Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bad Religion's Jay Bentley discusses influential bassists

Jay Bentley, as bear and regular guy. (Top photo: John Bollwitt; bottom photo: Courtesy of Bentley)

By Andy

When the debut Bad Religion EP hit my turntable in 1981, I was floored.

It spewed rage, melody and intelligence through its grooves and out of the speakers of a stereo that was already on its last legs - and I'm surprised now that it didn't fall to pieces when those six songs were finished. It surely would have been a victory for punk rock, right?

The sound was raw and powerful, the vocals were jarring and yet comforting at the same time. It was a solid blend of punk and rock - right up my alley; I reveled in the hardcore stuff in Los Angeles and beyond, too, but that Bad Religion EP was a go-to record.

And Jay Bentley's bass was killer, gluing everything together and giving "Slaves" a kick in the arse with a brief, driving intro.

I saw them live for the first time in 1982 at Godzilla's in the San Fernando Valley of LA alongside Symbol Six, Minutemen, Descendents and Sin 34.

A solid bill, of course, but it was Bad Religion that me, my brother Ed and a few friends were more stoked to see than anyone else. Bentley and crew were spot on that night and the tunes from the EP and "How Could Hell Be Any Worse" were finally realized for us in a live setting.

We'd see them a few more times after that and I was always drawn toward Bentley's side of the stage to get the low end firmly wedged in my ears.

So, here you've got Bentley in the present day discussing the bass players who had an impact on him. Read on:

10. Dee Murray - Elton John. His talent for finding the lines in a piano-led band are phenomenal. Elton had a pretty mean left hand, which freed up a lot of space in the middle of the fretboard that I think Dee used very tastefully. He may have been the first player I absolutely recognized as "refrained."

9. Berry Oakley - Allman Brothers Band. I know the Allmans were considered "southern rock," but when Duane was alive, they were the best, and maybe only, band doing what they were doing... justifiably the only good "jam band." I thought Berry was so good at keeping it together with two drummers and a slide-guitar player - very busy in the frets, but it never felt muddled.

8. Peter Hook - Joy Division / New Order. He changed the main focus of the "bass" from the low notes to high ringing notes. Everyone had gone there, but Hook STAYED THERE. Not that I would ever want to imitate that, but he made it possible for me to go there if I wanted. I remember distinctly the first time I heard them... "he can't do that, he cant do that! but he is doing that" and I still think about that to this day.

7. Bruce Thomas / Davey Faragher - Elvis Costello. We'll leave all the legal mumbo jumbo and personal issues out of it. They are both wickedly talented and have an ability to push and pull songs within the framework of Costello's guitar stabbings and Steve Nieve's organ. I think Bruce set the bar so high for what a "punk rock" bass player could be, and Davey, with his own credentials, stepped into that role seamlessly and in fact did some things on his own that were breathtaking. The entire "Delivery Man" album is perfectly executed.

6. Steve Soto - The Adolescents. There were a half dozen or so of us that stuck together early on to learn from each other. Steve had chops and could sing like a motherfucker. Another bass player stuck between two great guitar players, he found and played the most musical lines. Really taught me a lot about harmony between all the instruments.

5. Fat Mike - NOFX. Not really appreciated for his bass playing as much as his stage antics, Fat Mike has developed a style that is so unique it's almost impossible to duplicate. Since he is a songwriter, he gets to intertwine guitar and bass parts and make incredibly complicated parts seem effortless. He's also the only person I know who can make that goddamned Danelectro bass sound good!

4. John Entwhistle - The Who. Duh... good Lord, he just makes me want to quit.

3. Lemmy Kilmister - Motorhead. He's just a badass. Everyone from Gene Simmons to Sid Vicious were just wet puppets compared to Lemmy. Not the best, but the loudest, not the most technical, but will smash your face with sheer brute force. The epitome of a rock and roll bass player. Untouchable and unfabricated, unapologetic and quite frankly one of my ideal role models.

2. Paul Simonon - The Clash. Art student naively learns to play bass guitar in such a way that he makes it accessible for everyone! Fucking punk rock! Now add the cool factor and the whole package becomes everything I want to be. My de-facto target player when I'm in doubt.

1. Sir Paul McCartney - The Beatles. Most underrated bass player ever. Maybe the best ever. The absolute perfect union between guitars, vocals and drums. Don't care what anyone says, you're wrong... in my humble opinion. Sir Paul McCartney is ground zero for almost every bass player today, even though they wouldn't know it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sergie Loobkoff / Top 10 guitarists series, Part 1

Sergie Loobkoff  (photo: Joseph William)

By Andy

Sergie Loobkoff: The man with the low-slung Gibson SG -- lunging, swaying, grinning and riffing up a storm.

There are certain Samiam songs where you figuratively need a crowbar to pry the guitar melodies out of your head. You know the tunes: "Bad Day," "Dull," "Full On," "Did You Change" ... the list goes on.

For us mediocre six-stringers out there who feel we need to air-guitar to get in the game, don't even try mimicking Loobkoff. You will fail every time. Just fucking watch his reliable hands attack the strings, stand back and dig the show. You will win every time.

Loobkoff is and has been in other bands, as well -- including the mighty Knapsack -- but Cat and I have only seen him with Samiam in Northern California, Seattle and at The Ramones Museum in Berlin (acoustically there, and equally entertaining).

So, here we've got Loobkoff's top-10 guitarists that he sent our way:

Jimi Hendrix October 1968 TTG Studios in Hollywood/ Chuck Boyd / (c) Authentic Hendrix, LLC

1. Jimi Hendrix - His songs are over-exposed, so, nowadays, I rarely, if ever listen to him. It would seem odd to put him on the top of my list…but he is the smoothest, most effortless rhymic player. I think I watch more videos on YouTube of him than actually listen to his songs.

2. J Mascis - For 3 decades, I’ve never stopped listening to Dinosaur, the Fog or J solo. He is the greatest guitarist/singer/songwriter/drummer (at least in rock) for me. I go and see him every time the opportunity arises…even though he disappoints most of the time by improvising instead of playing his catchy recorded leads…and he usually plays so loud that both his tone and the band overall sounds shitty. Just saw him at Fun Fun Fun fest, though, and with a large PA /open-air, it was awesome.

J Mascis (photo: Tim Harvey Pekar Clarke)

3. Adam Franklin - I have loved Swervedriver since the late '80s…and when his recent solo records came out, it really revived my appreciation. I don’t think anyone has figured how to replicate obscure pedal-driven sounds live, as well. Really a master of unique tones and effects.

Adam Franklin (photo: Cat Rose)

4. Jimmy Page - Much like Hendrix, Zep music is sort of played out in my mind, so I don’t listen to it often. But every once in a while, I'm reminded why he was so great.

5./6. Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo - Neither of them would probably be thrilled to be considered as one entry…but Sonic Youth  singlehandedly opened my mind free of punk or metal. Guitar/bass/drums can be a conventional approach to making music and this duo knew how to make it sound unconventional.

7. Doug Martsch - Like Dinosaur, Built to Spill is still on heavy rotation after decades of listening.  He just comes up with timeless melodies with his instrument.

8. Chris Cheney - Most people in America don’t know the Living End…and if they do, they know one song ("Prisoner of Society"). But this guy is the perfect blend of a punk guitarist and Eddie Van Halen and Brian Setzer. I know that doesn’t sound too appealing…but he is fucking amazing. Great singer and songwriter, too.

9. Elliott Smith - He is probably not thought of as a guitarist as much as a singer/songwriter… and I know in the wide definition of the genre "folk," amazing guitarists are a dime-a-dozen. But for my limited knowledge of that world, he is the guy that I connected with. Call me a folk-rock poser, I can take it.

10. Anyone that writes amazing songs but isn’t necessarily a virtuoso at the instrument: That could be Beck, Noel Gallagher, John Lennon, Nick Drake, Bob Mould, the list goes on. I don’t give two shits about the metal technicians, or fusion or jazz finger athletes… it’s all about the song.

Bob Mould (photo: Cat Rose)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Samiam and Die Kreuzen -- vacation bliss

Samiam acoustic and Andy, bottom, at the Ramones Museum (Cat Rose photos)

By Andy

Hey there, Mr. Conductor, let's get this train rolling faster.


As Cat and I rode the rails from Tilburg, Netherlands, to Berlin in April 2013, we finally got an Internet connection and discovered via Facebook that one of our favorite bands, SAMIAM, were playing an acoustic set that night at the Ramones Museum in Berlin. We were still a few hours outside of our destination, but things couldn't move rapidly enough for us ... could we possibly make it to the gig or was it just an unreachable dream?

We couldn't sit still in our seats as we soaked up the views of the German landscape. One stunning sight was what looked like a Gothic church jutting out of a mountain as the fog hovered about. Spooky and cool.

Samiam awaited us and as we got closer to Berlin, we thought we just might pull this off.

When we arrived at the station, we bolted out to the street, hailed a cab to our hotel, quickly checked in, dropped off our bags, snagged another cab and we were en route to the museum. As we entered, we heard Samiam playing, nodded our heads and smiled at each other and jammed into the crowd for another great show from the Berkeley sons.

But let's not forget why we were in Tilburg.

When we found out that another one of our faves, DIE KREUZEN, were playing the Roadburn festival, we planned our vacation, pronto.

I hadn't seen the band since 1984 at a chaotic gig at the Cathay De Grande in Hollywood, so this would be well worth the wait. We packed into the small Green Room at Sunday's Afterburner gig amid the heaps of dry ice and flashing lights and watched the Milwaukee powerhouse in action. FUCKIN' GREAT!

Die Kreuzen at Roadburn (Cat Rose photo)

So, here you have a few videos we recently found from those gigs. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dangerhouse Records Night At The Echoplex - Live Review / Los Angeles Beat

Weirdos' John Denney (Elise Thompson photo)

Originally posted in the Los Angeles Beat on Nov. 12

By Bob Lee

The Dangerhouse Records night presented by Part Time Punks (with an assist from Frontier Records’ Lisa Fancher) at the Echoplex on Nov. 9, was one of the finest Old Punkers Nights in memory. These events, in which multiple participants from the good old days get their teenage bands back together, take place fairly frequently in LA, but the gathering in one place at one time of this particular crew felt special. During its three-year existence at the end of the seventies, Dangerhouse was THE essential LA punk label, documenting the earliest warblings of the Weirdos, X, the Dils, the Deadbeats, the Bags, SF-based kindred spirits the Avengers, and multiple others, providing the most concrete physical evidence of that particular space and time. (Frontier has reissued the catalog twice, most recently as a 2-CD set containing the complete run.) While the people on stage were mostly pretty up in years, there was an appealing refusal to grow old gracefully, or politely, on display.

Though the Alley Cats’ Randy Stodola was playing up a storm, the band’s set was hampered by a muddy, overly bass-heavy sound mix, and the members seemed to have trouble hearing each other.  Things improved slightly for the proto-hardcore Rhino 39 from Long Beach, playing its first gig in two decades. Opening with a cover of the Randoms’ “Let’s Get Rid Of New York”, they inspired the day’s first circle pit – how inappropriate for the period, why wasn’t anyone doing the Worm? I noticed that the manner of dress and hairstyle favored by Rhino’s guitarist was exactly the same as Black Oak Arkansas’, who I’d seen just two nights earlier.

The same can’t be said for the Deadbeats, who don’t look like any other band. One of the scene’s most singular and musically progressive acts, they rip me a new one every time I see them play. Their sound owes more to the Mothers of Invention than anything most people would call punk rock, and maybe because of that, they always leave a big impression at these gatherings. Their current lineup matches original vocalist Scott Guerin with drummer Joe Berardi, bassist David Jones, keyboardist Paul Roessler, sax player Tony Atherton and guitarist Harry Cloud, with occasional appearances by vocalist Nurse Heather Galipo. Guerin remains a charismatic frontman, one that doesn’t need a suit made of penises to draw attention to himself, but who will wear one anyway, because too much is never enough.

Nurse Heather Galipo of the Deadbeats, and below, Scott Guerin. (Bob Lee photos)

The latter half of the set included original Deadbeats guitarist Geza X, joining Guerin onstage for the first time since the early 80s. Looking adorable in his pastel dress, Geza started with his song about the Austrian artist Herman Nitsch, a “funny little man” who famously got the young-punk residents of the Canterbury Apartments to be part of a performance art piece from hell, involving crucified farm animals whose blood was poured into the mouths of the unsuspecting volunteers. He stayed on as the band went through much of their 70s catalog, reaching its high point with the iconic “Kill The Hippies.” This might be the OG LA band most worthy of rediscovery today – come and get ‘em, world.

It was the set by the Avengers that cut most deeply, at least for this writer. Coming off a week where reporting of current events was making me want to start drinking heavily, it was downright uplifting to raise a fist and sing along to “The American In Me,” to hear this song written ages ago that speaks very precisely to the moment we’re living in right now. It certainly helps that singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham are both performing at a level that matches the intensity of the old recordings, joined by the capable and enthusiastic rhythm section from Pansy Division. They are just about perfect, playing all their best songs in the manner you want to hear them played. The appearance of original member James Wilsey for the final two numbers brought gasps from some audience members, given the guitarist’s recent health issues, and he looked fragile but overjoyed as he joined in on “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “I Believe In Me.”

Avengers' Penelope Houston (Elise Thompson photo)

The Weirdos made one of their increasingly rare LA appearances to close out the night with a tight, energetic run through most of their best-known material. They’re down to a four piece now, John and Dix Denney with bassist Zander Schloss and drummer Jeff Feidl, and while the absence of second guitarist Cliff Roman was noticeable, they’re still a potent force on stage. An over-amped cover of Love’s “7 And 7 Is” fit perfectly into their equally classic originals like “Life Of Crime” and “Solitary Confinement”.

I hear some people talk a lot about the futility of punk rock nostalgia, wasn’t all that supposed to be an alternative to the old guard, get us out of listening to the Beatles and the Stones for the rest of our lives? Well, sure. So is it ironic that the people who participated in it are here nearly forty years later playing their old songs? I don’t think so. At the end of the day we are human beings, our hearts soar when we sing the old songs, ones that meant a lot to us back in the old days, and still do. It’s the most natural thing in the world.  It doesn’t matter what our taste in music is. Joy is an increasingly precious commodity in this world, we should take it while we can.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Arch Enemy and Kreator: Seattle metal night

Arch Enemy, top, and Kreator. (Cat Rose photos)

So ... Arch Enemy and Kreator killed it last night at Studio Seven in Seattle. What more can be said?

Here's some Cat Rose images from the photo pit. (Huntress wailed, as well, but we arrived a hair too late to grab pics.)



Saturday, November 1, 2014

Drum roll, please: Todd Swalla serves up his top-10 list

Todd Swalla with the Necros in 1982 (Eerie Von photo)
By Andy

Back in the early 1980s, we'd always swing by punk gigs early so we could scope out the scene, chug a few brews, hang out with some fellow gig-goers and maybe find some of the bands to shoot the shit with.

On Oct. 1, 1982, me, my brother Ed and our pal Pat ventured into a sketchy area of Los Angeles to witness the Misfits, Necros, Social Distortion and SVDB (Saint Vitus Dance Band) at Bob's Place.

We spotted Henry Rollins -- who we were already friends with from lurking around the SST offices in Redondo Beach -- said hi and hung out a bit with him and the Misfits near their van as they assembled their set list for the evening.

Nearby, sitting on the hood of their van were some of the Necros guys, who were touring with the Misfits. As we hob-nobbed with them, we stared in awe as the hulking Jerry Only and Doyle carried their massive amps into the club with the greatest of ease. They might as well have been carrying toothpicks.

Later that evening, Necros drummer Todd Swalla gave his arms an intense workout with rapid-fire and precise skinsmanship behind his kit.

I never saw the Necros live again, but Swalla's drumming always stood out on the band's records, pushing them to a level above other bands on our radar. He also manned the drummer's seat for the Misfits for a bit and later for the Laughing Hyenas.

We tracked down Swalla and here he offers us a rundown of his top-10 drummers. This is some good stuff! Enjoy:

10. Bill Ward -- A mesmerizing fusion of hard rock drumming ala Bonham and beefed up jazz licks set to a soundtrack from hell itself. Bill was the quintessential acid rock drummer and was the engine that drove the Sabbath drug rock machine. Everyone in metal that came after is just a pale imitation except Lombardo.

9. Rock Action -- The master of Detroit thud, Scott Asheton proved that yes you can be totally strung out and still get the job done. All three albums are essential masterpieces.   (I don’t count those two mediocre after the fact offerings). Rest in Peace Scotty.

Getty Images

8. Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson -- Simply said, Dennis is the American answer to Keith Moon. An angular approach to drumming that ebbs and flows out of the pocket with the greatest of ease and is over the top on high energy with the most powerful band ever in front of him.   With heavy nods to Beaver Harris and Roy Haynes as well as Moon and Mitch Mitchell, Thompson was the backbone of the music of the revolution. Don Brewer doesn’t come close. For a real treat, watch the MC5 documentary and you’ll never do drugs again.

Leni Sinclair photo

7. Moe Tucker -- The queen of avant-garde art rock drumming. Moe could have probably gone the safe route and played a traditional kit but that would have been very un-Velvets. Bobby Gillespie be damned!

6. Animal -- This guy is a beast on the skins, not bad for a puppet.

Disney photo

5. Bobby Brady -- What Bobby lacked in ability he made up for in sheer youthful enthusiasm and energy. Unfortunately his career was cut short by parental intervention.

You Tube photo

4. Buddy Rich -- I used to watch Buddy on the Tonight Show when I was 8 or 9 and it was absolutely astounding. Every drummer on earth wishes they could play this well and this fluid. He had the best chops in the business and he was also the biggest dick -- essential and immortal.

3. John Henry Bonham -- What can be said about John Bonham that hasn’t already been said ad nauseum? No matter what you think of Led Zepp, one has to admit that the drumming was totally kick ass. The power of Keith Moon slowed down to a crawl with a technical savvy that catches the essence of white boy blues played at 11. Bonham will live forever.

2. Chuck Biscuits -- I was 17 the first time I saw D.O.A. play in Detroit in 1980 and it blew my little teenage mind. Chuck was my age at the time or possibly younger and he had it down to a tee. 100% pure energy with a kick ass band in front of him that was totally no holds barred pure punk rock. After D.O.A., Chuck was “traded” to Black Flag, which lead to that band’s best lineup next to the original. His short stint in the Circle Jerks was no less stellar. Unfortunately after that he joined Danzig and was told to lighten up on the drum fills. Yuck.

1. Keith Moon -- It’s hard to describe in words the epic proportions that come to mind when one talks about the drumming of Keith Moon. You can talk about the manic prankster and chemical intake, but what really stands apart is his playing. Pete Townsend always made a point of describing his playing as going forward as opposed to left and right like most drummers, and this is oh so true.  Many have tried and no one really comes close if you think about it, not even myself, Ginger Baker or Dave Grohl.

Keystone/Hulton archives, Getty Images