Sunday, October 27, 2019

All Eyes West unbottle 'Like Lightning' / Interview

All Eyes West in Seattle. (All live photos by Cat Rose)

By Andy

Cat and I first witnessed All Eyes West unleash a ferocious set of indie/HC tunes that also heavily tread on melodic ground four years ago at the Kraken Bar & Lounge in Seattle.

We still discuss that gig today and always wonder when the Chicago band will grace our city again. Cat often has AEW blasting on her music device and we always mention the trio if someone asks us about happening bands.

So, when AEW's Justin Miller (vocals, bass), Jeff Dean (guitar) and Ronnie DiCola (drums) released their latest album, "Light Lightning," on Jump Start Records, we were elated. Turn that record up and get locked into a rocking, emotional journey.

Here's an email Q and A with Miller:

** What does the new album mean to you?

It means a lot, actually. We kind of went through a rough couple years, both as a band and individually. These songs came together during this time. Naturally, a lot of those feelings and emotions really came through onto the record. It was a tough album to bring together, in itself. SO… when it was finally all done, it just felt like some sort of souvenir, from a crazy trip! I hold this one close.

** What were your thoughts when you were writing these songs?  Did you think you had something special on your hands? 

I wouldn’t say anything felt any more special than anything else we’ve done in the past. If a riff or an idea sounds good, we roll with it. I’m not sure that we’ve ever “thrown out” anything we’ve started jamming on. We just keep going through the song until it feels done. Some of these felt great from the start, while others took some time to tweak.

** What makes being in the band special? What drives you to write and then perform your songs?

Being in AEW is special to me because of the people involved, both past and present. I’ve had way too many great experiences and made such great friends with this band and these people to have it just be another band for me. We’ve put a lot into it over the years… so yeah, I hold it dear to my heart.

As far as what drives us, I think I can speak for all three of us when I say that it’s just in our blood! Jeff, Ronnie, and I have all been writing, recording, and performing with bands since we were teenagers. I mean, I can remember being 9 years old with a guitar I couldn’t play, jumping around my room to Poison! I’ve just always had the bug. Finding out later, through punk music, that my friends and I could make it all happen ourselves… I was sold. So basically, this is what the three of us know. It’s what we do.

** How did you guys find each other? What do each one of you bring to the band that forms the cohesive unit?

Jeff and our first drummer, Rick Fast, had been talking about jamming together. Rick and I knew each other because our old bands had done some shows together and we’d hung out over the years. Rick suggested I join in on bass and we all got together and it felt great. Pretty simple. We recorded the first record with Rick, but he wasn’t really into touring, while Jeff and I were eager to be out on the road. We had a couple drummers touring with us for a while -- our pal, Jon Drew (Uncut), put in a lot of miles with us, Tucker Rule (Thursday, Frank Iero & The Future Violents) played on our second record. And then Ronnie DiCola (Arrivals) stepped up to fill in for a couple shows and wound up staying! Ronnie coming into the fold really put some new life into the band. We toured a ton and wrote the songs for what became “Like Lightning.” That’s where we are now and I think we’re at our strongest. I think we all bring our backgrounds, style, experience, influences, and personalities to make the band what it is.

** What keeps AEW rolling? Are you just as stoked on the recent album as you were the first one?

We love playing together. I mean, we’ve have had our ups and downs and all that. We’ve had shitty tours and we’ve had amazing tours. At the end of the day, we do it because we all love music and love playing in bands. Even a bad tour can have a rad show, or a memory you’ll look back on forever. We’re all getting older, but we still have that fire. We just try to do what we can, when we can and keep it fun! Plus, I just like hanging out with these guys.

I think I’m actually MORE stoked with “Like Lightning” than I was with the first. I love every recording for different reasons, I suppose. There’s something about this record that is special to me. The first one just kind of happened. We just kinda wrote it and threw it down real quick. This one felt more like some sort of journey or something. It took a while to happen, so maybe that’s why. It felt like some accomplishment for the three of us. I feel like Jeff and Ronnie killed it. I dunno, I think it rocks. I hope a bunch of other people enjoy it too!

Photo by Katie Hovland

 ** What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from other musicians, and what would your message be for up-and-coming bands?

The best advice? Hmmmm…. Maybe it was more “words of wisdom,” but when talking about bands wearing shorts on stage, Cache Tolman(Rival Schools/Iceburn/etc.) uttered to us “Shorts can be nice, but you don’t wear them to the office.” I agree. Ha!

For up-and-coming bands… I’d say just do what you love! Get out there and see some shit, meet people, help people, be kind, be honest, and express yourselves with art or whatever. If it stops being fun… do something else! And I guess, don’t wear shorts on stage?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Digging into Monolord's 'No Comfort' / Interview

Monolord live in Bellingham, WA (All Cat Rose photos)

Text: Andy; Live photos: Cat Rose

My car nearly fell apart.

After ramming Monolord's latest release, "No Comfort," into the CD player, the opening tune, "The Bastard Son," rattled my cage with the familiar grinding slugfest that the Gothenburg, Sweden trio first gouged my ears with when we witnessed them live in Austin, Texas, in 2015.

If I had a broken door handle or dent in the car, the Monolord hammering away would have surely fixed my vehicle's faults. I might need an oil change earlier than usual, though.

As the record continues, Thomas V. Jäger (guitars and vocals), Esben Willems (drums) and Mika Häkki (bass) stay the heavy course, but soon sweep the bone-crushing away with a dose of mellow yet stirring fare. It's a stellar and stunning amalgamation of myriad styles that stokes the ears and gives the car a chance to heal after the initial blistering barrage.

Here's an email Q and A with Mika about the new album:

**Why the move to Relapse Records from RidingEasy Records for "No Comfort"?

Well it was a mutual decision from both the band and RidingEasy, since we thought that we've come as far as we can with RidingEasy. We're still very close friends with Daniel and he hooked us up with the guys from Relapse for a meeting. Feels like we've gotten to a good start with them and we're looking forward to see what we can do together.

**What were you hoping to achieve with this album when you started writing songs?

I can't deny there wasn't any pressure since we were gonna release the album on a new label, but other than that we had the same hopes as we always do when doing music. We want to create something that sounds like us, something that moves us and something we can fully stand behind when it's out there.

**How do you feel it turned out?

I'm very happy with the album! I just listened to it on the release day, for the first time since we turned in the master. And I feel really good about the songs and the mix.

**"Larvae" is absolutely epic and probably one of your most melodic, yet still pummeling tunes. Discus how that song came about.

"Larvae" is written by Thomas and we arranged it together. It's definitely one of my favorites at the moment. We just started to play it live a few days ago, and it already sits very nicely together. The guitar melodies together with the basslines came together pretty well I think. And it has the heaviest riff of the album in the end, haha.

** What are some of the challenges when writing a fourth full-length album with three solid efforts already in the can? What are the discussions like between you three while you're in the writing process? 

I don't really think there's any different challenges from album 2 to album 4. In the end, the most important thing for us all is that we ourselves are happy about the album. That we don't just repeat the same album over and over again. It helps  that all three of us find it easy to communicate about all of this together. We're all excited about new sounds and how to work those into our songs.

** While "Alone Together" and "No Comfort" aren't as heavy sonically, they're vital tunes in your repertoire. Are they just as moving for you to perform as the harder stuff?

Most definitely. It was in a way, a big leap to leave the fuzz off from "Alone Together." But it felt really natural once you tried that. Since the song is heavy in another way. It left space to be creative in a different way. I for example used a fretless bass for that song, which was super fun! And "No Comfort" definitely has a heaviness to it. The melancholy and sadness weighs a ton. I really enjoy that approach to songs, coming from a background with sad country songs.

**How are the new songs being received by fans in the live setting? Are you just as thrilled to play them along with the old tunes?

So far we've had a great response! It's always exciting to play the new songs for the first time. It takes a few gigs to really find the best spot for them in the setlist, but it's fun to see people's reactions when you play the new stuff.

**You've been "Delivering Decibels since 2014" ... what's life like in the Monolord camp these days? Are you still as hungry to destroy eardrums to this day?

Most definitely!! We've been working hard lately and life can get a bit stressful, like everyone else's. But once we get on that stage and turn on our amps, it's clear that this is what we've always suppose to do. And this fall we're touring all over Europe and then a month in USA. All in all for about two months. You can't really be on the road for that long if you don't love what you're doing.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Completing my UFO ride with Last Orders tour in Las Vegas

Andy photo in Las Vegas

By Andy

I thought I was going to die at a UFO show.

It was 1986 and my favorite rock band was rolling through its set at Fender's International Ballroom in Long Beach, CA, during its "Misdemeanor" tour.

I don't remember the exact song, but vocalist extraordinaire Phil Mogg and his gang were shredding, probably on one of their mammoth tunes I first latched onto in the 1970s. I recall the crowd being mellow up until this point, but all of a sudden things packed in tight up front where I was situated.

A row of lunchroom-type tables separated the band from the crowd, and I was soon pinned against one of the tables while the band rocked on. My body then twisted around and I was facing the crowd once behind me as the table flipped and landed on top of me. I was petrified, and for a few seconds I thought I was a goner. It happened so quickly, so the band didn't have time to witness the scenario or react. Suddenly, a plethora of hands grabbed at me and lifted me to safety and I was back on my feet again.

I was shaking. I was alive. And I got the fuck out of the front. I watched the rest of the show near the side of the stage and knew I had yet another gnarly concert story to tell one day.

That was UFO show No. 2 for me. No. 1 was seven years earlier at the epic Califfornia World Music Festival at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and that story will come later.

As the years wore on, I ticked off two more UFO shows with Cat in tow -- the 1995 reunion with Michael Schenker at the Edge in Palo Alto, CA, and a solid gig sometime in the 2000s at El Corazon in Seattle, WA, with our friends Zero Down.

When the 2019 Last Orders 50th anniversary USA shows were announced, I knew this would be my last chance to witness the band live and I needed one more notch on my UFO concert list to complete my five-decade run. We were going to hit up one of the shows, for sure. Since they weren't playing in our city of Seattle or nearby Portland, Cat and I nailed down tickets -- with five of our good friends -- for the Las Vegas House of Blues show on Oct. 11.

When Cat and I met up with Linda, Kevin, Erin, Sun Min and Francisco at the Excalibur hotel nearly five hours before opener Armored Saint took the stage, we knew we had something special in store for the evening.

While we reminisced about all of our wild adventures over the years, we journeyed toward the House of Blues and couldn't wait for UFO's first chords to ring out and Mogg to unleash his vocals that have been ingrained in our ears for what seems like forever. You know you're in a good place when Mogg lets go and sings his guts out.

Finally, the Last Orders bell rang on stage and we were off and running.

From opener "Mother Mary" to closer "Doctor Doctor," UFO were on point and gave us a night for the ages. I was especially stoked that they included more obscure songs like "Cherry," "Venus," "Makin' Moves" and "Fighting Man" in the set along with the unforgettable favorites. "Only You Can Rock Me" kicks me in the midsection every time and "Love to Love" stands as the band's ultimate amalgamation of the various musical styles they've shot fans' way over the last 50 years.

From the TSHIT archives.

During my live moments with UFO, I've seen Mogg hold down the vocal spot, of course, along with approximately four different guitarists and drummers, three bassists and two guys on guitar/keyboards. Insane!

When I first witnessed the band live in 1979 with my dad at the LA Coliseum, I was a wide-eyed early teen who had just won tickets to the show on the radio. It was my first rock concert, and I'll never forget walking into the place while Eddie Money sang "Two Tickets to Paradise." Then came Cheech and Chong wearing pink tutus, followed by UFO -- minus Schenker (damn!) -- who tore it up as a fan waved the best homemade sign of the day: "UFO kicks ass!" 

Van Halen and Aerosmith rocked out afterward, completing a solid day for a kid who played a Little League game that morning and then attended the big rock show into the night.

I would finally get to see Schenker manhandle his six-string in 1995 in Palo Alto, and it was everything I hoped for as I treaded along my rock 'n roll path. Metallica's James Hetfield stood nearby Cat and I at that gig and he looked just as stoked as we did. Linda and Kevin were there, too, and that made it even more special that we got to share our most recent UFO happening with them and our other pals.

Rock on!

Thanks to Francisco Ortiz for the videos.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

RIP, Kim Shattuck

Kim Shattuck in 2014. (All Cat Rose photos)

The following story appeared on this blog on July 13, 2014 and we are reposting it in honor of Kim Shattuck, who passed away today at age 56 due to complications from ALS. This interview simply rocked -- it was funny, insightful and honest. 

Also included are Cat Rose's unseen photos from the Burger Boogaloo from that year. At the Boogaloo when we met, Kim joked about how she forgot to bring her tennis racquet while we stood by some courts alongside her best pal, Melanie Vammen. 

After I handed her a There's Something Hard in There sticker, Kim sang the name of the blog with her familiar scream. 

RIP, Kim.


Andy, text -- Cat Rose, photos

Kim Shattuck missed her band.

When she was playing bass for the Pixies and was glancing at drummer Dave Lovering, her mind often wandered. She was thinking about The Muffs.

She'd ponder: "'Dammit, I wish that Roy was playing the drums with me right now instead of Dave,'" Shattuck said over the phone from her North Glendale, Calif., home on a recent Tuesday afternoon. "Roy is an amazing drummer and any other drummer you play with that's not as good as Roy, you're gonna know it, you're just gonna notice it. My favorite drummer in the world is Roy."

Guitarist and vocalist Shattuck can now dig on Roy McDonald's drum beats and Ronnie Barnett's bass lines with The Muffs again. And she was grooving on it big time during the band's raucous set at the Burger Boogaloo on July 6 at Mosswood Park in Oakland, Calif.

"Getting fired was like, 'Oh, good, now I can concentrate on my band again,' which I was probably chomping at the bit to do anyways," said Shattuck, whose 11-month stint with the Pixies began in January 2013 and ended in late November 2013.

"I'm really happy to be doing (The Muffs) because we've been together a really super long time. The record we're about to put out was already done before I joined the Pixies," she added.

The Muffs unleashed their blistering brand of punk/garage/'60s/jazz/rock/pop, etc. onto the Los Angeles scene in 1991 and they'll continue their rampage with the release of their "Whoop De Doo" album on July 29 on Burger Records and Cherry Red Records. Last month, the digital single "Up and Down Around" saw the light of day. According to Shattuck, Burger selected the poppiest tune on the album to get things rolling, and it was a solid choice: "I love the song so much," she said.


Turning back the clock, Shattuck's childhood life didn't include much rock 'n' roll since it wasn't her parents' thing, but she did get a taste of The Beatles from her aunt and uncle.

When Shattuck began compiling her own record collection, she initially leaned toward the kid-friendly rockin' tunes about cartoon favorites like Yogi Bear, The Flinstones, Felix the Cat and others. Today she laughs when mimicking the bouncy guitar sounds on those records that paved her musical path. As she grew older, early Kinks "started getting under my skin," along with early Who and Beatles and then the Sex Pistols.

"As long as it had a melody... and Sex Pistols were completely and totally melodic," she said.

While attending college to study photography, Shattuck began playing guitar, became interested in songwriting and formed a band that never garnered a moniker.

She pokes fun at herself when reminiscing about the experience: "I wrote really super terrible songs. I tried to write them on sheet music and they were just really awkward and over thought out. We never knew how to end a song -- it would just peter out. It was so sad."

Shattuck put her voice out in the open from the get-go, but it wasn't well-received by one of her bandmates.

"I broke up the band when the drummer finally said, 'Why can't you sing more like Siouxsie Sioux?' And I was just like, 'Fuck you!' And I had this big old complex that I didn't have a good voice... whatever," she says laughing.

When Shattuck hooked up with garage rockers The Pandoras in 1985, the bassist was reticent about contributing backing vocals, but she went for it anyway.

The Pandoras' singer Paula Pierce (RIP) influenced Shattuck with her melodic and screamy style that she brought to the table when The Muffs took action. Shattuck used Pierce's vocals as a template and then went all bombastic on us, making an impact from Day One and continuing to rattle listeners' cages today.

It all comes back to The Beatles when Shattuck digs into her singing bag of tricks.

"For the melodic stuff, I always wanted to sound and sing like John Lennon. The way he sang with kind of a screeching (tone), but the melodic bits that he would do, the growls that he would put on the high notes -- I still am a huge fan of that. So anyone who sounds at all like that is inspiring to me," she said. "Jeff McDonald from Redd Kross, he has a very Lennon-esque voice."

Aside from Pierce, Shattuck said she sticks to the guys when it comes to vocal guidance, but then notes that Joan Jett creeps into her vocal style, as well.

"I don't even think of (Jett) as a woman. I think of her as like, at times, dude-ish -- she has a dude-ish sounding voice and I guess so do I," she said.


Shattuck's voice remains stellar after 30-plus years of playing in bands. At the Burger Boogaloo, she sang, joked with her bandmates and the crowd and gave her guitar a serious workout. She's a shot of energy, aggro, confidence and joviality. She's a rock 'n' roller to the hilt.

Nowadays, Shattuck is in her comfort zone once a gig begins, although she used to be a nervous wreck prior to strumming that first chord.

"Is it worth it to get this nervous about something that's fun?" she asked about the old days. "I wrapped my head around the fact that I'm just not gonna get nervous ever again... never ever, ever, ever, ever again. I couldn't take it anymore. And it worked out well when I was doing the whole Pixies thing because the manager kept trying to make me nervous, just saying things to me that were really obnoxious, like, 'Oh, billions of people are going to be watching you, so you better be perfect.' And I'd be like, 'Good thing I don't get nervous then' ... whatever."

Speaking of the Pixies, Shattuck said it was a fun experience playing their songs in front of enthusiastic audiences, but replacing original bassist Kim Deal was also a tough job. After nine months of learning their songs on her own and enduring intense rehearsals, Shattuck played her first gig on Sept. 6 in LA. Her tenure included a 17-date, sold-out European tour, which began in Vienna, Austria, and finished with a pair of dates at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, England.

"Their songs are not easy, they're not typical blues-based songs," said Shattuck, noting that playing some of the "weird" song structures challenged her to improve her skills. While singing backup vocals, she toned down her wild side and went the lighter route, which she said was good training if she wants to tackle other musical styles.

On the downside, Shattuck didn't get paid for the lengthy rehearsals and had to deal with a clash of personalities.

"I always liked the Pixies and was excited to be a part of it, (but) you don't know what people are like until you're around them on a tour -- or a trip or a vacation -- that's my opinion," she said.

So why was she fired?

"They never told me why. They never even talked to me," she begins. "I was pretty shocked being fired after everyone acted like I was still in the band. So I was only left to speculate. It was pretty obvious when I was first in the band, I got really enthusiastic and I jumped into the pit at a show. Right then was exactly when Dave Lovering stopped talking to me -- completely would ignore my ass. Unless I asked him a direct question, he would just grunt something. The only time he would talk to me was when he had a criticism and about the show or something."

Following the feet-first stage dive at The Mayan in LA, Shattuck apologized to the band and said she got carried away. She knew it wasn't a Pixies-type thing since they're a more reserved bunch -- not a frenetic Muffs group.

"I'm like a toddler, I push my boundaries for a few minutes and then I realize that no one's pleased," Shattuck said. "I know Charles (Thompson IV aka Black Francis) liked my stage presence. I know that after I played with them live, Joey (Santiago) said that he needed to up his game."

Shattuck was obsessed with the stage-dive situation and located footage online. She laughs when describing herself landing, popping up and then hugging people in the crowd.

"It's so not a big deal, because I'm not really a stage diver cuz I don't like to get groped all the time and I don't wanna break my neck...just little preservation things" she said.

At age 50, Shattuck is enjoying her music career and her life more than ever.

"Wow. I don't even think I thought I would be alive this far into the future. I wasn't taking amazing care of myself or anything. I didn't have a deathwish, either, but I didn't think that far into the future. I think that's typical of a 20 year old to not really think about it. I think when I thought about my old age, I just figured I would have kids and be a grandma and do all that stuff, and it didn't turn out like that. It's fine, I'm good. I'm glad it lasted this long. I'm having a ball," she said.


When Shattuck's not doing Muffs stuff, at least seven months out of the year she and her husband can be found at Dodgers Stadium, rooting on their favorite LA baseball team.

"We're so close and we have such a good view. We're behind the net, so we don't get foul balls in our face, which is kind of nice," Shattuck laughed about their season-tickets spot.

On June 18 (a day after this interview), the couple witnessed Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw toss a no-hitter. She said it was the best game she's ever seen and that fans were moved to tears and were screaming at the game.

It may seem very un-rock 'n' roll, but Shattuck enjoys the slower, more methodical aspects of baseball and golf.

On baseball, she said: "It's like a suspense movie, like an Alfred Hitchcock movie as compared to a Bruce Willis movie where it's just action all the time."

As a kid, she watched Dodger games on TV and finally made her way to the majestic confines of Chavez Ravine to watch the team in person as a teenager.

It was a love-hate relationship with the team in those early years.

"I got mad at them after they lost the World Series twice to the Yankees (in 1977 and 1978) when I was a little kid, so I stopped liking baseball for a couple years. I rejected it," said Shattuck, who watched slightly from a distance when the Dodgers got revenge on the Yankees and won the World Series in 1981 during the "Fernando-mania" days.

Following her time in The Pandoras, Shattuck returned to the Dodger-fan fold and hasn't looked back. If you're at a game these days, you might even hear her Muffs vocal scream fill the air when her team is on point -- or off.

"They can hear us yelling. If you really are mad at them, you go, 'Hey, what was that?'" she said, noting that some expletives may fly now and again. "There's too many little kids, I don't wanna be a bad influence. We do swear, but we try not to swear loud."

Shattuck saves that for the stage.