Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Telekinesis power-pop trio kicks out the jams at Seattle's Crocodile

Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis at The Crocodile (Andy photos)

Votolato
Narducy
By Andy

After 5 1/2 weeks on tour to support its current album, "12 Desperate Straight Lines," Telekinesis hit the stage at one of its hometown clubs, The Crocodile, in Seattle with a big bass-drum full of pop songs and smiles last night.

With drummer/singer Michael Benjamin Lerner, from nearby Kenmore, situated at the front of the stage and energetic guitarist Cody Votolato and bassist Jason Narducy crowding in close to the band's leader -- they're a powerhouse unit, to say the least -- the throng of fans sung and hopped along to tunes from Telekinesis' two albums.

It was a packed house, and Telekinesis' tunes packed a punch, too. There's mellow and raucous parts, and they blended together well for some Saturday night rock action.
  

Lerner, who was blown away by the large crowd, dedicated a song to Kenmore and thanked his family and friends for their support. During a musical break in the gig, he asked people if they had any questions: one girl in front shouted out, "Why did you break up with me in fifth grade?" No more questions, Lerner joked, and the music continued.

It was an hour's worth of solid rock from the local boy and crew.
Slide show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/61152589@N08/sets/72157626240315921/
Lerner in a pensive moment

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Low Land High lands at the Marsbar

Low Land High at Marsbar (Cat Rose Photos)
By Cat Rose
Last night, we finally got to check out our friend Tracy Cilona's band Low Land High (at the Marsbar in Seattle).  It was great to finally catch her working her bass on stage and supplying back-up vocals.  At first listen, they have that easy feeling Eagles vibe.  And I happen to love the Eagles (despite torment on that from many of my punk and rocker friends as I grew up).  On further observance, they also have a Replacements edge and, matched with drummer Dan Reed's Phil Lynott T-shirt, even a Thin Lizzy feel in spots.
Above, left to right, Jones, Cilona, Cline and Reed; Below, Cline sings and strums 
Reed peeks out from behind his kit
Listening to the band -- which also features Chris Cline on vocals/guitar and Ben Jones on pedal steel/guitar -- reminds us of our friends' Bay Area groups like the Careless Hearts and Bellyachers (which we've done prior entries on), so we were fully in the Low Land High zone. Speaking of the Bay Area, Reed also happened to drum for Overwhelming Colorfast, whom we dug watching many times during our stay in that region.
Here's a link to Andy's review of OC's 2010 Seattle gig: http://innercriticseattle.blogspot.com/2010/01/guest-blogger-andy-nystrom-overwhelming.html

We've known Tracy for awhile now, and she says one of her favorite Seattle memories is hanging out at our place in Wallingford (at one of our after-hours record sessions) listening to Journey (in particular) amongst other '70s rock bands.  And by the way, Andy feels that perhaps a little of Ross Valory's bass stylings (from Journey) have rubbed off on her while gracing the stage with Low Land High...

http://www.myspace.com/lowlandhigh

Cilona at the mic

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Digging into the archives: revisiting records by Wool, Th' Faith Healers and more

Pete Stahl -- formerly of Wool -- with Goatsnake in Seattle, 2010. (Andy Nystrom photo)

By Andy

Lest we not forget these solid albums that hit our CD and tape players in 1992-93. Oh, the years have passed, but Wool, Th' Faith Healers, Pond and the Junk Monkeys' music still rings true in our ears.

I reviewed these albums for the Los Altos Town Crier back in the day, and I still can't believe I snuck these corkers past the editor.
Th' Faith Healers (Courtesy photo)

Wool singer Pete Stahl is probably the most memorable of the bunch here, as we can attest to his powerful live performances in both that band and in his current doom/metal outfit, Goatsnake. (He can also mix a mean cocktail, as witnessed backstage at last summer's COC/Goatsnake gig in Seattle.)

So roll on, and revisit these records -- or seek them out for a first listen.

Wool - "Budspawn" (1992)
The moniker is very apt for this blazing Hollywood quartet: While its HEAVY rock/punk/metal barrage keeps your body energized, its messages instead peel the wool away from your eyes and slam reality in your face.

Only six songs here, but there needn't be more for Wool to prove its point. Soulful yet crazed singer/guitarist Pete Stahl and brother/guitarist Franz, bassist Al Bloch and drummer Peter Moffett do more with these scorchers than most of today's bands can only dream of.

Furthermore, these guys dig into some of the coolest jams I've ever heard: the tight groove on "Slightly Under" and intense crescendo on the sedate-starting "Medication."

Yes, Wool is definitely the medicine you need.

Th' Faith Healers - "Lido" (1992)
In short, England's Th' Faith Healers are incredible. Tons of swirling guitar riffs -- heavy and delicate -- dominate this release. And the volatile female vocals blend in well: At times they're soft, but at others they walk the edge of insanity such as on the raucous "Hippy Hole." Check out "Moona-ina-Joona" for the ultimate mind-bending experience; but whatever musical style you dig, it's all in there somewhere.


Pond (Courtesy photo)
Pond - "Pond" (1993)
Imagine soothing curtains of guitar-buzz unfurling over your ears, mind and body. Pond's dreamy bass/guitar layers send you reeling, tossing and turning on life's open seas. While the band's music is hard to describe, it's best said that Pond churns out a set of eclectic psychedelic-punk anthems (notably "Wheel," "Young Splendor," "Tree" and "Gone"). This record is a must.

Junk Monkeys - "Bliss" (1993)
This set of tunes fueled by raw, powerful guitar chords and vocals is just that, total bliss. After two mediocre tries, the Detroit unit has finally found the elusive songwriting touch and churned out a solid, lively release.

The Monkeys' early Soul Asylum feel is best described as "barroom rock" ... you can easily imagine the sounds of pool balls smacking and loud chatter in the background.

Songs getting the nod of approval fall into two divisions: the all-out-rockin' "Bliss" and "Day Away"; and the tamer, gutsier "Rag" and "Frayed." Singer/guitarist Dave Bierman and guitarist Dave Boutette even pull out the acoustics on the ragged "Shine," which seems to be swiped from a Paul Westerberg songbook.

This is good junk if you like it rough.

The Junk Monkeys (Courtesy photo)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corrosion of Conformity, 1983 -- remnant from Andy's aborted fanzine

Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin in Los Angeles in 1984. (Andy  photos)
By Andy

"Corrosion of Conformity ... Rippers of Flesh." That was supposed to be the title of this interview back when I was a junior in high school in 1983. I sent the band some questions for my fanzine that never came to life.
But, for you COC fans, I've dusted off this gem, brought it back from the dead.

Not long after I received this in the mail, drummer Reed Mullin gave me a call from Raleigh, NC, while I was doing some math homework or something. Screw math probs, let's talk some COC, my inner self probably said. That was the start of a friendship that has lasted 28 years, and Carrie and I will be traveling to the Maryland Deathfest in May to see these guys again. (We checked them out in August ... it was killer.)

So, in honor of COC's "Animosity" lineup of Mullin, guitarist Woody Weatherman and bassist/vocalist Mike Dean recording new tunes this week at Dave Grohl's Los Angeles-area studio, I give you this interview. It's funny, it's serious, it's classic COC.

Eric Eycke on vocals in LA, 1984.
And the "Rippers of Flesh" headline still holds true today.

(Sorry for the generic questions, but, hey, I was in high school.)

* When did you guys start?

July 1982

* What was your purpose for starting a band?

Reed (drums): We didn't know we needed a purpose
Woody (guitar): I knew it
Eric (new singer): To serve humanity
Mike (bass): To kill boredom, amuse ourselves and psychologically torture our enemies

* Who are your influences?

Mike: Our main influences seem to be Black Sabbath, Bad Brains, Motorhead, Discharge, GBH, Black Flag, DOA (Dimwit's killer drum attack), early Iron Maiden, the things we just hear in our head and all the plastic, lifeless music we hear (anger and revulsion inspires).

* How do you go about writing lyrics and music for your songs?

Mike: Usually, any one of us comes up with a potentially killer riff and we all add something until we think it's complete. Then it's my assignment to fit it with a set of lyrics. There are exceptions to this, though.

* Have you guys played in other states? If so, how did it go?

LA flier, 1984.
Mike: Last summer, we took our generic thrash tour on the road to Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philly, New York, Connecticut, Boston, Baltimore and DC. That was No Labels and us. We made gas money, slept in Holiday Inn parking lots with the Suicidal Tendencies and became generally famous. We play Richmond pretty regularly.

* Do you guys have jobs?

Mike: Eric shovels horse dookie, Woody works in a jewelry store, Reed is office manager for his parents' company and I'm a cook.

* Do you skate?

Mike: Eric and I are fanatics. He's got actual talent and I've got insanity. We have lot of banks around to ride. We're hoping to do big advertising for Indy trucks one day ... 'Indy 169s ... I ride 'em!'

* Do you have any plans for new material or vinyl in the future?

Mike: We were on the 'Why are We Here?' EP. It's a 7-inch 33 with No Labels, Stillborn Christians, Bloodmobile (all defunct) and us, the only surviving outfit. Also, at this moment, we have 19 cuts (11 new, eight old) just recorded, just waiting to be pressed on 12-inch vinyl.

* How do you feel the NC scene compares with other scenes you may have encountered?

Mike: Compared to places with a larger 'scene,' it is nice because punk/hardcore is not hip, and therefore attracts fewer cretins who just want to be cool or macho or show off their clothes. On the other hand, we have only one semi-dependable club.
Mike Dean in 2010 in Seattle.

Reed

Woody
 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Honky Tonk Hero: Ron E. Rebel of The Shivering Denizens

Ron E. Banner leads the Shivering Denizens at the Little Red Hen. (Cat Rose photo)
 By Cat Rose

Ron Eugene Banner first came into our lives at Al's Tavern in Wallingford (neighborhood in Seattle, WA) around 1998.  I was playing pool (and winning), and he challenged and beat me.  After he won, he started to make jokes about women vs. men playing pool and how women can never win...and for anyone that knows me, especially when there is beer involved, well, let's just say that's not gonna fly.  Being the competitive person that I am, I played him again and it did not go well for me. It was last call, it had to end there, so I popped off at him and Andy and I went home. 

The next night, we were back at Al's (we lived around the corner then, so we were always there and it was "the place to be" at that time).  Ron came back that night and came over to me immediately and wanted to make sure that I was not upset with him, as he had (of course) just been kidding. I laughed as I had overreacted the night before, and we became instant friends.  He came to our house that night for an after-hours party and an indulgent music-listening session that lasted to the wee hours of the morn (the first of many ).         

This is how I remember it, anyway, Ron said we made amends and he came over that first night and hung out with us, but in my recollection it took a second meeting to realize his charm.  


Meet Ron E. (Eugene) Banner, 43, guitar slinger and singer, born in Ketchikan, Alaska, and set up shop with his family in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1979 for 17 years.
In Cleveland, he started listening to Black Sabbath and Suicidal Tendencies, he started a metal band (Fistful) at age 16 and first started playing bars... 


Interview by Cat and Andy at Slim's Last Chance in Seattle (March 4, 2011):

* FISTFUL OF METAL ...
Fistful started in 1982, it was kind of a heavy metal band, power metal band turned thrash metal, you know, within six months. After we started listening to Slayer, it just turned to heavier and faster and maybe a little more punk influenced, but mostly it was just thrash metal. (He sang and played bass.)

* WELCOME TO HELL ...
Hyper as Hell was a band from my college town, Kent State, and that was basically hardcore -- we had a lot of metal influences, I started adding a little Slayer, a little Celtic Frost. We played a lot, we played with COC, DRI, Dayglo Abortions, Dr. Know... we got a lot of good shows, we were a pretty good band ... I went to prison in '88, and when I got out in '92, we started playing again, but it just wasn't the same and the whole scene changed, the energy wasn't there. I couldn't take it anymore -- and so I moved out to Seattle. (Just guitar in Hyper.)
Banner, left, with Hyper as Hell (Courtesy photo)
http://www.myspace.com/hyperashell

* SWEET NEW HOME SEATTLE ...
I've been here 17-18 years now ...the first nine years I had not played in any bands, I pretty much gave up on music. I quit drinking back in 2001, and that's when I started getting the itch to play again.

* BACK WITH JACK ...
Jack Tripper .... It started out to be a band, we had recorded some songs, we never played any shows, we played in my basement. My roommate had a recording studio down there and so I started this band called Jack Tripper. It just sounded like a cool band, it had some 'Three's Company' themes in it just a little bit, it was very indieish sounding ... it was so indie that each song was a completely different genre (laughs) ...(It was my first band back) I just wanted to write songs and play with people again.

* GETTIN' DOWN WITH ZERO ...
So I hooked up with a friend of mine, Lenny Burnett, who actually got me going again. I didn't have any gear and he had never seen any of my bands, I wasn't involved in the scene, he just invited me down to play bass with someone else's cabinet, someone else's bass and I eventually just went out and bought new gear. I just went out and bought the best Ampeg amp, the best rock bass, I got an Ernie Ball bass, and we started playing and we've been together for almost nine years now ... the band is called Zero Down, as you guys know.
Lenny Burnett, left, with Banner in Zero Down (Courtesy photo)


http://www.myspace.com/zerodownrocks

* ON THE STAGE AGAIN ...
It was awesome, my first show with Zero Down was back in 2002. We had been rehearsing for like four months, we had about 8-10 songs, and it was our first show. Those guys had been in the scene for a long time, the last 20 years, so they got friends from way back around here. I was still kind of a new guy around here, no one knew me in the scene ... I wasn't really expecting much, we played at the Sunset Tavern, and I showed up there and the place was practically fucking sold out. I was a little nervous, and I've never been nervous playing -- and of course, I've never played sober. I'm usually, you know, got a couple hits of acid rolling. One time I even brought a crack pipe out on stage ...and some roadkill. We (Hyper as Hell) found a dead deer on the side of the road and we dragged it into the van, we put it out on the stage and started smoking crack.

* HARD-HITTING HONKY TONK ...
After about five years of playing with Zero Down, I started getting some guys together to play this honky tonk and it was a big joke, so I started writing songs. I had been writing since like 2002 and learned some songs and I started listening to Hank III around the same time ... and he was big metalhead, so I could see where he was drawing all his influences from and how it related to the metal ... 'It's misery to me, it's all evil to me,' I was kind of getting tired of some of the topics in metal and it turned into a big joke ... all the new death metal stuff, I just wasn't into it. When I started this band, it was like the new punk to me.

(The band features Banner on vocals/acoustic guitar, Lee Harvey Hartwood on lead guitar/banjo, Hank Leinonin on stand-up bass/vocals and Bob Borazza on drums/vocals. Fred Speakman played guitar on the first, self-titled record.)

http://www.theshiveringdenizens.com/

* BANJO DELIGHT, 'CROOKED AND CRAZY' ...
When we got Lee Harvey Hartwood to play banjo and guitar, that changed our sound a little bit to more of this bluegrass/hillbilly sound, and we put out our second record called 'Crooked and Crazy' and we've been getting a lot of shows in town. I get show offers every single day ...we went on tour last year, we went to South by Southwest and we had some really good turnouts, we got to open up for Exene (Cervenka of X), that was really fun ... we're going back out on the road in May and we're gonna do Southern California and probably go to Arizona and play a couple shows in Las Vegas and Reno, southern Oregon and Portland -- it will be our first time to play Portland and we're really looking forward to that.
Denizens' set list

* HONKY TONK, HARDCORE, METAL, WHATEVER ...
It's not so much the genre, it's where the music feels raw to me ...hardcore still is raw, that's one of those genres where if you've been out of it for a while, it's really hard to get back into it. My right hand isn't what it used to be, you know (laughs) ... speed picking, I'd love to do it again, but I've kind of got my hands full with the other two projects, but I love playing hardcore. I love playing metal -- we're opening up for Accept next month, we're (Zero Down) playing with all those bands we wish we could have opened up for in the '80s, but we'll take it, man (opened up for Prong, Paul Di'Anno, two shows with UFO). So, yeah, that's been a great ride, too.

* I'M A DENIZEN THROUGH AND THROUGH ...
The band I'm in right now, the Shivering Denizens is by far the most happy I've been with a band ... it's just real free, there's no stress, we just go and play, the songs are real simple, we have lots of fun and we make more money than any band I've ever played in.

The thing I like about with the Shivering Denizens is I write the songs and the songs are stories about either my life or someone else's life. It's fun, we get people anywhere from the ages of 6 to 85 to 90, we had a couple that could have been in their 90s dancing to us. It's not just the punks, or the metalheads or the rockers -- it's everybody. And we can play these little small towns out in the middle of nowhere, like Orting or Spanaway, and people appreciate music out there. They're not jaded like shoegazers that you're gonna find in Seattle, people who are just too cool -- don't wanna buy any merchandise (laughs).

* HOUSTON, WE HAVE A DENIZEN PROBLEM ...
(Favorite show, last year:)
We played a show down in Houston, and I got Brent Amaker to play with us, he's from Seattle, too, at this place called the Trash Bar. It was on a Wednesday night, we had no idea what to expect, went down there, it was this little dive bar, it was St. Paddy's Day, and it was packed in there. It was insane. There was all these kids who never heard of us, it was 18 and over, all you could drink, you could even bring your own beer in there and smoke in there ... you can imagine the mayhem -- 18 and over! People were getting up on the stage and singing with us.

* ROCKIN' AND GRUBBIN' ...
(Favorite places to play in Seattle:)
I like the Shanty (Tavern) a lot, I like the Little Red Hen a lot, and Slim's (Last Chance), too, where we're standing here.

The Shivering Denizens in action at Slim's Last Chance (Cat Rose photo)
(Pre-gig meal:)
(At Slim's) The chili with the grits, the wings are really good.

* MOONSHINE AND BLOOD SAUSAGE ...
Our new record is gonna have a lot of family oriented stuff, so I do have a song for my mom and my mom's family. I got a song just about being an American: it's about getting off the boat on Ellis Island, coming out and starting a family. My grandparents came out here with one small child, they come from Hungary (Budapest), and they settled in western Pennsylvania, and he started a job in a coal mine. They had 16 kids, they went through the Depression, my grandmother made moonshine and blood sausage. They're all really loud, in-your-face people, all yapping, there's no filter, they'll say anything, at anytime, they never bite their tongues.

I got a song for my grandfather from the other side of the family: it's a song about working hard, no matter what you're doing, if you want something in life, you gotta work for it. He was the epitome of that, he was a farmer, he died on his tractor at the age of 80 (heart attack), but that's where he spent most of his time, so go figure, you know. It's a tribute to him and some of the things I've learned from him.

A little bit of a heartfelt record ... but I've got a serial-killer song -- just to mix it up a little bit.

* THEY CALL ME RON E. REBEL ...
They used to call me that back in the '80s. I've had many, many, many (nicknames) from different people in different segments of my fans and friends, of people who either knew me or didn't know me. In Fistful, people called me Ronnie Fistful... Ronnie Fistfuck...Careful with that Axe Eugene, Rocknaldo.

Whatever the nickname, Ron E. rocks, always has and always will... 

Ron E., center, kicks up a racket with his pals as a tyke. (Courtesy photo)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another 25-center: Doughboys a welcome addition to bag o' tapes

Bag o' tapes, Doughboys in the middle.



By Andy

So, we already had the Doughboys' fantastic "Crush" on CD and played the hell out of that thing when it came out in 1993. But two weeks ago, I dropped a quarter on a cassette copy at Half Price Books in Seattle and relived that classic tuneage in my car (yes, we still have a car with a tape deck). "Crush" is necessary listening as far as I'm concerned.

Sporting dreadlocks and Les Pauls, those Canadians could jump higher than any punkers around (and those guitars are heavy!), possibly even putting Michael Jordan back into his kindergarten seat. The tunes are heavy and poppy all at once -- the perfect mixture to satisfy the Descendents and Big Drill Car crowd.

Saw them live four times at Gilman Street in Berkeley and the Edge in Palo Alto alongside NoFX, 7 Seconds, the Buzzcocks and Redd Kross. The Doughs were simply a powerhouse unit live, and that blast from the past "Crush" made my drive a smooth one and got me thinking about the initial Gilman gig in 1989. Since I had bailed out on my friends Sean and Joe the week before as driver to see Sepultura in Oakland (sorry guys, but the San Jose State University Spartan Pub was calling), I had to get back in their good graces and hit up the Doughs gig. Joe skipped out this time, but Sean and I reveled in the sounds of the band that evening.

Where does this take us today? Well, it's all about the bag o' tapes. As shown in the above photo, you've got everything from the Yardbirds to Los Lobos to the "Return of the Living Dead" soundtrack. I've purchased these titles and many more over the last five years or so at thrift stores, record stores, pawn shops and garage sales -- all for a quarter or so. It's an addiction, man.

Some of the tapes have sucked (I've tossed them, and I won't name them to protect my alleged good taste), but there's nothing like popping in a used, sometimes-hissing cassette and letting the music bring you back to when tapes ruled the day. You remember friends, places, the hippie behind the counter who sold you the tape or the geek who wanted the tape but you grabbed it first.

Alongside the illustrious bag o' tapes, we've still got hundreds of cassettes dating back to the early '80s. Punk, metal, pop, it's all there and ready to get some tape-deck action. There's store-bought tapes and treasured mix tapes -- for the latter, I went with the baseball approach: a solid leadoff song, building to the hard-hitting cleanup fourth spot ... and you go from there.

Now hit the play button, please.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Black Flag memories and those classic fliers

One of many killer gigs: fourth one down (Cat/Andy collection)
By Andy

* Black Flag/Adolescents/DOA/Minutemen, June 19, 1981, Santa Monica Civic

Tall boys of Budweiser in the parking lot: check.
Minutemen shredding their punk/funk to a mostly unappreciative crowd (I and many others dug them, though): check.
DOA killing it and bassist Randy Rampage chucking his bass against the back wall either out of excitement or because the thing broke: check.
Pat Smear of the Germs joining the Ads on second guitar and helping them blast through "Amoeba" and all the other classics: check.
And, finally, watching Flag from side stage and seeing Chuck Dukowski working his bass to the hilt in that he slipped on the stage, and singer Dez Cadena barking out lyrics and throwing a mike stand into the crowd: check, check, check! Awesome gig. 

* Black Flag/45 Grave/DOA/Descendents/Husker Du/UXB, July 17, 1982, Olympic Auditorium (LA)

Most people who see this flier framed in our house always ask if this lineup was too good to be true. Agreed upon. The only thing I can say about this one is that every band was on fire and it all went by in such a blur that I wished I could have stopped time and revisited this one. A classic.

* Black Flag/Fear/Stains/Youth Gone Mad/Caustic Cause, Sept. 11, 1982, Devonshire Downs (Northridge)

Highlights of this jaunt to the airplane hanger in Northridge: 
Someone heckling singer Rudy from the Stains, who jumped in the crowd and got in a brawl with the yelling dude.
Watching Henry wrap the microphone cord around his neck like a hangman's noose during the long, droning, wonderful "Damaged I."

* Black Flag/Redd Kross/Descendents/Husker Du/St. Vitus, Jan. 14, 1983, Mi Casita (Torrance)

Notice that Husker Du is still near the bottom of the bill here with the Descendents just above. You know where both these bands would soon be headed. Anyways, my brother, Ed, and I got in the van with the Huskers for this one and were treated to a killer Black Flag soundcheck to kick off the evening. St. Vitus brought out the inner metalhead in me, the Huskers leveled the small gathering crowd, the Descendents blazed with their two-guitar attack and Milo's energetic performance, Redd Kross rocked and rolled, and who could forget Henry wearing short shorts and revving up the crowd with "Rise Above" and many others? A wild one.

* Black Flag/DOA/Wasted Youth/Descendents, Nov. 27, 1983, flier says SIR, but it was relocated to the Ukranian Cultural Center (Hollywood)

DOA and the Descendents again with the mighty Flag. Ray Cooper sang for the 'Dents on this evening and did a fine job filling Milo's shoes. During Flag's set, Henry got up close and personal with a fella in front and lunged at the guy with teeth bared and went for his nose. The folks in the slam pit blasted into the area at that moment, so I never saw the conclusion of that meeting. Intense.

* Black Flag/Ramones, Nov. 17, 1984, Hollywood Palladium


This one is mine (Carrie): After seeing Henry flip sweat off his then long locks and seeing the Ramones rock out (like only the Ramones could), my friend and I came out of the Palladium to a row of riot-geared-up cops blocking the street and helicopters circling.  They apparently had it in their heads that there was going to be trouble when, of course, they were the ones that caused all the ruckus.  We high tailed it out of there when we saw the police beating someone with batons and someone else taking photos, they then turned to the photographer and started whacking. I had heard an interview with Joey Ramone years later and he said that this was one of his most memorable shows -- it was definitely so for me.

*Final note: We've given away some doubles of these fliers in our collection to various folks (including Tony Pence from Deep Sleep, who framed and hung some in his Celebrated Summer record store in Maryland), but we're keeping everything from here on out. Enjoy this blast from the past.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raw Powers: The tales of Cousin Eric

Eric Powers with Clay Wheels at the Comet Tavern in Seattle. (Andy photo)
This one time, at band camp ...Eric Powers found his drumming groove.

At age 34 now, my cousin the sticksman has been pummeling helpless drumsets for some 26 years. He's covered the gamut of musical styles, starting with the school concert band in Morgan Hill, Calif., to rocking out with Whiskey Sunday overseas and with legendary Stooges guitarist James Williamson with Careless Hearts in his beloved San Jose.

There's been a lot of 'epic' experiences in between those above noted musical bookends, and we fired off a list of questions and he let the memories roll:


• Why drumming, what got you into it? Did you bang on stuff around the house?
Ben Heidrich photo


I'm not really sure if I banged on things around the house….I don't recall doing anything like that. I do remember a single drum that was always 'put away' and 'only for the 4th of July' that was around the house….I'm sure any kid would have beat the hell out of something like that. It was off limits. Mom an Dad didn't want to hear that. I understand now. The drumming thing came randomly one weekend day when my dad and I were in downtown Morgan Hill having lunch at Mission Trail Deli. I was 8 years old. Across the street was the Music Tree, a store that had musical instruments for sale and rental. The store's still there. We went over to have a look at the guitars, amps, trumpets and the cool part, the drums, after lunch. I asked Dad if I could learn, and I got signed up right then and there for lessons with a guy named Steve DePorceri. Took lessons there for two years or so, or at least until I was old enough to start in the school band program in fifth grade.


• I know you started in school band, any good stories about your early years? What about the trip to England? Didn't you drum with Louie Bellson?

I played in every school band there was from fifth grade until I graduated. I was a skateboard kid and a band geek. My school district had a super-great music program that was supported by crazy fund-raisers and constant activity. Junior high was three years of concert band in the morning, jazz at night, competitions all over the state, international tours (London and all over Europe). High school was the highly regarded "Live Oak Emerald Regime Marching Band and Color Guard" from July until rainy season. Band camp, etc. We did jazz in the offseason. Lots of stupid teenage antics on band trips. I was into skateboards and punk and heavy metal, so I was naturally drawn to a little mischief at times.

Whiskey Sunday (Courtesy photo)
Careless Hearts in SF (Angeline King photo)

Anyway, my high-school band teacher got Louie Bellson to come to our school and play with the band and give a talk and a drum clinic. He had recently married a local gal and moved to nearby San Jose. I guess he was well known for helping out at schools and telling his story in his elder years. This was extra cool to me because my junior-high band would play Count Basie tunes. Louie was my favorite drummer on those old Basie records I listened to for the recent years to learn how to play jazz drums. I liked Louie more than Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa. My band teacher probably still has no idea how much of a big deal it was to me.
Long story short, we played a concert one night at the school, he invited me to do a little old-school 'drum battle' at the end of the show and I think I pretty much choked, but I got by -- it was an epic night, for sure. He signed my snare-drum head that night. It's hanging on the wall in front of me right now. I think that was 1992.

• When was your first time on stage with a rock band? What was it like? You were young, did they have to sneak you into the club?

It was with The Brownies at Oasis Nightclub, Downtown San Jose. Totally ridiculous. I rehearsed with the band for the first time earlier that night. It was basically a tryout, and we end up playing later that night at a downtown club. It was a pants-shitter for me. They were all 5-10 years older than I was. I had an electronic kick drum pedal rig that night. I'm not really sure why. It wasn't mine. This was around 1992-1993. I was around 17 years old. I was definitely snuck into that place! Many, many show nights back then were spent either in the back room, or outside. I got in undetected a few times, but I never drank. I was just happy to be able to watch the other bands and hang out. I have a few funny stories about getting kicked out of these same places.


• Name your bands, from start to now. You've gone from ska to punk to rock to country with your latest band Careless Hearts.

I'll give you (attempted) genres, too.

LAME - skate punk party crap
Stone of the Sun - it was bad, bad
The Brownies - ska/reggae/dancehall (RIP Tim Kahikikolo 3-3-11)
PALE (later we changed the name to HANK) - post punk/alternative
Willies Conception - hip hop (Brownies side project)
Sloe - post punk/alternative/indie
Hotbox - filled in for So. Cal tour only
Clay Wheels - skate rock
JP & The Rhythm Chasers - western swing (mostly fill-ins)
Greenhouse Effect - stoner rock/doom
Whiskey Sunday - punk. drunk.
The Pimpsticks - '50s/'60s swing
Careless Hearts - indie/Americana

Pimpsticks (Eric Stanger photo)
Careless Hearts with James Williamson (Poke Choppums photo)
The Modern Soul Quartet and/or the Hamm's Bear Trio have also shown up and rocked the spot, on occasion.
I still have one or two more projects I'd like to do someday.

• What's your favorite and why?

I think my favorite band I've ever been in would be Sloe. We put in a lot of time and energy and did a lot of great things together. It was mayhem. I'm forever proud of that band. We've recently started back playing together a bit. It's really fun.
That said, I love playing with Careless Hearts now. It's a similar feeling with these guys, but without the Tequila and clown shoes.

• Best gig?

I think it might have been opening for the Skatalites at the Cactus Club/San Jose. It was a weird one, because they usually played 'nice' places, but it was at our home base. Exciting for us all.
Then again, the James Williamson/Careless Hearts gig is up there, as well. Sometimes a great night overseas on the road with some whiskey and 10 raging people in the crowd is the best gig ever.

• Every musician has a nightmare gig story ... what's yours?

The worst one was at this legendary dancehall in a tucked away town called Brisbane. The place is called the 23 Club and all kinds of serious country and jazz guys have played there over the last 100 years. I was playing with JP & The Rhythm Chasers, filling in and really not too familiar with their tunes and I definitely wasn't from the '50s western swing scene. My drums were big, boomy, clear acrylic jobs at the time, so I hit up my pal Joey Meyers to borrow one of his many vintage 'cool' kits so I didn't blow the place out and I thought I'd look like I fit in a little better. I didn't set up the kit at home beforehand to make sure I had everything I needed. I had stacked up weeklies, tablecloths, barstools and duct tape helping me limp through the evening to make a somewhat usable rig. It sucked. I sucked, and we probably sucked.

• There are times when you've been in like 3-4 bands at once. How do you make it happen? Is time management one of your strengths?

Time management definitely became one of my strengths. I was on a pretty regimented and BUSY schedule my whole life through school. After I graduated high school, it was no big deal to work a full-time job and dedicate 3-4 nights a week plus all weekend to the band(s). It came naturally. I like it. Girls don't like it so much. The trick is keeping your calendar up to date. It's much easier nowadays with smart phones and things like that. There are sometimes conflicts, but not as many as you'd think.

• Speaking of strength, do you attribute your well-muscled arms to drumming?

Absolutely. 12-, and sometimes 16-ounce curls, have a really positive impact, as well.

• What's the key to being a solid drummer?

Listen and play lots of different kinds of music. Do it a lot. Playing with different people is a really great way to learn. Listen to the other guys, and don't show off. You look stupid when you show off. I think AC/DC's music is a true definition of the word 'solid.' Play like them.

• Name your top five drummers.

• Chuck Biscuits - He played fast and precise, but still had enough in him to throw in snare drags and little jazz-ish fills without lagging at all. I spent many years trying to get those little DOA tricks down, then I ripped off the song 'D.O.A.' in a Whiskey Sunday song when I got it down good enough. He was also in Danzig and I was a big fan of them when I was in junior high…as you are well aware of.
• Earl Hudson - Nobody is as good as Earl Hudson. Earl Hudson deserves his own Washington Monument in DC.
• Louie Bellson - Hot-shit drum solos, but nice and tasty when it's swing time. He was famous for playing a double-kick drumset since the '30s or '40s. My favorite of the guys from that era, ever since I was a kid. I never took up double the kick-drum thing.
• Jimmy Chamberlain - He had the chops that none of his peers had during the 'grunge' days. He's a shredder, but has dynamics. Dynamics are key.
• Carlton Barrett - He taught me reggae music. The Barrett Brothers were the best rhythm section in the business. Reggae was huge for me when I was younger.


• When you and the Careless Hearts played with James Williamson of The Stooges, did he give you any invaluable tips? Did he give you the evil eye if you missed a beat? What was that experience like?

That experience was an amazing one. We all (Careless Hearts) felt really grateful that James was interested in playing with us, simply so he could get his chops up a little and rock out with some guys in a room with some loud amps. We ended up playing a gig and recording it for vinyl/DVD release. It was an amazing experience. Steve Mackay ('Funhouse' saxman) showed up for a few rehearsals and played at the show, too. We would endlessly ask James questions during the summer rehearsals, sometimes getting great stories out of him and sometimes getting a laugh. We are still pretty tight with James. He's a super nice guy. We're stoked for him, being back onstage after 30 years of not playing. That's a crazy story in itself. Funny, one of his tips was to not drink or party before you go onstage. He said the Stooges never did. Iggy was a different story. That blew my mind.

*Note: Andy, the blog's co-author, was a large part of my musical upbringing and reached out early on. He sent me mix tapes with bands that are legendary, but I had never heard before. These were instrumental in my upbringing. The tapes were played to death. He continued to give me music and tips ever since I can remember and I'm forever grateful. Carrie and Andy starting this blog is long overdue and I thank you for asking me to be a part of it.