WALK THIS WAY: Yeah, I was this giddy when Steven Tyler welcomed me and my wife into his dressing room. It’s always cool when your heroes don’t disappoint, but it’s even better when their hospitality is totally random and hugs-all-around sincere.
RATS IN THE CELLAR: Backstage and raising all kinds of hell with an outta-control Brad Whitford. Kidding aside, this guy is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. He also cranked countless killer riffs on a LOT of my all-time favorite music.
Let’s just say meeting Aerosmith was hardly a night in the ruts.
The date was Nov. 16, 2012 in Austin, Texas, when Aerosmith hit town on the “Music From Another Dimension” tour. Depending on which day you ask, Aerosmith may be my all-time favorite band (they share a coin toss with the Ramones). Regardless, the Bad Boys from Boston are a band I can’t live without. And singer Steven Tyler? My absolute favorite.
Knowing my pal Yayo Sanchez jams with the son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, I mention that I’d be (ahem!) more than a wee bit willing to tag along if he had any backstage leverage the night of the gig. Yayo said he’d be happy to help if things fell into place, but I must admit to bracing for the deflating punch of defeat.
Nonetheless, this being Aerosmith and all, I decided a slim chance was better than none so I brought along the band’s ultra-classic “Rocks” album from 1977. I figured if I managed to meet the band and didn’t have an album ready for autographs, I’d be kicking myself to the grave. If, on the other hand, I didn’t meet the band, then carrying the album would still leave a free hand for beer.
ROCKS HARDER: One of Aerosmith’s classic albums is now even better thanks to personalized, backstage autographs from Tyler and Whitford.
After texting back and forth during opening act, Cheap Trick, Yayo and teen Whitford arrived at my seat to escort me and my wife backstage. Sweet! At the very least, I knew I was going to meet Brad, which in and of itself would’ve rattled my rocks forever. Sure enough, we navigated the backstage corridors and found Brad in his dressing room where we exchanged a few words, snapped some photos and got my prized autograph. Brad seemed as mellow as they come, but he also was a super nice guy. It was an honor to share his space.
Just when life couldn’t get sweeter, Yayo started motioning frantically toward the hallway. Clearly this was a signal that another Aero-dude was nearby. I stepped through the door and into the hallway just in time to see Steven Tyler getting ready to disappear into his dressing room. What happened next is probably the most surreal moment of my life (excluding the birth of my son).
“Steven!” I shouted, not willing to let my hero escape without an attempted hello. To my utter amazement, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned and fixed his gaze on me and — instead of casually waving hello and ducking into his private room — he sent me into a giddy tailspin with a quote I’ll never forget: “Wellll, look atchoooo!” he said. “Get over here, man!” I think I started floating.
SWEET DEVOTION: Getting lippy with my idol. He makes dreams come true, baby!
As he waved me over, I grabbed my wife’s hand and hoofed it toward Mr. Hey Diddle-Diddle himself. Standing face-to-face, we shook hands and exchanged hellos before he quickly steered us into his dressing room (tapestries, candles, incense, the whole gypsy vibe) so we could visit in private. Yes, I was flipping out. No, I don’t think it showed. I handed him “Rocks” and asked if he’d sign it. “Sure,” he said. “That was a good album.” Uh, yes sir, it sure as hell is!
In person, Tyler is every bit as electric as his persona. He yaps more than talks and his beady eyes, skinny frame and legendary lips are as animated as Wile E. Coyote. Hyper is his middle name and there seems to be no difference between the on-stage Tasmanian peacock and the off-duty Steven Tallarico.
After a few pictures and maybe a 15-minute visit (Who can tell? Time went so fast, yet also stood still), I gave Tyler another handshake and a hug (he’s like a bundle of sticks) and thanked him for being so over-the-top-accommodating in offering us such an exclusive visit. In true Tyler fashion, he rasped off another zinger that I’ll not soon forget: “We make dreams come true, baby!” Indeed you do, brother!
As jaded as I’ve become over the years, I found myself so happily disoriented by this whole ordeal that I barely noticed (or minded) that Tyler kissed my wife on the lips as a parting shot goodbye. Eh, what the hell? He’s Steven Tyler, dammit!
CHOIR BOYS? Buckcherry, left-right, is guitarist Keith Nelson, bassist Jimmy Ashhurst, singer Josh Todd, drummer Xavier Muriel and guitarist Stevie D. Despite new album, ‘Confessions,’ these boys aren’t likely to be spending much time in church.
BIBLE STUDY: Buckcherry’s sixth studio album is partially based on the seven deadly sins and was fully recorded at the home studio of guitarist Keith Nelson.
If Buckcherry admits to anything on new album “Confessions,” it may be a degree of infidelity for straying on “All Night Long.” While that 2010 album idled mostly in Neutral, “Confessions” is a return to Buckcherry’s punch and swagger — albeit with added dynamics and vibe.
Ambitious without being Radiohead, “Confessions” is the work of a primal-scream rock band that doesn’t mind flirting with nuance. Sure, the thrashing bounce of “Seven Ways to Die” and the crushing guitar chords of “Water” are as jarring as Gatti vs. Ward, but beneath the black-and-blue impact are new layers of complexity that lend a certain finesse to Buckcherry’s glam-bang whiplash.
From the Aero-boogie of “Air” and the blood-rushing charge of “Gluttony” to the cold-hearted stroll of “Greed” (check that tasty guitar solo!) and the swelling — almost majestic — chorus of “Pride,” Buckcherry’s pumped-up rhythmic muscle swings like a slugger on dope.
Of course the ‘Cherries have always had a sweet spot and “Confessions” delivers two scoops of lighter fare in the form of the radio-ready “Truth” and the gently, acoustic (almost Green Day-ish) album closer, “Dreaming of You.” If it was 2005, “Truth” would be this album’s “Sorry.”
Undoubtedly the truest purging on “Confessions” is “Sloth.” A grandiose and heavily orchestrated suicide lament from singer Josh Todd to his long-deceased father, “Sloth” is a beautiful heartache of a song that stands as the “heaviest” of Buckcherry’s career. Just reading the lyrics can dampen eyes.
IF YOU WANT BLOOD: The alternate cover of ‘Confessions’ features tattoo-style artwork and song-title symbolism.
While the song titles and loosely narrative lyrics suggest a seven deadly sins theme, the conceptual thread has so much slack that each song swings on its own (and “swing,” again, is something this album has in spades). That said, “Confessions” still manages a start-to-finish flow that defies today’s all-too-familiar formula of obvious single(s) and filler (it’s also interesting to note the absence of a blatant Buckcherry party song a la “Crazy Bitch” and “Too Drunk”).
Way more musical than Motley Crue and vastly more relevant than leftover Guns N’ Roses, “Confessions” takes new turns in all the right places, but still sounds right at home in L.A.’s Sunset Strip clubs. Truth be told, “Confessions” is quite arguably Buckcherry’s crowning achievement.
* Overall rating: A+ * Favorite tracks: “Greed” (because nobody spits the “F” word like singer Josh Todd), “Water,” “Pride,” “Nothing Left But Tears,” “Air” * For fans of: Smartly melodic sleaze rock, Jose Cuervo, tattoos, the “F” word * Visit www.buckcherry.com
AND OUT COME THE PUNKS: Always cute and ever-so-polite, Rancid, is one of 2Fast2Die’s favorite live bands. A Warped Tour performance in 1998 was delivered under a sweltering Texas sun that melted Mohawks and blistered tattoos.
NOT COOL: With Matt Freeman under a brutal Texas sun. The trailers behind us offered a brief respite in the A/C.
Remember when the Warped Tour was good? Yeah, it’s been a while. For me, it’s been 15 years.
Under a blazing August Texas sun in 1998, not only did the day end on the riotous, back-to-back succession of Rancid, NOFX and Bad Religion, but I also was the envy of my Warped Tour pals. Was it because I had a backstage pass to interview Rancid? Sure, that’s possible. But truth be told, the real prize was that said interview would be conducted in an air-conditioned trailer. Sweet Jesus! It was hot out there!!
The following interview with Rancid bassist extraordinaire, Matt Freeman, originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News in Sept. 1998. Enjoy in the shade.
By David Glessner Special to the Express-News
AUSTIN – Tattoos outnumbered teeth backstage at last month’s Warped Tour date at Southpark Meadows — and a large percentage of the eye-popping gems belonged to punk-rock lifers Rancid.
“Check this out, ” said 32-year-old bassist Matt Freeman as he rolled up a T-shirt sleeve to pinpoint a tattoo tribute to legendary punkabilly band X. “This was my first tattoo. X is my band. I like them to the point of almost being a stalker. I was in a band with (X singer) Exene Cervenka called Auntie Christ. She’s rad.”
SKA’D FOR LIFE: Rancid’s fourth studio album was a musically mixed bag with more prominent nods toward ska, reggae and dancehall.
“Rad” could just as easily describe Rancid. From the do-it-yourself haircuts and crazy quilt of tattoos (guitarist Lars Frederiksen has the word “Beer” carved inside his lower lip) to the shout-along working-class anthems and high-energy stage presence, Rancid is punk rock’s genuine article.
Rancid opens for friends and mutual fans, the Beastie Boys, at the Alamodome Saturday in support of the critically acclaimed “Life Won’t Wait.”
Recorded in various locales, including Jamaica, “Life Won’t Wait” offers a slight departure as it features more pronounced elements of reggae, ska and dancehall alongside slamming punk rock.
GOT INK? Matt Freeman is not only an outstanding bass player, but also formed two highly influential bands in Rancid and Operation Ivy.
“The bottom line is, you never want to make the same record twice,” Freeman said, ending yet another response with “ya know what I mean?” “This is the first time where we didn’t walk in the studio and walk out a week later with a record. If you can’t have fun doing this, then what’s the point?”
Freeman co-founded Rancid in 1991 when he and guitarist Tim Armstrong disbanded the now-legendary California ska/punk band, Operation Ivy. Friends since the age of 5, Freeman literally saved Armstrong from substance abuse and squalor by pulling him off the streets and insisting he re-focus on Rancid.
“These guys are my only friends,” Freeman said. “We couldn’t survive all the crazy (crap) you go through being in a band if we didn’t have each other. We’ve sort of made this commitment that if all this ever interfered with us being friends, we’d break it up tomorrow.”
LIKE AN URCHIN: During the second-wave punk explosion of the mid-1990s, even Madonna wanted to sign Rancid to her own record label following the success of “Let’s Go.”
Joined by drummer Brett Reed in 1991, the three-piece Rancid signed to Epitaph Records and released a self-titled debut. By 1993, one-time U.K. Subs and former Slip guitarist Lars Frederiksen joined in time to record “Let’s Go,” an album that gained minor MTV attention with the low-budget “Salvation” video. Freeman was soon being hailed as one of the best bassists in recent years due to his all-over-the-fretboard technique.
“I used to be in the high school jazz band,” he said. “I also listened to a lot of Who albums. I’m a big John Entwistle fan. I also listen to a lot of X and the Specials. Horace Panter from the Specials is amazing.”
During the 1994 Green Day and Offspring punk explosion, Rancid suddenly became the subject of a record-label bidding war that had Madonna mailing nude portraits in the hope of luring Rancid to her own Maverick Records. In a show of loyalty, Rancid turned down millions of dollars from multiple labels and stuck with Epitaph, prompting label owner Brett Gurewitz to get a Rancid logo tattoo.
“All of us being working kids and never having any money made it all real intense,” Freeman said. “We didn’t want to sign some crazy-ass seven-record deal that would tie us up for God knows how long. We want to run our own ship. It’s really as simple as that.”
MAJOR THREAT: One of 2Fast2Die’s favorite albums
The subsequent release, “… And Out Come the Wolves,” featured Minor Threat-inspired cover art and the singles “Roots Radicals,” “Ruby Soho” and “Time Bomb.” The grueling support tour culminated with a Lollapalooza ’96 appearance, which Rancid agreed to “only because the Ramones were playing,” Freeman said.
By the time the “Wolves” campaign ended, Rancid established itself as the undisputed successor to the punk crown once worn by the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash.
“Today’s punk rock is genuine for its time,” Freeman said, comparing the ’90s to the ’70s. “Today you have all this crazy media and the Internet so it’s just a different time. As long as you’re honest about what you’re doing, I think it’s genuine.”
BELOW: This is what a great bass player sounds like …
Much like Cliff Burton embodied the fan-favorite, heart and spirit of Metallica, so too did Dee Dee Ramone when it came to punk legends, the Ramones. Both bassists were impossible to replace, yet each was divinely succeeded by the only man who could do the job. For the Ramones, that man was Christopher Joseph Ward (aka CJ Ramone). Metallica, of course, claimed Jason Newsted.
While neither guy could, would or should erase the memories of their predecessors, there’s no denying each arrived with a powder keg of youthful vigor and ferocious, neck-snapping stage presence (not to mention added vocals) at a do-or-die moment in each band’s career. Thank you!!
With “Reconquista” serving as his latest calling card (following releases under the band names Los Gusanos and Bad Chopper – look ‘em up), CJ Ramone recently caught up with 2Fast2Die to plug his latest album and share his all-time favorite.
“Yes, ‘Reconquista’ is my latest,” he said. “I play bass and sing vocals, but I’ve got a bunch of great players on it including Billy Zoom from X, Jonny 2 Bags from Social Distortion and Jay Bentley from Bad Religion. I owe a lot to Steve Soto from the Adolescents for making it as great as it is. He put together the all-star cast. This is the first album I’ve done as CJ Ramone. I recorded the fucker three times before I thought it was good enough to wear the Ramone name. I’m super proud of it and if it ends up being my swan song, then I left behind something great.”
A LOVE THAT NEVER DIES: CJ’s favorite metal album contains the Sabbath classic, ‘Symptom of the Universe.’ Go ask Metallica and Pantera if that’s an important song.
2FAST2DIE: Congrats on the new album and thanks for being in touch. You know the drill … so as Joey said a million times, “Take it, CJ!!!”
CJ RAMONE: My favorite album? Black Sabbath’s “Sabotage.” I love the creepiness of the early records, but by the time they released “Sabotage,” their songs became more than just soundtracks for horror films. Their style opened up and picked up some speed (“Symptom of the Universe”). “Sabotage” is definitely my favorite metal album of all time.
2FAST2DIE SAYS: While any of Sabbath’s first six albums easily win Lucifer’s favor, 1975′s “Sabotage,” has an added “Exorcist” quality. Haunting, schizophrenic and demonically possessed with grinding, blunt-force riffs, “Sabotage” is the kind of album that could’ve had you burned at the stake if Salem had power for turntables. Add Ozzy’s most feral vocals ever and some eerily disturbing sleeve art, and you’ve got one black diamond of a heavy metal gem. Underrated? Yes. Underappreciated? Hell, no! Great choice, CJ.
For more on CJ Ramone, go here.
To see and hear CJ sing the Ramones’ Dee Dee-penned, shoulda-been-classic, “Strength to Endure,” click below … 1-2-3-4!!!
AND THEN IT GOT UGLY: As a founder of formerly glam-rock pretty boys, TUFF, bassist Todd Chaisson and his band mates relocated from Arizona to Los Angeles in the late-1980s and got some early help from one of LA’s biggest bands after Poison bassist Bobby Dall shagged Todd’s girlfriend. Todd’s bass playing brothers made their mark in the bands Keel and Badlands, and were friends with Judas Priest singer Rob Halford through their connection to the band Surgical Steel. TUFF tours the East Coast beginning this week.
ROUGH TUFF: The 2012 sequel to the 1991 album, ‘What Comes Around, Goes Around.’
With seven kids under one roof, there’s bound to be some commotion. When three of them decide to become professional bassists in hard-rock bands like Keel, Badlands and TUFF, it’s probably safe to assume the cops knew their way to the Chaisson home.
“My parents were amazing people!” said TUFF bassist Todd Chaisson in a recent email interview with 2Fast2Die. “We lost them both to cancer between 1999 and 2000. Mom was a saint and Pops was tough as nails. Both were very loving and understanding. I remember my father being asked to sign autographs and take photos at a huge outdoor festival in Arizona that both Badlands and Tuff played. He really got a kick out of that. I miss them every day.”
As TUFF gears up for a spring tour (dates below) that includes the M3 Festival in Columbia, MD. May 3-4 (featuring WASP, Kix, Twisted Sister, Bret Michaels, Loudness, Jackyl and others), 2Fast2Die caught up with bassist Todd “Chase” Chaisson for a peek behind the hair-metal heyday and a flash-forward to today.
PRETTY TUFF: Can you spot Todd on the cover of this 2000 album? Hint: He’s not the guy with black hair. He’s actually in the lower left.
Thanks for taking the time, Todd. I guess I’ll start with the obvious since only Ray Charles could NOT notice the new image. How did the new TUFF look come about? You look more like the Misfits than pretty boys these days Ha ha ha. I have not been pretty for years, my friend. The pretty photos are from when I was a young man in my early 20′s. I am almost 47 now and listen primarily to metal. Slipknot, Machine Head, Volbeat, etc.. When I left TUFF in 1991, I formed a hardcore metal band called SubstAnce D and adopted a larger and meaner look. I guess it never wore off. When I came back to the band a few years back we were just rolling the jeans and T-shirts and it just kinda felt like we were cheating the fans that love the over-the-top image that TUFF was famous for. So, (singer) Stevie (Rachelle) and I discussed it, as we do everything, and decided that when we released our new CD, “What Comes Around Goes Around… Again,” we wanted to bring back some of the shock value. I was already rolling the Mohawk and simply didn’t fit into my spandex any longer (ha ha ha), so we decided to go with a Road Warrior/post apocalyptic type of look. So that’s what we came up with. We wanted to toughen it up and, as we say, Put the Metal back into Hair Metal!
GIMME A KISS: Todd’s earliest drug of choice.
As a kid, what album changed your life?
“Kiss Alive II” for sure. It was 1977 and one of my brothers brought home the record. I just fell in love with the theatrics and the energy of Kiss. Two years later they ended up being my first concert. My brother Kirk took me for my birthday and my life was forever changed. No band could ever come close to the show I witnessed that night. Motley Crue, Metallica, Korn & Pantera all came close. I was a Kiss freak as a kid and I think Gene is one of the most underrated bass players out there.
Name your musical hero as a kid and now?
Not counting my brothers, there are three and they’re all bass players. Geezer Butler, Steve Harris and Michael Anthony! Those guys defined my style then and now. I am sure that there are several other bands and individuals that I admired, but I’m sure you don’t want my laundry list of favorites. Suffice it to say I was raised on rock by bands like Maiden, Priest, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Accept. Shit, I could go on for days with this.
BRITISH STEEL: Todd on the far right along with his brothers, members of Surgical Steel, girlfriends and Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, center, at an Arizona barbecue circa 1983-85
Which of your brothers did you idolize growing up and why? Or were you the leader/”cool brother”?
I was definitely not the leader or the cool one. I may have been the prettiest. I have and always will idolize all of my brothers! My younger brother Mitch is my best friend and I love all of my siblings dearly. But Greg and Kenny had the most influence over me and I still believe to this day Greg is the best rock/blues bass player I ever heard. I still remember riffs Greg showed me as a kid and I still can’t play them like he could. If I was ever half as good as either of them, then I will die happy. They are my brothers and I would have idolized them for a thousand reasons outside of music. They were both athletic, tough guys and very popular. I was awkward, shy, sensitive, and not good at sports and sometimes wore my mother’s make-up. I was bullied in high school. I remember Kenny and Kirk tuning up a few guys that gave me a hard time for being different. Fast forward to now and I consider myself an accomplished bass player and songwriter. I don’t wear my mom’s make-up any longer. I am not shy or even very pretty for that matter. I think Greg might be the prettiest now. Ha ha!
BAD-ASS: Todd’s brother, Greg (second from right), in the mighty Badlands featuring, from left, former Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee, current KISS drummer Eric Singer and dearly departed one-time Black Sabbath singer Ray Gillen (RIP)
Were you and your brothers supportive of each other or more competitive? Well, there is no competing with Greg. I feel like we were very supportive of each other. I love my brothers. I don’t see them as much as I’d like, but what families do? Badlands was signed to Atlantic before TUFF and I’m sure Greg had a little something to do with us landing there. He has never said one way or another, but what are the chances of us being label mates in the 80’s/90’s? Pretty slim, I’d say. Not to say TUFF didn’t earn our shot, because we worked our asses off every day. But it never hurts to have friends or family in high places.
What can you tell us about Jake E. Lee since nobody knows much about him? I never knew Jake on a personal level. Yeah, I met him a number of times and he was always a quiet and very nice guy. Greg could better answer that question. I believe he and Greg are still best of friends all these years later, so that tells you something. I hear he is in Vegas and rebooting his career. I wish Badlands would do a tribute show or something. Maybe get a bunch of guest vocalists. That would be awesome!
TUFF GIG: An early flyer with Todd pictured second from right
Describe the “scene” when you formed TUFF. Do you think TUFF got a fair shake? The “scene” when I formed TUFF in Arizona was definitely not glam. To be honest, I wasn’t glam either. That was a conscious decision to strike out and do something different. Nobody went over the top like TUFF did in the 80’s! Then we met Poison while opening for them and everything changed. Bobby Dall banged my girlfriend at an after-party and me and a friend had to give Bret an insulin shot. Bret said if I didn’t freak out on Bobby, he’d turn us on to some contacts and set us up with some furniture when we moved to LA. It sounded like a good deal at the time — my girlfriend for a publicist and a couch. Done deal! TUFF got a fair shake; we just came late to the party. I am grateful for everything and proud of our accomplishments.
What do you do for a day job when you’re not doing TUFF? I was born blue collar and I will die happy a blue collar man, like my father before me. I do whatever it takes to support my family. So if that means digging a ditch, then dig I do. I moved to Cleveland a few years back and was doing the cover band thing for a while, but I hate playing other peoples’ music. So now I write songs with a couple of guys here and do construction during the day.
TUFF BREAK: Despite the 1991 power ballad, ‘I Hate Kissing You Goodbye,’ which was once No.3 on MTV behind Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, TUFF’s success was short-lived. From left is guitarist Jorge, singer/Metal Sludge website founder Stevie Rachelle, drummer Michael Lean and bassist/Machine Head fan, Todd.
Stevie tells me you’re into thrash metal? If so, name a few of your favorite bands? I am into all sorts of music, but metal is my main thing. My favorites change like the seasons. Years ago it was Pantera, Helmet, Sepultura, etc. Later it was Slipknot, Protest the Hero and Meshuggah. Today it’s Volbeat, Alterbridge, Machine Head, Sick Puppies and All that Remains. Of course, I still love all of the music I was raised on from Kiss and Maiden to Motley and Priest.
MIRROR, MIRROR: Two of these guys got dressed in the dark. The other is Todd.
Do you and your brothers ever look back at old 1980s photos and raz each other about your hair/outfits? Who gets the most grief? On occasion somebody will post an old school picture of us on Facebook. I seldom see my brothers since I moved to Ohio with my wife Dana. I remember Greg and Kenny had cool nicknames like Greg “The Barbarian” Chaisson and “Killer” Kenny Chaisson. Somehow I got stuck with “Terrible” Todd Chaisson. I’m sure they were referring to my bass-playing skills. Ha ha! My old-school pictures would hands-down be the easiest to make fun of, but that shit doesn’t really come up. We talk family, baseball and stuff like that.
STILL TUFF: Todd flexes his bass muscle on tour with TUFF this spring
Thanks for the interview, Dave. If anybody wants to follow me or TUFF, you can find me on Facebook. TUFF will be touring this Spring/Summer on the East Coast with M3 being the biggest date. I hope to see everybody on the road.
Cheers! Todd Chaisson/TUFF
Apr. 24th “The Foundry” Cleveland, OH
Apr. 25th “Tap House” Akron, OH
Apr. 26th “Tink’s Rock House” Marion, OH
Apr. 27th “Dead Horse Cantina” Pittsburgh, PA
Apr. 28th “Aldo’s Lounge” Altoona, PA
Apr. 30th “TBA” NY
May 1st ”The Saint” Asbury Park, NJ
May 2nd “Rebel Rock Bar” Philadelphia, PA
May 3rd “M3″ Hanging @ Friday Nite Show
May 4th “M3 Rock Fest” Baltimore, MD (Noon)
May 4th “Ding Batz” Clifton, NJ (Midnite) BELOW: The MTV video that shared company with Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in 1991
While most tribute albums are obvious contractual jailbreaks, Ignitor’s “Mix Tape ‘85” comes off like a license to kill. Why be Poison when you can be Venom?
Looking past overbaked heroes like Van Halen, KISS and AC/DC, Ignitor mines the darker corners of the heavy metal underground and breathes new fire into leather-and-spikes cult bands like Accept, (“Fast as a Shark”), Venom (“Witching Hour”), Exciter (“Violence and Force”), Exodus (“A Lesson in Violence”) and Mercyful Fate (“Into the Coven”).
As if these songs could be any better, Ignitor exceeds their original speed limits and adds the familiar shriek of singer Jason McMaster (Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, Evil United). Somewhere Slayer is smiling.
The more familiar bands on “Mix Tape ‘85” get added horsepower and custom flame jobs. Anthrax? “Deathrider” never sounded so good. Judas Priest? “Hellbent for Leather” never gets old. Deep Purple? “Highway Star” chugs past the checkered flag and over a cliff courtesy of double-kick drumming by Pat Doyle and some knuckle-snapping fret destruction by former Agony Column guitarist Stuart Laurence.
When it’s all said and done, anyone who’s ever defiled an algebra book with a pentagram will find plenty to like on Ignitor’s return to the old school.
* Overall Grade: A
* Favorite Tracks: “Violence and Force,” “Deathrider” “Fast as a Shark”
* For Fans of: Bullet belts, back patches, Megaforce Records
For Ignitor interviews, song samples and more info, go here
CRUSADERS: British metal legends Saxon never matched the American success of peers like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, but the band is undoubtedly every bit as important. Just ask Metallica and Megadeth. From left, Saxon is Nibbs Carter, Nigel Glockler, Biff Byford, Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn. (photo by Kai Swillus)
NEVER SURRENDER: Now pushing four decades of heavy metal thunder, Saxon continues releasing quality albums. ‘Sacrifice’ is a strong case in point.
Refusing to follow their British metal peers down the path of “creative” bloat, Saxon returns lean and fierce on upcoming album, “Sacrifice.”
A jolting thrill ride of anthemic thrash and crunching, mid-tempo swagger, “Sacrifice” continues Saxon’s celebrated themes of rocking hard, riding free, working-class pride and warrior souls. Even better, it’s all sung-and-done in a vigorously efficient 10-song fashion that takes deadly aim at boredom (actually, it’s only nine songs, if you subtract the instrumental intro of “Procession”).
The highlights are everywhere, but fully explode on the title track’s Slayer-esque guitar riff or the hard-driving rev of “Warriors of the Road” (the Grand Prix answer to Iron Maiden’s “Aces High”). There’s also the double-kick pummel of “Guardians of the Tomb” and hints of early Anthrax on the magnificently defiant, sing-along thrash of “Stand Up and Fight.”
Longtime fans will hear echoes of Saxon’s 1983 track “Nightmare” in “Night of the Wolves;” and in keeping with a tradition of nods to American history (see “Dallas 1 PM” and “The Eagle Has Landed”), “Walking the Steel” delivers a unique lyrical storyline on what otherwise could have been an overdone, rise-from-the-ashes 9/11-tribute. Not here.
Led as always by vocally resilient 62-year-old singer Biff Byford, Saxon’s seasoned lineup continues with guitarist Paul Quinn (along with Byford, an original member), guitarist Doug Scarratt, bassist Nibbs Carter (a terror on stage) and drummer Nigel Glockler, who – as always – is a bewildering pleasure as his thundering feet and flailing fills threaten to steal the show.
Rather than overstuffing a proper release with daze-inducing filler, “Sacrifice” includes a second bonus disc featuring five reworked versions of previous Saxon songs “Crusader,” (orchestrated), “Just Let Me Rock” (re-recorded), “Requiem” (acoustic), “Frozen Rainbow” (acoustic) and “Forever Free” (re-recorded). At a time when the more-is-more approach can often lull listeners to sleep, the take-it-or-leave-it, bonus disc-with-a-twist serves as a noteworthy counterpunch.
Now 34 years and 20 albums deep into heavy metal’s history, Saxon proves with “Sacrifice” to be wholly capable troopers who can still deliver the goods.
* Overall Grade: A+
* Produced by: Biff Byford with Andy Sneap (Megadeth, Accept, Kreator, Opeth and Testament, among others)
* North American release date: March 26, 2013
* Favorite Tracks: “Stand Up and Fight,” “Guardians of the Tomb,” “Standing in a Queue”
* For Fans of: NWOBHM; Flying V guitars; denim and leather
* For more Saxon info, go here
Joey Ramone is on the phone and, man, is he ever pissed – at me!
The year is 1994 and I’m sitting at my desk at the Galveston Daily News cranking out some paid-advertising fluff. Except for one of my heroes calling long distance to chew my ass, it’s just another day at the office. Hey, Ho! Uh-Oh!
The point of contention is painfully clear: Joey is not happy about an article I wrote highlighting an EP he recorded with his brother, Mickey Leigh. Billing themselves as Sibling Rivalry, I got the bright idea of interviewing Joey and Mickey (separately) to get a glimpse into their childhood “sibling rivalry.” Clever, huh? Apparently not.
Long story short, Joey the famous rock star is less-than-pleased with some of the things his lesser-known brother divulged during his half of the interview. For the record, Mickey’s comments were hardly egregious or spiteful – just not as media-savvy, perhaps, as Joey would have liked. At the request of Joey’s publicist, I agreed to forward a preview of the article as a courtesy with the understanding that it would not be subjected to Joey’s approval. Wrong answer!
WE’RE A HAPPY FAMILY: Mickey Leigh is the picture of innocence while Joey wonders WTF? Who could ever imagine this obscure EP would cause a rift between me and Joey?
Sticking to my journalistic guns, I offered Joey an empathetic apology, but reminded him that he and Mickey agreed to the interviews unconditionally (anything less is journalistic suicide). Adding to Joey’s anger was the fact that my story was going to be released on the Associated Press newswires, making it available to publications around the world. Great for me. Not so great for Joey. So much for “no publicity is bad publicity.” In closing, Joey mumbled something about coming down to Texas to kick my ass. Then he hung up.
I was crushed. I absolutely love the Ramones. I have all their albums, multiple T-shirts, autographs, ticket stubs, the works. And now their singer wants me dead. F**king, great! I was proud of myself for holding my own, but miserable knowing I turned my hero into my enemy. Deep sigh.
A few days later, my story is available for all the world to read and I’m back at my desk substituting superlatives into this week’s paid puff piece. The phone rings. It’s Joey. Again. Please kill me! Expecting his Noo Yawk accent to curse me a river, I’m instead quite pleasantly astonished. Joey is apologizing. He’s sorry for being angry at me. He’s sorry for trying to pressure me. He admits my story is honest and fair. My lower lip starts to quiver.
To say I was relieved is like saying the Ramones can count to four (if you’re a fan, you get it). Not only was I off the hook, but I survived with my integrity intact. Thank you for calling, Joey. Tough love has never felt so rewarding.
DIARY OF THE OZZ BAND: Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, left, chronicles his rise to fame alongside his former Quiet Riot band mate, Randy Rhoads, third from left, in “Off the Rails.” Sarzo’s firsthand perspective and longstanding friendship with Rhoads offer a new perspective on an already well-documented story.
Written as a heartfelt tribute to his dear friend Randy Rhoads rather than a dirt-dishing tell-all of Ozzy Osbourne excess, Rudy Sarzo’s “Off the Rails,” takes a while to build up steam. Fortunately, Rhoads was such a charismatic soul that any insight at all is still treasured like magical dust.
Tedious at times due to Sarzo’s painfully detailed, journal-like writing style (and ongoing reminders that he and Rhoads nicknamed each other “Rudes” and “Rand”), the book is not, however, without its rewards – especially in the more poignant pages where the touring Bizzard of Ozz bassist does a fine job of articulating the confusion and grief that followed the 1982 plane crash that killed his former Quiet Riot band mate and on-the-rise Ozzy guitar hero.
Among the book’s revelations is an implied fling between Rhoads and Sharon Arden/Osbourne before she was married to Ozzy. Another is Rhoads’ growing frustration at having to play Ozzy’s Black Sabbath encores. Ultimately the Sabbath classics became the songs that broke Rhoads’ back when he reluctantly agreed to record “Speak of the Devil” – a full live album of Sabbath covers – as a bargaining chip to leave Ozzy’s band. That argument, of course, ended with the plane crash.
BASSIST OF OZZ: Author Rudy Sarzo didn’t play on “Blizzard of Ozz” or “Diary of a Madman” (despite being pictured on the latter), but did join Ozzy Osbourne in time for the support tours promoting both of the back-to-back albums. He later returned to Quiet Riot and went on to join Whitesnake, Dio and Blue Oyster Cult, among others. The plane crash that killed Randy Rhoads came within inches of also killing Sarzo, Ozzy, drummer Tommy Aldridge and others.
According to Sarzo, Rhoads’ airborne joyride turned into a suicide/murder-mission when the pilot (who was also the band’s bus driver) aimed the plane at the band’s parked tour bus in an attempt to kill his estranged wife who was onboard as part of Osbourne’s entourage. Sarzo contends he still wrestles with the mental images of Rhoads trying to right the plane in a frantic attempt to save Ozzy, Sharon and his Blizzard of Ozz band mates who were all onboard fast asleep. Whether he did or not will never be known, but given the state of the battered tour bus, it’s a miracle more weren’t killed. Heart-wrenching.
The hurried process of replacing Rhoads in order to keep Ozzy on the road and his drunken depression at bay, reveals multiple interesting tidbits. Who knew Sarzo’s brother had a lock on Rhoads’ gig until a mix-up at the record label landed Bernie Torme on stage? Or that John Sykes was in the running before he found fame with Whitesnake? Even more bizarre is a coked-up Ozzy insisting that soon-to-be Bullet Boys singer Marq Torien is his next great guitar hero! What? There’s also the backstage US Festival incident in which Ozzy throws a punch at Sarzo for his defection from the Blizzard of Ozz and return to Quiet Riot. Peace has since been restored.
“Off the Rails” is a decent read that captures the fleeting excitement of onstage adulation measured against the thrill-sucking drain of traveling monotony (we’re also reminded of what an absolute circus it must have been dodging death threats in the wake of Ozzy’s then-outrageous stunts involving birds, bats and the Alamo; not to mention the unprecedented heavy metal no-no of shaving his head. Truly crazy for its time). One may find it hard to believe Sarzo so often stopped short of partaking in the debauchery that surely must have come with the Blizzard of Ozz gig, but it’s hard to deny his brotherly glimpse into one of rock’s immortal heroes. For his inspired sincerity and status as one of heavy metal’s most accomplished bassists, Sarzo deserves due credit.