Saturday, November 27, 2010

Five Questions with Ron Underwood

It's been said that it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll... And Ron Underwood is still paying his dues.

Photo by Hadas
This seasoned rock and roller is only 29 years old, but has been a part of the national music scene for several years. You might have caught him with his band Opiate for the Masses as they travelled on the Taste of Chaos tour in 2005, or with Filter in 2008. Or perhaps you were lucky enough to catch him singing with Beezlewood... An alternative rock / dance electronica band that brought so much sexual energy to their shows that it made the Arizona desert where they came from seem icy in comparison. Both of these bands are essentially now extinct, or at the very best, on indefinite suspension, but Ron isn't slowing down. Plagued with a career that has had more highs and lows than the streets of San Fransisco, Thunderwood hasn't missed a beat in his quest for rock and roll world dominance.

His newest project is 9 Electric and they are just beginning to make a ripple in the Los Angeles music scene. It won't be long before this band (who is currently being produced by Mikey Doling) starts to make itself known on an alternative radio station near you. They are raw and powerful... Check out the trailer to "Destroy As You Go" :

As you can tell, this band isn't short on energy... Which makes the name 9 Electric seem quite appropriate. The release date for the 5 song Ep hasn't been revealed yet, but as soon as it is, The Bigfoot Diaries will let you know. What we do know is that this band is producing music at an extremely high level, and the next logical step in the transition of rock and roll includes bands like this who can provide a danceable electronic edge to the already mundane alternative sound that plagues our radio waves today. Batten down the hatches folks... There is a new wave coming.

Five Questions with Ron Underwood:

1. What can you tell me about this new band, 9 Electric?

9 Electric is a hard rock outfit with a dancey/party vibe. We just recorded 5 tracks w/ producer Mikey Doling (guitarist of Snot and Soulfly and most recently the Belgian supergroup Channel Zero). To give you an idea of the sound, Wayne Static from Static-X sings a song w me called 'Destroy As You Go'... I'm a name-droppin motherfucker hahaha! This band is a conglomerate of those bands, influence wise, and it's like metal club bangin' tunes. Like the sound of two hot lesbians giving Andrew W.K. another nosebleed. Party!

9 Electric (Photo by Hristo Shindov)

2. Before 9 Electric, you were in Opiate for the Masses. What events led to the break-up of that band?

After our last tour (with Filter, summer of 2008), Jim had to deal with some tragic events and had urged me to go on without him. He was the only other actual member in Opiate (Seven Antonopoulos and Anna Kjellberg were hired guns) and I really didn't think there was time to replace him before we went back out to support our record 'Manifesto'.

We had a song climbing the radio charts called 'Burn You Down' (reaching top 40 that week, I think) and we basically had to pull out of some radio shows. That had a huge political backlash. I was told by our manager that we had more or less been blacklisted from radio for not following through with our obligations. A decade of work came crashing down from a few small events. It was a real bummer, but I'm so stoked to be working again now with this other band.

3. Life on the road is absolutely crazy at times. What is life like backstage at an event like the Taste of Chaos tour, and what are some of your best and worst memories from all your years of touring?

Yeah, the road is nuts. Every night is a Saturday night, but every morning is a Monday. Straight up. One time my drink got spiked with wayyy too many micrograms of acid just before sound check. Not very funny- I couldn't even stand up and my whole band was yelling at me 'cause they thought I had done drugs on purpose. They played the show without me, with Jim singing.

It was horrible, and to make things worse, the guys from that band Ill Niño took me up to the mezzanine to watch my own band and were sayin' things like, (in a Brazilian accent) "look, man, that's what happens when you leave your boys high 'n' dry". I was pissed, (and trippin balls) so I started heckling my own band during the set...I was like, "old singer was better, dude!". It's hilarious in hindsight, but nobody believed me until some roadie admitted to the prank years later. I really thought I was gonna die for a couple days. What a butthole hahaha!

Photo by Jim Louvau

4. You and your bands have so far kept under the radar for the most part... Is that intentional, or would you be accepting of taking a more prominent place in the limelight?

I guess that kind of thing is never fully in anybody's hands at the individual level. Social phenomena are only based on probabilities and timing- there's no sure thing until it's occurred, like quantum mechanics. Yes, I would love to be in a more prominent spot, and I will be. I really think my time is coming. But all that does is broaden your sphere of influence, so hopefully I have something real to say at that point, before I get too jaded or begin to think my shit don't stink. That rhymed.

5. In a perfect world, Ron Underwood will be doing what in ten years?

I think that 9 Electric will be a household name by then...also, I'm really into the arts in general- I'd like to get more involved in film, not just the scores and soundtracks, which I've done quite a bit of, but the cinematography and other elements of production. So stay tuned, man...

(Bonus Question): You hear so many negatives about the LA area... What is your favorite part of living in southern California?

LA is great...Hollywood gave me a career. The best and worst thing about LA is the people. That's life in general, though. Here it's just amplified. Yeah, it's loud and dirty, but so am I. It's really conducive to the type of party-based music that I'm making at the moment.

A great producer once said that the best rappers go to the streets to write. They're not just story tellers, they're documenting a time and place. This resonates in their work, and I think that the decadence that I've experienced in LA is being passed on to others through these new bands' tunes. Word.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

High and Lonesome Reunion This Saturday

When High and Lonesome came onto the scene in 1992, they became the scene.

Not since Drasbury played the Up and Under and the Laughing Iguana (Des Moines) in the late '80s had Iowa seen a band of this energy and talent this raw. Both bands were guitar bands, but while Drasbury reeked of sex and funk, High and Lonesome was more subtle... They brought the girls, but with a different sound. Like a capsule of whiskey rock, stoner blues, and mind bending psychedelia, High and Lonesome came onto the scene and people immediately took notice. Word traveled fast throughout the circuit about this exciting new band.

Brad Engeldinger was my connection to the band. I had met him a few times before at the Safari Lounge on Monday nights when the Grateful Dead cover band Jehovah's Favorite Choir would play. Those were some loose times, and it wasn't uncommon for the band to allow others to come up and join in on the jam. Brad could play the drums as well as anybody in Des Moines, and when he beat the skins it brought a whole new dimension to the sound of JFC. He and I became friends and we spent a lot of whiskey soaked monday nights together as we listened to the the music play.

Brad playing drums at Gabe's in Iowa City

Then one day Brad told me that he was teaming up with a couple of other guys to form a new band, and of course I got excited.

Those "other guys" were Darren Mathews who's slide guitar style was already a fixture in the Des Moines music scene, Dustin Connor who played bass, and Ruairi Fennessy to accompany Darren on the guitar. Rounding out the quintet was David Zollo, a flashy young keyboardist-vocalist from Iowa City who had a notebook full of songs that he had written as a teenager while living in his parent's basement. Like a cosmic shift, those songs would change a generation of music, at least in the local scene. But truth be told, High and Lonesome played all around the United States, and throughout most of Europe before they disbanded in '98.

High and Lonesome was a perfect fit for the changing time that was the early '90s. Drasbury had packed their bags for San Fransisco, and pretty much faded away at that point. Until High and Lonesome hit the scene, nobody really came in to pick up the slack. I was in my early '20s, and at a very influential age. I had no idea then that I was watching the local "changing of the guard" if you will... To me it was all rock and roll, and my 20 something attitude was more in tune to getting drunk (which I did every day) and to getting laid (which never happened), and watching live music.While I didn't realize it at the time, I was the epitome of  everything that "High and Lonesome" meant. I formed a kindred bond with the band (at least musically), and even got to a point where I'd travel back and forth from Iowa City to Des Moines just to catch them twice in a weekend.

Then I followed a girl to Ames in '93 and became less and less a part of the High and Lonesome crowd... I would only catch them on those rare times that they would travel up there. (By that time, Brad had left the band to pursue other interests, and he was replaced by Jimmy Vinner. I had lost my personal connection to the band.)

Years passed and I lost track of High and Lonesome. I was absorbed in a new music scene, and as time is prone to do, it caused me to drift away from my past. Still though, I had my High and Lonesome CDs, and would play them on occasion when the mood hit me. Since then they have gotten packed away in a box somewhere, filed away into the "Out of sight, outta mind" folder. The band drifted into oblivion as far as I knew, and would probably still be there today if it weren't for the internet and social network sites.

High and Lonesome with Jim Viner

In March of this year I caught wind of the Extremely Secret High and Lonesome Re-Union Conspiracy page on Facebook. It got me to thinking about the band, and wondering if this "conspiracy" was indeed true, or just a hyped up dream somebody was toying around Facebook with. Then I started to see David Zollo and his new band the Body Electric more and more in central Iowa... Then the buzz started between old friends, and eventually it became official about a month and a half ago. High and Lonesome was indeed reforming for a show at Peoples on Court in Des Moines on Saturday November 27. As it turns out, everybody in the band will be there for the reunion, including Brad Engeldinger and Jimmy Viner who way play drums in successive sets.

Last Thursday I was able to contact David Zollo over the phone for an interview. We talked about the the break up of High and Lonesome, the reunion, as well as a few other things relative to the scene. It was the first time I had spoken to Dave in seventeen years, and I found him to be more careful in the way he chose his words, a definite sign of maturity. One learns a lot when he lives on the road. From my standpoint, it's amazing how far we travel in our life without ever knowing we left in the first place. Luckily for me and other fans/friends of this band, it all came full circle. I didn't realize how badly I missed High and Lonesome until I heard about them reforming...

Dave Zollo

Hey Dave, I appreciate the time out of your busy schedule... So tell me, what have you been up to lately?

I have been... I was touring in Italy for three weeks. And uh, yeah. I got back about ten days ago and I've been hitting the road since I've been back.

Right on...  How was the reception in Italy?

You know... It went well. I have done a handful of tours over there but I hadn't been there since '03 and the shows went really well.

Do the people know who you are over there?

They do. Yep. We have a lot of folks who have the records.

Very good, Dave. I hear that there is a big reunion show coming up...

Yep, a week from Saturday, November 27th all the original member of High and Lonesome are going to get together and play a show at Peoples there in Des Moines.

In 1994 you were diagnosed with pre-cancerous tumors in your vocal chords...


Which ultimately led to the break-up of High and Lonesome. First of all, please tell me about that time period...

Actually that isn't what led to the break-up of High and Lonesome, we actually soldiered on for a few more years after that. I did spend a year in Nashville playing piano with a guy named Todd Snider but um... We actually carried on til about '98. But that was, as you could imagine a real traumatic period in my life. I was 24 is all, and um... I had really good surgeons here at the University of Iowa and they rebuilt my larynx and my vocal chords, and uh... You know I went back out there and it took quite a few years to let my voice recover fully.

You mentioned joining Todd Snider... Is that a main reason High and Lonesome broke up?

No no... Not at all... Nuh-uh. I played with him for a year and then came back. And High and Lonesome played for another three years after that.

So (the surgery) really wasn't a set back in your career then?

I mean it was... I would say it was a significant set back. There was a lot of label interest in High and Lonesome at that time, and you know, and it probably took six or seven years for my voice to fully recover I would say, but at the same time I continued on and still had a career and still made records, continued to play, and you know it was a set back but I dealt with it, and you know continued moving forward.

So now, 16 years later the band is reforming... I guess it's less than that actually. Why now, and how much of a struggle was it to get everybody back on the same page?

You know? Um... Over the last couple of years there has been some interest from club owners and fans of the band to see us play together again, and you know, people were consistent and some clubs kept asking and when all the guys talked about it, everyone was willing and able, and we actually rehearsed together last week and it felt great... Like riding the proverbial bike, and um... Yeah there was just demand for it, so I spoke to everybody and everybody wanted to do it.

That's funny, because my next question to you was, can we expect some rust, or have you guys been having rehearsals...

(Interrupting) You know we did a rehearsal and we're gonna do one more, you know I mean there might be a little rust... I think it would be foolish to expect that there wouldn't be any... But I think it's going to be pretty minimal... I was pleasantly surprised about how good it felt.

Very good! Tell me a little bit about being on the road with Todd Snider... Do you have a favorite memory or two?

You know?... It was... I always had a good time. I continued to play with Todd off and on really up until about a year ago, and I don't know when it was, maybe three years ago we played the Tonight Show, and that was a blast... That was a lot of fun.

Is that right?

Yeah. Yep.

With Jay Leno?

With Jay Leno, yep. And you know, we had a lot of good times. we played the Luckenbach Festival back in '96 with Jerry Jeff Walker and I got to sit in with that band. Those guys are great and that was fun.

Wow. Yeah I know he did a cover of "I'm an alright guy" on one of his albums.

Yeah. Jerry Jeff and Todd are pretty good buddies.

Jerry Jeff is a legend... For sure. So um... You and Todd are still friends today?

Absolutely. Yeah. He was going to be working on my new record, but it just didn't work out, he was going to co-produce it...

What led to his bands' downsizing in 1997 and your departure from the band?

Um... he ended up leaving MCA records, the label he was on. I think he was just realizing that it was a lot easier... And cheaper to tour as a solo act. He is a tremendous solo performer, so I think it just made sense and it still does.

You have always maintained an extensive tour schedule... What do you do when you are not on tour?

Um, you know I help raise my son Rocco who is seven, and spend a lot of time with him. And um, I play at least three or four shows you know, every week. It seems like I'm never... Never off the road.

Back to High and Lonesome... Do you think that there will be some longevity this time around, or are we still in the "lets wait and see" phase?

Ahh, yeah... This isn't a reforming of the band, as much as it is a celebration of the stuff the band did. You know we added a show in Iowa City on December 17th... But... I mean, yeah. I'm in the studio making a new record with my band the Body Electric. I don't foresee this becoming a regular thing... Maybe a couple times a year...

So no talk about recording an album with High and Lonesome?

Not right now. I mean I wouldn't rule anything out, but that's not really part of the plan.

Ok... What can we expect at the reunion show?... Any surprises?

Well... You know we are going to dig deep into the bag, and do all of the songs that the people like and the stuff we were known for doing live. Um... So, I don't think any surprises, as much as hopefully we are going to give the people what they want.

(*All photos credited to Sandra Dyas except picture of Brad)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Proof That Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Egad... It's going on 4:00 AM.

What's a wide-awake fella to do in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is lying dormant in temporary hibernation? Drunk dialing is out... Much too sober for that. Scratching my ass seems like a plausible option, but the relief is fleeting at best. Writing seems like the only sensible alternative and while that is fine and dandy, these middle of the night posts never seem to make it to to the publishing phase. More than likely this will join the countless others in the "draft" folder, far away from the public eye...

So is there even a point to this?

Most of the stuff in the draft folder is mind-numbing. I really ought to go through it sometime and drag out whatever can be salvaged and bring it to fruition. More than likely however, most of it is trash, and it will sit there like a dusty trinket on a far away shelf. I'm not like Tommy, who can muster up a creative genius at a moment's notice on sleepless nights... Most of what I write doesn't come off the cuff anymore. I try my best to bring substance to what goes on this page, and while that may or may not be the case, that's the evolutionary course my mind has taken when it comes to writing. Most of the posts that you read here have been at least a week or two in the making before they hit your eyes. Tommy on the other hand can draw from his subconscious, it seems. He can write great symphonies of loquacious splendor without even putting thought to it. It doesn't matter if it is noon, or four in the morning. Hell, it doesn't matter if he he's been awake for 9 days, that boy can tell a story with the best of 'em. Or, at the very least he always seems to have something pertinent to say.


Speaking of fellow bloggers, I had a chance to hang out with Shep this Friday. He got into town around four o'clock in the afternoon, and we decided to go to the local tavern and have a couple of pints while making plans for the night. As it turned out, the need to plan anything never became an issue from that point forward. The pints were tasting especially well, and the entire task of finding something to do basically took care of itself.

At 42 years old, I find that I can still put 'em down like a 25 year old. However, the next day came especially harsh... I worked 14 hours on Saturday... And I was quickly reminded of my age, plus some.

Getting a drunk driving charge slammed against you while driving to work can never be a good thing... But I was actually considering that as a possibility on Saturday. Plus, I do not know about you, but draught beer seems to suck all the blood out of my brain when I drink it in large quantities, and even though it is essentially a liquid based (at least partly) with water, it dehydrates the holy Jeebus out of me. It's a hell of a thing to be be driving to a 14 hour work day quite possibly still under the influence, with a brain shot full of holes, and a mouth so dry that it causes you to gag each time you take a breath. Water was my best friend Saturday, and even now I feel a little dry around the edges. But nonetheless it was great to hang out with Shep and talk about music, sports and life, despite the near-death sensation it caused me to feel the next day.

As a side note... "The Alabama Whiskey Song" (by the Doors) and "Ms. Jackson" (by Outkast) have been on a steady loop rotation in my head since I woke up Saturday morning. Upon a phone call made to Shep earlier tonight, he confirmed playing the Doors on the jukebox. However, the story behind the  presence of "Ms. Jackson" is still unclear. (This is for real...)


See... This post never really got off the ground, did it? I do consider it more substantial that this BBC interview Tom Jones did, in which he describes a night of drinking with Elvis. But then again, that's not saying much. I've got better stories than his from when I was drinking alone.

Maybe the next time I can't sleep I should ask Tommy to write this for me...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Introducing: Svarta Maria

As if he wasn't keeping busy enough, Magnus Sellergren is making music again.

You might remember the piece we did on him about a month ago when some of the art work he designed was used as a sleeve for Corporate Rock Knock-Out Magazine. His company, Sellergren Design has been putting out rock posters like McDonalds puts out saturated fat... Pretty much non-stop. His style is unique and ambiguous and his flair for creativity is indisputable, and one can see why his art work is in such heavy demand.

Example of Sellergren Design

Meanwhile he consistently finds the time to update Psykotronisk Videoblogg on a regular basis. (It's written in Swedish, to transpose it to English, click the TRANSLATE button in the upper right corner.) It in itself is a lion's roar of a project... One that would keep most people grounded to their computer for most of the day. His posts are not only heavy and descriptive, but they contain incredible imagery and of course video clips - the kind that are rare and fun to watch - and I guess my point is, being a blogger myself, I find it incredible that he can maintain a consistent presence on his blog and still keep pace with his design company. Imagine spray painting a beautiful mural on a brick wall with your left hand while simultaneously painting the Mona Lisa with your right... That's about as close as I can get to describe the equivalency of his creative ardor. "Creative drought" doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary, and somehow he keeps that push going forward with fervor and zeal, while not letting his work suffer from repetition.

Magnus Sellergren taking  a break

As if that wasn't enough to keep him in permament lock-down, somehow he found the time to form Svarta Maria (Myspace), a three piece punk outfit who share a love for a certain era of southern California punk. This golden age of west coast rebellion... Social Distortion, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, The Zeros and The Misfits... was forming pockets of sedition in high schools around the world, and it's attitude and sound has withstood the test of time. To this day the influence of these bands remain vital to the core of progressive music. Svarta Maria captures that sound and brings it to the modern level. It's exciting and fresh and has that skaters' edge.

I grabbed Magnus away from his busy schedule and asked him a few questions about Svarta Maria. I knew that he had been involved at one time with the Dialtones and to a lesser degree, the Plastiques. In fact, I wasn't even aware of Svarta Maria until I had asked Magnus what the status was of the Plastiques and he mentioned this new band to me. Immediately I searched them out on Youtube and absolutely fell in love with their sound. It was so fresh and clear, yet reminding of a sound I listened to years ago...

What I can make from the Myspace page is that you formed this summer... You are 3 piece monster group that emulates killer So-Cal style punk from the '78-'83 era?

Well, the story goes a little bit like this: In 2009 I started up a side-project called "Gå Vidare till Norrmalmstorg", which actually is a phrase taken from Monopoly ("Advance to Boardwalk/Marble Arch") and a nice kiss-off to rich kids. The band split up and I wanted to keep doing classic Punk/HC so the idea of "Svarta Maria" took shape early on. Just like I saw Sal of Electric Frankenstein stating in an interview I wanted to make classic stuff, you know like those barely-2-minute-long 7"s that came out in the US between 1978-83. The main difference between this band and the early one was an element of darkness, that I got from The Wipers. "Over the Edge" is a damn classic and I wanted to incorporate that with the energy and sheer brilliance of early Agent Orange, The Adolescents, Circle Jerks etc. With the lyrics being in Swedish I guess that whole darkness-thing is lost on people that don't speak the language but later on I'll add translations to our MySpace. Anyway, I wrote a complete album (14 tracks) over a weekend and teamed up with Daniel, who played drums in Slut På Det Roliga and he introduced me to Simon that handles guitar and we were off! I think it took little more than a month and then we were ready to hit the stage.

The name in itself is pretty funny, meaning "Black Mariah" in English and also is one of the names used for the Indian goddess of destruction, Kali Yuga. I later on did a search on Google Sweden and it turns out Black Maria also was a prostitute in the south of Sweden in the early 1900's who was sent to jail in Växjö (!!!). It's a small world I guess.

What do "Löske" and "Slut På Det Roliga" translate in English to?

"Löske" if my understanding is correct, is an old-time Swedish phrase that roughly means "White trash". Daniel says it was an expression back in the 50's for "traveling people" (my guess it was a deragotory term used for gypsies) and they thought it was a fun band name. The band lasted throughout 2006-2009. "Slut På Det Roliga" literally means "The Fun Ends" but it's a Swedish phrase that really means something like your "There Goes the Neighborhood". They were a Youth Crew inspired HC band were Daniel played drums from 2008-2009. They have since broken up.

Simon of Svarta Maria

So what band(s) was Simon involved with before taking on the guitar chores in Svarta Maria?

Just Löske.

Do you have any upcoming gigs to promote?

Our next gig is November 19th somewhere in Växjö where we live. Don't have the details 'cause our bookings are handled by the drummer.

Daniel?... Does he keep gigs a secret until the night before or what?

No, no! It's just that he takes care of the bookings in Sweden while I focus on the outside world. Actually we're in touch with a European booking agency right now that expressed interest in us but they wanna see us hooking up with a label first that can cover some of the costs. It all boils down to the Ca$H as usual.

Describe the typical crowd at your shows... Are they younger kids?... Mostly dudes?... Hot Swedish gals?

We've only played one show so far and I gotta say it was a combo of all ages and walks of life. Surprisingly a lot of girls and women too!

What is the groupie mentality of these girls?

Well, the other guys are in relationships so I guess it's ix-nay on the roupies-gay for them, although Simon says some nice, hairy German men might make him stray from his fold. And me personally always thought using a band just in order to pick up women is the behaviour of a pathetic asshole. Think about it, if you just wanted to get laid you'd sure as hell would save a lot of time if you just brushed your teeth and worked on your damn personality instead of being stuck in a basement for six months in order to work up some material for a show! So after that last show I pretty much went home, had some coffee with some Koskenkorva on the side and watched a couple of chainsaw movies. Now, I'm getting into a relationship so just like Johnny Cash I'm walking the line!

Haha... I see. When will you be in the studio?

We just spent an afternoon recording our first four tracks, slated for a EP release entitled "Våldsamma Barn" (transl. "Violent Children"). Hopefully it'll be out pretty soon on a label and after that we'll hop into the studio to record our first full length.

Daniel of Svarta Maria

Based on the personality of the people in Svarta Maria, how is this band different from the other bands you have been involved in?

First off I gotta say these guys are at least serious when it comes to the band and where we are going! You'd be amazed if I told you some stories from previous outfits I've been in. But I'm not gonna talk shit about other people 'cause it's just bad form and karma so I'll state that I think we're a damn good little unit and share that Black Flag school of thought meaning you work hard and get your shit together! We are different personalities for sure so there are some clashes to be expected but nothing that serious. Live we're nothing short of amazing though!

Ok... Lets assume that you start touring the United States tomorrow... What band would you be most likely to share a bill with?

Oh man, nowadays I'm so damn tuned out it's ridiculous! Some of the acts on Dirtnap would be fun. New bands that I've heard and liked that'd be cool to share a stage with would be Social Cirkle, Brutal Knights, fellow Swedes The Regulations, Career Suicide, Direct Control among others. And OFF! of course! Shit man, are they awesome or what! Their first 7" EP should be in every "punks" record collection! Downright amazing stuff!

What is Svarta Maria's drug of choice?

Well, I'm a liberal when it comes to drugs but don't use them. That might sound weird but I think the government should lay off meddling with what a grown adult decides what to do and not to do with their own bodies. Same goes for alcohol. Meaning I can count the number of times I drink every year on my left hand these days. So I guess I'll have to go with coffee and cigarettes on that one. Simon says alcohol and "snus" (a dreadful concotion of ground-up tobacco that's kinda like snuff but WAY stronger! I think it's illegal in the European Union btw). Daniel is a plain snus man.

In your honest opinion, what is the best thing to happen to rock and roll since it's inception,and what is the worst?

To me they're actually the same; breaking through to the mainstream. When it happens it turns on a lot of kids to the really cool stuff. But - as we've seen every time so far - it also opens the flood gates for a lot of CRAP to be marketed as the genuine thing. So it goes in cycles about ten years long. Cool stuff appears then the shit comes and it goes underground for about ten more then resurfaces.

Where do you see Svarta Maria in 5 years... In 10?

Wow! Ten years seems to be somewhat of a long shot buddy! I'll be 46 then and to be quite honest, just reading the question made it hard for me to even fathom. Not too sure I'll be doing music at that age. In five years? I'd say three really good full length albums plus a shitload of great 7"s and EP's. Plus a couple of tours all over the place.

What are you going to do to ensure that Svarta Maria maintains that presence in the music scene without falling victim to the corporate mainstream where most bands start to lose control of their creativity, and in my opinion their original focus?

Man, I wouldn't worry about that 'cause I've been out of it for so damn long I wouldn't even know how to BE commercial to begin with! All the stuff Svarta Maria has produced so far was written with only one thing in mind: make good Punk Rock. And once I've written a song I just write another, without a single thought about it being commercial or whatever. As long as me and the band is happy with the material that's all I care about. If 5 or five million people buy our stuff is secondary and to be honest, I haven't spent one second even thinking about that.

I've been listening to "Monster i Sitt Huvud" over and over on your Myspace page... Great song! What does that translate to?

Monsters in her head - she's got pitch black thoughts

Her brain is a war and her heart has darkened
A split soul, so turn around and run
See the warning signs in her watery eyes
She's got monsters in her head and she's gonna unleash them on you

With chaos in her psyche she's looking for victims
A scapegoat to punish for all that's happened to her
A split soul, so turn around and run
See the warning signs in her watery eyes
She's got monsters in her head and she's gonna unleash them on you

Ok, so it's not a tribute to The Bigfoot Diaries?

Sorry buddy, it's about a certain kind of woman all grown men stumbled over from some time or another. With us being somewhat the same age I'd guess you know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Miss Wendy at the House of Bricks

(This and all photos courtesy of CVEckian)

The Fabulous Miss Wendy finally made her return to the House of Bricks last Thursday night. To my surprise, and probably to Wendy's dismay, the place was virtually empty except for a few hardcore music fans.

I was under the impression that Miss Wendy was HUGE in Des Moines... So when I looked around during the show and saw so much wide open space, I began to wonder what happened... Promoting these concerts is a hit and miss venture, I am aware of that. And while I only have the power of the written word, I feel an obligation to Aron and Chad at Skyline Audio and Metro Concerts Live to promote the hell out of these productions... And why not? It's all in the name of supporting live and local music. When you do not show up, I feel partly responsible.

Miss Wendy (Click to enlarge)

But alas... You missed a doozy of a show and a great night at the House of Bricks.

Wendy was once dubbed the "Female Jimi Hendrix." While that might be a bit of a stretch, nobody can argue that her show isn't entertaining. The fire and passion she puts into her show, and her ability to talk the rock and rock the talk sets her apart from most of her contemporaries. She is absolutely at one with the guitar - Like Hendrix- and she has the showmanship thing down also. But perhaps the thing that sets the two axe slingers apart is the fact that Jimi was absolutely hypnotizing when he played. While Wendy is good... Very good, even... It seemed that she struggled to keep the attention of the small crowd that had gathered to hear her perform. At one point she even ventured off of the stage to retrieve people from around the bar and bring them up to the stage area. She then proceeded to play a solo on her knees on the floor in front of the stage. The band kept the beat going while she feverishly shredded the strings of her guitar with a veracity not often seen since the living days of Stevie Ray Vaughn.

At that moment she was at least captivating... But it was too late in the set. One song later and the show was over.

Getting down at the House of Bricks

The performance was absolutely great, one of the better shows I have seen at the House of Bricks. I don't blame Wendy for her lack of hypnotic skills. I think that it had more to do with the fact that nobody showed up... I mean, face it, you can't be hypnotized if you aint there.

When a crowd builds up around a stage, the musicians feed off of that, and the crowd reacts by channelling energy back to the musicians. It usually makes for a better live music experience for everybody involved. When you are playing to a large crowd, you are inducing a higher level of energy. When you are not, the opposite happens. It's hard to get your mojo working when you are playing to four solid walls.

Des Moines was blessed to be the opening stop on Miss Wendy's tour. She came out of the pits with the intensity of a flying dragon and force fed large doses of California jam down our throats, like an unstable mother feeding shards of heated sugar to a baby. We took it all... And wanted more. With that unmistakable Detroit beat backing up her west coast guitar, she and her band pounded our faces song after song, as if we were a crowd of twenty thousand and not a nearly empty bar room, as we were.

That unmistakable Detroit beat

The opening band of the night, Smoking Blindfolded who was playing when we arrived, had amassed a pretty good crowd to watch them play. As a young local band, I'm certain that they had no problem roping in their following. While this is great for the venue and the promoters, it would have been nice if the fans had stuck around (including Smoking Blindfolded themselves) to support the rest of the acts on the bill. Talk about taking it on the run... As a fan of music, it is disheartening to watch the low act on the totem pole draw in a large crowd, only to have them pack up and beat it out of there before the next band takes the stage. (If I am wrong about this. please let me know.) And if I may be so bold as to say it, I think it is kind of rude too... Like biting the hand that feeds you. Aron and Chad put a lot of time and energy into building these shows, and leaving early with your entire fan base seems a little disingenuous.

But it is what it is.

The Maw

The Maw came up next and set the tone for the night. Each time I watch these guys perform they seem to take it a step further. I really believe that it is just a matter of time before they embark on their own American tour, and get a chance to rub elbows with some of the heavy hitters in the rock and roll hemisphere. Forrest Lonefight was absolutely on fire as he always is, but on this night I paid particular attention to Joe Antelman's bass lines. He was grooving, man... I was wondering if he was playing especially well on this night, or if I had possibly missed something the other two times I watched The Maw play. I'm still trying to figure that out... All I know, is that he had me riding the groove train, and I didn't care where we were going. I am telling you my dear readers, in stone cold seriousness... If you only make it to one live show in Des Moines this year, go and see The Maw. Do it now before they are systematically gone forever.

On this night however, the star was The Fabulous Miss Wendy. Over the last few months she has endured her share of hardships, and this tour in a sense, is her victory lap. While the crowd was thin inside the House of Bricks on Thursday night, those of us who attended were treated to an evening we won't soon forget. Wendy is stronger than ever...  As I talked with her in the past, I got the sense that she was overcome with worry and apprehension... I didn't get that from her on Thursday. She seems poised to take the next step in her musical journey and use those setbacks as a stepping stone to the next level. I really don't have any doubt that she will accomplish any less than that, especially with this new band she has assembled.

Miss Wendy's band is REALLY GOOD... And those of you who didn't make it to the show not only missed a rising star, but also something very majestic.

The shame you must be feeling...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stoners Part 3

Well, the sun gets weary
And the sun goes down
Ever since the watermelon


And the lights come up
On the black pit town
Somebody says what's a better thing to do

Ok... This is confusing.

Well, it's not just me
And it's not just you
This is all around the world...

Paul, seriously... Lay off the fucking pipe!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cool Show Alert: The Fabulous Miss Wendy

Aw shit... Here she comes!

For those of us who live in the Des Moines area, this is the week we have been waiting for. The Fabulous Miss Wendy will be performing live at the House of Bricks on Thursday night.

This Metro Concerts Live production will start at 5:00 and will feature Obsidian, Come Ascedency, and Bigfoot Diaries faves, The Maw. If you buy tix in advance, they are only 12 bucks... Any one of these bands alone is worth that ticket price. Also, if you purchase tix to the show through any member of The Maw, you will get a copy of their new CD, 1937 for FREE! (Just hit me up, and I'll make it easy for you how to do just that... Or do it yourself through their Facebook fan page.)

This is a show you seriously do not want to miss...