Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Enter the metal cabal with Seattle's Black Breath

Hair-raising gig: Black Breath's N.T. McAdams and Eric Wallace. (Andy photos)
By Andy

It must have been the most sedate Black Breath gig ever.

The Seattle metal band was certainly blazing -- hair flying, guitars wailing and all that good stuff -- but the setting was not ideal for a slam pit or the singer jumping into the crowd.

Queen Anne's Easy Street Records is where we first got a taste of Black Breath. Oh, it was stellar, but seeing them later at more intimate places like the Comet Tavern and the Black Lodge would bring the raging-full-on factor to new heights. Bodies packed tight, heads banging, vocals roaring, drummer's cymbals nearly falling over ... that's an earthshaking, bone-breaking Black Breath gig for ya.

Elijah Nelson eyes the crowd.
A pair of gigs at Neumo's (with Corrosion of Conformity and Converge) were larger-scale affairs, but the singer still yearned to be part of the crowd and hopped into the mass of metalheads, sharing vocals and slamming about.

Aside from "evil" songs like "I Am Beyond," "Eat the Witch," "Children of the Horn" and more, the best comment to the crowd from one of the Black Breath dudes had to be from guitarist Zack Muljat at Easy Street. He noted: "I told my roommate to come. He asked if there's was gonna be beer for sale, and I told him 'No, this is a record store.' He said he wasn't coming." (By the way, Cat feels that Muljat resembles Sam Merlotte's brother Tommy Mickens (Marshall Allman) in "True Blood" on HBO.)

Anyways, Black Breath will be playing Rain Fest this Friday at Neumo's in Seattle and then attack Europe with a tour in July.

Rip it up with the Seattle metalists:


As for Cat and Andy ... more metal to come on this blog...
Armed and dangerous.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jylt: One crucial indie-rock discovery from Wales

Jylt: Tim Ramsey , Sarah Howells, Alex Cooper and Nia George (Courtesy photos)
By Andy

Sometimes you hit the play button -- and know that what's beaming back at you is spot-on. Everything falls into place. There's no need to ponder whether the melodic yet biting female vocals, swirling guitar riffs and fluid bass and drums are up your alley ... just like that, it's already a part of you.

Jylt is such a band.

I first heard the indie group's "Retrospect" on Radio BBC Wales while searching the Internet about a decade ago. I felt a similar buzz after hearing bands like Stiff Little Fingers, the Alarm, Bettie Serveert, Thin Lizzy and Minor Threat for the first time. Rock-solid music matched with poignant lyrics -- the perfect concoction.

After sending off a short note to the band -- then in their late teens -- to far-away Milford Haven, Wales, a reply from guitarist Alex Cooper read: "What's someone from Seattle doing listening to Radio BBC Wales?" ... It was almost like throwing a dart at a map -- I chose Wales (maybe because of the Alarm connection) and Jylt stuck with me.

For about two years, I kept an eye on the band from my computer screen -- while sporadically corresponding with Cooper and singer/guitarist Sarah Howells -- and received some packages from the band containing CDs and a "Retrospect" video. They were going places after securing a record and publishing deal.

"When they played live, it was SO right that it made the hairs stand up on the back of yer neck," read one review.


But there was a lull in our connection after a while, and I was wondering what was up with Jylt.

After checking their Web site, I was saddened to hear that singer/bassist Nia George had passed away in 2004 from leukemia at the age of 21.
Nia George

"Without Nia, it hurt way too much to continue, so we lost the band the same time we lost our best friend," Cooper said in a recent interview with this blog.

Jylt disbanded -- and since then, Howells dedicated her Halflight acoustic group's "Subside" EP to Nia and, in her current outfit Paper Aeroplanes, she sings for her friend on "Days We Made" and other tracks; Cooper and drummer Tim Ramsey play together in Persona B (a band, along with Jylt, that Carrie always makes me keep on our mp3 player).

Nia's father, Bernie, and I have been in contact over the years and he released a 16-song CD, "Messages," a compilation of Jylt tracks along with recordings made by Nia that he found after her passing.

"To this day, I can wander to her house and be welcomed by Trish (Nia's mom) and Bernie," Cooper said. "They are probably the strongest people I have ever met, and I love them like I do their daughter."
Nia in full-on bass and vocals mode.
Money raised from the sale of "Messages" go to the Bucketful of Hope Appeal, set up by Adam Evans-Thomas, a Pembrokeshire man who died of leukemia within days of Nia, according to a BBC News article. It aims to raise money both for day-care facilities at Withybush Hospital at Haverfordwest and the hematology unit at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff.

"We have been able to bring these songs together to create a celebration of exciting and happier times," Bernie said in the article. "The CD is both in memory of Nia and a chance to get her music heard by a wider audience and to raise as much money as possible for the appeal."


Cooper noted that playing in Jylt "was the most exciting and safe environment that anyone could ever wish to grow up in."

He wasn't an original member of the band, but one day at school, Nia approached Cooper and said she had something "really important" to ask him and then wandered off without an explanation. Later, Nia asked Cooper to join them at practice, which he did and was soon playing guitar to Crowded House songs.

Cooper was 15, and part of a band that would run through names like Mantis, AGNES, Carbon Sta and Epik before settling on Jylt.

"It was not till we settled on the final lineup that things felt absolutely real. Tim Ramsey joining on the drums gave us a whole new 'rocky' feel. This period saw us focusing completely on the music and each other.  We became incredibly close through this time and the four of us were pretty inseparable," Cooper said.
Nia was a like a sister to Cooper. She was full of mischief and possessed a ridiculously infectious laugh, he noted. "Even when she was ill, she would be more concerned about others than herself," he added. "Stubborn as a mule and very beautiful with it!"

Music-wise, Cooper was blown away by how Nia could sing and play her bass parts with such verve. Her writing wasn't of the excessive sort, it was straight to the point.

But there were a few cracks in her vocal armor, and that provided some fun for the Jylt crew.

"If she did cock up, you would hear her laughing her ass off over the microphone every time," Cooper said. "She could be very stern, however, and the two girls definitely ruled over us boys. Such is life!

"There is still not a week that goes by where I don't cry over that lady.  I will never get over her.  My music took a long time to begin again after she left," added Cooper, who plays guitar and sings in Persona B and just handles vocals in Underdosed. "I may not be very spiritual, but with Nia it's different. I do feel her around still, and the hugeness of her character has affected many people I know that have never met her and only discovered her after she passed away.

"I will always be thankful that Nia helped me become the person I am today," Cooper concluded.

For more information on Jylt, visit http://www.jylt.co.uk/ and http://www.myspace.com/jyltmusic
Alex and Tim.

Sarah with Richard Llewellyn in Paper Aeroplanes (Richard Johnson photo)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And the Swedes will rock...Asta Kask at the Morgue (now Club M)

Asta Kask's Bonni Pontén on vocals/guitar (all Cat Rose Photos)
By Cat Rose

A great way to kick off our vacation hangin' at Club M (a clubhouse in historic Georgetown in Seattle) to check out a band from Andy's heritage -- Töreboda, Sweden's punks Asta Kask.

Snuggle -- who reminds us of a very early Samiam -- and two other mystery bands (apparently not the ones on the poster) opened for the Scandinavian gentlemen, who first started playing together in 1978 under the name X-tas (then changed the name in 1980). We actually did not know much about them until we downloaded some of their tunes about a decade back, but could not pass up a chance to check them out.

Micke Blomqvist also guitar/vocals for Asta Kask

Magnus Ernie Hörnell on bass
 The Morgue is an all-ages club and there were definitely all ages there, from pre-teens to punk seniors.  In fact, it was pretty funny when a guy sporting a jacket with a large Battalion of Saints logo on it joked (after the singer of one opening band spouted off something in the vein of being nothing but a number with no voice to be heard in today's world)..."said the 20 year old".  I started laughing and then Battalion boy quipped "did I say that out loud?"...LOUD AND CLEAR.

Then Asta Kask (which translates in English to something about a "helmet"?) took the stage and brought us to their homeland...showed us how the Swedish roll and had the crowd slamming about. Unfortunately, some wanna-be Suicidal Tendencies numbskulls got out of control in the pit and had to be booted from the gig. (We saw that coming when they were swigging from their 40s of Olde E. outside, pre-gig.)

But Asta Kask held it together and completed their set with gusto. Glad they came to our city to launch their first-ever U.S. tour -- may the rest of their stay be filled with joy. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

San Jose Sharks Blast from the Past: Arturs Irbe, 'The Man Behind the Mask'

In an effort for our San Jose Sharks to finally advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, we are seeking help from our old pal between the pipes, Mr. "Like Wall," Arturs Irbe.

Here's an old article that Andy wrote in 1994 for the Los Altos Town Crier. (Click pages to enlarge.)

Maybe a powerhouse from the Sharks' past will give us an extra boost in the upcoming week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sorex: the trials and tribulations of a young punk band from Redondo Beach, CA

Sorex attack their tunes at the Cathay De Grande, Hollywood, 1984. (Bonnie Hinkens photo)

Dave Benson art.

By Andy  

There was no "Rock 'n Roll Swindle." No one ever had "the feeling (they'd) been cheated."

The Sex Pistols we weren't.
First gig flyer.

If there was ever a punk quote about my old band Sorex, it would probably be from FEAR's Philo Cramer in the "Decline of Western Civilization": "Won't you be our friends?" As in give us a gig, a chance to slay a crowd -- believe me, this was hard to achieve for a no-name band from Redondo Beach, Calif., in 1984-'85. In fact, gigs were scarce then for LA punk bands who weren't deemed cool enough by the Goldenvoice promoters who ran the majority of the shows.

We just didn't fit in: we were punk, but kind of rock; we liked metal, but also embraced power-pop. We were a mixed bag of musical styles; even if we wore bags over our heads, no one would have noticed us.

A smattering of the Sorex collection. (Andy photo)
If we would have made it into the '90s, we might have had our day in the sun when "punk broke" and more bands got in on the action. In our hometown South Bay area when Sorex existed, there were no places to play, except for the odd teen-center show, house parties or even a community-college campus. Nowadays, Suzy's Bar & Grill in Hermosa Beach, near my parents' house, has regular gigs -- we miss out again.

But we did have some highlights, my friends! We debuted at the infamous Cathay De Grande in Hollywood alongside pals The Detonators and Johnny and the Dingbats (Carrie was in attendance, by the way); hit the road to Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley and played with Broken Bones (ex-Discharge) and Special Forces; and traveled further to Sparks, Nev. (near Reno) to gig with the Circle Jerks and Seven Seconds. The Sparks gig took place in a former church with the bands playing on the “altar” … Sorex ("rat" in Latin) opened the show and blessed the crowd with its jarring Adolescents-meets-Germs aural attack to an appreciative (!) crowd.

We were a cast of characters: me ("Strom") on vocals, Dave Benson on drums, John Dieter ("JD") on bass and guitarists (at different times) Jerry Urczek, John Hacker and Tom Cornejo.

We forged our way into the world of punk music in the summer of 1984 in Benson’s Redondo garage and hammered out a ball of noise at first, but we'd end up penning some pretty decent songs along the way.

We first recorded a 10-song demo tape in a friend's home studio in Redondo and later released our only vinyl offering, the three-song "Portrait of a Prisoner" EP. Only 200 of the records were pressed, and in the year 2000, I received word that someone in the Portland, Ore., area paid $50 for a copy. 

In the last three years, collectors have paid $68, $69, $82 and a whopping $103 on eBay for this "gem." I paid for most of the EP's recording and pressing costs with my movie-theater-job earnings, and haven't benefitted from the recent upswing in Sorex interest. I have owned just one copy of the EP for the last 26 years. I definitely could never be heard saying what Lee Ving of FEAR told the crowd in the "Decline": "This is our smash hit single from whence (I) got all the money."

As an added bonus, the EP's lead-off song, “Tell Me the Rules,” is included on the prestigious Hyped 2 Death #2 compilation, which was repressed in 2004. (Another bonus with "Tell Me the Rules" is that, like all good bands (ha ha), the lyrics were misinterpreted: this one was thought to be about one of my personal relationships. It's actually about a movie-theater friend who couldn't get his girl to commit to him.)

"So what happened to Sorex?" you might ask. (Or not, but you'll hear about it anyway.)

Well, some band members often clashed over lyrics and musical arrangements, I was told that I wasn't a good singer (most punk vocalists weren't exactly songbirds, but it worked for them. It's the energy and spirit that counts, right?) and some people just wanted out. The others weren't exactly masters of their musical crafts, either, so maybe the band dynamic as a whole just wasn't on track.

However, I feel if we had only stuck it out a little longer, things might have fallen into place for us ... we were writing better songs and making more contacts to set up gigs.

Our time was brief -- about a year and a half -- and I took away a valuable lesson from those days: I'm probably meant to be a music fan and not a band member. Tensions ran high back then in the practice room and wherever else we roamed, and for a 17/18-year-old, it was hard to handle (especially with college and work in the mix). Hell, at my age now, I probably couldn't deal with it.

For all you musicians out there -- if you can find, or have found, a solid group of players to spend your time with, the more power to you. Rock on, and I'll live vicariously through your musical journeys.

SOREX TUNES: http://sorex.bandcamp.com/

Nystrom and Hacker take charge in Long Beach. (Second Thoughts fanzine photo)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's a long way to Australia, if you wanna rock 'n roll: Die! Die! Die!, Klondike's North 40, etc.

Die! Die! Die! in top "Form" in Sydney. (Andy and Cat photos)
By Andy

Guitarist up front, bassist behind during DDD's set.
Last October, Andy and Cat ventured to Australia to visit sister Kris and brother-in-law Rob ... and rock out, of course. Here's a bit of what happened (in no particular order):

* Die! Die! Die! --- yes, yes, yes.

DDD's skinsman, Prain.

As the curtain rose and dry ice slowly filled the stage, Andrew Wilson (guitar/vocals), Lachlan Anderson (bass/vocals) and Michael Prain (drums) poked through the haze and launched into Die! Die! Die!'s opening tune one Friday evening at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney's Darlinghurst neighborhood.

With an atmosphere usually reserved for those of upper-tier, rock-star status, the Dunedin, NZ, noise-pop trio certainly didn't act the part as they attacked the song either doing the shoe-gaze thing or eyes-closed screamo bit -- and the packed, pogoing crowd was right with them from the start and throughout the hour-long set.

The set featured swinging four- and six-stringed instruments, falling microphone stands and Wilson jumping into the crowd with mic in hand, singing his way through the mob and standing on the bar (maybe knocking over a drink or two) to finish off one song.

DDD's latest record "Form" on Flying Nun Records continues in the Dunedin indie-pop tradition -- albeit a bit on the louder side -- alongside The Clean, The Bats, The Chills, Bailterspace and many more.

Treat yourself to some DDD at: http://diediedieband.com/

Sydney's Chicks Who Love Guns also played that evening and kicked it into high gear with songs like "Smash Fuck," "Vomit on the Dance Floor" and "Murder's Party."

Check them out, if you dare, at: http://www.myspace.com/chickswholoveguns

Chris Masuak, right, and Klondike's North 40 at the Sando.
* After arriving in Sydney following about 16 hours worth of travel on our big bird in the sky, we were beat. But, thankfully, Kris and Rob were up for taking us to the 126-year-old Sandringham Hotel in Newtown to check out Klondike's North 40, featuring guitarist/vocalist Chris Masuak of Radio Birdman fame.

Masuak's trio blasted out power pop, garage rock and some blues during its first hour-long set before we headed back to our hosts' pad for some much-needed rest.

The Sando is an iconic Sydney music spot and we dug soaking up the atmosphere and being part of another solid night of tunes. (Later in the trip, in Melbourne, we hung out at the Esplanade Hotel -- The Espy -- another legendary rock venue, which has been open since 1878.)

Check out some Klondike tuneage at: http://www.myspace.com/klondike39snorthforty
"The Straight Path" record is chock full of great songs like "Sounds of Wailing," "Stupid Planet," "Recipe for Disaster" and more.

* Another highlight of our Sydney stay was watching Rob wail on his guitar along with his Chucks with Ducks bandmates at the Troy Horse (Alexandria), a jack-of-all-trades spot that features rehearsal rooms, a record shop and disc-duplication and graphic-design services, etc. (They've also got a cool collection of colorful gig posters on the stairway ... I snagged a Celibate Rifles one.)
Rob on guitar.
Scott on drums/vox.
Drummer Scott doubled as vocalist and gave a stellar treatment to an assortment of cover songs, ranging from Stiff Little Fingers to the Dead Kennedys to Motley Crue to Judas Priest. Cat and Andy sang the choruses to "Let's Lynch the Landlord" and "Breakin' the Law" ... so we're stars in Sydney now.

* When in Melbourne, hit up AC/DC Lane, for sure.

Cruise up Flinders Lane and you'll find the short, narrow laneway that runs between Exhibition and Russell streets. The Melbourne City Council unanimously voted to rename the street on Oct. 1, 2004, proving that everyone loves to rock -- with either Bon or Brian on the mic.

There wasn't much going on when we first visited ... it was practically empty, minus anyone bowing down or raising a pint to a statue of Angus or anything. There's plenty of AC/DC artwork on the walls along the walkway, so it's kind of cool.

Later one night, we stepped into the Cherry Bar (owned by one of the Cosmic Psychos dudes) and checked out a -- what else? -- AC/DC-sounding, glam-looking band. It reeked of obviousness, but we were there, and that's what counts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do"...Steve Ignorant's "Last Supper" with Crass Songs

Steve Ignorant blasts it out at "The Last  Supper" tour in Seattle, WA (All Cat Rose photos)
By Cat Rose 

   Sitting here drinking an "Ace of Spades" IPA, reflecting back on Crass and how they have impacted me since I first encountered their lyrical diatribe in 1984. 

I heard them at a friend's house in Southern California. We had been hanging out drinking our favorite (California Coolers) after school and listening to our regular helping of Descendents and Black Flag, when he said:  'Wait, you have never heard Crass?!' -- he insisted that I had to hear it that moment.   As it turns out, I did.  There were various people hanging out that afternoon into the evening, and at some point there were some girls who said they were leaving to go to the INXS show (which I was not even aware was happening) and they tried to get us to go with them.  I would have none of that, I could not fathom wanting to leave to see some watered-down new-wave band when you could sit there and listen to Crass hammering out the truth.

Gizz Butt on guitar.
Gizz, Ignorant and Bob Butler on bass (drummer Spike T. Smith--see slideshow)
This was the first time I was exposed to them and they were the perfect antidote for my growing angst at the time... and still to this day. From then on, whenever I wanted to scream and snap someone's neck,  I could then be found in the bedroom with the door closed and Crass blasting, usually "Penis Envy".  While I "celebrate their whole catalog", "Penis Envy" was the record that I listened to the most.  Being someone who has rebelled against the norm, "Systematic Death" and "Berkertex Bribe" (etc., etc.) spoke to me. 

Carol Hodge on vocals.

Hence..getting to see Steve Ignorant singing Crass songs (on April 26, 2011 at Neumos in Seattle, WA), with Carol Hodge filling in for Eve Libertine -- main vocalist on "Penis Envy"-- finally brought all those closed-door sessions to life. 

Ignorant started out with a Q&A session at the Comet Tavern across the street (one of our favorite Seattle haunts), but we unfortunately showed up for the tail end only, due to work.  He had his recent book "The Rest is Propaganda" available and was signing copies.

Then he and bandmates set the Neumos stage ablaze after opening bands Countdown to Armageddon and Goldblade (see last Poly Styrene entry for more on Goldblade).  I was skeptical at first that Carol Hodge would be able to pull off the Libertine style but she did an excellent job, giving the lyrics their due justice.  Our friends Nickle, Pat and Jaguar Bullet (AKA Tim) were there appreciating the moment (since none of us had ever had the chance to see them in the past).  Nickle, a longtime Seattle punk from "The Ave", described the first time he got into them at age 15 in 1985:

"It's actually quite a funny story. I was at a party just off "The Ave", and I stole a 'Yes, Sir I Will' record from the host of the party. We were young, we were kind of street punks, and I went into this woman's room, I put the album up the back of my jacket and walked out ...the next morning I put it on, and I was blown away."

(He said "Penis Envy" was also his favorite, also "Best Before" and "Christ- The Album"...)

He continued: "Part of it was the lyrics that Crass had was kind of like...was very truthful for somebody at that age. It really made you have a different perspective on things that were going on in the world...(He quoted "Where Next Columbus" and the lyrics about Einstein) ...and how awful can a system turn such wonderful ideas ..." (He said it basically helped shape his way of thinking).

Agreed, as Crass pointed out and spoke against the stereotypes, pressures, expectations and hypocrisy of society, it struck us then and still strikes those chords today, probably more than ever. 

"Last Supper" Seattle slideshow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/61152589@N08/sets/72157626623171378/