Welcome to HEAVY DIGI-MAG #20!
We are over the moon about the success of the relaunch of HEAVY and just how well ISSUE #19 did!
In this edition, we have upgraded the navigation system as by popular request from readers and industry colleagues. You now have to view every page of the edition this done by clicking on the page links at the bottom of each page, titled: TURN THE DIGI-PAGE. Not everyone will like it; you can’t please everyone! But, this gives you more of a “magazine experience”, just imagine you are turning a page of a physical magazine.
We may include the same menu system we have in Issue #19 along with the new system. But, we would like to give this a go first.
Feel free to shoot us an email to let us know your thoughts about the HEAVY Digi-Mag at [email protected].
Enjoy HEAVY Digi-Mag ISSUE #20!
The HEAVY Team \m/
“We tried to spread the wings a little bit wider sonically, and I think there’s more hills and valleys and peaks… there’s some sensitive moments and there’s a lot of doom.” – Troy Van Leeuwen
“It was more that it chose me,” explained guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen on his involvement with Gone is Gone. “My old friend Tony Hajjar, who I’ve known for thirteen years – we met on the road many times and toured together – he called me up a few years ago and we discussed making instrumental music for film trailers and visual art so the first session I did with him and Mike Zarin ended up being a song on our E.P called “Praying from the Danger”. It was just a natural progression from there. We kept making more and more music and every time we had time outside of our schedules we’d get together and make music. After that, both of those guys decided we should probably get somebody to sing on this and they both came up with Troy Sanders and I just happen to know him as well from touring and playing shows. So, I called him up immediately, hit him up and it was that simple. For the last three or four years, we just kept making music whenever we could and now we have two releases so we got a lot accomplished in a pretty short amount of time which I like. There’s not too much to over think that way.”
Coming from established and successful bands – Troy (Van Leeuwen) from Queens of the Stone Age, Tony from At the Drive In and Troy (Sanders) from Mastodon can make things difficult when it comes to cross referencing schedules, but one thing that can be both a benefit and a hindrance is the baggage –both musically and from public expectation. Fans of the respective bands have pre – existing ideas and expectations on what each member and therefore the new band should sound like, but Van Leeuwen says it is of vital importance that both the fans and the members of the band realize that Gone is Gone is its own entity.
“I can see where everyone’s influence play into the music,” he mused, “but as a sum of all its parts I believe this band is unique. I’ve learned things from these guys that I wouldn’t learn from other musicians I’ve played with and that’s the whole point is to create something unique and I think everyone’s trying to have a different expression with this without denying their identity. I can hear Troy’s voice and I think Mastodon too but that’s just because he does what he does so well and it’s his signature. The same with everyone else. Tony’s drumming is very energetic and Mike is just a great songscape master so I learned a lot from making these records.”
“Gone is Gone is a different project that we want to express certain things that we don’t normally get to do,” he continued. “I think this band is an example of what we want to… where we see our future, doing more score or underscore or sound interpretation. I think that this band has an aesthetic that is geared more towards that than maybe hard rock music. It’s indicative of us to play hardcore music, it’s just what we do, but we really are trying to make something that… I like to use Trent Reznor as an example. Nine Inch Nails is one thing but when he does movie scores and stuff like that you can see a different signature and I think that’s where we see ourselves going more in that direction since everything is kind of disposable these days and you’re trying to leave your mark. That is one way to do it as an artist involved with what you are doing and hoping to create something cool.”
While E.P’s are generally used for newer bands in an attempt to test the market for their music, with the pedigree of musicianship on offer in Gone is Gone it would have made just as much sense to release an album straight up but Van Leeuwen says that their self-titled E.P released earlier this year was more a natural progression for the band rather than a tactical ploy.
“It just seemed like the first session that we did together ended up fitting together, so that’s what the E.P is,” he shrugged. “It’s the first attempt at what Gone is Gone is – it’s the lift off, the launch pad. “Echolocation” was all recorded within a month and a half the second time we kind of got together and those songs all seem to fit as well so each time we get together we come up with an album (laughs). It just seemed – especially with ‘Echolocation” – to line up and sequence with the right vibe.”
When “Echolocation” is released on January 6 it will be Gone is Gone’s second release within twelve months, with Van Leeuwen adamant that the musical progression will stand out despite the quick succession.
“I think we took a different approach on Echolocation,” he said. “We tried to spread the wings a little bit wider sonically and I think there’s more hills and valleys and peaks so I think the E.P was a kind of kick open the door thing – like a heavy forward flip – but Echolocation is a little more… I dunno… there’s some sensitive moments and there’s a lot of doom (laughs).”
Van Leeuwen says that as far as goals went with the album there was little set out, but pointed out that with the quality of musicians at the bands disposal there was never going to be an issue coming up with material.
“We all could have brought stuff to the table musically,” he said, “so it was just that general ‘I have these songs but I don’t know how to finish them, I don’t know where they go’ type thing so each of us would try to finish each other’s music and it just bloomed from there with no real expectations other that just let’s make music so we just kept carving at it and polishing it and making sure it grew together.”
Despite having tasted success with his other bands, especially Queens of the Stone Age, Van Leeuwen admits there is still a bit of trepidation about releasing new material from a new band to the public, especially when it is a little different to what is expected.
“You’re always putting yourself out there and there’s always a chance for people to… of course people are going to make comparisons and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Some fans of our other respective bands might not like it and sometimes you hear that and think that sucks but this is just another expression of who I am and who everyone else in the band is so you put yourself out there and of course that’s what the nature of being an artist is. I’ve been pretty happy with everyone’s feedback so far so you take the good with the bad.”
Although admitting that finding time to tour with Gone is Gone due to the aforementioned scheduling conflicts, Van Leeuwen hints that Gone is Gone is not just a one off vanity project.
“We make music,” he stated simply.”That’s what we do when we get together. It’s fun and we enjoy it and there’s great chemistry there. We won’t do it as much as we want unfortunately which is the main problem. We don’t have schedules that allow going on tour and stuff like that so we have to get creative in the ways we take our music to the people so that’s another challenge and situation that we put ourselves into but it keeps it fresh. With our other respective bands we put out records and we tour and it can get syprical which is why we wanna do projects like this to try something new.”
Written by Kris Peters
In March 2015 a vast number of “Drunks, Lovers, Sinners And Saints”* worldwide, rejoiced at the announcement that Canadian post-hardcore icons Alexisonfire, were to reunite for a series of festivals throughout the northern hemisphere after close to a three-year hiatus from performing together. But while the list of festival appearances grew and Australians were eagerly on the “Watch Out!”* for the Canucks to declare a welcomed return invasion to our shores with their deranged “vocal sword fight” derivative of punk music, it sadly never eventuated. As guitarist/ vocalist Wade MacNeil explains, it wasn’t a lack of desire that stopped the quintet from touring our land of “Sharks And Danger”*, it was simply timing.
“When we first started doing the brief reunion shows last summer we were hoping to get to Australia, but that all came together a little too late, so we were only incapable of adding Australia to the tour schedule. So we got asked to do UNIFY sort of in place of what we had missed out on originally, which is a great festival and incredible that there is one of that nature considering the others went away for the lack of a better description. We are over the moon to be playing it, although a bit later than originally planned, but better late than never, right?
As is most likely common knowledge now, the five-piece will be making the long venture south to play UNIFY 2017, as well as a run of headline shows throughout our fine nation. Understandably, all of us Aussies are beyond excited at the opportunity of seeing these five ‘Nades tearing up our stages as they have done numerous times in the past. What came as a pleasant surprise for this writer was the extremely enthusiastic response from Mr MacNeil about the prospect of heading down under.
“There is nothing nicer, in my opinion than escaping the Canadian winter for the Australian summer. I mean I am used to the freezing cold because I grew up with it, but there is one time every winter where I will fall on some black ice, like slip really hard which I am sure is hilarious to watch from an outsider’s point of view.” He laughs – “Anyway, I’ll be laying on the ground in the snow and all I will be thinking at that point is: ‘There has got to be a better way to live’; but that’s the truth of it, when you have slipped on your ass in the snow and it’s freezing, it really is time for reflection.”
As aforementioned, the five men of Alexis have visited our nation countless times in their 15-year career from which they cherish a number of memories. It inspired this scribe to ask about one of their first Australian shows which took place in Adelaide at the famed Enigma Bar in 2004 and if he recalled what transpired.
“That was crazy, that show especially – wasn’t the air conditioner ripped out of the ceiling?”
It certainly was.
“That was one of those shows which was SO exciting that it was on the brink of it being really out of control and dangerous, but it just sat on the ‘before’ level of craziness. It just teetered on that edge you know? It straddled the line between everyone almost destroying the place with a smile one their face, but it could have easily have gone the other direction or a step further and someone lighting the venue on fire!”
What is to transpire next month for the quintet’s first shows here since 2012 is not especially known. At the time of our conversation, Wade was yet to join up with George (Petit, heavy vocals), Dallas (Green, guitar and angel vocals), Jordan (Hastings, drummer) and Chris (Steele, bass) to layout the blueprint for their Australian annihilation.
“We haven’t jammed yet because Jordan (Hastings, drummer) is still on tour with Billy Talent. I think it is something we will have to figure out when we are all together and playing in the same room. There is some stuff that just HAS to be in the set, so the setlist is already started so to speak.”
The immeasurable amount of fans here most certainly have their favourite songs which they will wholeheartedly desire to hear; but what about the five-piece or Wade personally? Does he have a standout track that continually inspires him and the band?
“I think for me the song that has become my favourite and is a staple in what we play is Happiness By The Kilowatt. I think it is because that song is so dramatically different to the original recorded version; we have turned it into this 10-minute long adventure of a track, it feels like we should always be closing the set with it. It’s a song that is alway evolving and changing, I love playing it.”
Having disbanded on what appeared to be a rather traumatic ordeal, it seemed that a Burial* had in fact finished Alexisonfire for good. But how did it come about that Wade, Dallas, George, Jordan and Chris began trekking the path to reuniting and more importantly, how did that process strike them as former bandmates but, and most importantly, still friends?
“It was pretty spectacular the first shows of reuniting. I was nervous about doing it in that I didn’t want to cheapen anything that the band had done before we broke up. I gave it a lot of thought, we all did; we had so many conversations whether this could happen you know?”
Wade continues – “When we broke up, that was the finality of Alexisonfire, we thought ‘we’ would never happen again. When we started having those discussions last summer it was really weird. But, we looked at all the reasons we weren’t doing it there basically not there anymore.” He says – “Then, in reality, there wasn’t a real reason NOT to play. Essentially we just put aside the worries about whether it was a full reunion, or the legacy or anything else that comes with being in a band so long. However, there wasn’t a good reason NOT to do it, we love playing together, we are brothers, F*CK it, let’s play some shows.”
Written by Will Oakeshott
*On that note, this wordsmith would like to formally apologise for the excessive use of Alexisonfire song and album titles as “puns” throughout this article, understandably the excitement “Cannot Be Broken”**.
**Lyric from Midnight Oil’s The Dead Heart which Alexisonfire have covered (sorry).
ALEXISONFIRE BEHIND THE SCENES
GET A HAIR CUT WITH ALEXISONFIRE
Get your hair cut by ALEXISONFIRE’s bassist and apprentice barber Chris Steele!
There’s 1 winner for each show (5 winners total) who will get their locks cut and styled before a show by Alexisonfire’s bassist (and apprentice barber), Chris Steele.
Here’s what you could win:
- Chris Steele from Alexisonfire will practice his apprentice barber skills on you!
- 1 lucky winner will be selected to have their hair cut at each of the 5 x upcoming Alexisonfire Australian shows.
- Each winner will be able to bring a mate backstage for moral support and to document this one-off experience.
- Winners will need to have a ticket to the relevant show (gig tickets won’t be provided as part of the prize)
- Sorry ladies, this competition is only open to the fellas.
- A promoter rep will be in touch with winners directly, to advise specific details including meeting time & location.
Please only enter if you have a ticket to a show already and you are male.
Enter your name, email, what city you have a ticket for.
WIN A HAIR CUT WITH ALEXISONFIRE
“Getting the band back together is honestly
the best thing to happen to me.”, David Sandstrom
“I think that all genres age and change,” reflected Refused drummer David Sandstrom. “ The people that were interested in punk rock in 1977, are a totally different type to someone who wanted to play punk rock in 1987 when it was an established form. In 1977 it was completely new and I think the type of person who was drawn to something normal wouldn’t want to do that type of music maybe ten years later, or twenty years later. The same goes for rock and roll and hip-hop or anything. It’s always changing but it seems like punk rock or whatever you call it, is more of an attitude. I don’t think it’s necessarily the music. I mean, most people that hear it know it’s punk rock but as far as the content and the lyrics that go with it I think now is a good time for it and with the recent resurgence – there’s a new wave of British hardcore. With the issues in the world, especially things like the whole Donald Trump thing, there is a lot of subversive music going on. There’s no shortage of inspiration for songs, that’s for sure.”
Those of you have followed Refused’s career would know that after three successful albums, "This Just Might Be the Truth" (1994), "Songs for the Flames of Discontent" (1996) and "The Shape of Punk to Come" (1998), the band split up with the punk world at their feet, and rumors at the time that added fuel to the fire about there having been internal issues and power struggles. However, Sandstrom has finally decided to clear the air.
“We were all young back then,” he countered. “I was sixteen when we started and twenty-three when we broke up; musically it just wasn’t happening for me. I was a stupid little teenager who left town to dream tour the world and from there I was a twenty-three-year-old kid still, who had had such a huge change in his life and that wore me out. At that point when we broke up, there was so much conflict and so much going on but when we got back we realized that we were just different dudes. We didn’t talk to each other for a long period of time and in 2012 when we started again, we realized that with two or three conversations we could have patched things up but back then we were just stupid, proud little kids and it was easier to break up instead.”
Once the decision to reunite was made, Sandstrom says the ills of the past were quickly forgotten and instead replaced with a tinge of regret at what had been lost over the years.
“Getting the band back together is honestly the best thing to happen to me,” he gushed. “I think it has been a series of happenings and consequences that made it possible for us to start again but I think there was something missing in all of our lives after the split. We just started hanging out together again, jamming and making jokes until one day I realised, we had basically just hung out from eight in the morning until nine at night. It struck me how strange but how good it was to have this again after being without it for so long. We went through so much touring and recording and playing all around the world together so we got to know each other inside out but we let whatever get in the way of that so it’s a great thing to be back where we should be together again.”
One thing that didn’t raise a mention when discussion of getting the band back together, was the possibility of fan backlash over the time spent away, with Sandstrom admitting things like that are basically out of the bands control.
“I mean, we’re sort of very surprised and excited that people got into us at all,” he said. “We’re not the kind of band who has a plan for more than just the music. It’s all about the songs and the records for us. I don’t think about that other stuff. There’s always people who diss us for doing what we do but it would have been the same if we’d been around for all those years. We would have made records that people like more or records that people liked less, like any other band. I don’t find it very constructive to think about what other people think. It sounds really arrogant but it just doesn’t interest me. I’m just interested in the music, that’s all I care about, and I think that goes for all the guys. As long as we’re excited about what we’re doing, it doesn’t matter whether twenty people or one thousand people are at the show. We’re not in a band to be popular. We’re in a band because we wanna make music.”
After announcing their reformation in January 2012, Refused went straight on tour, playing festivals like the Way Out West Festival in Sweden, Download and the Rock For People festival in the Czech Republic, but it wasn’t until June 2015 that their long-awaited new album, Freedom, was released. Lead single and opening track on the album, ‘Elektra’, with its lyrics stating ‘nothing has changed’ was a powerful opening statement and proved that the angst and political leanings were still abundant. Sandstrom says the band made no apologies for their feelings.
“We realised it was a good line to have after being gone for sixteen years,” he laughed, “but it is in reference to economical systems and the classic situation happening where the richest 1 % keep getting richer while the poor stay poor. In terms of economic policy between 1998 and 2014 nothing happened or changed. That’s what the song is about.”
While remaining hopeful that the message is getting across through Refused’s music, Sandstrom believes strongly that music and beliefs are still a personal experience but is optimistic that at least part of the message will get through.
“I don’t know, I mean it has for me. Listening to Dead Kennedys and a lot of hip-hop when I was younger really informed me about a lot of different ideas and different worlds and how people see what other people go through. I definitely think music is a very clear, direct channel for communication. It think it is possibly the best way to communicate something. Basically, from our first demo, we have been writing about the same sort of topics so if we’ve ever shocked anyone it’s been through our voice I suppose. We write about stuff we believe in but I think maybe ten to fifteen years ago people weren’t really open to bands telling them about things like the economic system but the Global Economic Crisis happened and our stuff suddenly appeared relevant again and people were open to it. I feel there’s a lot out there for a band like us right now.”
Written by Kris Peters
REFUSED TOUR DATES
Dee Snider is almost a metal dinosaur.
He entered the world of heavy metal back when it was truly an underground institution and has endured all of the highs and lows that come with it. As front man for Twisted Sister from 1976 to 1987, Snider was part of a musical revolution that saw metal emerge from the shadows and cement itself as a musical force. Through an array of both related and unrelated ventures has maintained his position as a pioneer of a musical movement that has become a worldwide phenomenan.
“It feels old,” Snider laughed when I mention his legendary status. “It’s pretty amazing actually. My band had moments in the sun and we had some major hits or whatever but we didn’t necessarily have the longevity that a lot of bands have, like your AC/DC’s and Iron Maiden’s and stuff like that. Somehow, whatever I’ve done, I’ve managed to earn some level of respect from the rock community over the last few decades and that word is applied to me so I’m kinda grateful.”
While there have been many events over his forty year tenure that have contributed to metals emergence, Snider feels that there is one defining period and series of events that has had more impact than others. After battling away to loyal fans and the curious public through the 1970’s, Snider says the emergence of compact disks and subsequently television stations such as MTV were the factors that propelled heavy metal into a more widely accepted circle.
“It was incredibly different back then,” he mused, “and what happened in the 80’s I don’t think anybody really saw coming. Record sales were leveled. Bands in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t sell albums the way bands sold in the 80’s. C.D’s came out and people had to buy the same product they already had a second time. I’ve got records that I’ve bought across four formats! I had Montrose’s album, then I had their eight track, then I had their cassette and then I had their C.D which I actually bought that twice because I forgot I had it! So I had five copies of Montrose’s first album and Sammy Hagar said ‘thank you, Dee’. Back then, I didn’t think we really saw what was happening but things erupted from there. MP3’s popped up out of nowhere and then all of a sudden with music television the metal bands had a spotlight shine on them because we were ready for the show, you know what I mean? Music television was looking for visual acts and the metal bands had been visual all along so that’s why metal finally got the attention it had never gotten before. They put someone like Joe Jackson on MTV and that was the end of his career! People couldn’t understand why he had shoes on his album cover until then and the reason was that was the best looking part of him (laughs). Nobody was quite ready I don’t think. Ask AC/DC that same question, I’d be really curious to hear the answer. Angus Young couldn’t look you in the eye and say he expected to have the second biggest selling album in the history of rock and roll. I think AC/DC, like us, were just making music they loved and going out there and rocking and I imagined we would just go town to town, sell some records, play a show and continue the cycle. I didn’t think we’d become a household name. I didn’t think we’d get that level of popularity. We just wanted to rock and sell some records. The whole business model mutated and changed and erupted and now you have Back in Black which has sold 45 million records worldwide. It’s amazing.”
After Twisted Sister disbanded in 1987, Snider tried his hand at a couple of other musical projects, notably Desperado, Widowmaker and Dee Snider’s SMF, but it was his decision to branch out into other entertainment mediums such as acting, radio presenting, television and voice – overs that became his life away from music.
“After the demise of my band in the 80’s and grunge came in I lost everything,” he said. “I was broke. My career was over. I was married with three kids and it was like, now what? What do I do? You either pack it in and stick a gun in your mouth and blow your head off – and that’s never an option – or you figure it out so all of those were things I started trying and asking myself what else can I do?”
What else do I like doing? So I started writing and acting and doing radio and it’s been 25 years now and it turns out I had hidden talents so I just pursued them. When people ask what motivated me honestly it’s 10% inspiration and 90% desperation. I was literally flat broke and I had a family to take care of so I just did anything and everything I fucken could.”
While conceding it was difficult to turn his back on the music world which had launched his career, Snider says that in life the only limitations you have are those you place on yourself.
“It’s really hard to stay in the industry,” he concurred. “Looking outside of music was just something I had to do. It wasn’t by design, it was by desperation. I’ve seen articles written about me and I’m not even a part of it! I’m talking about self branding and stories that say ‘look at Dee Snider for example’ and I’m laughing as I’m reading saying if only they knew! I was just trying to survive and they think it was all some grand plan or something. I analyse it in my book and see what I achieved by accident but people can replicate it. It’s basically just do as much as you can and make sure your name is on everything. I’ve got Dee Snider’s House of Hair and Dee Snider’s this and Dee Snider’s that. You have to keep your name on things as much as possible. Sometimes I sacrifice money to have my name on things because I realized it was important for me to establish myself as more than a one note horn and someone that does other things as well.”
Discounting his 2012 album Dee Does Broadway, Snider has also managed to carve a quietly successful solo career, starting with Never Let the Bastards Wear You Down in 2000 and rounded off with this year’s We Are The Ones.
An outspoken critic of living off past reputations, Snider’s solo offerings have expanded his musical output, with his latest album featuring synthesizer and string sections.
“It was a very challenging and unexpected record,” he offered. “I was packing it in and hadn’t done music in a very long time so with We Are the Ones I went for a slightly different sound, more of a punk approach – less metal but still aggressive – and there was a whole lot of unanswered questions but my producer, Damon Ranger, really challenged me with this record. He convinced me there is a job for me to do here and the statement I am making with We Are the Ones is making the same statement that I made thirty years ago and it’s an important message. I’ve got a job to inspire people to stand up and fight back and fight for what they believe in. It’s the same thing I’ve been pushing the last couple of decades and the world needs it now more than ever.”
The most surprising song on We Are the Ones comes in the form of an acoustic recording of Twisted Sisters most popular song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, surprising because of Snider’s long term stance against the acoustic format.
“I’ve always been outspoken against unplugged bands,” he agreed, “but there was a feeling that the message of that song had gotten lost over the years. It’s become a karaoke favorite and a rock jock anthem. It’s in movies and television shows and I think people forgot that this was a dangerous song once so we talked about breaking it down and slowing it down so people could hear the words and hear the message and hear the power and understand the statement that was the motivation behind the original song and it has been very effective. People have said it’s like being punched in the head by the lyrics. They’re like ‘we didn’t know that was what the song meant until now’ but people are still surprised when they hear it acoustically. They’re mortified (laughs).”
Written By Kris Peters
“I don’t start fights, I finish fights,” quipped Sebastian Bach, former vocalist of Skid Row, now performing as a solo musician as well as starring in Broadway productions and television shows such as Gilmore Girls and Trailer Park Boys. “I don’t go out and say things and expect no consequences. If somebody says something about me on their Facebook page then they can say it to my face and deal with me in their face. That’s what I would expect.”
At the time when Bach entered the music world, he was at the forefront of an era that was vastly different to that of today. It was a time where wine, women and rock and roll ruled the roost above all others and bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue were cutting their teeth but rarely has there been an accurate insight into those turbulent and exciting times.
Bach’s new book based on his life and times in the music industry, 18 and Life On Skid Row is a fascinating collection of stories, incidents, and tales of debauchery that most people, including those named, would have trouble believing. Perhaps the most shocking point of all is that it is 100% true, albeit through the eyes of an admittedly tortured author and from a train wreck point of view.
“It’s about my life,” Bach explained, “and I was looking for any title with the word life in it because of that. I was in the loo taking a wiz one day and I realized that probably, my biggest ever known song that I put out had the word life in it. So then I thought it’s also about Skid Row and Skid Row is also a place. It’s a band name that was taken from a place in Los Angeles in a very run down part of town known as Skid Row and no matter whether I’m in the band or not for my whole life ,that has been in my face. That’s who I am. It’s almost like a movie, like what do you do when you get to eighteen and it’s life to go on Skid Row? What do you do? So it became 18 and Life On Skid Row because that is for me the rest of my life what people will associate me for and when; no matter if I am in the band or not.”
There is perhaps no single moment of Bach’s life that has generated as much publicity or scrutiny than the now infamous incident in 1989 when, during a performance, he was struck in the face by a bottle thrown from a person in the crowd. Bach’s subsequent reaction where he inadvertently broke a female fans nose, before leaping from stage to confront the perpetrator has been watched over one million times on YouTube and is the perfect point at which to begin the autobiography.
“I’ve never written a book before,” he laughed, “so I wanted to make something that was entertaining for the reader. I’ve read every single rock book there is so I knew I had to write one, it just took forty years to complete! As for opening it up with that incident, it was just such an extreme situation and I wanted to grab the reader’s attention from the first page and I think reading that, as probably the lowest point of my life, right away will be like holy shit, this is so fucked up. You are certainly wondering what is going on and what’s happening.”
When Skid Row first started gaining success and notoriety, Bach was still young and impressionable, but despite ultimately leading him to a life of alcohol and drugs to go with the music he refuses to blame his early introduction to music for his associated vices.
“No,” he stated with conviction when asked if he was too young when he started down the path to rock stardom. “I think that youth is emblematic of rock and roll and I think that being a young dude, looking the way I looked, I was kind of cut out to do that and that’s the way rock and roll is. I was as young as Tommy Lee was when he started. Some of us started really early because we looked the part and we had musical chops. The music industry just nineteen-year-old hot dudes that wanted to rock and knew how to do it, so I became one of a long line of youthful performers who not only got exploited by it, but it’s like… the industry loves the young dude who will do anything to make it. That was me for sure.”
As promised, Bach refuses to shy away from the truth in the book, even if that means potentially offending friends and colleagues, but if there’s one thing that Sebastian Bach has never been afraid of, it is honesty and confrontation. Many of the events outlined involve nefarious activities, and at times the people involved in these activities are publicly named, but Bach brushes off the suggestion that he may be encroaching on personal and private elements of people lives that they may not want to be released to the general public.
“Everything that I write is dated,” he surmised. “Anything that I can think of that is a little crazy, is from 1987 to 1990 or 1991, so we are talking almost thirty years ago. If somebody gets mad at me for a story that I tell from that period, then they can write their own book [laughs]. I’m not saying that I remember things completely and exactly, I’m saying this is what I remember from what I know, but we were all pretty fucked up. I mean, I could be wrong (laughs). It was a crazy time, so who knows. Anybody that was doing everything that we were doing back then, it’s not going to be an exact memory. It was a long time ago. What am I supposed to do? Consult everybody? Nobody consults me about their books and I’ve been in a lot of them..
Controversy is one thing that has followed Bach his entire life, to the point where many publications are more concerned with that than his music. From public spats with other musicians to personal outbursts Bach is never far from the headlines but rather than become bitter about it, he says he has learnt to accept that as an inevitable yet unfortunate part of life in the spotlight.
“It’s not just me,” he laughed. “It’s every musician. It’s not like I am the only musician they treat like that. I could go and put forty tour dates up on my site, and the press won’t say ‘Sebastian Bach tour dates announced’. That doesn’t mean shit to them, but that’s what fucken happens. I could put out a brand new video, but they’ll put some fans hand held phone footage of the song up but not the video. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand any of it. A lot of the stuff they print has nothing to do with music.”
While also covering other parts of Bach’s life from childhood through to his stints on Broadway, television ventures and solo career, the book’s primary focus is of course on Skid Row and as such Bach reveals more about the breakup and the events surrounding that period of his life than ever before.
While giving personal and never before explained insight into the break – up of the band, he also concedes that it was as much an unfortunate by – product of a changing musical landscape that contributed to their demise than internal goings on.
“Yes, yes I do think that had a lot to do with it,” he agreed. “Our very last show was in Brazil in ’96, and we were on a bill with Biohazard, King Diamond, Merciful Fate, Motorhead and Iron Maiden and Skid Row was in the middle of that. The crowd let us know that we didn’t belong on that bill. That was the last show that we ever did. We had played on bills like that before. In ’92 we were in between Metallica and Slayer at Donnington. Slayer opened for us, and then we opened for Metallica, and the crowd totally loved it so there definitely was a change in the musical landscape when the same band can play in the same kind of bill and get a different reaction. We didn’t do anything different at either show but at the time, metal was losing traction.”
Unfortunately, Bach’s reply to the question that is on everyone’s lips about the possibility of Skid Row ever reforming is typically coy.
“You will have to read the book, man,” he laughed. “I don’t wanna give too much away!”
Written by Kris Peters
Seraphic have emerged from the shadows of Brisbane’s underground metal scene in a short space of time, culminating with their support of metal legends Queensryche at their recent gig at the Triffid.
Vocalist and pianist Sam Wolstenholme explains that while it seems like they have come from nowhere, there have been many hours of work that have gone into bringing the band to their current position.
“We formed in early 2014,” she said. “I formed the band after my previous band Alpine Fault disbanded. That was the first melodic metal band I’d been front woman for and when they disbanded, my hunger to keep going was strong. I’d been writing my own songs on the piano so I decided to form my own band. We spent most of 2014 just writing and developing the songs from the skeleton format, which was just piano and voice, and everyone else wrote their own parts. We had our first gig in March 2015. By then we’d released a couple of demos to introduce ourselves to the music world and since then, we’ve been building slowly until the Queensryche gig which was really exciting for us. Recently we added a second guitarist to beef up our sound and make it a bit stronger – we’re really happy with the sound. It’s exactly what we envisaged which is melodic metal with a heavier edge.”
Having got their first major support out of the way, Seraphic recently spent time in the studio recording their debut album ‘Journey into Illumination’, with Wolstenholme barely able to hide her excitement.
“It’s not a concept album, but it is thematically linked through the songs,” she enthused. “It’s a journey from start to finish. The vision we had was talking about how everybody is searching for answers to the big questions that we all ponder. It starts from a place of self-doubt and darkness then it kind of gets lighter as it goes on. You’re finding the answers to those questions: about yourself, your place in the universe, those kinds of things before ending in a more positive, hopeful note.”
Aside from their obvious energy and passion for music, one thing that stands out about Seraphic is the eclectic nature of their members, with each respective member bringing their own dynamic to the band.
“We have lots of different influences and lots of different characters within the band,” Wolstenholme laughed. “We all get along well and everyone brings something different to the band and the sound. I’m influenced very much by symphonic metal and bands like Epica and Delain, and we’ve also got Erwin, the lead guitarist, who has more power metal influences like Symphony X and Dream Theatre and that shows through his lead parts. Our drummer likes his old school thrash like Metallica and Megadeth and our bassist is into heavier progressive stuff like Opeth and our newest rhythm guitarist is into progressive with a background in thrash so all of that comes into play.”
As frontwoman and focal point for Seraphic, Wolstenholme does an outstanding job with her haunting and searing vocals that resonate through and over every song, adding a dynamic and intimacy to a style of music that too often can feel mismatched.
“I started singing in choirs when I was about eight years old,” she explains of her background in music, “and then at the age of seventeen I picked up classical vocal lessons and on the recommendation of my teacher I pursued those more classical styles because it suited the style of my voice. I also studied at the University of Queensland for a year doing classical voice so I’m quite classically influenced and trained. Because of the style of music that I write I like to experiment with different styles as well, more of a rock style, so I’ve been working on that myself and taking influences from some of my favourite singers.”
While not new, the blending of classical and metal music is still an odd pairing, with Wolstenholme quick to explain that when you have a love and a passion for something you should not let perception get in the way of your goals.
“Metal is my favourite style of music,” she quipped, “because nothing else effects or touches me in the way metal does, especially the style Seraphic are performing. It’s so all encompassing that I feel completely sucked into the music. It’s very satisfying and cathartic in a way and no other music has that effect on me. I know when I started writing my own music after many years of piano and music lessons that I wanted to write music that was dark and interesting and multi layered and heavy. It was the music that affected me the most and that I related to the most.”
While drawing heavily from bands like Epica and Nightwish, Wolstenholme says Seraphic were determined from the outset to forge their own identity within the genre, not just be a copy of their influences. While the parallels are obvious, it is the subtle changes that have given Seraphic their individuality.
“I guess the biggest difference with Seraphic is we have the piano functioning as the lead instrument and the way I play it makes it more than a background thing,” she offered. “It’s very much at the forefront of our music andrealisedized that would be a point of interest. With a lot of symphonic metal you’ve got the orchestrations in the background but we decided to remove ourselves from that which worked. There’s also differences with the way we write. We like to try different tonalities and chord progressions that are a bit less conventional. We just try different sounds that we haven’t heard those other bands do before and because everyone brings their own influences in to writing their own parts when we jam them together it gives us our own unique sound.”
Written by Kris Peters
SEE SERAPHIC AT
MONSOON ROCKSTOCK ’17
Sydney band Hemina are a band on everybody’s lips at the moment. Their brand new album “Venus”, has people describing them as ‘Australia’s next big thing’ while the fact that they have recently toured with likes of Queensryche, Apocalyptica, Uriah Heep and Kamelot, shows that they are also starting to attract international attention.
Many writers have talked about the ‘progression of sound’ for Hemina with Venus lead singer Doug Skene saying, “The writing of this album actually began way back when we were doing our first album. What we have now is pretty much an extension of the sound that we were doing back then; we even knew that this was going to be an eighty-minute album at the time (in 2012). To be honest though, what we have ended up with is an eighty-minute album a bit different to what we had planned. I think that’s due to things like playing more shows, having a line-up change, not having a permanent drummer while we recorded our second album and then our new drummer, Nathan McMahon, joined us for the tail end of the writing process of the songs. We always knew however, that we wanted to have a progressive metal kind of sound, but we never wanted to emulate a certain band or anything like that. We didn’t even want to emulate a certain type of metal; we just knew what our sound was and we wanted to make it as unique as possible. We always try to stay in that kind of framework but even doing that, we like to push things out a little with things like horns and stuff that you wouldn’t normally hear in progressive metal. It is this sound that makes the album what we wanted.”
Skene says there is always a lot of experimentation when they are putting tracks together. “A lot of things actually came full circle as many of the tracks do sound different from back then,” he explains. “Take one song, for example, I always imagined a sax on it but I thought that would be impossible to do because I don’t have that many connections to brass players, so we had done the pre-production and everything. This one day, I went to see this Pink Floyd tribute show that a couple of my bandmates were doing and on that night, they had this sax player that was absolutely smoking it. I thought, ‘great I have a connection here and here is a young guy that can really play with conviction’, so we brought him around to play on the track, and he did a great job. It just shows how things can come back around to the original vision, even down to what certain instruments are going to sound like. I mean there have been times when Mitch and I have written a song where we want the drums to sound a certain way and then we’ve had a new drummer come into the band and work out how to get the best out of an idea. That really happened with the track Secret’s Safe on which originally, the drum instrumentalization sounded nothing like it does now but we put it into the drummer’s hands and he brought in new hooks and stuff. That led to the whole outro being the way it is. Sometimes, it might take extra ears, sometimes it might take looking for someone that can play a certain instrument, but I think it was an experiment that worked out pretty well.”
He also doesn’t mince any words when he talks about how difficult it was to look for a new drummer for the band. “It was a gruelling exercise,” he says with a groan. “It took us many years to find someone. We used to have a pretty firm line-up back when we did our first album; then we had the five-piece line-up, and it felt like we were a really unified unit when we went in to record that first album but then after we parted ways with Andrew, I think we lacked the momentum for a while. We put all our effort into finding a new drummer, and it was really hard to find someone. We had a guy play with us for a while, but that didn’t really pan out, so we programmed our drums and then sent it off to someone to make it sound realistic for our second album. It took so long to find a drummer, but we felt like a band again. Our new drummer is a good songwriter and has a pretty good singing voice which is great because harmonies have always been a big thing for us.”
I ask Skene about whether or not the gruelling process of finding a drummer was made worse by the fear of bringing the wrong person into the band ‘family.’ “I think that actually happened with our second drummer,” he explains. “It didn’t go very well for a while and then turned out kind sour in the end. We are reconciled with him now, but it just didn’t turn out well. It was really nerve-wracking because I always like to be productive and I’m a really prolific songwriter, so not to have a band to be with and share ideas with was really frustrating. I just wanted to do shows and record albums with people.”
As the interview goes on Skene beings to tell me about the darker side of “Venus”. “When we first started working on it, we wanted it to be about a woman that was trapped but that was a very general idea. The concept was very loose because we normally write the music first and then the lyrics. But I was a social worker, and I started to see some really scary stuff amongst families. I saw a lot of relationships that had probably started off alright but had gone really pear-shaped after infidelity, cheating, people spending money behind the other’s back and pretty much that complete breach of trust. But a lot of those people kept the relationship going a long time even when they probably should have quit. So this album is about a relationship where somebody has cheated, and you try to push on past that to see if it can work. But the person who has been cheated on ends up going crazy and just can’t deal with that breach of trust. I think that and domestic violence is a very personal experience and I wanted to show that. I also felt very helpless in that job; very frustrated at times. It was frustrating because people just don’t realise what goes on in these families. Aside from “Venus” being a release for that frustration, I also find that writing music, in general, is a good release for those negative thoughts. For me, I’ve always seen that as a coping mechanism for any of the dark times I’ve had.”
With “Venus” coming from such a personal place, it is no surprise that this has ended up being one of the finest albums released this year. If you haven’t already discovered the beauty of it, then now is the time to add it to your collection.
Written by Dave Griffiths
“I think ultimately it played into the emotional components of what it is I was trying to do,” explained Devin Townsend of having two bands – Strapping Young Lad and the Devin Townsend Project – making music at the same time. “There’s the sense I’ve always viewed music with sort of a bipolar arrangement in my mind. On one hand I really feel strongly about peace, love and brotherhood and on the other side I feel really strongly about just ending everything and that’s been an internal thing for me for as long as I can remember and trying to reconcile this meat eater versus vegetarian entity has been a part of my musical career. I think it was no different back then and the most effective way for me to express that at the time was to split my creative output into two distinct bands.”
After performing in several bands while still in high school, Townsend was initially noticed by a record label in 1993 and asked to perform vocals on Steve Vai’s album Sex & Religion. After completing that and the accompanying worldwide tour which led to being asked to play with other established bands as a result, Townsend became disillusioned with the industry when his own material – which is where his passion lay – became increasingly shunted in preference to other projects.
In a bid to reverse this way of thinking and as a general ‘fuck you’ to the music industry as a whole, Townsend released Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing under the pseudonym Strapping Young Lad which had enough raw aggression and unbridled talent, that it instantly thrust Townsend and his band into the spotlight.
In retrospect, making an album that tore strips out of the very industry he was trying to gain a foothold in could have had the reverse effect but Townsend believes the risk versus reward factor was justified.
“I don’t know if I was smart enough at the time to be critical of the industry in a way that would truly offend people,” he mused. “I was just a little shit kid, yelling about things that I perceived as an injustice or whatever, but I mean, honestly, if it had been really well thought out and really biting, it may have offended people and caused me problems but I think it was just more me having a tantrum in hindsight. I don’t think too many people were that fussed by it.”
With a growing list of things to confuse and anger the impressionable young mind of Devin Townsend it was the general state of the music industry and his misconceptions that came to the forefront. “I think the things that pissed me off as a product of being a kid; twenty years old or whatever – when I was a teenager, the music world was really seen through rose colored glasses. The idea it was somehow like all of those rock and roll documentaries that you used to watch with the whole sex, drugs and rock and roll thing was nothing like the reality of it. You were given the perception that all you had to do was write a couple of songs and that would be it for the rest of your life but it wasn’t like that and I think that my idealism was challenged at such an early age through the Steve Vai experience that I just didn’t know how to articulate my discontent so I just screamed a lot (laughs). I got four or five records out of so it can’t be that bad.”
Over the years Townsend has experimented markedly within the confines of his music, releasing albums containing elements of everything from hard rock to extreme metal to progressive metal and new age metal and even periods of more ambient material where he gets a chance to actually sing instead of his trademark screaming. However throughout it, he maintains the search for his own musical identity was the ultimate motivational force.
“I don’t think any of it was conscious,” he said of the diversity in his music. “I don’t think I was going into those different styles thinking I wonder if this is who I am. It was just really like a compulsion at the time. It was more like this is everything in my musical vocabulary pointing in this direction currently so if I’m going to maintain a certain level of authenticity with the audience that hopefully they have come to expect it’s gonna require me following these things wherever they lead. I think in hindsight that was me saying screw this I’m just trying to figure out something about myself. It was never a conscious goal more an internal thing that I had to follow.”
Throughout these periods of experimentation, Townsend says that while he learnt important things about himself and his craft there is still so many untapped parts of his psyche he has yet to delve into.
“It’s a lifelong journey,” he said. “I think that you cycle through identities but to be fair that’s life in general, not just music. I think a big part of finding your identity is allowing yourself to explore wherever you are compelled to go. At the end of my career maybe I can look back or there will be some person somewhere that looks back and sees it was obvious where I was going based on the steps I took. It was never really a part of my equation, I have just always been fascinated my music and followed it because I love it and any of these things that we’re talking about are all just by-products of that.”
While acknowledging that the state of the music world and a resurgence of popularity in metal are making the task of keeping your career intact a daily challenge, Townsend believes that in order to maintain your position you also have to be able to embrace the very things that got you there in the first instance.
“It’s hard in the sense that if you have no interest in chasing that then you’re gonna fall,” he stated. “I mean, when I was 24 I was a really relevant character in some ways in the heavy scene but in these past 20 years now there’s a whole new bunch of other people who are now 24 and are kind of the hip new thing and that kinda puts me into a different category. But I think the same thing that drew me to making all these different types of music is the same thing that keeps me relevant in my own mind. I’m happy to be the Granddad of the metal community when it comes to that sort of stuff because with what I’m doing I’m not trying to entice younger listeners to listen to what I do. I do what I do and its bad ass and I think that if you really wanna hear something that’s from the heart I still do that. I think the reason I am able to survive is because I’m coming from a place where I really don’t try to keep up. I don’t try and compete because honestly I’m just happy to be involved with music and I think that any time you get artists who are a little older that are trying to pretend that they’re not, it’s a little pathetic.”
Written by Kris Peters
“I think the statement that we wanted to make is that we are still a band that is capable of putting out great albums and still capable of doing something unexpected and surprising.”
– John Nolan
Taking Back Sunday are a band on a mission as they prepare to head back to Australian shores this March. It doesn’t take long during my catch up with lead guitarist John Nolan to realise that this isn’t a band that is prepared to rest on their laurels. Seven albums into their career, tours with the biggest bands in the world and having their songs used in Hollywood blockbusters hasn’t changed Taking Back Sunday over the years. They are still a band that wants to do amazing shows for their fans and show the world they are still capable of creating ‘great’ albums.
Nolan explains a little about that mission as we begin by talking about the band’s latest album ‘Tidal Wave’. “We went into this album feeling very conscious of the fact that it was our seventh album and it felt like we were really at a point where we needed to make a statement, so we didn’t settle into that place where you just start doing the stuff that everybody expects from you. So, that was the starting point for us and how we approached it. I think we were a lot more open to trying to bring in influences from music that we have all liked over the years but not necessarily channelled into our own music. I think the statement that we wanted to make is that we are still a band that is capable of putting out great albums and still capable of doing something unexpected and surprising.”
“When it comes to those influences that I’m talking about that really changes from band member to band member but I think some of the things that came through really clearly, are things like on the title track that really clear Ramones slash The Clash influence which are bands that I think, we have all really enjoyed over the years but never really worked into how we feel before. There is also a bit of a Tom Petty thing that we all have, and some of that has worked its way in there as well. There’s also a bit of hardcore influence in there as well, especially that early New York hardcore scene. For me personally, when I grew up, I grew up listening to Christian music. My Dad was a Pastor, so I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. I can remember listening to Amy Grant, and there is still something about her voice and melodies when I listen today that’s special. Then after that, I really got into classic rock from the ‘60s and then came Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden… things like that. It was really about that time that I started to say ‘I really want to be a musician’. It was during that grunge time that I started to learn guitar and begun to think ‘yeah this is something that I really want to do with my life.’”
While a lot of bands go into a songwriting hiatus during tours Nolan explains that things are very different for Taking Back Sunday. “We sort of work on all our ideas on our own while we are touring and then when we finish touring we get together and start sharing those ideas around with each other and see where they lead to. How it normally starts is that somebody will have an idea for the music for a song and then we all get together to add to that. There is no set way that we go about doing things, and the idea can come from anybody in the band, on any instrument, but it always has to be something that we all gravitate towards.”
The one thing that Nolan says hasn’t changed for the band over the years is the way that they feel when their new album is about to be released to fans. “We get very nervous but also very excited. By the time an album is released we normally have finished working on it about six months earlier so there is a huge window of time there for us to listen to it and think about it and kind of process it before anybody else gets to hear it and I think that it when we start to get really nervous. You have this thing that is coming, but you just have to wait for it. But it is also incredibly exciting getting to put out a new record every time.”
As we talk about that excitement and nervousness pre an album release it brings me to ask Nolan that age-old question – ‘who do they listen to for responses more, fans or music critics?’ “We really just try to stick to what we think of our albums,” says Nolan with a laugh. “Because I think once you start making music for critics or even if you just start making music for fans I think that you can get lost in some place where what you are doing is not really rewarding or exciting anymore.”
Fans eager to see Taking Back Sunday when they arrive in Australia in March, should certainly take a listen to the band’s new work as Nolan explains so far on this worldwide tour they have been playing the entire Tidal Wave album as part of their set. “We are playing the album,” he says with a deep breath. “That’s big, we had to get together for a full four-day rehearsal before the tour to do that, but even before that we were all doing things at home alone to prepare in the lead up to do that. We have been working really hard to get it right live, and it certainly has been a challenge and you know it is kinda scary to get out there in front of people and play an album that they don’t really know really well yet. But I think as a band we are at that point we were are excited about challenges like that. We are definitely excited about coming to Australia as well; it has been way too long since we have been there and we don’t actually know how big we are there. I guess with this tour we’ll kinda gauge that. I also love going to the beaches in Australia. I normally can’t do that on a show day, but on a day off the beaches there are fantastic.”
Of course over the years, a way that a lot of the music fans have discovered Taking Back Sunday has been through pop culture. The band have had songs used in the popular Madden NFL franchise of video games and of course were hand-selected by Michael Bay to appear on all of the Transformers soundtracks. Nolan says it is pretty ‘cool’ to know that their music is being used in such projects. “It’s great,” he says. “And I really hope that it continues with this album. It’s a really cool thing to happen for a band because people can’t really discover new bands on the radio anymore, at least not here in the States… things like rock radio just aren’t a thing anymore. One of the last ways now you can stumble onto a band without really trying is through video games, movies and television shows, etc… so it’s just really cool.”
“I really don’t know how the thing with Michael Bay started,” says Nolan laughing hard. “I mean a couple of times our songs didn’t even feature in the film they just turned up on the soundtrack. I actually don’t know how that has happened, though. Usually, somebody just gets in contact with our manager and she comes up to us and says ‘hey there is this opportunity for your song to be used in this thing’ and we say ‘okay, cool’ but we don’t usually know why. It could be that Michael Bay is a huge fan of ours, but I don’t know…it could be…I’m not sure if I’d be happy about that or not,” he jokes laughing even harder.
Whether or not Michael Bay is a fan of the band may remain a mystery, but if you are a Taking Back Sunday fan, you don’t want to miss them as they hit Australia in March.
Written by Kirs Peters
Mar 11, 2006 Capitol, Perth
Mar 12, 2006 Fowler’s Live, Adelaide
Mar 13, 2006 Hi-Fi Bar, Melbourne
Mar 14, 2006 Hi-Fi Bar, Melbourne
Mar 15, 2006 UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney
Mar 16, 2006 UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney
Mar 18, 2006 Arena Entertainment Complex, Brisbane
“It’s an idea I’ve had for years and years now and I am only just getting brave enough to actually try to pull it off live,” laughed Wednesday 13 when asked about his upcoming unplugged tour in March. “Back in 2014, I tried it for the first time in the U.K and we did a two week tour titled ‘An Evening with Wednesday 13’; it was really successful and rewarding. It felt good to actually get out there and put on a full ‘Evening With’ show with no opening band and play for over two hours spanning my entire musical career. I told stories and took questions and it was just a really cool fan – based experience. If you are a fan of the band and you’ve followed the band over the years it’s the ultimate; it’s like reading a book about my whole life that’s open to everybody. The idea of Wednesday 13 being acoustic sounds shocking and not what you would expect but it actually works! A lot of the songs I wrote over the years, I actually wrote on the acoustic guitar. That’s how they start out, so a lot of them work and a lot don’t (laughs) but of course we take out the ones that don’t sound good.”
While the notion of watching an acoustic show pales significantly against an all out rock performance, Wednesday says he has managed to tweak the idea and mix things up enough to add excitement.
“It’s me and our guitarist on acoustic guitars,” he explained, “and we come out and do a story-telling thing and play a few songs and tell more stories and do more songs and take questions. I never know how the shows are going to go – I never know where the questions are going to take the songs or where the songs are going to take the questions – so you just never know. It’s always a fun experience and the shows I have done in the U.K over the last two years have been amazing so I think the Australian shows will be just like that if not better!”
To go with the stripped back performance, Wednesday conceded that the stage show is also laid bare but is adamant the feel and vibe they are going for will only be enhanced because of this.
“The stage show is just us,” he laughed. “There’s no make – up. There’s no lights. There’s no creating a stage show or jumping around. It really is just like getting the fans together around a campfire and I am the story teller with a guitar around that fire.”
Through his solo releases and his perhaps more infamous role in Murderdolls, Wednesday 13 has long been known for his love of horror and the macabre, with both of these being very much a part of his musical D.N.A. It is not merely a stage gimmick but rather an integral part of the man both on stage and off and as such, enables him to truly believe in his musical output.
“I think a lot of life experiences growing up made me who I am,” he mused. “I was the typical shy kid from a little small town in North Carolina, which is very country, and was picked on as a little kid and just kind of circled in my own imagination from a really early age. I remember saying to myself ‘I’m gonna be in a band one day and I’m gonna tour the world and I’ll have fans’ and all my life I had people saying I would never do it and I was stupid and it was a dumb idea but I succeeded. I guess it’s more from people telling me I couldn’t do it so I got one over the naysayers in the end.”
“I had an older brother and sister so I didn’t have anyone my own age to play with,” he continued, “so pretty much my best friend was the television. My parents didn’t really have a problem with me sitting in front of the TV for hours watching cartoons and at the time I remember watching things like the Bugs Bunny cartoons and then they would show The Adams Family or they would show The Munster’s and then I got a little bit older and started playing with G.I Joe’s.”
“I was still watching horror movies in the ‘80’s like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th so I was always fascinated with horror movies and the imagery and I never really saw the difference between G.I Joe and Dracula, they were sort of the same. Then when I started to get into music and started using imagery more for my music and I would always try to make flyers or ads so I would automatically go to my horror books to get pictures. I always included that imagery. I don’t know why it never really made sense, I just did it and that’s just always been the style I’ve been attracted to. It’s been a lifelong thing for me.”
Despite having released almost thirty records over a number of bands, Wednesday says the fire and hunger to continue to musically connect with not only himself but also his fans remains strong.
“There’s still a lot for me to achieve,” he said. “I stay busy and I’m still slugging it out playing small bars. I would love to get our band exposed to a bigger audience where we could play bigger venues so I’m always thinking bigger and bigger. I’m never completely satisfied. I’m satisfied with what I’m doing at the time but I’m just that dude (laughs)… I always want more. There’s still a lot to achieve and this new album we’ve just finished –which will be out next year – is another one of those things that I’m super proud of and the shows that we’re gonna do with this record are gonna give us new things to achieve visually and theatrically so it’s exciting.”
While admitting his love for music is his primary motivator, Wednesday also concedes that it is important to keep producing music in order to keep interest in him and his music constant.
“It’s almost like walking on a tightrope,” he confessed. “You’ve got to be smart and you’ve gotta play it safe and sometimes you can’t take chances because you’ll fall off the rope but you have to try and not fall too hard and get back on it. It’s a great business. When I think about how fortunate I am to be able to do what I’ve done for as long as I have – first off being part of a band like Murderdolls and then solo – and a lot of people don’t survive the solo thing – but I was lucky enough to do just that and get fans from it and keep going from that. I’ve been really fortunate but I think one of the reasons why I’ve been able to do what I’ve done is I’ve really stuck to one thing that I feel like I know how to do and that is to write these kinds of songs and this kind of music. I remember speaking with Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks a long time ago and he said ‘the challenge is to find something you’re good at and then you be the best you can at it’ and that’s kind of what I’ve done. Everything I’ve done has been inspired by people like Alice Cooper and Motley Crue and Twisted Sister but it’s got my own twist to it and I do my own thing. That’s how I’ve been able to survive in this business because I have done my own thing. I’m aware of what’s going on in the industry and the styles. I don’t write songs for radio, I never have, I just do my own thing and I think people recognise that and the small army of fans that follow me around the world enable me to travel and tour. I need them as much as they need me. We’re a support group for each other.”
Written by Kris Peters
THE MADNESS OF MANY TOUR
with special guests PLINI and NICK JOHNSTON
“It’s very hard to make something as fragile as a band work if one cog in the machine is slightly off”, Mark Holcomb.
“They always say to get success is hard, but to maintain it is twice as hard,” declared one of Periphery’s three guitarists, Mark Holcomb. “For us, I think success just happened by accident. I never expected Periphery to be successful. I got into it in the first place just by loving the people and loving the music, and I think that those are the two main pre-requisites going into it. Not thinking about success and not thinking about any achievements. Nobody ever once said ‘I wanna sell 1000 records, that’s my goal’, nobody thought like that, but to stay where we are and not regress I think it’s just a matter of putting our heads down and keep doing what we know is best to do, and what we know is diligent. For instance, if our goal, at this time in 2016, is to not record another album but to tour our asses off then we have to go out and make sure that our next Australian tour or our next Asian tour is the best it possibly can be and after that we have to make sure our next U.S tour or our next European tour are the best ones we’ve ever done. It’s just a matter of putting our heads down and focusing on the task at hand – whether you’re talking about touring or printing merchandise, or booking flights or whatever, all sorts of menial tasks, just make sure your head is down, and you are doing the absolute best you can. In my opinion, unless there’s something poisonous in your band or something you are doing that’s inherently wrong, you have to realise you are doing something good and will hopefully have a successful career in one year, two years, five years. That’s the goal.”
Early on in their career, Periphery found it difficult to maintain a steady line up with an almost revolving door of members at times. It wasn’t until 2011 when Mark joined as the third guitarist that the band began to find stability and sustained success; a point Mark feels is more of a reflection of the difficulty in progressing without stability more so than his ability.
“It’s been vital,” he said of the parallels between musical output and band stability. “I think what’s more important, is that you have the right pieces in place and that’s the reason you saw there be some personnel changes back then, because the lineup wasn’t right and I don’t think you can continue forward in a band or as a musical project or ANY project – be it in the workplace or wherever it is, unless you have the right people. It’s very hard to make something as fragile as a band work if one cog in the machine is slightly off. If you have the diligence and the patience to go through those personnel changes, then you’re probably going to come out stronger on the other side if you do it right.”
Mark has fond memories of his period as the new member of the band, particularly here in Australia where Periphery will be touring in February.
“It was fun,” he remembered of those early days with the band. “It’s kind of hard to think about that now because it’s been head down, keep working, keep working since but when I think back about 2011 my first ever show was actually in Australia! My first ever time playing a musical note live with Periphery was in 2011, and I think we’d just released Periphery I. I was kind of a nervous wreck (laughs) before my first show in Brisbane. Man, I was sweating like you wouldn’t believe. It’s fun to think about that actually.”
Periphery has never been afraid to experiment with their sound, as far as to include a few surprise instruments on their latest album Periphery III, but according to Mark these subtle changes are not something that the band discusses before implementing but are rather a sign of where the members heads are musically, at the time of conception.
“It’s accidental,” he said quite simply, shrugging off the musical diversity. “It’s completely circumstantial and accidental which is born out of what we like at the time. There’s never any intent to say ‘hey, this album should have more jazz parts or more classical parts’, it is just about going with how we happen to feel in that moment and at that point of time. I think it’s more a reflection of who we are as artists and what kind of things we like. Objectively you could say that Periphery III has way more orchestra and strings on it in a classical sense than Juggernaut or any of those albums before because that just happens to be the stuff we like these days. We happen to be captivated by that kind of sound, so we ran with it. Who knows, when we sit down to do Periphery IV we’ll see what kind of things we like at that point in time but it’s changing and evolving, and that’s the beauty of doing this.”
One aspect that sets Periphery apart from many of their contemporaries is having three guitarists which is a massive part of their sound. While Mark concedes having that extra player could be fraught with danger, he also believes that with Periphery, they have found a uniquely perfect balance.
“I can say there’s a likelihood that having a third guitarist could be a lot harder if you don’t know how to handle that kind of dynamic,” he admitted, “and it’s all a learning process for us but luckily myself, Jake (Bowen) and Misha (Mansoor) have always had this excellent camaraderie in terms of friendship and being around each other. We’ve also always been musical siblings and have seen eye to eye on so many things creatively, so that’s always been a gift but I do sometimes wonder how hard it would be if we didn’t see eye to eye. It would be tough, especially when you start to talk about egos and how you deal with rejection if one of your band mates doesn’t like what you’ve written. We endure all of that stuff but thankfully because we are such good friends and see eye to eye on everything stylistically we don’t run into any issues.”
Periphery has self-produced all of their albums since their self-titled debut in 2010, with Mark saying the reasons for this and the benefits of it make it a no brainer as an option.
“It gives us utter flexibility and total creative control,” he said. “It’s about not feeling like we have to satisfy anyone’s vision but our own and I think collectively and individually our vision of what our music is supposed to be is so specific and hard headed and stubborn and I think once you start to talk about having a third party involved we all get a bit nervous on the inside because that would lead to us having to compromise a little bit on our vision – which we don’t mind doing for one another. There’s definitely been concessions I’ve made in the past where I know if I leave this part out or I do something different with a song it is going to make me less happy but it’s going to make two or three other people more happy with the song and the arrangement and the part so I do that but I think we’re all a bit stubborn when it comes to working with outside parties creatively. That’s not to say we wouldn’t try it one day, I don’t know. We are always looking to grow and evolve as musicians and as professionals so who knows? Maybe one day we will try but again, that needs to be the right person. It can’t be somebody who can just fill out an application and record our band. It needs to be somebody with years of experience with us as friends and professionals.”
Written by Kris Peters
PERIFERY TOUR DATES
“ When you think of external pressure and the expectation that other people have on your product there’s little to nothing that you can do about it,” shrugged Scott Kay, guitarist for Perth’s Voyager about public pressure and expectation of their upcoming album.
“People can say ‘I don’t like this record as much as the previous one’ or whatever and you can take on board criticism, but I think that you should take it with a grain of salt. The only people that you need to listen to with the deepest concern are your band mates and yourself. You need to be able to ask yourself honestly do I like what I’m writing and if you’re umming and ahhing then maybe it’s not up to the standard that you want it to be. I feel like the best way to overcome the pressure is just to narrow it down to the people that matter. Obviously, we love our fans, and we take into account what they are saying but when it comes to being creative it only comes down to the people in the room that are actually creating. They are the only opinions that truly matter.
After receiving international success and acclaim with their fifth album V in 2014 Voyager’s trajectory climbed sharply. They received rave reviews in Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Revolver Magazines and were nominated for ‘Breakthrough Artist’ at the 2014 Prog Mag Music Awards on the back of that release with the band also receiving an invitation to play at the prestigious Bigsound 2014 festival.
Based on the response to that groundbreaking album it is understandable that no matter how hard they try to stay focused on the upcoming, as yet untitled release there is undoubtedly extra pressure on the quintet.
“Absolutely,” confirmed Kay “We are all really happy with not only the music on that album but also in terms of how it was received. It was unbelievable how much traction we got just from that record so the pressure is definitely there to… I don’t like the idea of us saying we have to top that record but… it’s kind of like when you see the first Transformers movie and everything is so epic then the second one has to be more epic with more explosions. We don’t have that feeling where we have to always make the next record better than the last because that’s something I don’t like framing in that way, but by the same token I want to release a record that I’m absolutely stoked with and really the pressure was more on ourselves to write something that we all liked more so from outside.”
After the success of V and subsequent supports of bands of the caliber of Nightwish, Epica and Deftones, Voyager seemingly went into their shell throughout 2016 but Kay explains that was purely to focus on writing for the new album.
“We’ve been working on this record on and off for the last two years,” he reflected, “and the biggest difference is this is the first time we have had the same line up in the band for consecutive records. In the entire history of the band we’ve had at least one new member join in between albums so this time we were able to consolidate where we were as a band from the previous album cycle and not have to worry about introducing new members and getting them up to speed which made it a really good process. We were able to make decisions as a band based on what worked on the last record and where we wanted to go from there. In terms of writing it was mostly collaborative and we did a lot of jam room writing. Our structure was we would basically come up with ideas in our own studio or space and we would bring them to the jam room and go through them and then reconsolidate them in the studio again. We did the whole back and forth process which worked well.”
As for the sound of the album, Kay didn’t want to give too much away but did admit it would differ a little to what fans might expect.
“This record will be a lot heavier,” he conceded. “Heavier than we’ve ever gone and darker than we’ve ever gone as a band. Danny (Estrin, vocals) has written some fairly personal stuff in the past that worked through his dark moments in life, but I think in terms of lyrically there is more discussion of the human condition on this one. There are elements that make it a personal journey for Danny but the tracks are also quite relatable. In terms of music it’s way heavier and darker without question. I think people will be genuinely surprised by what they hear.”
One aspect that has stuck with Voyager since their inception in 1999 is their refusal to fit stylistically into any set genre or musical trend. They have been criticized in some circles and praised in others for their ability to make music on their own terms and Kay believes strongly that it is this non-conformist mentality that is the heart and soul of the band.
“Voyager has never really stuck to a particular sound over the journey of the band,” he said. “It’s history that we started off as a power prog band and we’ve just eliminated the whole power metal from what we do almost entirely. On this upcoming record, we’re delving even deeper into the progressive side of things. There’s no power metal on this record which may alienate some of our older fans but from our perspective we need to stay true to what we create. It’s not a conscious thing. We just go in and create stuff and we either like it or we don’t and it just turned out that what we wrote for this record is nothing like what we have done in the past. There’s still the catchy choruses and the poppy element that we are always going to have because that’s what we enjoy but in terms of power metal influence or even the prog metal influence it is becoming less and less a factor in what we are doing.”
When it comes to their unique sound and the changes with the content on the upcoming album Kay says that it is more of a natural evolution than a contrived effort.
“I think what creates our sound is that while we all have a common love for heavy music it feels like everything else that we are all into as individuals is very separate. I think that is what generates that extra creativity in the process. Again, the more you learn about different things the more arsenal you have to be creative with. In that sense it was never a conscious effort but we do like the fact there is an element to what we do that we don’t feel is done much by anyone else. While it is quite a poppy sound that we have I think it’s a combination of all of these different things that we have honed. We’ve turned a four and a half minute song into something that hasn’t really been done before where we can be progressive but also have the cleanliness that you get from pop music and make it concise. A lot of the time if you consciously try and create something new it can feel forced but I don’t think we’re doing that.”
Written by Kris Peters
“We’ve all been in bands before so we’re not green,” insisted Josh Potter, drummer for Melbourne’s Figures. “We’ve been in semi-successful bands, so when we came together we said let’s really nut this out and work on it and drop an iconic record but do an E.P first. Basically, this first E.P is just about introducing us to the world and saying ‘Hey Australia! check us out. This is what we do, this is what we sound like, this is what we’re about and then do a few shows here and there. Those few shows turned into some good shows and a support with Twelve Foot Ninja and now we’ve got a bit of a name going so it’s cool. This E.P is just a tester.”
Since forming in 2013, Figures have steadily built their reputation by the above means, taking things slow and steady with the understanding that only comes through experience, that to become successful you first have to lay the foundations and it is through this notion that they settled on the four songs that were to become their debut self titled E.P.
“We chose the four strongest songs with a view to working on and improving the others,” Potter explained. “We’ve got another E.P coming out which will be the rest of the songs we put on the backburner. They are going to be on the next one coming out in May and now we have another twenty songs that we’re working on and we plan on dropping that album in2018. We just wanted to work on our strongest songs to start with and then get the remaining six to the next level.”
With ten tracks written that will become the songs over two E.P’s the temptation would have been there to release them all together as one album but Potter says it was more important for the band to ensure that each song was of a high enough standard to be released to their fans.
“A lot of bands go straight for a record or album these days,” he said. “We could have done that but we just weren’t there with the songs at the time. Because we’re all in our thirties and have had that experience we thought it was more important to get our name out there and get things started and get a bit of buzz around the band so we decided to get an E.P out. We did want to release an album but it would have been half-assed and wouldn’t have been at the standard we wanted so we decided to pace things a little. We’ve all been in bands for around fifteen years so we know that if you half ass something or you release it too early you will live to regret it so finally now we have a chance where we have great players and a great singer so let’s just take our time and release an E.P and a single and build things.”
Large chunks of the music on Figures is eerily reminiscent of early Incubus, particularly the S.C.I.E.N.C.E album, and Potter doesn’t seem surprised when I mention the similarities.
“We get that all the time,” he laughed. “Mark’s voice is very, very Brandon Boyd like. That’s his voice and he can’t help the way he sings. He’s got a killer voice but we try and push away from that a bit. We get told there is a lot of early Incubus, Deftones, Tool and Sevendust in our music. When we started the band we decided to not follow any trends and play what we love. We’re all 90’s kids. We’re all nu metal kids and if we love that shit and that’s what we love playing let’s do it. Fuck it. People smell bullshit but they won’t in us. We love it so we play it and that is our way of thinking. In saying that, to be compared to bands like Incubus is an honour. It’s cool as shit.”
While embracing these influences, Potter also says it was important for Figures to find their own sound and identity in order to develop as a band.
“In the beginning, and I know from all of the bands I’ve been in, it takes two or three years to really work out all of that stuff and find your direction as a band. I think with the second E.P we’ve done that and we’ve pushed away more from the fruit salad mix of all those bands. I think it just takes time to find out what vibe and direction a band wants to go and when you find that vibe you start writing to that style and begin to find your signature sound but it’s just a time thing. Being in a room with the guys and jamming and rehearsing and seeing how they play and feel makes things come together. We’ve been doing it for three years now so I think we’re there.”
Last year Figures made the journey to the United States to play a showcase gig at MUSEXPO’s Global Rock Summit, and although Potter agrees the experience of touring overseas was beneficial to the bands career, he also feels it is important to establish yourself in your own country before becoming preoccupied with taking your music overseas.
“What we learned from that, and I try to convey to all younger bands who ask me for advice, is it’s important to have a fan base in Australia before you go over and do anything in L.A or Europe or anything like that. The shows over there are a little bit better and yes you get looked after a bit better with money and food and accommodation, especially in Europe, but I think it is important to have that fan base here before committing to going overseas. It’s very important. But in saying that, the lessons we learned in L.A were it’s so cut-throat and brutal so you have to have your shit on lockdown before going over. Especially things like arrangements, vocals and rhythm section. Make sure your shit is tight before you go to any other country and definitely try and grow your fan base at home first.”
Building that fan base can be hard. It doesn’t matter how much you tour or how good your releases are, there is always a multitude of new bands and new music vying for the public’s attention and Potter agrees there is no set formula to staying ahead of the pack.
“I was talking to our guitarist about this the other day,” he said. “You have something like four or five hundred albums coming out every day on I Tunes and how do you sift through that and find a cracker? It’s very tough. There’s so many bands in Melbourne alone, it’s just saturated, and it’s quite tough for a young band to even get a gig let alone get a tour going but I think, as I said, if you’ve got your shit locked down and you’ve got a good clip out and a good record that is mixed well and produced well you are going to get noticed. From there you will get other bands wanting to play with you and tour with you but I think to get through the copious amount of bands we have in Australia you simply have to keep releasing that content and keep ahead of the rest. If a band releases a video clip every three months as opposed to a band who releases one every month – and I know that’s hard because of money – but they’re going to keep that candle lit. They’re going to keep their music current and keep ahead of all of those other bands coming through.”
Written by Kris Peters
THE FRONT BOTTOMS
Unique Jersey outfit The Front Bottoms are packing seats on their upcoming Australian tour (figuratively: it’s general admission) and if you haven’t heard of them, you’re about to. Having racked up five full-lengths under their belt and looking towards a sixth, they decided it would be a good idea to start 2017 with a headline run Down Under.
Their last time here was a glorious slot supporting local faves The Smith Street Band in 2014. When asked if there was anything about that tour that inspired the re-visit, frontman Brian Sella replied, “Basically everything”. “The entire experience was wonderful”, he elaborated. “The shows were really good, so we figured if we could come back, we should make it happen”.
It seems like an understatement that the band are going to take 2017 “day by day” without any big plans, when they have such a busy schedule, not only trekking it down here but also working on a new album. “After that Australian tour we will probably start writing a new album”, Sella elaborated. “I already have a lot of it written, it’s just a matter of coming home and finding the time to really sit down and put it all together”. He even has some themes penned down. “I met a guy – a homeless guy, who was living in a lobby, and I tried to write a couple of songs about him. I don’t know if anyone will ever hear those, but that was a weird thing where I was like ‘I can probably get some inspiration out of this.”
In addition to having a new album on the horizon, there’s also likely to be a continuation of the ‘Grandma EP’ series, which may see The Front Bottoms revise and modernise a collection of songs from their back catalogue, something they did on the first instalment, ‘Rose’. “I’m already talking to Mat [Uychich, drummer] about another Grandma series and he was totally into it, so we’ve been thinking of ideas for songs that we would put on that one. Like I said, it’s basically just finding time to sit down and do it. So when we get home from Australia, that will be another thing that we try to start working on”.
Their ability to churn out music is consistent, even if their inspirations have changed. From the introduction of more complete instrumentals as their discography has progressed, to their signing to Fueled By Ramen, fans have definitely pointed out a development in their sound that can’t be denied. “Life goes on and you try to get better at something and you have different experiences”, Sella comments. “Everything is subjective, so it’s alright, things just happen the way they happen, I guess”.
What’s so special about The Front Bottoms is that even with gradual sound changes and reasonable upskills, their music is informed by a level of honesty, wrought with allegories and references, that speak for itself. It almost feels offensive to ask Sella to provide an explanation on anything when it’s all already there. Queries answer themselves. When asked if one of the lines on ‘Back On Top’ is a Slaughterhouse Five reference, Sella replies that it’s probably subconscious – he just loves that book. When asked if it’s true that, as he claims in his lyrics, his name is actually Steven, the answer is yes. There are no lines to read between – everything is as it appears, and that’s the most refreshing enticement the little-Jersey-band-that-could could ever offer.
Sella has a couple of big things in the foreseeable future with The Front Bottoms, but he’s also working on a book, even if it’s not necessarily “coming out” yet. He doesn’t share anything about it, because “I don’t want to”, he laughs awkwardly. Nevertheless, fans of his lyrics have a lot to look forward to.
All in all, The Front Bottoms are “just having fun”, according to Sella. There’s no big mission, they’re not saving the world and even though they’re from New Jersey, they’re not aiming to follow the footsteps of scene icons like My Chemical Romance. The entire point is that they’re not inspired by a vision statement or an earthmoving intention. Sella observes, and he recounts. They’re not trying to reach out in some fabricated way, and by being that honest with their fans and with themselves, they do just that, relating to people with their exclusive brand of the no-bullshit truth. If you hear someone call them phony, they’re probably lying.
Written by Peyton
“So I was into Led Zeppelin when they first started and then, when I heard Black Dog , I was hooked for life.” – David Sandstrom
It might be thirty-six years since Led Zeppelin’s official demise, but their legendary sounds will be returning to Australian shores in January in the form of Led Zeppelin Masters who will be performing two shows at Sydney’s iconic Opera House. Frontman Vince Contarino recently caught up with HEAVY for a chat which in turn became a walk through Australia’s rock history.
57-year-old Vince has been a musician for all of his working life and he tells me it all started way back when he was twelve years old and started playing guitar. “By the time I was twelve or thirteen I had my own little band and we were playing original music,” he recounts. “We were playing gigs regularly so I was honing my craft as a frontman. Then in the summer of ’77 I left school and in 1978 I was touring professionally with a Top 40 band. Got sick of that and wanted to go back writing songs and play rock music so I went back to Adelaide and formed a band called The Dukes. We were playing rock at a time when punk and new wave were really starting to take over and we were playing rock at a time when it was considered uncool. But we had this huge following and we were packing out venues and that lasted for about four years and then I joined a band called Fraternity which was the band that Bon Scott and then Jimmy Barnes sang for. Working with people like Bruce Howe who was the bass player meant I got to learn so much about rock and the rock business. And that’s how The Zep Boys first started I did a couple of gigs as that while some of the other boys were touring with Barnesy on the back of No Second Prize.”
As a person in my 30s I’ve never known a time when rock wasn’t cool so I ask Vince what it was like playing rock music in that period where punk first started to take over. “It was weird,” says Vince after a long pause. “The fashions started to take over. People liked to put the dark eye-liner around their eyes, dress up in black and walk the streets and they would look like witches. Of course their hair was also jet black so there was this whole fashion thing that was really cool. The music they listened to was stuff like The Cure and it was all really macabre, and they had this morbid fascination with suicide, heroin and all that kind of shit. And then there were the nu-romantics as well, but rock & roll was on the way out. But we couldn’t relate to any of that other stuff so we were doing pub gigs and mainly guys would come to our shows and they would just want to have a drink and get into the music. They were just working class guys and weren’t into the dress-up or anything like that, they were just wearing flannelettes and jeans. But because our crowds were such big drinkers the pubs kept asking for bands like us. So I think in a way we kept rock & roll alive because the pubs were succeeding financially. We weren’t interested in the grog though we just wanted to play our own music. We were into what AC/DC were doing, what Cold Chisel were doing and we were into bands like Small Faces and Humble Pie. So we just thought stuff it we’re going to play the music that we want to play.”
With the stories of Vince’s life obviously showing a life-long relationship with rock music I ask him when he first fell in love with the work of Led Zeppelin. “I think I first fell in love with Led Zeppelin when I was a ten or eleven-year-old,” says Vince. “I fell in love with the energy and I think that’s still why kids fall in love with music today. There’s something about that music at that age that just grabs you.
I was into Led Zeppelin when they first started and then when I heard Black Dog I was hooked for life. This Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters though, this wasn’t an over-night thing. I’ve been with The Zep Boys for over 30 years and we’ve done a lot of shows but back in about 2004 we started working with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and then we started taking the show to Melbourne and people would watch the show and say ‘oh this isn’t a tribute band this is actually like a night of classical music, these guys aren’t pretending to be the band they are actually playing the songs.’ Then we went up to Darwin and the ABC up there goes right through Asia and these guys got in touch with me while I was in Sicily and they were saying they wanted to do some shows at The Opera House and I thought it was a joke. But these guys were bloody fair dinkum and by the time I got back it was full on and we did end up playing The Opera House. Now we are doing the Opera House again and we’re going to the U.K.”
I couldn’t let the moment go without asking Vince what it is like playing at the Opera House and we joked about how an Australian comedian recently said the Opera House is the one gig you don’t want to blow or it will haunt you for the rest of your life. “The Opera House has its own persona,” says Vince. “It really does have a persona in its actual self. I was talking to our publicist in the U.K. and they are as interested in the Sydney Opera House as we are in Albert Hall. To them it is a bucket-list thing and it really is a world wonder. I’m sure when that comedian made the joke that they made it out of sheer fear. But for us every night we are working with an orchestra that fear is there because you are working with so many musicians and you all have to be on the same page, literally, because they are reading that music from manuscript so you have to do it justice and you have to work as a musician, not only as a rock musician who just belts it out and struts the stage. You have to work with another thirty-five musicians and a conductor.”
And of course, Led Zeppelin Masters isn’t working with just any conductor. No, they are working with Nicholas Buc who has worked on music from Star Trek, E.T., Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Harry Potter And The Philospher’s Stone, Back To The Future and Psycho. So how did Buc end up with working with them? “We were introduced to Nicholas by the promoters,” explains Vince. “He has worked with them on a number of shows over the years – Tina Arena, The Beatles shows and he has proven himself to be very, very talented. He also gets the ‘rock band thing’ which not all conductors would, some people are purists and traditionalists and couldn’t think of any worse but Nick because he’s done so many varied things he embraces the opportunity and says ‘forgot about being pure and think about the crowd and how happy they will be.”
So if you want to be one of those happy audience members, make sure you get along to see Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters at The Sydney Opera House on either the 13th or 14th January 2017.
Written by David Griffiths
“It was awesome man, we had a great time,” enthused Matt Young, vocalist for King Parrot on their recently completed European tour with Exodus, Obituary and Prong.
“We went to a lot of places that we’d never played before and a lot of Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary and Croatia and to get over there and play in front of those audiences was something that we never would envisaged when we started the band. The bands we toured with are obviously veterans of the scene that have been around for a long time and are bands that we all looked up to and grew up with so it was amazing to become friends with those guys and spend some time with them travelling around and seeing the way they operate. It’s never too much of a chore to get out there and go on tour. It is hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Having toured the United States and Europe, King Parrot have been exposed to a number of musical cultures and organizations, and if there is one thing they have learnt from their touring that they feel could be taken on board by our Australian promoters and venues it is the one thing that Australians normally pride themselves on.
“The hospitality over there is exceptional,” Youngy quipped. “I think the way that the Europeans look after bands and probably even the Americans as well… I’ve done all sorts of different tours in Europe from small club shows to bigger venues and no matter where you play they want to cook for you or they’ll give you good food or a nice spread when you arrive and sort you out with accommodation and all those sorts of things. That is definitely better and a lot more respect goes to the bands as well which if adopted here in Australia would go a really long way. It’s something that’s certainly missing over here. That’s not to say that some promoters aren’t great but I find it’s more of a common thing in Europe. There’s definitely a better culture for live music.”
In their relatively short lifespan, King Parrot have worked tirelessly to the point where they are now considered the benchmark of Australian metal. With constant tours of this country and a number of overseas jaunts as well as live shows that leave nothing on the bench, King Parrot lead from the front and by example, with Youngy admitting the mantle is a little disconcerting for the five band members.
“I dunno, it’s kind of weird,” he stammered. “I guess you kind of notice it when you go out and people wanna come up and say hi and get a photo. It’s kind of strange because we never thought we would be in that position but now that we are it’s cool.
“I always try and make myself available to people regardless of who it is: bands as well as fans. I love talking with other bands and talking to bands coming through the scene if they wanna ask me anything or want advice on how to approach a label or an agent or management. I’m always happy to do that because that was how I learnt. I asked questions and learned to be inquisitive about things and to put those years of learning into practice now, and I guess probably even ourselves to push it as far as we have, we’re always learning about different elements and things in the industry and the way things work. We’ve got a pretty good team around us with lots of people that wanna help us out so that’s been cool as well. Anything that I can help pass on I’m always happy to do it and I think the other guys in King Parrot would say the same thing.”
With the touring cycle for the outstanding Dead Set almost done, fans of the band are screaming out for new material, and Youngy says the band are more than happy to oblige.
“We’ve been jamming a lot,” he teased.”Before we went to Europe we had a couple of months off where we were jamming a bit. Earlier in 2016 and a bit of the year before we spent a bit of time writing and getting new material together and we’re sort of getting to the stage now where we’re pretty close. We’ve got most of the rough structures down for probably twelve or thirteen songs and I’m still getting some vocal ideas down. We’re gonna rehearse some more in January then we’ve got the tour with Psycroptic in February and we’re gonna aim to record probably in March, that’s the plan.”
After recording Dead Set at Phil Anselmo’s Nodferatu’s Lair Studio in Louisiana, Youngy says for the next album the boys are planning on putting their music in the hands of someone closer to home.
“I think we’re gonna do this one in Australia,” he said. “We felt like… we’re good friends with Jason that runs Goatsound Studios in Melbourne and he’s from Blood Duster and has been a good friend of ours for a long time. He did a bit of work on our first record and he’s built his own studio in Melbourne and is doing some really good stuff. Some of the recordings I’ve heard come out of there are exactly where I pictured he’d be going. He’s really developed his skills as a sound engineer and a producer and he’s expressed interest in working with us for this next record and I guess it’s much easier for us to go and record here in Melbourne than it is to go overseas. He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows the sound; he knows that Australian grindcore sound probably better than anyone so we’re stoked to be doing another record with him.”
As for the sound and lyrical direction of the album, Youngy says there is little likelihood of things deviating from what fans know and love about King Parrot.
“I think our sound is pretty much our sound,” he deadpanned. “It’s probably not gonna deviate too much from what we’ve done previously because that’s just what we do. It’s like the whole AC/DC thing. You have your sound and you’re stuck with it and you just go with it. In terms of songwriting and structure and development of us as musicians it will hopefully improve and hopefully see us writing better songs. We’ve done some demoing of the songs already and the feedback we’re getting from our confidants is good man. There’s some pretty hilarious song titles on the new record so I’m looking forward to setting that loose on the public (laughs). There’s some good ones we’ve come up with and Squiz, our guitarist, is always coming out with these weird Australian colloquialisms or whatever they’re called. He’s always got something strange to come out with but we’re gonna keep that under wraps for now. We’re going to be playing a couple on the Thrash, Blast and Grind tour in February called ‘Entrapment’ and ‘Now it Stokes Frenzy’ but that’s all you’re getting out of me (laughs).”
The Thrash, Blast and Grind Festival is the latest addition to Australia’s metal festivals, with this one being the brainchild of Youngy and Dave Haley from Psycroptic.
Taking in capital cities and Newcastle, this festival caters for metal lovers with Youngy stressing that the ideas behind the tour are purely musically driven.
“We did a few shows with Psycroptic in North America recently and we had a great time,” he explained. “We hadn’t played together since 2013 so we decided this might be the time we did a tour again. The Psycroptic guys have a pretty good relationship with the guys from Revocation so we asked them if they wanted to be a part of it too. I guess we wanted to put something on that helped build a voice for the extreme music bands by putting on a mini festival type thing and travel around Australia with it. ”
“Obviously there’s no Soundwave, there’s no Legion now so hopefully this helps fill the void with some of the extreme music bands. We’ve put something together that caters for everyone in the heavy music realm from grindcore to death to the more thrash kind of stuff. Whoretopsy and Black Rheno are two great new bands that have been doing some cool stuff and we felt that they deserved a spot on the lineup to get their stuff out to a more national audience.”
After the demise of Soundwave and the failure to get off the ground of Legion, Australian festivals goers are understandably cautious about newer ventures, but Youngy says that Thrash, Blast and Grind will hopefully restore some of that lost trust.
“Obviously we don’t have the aspirations of a Soundwave or a Legion,” he assured. “We’re all underground bands and this is kind of an underground festival. We like the fact that this… we’re not trying to do something that we don’t think we can achieve. We’ve put it in reasonable sized venues so we can get a great sound quality and things like that. We’d love to get the support of the Australian metal community. This is something we are just going to try and see how it goes and there’s no promise it will be ongoing but if it is something that works that people enjoy and we have a good time doing it we’ll definitely try again next year and see how it goes. For now we’re gonna run this one and have a good time with it.”
Written by Kris Peters
Friday February 10th
Saturday February 11th
Sunday February 12th
Monday February 13th
Tuesday February 14th
Wednesday February 15th
Friday February 17th
Saturday February 18th
Sunday February 19th
“It’s just ad lib chaos,” Black Rheno vocalist Ryan Miller says of the bands live show. “Ther are no premeditated things between songs like you get with some bands, none of that. We just get up and go nuts. I’m hyperactive anyway so I run around on stage climbing over tables and pouring beers on my head and all that kind of fun stuff. We just get up there and have fun. It’s heavy, we get up and cut loose. On stage, our work ethic and everything that goes on behind the scenes in the background is all the same: 100 miles per hour and don’t hold back!”
Having only been around a little over twelve months, Black Rheno have built a solid reputation through their live performances, with Miller conceding the band’s aforementioned work ethic has played a large part in their ascension.
“We have all played with bands and have a bit of experience and history and have learnt a bit over the years. We wanna travel and experience stuff, meet cool people and hopefully get out of Australia and have a good time doing it and that doesn’t just happen. You don’t just play gigs in your local scene, then a label picks you up and says ‘here’s a million dollars, off you go’. That just doesn’t happen. If you wanna do these things you have to make them happen yourself, so from the get go we asked ourselves what do we want to achieve? We toured hard and played sixty shows in our first year as a band and I guess that’s why people know about us. Our fourth gig was in Brisbane and we’re from Sydney so basically, we just started booking tours straight away. There was no gradual build up, we just went hard from the beginning and it seems to have worked.”
With their debut E.P Let’s Start a Cult receiving rave reviews, Miller says the flow on effect from that touring has paid off, but also stresses that it was important to follow that up with a quality release that was a good reflection of the band and their music.
“We released a couple of singles when we first started out and one was a punk track and one was more of a stoner metal, groove sort of track but our sound really does mix up a bit from grind to punk to stoner to groove metal and we wanted to put out an E.P where the six songs take you on a bit of a journey through what we do and gives a good representation of what we are like live.”
The album title is an extension of that feel good message, with Miller explaining it is basically a call to arms.
“It more or less says let’s get out there and crank our tunes and go as hard as we can and travel around and meet people and get them on board with all the fun we’re having,” he offered. “We’re really just having a lot of fun playing shows and hanging out. We get along super well and everything grew from there. Let’s just start a cult of good times and good music.”
For the video to their single ‘No Time for Numb Nuts’, Black Rheno pulled off a bit of a coup in enlisting the help of King Parrot front man Matt Young to play a leading role in the clip, and it was something that Miller says happened more by chance than anything.
“He just touched base with us and we went from there,” he said. “We’ve been fans of King Parrot for a while and I think he just basically saw the work we had been putting in aside from just playing gigs and the hours that we put into music and liked what he saw.”
Unlike other musical genres, heavy metal has always seen bands unite and help each other out, with a family type vibe that has seen a large number of bands offer varying degrees of assistance, such as the above appearance by Youngy. Through appearing in each other’s film clips to helping out with tours and guesting on each other’s albums there has always been a general feeling of good will that is the envy of other forms of music.
“That’s one of the things I love about the metal scene,” Miller agreed. “It’s really like a family and it’s funny but I don’t see it in other scenes but it really is strong in metal. I run a recording studio in Sydney and I get a lot of different bands coming through and you hear everyone’s stories about what people are getting up to with all the indie bands and that sort of thing but it just seems something is happening in the heavy world that isn’t happening anywhere else. It really is like a community where everyone gets behind each other and are pumped to see each other do well. Music is not a competition and the way Australian heavy bands support each other is pretty special.”
One thing that Miller says has been important in the emergence of Black Rheno has been their ability to not only harness the sounds and energy of their favourite bands, but more importantly to use these influences as more of a guide than a defining factor of their music.
With a sound described as stoner, sludge, punk, grind and groove, there is an eclectic nature and honesty to their music that can only come from within.
“You wanna be doing your own thing,” Miller pondered. “One of the beautiful things about music is there are so many different things you can do with it. You can play 70’s rock or whatever and some people pay out on bands that do the old school stuff but I think it’s awesome. You can do whatever you want but of course hopefully you are doing something that has its own flair and uniqueness. I seriously think you have to find that naturally. I’d never play in a band that says ‘we’re gonna mix these three bands and do this with it or twist it like that’ and all that premeditated stuff. I could never do that. With our music and from my experience playing in bands you just play whatever feels right. There’s obviously influences from all the music we listen to and no doubt you’ll probably hear that in our music but it’s just what comes out. A lot of our songs were originally twenty minute metal jams where we go crazy and ad lib the whole thing and I just scream out whatever comes to my mind. I’m still singing two or three songs a night that I haven’t got lyrics for and I make up on the spot but I like that, it’s kind of fun. I just ad lib stuff until I find something that gels. It’s not trying to… it’s gotta be natural because if it’s not then it’s gonna show.”
Written by Kris Peters
After bursting from the blocks in 2011 and solidifying their growing reputation with their debut album “First Light to my Death Bed”, Perth’s Saviour faded into the sunset in January 2014 and it seemed as though yet another star on the rise had fizzled.
“We were going through a lot of different things,” explained vocalist Bryant Best of that period of their lives. Band life is real hard as it is and personally I was going through a lot of tough times and stepping away from it all seemed like the right thing to do. After a year and a half away, it was obvious we all had something missing in our lives, so we reached out to each other and got a few tracks together for old times’ sake. So far so good. We’re loving each other’s company and loving what we’re doing. We’ve definitely got different goals to what we had a few years back which helps.”
While time may heal certain wounds, Best says that neither he nor the rest of the band were willing to slip back into the same routine, so when they decided to start up again in October 2015 they decided to not only go in a slightly different musical direction but also to add another vocalist in the form of Shontay Snow, whose soothing and beautiful vocal style would be the perfect folly for the harsher vocals of Best.
“I grew up with Shontay,” explained Best, “and I enjoyed watching her live and supporting her music. We did a few tracks together back in the day and it seemed natural to take it further. That soundscape of harsh vocals mixed with the female vocals created its own entity. Even though it’s not totally new and other bands are doing it, I feel like we have made it our own with our unique take on it. Although Shontay had never toured with us in the past she would always have a couple of lines on our songs but she was living overseas at the time so when she moved back to Australia a couple of years ago and when we came back to the band, we knew we needed her. We weren’t going to start again unless she was going to be a part of it. She was keen too which was awesome. She’s definitely a big part of our future and a big part of right now.
Their upcoming release on January 13, “Let Me Leave”, is both a statement and a fresh beginning for the band, with Best admitting that the title is a metaphorical statement for the past, present and future.
“We came back from the dead basically,” he said, “and our goals have just been about representing who we are. We were all in weird states at the time we split and when we put together this album, it was very therapeutic for all of us. We got what we wanted out of it without even releasing it which we’re pretty happy about. We’re treating this album as more of a fresh start for us. We’ve brought in Shontay and changed the sound up a little bit to be more rocking and a little less metal so hopefully the fans embrace it.”
Although slated for an early 2017 release, Let Me Leave has actually been ready since early 2016, and while Best says the band are looking forward to unleashing the album, he admits to feeling a touch deflated by the timeframe between completion and release.
“Nothing ever really goes to plan,” he sighed. “This album was actually meant to be released in February 2016 so now one year later we are getting ready to put it out. We really had to jump over a lot of hurdles to get it out. I like to think we try to make plans as a band but getting ahead of yourselves can be a demon in itself. You have all of these plans and when they don’t fall into place it does hurt. We are all about the now and what we can do in the near future – six months, twelve months – but it is tough. The music industry is so unpredictable.”
With such a time delay in finishing the album and releasing it, Best concedes that you can start to question things about the music, as well as feel it has become outdated.
“There’s a bit of anxiety for sure,” he admitted. “you start to think about what could happen to it. It’s a little less exciting too I guess because these songs did mean so much to us when we wrote them and when we were meant to release them. I don’t even listen to the album anymore, it’s all old news to me and is a chapter of our lives that has closed now but we’re keen to get it out and validate those stories and move on to the next one. We’re looking forward to people hearing this next phase of Saviour’s life and growing with us.”
Written by Kris Peters
It’s a damn good feat to have been playing music for over twenty years and still retain the same level of personal and artistic integrity that AFI have displayed. The Californian rock icons AFI are well-praised and widely idolised, but it’s not unsolicited – they’ve earned every bit of the success that they’ve reaped. With their self-titled tenth studio album on its way this month (subtitled “The Blood Album”), guitarist Jade Puget explains that there are a couple of vital characteristics that have equipped AFI with their unique feature of longevity.
“Musicians are assholes”, he states. “It’s very easy for bands to break up. There’s a lot of ego involved, but there are a couple of things that we do, one of which is that we’re not a party band; if you go on our tour bus you’re not gonna see strippers or cocaine”. But it’s not just the drugs and bus discos that can “break up a band very quickly”. “Also, you know, we’re friends. We’ve been living together on a tour bus and literally living together in the same houses off and on for decades and we’re still friends. A lot of bands hate each other”.
There’s one more matter that’s contributed to AFI sticking around for this long, and it’s the fact that their fans have kept them afloat. The fact that they’ve somewhat grown up with their fans, that the kids of people who used to come to shows a decade ago are rocking up in 2016, is “pretty rewarding”, according to Puget. “When I first started in the band it was all kids because we had no ‘ten years ago’”, Puget identified. “But then those kids grew up and there’ll be new kids and even kids of those people”.
The fans aren’t just in the crowds at shows though, they’re also the bands that AFI are playing with. “We’ll play with a band that doesn’t sound anything like us and they’ll be like ‘when I was starting a band or when I was young you were a huge influence’”. Puget concludes that “as a musician or as a songwriter there’s really nothing better than to influence someone’s songwriting or to influence someone to play guitar or start a band”.
AFI have a unique relationship with their fans, one in which they try to give back as much as possible. In the lead-up to announcing their tenth LP, the band blacked out their social media, creating somewhat of a puzzle for fans to put together before the official reveal. They’ve done it before, but Puget noted that they “don’t wanna do the same thing every record”. The intention was solely to give the people who cared something to enjoy – “[the fans] love to sort of solve the little mystery of what you’re teasing and what you’re going to bring out so we try to give them that”.
The other gift that AFI give their fans is genuine music that isn’t repetitive or boring, with the tracks they’ve so far released from their upcoming record being pegged as reflective of their earlier sound but still something fresh. Puget didn’t perceive it like that, however. According to him, writing it doesn’t allow you to see those comparisons. “You know, people are like, ‘it sounds like this’, and ‘it sounds like that’, and I’m like, ‘what’?”
On LP10, Puget describes the sound as “still AFI in our element, like on all of our records”. He produced the album, but made clear that “when Davey [Havok, vocalist] and I go into writing together we never really have objectives”, the process is just to write music and see where it goes. With so many records under their belt, and Puget’s involvement in electronic project Blaqk Audio and straight edge hardcore outfit XTRMST, it’s a fair question to wonder whether writing gets harder as you go along. Fortunately, it doesn’t.
“This album was really easy to write and fun to write”, Puget reflected. “In between Davey and I do do Blaqk Audio and XTRMST and it seems to be getting easier and more creative and artistic in style between the two of us…you’d think we’d get tired of it but it’s just getting better”.
It would be reasonable to assume that with the amount of activity the members of AFI have going on in the New Year, there might not be time for an Australian tour. However, that shouldn’t be a concern for Australian fans. When asked about the chance of a trip Down Under, Puget was the bearer of extremely positive news. “It’s a pretty damn good chance”, he confirmed, “but I can’t say anything other than that because I’ll probably get in trouble”. Hopefully, the boys gift us with a late Christmas present and announce a tour soon.
Written by Peyton Bernhardt
With the release of their monster EP “The Complex Truth” on December 8th and the support slot for one of their biggest shows to date with Make Them Suffer two days later, it’s safe to say that December kicked off to a pretty fantastic start for New Zealand’s Advocates. HEAVY spoke to drummer Simon Webby about the band’s roots, what the EP release means for the band and their future, and how 2017 is taking shape for the kiwi quintet.
“It has been a really big week for us, pretty hectic,” commented Webby. “The show with Make Them Suffer was probably one of our biggest shows over here to date, we spent quite a bit of time preparing for that, making sure our set was up to scratch, that kind of thing. Personally, it was one of my favourite shows that we’ve played since we moved over here.”
The drummer’s excitement was subtle yet undeniable as we went on to discuss the release of The Complex Truth and their collaboration with The Plot in You’s Landon Tewers and Void of Vision’s Jack Bergin.
“It’s the first thing we’ve really released since we moved over here, everything leading up to this point has been to get the EP out there. The response has been much better than we could have imagined, we’re really stoked on it!”
“Our guitarist recorded the EP in his home studio which is where everything started with us just working on it together. We’d played a few shows with Void of Vision and we’re quite good friends with Jack, and we thought he’d be a good addition to the EP. [Bergin] and our vocalist Detlyn has very similar vocal styles, so it worked pretty well.”
“Landon is probably one of our collective favourite vocalists, and The Plot in You one of our collective favourite bands, and we’ve drawn quite a lot of influence from them. It was a bit of a no-brainer to try and get him involved. We emailed him and he was really keen to get on the track so we jumped at that opportunity.”
On the subject of additional musical influences, Webby cited Barrier and Sworn In as prominent sources of stylistic inspiration for the band’s music.
“We draw a lot of influence from those sorts of bands with their heavier, aggressive sound, particularly because our lyrics can be quite intense. Then we just try to put our own spin on it.”
“Our lyrics are inspired by everyday issues, serious issues that people face. A lot of it’s to do with things like drug addiction, violence, domestic violence. There’s a song on there about my father who was an alcoholic, so I wrote some stuff down about that.”
Moving away from the sombre discussion, I was interested to find out about the origins of Advocates and what prompted their relocation across the Tasman Sea.
“The plan had always been to move over to Australia. [Our guitarist] David and I formed the band originally after our high school band disbanded, and we’ve had quite a few line-up changes, but the plan was always to move over here. The New Zealand scene is so small, it’s a really tight scene, but there’s only so far you can go.”
“It got to the point where our older guitarist got engaged and a few other guys didn’t want to move, so David and I had to decide whether to end the band or give it one last shot. I’d never even been out of New Zealand before we moved over here, but it was one of those decisions where you’re just like ‘fuck it, let’s do it.’ It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, both personally and for the band as well.”
With the momentum of the success of the band’s relocation and a killer new EP behind them, we turned our attention to the future for Advocates. Webby’s keen anticipation of the year to come was evident.
“It’s looking pretty big. We’re just going to try and tour the EP as much as we can, get it out there and get people interested. We’ve been working really hard on a new set with all new songs, it’s a lot more professional now and we’ve put a lot more effort into the live aspect of it. It’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to playing more shows as well, hopefully, some bigger shows, bigger tours. If we got the chance to tour with The Plot In You I could die happy, and touring with Make Them Suffer would be pretty ideal, too.”
With so much to look forward to and so much potential behind them, it’s abundantly clear that 2017 and beyond will have plenty in store for Advocates. Until then – suss the band’s mammoth EP “The Complex Truth” here!
Written by Sam Sweeney
Focusing on seminal heavy bands: an in-depth look at where they rooted from and branch out to
WRITTEN By Matt Bolton
Shedding the light and darkness on this epic tree we focus on the influential Judas Priest and the vocalists behind the monster that branch out to greatness across the spectrum of Metal. With an amazing back catalog of seventeen records to choose from it is clear that the Priest are pioneers of their craft. The band was surely hell bent for leather.
Roots from West Midlands in 1969 lead to the forming of a band by vocalist Al Atkins with bassist, Bruno Stapenhill, guitarist John Perry and drummer John Partridge. Stapenhill came up with the name Judas Priest from the Bob Dylan song, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. After the passing of Perry, the guitarist was replaced by Ernie Chataway. After the first gig on 25th November 1969 at The George Hotel in Walsall the band toured Scotland and disbanded in 1970.
This was far from the beginning of the end, as the band soon reformed in Birmingham, with the new line-up of Guitarist Kenny K. K. Downing, bassist Ian ‘Skull’ Hill and drummer John Ellis. Atkins decided the band take his old band name of Judas Priest and performed the first gig with the reformed line-up at St John’s Hall, Essington in 1971. Judas Priest moved from their blues influences to hard rock, opening for big-name acts such as Budgie, Thin Lizzy, and Trapeze. Drummers came and go and in 1973 the then drummer Allan Moore and founder Atkins left the band due to financial difficulties and problems with the managers from Tony Iommi’s company IMA. Hill was dating a woman who suggested her brother, a man by the name of Rob Halford and the rest was history.
The Halford-fronted line-up toured the UK often supporting Budgie, and headlined some shows in Norway and Germany. Another lead guitarist Glen Tipton joined Downing in 1974 and the debut “Rocka Rolla” (1974) was released. Finding themselves in dire straits due to the flop of the album.
It wasn’t until follow-up “Sad Wings of Destiny” (1976) where the band found their sound. The album gave us classic tracks such as Victim of Changes and The Ripper. Songs such as Tyrant and Epitaph were scrapped from the debut by producer Rodger Bain due to then not being commercial enough. These tracks finally got to see the light of day with this release and the newly founded producers, Jeffery Calvert and Max West. This was also the only album to feature Allan Moore on drums.
“Sin after Sin” (1977) was the bands’ first album on a major label, CBS and was produced by Deep Purple’s bassist Roger Glover. Session drummer, Simon Phillips replaced Allan Moore on drums for the record. Les Binks, a friend of Glover’s was the touring drummer as he could replicate Phillips sound and had a double bass. The album featured Sinner, Dissident Aggressor, and Starbreaker. Funnily enough all songs were covered by Devin Townsend, Slayer and Arch Enemy, respectively. Glover encouraged the cover of Joan Baez’s folk classic, Diamonds & Rust to be included in the album. It was the first song to get airplay and Baez herself approved of the cover.
“Killing Machine” (1979) was the last album to feature drummer Binks and was the album where the leather costumes came into the picture as did the Harley Davidson motorbikes which Halford rode out on stage, knowing how to make an entrance in style. Due to the murderous tone of the title CBS/Columbia in America disputed the Killing Machine title and used Hell Bent for Leather to suit them. The album gave us the infamous Hell Bent for Leather, Delivering the goods, Take on the world and the Fleetwood Mac cover, The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown).
“British Steel” (1980) was recorded at the Tittenhurst grounds of former Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr and was the first album to feature new drummer Dave Holland. Digital sampling was not available at the time and the sound of smashing milk bottles can be heard on Breaking the Law where as billiard cues and trays of cutlery can be heard on Metal Gods. This was an iconic album for the Priest with numerous classics apart from the two mentioned it featured Grinder and Living after Midnight.
“Point of Entry” (1981) continued with the line up of Halford, Holland, Downing, Tipton and Hill for another four releases after this. Classics such as Heading out to the Highway and Hot Rockin featured on the record.
The follow-up “Screaming for Vengeance” (1982) gave us the infamous The Hellion/Electric Eye and You’ve got another Thing Coming. “Defenders of the Faith” (1984) saw hit after hit with Freewheel Burning, The Sentinel, Love Bites and Some Heads are gonna roll.
Turbo (1986) and Ram it Down (1988) was the last two albums to feature Holland with a drum machine replacing him on the final recordings of Ram it Down due to health problems the drummer was experiencing at the time. The album even featured an off-field cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Goode.
“Painkiller” (1990) was an iconic release, proving to be a favourite with metal heads. The title track was given a worthy rendition by Death on “The Sound of Perseverance’ (1998). Other fan favourites such as A Touch of Evil featured. This was Halford’s last record with Judas Priest for some time and was the first to feature newcomer Scott Travis on drums.
Halford went on to concentrate on Fight from 1992 to 1995, collaborating with Russ Parrish on guitar, former Cyanide guitarist/keyboards, Brian Tilse and bassist, Jack “Jay Jay” Brown. Travis joined Halford, however, continued to play with Judas Priest. “War of the Worlds” (1993) and A Small “Deadly Space’ (1995) were released on Epic Records.
After Fight disbanded Halford fronted industrial metal group 2wo. Halford collaborated with John Lowery, now known as John 5, the guitarist who played in Marilyn Manson before joining Rob Zombie. “Voyeurs” (1998) was released on Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails Nothing Records. Halford had a stellar team on board with Reznor credited as executive producer and producers Bob Marlette and Skinny Puppy’s Dave Ogilvie.
After the demise of 2wo, Halford focused on his solo career with his band the aptly titled Halford. Resurrection (2000) and the follow-up Crucible (2002) featured the line-up of bassist Ray Riendeau, drummer Bobby Jarzombek, and guitarists Mike Chlasciak and Patrick Lachman who later became the vocalist for Damageplan. Halford III:Winter Songs (2009) featured Mike Davis taking over bass duties and guitarist Rob Z of Bruce Dickenson’s band joining Chasciak. The follow-up Halford IV:Made of Metal (2010) featured the same line-up.
While Halford was busy with his two side projects and solo career the singer of Judas Priest tribute band, British Steel was hired in 1996. Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on “Jugulator”(1997) and Demolition” (2001), as well as two live double-albums – ’98 Live Meltdown and Live in London (2003). Check out Cathedral Spires taken off Jugulator below for some epic Owens.
Owens left in 2003 to front power metal band Iced Earth. Owens also fronted Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and currently is a member of supergroup Charred Walls of the Damned, joined by former Iced Earth drummer Richard Christy, who once played for Death, bassist Steve DiGiorgio who has recorded with Obituary, Testament, Death, Iced Earth and guitarist Jason Suecof.
2003 saw the reunion with Halford making his return and Judas Priest co-headlined the 2004 Ozzfest. “Angel of Retribution” (2005) was produced by Rob Z . The follow-up “Nostradamus” (2008) was produced by Tipton and Downing. The concept album was Downing’s final appearance as he retired in 2011. “Redeemer of Soulds” (2014) saw English guitarist, Richard Ian Faulkner join Tipton.
Faulkner stated that the band will begin recording in January 2017 and will tour sometime the following year. The metal gods remain pumping music through our speakers for a long time with roots that run deep.
An Interview with Jennifer Lawerence
Normally when a sci-fi film featuring a cast of the calibre of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt hits Australian cinemas, it is big news. Yet somehow, possibly because it opens in Australia on that awkward 1St January New Years slot, “Passengers” is right upon us. Well, we here at HEAVY decided that it was time to do something about that and we thought you would like to hear what Lawrence and Pratt have to say about this great new sci-fi.
Lawrence begins by saying that she was attracted to this film because it really intrigued her. “I found the characters that are involved with this story really intriguing because it is such a huge decision to make,” explains Lawrence. “When you think about it, if you take a 120 year long journey when you arrive, everybody that you know will be dead so you have to start a whole new life on a planet that you have never been to. So, of course there are going to be interesting characters that are involved when there is a decision like that.I thought the script was such an interesting concept that I hadn’t seen anything like it. I loved the world, I loved the two characters and I loved just the sheer idea of the whole thing. I thought it was so creative and interesting because when I closed the script I thought people with leave the cinema with a million different opinions and that’s what I really like about the film, that nobody is telling you how to feel that it is all ‘what would you do?’, it’s a real conversation starter.”
So that leads straight into the question of why her character, Aurora, decides to make that big decision. “Aurora is very driven,” says Lawrence after thinking for a few seconds. “She is also very curious and is the daughter of a very famous author which I think always keeps her wanting more and wanting her to have her name, so I think all of these combine with her adventurous spirit and that sends her off.”
Lawrence also says that the predicament that the characters find themselves in also affects the way the film looks. “This film is visually interesting because really these two characters are trapped,” she says. “But it is the space that makes the visuals so large, and they are so lost in this huge space that is so much bigger than them. So I thought that was interesting with the dynamics of what the characters feels and what the characters are going through emotionally. All that versus this large, gaping space that they are stuck in.”
Of course, most of the female audience out there are once again going to fall in love with Chris Pratt when they sit down to watch Passengers, so what does Jennifer Lawrence have to say about working with the talented star. “Chris Pratt is the hardest working person on a movie, including the crew and I mean including everybody. He is the hardest working person that I have ever met in my life, and he has such an amazing attitude. Chris and I were also always thirsty to know what Morten (the film’s director, Morten Tyldum) was thinking and of course his opinion of our characters but we were all really dialled in together.”
Now, of course Chris Pratt doesn’t need any introduction to most movie-goers these days. Over the past few years, he has made big budget films like Guardians Of The Galaxy and Jurassic World his own so what is his take on Passengers. “Well there are about five thousand passengers on the Avalon and they are travelling to this new planet called Homestead 2. They are travelling in what are called hibernation pods, and they are pretty much what they sound like, they are cocoons with the passengers inside where they are kept in suspended animation where they don’t age, they don’t grow, they don’t get sick, they just stop all metabolic function and may character’s pod malfunctions and he wakes up ninety years early. When i read the script I could not believe that I had been given the opportunity to be in this movie. Sometimes you read a script and it just grabs a hold of you and does not let go and I was never going to let anybody else do this movie. From the moment I read it i wanted it and that was how it was going to be and i was really so fortunate that it came together the way it did. I’m a huge fan of talent and when I see the sets that the people on this crew have built I can not help but be in awe. There are so many artists, literally hundreds and hundreds of people that have worked on this film and that’s not even counting the post-production people. I am always going to be awe of the magnitude of this type of film. ”
So does he believe that audience will also be left in awe? “This is the kind of movie that blows people away,” he says with a smile. “I think that is what we like in movies, movies are entertaining, movies can be scary, they are entertainment, and that is okay, but sometimes a movie will blow you away… and I think that is this movie.”
Anyone who has watched the trailer for Passengers has seen that Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have to interact with actor Michael Sheen playing a robot called Arthur and Pratt says that brought an interesting dynamic to the film “Of course we had to try and work out this interesting dynamic of how human Arthur should be,” he explains. “We are really far into the future, at least far enough to have created fusion drive and travel at light speeds and have suspended animation and of course with that technology available you have to imagine that we have made some big jumps in artificial intelligence so I think Michael did a really good job, with the help of Morten, in working out just how human he would make this android character. He did just enough to make my character forget sometimes that he wasn’t a human.”
When a film leaves people like Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in awe, you know that is going to be something special. So despite the lack of attention that has been given to Passengers so far now is the time to sit up and take notice because this may well be one of the sleep hits of this summer.
Passengers was released in cinemas on 1st January 2017.
Written by David Griffiths
An Interview with Jason Bateman
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the traditional family comedies, films like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, replaced with films that have been aimed at a more adult market. The first to be released in Australia this holiday season has been “Office Christmas Party” from comedy directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Together the pair has been able to put together a fantastic ensemble cast consisting of some of the biggest comedy stars of the last few years and it doesn’t take talking to Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston very long to see that they enjoyed every minute of making the film.
No stranger to comedy, who has been in films such as “Horrible Bosses” and “Identity Thief”, Bateman admits that it was who he knew in the comedy world that got him the plum role of playing lovable loser Josh in the film. “Will, Josh and I are very close,” he explains. “We’ve done a film together and we’ve been friends since then so I think that there wasn’t really a big mystery to them of what it is that I do or what I would bring to this so I think that because they had been with the project for so long that they knew exactly what they would be getting with me and if they wanted that or not, so when they asked me to do it they figured ‘oh he will do this thing and that’s what we want so let’s get him to do that.”
Of course, the other person who wasn’t a stranger to Bateman on set was Jennifer Aniston who has now appeared in a number of films including two Horrible Bosses films, and Bateman says that was an advantage when it came to Office Christmas Party. “Jennifer and I have known each other for twenty years now; maybe more. We’re very close, and this is like any profession if you get to work with your friends that is something that you look to do and I hope this certainly isn’t the last time we work together. I think it is five movies that we have done together and hopefully, we are only halfway done.”
When asked about the premise of Office Christmas Party Bateman laughs at how simple it is. “Will and Josh have worked on this project for so long, and they have such a clear idea what they want to bring to the audience with it, right there in the title there’s a promise of an ensemble – Office Christmas Party; it’s basically all you need to know. There’s a Christmas Party happening in an office which implies a number of people and because it is an R-Rated comedy things are going to go sideways pretty quick, and you hope that there is funny people driving that car off the road and that literally happens in this movie. It’s a great group, and my character is Josh and he’s not too dissimilar to characters that I have played in the past. There is a necessary element in every comedy where you need something that blends into an obscure world, so something like a ‘us’ – the normal guy, the every guy, the straight man, the protagonist and that is kind of Josh in this movie. He is somebody that is trying to keep the office running at a good clip, being productive and that everything stays professional. If you don’t have that kind of element then you have Martians on Mars, and there isn’t really anything that special about that, it’s only weird when they come down to Earth. So my character Josh and of course Tracy and Claire are faced with the fact that their branch is going to be shut down or severely downsized by Jennifer Aniston’s character who happens to be the sister of T.J. And so in an attempt to keep the branch open they reach for an account that could save them. They try to close this big account, so in order to court that CEO, this guy Walter Davis, they throw a Christmas Party and invite him to it in a bid to impress him with the way they party, but they try a little bit too hard and things go wrong… it leaves the office after awhile, and we hit the streets of Chicago at night, and things escalate for sure.”
With Jennifer Aniston’s character, Carol, very much being the villain in this piece, she admits she had to put a lot of thought into how Carol would relate to many of the other characters in the film. “With Carol and Clay, I had a pretty good idea of who I thought they would be. I thought they would be a grown up Jeanie and Ferris Bueller kind of relationship… that kind of relationship grown up and there’s still that resentment there, but now they are in the professional world but that kind of sibling rivalry still comes out in bad ways and unexpected moments and I thought that would be fun. And she’s not a terrible person she just hasn’t been given anything on an emotional level, so all that she has really trained inside herself is that ‘well I’m going to prove myself, I’m going to the best, and I’m going to be the strongest. So sadly she has never really developed that soft, fuzzy side. Carol is pretty much the Grinch that wants to steal Christmas away from all of these hard working employees who aren’t doing as good of a job as they should be doing and I know that and I’m actually right, but I just don’t go about it the right way and I’m also paying back a childhood vendetta that I have had.”
Like Bateman, Aniston also admits that there is a big plus side to working with people that you know. “Will Speck and I and Josh have known each other since The Switch and we became such good friends, and then, of course, Jason and I are like family. There’s definitely a shorthand and a trust that we have with each other. It almost doesn’t feel like work. I joke that with Jason that this is our fifth film together… I think that it is the fifth… and that is really great. Again there becomes this trust with each other, and you know what you are in for and you know that you can go to a place and trust that your partner is going to believe in you, so you feel really lucky. I’m so lucky that they are still allowing this to happen to Hollywood.”
As cinema goers, we should also consider ourselves lucky that Hollywood allows Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston to keep working together as well because the result is a film that is as fun as Office Christmas Party.
Office Christmas Party is showing in cinemas now.
Written by David Griffiths
An Interview with
If you are a gamer, then there is a good chance that the film that you are most looking forward to this summer, is the big screen adaption of the popular “Assassin’s Creed” franchise of games. Of course, perhaps the biggest surprise for fans of the games was when it was announced that Michael Fassbender would be playing Aguilar in the movie. While Fassbender is no newcomer to the sci-fi universe, he has starred in Prometheus and plays Magneto in the current X-Men franchise; people were worried when they learnt that Fassbender didn’t even know that the Assassin’s Creed game existed before he jumped on board this project.
When talking about the Assassin’s Creed film though Fassbender admits that it was other things that drew him to taking the role, especially the science behind the movie. “This universe of Templars and Assassins and DNA memory, how we carry our ancestor’s lives with us in our DNA, that seemed to me, immediately fascinating. The idea that we negotiate life through these labels, things like instinct or why a bird would fly south or migrate at certain times of the year, that this actually comes from knowledge, from a formation, passed down through our DNA from our ancestors. I thought that was a very cool, plausible, scientific theory.”
It also didn’t worry him that the movie was bringing in new characters that the games don’t have. “We wanted to bring in something new and fresh,” explains Fassbender. “Then it was really about finding where those characters come from and where they are going. We had the idea that we would have someone that has a very strong family, and for me that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years through this lineage to the Creed. I thought that would be very interesting and that he would become pretty much cerebral in the story and realise that he does belong to something much greater than himself. Up to this point, he has been operating as an individual and in a kind of lone-wolf way. Then he finds himself in this war where the Assassin’s have to make sure that these artefacts are kept out of the Templar’s hands. So we are dealing with DNA memory, we are dealing with Templars who are this Imperial kind of people, we are dealing with Assassins who are this band of anarchists, these rebels that are trying to prevent total corporate control of the world if you like and those are the kinds of things that we can kind of relate to. And they are also trying to make sure that freedom is still something that is protected and cherished.”
In the middle of that war, we find scientist Sofia Rikkin who is portrayed by Marion Cotillard who says her character is all about the science. “Sofia Rikkin is a scientist who is seeking a cure for violence in a bid to improve human beings. She is a passionate woman and thinks she works for a noble cause, which is a noble cause, and that is to find this cure against violence but she has her own way, and of course we are in a kind of sci-fi movie, so she has these amazing tools to support her research, and she is very, very passionate about her work and there is also a humanity in her that is really interesting as well.”
Like Fassbender, Cotillard admits that she is also fascinated by the science behind the movie, especially around the device that her character has created – the Animus. “The company that I work for in the film has this very specific machine called the Animus which allows the scientists to see images of the subjects that they put into the Animus so they can explore the lives of their ancestors. The subjects when they first enter the Animus they don’t really know what is going to happen to them and they can’t believe the lives of their ancestors and they don’t realise that they are going to take the place of one of their ancestors and become this person and as they become that person they start to believe those lives.”
The third piece of the puzzle is the film’s resident bad guy Rikkin played by Hollywood legend Jeremy Irons, and he is quick, to sum up his character. “Rikkin is the CEO of a pharmaceutical company and a Templar. With his pharmaceutical company his products go worldwide and what he is trying to get permission to do is to add a component in to the pharmaceutical drugs to remove the violence gene in people. It plugs into their subconscious and allows us to see the history within their genes which is played out in actual visual reality.”
Irons also says that Australian director Justin Kurzel is an integral part of Assassin’s Creed working as a film. “Justin is a very nice man and a very calm man,” Irons says smiling. “He is making an incredibly complicated film, and I am playing a very small part in that so really I just try to give him what he wants, and I know that he will knit it into the patchwork that he is making.”
Assassin’s Creed is indeed a very complicated film, but it is also a film that is going to be lapped up by the gaming world. From its suspenseful storyline and epic stunt-work, it is one of the films that shouldn’t be missed this summer.
Assassin’s Creed opens in Australian cinemas on the 1st January 2017.
Written by David Griffiths
One of the biggest events that you can have a cinematic calendar year is the release of a brand new Star Wars film. With that in mind, there was little wonder that people were lining up to get tickets to midnight screenings of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story even though they were a little worried about the fact that this was a one-off story not featuring any of the stars of The Force Awakens.
It’s little surprise then to hear director Gareth Edwards, who made a name for himself with the low-budget alien flick Monsters say that when he was putting together this film he looked to the past and not the future for inspiration. “I think it’s funny because people think of Stars Wars as the future with lasers and stuff but it’s not it’s always been very grounded and historical in its influences,” he explains. “The second you start analysing costumes or guns you realise that they all have historical influences. You go around the props department, and they have all the guns out, and there is your favourite gun from Star Wars, and then they show you a gun from World War II, and they are pretty much identical. Even Han Solo’s gun is a gun from the World War II era with a few things stuck on it, and that is what is brilliant about George (Lucas) who knew if you took something and just pushed it a little left or right then where it normally is you can’t instantly recognise it. That’s really what Star Wars is all about, taking things that we are really familiar with and giving them a twist and making them that little bit futuristic.”
During the interview, Edwards also quickly reveals himself as a big fan of his leading lady Felicity Jones who plays Jyn in Rogue One. “She does make it seem so easy that you forget what she is going through sometimes. As amazing as it is to make Star Wars it is also very hard and whenever I found myself going through a hard patch and thinking ‘I think I have one of the hardest jobs in the world’ I’d just look to my left, glance at Felicity and then go ‘no you’ve got the hardest job in the world, carrying Star Wars’. Carrying a Star Wars movie, when you think about it, you really couldn’t ask anybody to do anything harder, and she never made it a problem.”
While many Star Wars fans were surprised that Felicity Jones was cast in a lead role in the film they were gob-smacked that the little known Diego Luna was picked as her male co-star, something that Edwards laughs at. “With Diego, you have one of the most likeable guys in the world. When Diego walks through a door, you just want to be his friend straight away. I don’t know what he has or how he got it, but he has it. So I was looking for the most likeable, lovable and relatable actor I could find, and that was Diego. When he showed up I was like ‘yeah this is the guy’, and I gave him a gun and gave him some training and could see that he could be a soldier.”
So with all the pressures of being a new director in the Star Wars universe was there anything that Edwards got to enjoy? “I really enjoyed the opportunity to tell a story that is magical but is told through the eyes of a normal person and how you don’t have to be superhuman to affect the world. That idea that you need to be a Jedi to do anything good in the world or to make a difference is the wrong lesson in Star Wars. The lesson in Star Wars is that no matter your background, no matter who you are, you can make a difference.”
The other man who has big shoes to fill in Rogue One is Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn who has the challenge of playing Orson Krennic, the latest Star Wars’ bad guy that joins the realm of Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Mendelsohn says that Director Krennic is really the ‘prime mover’ of the Death Star. “He oversees the entire Death Star,” he explains. “The Death Star is really his life. It’s his project and his everything.”
Mendelsohn laughs when he reflects on fans likening Krennic to a young Darth Vader. “When you have Darth Vader on the playing field you don’t have to worry because nobody is taking his spot. Darth Vader is one of the all-time great movie villains or whatever there will ever be. So, you don’t ever really have to stress out because nobody is ever going to top Darth so you can just do what you need to do because you’ve always got Darth and when you’ve got Darth things go okay.”
Speaking of the fans, Mendelsohn is aware that this role is perhaps like no other role he will ever play in his career again. “People believe in Star Wars,” he says his tone suddenly becoming serious. “People want to take it… and you have to give it your all. You have to give it all you have got because you don’t want to leave anything in the tank because you don’t want to leave wondering was there something else that you should have done or could you have tried this or tried that. You really want to give it absolutely everything that you can give it because it is Star Wars and it is very, very important in that regard. And there are a few series of films that are important but Star Wars is different. Star Wars is really in a league of its own.”
When asked about what it was like to work with director Gareth Edwards on the film Mendelsohn’s wide grin returns. “Nobody is happier to be working on this film than Gareth,” he laughs. “He is the happiest man among us. It’s more important to him than… it just means so much to him. Gareth is able to do such incredible and beautiful work with his visuals and his effects stuff; he’s really good at it. It’s beautiful, and it’s fantastic. I just think that you have a guy that kind of feels like the luckiest guy in the business in a lot of ways.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out now in cinemas.
Written by David Griffiths
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES FRANCO
Director Paul Hamburg is no stranger to making hit comedies. He is the man behind films such as “Meet The Parents” and ‘Meet The Fockers” and this holiday season sees him return to that tried and true meet-the-in-laws formula with “Why Him?”, a film that essentially pits Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston against Oscar-nominated actor James Franco.
A quick look at the trailer for “Why Him?” may leave the audience thinking that Franco’s character, Laird Mayhew, may well be one of the rudest and most disgusting people to have ever graced the screen but Franco laughs as he admits that there is more to Laird then meets the eye. “I play a guy who is dating Bryan Cranston’s daughter. I’m a video game designer. I’m very successful, but I’m also a bit unpolished, rude and I have tattoos, and I use crude language. So I’m everything that Bryan Cranston’s character wouldn’t want in a son. So, I ask him for his blessing because I want to ask his daughter to marry me and he refuses, so I spend our Christmas holiday trying to win him over. Essentially Laird is not a bad guy; he’s actually a really nice guy! So I just said to John that initially we need this guy to be very frightening to a father and one of the ways to do that is to make his exterior frightening because actually inside he’s actually everything that you probably want in a son-in-law. So there was this gag that we had been wrestling with from the beginning about Laird trying to do something when he initially meets the family that he thinks is a gesture of solidarity and a welcome and they read it completely differently and so there were a lot of different incarnations of that and finally we settled on the idea that he would get a tattoo of the family on his back and then John added on that that he only had a Holiday Card photo of the family and that’s the photo that he used, and the tattoo artist also included the Happy Holidays on it.”
So was it the fact that Laird Mayhew that is comedy gold that drew Franco to the role? “I think the first thing that drew me to the movie was John Hamburg,” explains Franco. “He was actually my teacher at NYU when I was there for the Graduate Film Media program. He was actually my teacher there when I was doing 127 Hours, so I wasn’t there a lot but we talked a lot and I got to know him on the phone but yeah he was the initial thing that drew me to this, and I’ve always liked his writing. And then I heard, and he told me that he was thinking about Bryan Cranston for the father role, and I didn’t know Bryan, but I saw him backstage on the last episode of The Colbert Report, and he said ‘hey I heard you might do this and I might do this. What do you think?’ so we started talking, and Bryan Cranston is just the greatest human being ever.
Of course playing alongside Franco in Why Him? is Bryan Cranston who aside from playing Walter in Breaking Bad had a long stretch playing a frustrated father in hit comedy Malcolm In The Middle, so what was it like for Franco to co-star alongside a comedy legend. “I think he had a blast,” says Franco laughing out loud. “ He hasn’t really done comedy since Malcolm In The Middle, and what was that over ten years ago now, so I think he had a great time actually and you wouldn’t expect that Bryan is sort of the one to push the envelope, but he would always make a suggestion for a scene that was just too far, not only for his character but for everybody and I love that. I mean that I love that in Bryan.
Franco also admits that like on most of Paul Hamburg’s sets the actors did have a little bit of ‘free reign.’ “John works in a way that is similar to a lot of the movies I’ve done before, where there is always room for improvisation. You know you start with a script and then kind of role from there and see what you find. And I guess what you always want in that situation is that you want somebody that can give good suggestions. I mean if you are riffing and then they can sort of build on that. You want somebody like that behind the camera that can help support you.”
For Bryan Cranston though he says that he had an instant personal connection to the film and to the role of Ned. “You know there is the truth about the Dads,” he says with a huge smile on his face. “You know I can remember when I was dating the Dads didn’t like me very much and I didn’t know why. I NOW KNOW WHY! I think Ned wants to be open, although it is tough enough as a Dad myself to see your child grow up and become an adult. For us to have to be responsible for them for all of their lives and then just voluntary let go of that grip and away they go, and the choices they make you are just like sheesh, and you are a little fearful about how all of that is going to play out. Of course these two guys, Ned and Laird, are different in every way. Different level of education, in the way that they were raised, who they were raised by, the principals by the way they were raised, everything, the way they live, their taste in music, their generation, everything about them is a complete opposite to each other. So naturally you would think that there is going to be friction because they just can’t relate to each other in any way. Laird just doesn’t have a filter, but what is great about the Laird character though, and we really talked about this a lot before we got into production, is that he is not capable of lying, he is clumsy, he is socially crude, and he hurts feelings sometimes because he just says what is real, what is honest and what is true, and we know that that isn’t always the best policy. He can’t help it; he just doesn’t have that gear to be able to control himself. But on the other side, he also doesn’t have the gear to be dishonest or purposely hurtful. He just can’t do it.”
It doesn’t take listening to Bryan for long to learn that he really enjoyed his time working on Why Him? and he is only too happy to explain why. “Being able to play with these actors has been a blast. They were all fabulous. I love doing dramatic roles and doing things like Trumbo and All The Way, and doing stage and doing film and Breaking Bad was fantastic but you don’t have as much fun as you do when you do comedy because the whole idea is to be thinking of different approaches of how to make something funny and when your job is to go to work, and you laugh and you make other people laugh then that is a good day. When I first read the script, the script was funny, and I said ‘can we work on this’, and they said ‘oh yeah we are going to work and work on this until you are sick of it’ and I loved that, I loved the all in nature. John brings a sensibility that is very inviting. He allows the actor room to fail and I don’t mean that in an ‘oh he’s going to fail here’ way it’s more of an ‘okay, yeah try that, try it, try it’… that is really his motto. And it is has been so much fun; we’re like children. We do the scene as written and then we are not only allowed to change it but are encouraged just to go crazy and add whatever is appropriate to your character.”
The fact that the cast had so much fun making the film is not a surprise when you walk out of a theatre still laughing after viewing Why Him? – a film that has turned into a surprise comedy hit this summer.
“Why Him?” is showing in cinemas right now.
Written by David Griffiths
New suspense-thriller “Allied” is one of those films that has risen to notoriety before its release not because of what critics have been saying about the film but because of the rumours and innuendo that have surfaced about its stars – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. With all of those stories circulating it seems that everybody forgot that for the third time, Pitt was starring in a fairly decent war film.
Pitt’s co-star Marion Cotillard says it only took her reading through the script to realise that this was a film that she certainly wanted to do. “When I read the script I wanted to see the movie,” she says grinning. “I thought that it was such a beautiful story. It was a mix of a very entertaining film and very deep emotions and questions about love; it’s really a beautiful, beautiful love story and it has this spirit of ‘old movie’ about it and knowing that it would be directed by a visionary like Robert Zemeckis made the project even more exciting. It is at the same time very entertaining and it talks about what are you choices in an extreme situation like the war, especially when your work is being a spy and you are pretending that you are somebody that you are not. In the beginning of the movie both of us are spies and they don’t know anything about each other and they pretend to be this loving couple and it is going to turn into this very extreme situation that the war creates, so part of the movie is very entertaining and part of it is very serious with all the questioning about choices and all the questioning about love.”
Cotillard also admits that one of the reasons that she was attracted to making Allied was because she was a huge fan of the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis. “He was really part of my desire to be an actress,” she says thoughtfully. “I’ve watched all of his movies, and I knew what he wanted to tell with this story because when we first met, he said ‘I’m not used to telling love stories like this one, this is really new for me.” It was very exciting to see him be so honest and so committed to doing something that he is not used to delivering and he was so good at it, all the questions that we had, all that we shared during the preparation time that we had. We had little more than two weeks where we all sat together, with Brad Pitt, with Robert, with Steven Knight who had written this amazing script, and to have this period of time where we could get to know each other, get to really understand what we wanted to tell with this movie was really fascinating and I was really fascinated by Robert on set because of all the movies that he had directed already and all the special effects that he has been part of creating. He has really changed cinema with what he has done and the movies he has done. So yeah I was in awe a lot and really fascinated by the way he directed this one.”
When it comes to the man himself, Robert Zemeckis, he says it was the characters that really drew him to want to direct Allied.
“What I really liked about the project when I first read the screenplay was that this story had these two unbelievably well-written characters. These two characters were very complex and very passionate, that was what I was drawn to. The way that the screenplay was written so elegantly and these characters just really, really jumped right off the page, and that really attracted me as well. I think the question at the heart of the film is one that is universal, a universal question, which is – does love trump all? Is love the key driving emotion in everyone’s life and what happens when you love somebody and the circumstances get very, very complicated and what choices should we make?”
“Those questions are all very universal and have been there all through time, and they are the ones that I think are very dramatic and very interesting. That is one of the things that I like to do and one of the things that I think cinema does very well and that creates tension and suspense. It is interesting in this movie that the tension and suspense come from the emotions of these two characters, and this incredible passion that they have for each other in these circumstances that are very, very complicated and dire. To have that much tension and suspense come from within characters was a wonderful challenge for me and something that I enjoyed doing.”
Zemeckis also seems genuinely excited when he gets to talk about having to recreate the past for the film. “I did a lot of research,” he explains. “It’s one of the things that movies do really well, they can evoke and re-create past periods of time and the way that you do is you do a lot of research and look at a lot of photographs, a lot of footage – a lot of historical footage – and then you talk to people that really know – people like historians – what was going on. We were lucky on our film because the Imperial War Museum were our consultants, so we had great people surrounding us.”
This leads to being asked what was it like working with two of the biggest movie stars of current day – Brad Pitt and Marion Cottilard. “Working with both Brad and Marion was a real thrill because they were both professional and very focused and very hard working. Brad also a very good attention to detail and I was very impressed that he went down so deep and gave such an emotional performance, one that I had never seen him do before, so that was a thrill. Marion is amazing, I mean she is one of the best and greatest actresses that I have ever worked with. She is one of those actresses that can make anything work and she pays such close attention to her character and does an amazing amount of work on her own preparing, so when she comes onto the set, she is ready to deliver and does.”
Allied is in Australian cinemas now.
Written by David Griffiths
With Oscar season just around the corner, talk has once again turned to young actress Hailee Steinfeld being a strong contender to be nominated for the coming-of-age drama/comedy “The Edge Of Seventeen”. Of course, it’s not the first time that Steinfeld’s name has been mentioned alongside the prestigious awards – she was also nominated for 2010’s “True Grit”. Hearing Steinfeld talks about her role of Nadine, a depressed teenager who feels like she has been betrayed by her best friend you get a real sense that she had a personal connection to this film.
“When I was auditioning for this film I went in, talked to Kelly (the director) about a number of experiences that I had at school that were so similar to Nadine’s,” she explains. “It felt very weird going there and being like ‘I went through this’ because of course, you do want them to believe that you went through this or something similar, but it is just weird to be in this vulnerable state which I felt I was in because I did go in there and say ‘This is so similar to what I’ve been through in my life and what I know so many of my friends have’.”
Steinfeld is also quick to admit that Nadine is also a vulnerable character who has a number of different relationships throughout the film. “Nadine wears everything on her sleeve, and even when you know, she is trying hard not to let whatever she is going through get to her – you know how she is really feeling. There is something so refreshing about seeing someone feel. You know there is so much that she goes through with so many different people in this movie, from her best friend to her mother to her father to her brother. Her relationship with Krista (her best friend) is more than a best friend relationship. It is a relationship where if you aren’t in the same room you are texting the person, or you’re on FaceTime with that person talking about you’re doing or not saying anything at all because you’re just there. Then there is her relationship with her brother, and that is so complex, and again it’s so layered because there is so much hatred for this person that she looks at and sees that he got absolutely everything. She sees that he got everything beyond the looks, he’s got the grades, the school success, he’s got that thing where everyone that walks past him in the halls turns to him and gives him a high-five, and they show him attention and love. And then I walk down there, and people just look at me up and down. Although we are related people look at us like I am the last person that he would ever be related to because he’s so not like me, he’s so different. ”
Of course, Steinfeld is joined in the cast of “The Edge OF Tomorrow” by another Oscar nominated actor Woody Harrelson, and she says Nadine has an interesting relationship with his character, Mr Bruner. “Mr Bruner is the only person who pretends to show any interest in my conversation. And the great part about how it is written is he’s there for her, and he listens to her, and he welcomes her to an extent but he is just so unphased about what she has to say, and that has her on her toes and keeps her thinking of what she can possibly say for that shock value and I guess that is what I love so much about Nadine, she just doesn’t hold back, she just goes for it.”
Bringing Mr Bruner to life is Woody Harrelson who is quick to say that The Edge Of Seventeen is a very different film to what he is normally part of. “I suppose it’s not the kind of story I would normally see myself involved with,” he says with a small smile. “This story about a high school gal who is in the middle of all these crises, but you know it is really wonderful writing. It’s very funny; it’s very smart and also unique so… you know… I was psyched to jump in.”
He also says that audiences shouldn’t be expecting his character to be the ‘typical’ teacher that you see in most films. “I think Mr Bruner is one of these guys who is probably pretty good at his job, but he really is one of those guys who comes in, punches the clock, then looks forward to getting home to his girlfriend and his baby. So in some ways, he is not the model teacher ah but has a kind of special relationship with Nadine in that he really likes her. He tells her that she is his favourite student but only after he really upsets her, and he’ll make a joke about something after she’s been quite vulnerable so for some reason, Nadine, who in this scene is feeling really lonely and doesn’t connect with anyone else in the school, connects with my character and while my character isn’t the most sentimental guy it is obvious to her that he cares about her. I don’t think my character is the catalyst for all the changes that happen with her but I think I am her sounding board and like I said I’m not the most sentimental guy, so it’s not like I’m giving her deep and emotional advice or anything, but I’m kind of there for her”
When asked what it is like working with Hailee Steinfeld Harrelson says, “I think there is a kind of chemistry there. I think she is an extraordinary actress and I really was amazed when we did our first scene together. I was really amazed at how she just flows with everything and trying new things and she is just a very creative and a very smart actress. She really has the goods, and even when a scene is a little more complicated, she knows what she is doing. It’s great to see someone with that ability at this stage of her career, and I mean such an early stage of her career. I think she has the capacity to be acting for the next sixty years, she really is good.”
With that kind of glowing praise from an actor as talented as Woody Harrelson, it’s not hard to see why Hailee Steinfeld is shaping up as a real Oscar contender for her performance in The Edge of Seventeen. Now it is just a waiting game to see whether she gets the nomination or not.
The “Edge Of Seventeen” opens in Australian cinemas on the 1st January 2017.
Written by David Griffiths
ARTIST OF THE MONTH
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Neal Walters if you have any hand at all in Australia’s alternative music scene, but if you haven’t then there’s an even better probability that you’ve encountered one of his shots without knowing the man behind the camera. He’s made quite the splash in music photography, which isn’t easy to do when there’s twenty photographers to two reviewers at every show you’ve been to in the past year. Having worked his ass off establishing his talent, Walters is now getting rightfully recognised, receiving The Unified Grant of 2016 for his upcoming photography book.
“I guess the process just revolved around me putting in an application”, he shared when describing how exactly he got involved with the grant in the first place, clarifying that it was for something he “believed in”. That something is a book that will capture portraits of music industry figures, presenting something that goes beyond a candid shot before they head on stage.
“Basically the book is going to be based on what makes people happy”, Walters states. Not only will there be a portrait of these people, but there will also be an elaboration as he calls it, “That person in what we’re calling their happy place”. Walters’ project is one of five that The Unified Grant has been awarded to, with other recipients including Ashleigh Hills (the founder of Tram Sessions), Georgia Beach (of Office Gossip Design), Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore (of Her Sound, Her Story) and mixer/producer/engineer/audio extraordinaire Aaron Dobos.
“It took me about 15 minutes to write the application”, he noted, “Because I knew everything I had planned it to be”. The point is to provide an insight that goes beyond what you’d see on the surface of a snap, and the strength of Walters’ convictions leaves little doubt that it’s going to be a success. The only question is when. “We’re starting early 2017”, he identifies, “but at this stage, I wanna say that it’s gonna take however long it takes”. If everything goes to plan, you might even have it by Christmas.
Considering how well his career in the industry is going, it’s interesting to consider the fact that Walters didn’t actually start out with a view towards being a music photographer at all. It was “relationships” that made up his path to this point in his life rather than an initial positioning towards this field. “I started by shooting my friends”, he explains. His friends started bands, and now he’s here.
Even though he claims that he’s not mature, when asked about the bands that he’s grown up with throughout his career he makes an effort to point out the longevity of his ongoing relationship with Melbourne outfit Storm The Sky. From where both parties started to where they are now has been a long distance, but Walters points out that they’ve been “a band I’ve been lucky enough to work with” over his and their tumultuous years, having undergone lineup changes without breaking up like many of the bands he started out with. “They’ve matured massively”, he states with pride. “Their last album wasn’t heavy whatsoever, but it was brilliant”.
It’s clear that even though Walters has a passion for photography, he also still cares about music, which is a nice observation to make in a scene riddled by jaded former fans. Walters has some damn good stories to share, some of which he’s probably not allowed to let loose, but he does recount one particular gem of a time that occurred in Germany.
“We were in Berlin with Northlane and Volumes and it was probably 4 am”, he starts his story with. “After the show in Berlin, we had gone out; obviously everyone went to numerous places and hung out. I think the bus was leaving when we got back, and Chris [Moretti] from Hellions was there”, apparently with “no pants on” and “sat on a traffic cone just on the side of the road”. There’s more to the story, as there is to every photo Walters has ever taken, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for his book to find out exactly what he wants to share about the figures that he tours with.
Even though he’s gotten to where he is, Walters still has doubts. “I still pinch myself”, he notes, but he also shares the alarming piece of news that the day before winning The Unified Grant, he almost stepped out altogether. “On that Wednesday, I was like ‘maybe this isn’t gonna work’”, he states. “And Thursday I got the call”. That’s good timing if we’ve ever seen it.
Written by Peyton Bernhardt
GET TO KNOW NEAL WALTERS MORE