Zero Boys, from left: Dave Lawson, Mark Cutsinger, Paul Mahern and Scott Kellogg. (Courtesy photo)
The Zero Boys' new album "Monkey" is ready to be unleashed and singer Paul Mahern can't wait for people to wrap their ears around it.
"I hope that fans of the old stuff will like this record. It is certainly coming from the same place -- it's just 2014 and not 1982. I think the melodies are tight and poppy, the guitars are full of hooks and the rhythm section is spot-on amazing," he said in an email interview today.
The 15-song album will hit the streets on May 20 -- and it's a corker.
Mahern noted that the new album and last year's "Pro-Dirt" EP grew out of the band's European tour from two years ago when they played 21 shows in 23 days. New bassist Scott Kellogg and guitarist Dave Lawson's pairing with original members Mahern and drummer Mark Cutsinger on that tour "made us a real band again," the singer added.
"When we came back from that tour, we decided to see if we could write together. We started by setting up monthly sessions in my studio White Arc (in Bloomington, Ind.) and did most of the writing on the fly. The guys would come up with some riffs and I would scribble down some lyrics," Mahern said.
On the recording scenario, he added:
"It was mostly cut live with very few overdubs. We wanted to make a record that could live up to being released under the name Zero Boys. We also wanted the record to feel like 'now' and not just a remake of 'Vicious Circle.' Terry Howe, the ZB original guitar player, was very much with us in spirit. We often asked ourselves if he would approve of what we were doing." (Howe died in 2001.)
Mahern in Seattle. (Cat Rose photo)
Mahern is pleased with how the record turned out, both musically and lyrically.
"It wasn't until we started mixing the record that I realized that the songs all fit together very well. It's a concept record about dealing with the animal aspect of being a human," he said.
The new record is self-released and was partially financed through a PledgeMusic campaign. It is the band's first release since "The Heimlich Maneuver" album in 1993.
"It is just as DIY as it has always been. We made this record for ourselves and I think it's as honest as we could make it. All the better if others like it," Mahern said.
The band will hit the road in May for the following shows (a hometown gig awaits, as well):
May 8 Chop Suey Seattle, WA
May 9 Funky's Vancouver, Canada
May 10 Slabtown Portland, OR
May 11 Thee Parkside San Francisco, CA
May 12 The Press Club Sacramento, CA
May 13 The Catalyst Santa Cruz, CA
May 14 Little Louie's Hemet, CA
May 15 The Garage Ventura, CA
May 16 The Observatory Santa Ana, CA
May 17 Alex's Bar Long Beach, CA
May 18 The Redwood Los Angeles, CA
May 18 Soda Bar San Diego, CA
May 24 Indy CD & Vinyl Indianapolis, IN
*** Here's a link to the Zero Boys' video for a new song, "Third Strike":
(Whenever There's Something Hard in There co-editor Andy received a new punk rock album for Christmas in the early '80s, his uncle would reach his hand out, snag the record and grin. He'd first read the band's name aloud, raise his eyebrows and then flip the record over and begin reciting the band's song titles. He had a field day as he chuckled while rolling through Ramones "It's Alive." When it came time to dig into the Adolescents' "Blue" album, the uncle went a step further and read some of the lyrics. As he relaxed on the carpet, the words to "No Way" boomed forth and he probably wished he'd never begun. Andy and his brother Ed devoured the "Blue" album and caught the Adolescents live for the first time in the summer of '81 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium alongside Black Flag, DOA and the Minutemen. The band is still a favorite of theirs (and co-editor Cat Rose's) after all these years, and here we have singer Tony Reflex contributing a stellar piece on his top-10 singers and other influential vocalists. His favorite songs by his top choices are listed after each entry.)
By Tony Reflex
A task as daunting as choosing 10 singers who had an impact on me is about as difficult as choosing five desert island albums, or narrowing down a mixtape to 45 minutes. I tried to determine who and how and why the following 10 were chosen, and I essentially broke it down to a few criteria. The first was that the singer had to be fluid as a writer and as a performer. In other words, it couldn’t be splintered.
There are singers who influenced me as writers, for example Jeff Atta of the Middle Class and Patti Smith are singers who were more important to me as poets and for their poetic style. In fact it was Jeff Atta and his friend Norma who taught me that lyrics didn’t need to be stupid. They just needed to be good.
There are singers who had a specific vocal style, which was a bigger influence on me than their performance or lyrics. Darby Crash, for example, had a vocal style that I really loved when I was younger. I still do, actually. I liked his lyrics, but they weren’t always consistent. While the nihilism and hedonism intrigued me as a young man, it didn’t stay with me long after that. Rik L. Rik had an incredible voice, but the body of work was limited and sparse, often released after the bands were disbanded, or songs reworked so many times that they weren’t the blistering sonic booms that they were when first recorded. Did I love his voice and performance? Absolutely. Lou Reed, who had a distinctive voice and style, and many times wrote the greatest songs on Earth. As a performer I always found him to be way too relaxed. HR, once an amazing and engaging performer, has over time become more of a favorite of mine due to his truly amazing voice over all else.
Then there are the performers, those singers who put on a great show. Here I would include Jonathan Richman who can dance and tell stories that bring joy and tears, Iggy Pop who is the greatest performer in rock and roll hands down. Jack Grisham has an imposing smile and a mischievous glint in his eyes that is both disarming and dangerous. Jeff Dahl who has flair and style and bravado, and Keith Morris who has always been a firecracker armed with a microphone. That isn’t to say they lack writing or vocal style, it’s just that their performance is what captured and held me.
So. With all of that nonsense as a set up, I narrowed the field down to these 10 singers. I chose them based on their recorded works whether film or audio, as well as performances based on the same, and live shows if I was lucky enough to catch them. Finally, it was based on influence and longevity of influence.
There is no way to do any justice to these people, so I will try to keep it brief. which is highly unlikely….
Before I Joined A Band
Long before I ever dreamed of being in a band I discovered the love for music and loved to listen to the radio. I was especially fond of KRLA and KHJ in Los Angeles, both of them provided a rich diversity of oldies rock and roll in the late 1960s well into the 1970s at which point I started to gravitate toward album rock and Dr. Demento. Singers drew me in, and it was stuff that my mom introduced me to such as Buddy Holly and the Beatles, as well as accidental self discoveries like the Kinks, the Stones and the Pink Floyd that first got me interested in songs, and structures, and patterns, and the pure joy and exhilaration of it all.
1. Little Richard -- From the moment I heard the wail of Little Richard and saw that crazy hair, I was in. Little Richard’s voice, the catchiness and double entendres and the wild, over-the-top performances appealed to me as much when I first heard him as it does right now. I think he’s one of the greatest rock and roll singers of all time.
"Long Tall Sally" and "Lucille"
2. Jim Morrison -- While I like the poetry and cadence of Jim Morrison’s delivery, what drew me in was his dreamy drift-away speaks and ad-libs. This was compliments of a great band, of course. I loved that Morrison would just close his eyes and groove; and he’d just let go. There is something very appealing to me about the laissez faire of it all. As much as I love Mick Jaggers swing and sing, Jim Morrison took it to a much darker place.
3. Janis Joplin -- Janis Joplin has a voice that is so crystal clear on an emotional high and low that she makes me laugh, enjoy and cry. She’s like the soundtrack of life. So much soul, beauty and charisma. High crescendos, devastating heartbreak and dissolution. I suppose that Janis brought the blues to singers the way Cream and the Yardbirds brought them to guitarists. To be honest, I think it is because of my love for Janis Joplin that I love Dinosaur Jr.
"Ball and Chain" with Big Brother & the Holding Company
"Cry Baby," solo
4. Bon Scott -- The AC/DC frontman on the first five or so albums had a distinctive voice and a bark/snarl that I couldn’t -- and still can’t -- resist. He was awesome live, funny and engaging. I loved the denim, what-the-fuck-ever attitude as much as I loved his voice. The lyrics were catchy, anthemic, witty, crass and simple. All of the longevity qualities I seek in a song, also apply to the singer.
"Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Sin City"
Early on in My Music Experience
In the late '70s, there was a rush of great stuff that didn’t quite mesh with the slop that was played on local radio. Bands like Cheap Trick, Runaways, Ramones, Elvis Costello, Rick Derringer and AC/DC were all releasing great music that even FM bands wouldn’t touch. In fact, the early releases of these bands made their way into my hands via a kid that lived near me who got all of the promo stuff. I would buy or trade them with him. KROQ was still being run out of a Pasadena hotel room and later out of some non-descript building off of Los Robles, and college radio? What’s that?
Punk rock came along and offered me my first attempts at making legitimate noise. I started by using a cheap bass, Optigan organ and pots and pans -- running it all through a stereo amplifier and recording it on cheap cassettes. Eventually I was invited to join a band, and started making noise for people instead of for my pets. I had already begun going to see bands and was buying records from independent imprints. From 1979 to 1982 I began to absorb a different kind of rock and roll singer, and found a few that have remained favorites all of these years later.
Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters.
5. Chris D. -- Chris D. was the first singer I saw that could scream in a way that I thought his throat was bleeding. He wasn’t yelling some goofy lyrics, either, but wailing about life, drugs, heartbreak and death. He was a writer and a great poet as much as a singer, and his relaxed performance style could break out into cold sweat at any minute. As much as I loved John Doe/Exene, Jeff Atta and Darby Crash, I thought he was the best lyricists around. His songs have withstood the test of time, and are every bit as engaging as they were the first time I heard them.
"No Questions Asked" and "Live 1981" by the Flesh Eaters
6. Jimmy Trash Decker -- Jimmy Trash brought an accidental aura of trouble along with his great dayglo shirts and imposing size (I was under 5 feet tall the first time I saw him). Being within a few miles of the beach, Decker brought something unique and comfortable to me -- he was from a similar place. I could relate to the experiences. He had charisma and was approachable. Over the years everything I first loved about Decker is still there -- his nasal twang, his obvious beach drawl, his tan and his incredible and unique vocals.
"Suzy is a Surf Rocker" (above) and "Max Got Hit by a Car" by The Crowd
7. Robert Omlit -- Robert Logan Omlit makes the list because I saw him as one of the people in music that showed not only how easy it was to be in a band, but made me understand that this was anyone’s game who wanted to play. A relatively small, prematurely thinning hair, big coke-bottle lenses in his specs and quite possibly the most dangerous person I knew at the time, he would crumple on the floor and literally scream until the veins in his head bulged and passed out. A truly amazing vocalist.
"I Know I’m Lovely" by Several Pamelas
8. Ricky Williams -- The singer of the Sleepers and later Toiling Midgets had all of the vocal mystique that I admired in singers like Joplin and Morrison, but with even more enigmatic qualities. Detached, spontaneous and unpredictable. Lyrically heavy and disillusioned. An incredible voice that I would marvel at; Rik L. Rik and I spent many late nights in the mid-'80s dissecting the appeal and the lyrics of Ricky Williams.
"Sister Little" by the Sleepers
"Before Trusting Ricky" by the Toiling Midgets
Later in My Music Experience
By the time the 1990s were upon us I was already a veteran singer, if you can call what I do singing. I still went to participate in live music, and still enjoyed hearing what my peers had to say. I guess I still do. Unlike many people who had drifted away, I found that the music was still as exciting and urgent as it was when I was 16. I also found that there were singers that could belt out a song with such force and power and conviction that I would leave some shows wondering what had just taken place was even real.
9. Jon Wahl -- Though I had known John peripherally since we were in high school, and though I had heard him play that far back, there was absolutely nothing on Earth that prepared me for hearing him sing when he was in Claw Hammer. Both live and on wax, John’s voice gave me pain in my throat every time I heard it. A desperate howl trying to cut through the mayhem of a band who rocked so over the top that on a good night you knew you had just witnessed something so important and personal that it felt like you were reading someone’s sonic diary. A magnificent voice and incredible lyricist.
On MTV's "Oddville" (above) and "Malthusian Blues"
Scott Drake with the Lovesores last night in Seattle. (Courtesy of Neil Rogers)
10. Scott Drake -- The younger brother of Joneses singer/songwriter Jeff Drake took a similar, but unique direction with his bands the Suicide Kings and then the Humpers. A charismatic frontman, he has a voice that drips with ironic humor, bitter observation and perseverance. Eyes rolling back in his head one minute, and breaking into a carefree dance the next moment, Scott Drake is a showman and a singer’s singer. He still consistently releases great music, and his voice has all of the qualities it always had.
From left to right, Ian McCallum, Jake Burns, Steve Grantley and Ali McMordie (Courtesy of Ashley Maile)
Stiff Little Fingers are still hammering away while infusing infectious melodies into our ears and wrapping our minds around pertinent topics.
The band's latest record, "No Going Back," features a dozen vital songs that deal with personal issues ("My Dark Places"), the UK banking crisis ("Full Steam Backwards"), press reports on the Iraq war ("Liar's Club") and more.
For its 10th album, SLF raised funds for its release on PledgeMusic and fans rallied to help the band reach its goal in five hours. Some of the money raised will go to the Integrated Education Fund.
"Our audience has always been astonishing. Turning up in your thousands year after year. We’re always amazed and thankful. And now we can offer something back in terms of getting you involved in the actual creation of the record," the band wrote on its PledgeMusic page.
Following SLF's recent tour of the UK, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, drummer Steve Grantley answered some email questions for There's Something Hard in There. Cheers, Steve and SLF.
• This is your fourth album with SLF. What's special about this one? It's been 11 years since the last one… why did it take so long, was it worth the wait?
This album has taken so long for various reasons. Jake moved to Chicago, which was a massive upheaval plus we scrapped a lot of material -- none of us thought it was of a high enough standard, but they delayed the whole process. We were back to square one. Jake then went through a depression, which is now well-documented and in fact the song "My Dark Places" deals with this subject.
The record is special because it's been so long since we recorded together and also because young Mr. McMordie was back in the fold. We decided to record in the US and this was a first for the band. All in all, the process was enormously enjoyable and I think it shows in the record. There's an exuberance about the music, which was born out of the enthusiasm and positive feeling in the band. We are all mates and we just had a ball hanging about together and making music. We had fun . . . and we did it in three weeks. Two weeks to record and a week to mix. That's pretty good going! And yes -- it was worth the wait. (laughs)
Grantley and Burns. (Andy photos from Brooklyn 2011)
• You've played with Jake for many years, even going back to the Big Wheel days -- describe your band relationship with him? What's it like playing with him, seeing how he works, writes songs, lyrics?
Jake and I are first and foremost friends. We are mates and would seek out each other's company whether we were in a band together or not. We go right back -- through good times and bad. Playing with Jake is a pleasure because he's serious, but not pretentious. We work hard and then have fun. He's a lazy git when he writes, but it's always worth the wait. (laughs)
• What are some songs that hit home with you on the new album -- lyrically and music-wise?
My favourite song on the new album "No Going Back" is "When We Were Young" -- great tune. "I Just Care About Me" is rocking, too. I think it's a really strong album with 12 gems. I think when you write too much, you devalue the material. I like the fact that we didn't just release whatever was laying around. We were discerning and edited out the weaker tunes leaving us with 12 songs on the record; I feel ALL the songs are strong and deserve their place in the SLF canon.
• Did everyone have a hand in writing or just Jake? If everyone, what did you and the rest of the guys contribute and how does it feel to be a part of the SLF legacy of offering new songs to fans?
Jake wrote 10 of the songs, Ian wrote one and Jake and I collaborated on the final composition. We get a free hand with the material. Jake never tells me what to play -- he makes suggestions, but I really do as I please. We work hard as a band in the rehearsal room and tear things apart -- we jam a bit -- listen to rough recordings to make sure it's all blending and then go down the pub! (laughs) It's an honour to be part of SLF history and a pleasure to play with Ian, Ali and Jake.
McMordie in Brooklyn. (Andy photo)
• How have the new songs been received by fans?
The songs have been going down very well with audiences on this just past March tour -- it's a relief when you read good reviews -- you think "phew! We got it right!!!!"
Record Store Day is Saturday and that means that Die Kreuzen and CH3 records are on tap for your punk-rock listening pleasure.
Die Kreuzen's paint-peeling "Cows and Beer" EP from 1982 will get a proper reissue from Beer City Skateboards and Records (www.beercity.com).
It will be pressed on four different colors of vinyl. There will be both 7-inch and 12-inch versions, the latter which will feature a comic book by Brian Walsby.
Singer Dan Kubinski shared this information today with There's Something Hard in There:
"There are only 1,000 copies of the 12-inch and the packaging is outta sight! Plus it was remastered especially for the 12-inch and 7-inch (different mastering for each) and it sounds thick, full and amazing!"
Courtesy of Janet Brammer
As for CH3, Hostage Records will release the band's "History" and "Kicked in the Teeth" single on Saturday. It is billed as "The CH3 Turntable Battle Royale on 7 Inches of Wax!"
And for you drinkers, there's a new CH3 "Indian Summer" Belgian IPA on tap at ST Alehouse in Lynnwood, WA. (It's a heavy hitter at 6.3% alcohol by volume!) … CH3's Mike Magrann says they might be out now, but it's cool anyway, right? Prost!
Here's the CH3 Record Store Day lowdown from Magrann to send you off with your heels clicking to your fave record shops:
So yeah, we're releasing a new single for Record Store Day 2014!
The A side is a new track, "History," and there's a new promo video for it, as well.
For the video, we thought it would be cool to get back in the old Cerritos garage where we practiced 4 days a week for 4 or 5 years. Back then, Mom's only rule was to shut it down at 8 p.m. and come inside to get something to eat! Mom recently passed, the kids have moved on, so the old home base will soon be out of our hands for good.
It was nice to get back into the garage, look at some of the old flyers up on the wall, steal a few beers like the old days. And it all fit in with the song's theme of History, the very thing we are left with at the end of the day!
Side B of the vinyl is a ripping cover of AC/DC's "Kicked in the Teeth." It's a track that had been sitting on the hard drive for a few years, but seemed timely enough for a release now!
Once again we're working with the good folks over at Hostage records (www.hostagerecords.com), those guardians of the OC sound for decades. They really pulled it out to get this platter out in time for the big weekend, and it couldn't be more of a pleasure working with Rick and Paul on another release.
And the real reason for all this nauseating self promo, along with the new T-shirts, posters and craft beer (no kidding), Record Store Day! We'll be doing 2 in-store appearances, Left of the Dial Records in Santa Ana CA in the afternoon (4 p.m.), and McGreats in San Clemente that evening (7 p.m.).
We'll squeeze in along with the bins and racks, dial up the amps and let it rip!
Dust will float from the rafters and the electricity will flicker and surge.
And we'll hope to give back a little to these last outposts of original, independent music that have served us for so long!
OFF! is one of the most crucial bands out there nowadays.
They're a foursome unleashed with Ramones-Minor Threat ferocity and Minutemen-length songs. They're dynamic, passionate and humorous … what more could you wish for?
On Sunday night in Seattle at El Corazon, singer Keith Morris, guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven McDonald and drummer Mario Rubalcaba were spot-on from start to finish, blasting out tunes from their three albums, including songs from their latest, "Wasted Years."
McDonald n' Morris
Morris is just as vital as when I first saw him sing for the Circle Jerks at the Starwood in Hollywood in 1981. McDonald still rocks as hard as he did during a head-banging gig at the Cove Theater in Hermosa Beach in 1982.
Check 'em out on their current tour. You will be floored.
A few quick musings of the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death.
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Kurt Cobain committed suicide.
On April 8th, 1994 I was in the back of a white limousine driving between Philadelphia and New York City when they announced Kurt’s death on the radio. The interesting thing is that Kurt Cobain was the sole reason I was in the limo. Let me explain…
I moved to Seattle in 1989 from Yellow Springs, Ohio to follow my rock and roll dreams. Were they dreams of arenas full of cheering fans, endless streams of “hot chicks” and doing drugs like Keith Richards locked in a pharmacy? No, not really.
See, after 4 years of forming bands, playing shows and putting out cassette releases (in between attending a few classes at Antioch College) a small group of us decided to move to Seattle to try and play music full time. This was back before Seattle and Grunge were synonymous. Our DIY ambition was all about trying to put out records, go on tour, possibly be able to quit our shitty day jobs and be full-time musicians. When we arrived on Seattle’s doorstep, it was as if the city was waiting for us. Taking up residency in the audience at the Vogue on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we quickly met the cast of characters that we would begin to call good friends. Within no time, we were playing shows and scheming on how to put out our own records.
My college band Big Brown house shared a rhythm section with The Gits, and it became quickly obvious (for good reason) once we got to Seattle that the Gits was going to be their primary focus. By 1990 I decided to quit BBH and form a new band. I enlisted fellow Hot Lips Pizza co-worker Tommy Bonehead and we went about putting together Alcohol Funnycar. We were up and playing shows within the year.
Around this same time Sub Pop was exploding. Soundgarden had signed to A&M. Mother Love Bone’s first LP was out and Mudhoney was everywhere. Nirvana was a band with a song on Sub Pop 200 that everyone dug when it came on the juke box at the Frontier Room. The rest is history right? Nirvana – Boom! Soundgarden – Boom! Pearl Jam – Boom! Alice In Chains - Boom! It was as if overnight the lunatics had taken over the asylum and these were no longer Seattle’s bands… they were the world’s bands.
First rule of capitalism - Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
It was as if within days of Nirvana’s explosion every major label had a full time scout in Seattle. A&R guys were flying up every weekend to check out bands and whereas once the goal was maybe to get a record on SST, now it was bidding wars, fancy dinners and stenciled road cases for everyone!
First they snapped up a bunch of the Sub Pop bands (Mudhoney, Tad, Afghan Wigs, Love Battery, The Fluid, etc.) Then it was on to the other indie labels in town. I could probably make a list of 50+ bands at that time that got signed to major labels, their subsidiaries or big indies. It was as if the streets were paved with gold.
With an EP out on C/Z Records and a full length coming, the labels started sniffing around Alcohol Funnycar. In any other time or any other place we wouldn't have been on their radar, but now, every band was in play.
We got lots of advice from friends who’d already been through this dating ritual like “order the most expensive wine when you go out for dinner. Fuck ‘em, it’s Michael Jackson’s money anyway.” Or “Get them to fly you down to LA to visit their offices to make sure they’re serious”. Most importantly “There’s a cabinet in every office packed full with records. Make sure you take as many as you can”.
So in essence, we started speed dating. We had a local manager, got an LA lawyer and started working the expense accounts of any label who wanted to talk.
Capitol, Columbia, Hollywood, Priority, Mercury, Geffen. You name ‘em, someone reached out at some point. Not really because they loved us, more likely because they were worried someone else would get to us first. A&R people are an interesting mix of ego and insecurity. It can be a lethal combo.
So back to that limo…
We were flown out to Philadelphia by Rough House Records. They were primarily a hip hop imprint at Columbia and their artists included The Fugees, Cypress Hill and The Goats. They wanted to get into “rock” and were interested in our band. So we wine and dine our way around Philadelphia. Eat some cheese steaks, meet some local folks and drink a million drinks. The plan was that we’d go up to Columbia in NYC a few days later to meet the head of A&R David Kahn. The owner of Rough House was a character named Chris Schwartz who got his start working with Schooly D. He claimed he was not trying to impress us, but never the less picked us up from the hotel in a white stretch limo. We thought it was funny.
So there we are, on the freeway headed to NYC when an announcement comes on the radio: “Kurt Cobain was found dead from an apparent suicide”. The irony was not lost on me. After the initial shock wore off, I started thinking to myself “Well… this is over”.
If Nirvana hadn't exploded with "Nevermind," there is no way there would have ever been a feeding frenzy like this. There is no way a band like Alcohol Funnycar would have received this level of attention and no way we would have been driving in a limo with some record company guy that thought he was going to make a bunch of money off of us. It’s all kind of laughable now.
Over the next few years it all wound down. Our last LP "WEA$LES" was distributed by BMG, we toured a bunch and that was about it. The labels realized they couldn't make a bunch of money of off the Melvins, The Boredoms or Unsane. They packed up their tents and went and found a kinder gentler version of Grunge in bands like Sugar Ray, Smashmouth and Third Eye Blind.
And so it goes. Seattle got back to normal. Bands started focusing on music for music’s sake again and everything worked out in the end. We salvaged the knowledge they left behind and built our own infrastructure for the future.
So on this sad anniversary I try to look for the positive. The one upside? KC didn't have to live through Third Eye Blind.