Wednesday, May 31, 2006

All I Ever Wanted

Greetings and salutations.

Memorial Day = Vacation!

Yours truly will return next week with an all-new review, results from the first band battle, and new matchups for YOU to vote on. Until next we meet...

- The Phantom

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Brain Into A Trance

Greetings and salutations.

This week’s mail response absolutely stunned me. So many people wrote in sharing a laugh or two over last week’s “response,” that it almost outweighed the usual notes of negativity. It frightens to me to think that there might be people in Roanoke who are starting to think that I am funny, or worse still, clever – such a notion is indicative of brain trauma and I suggest you get yourself checked out immediately.

And that, dear friends, is a perfect setup for this week’s review of Signal 7. Thanks largely in part to the stream-of-consciousness frustration in their lyrics and erratic vocal performance, the only fitting description I’ve been able to come up with in the days since is “musical brain damage.” No, I have no idea what it means either. The sound is certainly rock, if only because no other genre may have them. Their attitude and delivery are punk at it’s Rottenest. I don’t know that they worship the devil outright, but they probably like him enough to invite him over for a cookout, so we’ll give them some metal cred. And while I don’t want to discount the talents of the guys playing the instruments, the singer is a pretty unique site to behold...

First, a quick lesson (for those of you without kids): The element of emotional turmoil in hardcore punk is widely classified today as simply “emo,” and it is characterized by songs that, for lack of better term, tend to sound like fights. The moods swings back and forth, often with rage followed by sorrow, then back to rage, and so on. In just about every case I’ve seen, the arguments are directed at some external tormentor with the singer/band usually lamenting themselves as a victim or venting randomly to the world (hence the frequent criticism of acts in the genre that can come off self-pitying or arrogant).

Whatever you call it, those in the business see it as another market to shop for the attention of angry teenagers, which of course means it’s already been reduced to a formula. This is where Signal 7 have an edge. For their singer, it’s a whole other battle – against himself. At any given time during their show, it would seem that there are 3 or 4 voices in his head vying for control of him, and subsequently of the microphone. They twist, laugh, snarl, and explode in every song as he lyrically explores the most basic elements of frustration in the everyman’s life.

Evoking thoughts of System of a Down if you substituted Armenia for Alabama, the major theme here is a musical agreement that life, in general, is a major pain in the ass. With a little less sorrow and lot more venom than their peers, it’s a no-frills recipe for being fed up that is bound to earn them a following. Behind the singer’s madness is a pretty tight musical ensemble – something else you don’t always find in their genre. While it can feel repetitious in parts, the melodies are quirky little lines that remind me of the mellower parts of Korn songs (you know, the creepy nursery rhyme approach) mixed with the sudden slamming of Fugazi, the overdrive of a mosh pit, and a few tricks so the guitarist feels assured that people don’t think he sucks.

Not nearly as dense in their instrumentation as some, the bassist is given more room to groove along with the songs, happily proving that he’s able to do more than just copy the root notes of the guitarist. Instead, they play off one another, usually going in opposite melodic directions to create the same kind of conflict musically that the singer creates vocally. The band’s drummer employs a fairly diverse range of beats, and is apparently important enough for the rest of the group to put the project on hold for several months while he served his country.

If you’re inclined to listen close enough, you’ll no doubt identify with the rants about life spent working for the man and dealing with other people’s sh*t. The music itself is fairly digestible even in the heaviest places, and you can always just watch and be entertained, wondering who’ll win the battle that is going on inside the singer’s head. Maybe he’ll lighten up and relax. Maybe he’ll get tired of performing and just leave. Or maybe he’ll strangle himself with the microphone cable. All seem extremely likely. For what it’s worth, his dementia is unlike any I’ve seen in town…for the better or worse is a decision I leave up to you.

Also, because I’ve been promising it for a while – the first two fights in this week’s Band Battle (a title I reserve the right to change as I see fit, at least until I come up with something I like better). Write in and vote for who you think should win (or lose…) in a fight between:

Fire At Will vs. Savior Bullets
The Worx vs. The Discordian Society

And speaking of the Worx, I recommend a read of the famous Band B*tch’s column this week, where she has a shockingly relevant piece about recent ABC actions and allegations. I’ve gotten a bit of mail on this particular topic myself, and may yet comment, but for now I encourage you to check out her well-written rant in lieu of one of my own. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As Far Away As Eden

Greetings and salutations.

This Phantom thing is b*lls*** bro. You’ve talked trash about some of my friend’s bands and then you come out and act all nice to some band that because it acts stupid you think they are cool. You can print this and talk shit all you can but just diggin for what you like is lame and so are you. [Band who’s name I edited out so they aren’t embarrassed by a stupid fan] f***** rules!

This has been the theme of most of the mail I’ve received over the last two weeks, and I love it. Not because I enjoy weeding through poorly written whines, but because as long as there are people out there who miss the point this much, I will always have a nerve to get on, and subsequently, a job. After months of hearing complaints that my brand of criticism is a negative influence on the “flourishing” Roanoke music scene, my mailbox has been besieged with blasts from people like the author above, who’ve mistaken neutrality for positivity and decided that I owe Chinese Fire Drill a tongue lashing. I’m not sure for what exactly, and apparently none of the people who wrote these letters are either. Instead, there are about a dozen or so folks who felt I’ve should’ve just insulted the band purely on principal, or as one woman put it, “to keep things fair.” It’s not in my nature to try and inspire, and when dealing with a band that would only turn negative comments into free publicity anyway, the most undermining course of action is clear: just be fair. It seems, however, that I’ve disappointed my fan base. So, to satisfy those people, I offer the following:

Moving on, this week’s show review finds us in the path of Steeltame, another of Roanoke’s proud representatives of the heavy metal underground; another furious act looking to forge an identity out of a formula. Just as I did in my review of Speak of the Devil (that you’ve read, of course), I have to observe the difficulty of being unique in this genre, especially in a world where as soon you do it, it’s been “done.” Unable to keep up with that kind of pacing creatively, artists of the world often look back instead of forward, systematically mining for fresh perspectives on old ideas. Then you get what we have here today – a band in the modern era attempting to set itself apart by embracing an older look and sound.

Once you get past the stomach-churning notion that music from the 1980’s (and even early 90’s) is now considered by these kids to be “classic,” you find that, at their best, Steeltame remind you of a Ride the Lightning-era Metallica tribute band (which may or may not be an insult, especially if you consider the alternatives). The pieces are all there: A wiry lead guitarist with a flair for exotic melodies and fingers just fast enough to impress. A drummer firing off beats with all the sporadic fright of a kid stuttering on the trigger of an automatic weapon. A bassist with a guitarist’s musical sensibilities, and penchant for complimenting the drummer’s stomping feet. And then there’s the guitarist/front man. As if he studied under the tutelage of James Hetfield his entire life (save for that one day when Zakk Wylde substituted and taught him false harmonics), he cranks out one Sabbath-inspired guitar riff after another, preaching doom from the stage with a sadistic snarl and visible “I might have rabies” tremors that I haven’t seen since Beavis stopped getting air time.

Fortunately, his position as some sort of hateful prophet does more for the band than just give me something to make jokes about. In Roanoke’s landscape of screamo metal, a singing vocalist is a major part of their identity, and in this case, a fun thing to actually watch. For the time he is on stage, his fidgeting tendencies and wild-eyed vigor are a perfect fit for his demolishing rhythms. Drenched in sweat and seemingly moments away from complete meltdown, he has all the undeniable charisma of a ticking time bomb. You find yourself unable to look away, staring almost in awe as he becomes increasingly more frenetic and spiteful with every song. You can’t help but wonder when the guy might just snap and start bludgeoning people with his Les Paul.

Slowing and swelling the pace throughout each song, the material itself is text book metal/thrash. The two guitarists incorporate rhythmic interplay between them, harmonize frequently, and break it all down quite often. The drummer uses both feet liberally and fills the space with zero groove – it’s straight ahead grind. The bassist lives somewhere in between, either holding some melody while the guitars run through finger exercises or beating along with them to add more low end. As with most of the bands from that circle that I encounter, debating their mass appeal is fairly pointless. They have their audience.

While Steeltame aren’t terribly original, they are original enough to stand out, and that’s a step further than some have gotten. They’ll benefit as live performance experience helps them unclutter many of their current songs. As is often the case with singing guitarists, his voice and his right hand are locked together as he goes through the song, monopolizing the core of every tune along a single theme, then shifting back and forth as the drummer fires up. Once relaxation comes in, it will open up the songs and help distinguish one collection of frenzied sounds from the others in their catalog. Or, to put it in simpler terms: it’ll take them towards having more songs their audience will remember – at least until they sustain a concussion in the pit.

That’s all for this week. As promised, I’ve counted up the votes for the 16 bands in our fictional street fight. In no particular order, those bands are:

Illbotz - Pop Rivets - Aggressor State - Drivn - Half Moon - The Cheap Seats - Fire At Will - Savior Bullets - Burning Bridges - Chinese Fire Drill - Madrone - Discordian Society - Cobalt Media - Dark Ruin - The Worx - Crobar Cane

In all, almost 40 different bands were nominated (some even I hadn’t heard of…), and these 16 emerged with the most votes. Some were from fans who liked the thought of their favorite band brandishing weapons, and others were from folks who thought it’d be funny to see who got the axe. It is all in fun, but there will be some prize for the band that emerges victorious. Starting next week, I’ll include two new matchups at the end of each column, and invite my readers to email me and vote for the who they think should win. We’ll fill the brackets out until it comes down to two acts, and who knows…we may even let them settle it in a live double headliner on my tab. Or we’ll give them sticks and see who comes back alive. In any case, someone’s losing an eye. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Faces to Face, Vol. I

Greetings and salutations. The record-setting post you see before you is the culmination of many weeks of tedious planning, scheduling, and troubleshooting...but you'd never be able to tell. Regardless, read on as I get all deep and philosophical with the boys from TK IV II I, shooting the breeze about everything including their big gig next week at AA's, the writing and recording processes on their CD's "Hollow" and "Disengaged", a brief mention of the super-secret 3rd album, Steve's solo project plans, having to play covers, the evils of the internet, and my general lack of a sense of humor in conversation.

What's being presented here is the most clearly organized version of our conversation, with minimal editing (except where I grouped some of the more scattered thoughts together, and continue to tweak the spelling/grammar) and no cuts for space. It's easily the longest post I've ever made, but well worth the read.

Steve L. (bass), Chuck J. (Vocals/Guitar), Troy W. (Guitars), Bill S. (Drums)

Due to technical difficulties, Chuck was unable to make the interview, but did give his blessing, and may have secretly spied on the entire exchange via an earpiece surgically implanted in Steve's hand, disguised as a cell phone. We may never know...

Phantom Critic: Let's begin. First thing's first. The timing of this interview is no coincidence. You guys have some shows coming up, and more importantly, a bit of name dropping to do. Tell me a little bit about this gig next week; the who and the what. How’d it all come about?
Steve: Opening for King's X, Awful Arthur's Towers, Wednesday May 17th, as for how it all came about...
Bill: Actually Troy and I were having a beverage or 7 at Arthur’s and Barry mentioned that he was getting King's X. We both said “Cool, we'll be there” but never even thought to say “Can we open?”
Steve: Enter Band Bitch.
Bill: Barry and Band uh......girl thought of what we didn't.
Steve: 7 beers will do that to ya
Bill: I replied uh.............duh........We'll play it!
Phantom: So a classic case of right place, right time, right friends?
Steve: Always.
Bill: The perfect part is we were already scheduled to play there the following weekend.
Troy: To toot our horn... I believe we are a good fit for that show.
Steve: Our friends are always looking out for us even when we aren't.
Bill: I'm gonna just let them take over booking.
Phantom: Let me get Troy to elaborate on that “good fit” comment.
Troy: Well, we've all been fans of the band for ages. I bought Gretchen Goes to Nebraska when it was new. They're rock, they're soulful, they're very good at what they do, and they keep slugging it out in the face of Big
Media's apathy.
Bill: Faith Hope Love...for me
Phantom: And you're rock and soulful...a good fit, indeed.
Troy: Honestly, we'll take just about any opportunity. But this is a genuine thrill.
Steve: It certainly makes it more special. Although we're certainly entertaining all offers.
Phantom: In an opening band situation like this, what changes in your show, especially when you get up to open for a band like King’s X? Some folks in your shoes might feel obligated to play the covers, while others would assume that most people were there for the headliner, taking that as an opportunity to put their original stuff front and center. If someone does come out to see TK, what are they gonna get?
Troy: Originals.
Steve: All odefinitelyefinately
Bill: All TK.
Steve: Situations like this allow us to shine the spotlight on our own musical accomplishments
Phantom: And impressing an idol isn't a bad side effect, either, right?
Troy: Remains to be seen.
Bill: That would rule.
Troy: They may be sleeping in the bus.
Steve: Just sharing the same stage will be an honor of sorts.
Phantom: Talking about your music, let's go back to the beginning. YoCD first cd, “Hollow” came about as something made more for each of you than for a fanbase, and I’ve heard you touch on how accidental that early success was. But when you listen to “Hollow” now, do you hear what might’ve started that spark and caught people’s interest, or do you continue to be amazed at why people care?
Bill: Let's Drink Beer and Jam should've been the title.
Troy: I think people can hear the enthusiasm. We've always, individually, wanted to be involved with a cool original project. This was feeding that jones.
Steve: I still think Hollow was a great effort. I still get off listening to it.
Troy: Looking back... I'm not even sure it was intended to be an "album." We gave the first completed song to ROV and they ran with it.
Phantom: Which was?
Steve: Information Overdrive. They got that tune before we comCDeted half the cd.
Troy: Which is a good thing.
Steve: We were vain (still are) and just wanted to hear our tune on the radio.
Troy: Yup.
Bill: It was a great feeling.
Phantom: I would say that is a fairly common vanity.
Steve: You have to be. If you don't want to hear your songs, why should you expect anyone else to?
Phantom: An excellent point. It all starts at home. How is that enthusiasm today?
Troy: It's like an addiction. You just keep wanting more.
I agree
Steve: constantly need another fix.
Bill: We're working on our 3rd album now
Troy: Whoa, dragon.
Bill: Now, now, now. Clock in!!
Phantom: Anything you can tell me about?
Steve: Still very early in the writing stages.
Troy: Only that we want it to be better. Even better songs, arrangements, attitude, and production.
Bill: Which means it will be released in 2012
Steve: Third album, and I think we are still trying to find out who we are.
Bill: Yeah..there was really no plan for Disengaged.
Steve: In a way I hope we never find out, cause it allows us to keep trying new things
Bill: We just go in the room and see what happens.
Troy: But there was some expectation of Disengaged.
Phantom: Well, let’s talk about the road from “Hollow” to “Disengaged.” Second albums are always awkward, so give me some idea of what was on your minds when you started piecing stuff together.
Troy: Some of it was done by the time we played our first show.
Phantom: You said there was some expectation. Did having an actual intent this time around make the process go any differently?
Troy: Yes. You work differently when you have an agenda. And a time frame.
Steve: Yeah, Hollow caught us with our pants down. As you know, we weren't striving for anything. By the time we got halfway through recording Disengaged, we had already started building something.
Bill: With a pile of gigs in between.
Phantom: Do you feel like that was for the better, or not so much?
Troy: Both.
StevdefinitelyI think we definately felt the pressure to "really" do it with Disengaged.
Troy: Better in that we had something to prove.

Bill: The inspiration was great
Steve: I think better. Forces you to really take it up a notch
Troy: With Hollow, we were able to tweak, and dork around with everything endlessly...kinda poke-n-hope until we stumbled on things we liked.
Bill: We love the fans, but we had the 4 worst critics in the world to deal with.
Steve: With Disengaged, we had a fanbase waiting for it.
Troy: Disengaged... we knew some tricks from before, and some pitfalls to avoid. Recording techniques that we discovered, kinds of arrangements and harmonies that worked... who should play which parts...that sort of thing.
Steve: Basically we knew what worked and what didn't going in
Bill: Trick 1: Bill can only have 3 drinks before recording
Steve: And on the next cd, only three drums.
Bill: Boo!!
Troy: From the writing, to the recording, to the kinds of shoes we wore to mix.
Phantom: So how do all actually handle that pressure? Is having the intent something you ever battle with? I’m interested in how successful people can be by letting the chips fall where they may. It seems like that approach played a huge part in the genesis of the group and most of your early success, and would be the ideal way to keep it fun and interesting.
Steve: Constantly.
Phantom: On the other hand, the more you do, the more you start becoming known for what you’ve done, and so I’m wondering how you balance that.
Troy: Well, we've all been playing gigs forever. We'd be a much different band if we had to learn that part at the same time.
Steve: Yeah, we bicker constantly, but the truth is that we have a great deal of respect for what we each individually bring to the table. At then end of the day, we're all working with pros who all want the same results.
Phantom: I take it then, that your experience has taught you what is worth bickering about?
Steve: Everything is worth bickering about.
Phantom: Or are you all simultaneously impossible to please?
Steve: That too.
Troy: I think that we have organized our chaos.
Steve: Seriously...all the bitching gets us to an end result that we can all be proud of.
Bill: We've all spent years bickering in different bands that had no promise. This band makes it worth it.
Troy: We're excellent bicker-ers.
Steve: No pain, no gain.
Troy: We should be gainin' like crazy then.
Bill: Plus if we didn't bicker, we wouldn't entertain ourselves.
Steve: Just means that we're all passionate about what we're creating.
Bill: Shuddup Troy!
Steve: I'll take passion over apathy any day.
Troy: Indeed.
Phantom: How do you think the music has changed from “Hollow” to “Disengaged,” or has it? Since it’s a little early in your recorded career to start talking about reinvention, what I hear sounds more like a progression; a refinement, if you will, on what you basically stumbled upon the first time.
Troy: I would agree with that.
Bill: We hope so.
Steve: I'd like to thinkthat's we're progressing, but thats a tough question for us to answer. We don't hear our music with the same ears that someone outside the band does. We're too close to it.
Troy: For myself... TK songs should have some kind of 'mood'. All the other stuff just kinda works around that.
Steve: I think we're getting better about writing actual "songs".
Phantom: You mean structurally?
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I think Bed of Stone is a complete "song". Not saying the others aren't, but that one in particular just feels right all the way through.
Troy: Trimming the fat. Not giving in to excess, for the sake of excess.
Steve: It builds, every part has a point, there's no wasted space, etc.
Bill:aggressiveow was raw and aggresive. Disengaged just feels more mature.
Troy: I think we all hope to continue that. To hone it.
Phantom: I think albums with that much fat trimmed off are usually called "Greatest Hits."
Steve: Cool. we have a name for our third album.
Bill: and 4th
Troy: Hatest Grits.
Phantom: I get a dime everytime someone says it...
--[Another of my attempts to be clever, thwarted]--
Phantom: I want to go back to something Steve said earlier, about what people outside the band hear...
Troy: I'm not sure we're a band that is gonna blaze a new trail in rock history...our objective is to just drive really fast in the median strip.
Phantom: What do you think people will hear when they listen to "Hollow" or "Disengaged?" Other than enthusiasm...
Bill: I think Chuck's lyrics really connect with people. Everyone has a different favorite and story of their own to relate with it.
Steve: Chuck is our ace in the hole. That guy is an immense talent.
Phantom: Did he just call in to check on the interview? Or was that legitimate compliment?
Steve: Nah, just givin him props.
Bill: The cool part is how people take the tunes and make them their own. Everytime we've picked a tune that we thought would be the most popular, we're dead wrong.
Steve: Man...that's a tough question there, ghosty.
Troy: Oh, he's an ace-hole alright.
Phantom: Certainly deserving, though. Most reviews I've read of your music, including my own, attribute his voice as a major signature in your sound.
Troy: Yup. And he deserves it. We're his biggest fans.
Bill: Agreed
Steve: Love his voice. You should see him recording vocal tracks. The guy is a monster.
Bill: He and the other 2 morons make me proud everytime we play.
Phantom: However, I would say you three have a different obstacle. Vocals are their own unique thing.
Steve: Yup.
Phantom: to be unique as a bassist, or as a guitarist or, (god forbid) a drummer [did I say that?]...
Steve: God forbid, indeed.
Bill: Hey!!
Phantom: That's a much taller order, because you three can pound out groove after groove and at the end of the day, the uneducated listener can listen and go "another rock band."
Troy: At this stage of the game, you learn to capitalize on your strengths as a band.
Bill: I think we help shape each other.
Steve: And that is all that should matter...the band as a whole.
Bill: We've been together long enough to say "hey, that part sucks" and not have a major blowout.
Troy: And to avoid drum solos.
Steve: I don't give a rats behind if anyone thinks I'm a top notch bass player, as long as the song moves them.
Bill: More cowbell! May 17th... 26 minute drum solo and 4 minutes of the other guys.
Bill: They keep me tame. Which I hope helps me to not be the same old drummer.
Troy: I think people appreciate our connection with thesillinessding our faults and sillyness, at least as much as they would "virtuoso" musicianship.
Phantom: So, what I'm hearing is that "honesty" is probably your answer.
Steve: Pretty much. Personal accolades are cool and all, but if they ain't diggin the "band"...
Phantom: But then let's ask the fun question. Surely this wise approach is the product of maturity has this always been the case with you each personally?
Steve: Lack of ability has always been my personal motivation
Bill: uhhhhhhhh.......
Troy: Bill is old. Is that what you're gettin at?
BillI I always thought if i could impress another drummer, I was ruling.
Steve: Wrong.
Phantom: Actually, what I meant was, surely you can't have all had this enlightened approach for the biggest part of your musical life.
Troy: Not at all. We learned by doing.
Steve: I've always been the subpar musician. So shreddin has never been an option.
Bill: You are a rock Shteve!
Steve: And a rock is all you need, baby.
Troy: I've always wanted to be a shredder. It just didn't work out that way.
Bill: The low end never stops!
Steve: Don't let him kid ya, Troy can rip when he wants to. He's just all about the sum of the parts.
Troy: And beer.
Bill: I've realized that there is always another bad ass drummer. Just not too many of them in great bands.
Phantom: An important realization, but then there is always another bad ass rock band.
Bill: True.
Steve: Exactly. If all you care about is impressing, there's always someone else that can tear you up. We'd rather write good tunes.
Troy: A great band is rarely an accident. That's why we're holding on to this one so tightly.
Phantom: So no plans for the Steve L Experience anytime soon, then?
Bill: I'm releasing my solo death mariachi album next month.

Steve: Not at the moment. If I did that though, I'd hire these idiots, so same dif.
Phantom: Back on the albums, there is always a tendency to gravitate toward what brought you success, but there is also the nagging thought that someone (like myself) might call you out on repeating a formula. Knowing that, how much of what is on “Disengaged” was just natural, and how much was a conscious process of trying to grow and "hone?"
Bill: That's were I think we have an advantage.
Steve: Man, great question...and a big personal concern.
Troy: There's always the nagging thought that someone's gonna find fault. You can find it on every bulletin board on the web.
Bill: We try to hone our writing and recording, but we let the material dictate where the band is going.
Troy: But you gotta do something... so you might as well do...something.
Steve: I think one thing we've found is that most songs kinda write themselves. You just have to find out where its trying to go.
Troy: We're our own biggest critics. It don't leave until we say it's done. If no one else likes it...that's one thing...but at least we'll like it.
Bill: Like Bed of Stone. We never sat down and said "let's write a mellower tune for this album."
Steve: Bed of Stone is a perfect example of what I spoke of. As is Burn Georgia Burn. Those tunes both started out VERY differently.
Troy: Mirror images.
Bill: Bed started as acousticand Burn was accoustic.
Steve: Yup, and if we hadn't "listened" to what they wanted to be, they both would've suffered for it.
Phantom: When you are writing, is there a dynamic between the 4 of you? Take me through the life cycle of a song in TK.
Troy: It depends. Sometimes one of us has a riff. Sometimes Chuck comes in with a whole arrangement.
Steve: Depends on the song. Some write themselves, others have to be banged out with a hammer.
Phantom: Can you give me a "for instance...?"
Troy: In either case, it gets bastardized until it sounds like TK
Bill: Perfectly said.
Steve: Chuck wrote Burn as pretty much a complete arrangement, but it sounded all wrong. It was supposed to be a swampy acoustic diddy. We said "no, it should sound like this..." and we all cranked up and
kicked its ass. Thus Burn Georgia Burn was born.
Bill: 10 minutes later we had roomsucker.
Steve: On the flip side, Disengaged started about 10-12 years ago. That bastard went through 10 different arrangements until it felt right. But when we finally got there, it was worth it. Well... to us anyway.
Phantom: If I were to pass judgement (not that I do such things, of course) I would consider the biggest value in the songs on "Disengaged" to be how, let's call it "unrushed", they are.
Steve: Unrushed...that's an understatement.
Troy: I'm not sure I follow, Lou.
Phantom: They sound more like the material you would expect on a debut. And less like the average sophomore release.
Steve: Are you saying that the album seems refined? Or am I misreading?
Troy:Phantom: The tracks would suggest you've had a lifetime to work on them. The detail implies a great deal of time sarrangementng and producing the arragement(s). As opposed to the rushed approach so many 2nd albums often form as. Many bands almost take a step back in their evolution on second releases.
Steve: Ahh well, it certainly seemed like a lifetime at times.
Troy: We weren't fulfilling a contract obligation.
Bill: Thanks man!
Steve: And we didn't have a producer kicking our ass consnecessarilyough that wouldn't necessarrily be a bad thing. I do appreciate that though. Alotta effort went into that puppy. But like Troy said, we didn't have anyone telling us to "spit it out". Well... other than our fanbase.
Bill: I think the pressure might have affected us a little when we started it, but soon after we decided "It will be done when it's done."
Phantom: The further along you go, is there any concern that you may be a fad? Not intentionally in the [insert name of manufactured pop band] sort of way, but in conjunction with everyone starting to embrace the 1980’s again?
Troy: Fads are popular.
Steve: Always.
Troy: We've said it many times. When crowds get bored with us, we'll just go back to Bill's and do it for us.
Bill: When you look at how music revolves, isn't it all a fad?
Troy: Honestly, I don't hear that much "80's" in us.
Phantom: Which was going to be my next topic.
I dunno. There's definate elements of 80's rock in our music. Can't and won't hide where we came from. But, Chuck especially is great at spinning an unexpected twist melodically.
Troy: If anything, we may be too current.
Chasing what's "cool" at the moment will only make you tired.
Phantom: I listened to your
podcast back in November and one of the things that stood out to me -
Steve: Aside from porn talk?

Bill: Ah, sweet porn.
Phantom: That. And the discussion about walking the line between the 80's hard rock and the modern sound. Granted, your reputation around here is based on the covers, at least as a stereotype.
Bill: I think that approach was simple for us.
Steve: A given in this scene.
Troy: I don't agree that our rep is based entirely on our covers.
Phantom: But I think the 80's vibe is pretty strong in what you do. I don't think it's based on that entirely, but when I hear someone characterize you as "that 80's band," it's clear they are basing that opinion on a limited scope.
Troy: Then they miss the point.
Phantom: Well, it's certainly a narrow observation on what you do.
Bill: We play covers that we enjoy, not what's "cool" or brings in the most $. I guess that we're just lucky that it's working right now. We've all been in the "what's popular at the moment bands," mainly for money. And there's nothing wrong with musicians doing that for kicks and cash...
Phantom: Right...
Troy: And the 80s covers certainly weren't popular when we started playing them in 99. It's all the rage now, I suppose.
Bill: This week.
Phantom: Very true.
Steve: In a perfect world, we could go out and do all TK all the time. But, the reality doesn't allow that. So if covers are a necessary evil so to speak, do what you know. Although, we've tried to get away from that some
Bill: It's gonna be all about death mariachi once I learn how to spell it.
Phantom: Was that something you had in mind during the making of "Disengaged?"
Steve: The 80's thing?
Phantom: Well, balancing it.
Steve: Not at all. Truth be told, when we're writing or recording, all we care about is making it pleasing to our ears.
Phantom: So some of the same things that make you like those covers show up in the music you make.
Steve: Like I said earlier, you can't hide where you came from, but hopefully you put your own stamp on it.
Troy: I'm personally more influenced by the attitude and bombast of the old hard rock, than I am of the songwriting. Call me retarded, but I think "mainstream rock" songwriting is much better than it was 20 years ago.
Steve: Well yeah, lets be honest, the songwriting wasn't always the best.
Bill: Ron Keel is turning over at his campfire!
Steve: But he still has the right to rock.
Bill: Nice.
Phantom: Well, I don't believe you're lacking in the bombast department.
Steve: High five. If we can keep the bombastic quality, yet still have something worth a damn to say lyrically...I'm pretty happy.
Phantom: I speculate that your "enthusiasm", as you put it, is a large part of that bombast. So much of the music from that generation, for the better or worse, seemed to sound as though everyone had just buckled up to go along for the ride. It seemed so much less methodical than it does these days, and there is some value to that...and there's a downside, too.
Troy: Not everyone gets to go onstage with a great band every weekend. It makes me appreciative, and enthusiastic, to be a part of it.
Steve: It was all about fun back then. I dig that spirit. Nuthin but a good time.
Phantom: If I'm hearing anything from the three of you, it's that fun is the top priority.
Troy: Onstage, yeah.
Steve: Doesn't mean we can't be deep, but who says everything has to be about messed up childhoods? If we're not having fun, its just another job. Music is supposed to be an escape.
Phantom: One other thought from that podcast I want to touch on, and then I'll let you go. This sort of relates to what we were talking about earlier, about how you try to set yourself apart. But you spoke of the internet as a double-edged sword...
Steve: Indeed.
Phantom: Which isn't something you hear a lot of bands say these days. I thought that was an interesting observation. Most people see it as “oh, I can get 100 times the number of people to listen to me." Well, so can everyone else. Success used to be based on regional popularity and now you make yourself a smaller fish in a much, much larger pond.
Steve: Yup.
Bill: But can you get a 100 people to come see you?
Troy: And care.
Steve: And come back to the next show.
Bill: And buy the drummer a shot!
Phantom: Facilitating fast food fans? You think it makes it easier to forget about a band and move on?
Troy: Rock on the internet is like sex for a fish. Spray it wide, and see who gets..
Phantom: Yes.
Steve: Well, its no secret that attention spans ain't what they used to be.
Troy: Absolutely. Attention spans are down to what? A nanosecond?
Bill: You've got 10 million more to go download.
Steve: Flavor of the week isn't just a catch phrase.
Troy: Pulling no punches...a lot of bands just suck. It's always been that way. Now everyone can hear that they suck.
Steve: And it makes it that much more difficult to find the gems.
Troy: It truly is a sea of poo.
Steve: Yeainstantaneously many more people instantaniously...but so can everyone else.
Troy: Yes. You're not only competing for the club spot, and the entertainment dollar...but for 5 minutes of attention.
Phantom: Very true.
Steve: You just try to make the most of those five minutes, and give people a reason to come back.
Phantom: Sum that reason up for me. How are you guys making people come back?
Steve: Because we're genuine. We don't take ourselves seriously, but we do take our music seriously. We put all our heart into our live shows, and the energy isn't faked. We are having the time of our lives on that stage.
Bill: I'm proud of the material and I think it pulls people in if it get's that 5 minutes. As far as the shows go, is it a fad, or do you leave with a big smile on your face? Maybe they just come back to see if it will work again!
Troy: I'd say we spent more effort answering these questions than we do planning our 'entertainment' factor.
Bill: That's it!!
Troy: I feel like I just jump in and hold on.
Bill: Pure dumb luck is our formula.
Steve: Yup. naturallye what you do, it just natuarally shows.
Phantom: An excellent conclusion.
Troy: Cool. Thanks so much for putting up with us.
Bill: And thanks for giving a damn about music in this valley!
Phantom: I want to thank you guys for taking the time. Hopefully you had fun. And if you didn't, don't worry. Just tune in next week and I'll make fun of someone else.


Once again, thanks to TK for making the time and working through our initial technical obstacles to make this happen. I'm in hopes they enjoyed doiforwardas much as I did, and look foward to sitting down with another band in the near future, so hit me up if you're interested. Tune in next week, as I make good on my promise to make fun of someone new, and start pitting 16 bandroyalnst each other in a battle royale fight to the death. Thanks for reading. Until next we meet...

- The Phantom

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Give Me Any Talk

The Phantom is off this week, partly to make adjustments to an upcoming work flux (to avoid being totally swamped) and partly because he is already intoxicated in pre-celebration for Cinco De Mayo...

That being said, this is hardly an "off week." I will be sitting down to talk with TK421, and I'm bringing you the entire interview (unedited!). Plus, I'll give you the chance to vote to find out who would win in a fight between some of the area's most popular bands. Whoever emerges victorious will win a special prize...

It's pointless, entertaining, and sure to be sarcastic. You won't want to miss it.

And not that I'm much for hype, but I've a very interesting show review plan for this upcoming weekend, so you're not going to want to miss that. Thanks for reading, and have a safe and happy celebration! I know I will. Until next we meet...

- The Phantom