and Prince as additional influences and speaks favorably of newer acts such as the Darkness and Velvet Revolver, has been fronting Juliette and the Licks for about a year and a half, but has yet to perform in front of Warped-sized crowds.
“I’ve never worked in an outdoor venue in 100-degree heat, so I’m hoping to do a good job,” she says.
Lewis says putting the band together was pleasantly devoid of the usual actor-starts-a-band doubt and stigma.
“I can talk a good game and I’m completely, crazily passionate about (the music),” she says. “The kind of actor or actress I’ve been has always been pretty raw and unpolished, so that kind of lends itself to rock ‘n’ roll.”
Can she continue to avoid the rolling eyes that greet most actors-turned-rockers? Judging by her respect for her influences, her real-deal attitude and the rowdy rhythmic romps on “Like a Bolt of Lightning,” Lewis stands to break the mold.
“I know for me I like to lose myself,” she says. “Even in acting, it’s such a challenge to not be so self-conscious and just lose yourself and not be vain. This is a generalization, but I think sometimes actors suffer from vanity and that is really going to be exposed when you get up there on stage and you’re trying to do music.”
If you wore a Sepultura patch in San Antonio during the early 1990s, you and your leather high-tops surely got bruised slamming to Alienation, Judge Mental and Scythe.
As the go-to local opening acts for Anthrax, Deicide, Overkill and Suicidal Tendencies, the Alamo City’s Big Three were a whiplash squad of mortar-blast drums, blinding guitar solos and kill-or-be-killed vocals. There was also enough hair to choke a goat.
Awakened from various years of hibernation, five members of the once-reigning storm bringers — Judge Mental guitarist-turned-vocalist Eric Inman; Alienation guitar tandem Robin Lewis/Jason Schwab; and Scythe bassist Al Kelly and drummer Rich Gomez — recently turned their excuse to drink beer into some increasingly serious jam sessions. The result? A new band called Under No One and a six-song debut EP titled “Bullhorns & Politics.”
More dynamic and modern sounding than its collective pedigree, Under No One covers the groove-riff bases from Pantera (“Undone”) to Slipknot (“Gutterball”) and then adds the jagged, grandiose quirkiness of Faith No More and Tool (“Rope”). Nu-metal nuances turn the finished attack into a jarring blend of primal-scream, aggro-stomp that still harnesses the bounce of, say, Prong and “Meantime”-era Helmet.
Vocally, UNO is a wild ride of sharply contrasting styles that confidently works to fantastic effect. While Inman rages (often through a bullhorn) like a shouting match between Max Cavalera and Sergeant Hulka, the backup vocals swell into angelic, crack-the-sky harmonies that could make a church choir slump in defeat (“Zero Sum Game,” “Override”).
It’s heavy. It’s metal. But it’s not simply heavy metal. Far from singular, UNO will appeal to fans of Deftones, Machine Head, Mr. Bungle, Lamb of God and every other band that ever worked the second stage at Ozzfest.
* Overall Grade: A * Favorite Tracks: “Gutterball,” “Zero Sum Game” * Secret Weapon: Floating backup vocals that sound like a chorus of angels singing their way out of hell * For Fans of: Groove metal, headphones, cheap beer.
With due respect to Hanoi Rocks, Michael Monroe’s best run is now. Fightin’ words, perhaps, but the truth is worth the risk.
On a raucous roll since 2011’s “Sensory Overdrive” and its 2013 follow-up, “Horns and Halos,” the iconic glam-punk singer is back with “Blackout States,” the third in a near-flawless trifecta of madly infectious, lose-your-mind rock-n-roll.
A potent mix of shimmer and snarl, “Blackout States” finds Monroe stretching his vocal delivery on the title track while adding swoon and polish to the age-be-damned “Permanent Youth” and the ’80s-flavored pop ballad “Keep Your Eye on You” (is that a Psychedelic Furs bass line?).
The sway-along choruses howl like barroom chants on “Dead Hearts on Denmark Street,” “Walk Away” and “Goin’ Down With the Ship.” The latter, quite honestly, should be an inescapable, feel-good smash. A more perfect piece of raise-a-pint cheer candy simply does not exist.
Warm nods (pun intended) to Sid Vicious (“Old King’s Road”), Johnny Thunders (“Six Feet in the Ground”) and Dee Dee Ramone (the Dee Dee-penned “Northern Lights”) keep their doomed punk spirits alive while the feral stomp of “The Bastard’s Bash” adds Monroe menace via the Stooges.
As always, there’s a fair share of looking back, kissing off and breaking shit on “Good Old Bad Days,” “This Ain’t No Love Song” and the furious “RLF” (are your ears burning, Mario Escovedo?).
“Blackout States” also continues the against-all-odds trilogy of incoming/outgoing guitarists who happen to be formidable songwriters. This time, Rich Jones (ex-Black Halos, Amen) replaces “Horns and Halos” guitarist Dregen (Backyard Babies) who replaced “Sensory Overdrive” guitarist Ginger Wildheart (The Wildhearts, Hey! Hello!). Got that? Trust me, it’s impressive.
While such turnover might derail a lesser crew, Monroe’s band of gypsies — longtime partner-in-crime Sami Yaffa (truly one of rock’s most underrated bassists), guitarist Steve Conte and drummer Karl Rockfist – remain knock-’em-dead reliable and wholly unaffected. Amazing.
Like its recent predecessors, “Blackout States” offers rock-n-roll chemistry that’s nothing less than explosive. Glammed-up, punked-out and swaggering with style and soul, this is how rock-n-roll gets done. And nobody’s doing it better.
* Overall Grade: A+ * Favorite Tracks: “Goin’ Down With the Ship,” “Good Old Bad Days,” “Dead Hearts on Denmark Street” * Secret Weapons: Monroe’s supercharged sax and Yaffa’s agile punch * For Fans of: The Black Halos, Diamond Dogs, Polka-Dot Scarves and Glitter-flecked Nail Polish
HEAVY DIRTY: Broken Teeth’s ‘Bulldozer’ EP drops Oct. 23-24 at release parties at The Sidewinder (the former Red-Eyed Fly) and Austin Speed Shop. The disc will be available via TMU/Killingbird Records as a CD or limited-edition, blue or swamp-green colored vinyl. Also on iTunes.
Broken Teeth arrived in 1999 as the best AC/DC sound-alike since “Powerage” and “Let There Be Rock.” Over multiple albums and various lineup changes (not the least of which was necessitated by the untimely passing of bassist Travis Weiss), the Austin, TX band has since spiked its bad-boy boogie with the speedier, face-kicking heaviness of Motorhead and Judas Priest.
With the “Bulldozer” EP due Oct. 23, Broken Teeth throws a bone to fans who have been hungry for a new release since the 2013 hits collection, “Devil on the Road,” and the 2009 full-length, “Viva La Rock Fantastico!”
Propelled as always by Jason McMaster’s sand-blasted vocals, “Bulldozer” opens with “Raining Fire” — a jolt of ZZ Nugent hyper-boogie that crushes with thud-heavy chord changes. “Red River Rising” pays tribute to Austin’s bygone dive district where front-row headbangers fell under the spell at the edge of Broken Teeth’s stage. The third and final brand-new track, “The Rough and the Tumble,” sounds like Rose Tattoo over echoes of Saxon (“Power & the Glory”) and Dio (“I Speed at Night”). The common denominator among the three? Instant Teeth classics, one and all (and 100-proof positive there’s still plenty of fuel in the tank).
As for the rest, the previously released “Flamethrower” spins a Riot-style guitar hook into chugging, white-knuckled speed-metal as McMaster’s rapid-fire, Halford-esque delivery races toward the checkered flag. Another re-released track — “Devil on the Road” — tells the stomping tale of a “big, bad wolf” pushing his wares on the weak.
Rounded out by two perfectly-suited cover tunes — Aerosmith’s street-fighting “Lightning Strikes” and Motorhead’s “The Hammer” — “Bulldozer” slams to a breathless close before you know what hit you.
In all honesty, a seven-song EP containing two previously released (albeit relatively new) singles and a pair of cover tunes shouldn’t feel so fully satisfying, but Broken Teeth’s fist-cracking knack for bruising urgency never leaves time for boredom. It’s a “Bulldozer,” baby, and it’s gonna run ya right over! Count it among Broken Teeth’s best.
* Overall Grade: A (an all-new, full-length would’ve been a plus, but “Bulldozer” is too good to nitpick) * Favorite Tracks: “Raining Fire,” “Flamethrower,” “Lightning Strikes” (subject to change by the minute) * For Fans of: “Swords and Tequila,” New Wave of British Heavy Metal, gonzo biker rock * PS: Yes, the band knows the difference between a bulldozer and front-end loader, but the former makes a more rock-n-roll title and the latter makes a more menacing image. So there.
Broken Teeth 2015 is singer Jason McMaster, guitarists Jared Tuten and David Beeson, drummer Bruce Rivers and bassist Robb Lampman. For more Broken Teeth info including “Bulldozer” audio tracks, go here.
WRATHCHILD: Paul Di’Anno and bassist Steve Harris performing live circa 1981. Following Di’Anno’s departure less than a year later, Iron Maiden would soon climb to international superstardom and their rightful status as one of the most successful and influential heavy metal bands of all time.
MAIDEN VOYAGE: The debut album that would help redefine heavy metal was released in 1980 and featured Maiden’s longstanding mascot, “Eddie,” on the cover. Artwork by Derek Riggs.
By Metal Dave (originally published circa 2001 on KNAC.com with 2015 apologies for the painfully long intro!)
Iron Maiden soared to astronomical worldwide acclaim with vocalist Bruce Dickinson at the helm, but ask the members of Anthrax, Pantera or any of the corpse-grinding death metal merchants to name a favorite Maiden platter and the scales will likely tip in favor of original vocalist, Paul Di’Anno. It’s a tough call and one that’s not worth arguing since both singers are rightfully praised for their contributions to the metal genre.
Dickinson’s 1982 Maiden debut, “The Number of the Beast” is easily one of the top five best metal albums EVER. Then again, it was Di’Anno’s “Iron Maiden” and “Killers” that laid the groundwork for the articulate, galloping tales of murder and mayhem that would become Maiden’s legacy.
A legacy was a long shot when Di’Anno and his Maiden mates issued “Iron Maiden.” In 1980, when synthesizers and skinny neck ties were the good-timing, artificial flavor of the times, Maiden was the downpour of lickety-split guitar solos, foreboding lyrics and bullet belts that cast a black cloud over the new wave parade. If the screaming corpse on the album cover didn’t have the androgynous disco ducks running for cover, songs like “Prowler,” “Transylvania,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Iron Maiden” came down like ominous orders from Black Sabbath to bring back the head of Adam Ant.
THE MARK OF A KILLER: ‘To Dave, Cheers – Paul Dianno’
By the time Maiden released its second album, “Killers,” in 1981, Di’Anno was making a name for himself as a heavy metal hellion with a punk-rock pedigree. He could drink you under the table, his hair was terminally disheveled, he was tattooed and decked in studs, and his gruff-and-tumble vocals earned him the distinction as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal’s leather-clad doomsayer.
The band’s growing success came with a price, however, and Di’Anno soon bowed out to save himself from the rigors of the road and a growing dissatisfaction with Maiden’s musical direction.
With the excellent live EP, “Maiden Japan,” serving as his swan song, Di’Anno hung up his leather jacket and briefly disappeared from the spotlight. Replaced by former Samson screamer Dickinson, Maiden released a steady stream of definitive metal albums and went on to establish itself as one of the most influential and superior metal bands of all time.
HAIR METAL: Di’Anno fronting his post-Maiden band, Battlezone.
Bruised, but not broken, Di’Anno resurfaced with varying degrees of success as front man for the bands Battlezone, Killers and Di’Anno. A bona fide metal icon in Europe and other overseas locales, Di’Anno always commanded respect whenever and wherever he took the stage. America wasn’t as receptive, however, and Di’Anno was relegated to cult-hero status, but a hero nonetheless.
With the recent release of “Paul Di’Anno – The Beast Live,” the singer re-introduces himself as one of heavy metal’s most importantmouthpieces. The album is a collection of essential Di’Anno material recorded live over the past decade and beyond with various lineups as backing bands. Even if you own all of Di’Anno’s Maiden material, this 10-track live album is a worthy addition to your collection.
EXHUMED: Di’Anno’s ‘The Beast Live’ digs up early Maiden classics.
With Di’Anno back and running free, publicist Carol Kaye graciously went above and beyond the call of duty to coordinate the following interview from the UK to Austin, Texas.
KNAC.COM: Is the new live album a reaction to fan demand or is it more of a personal closure to the final chapter in your legacy with Maiden?
PAUL: It’s a bit of both, really. Over the years, we’d record the shows most night and we’d be doing different Maiden songs in the set. I did it because I enjoyed playing those songs and because the fans would probably be fed up with me if I didn’t (laughs). Everywhere in the world, I would see these bootlegs, so (producer) Lea (Hart) said let’s put together the live stuff. What we’ve agreed to do with Killers is promote this album for a year on tour. I know a lot of people are going to say, “Ah – cash in!” but that’s not it at all. I sold my material back to Maiden, because I didn’t see the point in keeping it to be honest. Hopefully, I’ll make (Maiden founder/bassist) Steve (Harris) even richer (laughs).
GIMME SANCTUARY: By his own admission, Di’Anno’s career has no doubt been hindered by run-ins with the law.
You’ve had trouble getting to America in recent years to tour. Are those problems resolved? Can we expect to see you touring America in support of “The Beast Live”? Yeah, I had problems last year with my solo stuff. My work permit was not in order. I was really stupid about six years ago (in an episode) with my ex-wife when I was living in L.A. I went to jail and so when it came time to tour, the American embassy in England came back and said, “Think again!” I had to cancel the whole tour. This time, we’re going to do it properly and legally. I’m going to see a lawyer. It’ll probably be next year or early spring (before the tour lands in America), because we’ve got a lot of festivals in Europe. Plus, I’m writing a new Killers album right now, which is the first one in six years.
BUILDING THE BEAST: Maiden’s debut-album lineup featuring Clive Burr, Steve Harris, Dennis Stratton, Di’Anno and Dave Murray.
How has your post-Maiden success overseas compared to that in America? When the first Killers album came out, we did very well. The second album wasn’t as well received in Europe. I think it was a little too heavy for them, bless their hearts. At the end of the day, you write what you write. If you change it for others, you’re going to be unhappy. Plus, I’ve had some bad record labels and bad management. I still don’t think I’m getting half the royalties I should be getting.
In a recent interview with Saxon singer Biff Byford, I asked him if the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement had the unity the label might imply or if it was actually much more competitive. He said it was a little of both. What’s your take on the NWOBHM? I’d have to agree with that, really. We stopped at a lot of motorway cafes with Saxon and Motorhead over the years. With bands like Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead and Def Leppard, it was more of a friendly thing. With some other bands, it was all sour grapes. They’d say, “Oh, we can do better than that” and we’d say, “Alright then, do it!”
GOGMA WHO?: The supergroup that never took off.
What’s the story about your involvement in the NWOBHM supergroup, Gogmagog? Oh, it was sick, really! This guy came up with the idea of David Coverdale, John Entwistle, Cozy Powell and … I can’t remember the guitarists. He wanted to put together this supergroup. Then I took Coverdale’s place and Clive Burr took Cozy’s place, and we had Janick Gers in there with Pete Willis from Def Leppard and Neil Murray on bass in the end. It sounded good on paper. It could have been fantastic, but the guy wouldn’t let us write our own songs. The songs (the previous lineup) came up with were godawful. I wrote better songs when I was 11 years old. In the end, we just let it go. I don’t ever want to do anything like that again. The guy was an entrepreneur named Jonathan King who was also a pop star in the ‘60s. He wrote that godawful song “Una Paloma Blanca.” The record companies started paying him millions of dollars just to go away. Now he’s up on sex charges here in England for messing around with little boys. I’m glad nothing ever came of that and if I see him, I’ll kill him.
Why did you leave Iron Maiden in the first place? It’s a two-way thing, really. The first Maiden album, I absolutely loved. The second one, I was a bit unhappy with. It didn’t have the same energy and the songs were getting a bit longer. I couldn’t give 1,000 percent. Instead of letting myself and the fans down, I decided to walk away.
METALLIC PUNK: Di’Anno’s rowdy fury wasn’t always left on the stage.
There had to be some regrets once you saw Maiden achieve massive success right after your departure. Not really. We (sold) 18 million records when I was with the band. Can you put a price on happiness and peace of mind? You can’t. Driving yourself crazy for a few extra dollars in the bank account just isn’t worth it.
Has Maiden tarnished its legacy with the coming and going of singers, adding a third guitarist and altering the sound of the music? Should they have hung it up years ago or do you still feel they are a viable band? With Bruce back in, I think they’re viable again. No disrespect to Blaze (Bayley), but I don’t think he was right for Maiden. I think if he’s honest, he’d say the same thing. Some of the albums started to sound the same. I don’t think Maiden’s written a great album in years. I think the first three – two with me and one with Bruce – are the definitive Maiden albums … and “Stranger in a Strange Land” (sic “Somewhere in Time”) was great. They’re coming back, though.
Were you ever asked to rejoin Maiden when the band was in need of a singer? No. There were massive rumors going around. At the time I was still living in L.A. and had fired my manager so I wasn’t aware of (the opening for a vocalist). I’m walking around L.A. and people are coming up to me going, “Congratulations, I hear you’re back in Maiden.” I was, like, “Huh?” If I was asked, I would probably still say no, because I don’t think anything’s changed.
THE YOUNG ONES: An early lineup of Maiden featuring Dave Murray, Di’Anno, Steve Harris and then-drummer Doug Sampson.
Meaning what? Did you not get along with some of the band members? No, no. Nothing like that. It’s just that they haven’t written anything I want to sing and vice-versa. I came from a punk, hardcore background before Maiden and I still tend to dabble in that and be as heavy as possible. They’re still into that mid-tempo, galloping sort of thing.
As a legend in traditional metal circles, what do you think of what’s being called heavy metal today? What IS heavy metal today? To me, the last great heavy metal bands were Metallica, Sepultura and Pantera. I haven’t seen much since then. Limp Bizkit? I like their stuff, but it’s not really metal, is it? It’s more hip-hop, I think.
How do you feel about the whole death metal scene that is obviously very influenced by early Maiden? That’s an interesting one, because I don’t really listen to a lot of that stuff. I think the band Cradle of Filth is fantastic. We played with them at a festival a few years ago and they were right down in front headbanging. An old friend of mine, King Diamond, is still out there, but I really don’t keep up with all that.
BEFORE THE STORM: The calmer side of Paul Di’Anno (or is he sizing you up for a fight?)
What period of your career are you most proud of? Well, obviously, Maiden, you know? I was 16-years-old and it was, like, “Wow! This is unbelievable!” But this period in my life right now is absolutely brilliant. I know how to handle things better. With Maiden, I had too much too soon. It doesn’t get much better than this. Now, I’m working all the time. And if I’m not, I’ve got this little punk band I play in for charity.
Tell me about the punk band. Oh, it’s sick (laughs)! It’s called the Almighty Inbreds and we try to be as offensive as possible. We do some covers by the Ramones, the Pistols, the Damned. We just do it to make money for Bosnia and children in need. We’ve got a record that’s going to be released in a couple months on a punk label out of Toronto called Muck Records. All the proceeds are going to charity.
Is it a bittersweet accolade to be remembered as the sentimental and influential fan favorite at the expense of the commercial glory bestowed upon Bruce and the post-Di’Anno versions of Maiden? It’s really nice when your peers like Metallica and Pantera go, “Yeah, I grew up on that stuff.” Financially, I’ve got enough money. If I had any more, I’d go back to the drugs and alcohol, which is something I’ve stayed away from for years. As long as my kids are eating and there’s a roof over our heads, I’m fine. I’d rather be remembered as an influence. I ain’t complaining.
BELOW: Di’Anno fronting Iron Maiden in 1981. Metal rarely gets better than this.
My fondest memory of Steve Rodriguez is watching him step out of a van in the parking lot of Curra’s Grill in Austin, Texas. I was there to interview his band The Dragons for Metal Edge magazine (an odd fit, but I pushed hard). With his hoop earrings, sunglasses, dagger-shaped sideburns and skin-tight jeans, Steve was a string-bean version of Johnny Thunders-meets-Joan Jett with a mullet that rivaled both. Dude had style to spare!
Based out of San Diego, The Dragons were regulars in Austin thanks to their religious SXSW appearances. Lead singer Mario Escovedo was also well-connected in Austin due to his brother Alejandro being a local music legend. I was already a fan of The Dragons, but soon found myself becoming fast friends with Steve, Mario, drummer Jarrod Lucas and guitarist Kenny Mochikoshi-Horne. I never missed them when they arrived, their broken-down van be damned.
R.L.F.: A photo I shot of Steve closing out SXSW with The Dragons at the Continental Club in Austin.
The music, of course, was my first attraction. When it comes to barroom, sing-along, whoa-yeah, rock-n-roll, few bands have done it better than The Dragons. Their sound was a contagious cocktail of the New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, the Rolling Stones and Jack-and-Cokes (the band’s preferred breakfast, lunch and dinner). They were loved in a gritty circle of underdog rock bands that included the Wildhearts, the Hellacopters, the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs and the Riverboat Gamblers. The Dragons were energetic, they were fun, they had smiles for miles and, to paraphrase the title of their 1999 album, they simply rocked like fuck!
As I interviewed the band over a meal of Mexican food, Steve told me his day job was at TUK Shoes, a business that specialized in creepers and Vans-like footwear. When he asked me for my shoe size, I dismissed it as a casual inquiry since we were on the subject of sneakers and other such stuff. Two weeks later, two boxes of brand-new shoes arrived on my doorstep courtesy of Steve and TUK Shoes. When I wrote to tell him one pair didn’t fit (I wanted to return it so TUK didn’t lose a potential sale), he told me how to go about returning it and sent another pairas a replacement. All this without me ever asking for a thing. Steve just did it! That’s how cool he was.
SPECIAL THANKS: The pleasure was mine, Steve.
The Dragons called it quits in 2005 after a 13-year run that produced such masterful garage-rock albums as “Pain Killer,” “R.L.F.,” “Rock-n-Roll Kamikaze” (the gem of the bunch in my opinion), “Sin Salvation” and “Live at the Casbah” (the Dragons’ beloved hometown dive bar). Trust me, you owe it to yourself to own at least one.
At this writing, I’m still not sure what happened to Steve. Reports indicate he suddenly became ill last weekend and passed at age 48 on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. He was 13 days younger than me.
Steve is survived by his wife Jamie and 15-year-old son Jesse. Details for Jesse’s fundraiser are here if you’d like to help.
I’ll miss you, Steve. I haven’t seen you in a while, but your smile and warmth will always be with me. You were one stylish cat and the sweetest of souls. Thanks for lighting up my life with your music and friendship. You truly were special, mi amigo!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The clip below cuts off at 1:45, but gives you a perfect taste of The Dragons’ sound and vibe. Below that is a moving tribute, courtesy of Mario Escovedo. We all share in your loss, Mario. Peace, my friend.
Before the budget started wheezing like Keith Richards, I was making good money as a regular contributor to online hard rock/heavy metal website KNAC.com. The year was 2000-2001 and under the free reign of Managing Editor Frank Meyer (Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs), I interviewed a lot of my favorite rockers and spent untold hours transcribing cassette tapes. I also — for better or worse — reported the WHOLE conversation with my subjects with little-to-no regard for editing and economy. In the interest of preserving the original articles, I suffer some cringing and refrain from editing … and don’t blame you, dear reader, for jumping ahead as you see fit.
By David Glessner KNAC.com – July 28, 2000
S.O.D.’s Danny Lilker: The Brutal Truth About This Stormtrooper for Life
Much like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Danny Lilker had to sink or swim when his original band mates tossed him overboard just before their ship came in. While Mustaine watched his former Metallica mates emerge as millionaire successors to the heavy metal crown, Lilker watched his estranged Anthrax buddies become formidable challengers to Metallica’s reign. As Metallica and Anthrax redefined the sound of heavy metal, both bands earned the fame and fortune that came with such a conquest. While Metallica and Anthrax basked in the heavy metal hall of fame spotlight, Mustaine and Lilker quietly went to work in the darkest corners of the underground.
But enough about Mustaine. With due respect, this is Lilker’s story and it’s one worth telling since the man’s unwavering perseverance has kept him firmly planted behind his bass guitar instead of a deep fryer. Resurfacing as the driving force behind Nuclear Assault, Lilker and his new mates toured the world gaining fans in their own right. When Nuclear Assault imploded, Lilker unleashed Brutal Truth and picked up where he left off, playing uncompromising metal with f**k-all regard for mainstream success. Now leading Hemlock, Lilker continues to follow his black-metal heart, record sales be damned.
FUTURE ‘BIG 4’: The debut album, ‘Fistful of Metal,’ was released in 1984.
He may have missed the Anthrax rocket ride, but not before he left the Lilker stamp on the band’s debut album. Perhaps more importantly, though, Lilker had the last laugh when Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante invited their banished brother to play on the landmark Stormtroopers of Death album, “Speak English or Die” some 15 years ago. Further proof that Lilker wasn’t the problem in Anthrax is that the ongoing friendship with Ian and Benante produced last year’s S.O.D. follow-up, “Bigger Than the Devil.” A much–anticipated tour ensued and the mighty S.O.D. went stomping across the globe kicking ass and taking names.
Recently, Lilker was kind enough to let us pester him for an interview and follow-up questions.
KNAC.COM: How have you been spending your time since coming off the S.O.D. tour?
LILKER: Jamming with my other band, Hemlock, messing with Photoshop, going out drinking, etc …
‘UNHOLY’: At the very least, Hemlock gets props for a killer album title.
KNAC.COM: Tell us about Hemlock. Who’s in the band? Describe the sound and tell us when we might see and album and tour.
LILKER: In Hemlock, we play good ol’ “unholy black metal” in the spirit of bands like Hellhammer and Bathory. We do not use keyboards, we don’t wear leather pants and corpse paint, it’s all about the essence of black metal, not the trappings. That’s not to say that I’m putting down other modern black metal bands that look or sound a certain way, but this is the path we have chosen. Regarding who’s in the band, we use pseudonyms, again in the spirit of the older bands, but most metalheads would probably only know me. The other guys haven’t been in lots of “popular” metal bands. The sound is extremely raw and basic. It’s hard to find our old stuff (look on black metal distribution lists like Necropolis’s) but now we’re on Full Moon Productions and the new one, “Lust for Fire,” will be out this month. By the way, no, I’m not a Satanist, just an extremely contemptuous atheist, OK?
KNAC.COM: After 15 years of inactivity, re-grouping S.O.D. and going on tour must have been like summer camp for you guys. Any insane shows or memories onstage or off?
LILKER: Well, let’s see, there’s (vocalist) Billy smashing my bass on stage at the end of the ’99 U.S. tour, there’s the Dynamo Festival, our first Japanese tour, our killer show in San Francisco on the U.S. tour … way too much for me to think about at 3 a.m. stoned on G-13.
KNAC.COM: I know you played some large-scale metal festivals with zillions of bands on the bill. Did you “discover” anyone that you bonded with or gained respect for?
LILKER: Being me, I just partied with my friends in black metal bands like Immortal and Marduk. The beer was flowing!
SPEAK UP!: An underground classic, this album merged thrash metal, hardcore and liberal doses of political incorrectness. A game changer!
KNAC.COM: “Speak English or Die” was a milestone album in that it successfully melded hardcore and metal. Add the politically incorrect lyrics and it was a pretty daring album for its time. Did it ever cross your mind during its recording that you were crossing into unchartered territory and possibly creating a landmark, genre-blending album or was it simply a goof-off release to satisfy your collective sense of humor?
LILKER: I think that when the mixing began we realized we had something pretty special on our hands. The tracks were recorded in three days, so we didn’t have time to sit around and analyze it or anything, so when the mixes were coming together, we were like, “Holy sh*t, this stuff’s pretty intense!”
KNAC.COM: Your bio says “Speak English or Die” was recently released with four new studio tracks. Where did they come from? New or from the vaults?
LILKER: Actually it’s just two new tracks, “Identity” and “Go,” but there’s also “Seasoning the Obese” and “Raise Your Sword,” which are our “tributes” to Slayer and Manowar, respectively. These last two were written at the same time as the other new ones, but came out on 7”s and CD singles. All that stuff was written last August, hot off the presses …
MAIDEN NEW YORK: Released in 1999, S.O.D.’s second album featured artwork inspired by a famous friend.
KNAC.COM: The artwork for “Bigger than the Devil” is hilarious. I laughed my ass off and showed it to everyone. Whose idea was it to spoof Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast?” Did you catch any grief from Maiden?
LILKER: It was actually Twiggy (Ramirez) from Marilyn Manson who came up with that. He’s friends with Scott and Charlie, and came to rehearsal back in ’98 when we were tossing around ideas. He threw that at us. We thought it was killer. When we spoof Maiden, it’s just out of respect. We all love their old stuff. Their manager was pissed, but apparently you can’t copyright a pose!
KNAC.COM: Besides a bigger budget, updated technology and fewer time constraints, what was different in the approach to recording “Bigger” vs. “Speak” after 15 years?
LILKER: I’d say the main difference was the fact that we were obviously a lot more known when we did the second one, so there was a certain air of expectancy. Naturally, there’s an unspoken pressure to write sh*t that was as good or better than “Speak” … but at the end of the day, we just got together, wrote what came naturally and produced it good with no further ado. Just like the first one. The other difference was that we made a conscious decision to put some “blast beats” on the record so we didn’t sound like dinosaurs, keeping in mind that we were always looked upon as being somewhat extreme.
STORMTROOPERS: S.O.D. circa 1992 with my future pal and fellow South Austinite Billy Milano front and center.
KNAC.COM: Is it safe to assume that, to some small degree, the time was right for regrouping S.O.D. because Anthrax wasn’t getting a big enough push for “Vol. 8” and John Bush was doing the Armored Saint reunion, so this was a way for Scott and Benante to change gears and have some fun rather than diving right into another under-promoted Anthrax album?
LILKER: The time was right for various reasons. Brutal Truth had just broken up, freeing up my schedule. There had been plans for an S.O.D. tribute record, which didn’t pan out, but that also sparked interest in doing another one. It’s not for me to comment on Scott and Charlie’s feelings about how much support Anthrax get from their label or whatever.
KNAC.COM: What was it about Nuclear Blast that made you guys sign with them over other labels in the bidding war?
CHAOS MONGER: Lilker sporting a vintage Voivod shirt.
LILKER: I, for one, had been familiar with N.B. pretty much since they came out in ’88 or whenever. They showed a lot of enthusiasm, they had obviously been fans since day one and we felt they were the right label to bring us back to the “limelight.”
KNAC.COM: What inspires the band’s humor and how in the world do you keep a straight face when you bring a song like “Celtic Frosted Flakes” to the table? How much beer drinking and arm twisting goes on before an insane/hilarious idea like that ultimately lands on the album?
LILKER: Insane or hilarious as stuff like that might sound, you just have to realize that everyone in the band has an extremely off-the-wall sense of humor, so that kind of wackiness is just typical. No arm twisting necessary.
KNAC.COM: What is your opinion of the whole Metallica vs. Napster lawsuit?
LILKER: I don’t see what those guys are so worried about. If anything, these services help promote bands. Guess those guys figure they don’t need any more promotion.
BALLISTIC: My 1989 Nuclear Assault ticket stub. Opening acts were Mordred and dead horse. Lilker’s signature is upside-down at top.
KNAC.COM: As a purveyor of what I consider “real” metal, how do you feel about what’s being labeled “metal” in 1999-2000?
LILKER: If you’re referring to Korn, etc. I gotta say I think I’m over it. Just don’t care anymore. If people wanna say that’s metal, let ’em. There are those of us that know different.
KNAC.COM: You’re obviously a metal head, but surely there are other types of music that move you. What would we be surprised to find in Danny Lilker’s record collection?
LILKER: Oh, lots of classical music (the metal of the Middle Ages!), really melodic, ambient stuff like Dead Can Dance and Love is Colder Than Death, industrial stuff like Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept., oddball indie stuff like Radiohead, some extreme Jap noise…
ALMOST FAMOUS: Anthrax circa 1982. From left, Scott Ian, Neil Turbin, Lilker, Greg D’Angelo (who went on to drum for White Lion) and Greg Wells.
KNAC.COM: You’ve seen all three incarnations of Anthrax firsthand and from the sidelines. What is your opinion of each Anthrax singer?
LILKER: Um, er, Neil Turbin had a good metal voice, but he was a prick. Joey technically has a great voice, but perhaps a little clean for my personal taste. Great guy, though. Bush has a really good voice as well, and is quite fun to have a few with. Hope that’s cool.
KNAC.COM: Describe the events leading up to your departure from Anthrax.
LILKER: Ha! Well, the aforementioned Neil Turbin forced me out. He didn’t like me for whatever reasons – well, one was he was super high-strung and couldn’t take a joke, so he was fun to bust on! He told the other guys, “It’s him or me,” and they kept him, thinking he was the recognizable frontman. They threw him out eight months later, which I think vindicates me. And, of course, we’ve all gotten along for years, S.O.D. being absolute proof.
KNAC.COM: You managed to hang on long enough to record the debut album with Anthrax, though.
LILKER: Right. “Fistful of Metal” was released in January ’84. Ironically enough, I was tossed out about three days before it came out, due to those guys listening to Neil Turbin. So, it kinda sucked at the time, holding the first album I was ever on and not being in the band anymore! But I went on to form Nuclear Assault and Neil fell by the wayside seven months later. And I got to play with Scott and Charlie in S.O.D., so everything worked out and obviously any “hard feelings” I had dissipated swiftly.
KNAC.COM: Was there ever any second-guessing your departure when Anthrax started to hit big?
LILKER: I know Scott was firmly against it and I’m sure he and Charlie were glad that we got to play together again in S.O.D.
THE TRUTH HURTS: Lilker and Brutal Truth during the 1990s.
KNAC.COM: Why has it worked out that you’ve made a career out of playing in multiple bands as opposed to staying put in just one?
LILKER: I have a short attention span!
KNAC.COM: Of all the bands you’ve been a part of, which one brings you the most satisfaction and why?
LILKER: That’s impossible to answer ‘cos every band I’ve done was very satisfying for different reasons. Anthrax was great ‘cos it was so cool to be on the leading edge of thrash metal. Nuclear was the first band I saw the world with; Brutal Truth was known for pushing music to its limits, see what I mean?
GAME OVER: Nuclear Assault was formed in 1984, but Lilker called it quits in 1992 leaving the band to carry on without his marquee name.
KNAC.COM: Why did Brutal Truth and Nuclear Assault dissolve?
LILKER: B.T. broke up ‘cos a couple of guys weren’t getting along, to the point where the whole vibe was shot. We never thought about replacing anybody, we were too far out there musically to try to introduce a new member to our insanity. I left Nuclear in ’92 due to the fact that I was bored doing thrash. I’m not gonna do something if I’m not into it anymore, plain and simple. Yeah, I’m doing it again with S.O.D. now, but seven or eight years later, it’s fun again.
KNAC.COM: When will we see S.O.D. back in the studio or on tour? Will it be another 15 years?
LILKER: I can tell you definitely it will not be another 15 years! It might even be sooner than you think! Do you really want to hear 50-year-olds play fast metal?
‘CHEERS’ FROM A KILLER: Interesting to note how Paul Di’Anno signs with a lower-case “a” in “Di’Anno,” yet his album credits and website alternate between lower and upper. I’m guessing lower-case makes for a quicker autograph.
Somewhere between 1990 and 1992, I was sitting beside Paul Di’Anno on a Dumpster-ready backstage couch at the Showcase Events Center in San Antonio. Paul was eagerly devouring American-brand cigarettes and graciously obliging my unscheduled interview. A few hours later, the former Iron Maiden singer would take the stage with his then-new band, Killers.
‘IRON LADY’: Maiden mascot “Eddie” casts his vote against Margaret Thatcher.
In the end, I had no media outlet available to publish the interview. It was too late for the daily newspaper and at the time I had no solid connections to national or international metal magazines (this was also before the modern age of websites, blogs and other more immediate outlets). The interview tape is also lost to the ages, which is very uncharacteristic for a hoarder like me. Don’t even ask why I didn’t bring a point-and-shoot.
Regardless, as a huge Iron Maiden fan, I was thrilled to be chatting with the guy whose voice launched one of heavy metal’s most immortal bands. After about an hour, the cigarette fog got downright toxic and Paul excused himself to tend to business. Together, we walked out the back door of the venue where my car was parked and he kindly signed an obnoxiously thick stack of records (“Iron Maiden,” “Killers,” “Maiden Japan,” the Margaret Thatcher EP) and two black-and-white photos ripped from the pages of “Iron Maiden: Running Free.”
EMBATTLED TOME: Di’Anno’s book will likely not win him any new fans.
About eight years later, I was on proper assignment for KNAC.com and got a second chance to interview Paul (I plan to post it in the near future). Again, it was a fun conversation full of insight regarding his tumultuous history and adventures with Iron Maiden, Killers, Battlezone and other musical endeavors.
And then along came Paul’s 2010 tell-all autobiography, “The Beast.” To say it makes him nearly impossible to like may be an understatement. His penchant for violence, drugs and other misbehavior is dangerously over-the-top and not the least bit funny (at least other tell-all, rock-n-roll books make you chuckle a bit over the band members’ self-inflicted stupidity).
It’s a shame Paul felt compelled to tarnish his vocal legacy with 350-plus pages of thuggish behavior (and nary a trace of remorse). Me? I prefer to remember his singing and the times he gifted me with his generosity. For that, I say thanks. For the rest, I hope he gets help.
If Scandinavian sleaze rock crashed into vintage Hollywood hair metal, the shattering sonic slam might sound like Kickin Valentina.
Gruff and nasty, these Atlanta-based, raunch-n-rollers are back with their second platter, “Super Atomic.”
Opening with “Sermon,” which is actually a mini-narrative about the corrupting evils of rock-n-roll, the six-song “Super Atomic” gets banging with “On My Side.” A bazooka blast of hard-drumming thunder and biker-boot stomp, there’s not a door left on the hinges when this one rattles to a halt. Holy mother of Molotov!
Next up is lead single and video, “Wrong Way.” A smoldering, mid-tempo tune that never really ignites (although it sorta, kinda grows on you after repeated listens), “Wrong Way” is hardly the most exciting song here, but likely got the nod as lead single due to its grinding, more universal dance-ability.
“When You’re Gone” finds Kickin Valentina back up and swinging on a groove that semi-recalls Motley Crue’s “Wildside”until the floating chorus and (subtle) keyboard stabs swerve it into its very own memorable identity.“Fist N Twist” follows with a frantic, punk-ish approach that — despite the questionable title and chorus — makes for a great, Broken Teeth-style adrenaline punch.A real shouter, this one!
The title track, unfortunately,is riddled with overbaked lyrics (“designer jeans,” “spray tan,” “Daddy’s cash”), but musically and vocally, “Super Atomic” is a melodic bombshell that vibes like something from The Cult’s “Sonic Temple” or Alice Cooper’s “Trash.” Great singing and a swaggering groove make it diabolically impossible to shake.
And then? Oh, boy, here comes “Some Kind of Sex.” Again, a contagiously crushing song hobbled by lyrics so blatantly “naughty” (“condom in your hair?” “I’m doing your best friend,” “we’re all just f**kin’ whores!”) they come off like Steel Panther minus the intentional wink. Yeesh! Props, nonetheless, for mega-ton riffage.
It has to be said that singer Joe Edwards is badder than Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet. With a star-making voice that’s soulful, husky and seemingly scarred by corrosive excess, this guy’s vocals are the stuff of hard-rock wish lists. I’m talking, WOW! Dude gets my vote for best new singer.
Guitarist Heber Pampillon shreds without over-noodling, and bassist Chris Taylor (ex-Rockets to Ruin) along with drummer Jimmy Berdine bring a volcanic punch spiked with skull-knocking, double-kick fills. As players, Kickin Valentina holds all the aces.
Like the self-titled 2013 debut EP (with added roaring production), “Super Atomic” is way more blast than bomb and further proof that Kickin Valentina is a serious contender. The talent, ‘tude and vocals are all a slam-dunk if they can just raise the bar on lyrics and maybe deliver a full-length, 8- or 10-song album next time. Until then, I’m still on board and paying lots of attention. You should, too.
* Overall Grade: B-
* Favorite Tracks: “On My Side,” “Super Atomic” * For Fans of: Hardcore Superstar, L.A. Guns, mirror shades and double-fisting at last call
For a review of Kickin Valentina’s debut EP, go here. For new single/video for “Wrong Way,” click below.