Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Music Reviews: The Ridgelands - "Corey Webster Must Die"

Punk music over the last 20 years has gone through some serious phases. You had the old school DIY way of recording and marketing your music which, at best, was a little rough around the edges. But still maintained artistic freedom and credibility. Then you had the major label released albums that were overly produced by some big wig and marketed at the kids who listen to top 40. Even the jocks found it hard to not listen to Green Day records. So it's always nice to find a hidden gem of a record. An album that's got heart and attitude. But isn't produced to be crisp and clean in its sound and style. An album with anthems for the blue collar Americans that still has that crusty dirty feel to it. And THAT is what you get with the debut album by The Ridgelands entitled "Corey Webster Must Die".

The album kicks off with the skateboard anthem "Useless Wooden Toys". You know these guys are serious skate punks with lyrics like "Thrasher is the bible, the street are our church." The band, Tall Doug (guitar/vocals), Mike Schultz (bass/vocals) and Chris Shinstine (drums/vocals), play the sort of street smart punk rock that made bands like the early Ramones a force to be reckoned with. I'm not saying The Ridgelands SOUND like the Ramones. They just have that tough street attitude in the songs they write, like the Ramones before them.

"Doing Time" is a real sing along rocker that just makes you wanna shred or at least jump around and act a fool for a little while. And what's wrong with that? We all need an outlet for our pent up anger and aggression. And this album is perfect for doing just that. The Ridgelands sing "Take The World By Storm" with lyrics about doing it your way, make it or not, and never look back! We all have dreams. Most of the time our dreams don't come true. And that's okay as long as you gave it your best shot. You're sure as hell not gonna make it sitting on your couch watching Family Guy.

The Ridgelands are here, fighting for what they believe in. They're young, snotty and ready to take on the world. And with that kinda attitude they'll either do it, or die trying. But truth be told, I think they'll have fun doing or lose. You can hear tunes from CWMD and some acoustic jams at the bands YouTube channel.

4 / 5 stars

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interview With The Falcon

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. I really appreciate this. It's been 5 years since "Unicornography" came out. When will we be seeing a new Falcon album?

Brendan Kelly: I don't know man, it's kinda hard to say. The thing about The Falcon is it's sorta, well it started out as a way for me to write songs that weren't going to be Lawrence Arms songs. Which was to kinda work in an environment that was different from my day job, which is The Lawrence Arms. But now The Lawrence Arms really isn't my day job because we don't really play that much anymore. So the fundamental purpose of The Falcon is sorta been undermined by my life. And I'm about to make a solo record that doesn't really sound like The Falcon enough to call it The Falcon, so I'm doing something completely different. Right now it's gonna come out in March, which is a full band project. But it's not The Falcon. So that's sort of in a way taking the place of what The Falcon was doing in my mind. But that being said, since the beginning of The Falcon, Dan, from The Alkaline Trio, has been in the band. And he and I had been talking about writing a Falcon record. So even though it's like the mechanical purpose of The Falcon is more useless than ever, the wheels actually are sorta in motion right now, however slowly, to actually make a record. (Looks at Neil and Eli) Are you guys down with that by the way?

Eli Caterer: Totally.

BK: So the whole bands into it so. So, maybe this year. Maybe 2012.

CM: So is this the officially line-up now? Or is Dan gonna be coming back if there is a new record?

BK: Well, you know, Dan was the actual reason for me to even consider writing a new record. He was like "Hey man, lets write a new Falcon record." And I was like "Well, I'm just finishing writing a record right now. So it might take a second." But yeah, you know like Dan's obviously a busy dude, and tonight we got Derrick from The Alkaline Trio playing bass. Derek is a multi-instrumentalist. Dan, if he is available, is always down to playing Falcon shows. In fact he thought there was a chance he would be in town for this show. And he was like "Well, show me the set list and if I'm around I'll play." You know he's always down, but he's a busy dude, and he lives in Florida. But Eli's been playing with The Falcon. I mean Eli's for sure the guitar player for The Falcon as much as anyone else can be. He's played 95% of all the Falcon shows we've played.

EC: And I actually guitar teched at the show I didn't play.

BK: I think you only missed like 1 show, no 2 shows. 1 because you had to go home for a wedding, and our roadie played. So he's easily replaceable, but we don't wanna replace him. (Laughter)

CM: Will we be seeing more Falcon shows in 2012 with or without a record?

Neil Hennessy: It's safe to say there will probably be a show or two. We always seem to play around Riot Fest. There are certain times of the year where you might see The Falcon fly by!

BK: It's kinda weird because at this point The Falcon hasn't really done anything in a real long time. We've only got really one album. And it's like when we play it's like we're just coming out and playing this one increasingly obscure album. (Laughter) So it's weird, it's a weird thing. And when they asked "Hey, do you wanna play with Naked Raygun?" I was like "Fuck, I LOVE Naked Raygun." I grew up loving Naked Raygun. There's just no way I'm turning down playing with Naked Raygun. It's like I guess we'll dust off that one record again. (Laughter) Because that's all we have to play. But that could all change.

CM: And that all goes into the next question which is, growing up in the 80s we've all been Naked Raygun fans. We've all been in this fucking venue watching Naked Raygun play. What's it like for you to be in this venue, on this stage, with them, playing with them tonight?

BK: It's awesome. You know I used to go see Naked Raygun play every time they played in Chicago, but it was always at the Riv. Which is where they played back in those days. And I never saw them at the Metro. So I'm really excited about that.

CM: You didn't catch one of the final shows at the Metro in '96?

EC: I was at one of those shows.

BK: I didn't. I think I was on tour with maybe The Broadways. Yeah, I wasn't around for that one. But, when I was in high school I would go see Naked Raygun play like every month or when ever they seemed to play at he Riv. Which like NOW, looking back on that, it's mind boggling to have that dedicated of a fan base to play.

EC: And they easily sold that place out every time.

BK: Yeah, it was incredible. But yeah, you know it's an honor to be able to play with Naked Raygun here tonight.

EC: It is an honor.

BK: I mean those guy's are a big part of the reason why I think we're all doing this kind of thing.

CM: Alright, I have one more question. And this one is directed at you Brendan. Recently you reformed Slapstick and played in San Francisco as part of the Asian Man Records 10th Anniversary concerts.

BK: Yes, that's correct.

CM: Why didn't you guy's play in Chicago? And will we be seeing a Slapstick reunion in Chicago at some point in the near future?

BK: Well, to answer the first part first, the reason that Slapstick reformed was because Mike Park, who was so integral in the development in launching all of our musical careers in that band. He asked us as a favor to do that. And he asked all of us individually and we all said yes. It wasn't like we all got together and said "Dude, you know what we need to do? Slapstick reunion!" (Laughter) I mean it's like it wasn't even remotely on the table. But it's like when one of your best friend and mentor like....I don't wanna sound cheesy, but Mike Park is like this lighthouse of friendship and sincerity in a world of uh, you know, increasingly fabulous motivation as soon as it is to get higher and higher up the food chain and make it easier. And Mike Park has always been there for all of us you know. He's always been like the coolest guy. And he was like "Hey man, I wanna get all the bands together who have ever been on the label." And Slapstick was the 3rd band to get signed. MU330, Less Than Jake and Slapstick. And Slapstick was the 3rd record he put out. So I think we all just figured like, I don't wanna say  it was a big deal to him, but it was a fairly significant piece of the puzzle pulling this whole thing together, with every band he's ever put out. So it's like a no brainer to do it for him. So, Chicago didn't ask the right way I guess is the answer to your second question. But we're gonna do a Chicago show. There's no 2 ways about it. There will be a Chicago show.

CM: In 2012?

BK: Definitely in 2012. I've actually been approached. And I've put the feelers out to everyone and everyone has said "Yeah, sounds like an awesome time."

CM: That's all I've got for you guys. I wanna thank you again for talking with Critical Mass. And I hope you guys have a great show.

BK: Awesome thanks for talking with us. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Concert Review: Naked Raygun November 23, 2011 The Metro Chicago

Even though it's been some time since they played the Metro, it's nice to see that Naked Raygun can still pack em in. Even on Thanksgiving Eve! Normally people are either going out of town for the turkey holiday, or they have family coming in. Either way it didn't stop fans from flocking to the Metro for what was surely to be the last great gig of 2011. And what a bill it was! Naked Raygun, The Falcon, Dan Vapid & The Cheats and My Big Beautiful. How can you top THAT? The doors opened at 8pm sharp and fans packed the 1,100 capacity venue for our hometown hero's.

The show started at 9:00 with My Big Beautiful who played rocking versions of tunes from the bands album "The Way Things Are: The Soundtrack To My Life Vol.1" and displayed mad amounts of energy and musicianship. The crowd, who may have been new to MBB, seemed to enjoy the bands set of pop inspired punk rock. Singer/bassist Stev Walker pulled out all the stops while guitarist Steev Custer stalked the stage like a man possessed. Drummer Dan Bolton was a true powerhouse behind the kit bashing away like his life depended on it. They may have been the first opening band. But they played it like they were headlining.

Next up was Dan Vapid & the Cheats. Locals may remember Vapid as an integral part of some of Chicago's greatest punk bands like Screeching Weasel, Sludgeworth, The Riverdales and The Methadones. The band played songs going through Dan Vapid's entire career from "High School Psychopath" and "Someday" to "Crash Of The Moons" and "Say Goodbye To Your Generation". The band also tossed in new tracks like "Devo On Speed" to the delight of the audience . The band looked and sounded great all the way through the 30 minute set. Look out for The Cheats debut album coming in the new year.

The Falcon hit the stage at 10:30 and played 45 minutes of high octane punk rock. The band, which features members of The Lawrence Arms, Smoking Popes and The Alkaline Trio, ripped through songs like "Free The Monkey, Drown The Worm", "La-Z-Boy 500" and "The Angry Cry Of The Angry Pie" as well as a killer cover of the Misfits classic "Skulls". Singer/guitarist Brendan Kelly joked between songs and showed sincerity when talking about opening for Raygun, the band he used to see himself while in high school. The crowd ate it up and showed support by singing along with every song.

At just after 11:30 it was time for the band that everyone was there to see. The legendary Naked Raygun! The band hit the stage with the opening number "Mein Iron Maiden" and the pit started, never letting up. The band tore through such classics as "Rat Patrol", "Wonder Beer" and "Surf Combat" and even pulled out a couple deep cuts as well. The Jettison track "Walk In Cold" had everyone in the audience blown away. It's one of those tracks that you don't always get at a Raygun gig. But it sounded just as fresh and relevant as it did when it was released back in 1987. Another track they played that they DON'T play much  was "I Lie" from the bands debut EP Basement Screams.

And, as at all Raygun concerts, the free shit was bound to turn up. And this year the band threw out turkeys to celebrate Thanksgiving. Well, not REAL turkeys. But turkey shaped key chains that said "Naked Raygun. Go stuff yourself". The crowd loved it! Throughout the bands close to 90 minute set the audience sang along with every "whoa" showing nothing but love, admiration and respect for the kings of the Chicago punk scene. This is, after all, a band that's lasted 30+ years with little or no signs of slowing down. God bless em. Some things are just worth witnessing first hand. And a Naked Raygun concert is definitely one of them.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music Reviews: UGLYBoNES - "Die Parting" EP

It's always nice to see good hardcore come out of Chicago. It's definitely a dying breed, so it's good to hear a young band kick some ass and take some names. UGLYBoNES is a young hardcore band out of Chicago who remind me of a cross between old Circle Jerks mixed with Life Sentence. It's fast and to the point. Takes no prisoners and just makes you wanna fucking slam and break shit. UGLYBoNES new EP "Die Partying" is a 4 song blast of old school hardcore that will have you thinking it's 1982 all over again. The EP clocks in at around the 6 minute mark which is a sign of something great to come! Can you imaging Black Flags "Nervous Breakdown" EP being over 6 minutes and still influencing a generation of bands? Me either! That's why I think this band can bring back hardcore to, not only Chicago, but to this country as a whole. And why not! This countries in the toilet financially between crooked politicians and money grubbing companies. What we need to express our dissatisfaction with the government is some good old school shit kicking music. And UGLYBoNES bring it in full force! Songs like "Boozehound" and "Backseat Love Making" and just in your face tunes made for moshing and stage diving. If you're into loud, fast, aggressive music give these guy's a shot. If you don't think it's the best thing to happen to hardcore since Life Sentences debut, then I don't know what to tell you. This is a great band with a lot to say. I'm listening....are you? You can hear the first 2 tracks on the bands on the bands Bandcamp page. Check it out and buy the EP for the last 2 tracks. Show some support and lets bring back the hardcore revolution.

Track listing:

1 - Backseat Love Making
2 - Morgan
3 - Boozehound
4 - I Don't Want You

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Interview With The Ridgelands Part 2

Here is the second part of my interview with Mike and Tall Doug of The Ridgeland's. I can't say enough good things about this band. They ARE a great band on the rise, doing things the only way they know how...the Ridgeland way! This is the groups very first interview, and the Critical Mass family are proud and fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit down with them for this candid and funny interview. Be on the lookout for Part 3 which will consist of outtakes from this interview coming next week, along with my review of the bands debut album "Corey Webster Must Die".

Critical Mass: Have you guys ever gone out on tour?

Mike Schultz (Bass/Vocals): That was like the first thing we did!

Tall Doug (Guitar/Vocals): It wasn't like a full blown tour. It was SUPPOSED to be a 2 week tour

MS: Check this out. I took 2 weeks off of work, Doug was off for the summer, Chris didn't have to work. And we had just recorded these 8 songs (that make up the band’s debut "Corey Webster Must Die"). And actually my 2 weeks’ vacation was coming up, so I kept egging (GoDIY Records) and I was like "Hurry up and get this shit sent back to us. So they got it send back to us and originally we were gonna do through the Midwest, Salt Lake City, East Bay, LA. And then we had nothing between there and Houston, Texas. So it was Houston, Texas, Tulsa, and southern Illinois and then it was home.

TD: But had people telling us (we had gigs).

MS: Yeah, we had people in every city saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do it, do it, do it. We'll hook it up." So as times getting closer we have people juts dropping off our map. I'm like FUCK man! So what we had left was Houston, Texas, Tulsa. And we met the Tulsa dude when we played the Mohawk Fest in St. Paul. So we met them up with the Tulsa dude up in St. Paul, so I knew that was solid. And he was friends with the dude from Houston. So I was like "Well fuck, so if anything, we'll just drive to Texas and Tulsa and play these fucking shows." So as time draws more near we have like fucking 2 cities. So this band the Snottie Kids (Orlando, FL), who we just fell in love with, they were touring up trough Chicago and we got asked to play a show with them in some warehouse. And we didn't know them, we just played a show and it was kinda like... they're covered in tattoos, there are skate ramps in this warehouse, and there's maybe 20 people there.

TD: It was awkward.

MS: Yeah it was awkward until we all started drinking, and we all started skating.

TD: I remember trying to do something and I tried and fell and I just started laughing, and the whole place just started laughing.

MS: And from that moment on we were just like fucking brothers. They we like "Hey, come down to Florida sometime." So we remembered that. And when people started dropping out we hit up Derrick, who's the singer and bass player. And we were like "Dude, our West Coast shit fell through. But we still have Texas and Tulsa. Can you set us up in Florida?" And he was like "Yeah, I got you Gainesville and I got you Orlando." So we just charged it down and we stopped in Louisville just to skate because the park there is amazing. So, we skated Louisville there overnight, drove down to Orlando and crashed for the night. Then both our bands drove up to Gainesville and played there. Drove back down to Orlando and skated for like a day. Then we played Orlando, said goodbye and we went to Houston. And Houston was a fucking blast! Of course, everyone we met was like our best friend. I mean, even now, we have cities in this big loop. Now if we could just slowly figure out people between those cities.

CM: Are there any plans for a possible tour of the Midwest in the near future?

TD: We're actually been talking about that.

MS: As far as Midwest goes, we're just gonna do like Milwaukee, Louisville and places like that. And in summer we're gonna do another 2 week and try and make it up to New York maybe a little farther and make it back.

CM: What's in store for The Ridgeland’s in 2012? Besides a world tour?

MS: See, that's the thing...if we had like 3 grand I would fly our shit out to like London and Poland and just takes busses and tour all over Europe off the dime we're making.

TD: As far as 2012 goes I don't know. Record our next album

MS: 2 albums. An acoustic album and an electric album "Fast Times at Ridgeland High".

TD: And we have a great title for our acoustic album.

MS: We gonna call it "Friends Don't Let Friends Quit Drinking". And what we're doing with the acoustic album is...since it's an acoustic album,  NOT that people may be into it, we're gonna get 100 blank CD-R's, burn em, spray pain stencil all 100. And what we're gonna do is, we screen print all our own shirts so we have the screen print and everything. So, we're gonna make a patch design. Y'know a patch big enough to hold a CD. We're gonna do front cover/back cover all on canvas, sewn all together, 100 of them, and stick a CD in there. And sell em for $5.

TD: So, you get a CD and 2 different patches.

MS: And I think the albums gonna be called "Friends Don't Let Friends Quit Drinking" and that'll be one of the patches.

CM: That's a great fucking title for an album.

TD: Actually how we came up with that title is we picked up our friend (For a Social Distortion show) and...and we have just 40's in hand while he's driving.

MS: We were at a red light and there is only like a quarter of the 40oz left. And there's a picture of us just cheers-ing and smiling. And the worst part about it is you can actually see the red light in the window that we're waiting at.

TD: Yeah, and the quarter of the 40oz that's just left at the bottom.

MS: And it might not go over so well with people but...

TD: But it's funny to watch.

MS: So, yeah we have a bunch of shit going on as far as 2012 goes.

CM: Is there a website you guys wanna plug? An official website or anything?

MS: We got YouTube, search The Ridgelands. We got Facebook...

TD: Search The Ridgelands.

MS: We got Twitter...nobody tweets. (Laughter). Also our e-mail is

TD: And if you wanna check us out on Tumbler it's theridgelands/ or some shit. I don't know.

CM: And with that I wanna thank The Ridgelands for talking with Critical Mass.

TD: Absolutely.

MS: I'm really glad you're stoked on us. And also.....

TD: Fuck Greg Short.

MS: Yeah, fuck Greg Short. Greg Short is the worst person in the world.

CM: Do you want that on the record or off the record.

TD/MS (Together) ON THE RECORD! (Laughter)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview With The Ridgelands Part 1

Critical Mass: Thank you for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, guys. I really appreciate it. For any folks who may be new to The Ridgelands can you give us a little history on the band and how you got started?

Tall Doug (Guitar/Vocals): Basically I was just sitting on MySpace and was just going from this band to this band to this band y'know. And it's cool, the musics pretty good y'know, and then you hear the singer...and it's like Jesus, haven't you ever heard a piece of music before? And I was sitting there like "I can do better than this!" And then my buddy Andy, who was our first drummer, was like "Yeah, I'll fuck around with you guys", which was basically me for 3 months.

Mike Schultz (Bass/Vocals): Then I get out of rehab....

TD: Yeah, then Mike gets out of rehab and we go to the local skate park and I go "Hey man, do you wanna hear some crappy demo's my bands made?" And he's like "Yeah." He puts the headphones in and is goes "Dude, are you kidding me? Who's in the band?" I go "It's just me and Andy. He plays drums and I play guitar and sing." And he goes "I'll be bassist." And seriously a week later he goes to Guitar Center and buys a bass and we started jamming.

CM: That's it huh? Just that quick?

MS: Yeah, and that was only like a year and a half ago. We haven't been a band for long at all.

TD: We're coming up on a year and a couple of months. And then our buddy Andy, I guess just wasn't feeling it, because he really wasn't a punk rocker. He just kinda hung out with us and drank.

MS: And skateboarded with us.

TD: So we kicked him out and we were kinda like playing for a couple of weeks thinking "Where do we go (from here)?". And then our buddy Chris (Shinstine) played drums, and then he got in it (the band). He's not here right now because he's sick.

MS: And that's our line-up now. But he's (Chris) actually enlisted in the army and come December he's gonna be doing all that. So, we got our buddy Tyler lined up and we're gonna start jamming with him. We gonna finish out November with Chris because he's one of our best buds anyway. It's a bummer he's leaving. But he's gotta do what he's gotta do. So that's where we're at.

CM: I was listening to your stuff on YouTube and I really like what you're doing. It's really down and dirty style punk rock. Not too polished, but in a good way! What bands influenced you and made you really wanna start a band of your own?

TD: Now that's the thing. We don't all agree on music. I'm more the pop punk guy. But I still love G.G. Allin and Rose Tattoo and shit like that.

MS: I feel like I can't really pinpoint an influence because I listen to everything and I love everything. I just love music. And I know Doug's the same way. I grew up listening to a lot of street punk. Obviously Doug grew up listening to a lot of pop punk. And the way we looked at it from day one is it's not so much being influenced by certain bands, y'know. We're just gonna write songs and whatever the fuck they sound like, if we like em, we're gonna play em.

TD: Our drummer Chris, he loves the fuck out of death metal. And he's damn good at it too.

MS: We really wish Chris were here. We REALLY wanna state that! We wish Chris were here.

CM: Do you feel your musical influences contribute to your personal songwriting?

MS: Definitely. Because we have so many influences that....

CM: It just all kinda gels together?

MS: Yeah.

TD: Yeah, I mean because I come from listening to the Ramones and 50s music just poppy shit like Tommy James and the Shondells. So basically the songs I write are about girls and friends. The girls part is more of the poppy part of the music. And then I'll come up with 3 or 4 chords and a chord progression and I'll be like "Mike, I got this thing" and he'll add in his bass. And it's kinda like the street punks coming out of him and the pop punk is coming out of me. 

MS: And Chris just always throws out some awesome fucking drums. And it's like what we always say, "You can't polish a turd. But you can spray paint it gold!" Doug comes up with the turd, I spray paint it, we put it all together and it's good!

TD: We put it on a big polished plate and BAM! Someone's gonna eat that shit!

MS: I just hope that some people dig it. I was stoked that you (Critical Mass) were as excited about us as you were.

CM: I saw you guy's play that gig in Downers Grove and I really liked what I heard. And then I looked you guy's up on YouTube, and heard that you can pull it off acoustically. Then I heard (the electric version of) Useless Wooden Toys, and I was like what the fuck! I e-mailed Doug right then and said I need to interview you guy's right now! Fuck this! Signed, sealed, delivered...I needed to interview you guy's right then! (Laughter)

TD: Fuck yeah.

MS: I like that.

CM: Sometimes it takes time for new music to grow on me. And sometimes it's right away. And when I heard you guy's it was BOOM right then I knew this was something great and special.

MS: I like that. I like knowing that our music can do that to people.

CM: Songwriting...does everyone contribute to the songwriting process?

TD: Yeah.

MS: Like I was saying earlier, Doug gives birth to the monster turd, I add some fucking gold dust and fucking gold spray paint and Chris just lays some fucking gnarly drums down and it's just whatever.

CM: So the bands got an album out, "Corey Webster Must Die". Is this the bands first album?

MS: Yeah, this is our first one.

CM: Do you release your own albums or do you have a small label who releases your material?

MS: Well, we were just gonna release our own. And then, it's not REALLY a label, it's called GoDIY Records, they got a website and shit...

TD: They're pretty rad.

MS: It's kinda rad, they find bands from all over. And it's not a label that signs bands, they don't tell you "Yeah, we're gonna sign you and put an album out." We haven't been THAT lucky yet. But these dude's are really rad because they tell you "You're really fucking good. And we would like to work with you." And I'm like, "Yeah well, what's the deal?" and they say "You're still on your own, but we work with manufacturers." And they get us discounts on getting our CD's pressed and shit. I did the artwork and our buddy Mike Cleary (sic?) recorded it and mixed it. And we even told him we just wanna sound like how we sound live. So, don't fuck it up too much. So, we put it out. We sent the label the shit, I sent them all the artwork I made and they pressed em up. I think they pressed like 100 CD's for like $250. So, it's good we get to sell our CD's for like $5 or give them away.

TD: And what's good about them contacting us was our album wasn't even out yet. We had 3 demos that were on ReverbNation. And they contacted us and said "I heard your song "You Blew Me Away"", which isn't even on that demo. At the time (of recording our album) we had like 12 or 13 songs. And we were like "lets just throw 8 songs on (
"Corey Webster Must Die"
)". And when you play shows, you only play about 8 to 10 songs anyway.

MS: I don't regret only putting 8 on there, because we still have like 16 songs that we didn't record for our next electric album. And we have another acoustic album we're doing.

TD: Which will have another 8 or 9 songs on it.

CM: It sounds like you guys have a lot of material spread out.

MS: Yeah, but I kinda wish we would have recorded more the first time.

TD: I wish we had enough money to record now!

MS: That's our problem, we're broke! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

"My Personal Top 10" - Mark Gustafson from About The Mess

Next up with his "Personal Top 10" favorite foods is Mark Gustafson from About The Mess. Mark sure loves his food, as you can tell. After reading his Top 10, and raiding the fridge afterwards, be sure to check out his band either on Facebook or the bands website. And be sure to check out ATM's new EP "Anthem Of Imperfection" out now on Whoa! Records.


10. Bacon, Eggs, and Hash Browns

This is my typical weekend breakfast. Or I should say brunch as it's usually eaten between 11am and 2pm. Great hearty meal to get you ready for all that relaxin you have planned. Throw some shredded cheese, parmesan, onions and peppers and garlic pepper in your eggs before scramblin that shit up. Fry your bacon in a pan on the stove. Lord help you if you put bacon in the microwave. In fact I'll personally slap your mama if you do that.

9. Belgian Waffles

Simple, easy, and delicious. If you point me to a person who says they don't like Belgian waffles, I will kindly point that person's face to my fist. Serve this with some type of fried pig product, I don't care which one. Fried pigs feet? Fuck it, do it up.

8. Cheeseburgers

Garlic. Put garlic in your patties and some BBQ sauce. Grill those bitches slow and low. Many people forget to let the patties get to room temperature prior to cooking. This is essential.

7. Baked Chicken with Stove Top Stuffing

Comfort food. Cut chicken into maybe 1" cubes and fry them up on the stove. Make your $1 box of stove top next to it. Chop up some broccoli and cook it too. Throw it all in a bowl and toss some shredded cheese on there and mix it up. Eat it, then take a nap.

6. Meatloaf

It's getting cold in Chicago, you need meatloaf in your life. Bonus points if you listen to Meatloaf while preparing your meatloaf. But do not listen to Meatloaf while eating your meatloaf. Meatloaf is awful and you don't want to throw up your delicious meatloaf because you were listening to Meatloaf.

5. Baked Tilapia

Put your fish in the oven. Is there a joke in there somewhere? I don't know. The good thing about fish is that you can eat a ton of it and you won't get all sleepy afterwards. Is there a joke in there?

4. Parmesan Chicken

Not chicken parmesan like from Olive Garden, with red sauce and cheese. Dunk your chicken boobies in eggs, and roll them around in a bag with parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs and whatever spices sound good to you. Get those things baked as hell, like Dave Chapelle in the 90's.

3. Steak On The Grill


2. Pork Tenderloin

Slow cooked in the crock pot with soy sauce, onion soup mix, and some red wine. It will start to smell real good after about an hour, and fantastically good at the four hour mark. Do not attempt to have sex with this meal while it is still in said crock pot as you might burn yourself; Wait until it has cooled off a bit. Surprisingly, this last instruction is hardly ever listed in cookbooks.

1. Lasagna

Follow this recipe and thank me later. This lasagna is a fucking phenomenon. She calls for two minced garlic cloves. I prefer to use approximately one fuckton, which is a very scientific unit of measurement that you can Google at your leisure.

"My Personal Top 10" - Paul Downs from The Larroquettes

Chicago's own Paul Downs, lead singer and guitarist for The Larroquettes, give us his "Personal Top 10" favorite albums. Paul's a big fan of music in general, so you may be surprised at some of his picks. After you check out his Top 10, be sure to check out his band who's new album "Quartet Loser" is out now on Suicide By Suit Global Records. Also be sure to check out the bands official website for tour dates and merch or hit em up on Facebook.

Not in any order. They're all number one for me depending on which way the wind is blowing and if I'm in the correct mood or not.

BLUR - Leisure
On Saturday nights during my sophomore year of high school I would camp out in front of the TV and watch JBTV religiously. One night the video for BLURS "She's So High" came on. We didn't have cable and the TV we had, was old with one speaker and an antennae. I experiences a mono, lo-fi, fuzzy pictured version of it in all its spender. Something happened in my brain while viewing that video, as if I was put into a trance of some sort. My brain chemistry changed right then and there. The time was perfect for this to happen as I was just on the verge of dealing with my first major spell of depression, which landed me in a hospital for troubled teens for most of 1992. For a few months prior to the hospital experience, I discovered Britpop. Britpop in itself somehow fed my meloncollie teenage dispare and made it romantic and ok. It created a new and non threatening place for me to experience these new feelings. It made me comfortable with being melon-collie about shit like wanting a girlfriend and not feeling cool or handsome enough to land one. It made me feel ok to be alone and depressed in a non threatening manner. I didn't feel alone any longer with my britpop around me. God I sound like a pussy!

My Bloddy Valentine - Loveless
Kinda like the BLUR experience, I got my hands on this cassette in 1993. I would sit in my room and listen to this album over and over again. A guy I grew up with stopped being friends with me because I listened to this album ALL the time and wanted to play music like this. Fuzzed, large depth charges of sound that would challenge not only the human ear but the amplifiers blasting this shit out. I wanted to just fall into the pillowyness of the sound. I literally buried myself in this cassette. I didn't leave home for days on end as I sought comfort in this music. Fucking fantastic shit. This is when I really wanted to start playing music. I didn't get a job literally for years. I sat in my room and recorded shit tons of tripped out stuff on a Tascam 4-track recorder. 

Metallica - Kill Em All
To me a true metal album. Bullet belts, denim vests, White Reeboks with the tongue hanging out, holey jeans, cigarettes, old style and fucking guitar solos. Not my first metal album but still pulls on my heart strings when it comes to identifying a true metal album of any sort. Its funny hearing Metallica talk about this album like it was some bad experience. I could only imagine that if all metal albums continued to be recorded just like this one, we wouldn't have any shitty metal albums out there at all. Though that is in the eye of the beholder. I learned how to play guitar to this album. Made me feel like a 100 bucks. 

Venom - Black Metal
My first taste of anything declared as "Satanic" with metal. A high school friend of mine got it at a garage sale with no case or cover on cassette. Around this time a group of friends and me where talking about starting a band which would've been our first. I thought it would be cool to call the band Goat Head, purely inspired by the Venom cassette of course. Everyone was like "FUCK YEA!" to the idea, except for one friend, who freaked out, broke my Ouija Board in half and ran out of my room yelling at us, calling us "Satan dudes." What the fuck is a Satan dude? None the less, this album remains in my rotation as its one of the most balls out recordings of all time. Truly one of the most balls out bands of all time. Fuck going to 11! This shit goes to 15!

Ryan Adams - Rock'n'Roll
A friend of mine turned me onto Ryan Adams in 2004. It took me awhile but then this album came out. I used to think everything had to be like Venom to be rock'n'roll. Everything had to be extremely distorted and audibly rude to the fucking max to be rock'n'roll. Then I heard this CD and was reminded that song writing has a lot to do with it also! This is also around the time I truly started to listen to the Rolling Stones as well. This album however is a great all around rock'n'roll album, period. This album reminds me of winters in Chicago and living on Irving Park with friends of mine. Cigarettes, coffee, Chicago and Chicago rock'n'roll. The best part of all is the first night I hung out with my now fiance, she had this in the CD player of her car just about the time I was totally into this CD. 

DRI - Dealing With It
I remember making 90 minute mix tapes of just 3 songs off this album and 2 specific Black Flag songs. Mad Man, Couch Slouch, and I'd Rather Be Sleeping mixed in with Nervous Breakdown and Wasted. Keith Morris area of course. I would listen to this tape over and over and over. DRI was my answer to all the stuck up metal jerk offs in high school. "Oh yea you're into Overkill? Check this shit out poser!" DRI blew everything else out of the fucking water for me. 

Black Flag - The First Four Years
See DRI - Dealing With It. Again, my response to everyone else freshman year of high school. FUCK YOU!

Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz
Somehow, someway, I received this cassette from my brother when I was 5 years old for Christmas. My brother is to blame for all this! Bless that man!

Van Halen - Van Halen I
My brother and sister are 10 and 11 years older than me and they baby sat a lot as my folks worked. I would tag along with them during the summer time with one of them and witness how teenagers in 1978 enjoyed their time. As you can imagine, it involved Frisbee at the forest preserve, beers, weed and the Loop cranking out Nugent, Van Halen, ZZ Top, etc. Being a guitar douche bag, I dug my heels into Van Halen. To this day, every time I hear Jamies Cryin or whatever song from that album, it makes me think of those times being there to witness first hand the "do bongs" generation. I look fondly upon those memories.

Death - Leprosy
In 1988 I asked for Death Angels, Frolic Through The Park, for Christmas because I was afraid to asked for Death Leprosy. I thought my mom would freak on the choice so I went with my number 2 option. By mistake, she bought me Death Leprosy instead. Because it had the word "Death" in the title, she thought it would be just as good and she couldn't find the Death Angel album. She had no idea I wanted Death Leprosy. It was in the stars. It was meant to be. DEATH TO FALSE METAL!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Interview With Naked Raygun Part 2

And on to our second part of my exclusive interview with Naked Raygun. In this installment the band talks about Free Shit, Canada, vinyl records and much more.

Critical Mass: You guy's released a series of 7"s, since you guys have been back, over the course of a year and a half now. Are we gonna get a new record? Like a full length? or maybe take those 6 songs, add some new songs to make a full length?

Jeff Pezzati: There you go. That's what we're doing.

CM: It's been a long time coming, I tell ya. I mean we really haven't had a decent follow up to "Raygun...Naked Raygun".

Pierre Kezdy: No one releases physical items anymore. 

Bill Stephens: Originally it was to keep a steady stream of downloads always available to keep popping up. But for some reason we seem to have gotten into this vinyl thing. So I think we're concentrating on a medium that no one has the technology to play anymore. And when we get enough of THAT, we'll release it (on another format).

JP: And I think people excuse us because they say "they're old guys."

BS: They think "well, they're old now, they may not know there's anything other than vinyl."

PK: "They're doing the only thing they know, which is vinyl."

JP: We're just not on CD. We have vinyl and a download.

BS: Well, they didn't release the last one on download. Did they ever put the last one on download?

Eric Spicer: I don't know.

BS: I think you can only get that one on vinyl.

Pete Mittler: We can change that in 10 minutes.

JP: What's the point? We're not getting any money for it.

PK: (To Jeff) How many iTunes checks have you cashed?

JP: Only from Touch And Go (Records). I just want to go on record as saying that Touch And Go is the only record label that ever gave me money AFTER the album came out. Ever!

CM: Really?

JP: Ever!

CM: Caroline didn't give you anything?

JP: Ever....Ever...Ever!!!

CM: That's just wrong.

BS: Well if that's the way the math works, then that's the way the math works. But yeah, I've only gotten a check from Touch And Go.

PK: Well, we can thank Caroline, who was a subsidiary of Virgin (Records), who was owned by that billionaire guy (Richard) Branson. I just want him to make good, and send us a check now.

PM: He's long since retired by now. He snorted your profits a long time ago. 

CM: Since the gap in time when you guy's officially took your leave of absence, and besides your one off shows at Metro and Beat Kitchen and getting back together, do you feel your audience has grown larger and stronger with, not only us old fans, but with a new generation of Raygun fans who maybe didn't get the chance to see you the first time around?

JP: Well, we're trying to get that going. But I wanna this as far as any secret shows coming up, we'll be using, for all secret shows from now on, (the name) Leo Slayer".

BS: It's true!

CM: So no more Negro Commando?

JP: No, it's Leo Slayer.

CM: Let’s talk about Free Shit! You guys have been tossing out "free shit" at your shows for years. How did this get started and do you remember the first "free shit" you threw into the crowd?

ES: It's Pierre. He started it!

PK: Well, the first "free shit" we ever threw out was dollar bills. We threw out a bunch of money. $40, so we give back.

JP: I announced that "people said we sold out, and we added it up and we did sell out...and we owe you forty bucks!" (re-enacts throwing the money into the crowd)

CM: And that's how it started?

ES: No, we had something else. I don't know what it was.

PK: Combs! Yeah, we had combs that said "Naked Raygun...get a haircut."

ES: And you used to say, "hey you want some free shit?"

PK: Yeah, and the crowd picked up on it and started yelling free shit.

CM: Jeff, last year you reunited with original Raygun members Santiago Durango and Camilo Gonzalez with Eric filling in for Jim Colao. What was it like playing with Santiago and Camilo again after so many years?

JP: Well, it was just like it used to be. Santiago had no sound for the whole first song, even though Sean McQue (sic?) went up there and got his guitar working, and amp working, and got it making sound, and had it in a stand in front of the speaker making sound...he went and grabbed a different guitar.

PK: He just grabbed the wrong guitar.

JP: For a whole song? (Laughter)

PK: That's very Santiago.

ES: I actually played that night (filling in for injured original drummer Jim Colao). I was the only one there nobody wanted to see. (Laughter)

CM: I saw the flyer for the shows 3 weeks after it went on sale, and it was sold out and I couldn't get in.

JP: Too bad it sold out. I made zero dollars on that show. That's the last shows I'll play for free. Just to let you was for a good cause...but that's the last time I'll play for free.

BS: So, if you have some type of Cancer benefit or something like that....FUCK YOU! (laughter)

CM: Did they film that show? I heard that it was filmed and that it was possibly gonna be released.

BS: Yeah, the guy who filmed it on his phone released it on YouTube.

JP: Riot Mike got a plaque for that. It said thanks for your donation. I got nothing. I didn't get any free drinks....

PM: But didn't Mike have something to do with that show?

PK: It's terrible that you do a free show and you don't even get a free beer or anything. 

CM: Is the pre-Thanksgiving show the last show for this year? Or will you guy's be playing under that assumed name (Leo Slayer)?

BS: Why? What do you have going for New Years?

CM: Probably changing shit baby diapers. I have the new addition to the family coming.

BS: If you can get us a show in Canada...

JP: I won't play Canada. (LOOOOONG Story!)

CM: What can we expect from Naked Raygun in 2012?

JP: More singles. Putting that CD together finally.

BS: Put something out on cassette.

CM: I would buy that! All my old Raygun records were on cassette.

JP: Go out of town and tour...just not Canada. No offense. It's nothing personal. (After a story about the Canadian customs garage and Pierre in his underwear....GREAT story.) Imagine trudging over the Canadian Rockies, that are really big Rockies, that make our Rockies look puny. Coming down off the Rockies and seeing Calgary in the distance...large town in the middle of nowhere...pulling into Calgary, and pulling into the show...and who do you see begging for a show, begging to get on your bill...

PK: U.K. Subs.


PK: Oh my GOD!

JP: What are U.K. Subs doing in Calgary without a show?

PK: It was in 1980, I went to London (England) to see the U.K. Subs live. Five or six thousand people going up and down pogoing at one of their shows. And then, fucking less than 10 years later pulling up as a bar band, in Calgary, in a parking lot and having them beg to get on your bill, which already had 3 bands on it....for like fifty bucks!

CM: Thank again guys for agreeing to be interviewed for Critical Mass. I appreciate it greatly. And I'll be seeing you on Nov. 23 at the Metro!

And with that, I had 1 more beer and shared a few more stories with the guys in Naked Raygun. This was my first sit down interview, and I had a great time. The band I looked up to, and STILL look up to, the group I STILL consider hometown heroes were kind, generous, funny and welcoming to me and my crew who filmed this interview and took some of the pictures you've seen throughout the 2 parts of this interview (Christine and Tiffany, I can't thank you both enough for helping out and being so supportive). I again, want to thank the guy's in Naked Raygun, Jeff, Eric, Pierre, Bill and Pete for their generosity in allowing me and the CM crew to invade their practice space for this interview. I know most of my other sit downs may not be this cool...and that's why THIS one will go down as my personal favorite. Thanks Gentlemen. Be sure to check out the bands website and Facebook page for news on upcoming shows and releases. 

 All Photos by Tiffany Shewchuk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview With Naked Raygun Part 1

To mark the 6 month anniversary of Critical Mass I was granted an exclusive sit down interview with the one and only, Naked Raygun, at the band's rehearsal space in Chicago. Being a fan of the band going back to the 80's, this was not only a once in a lifetime interview for me, but an honor to be among some of the greatest guys I could have ever asked to interview. It was such a thrill to interview Raygun members, past and present, Jeff Pezzati, Eric Spicer, Pierre Kezdy, Bill Stephens and Pete Mittler. So, without further ado here is part 1 of my interview with Chicago legends, Naked Raygun!

Critical Mass: Thank you guy's for talking with Critical Mass. This being the six month anniversary of this blog, I really do appreciate this. You guys really played the Metro a lot in the 80s up to your initial split in the early 90's. It was almost like your second home when you played here. Does the Metro hold a special place in your heart than say the HOB or Congress Theater, where you've played more since getting back together?

Eric Spicer: I would say probably in a way, yeah.

Bill Stephens: Well, you know I thought recently that, y'know beyond this band, I've been coming to the Metro now for 30 years. So, that's a lot of money that Joe Shanahan has banked. And a lot of bad shows I saw there. So, essentially as far as being special, it's just there. It's always been there.

CM: I just remember always seeing you there. And seeing you play anywhere other than the Metro just seemed weird.

Jeff Pezzati: I've only been going to the Metro for about 3 years.

Pierre Kezdy: Then who was showing up all those other years? Your twin brother?

ES: Yeah we want him back. Ditch you and get that other guy. (Laughter)

CM:The upcoming gig at Metro is just a solid line-up of bands. This is like the be all end all of shows this year. How did you guys get all these bands on the bill?

ES: We had nothing to do with that.

BS: I have no idea.

CM: Really? It just happened?

Pete Mittler: I did suggest Dan Vapid.

BS: Who's on the bill again?

CM: The Falcon, Dan Vapid & The Cheats, My Big Beautiful. It's a pretty solid line up of bands.

BS: Yeah, well if you’re in this band no one listens to you.

PK: What's that? Who's talking over there?

BS: Exactly. Especially our management. So, I would have to say that us, Pete and I, suggesting Dan Vapid had NOTHING to do with getting Dan Vapid.

JP: I wanted only 1 thing for this shows warm up, was 3 bands total. 2 bands warming up. So, I didn't get that.

CM: Did (Steev) Custer (from My Big Beautiful) kinda smuggle his way in there?

ES: Yeah he did. He petitioned his way in.

JP: He was in first.

CM: Was he really?

JP: I'll give him credit for being in first. He would call me. I have voice mails from him before it even happened.

PM: I remember getting an e-mail from somebody saying "who do you want on the bill?"

BS: I know, it was Lou (Raygun's merch guy) and then he passed it down.

JP: I wanted 4 shows, 2 albums a night.

CM: Well you could always cut out the other bands and play 4 albums.

BS: Yeah, but whose 4 albums? That's the question. Not ours!

PK: There was some really crappy songs on some of those records. Songs that we would NEVER play.

CM: Like what?

JP: Pierre and I wrote some real stinkers.

CM: Not to sound like an ass kisser, but I can't think of a bad song you guys did.

JP: That does sound like an ass kisser. (Laughter)

BS: So, you wanna hear "Ghetto Mechanic"?

PM: That came up on my iPod the other day and I thought "I should suggest this."

CM: That's a great song. Are you kidding me?

CM: You guys played Riot Fest East in Philly this year. How come you didn't play Chicago?

ES: We didn't get invited.

CM: Really?

BS: We didn't. We weren't invited.

PK: You should ask our manager.

CM: I would rather have seen you guy's over Danzig.

JP: They had better catering in Philadelphia.

BS: They did have good catering.

CM: Cheese steak?

BS: No they had these really great sub sandwiches with, y'know that hot pepper saucy stuff, like a giardiniera blended. It was all blendered up. You know, it was fantastic.

JP: We were promised to meet the band Descendents too. Well, they played here too...

CM: Yeah, Descendents did. I didn't go to any of the shows outside of Teenage Bottlerocket playing Cobra Lounge, and Weezer, Urge Overkill and Bottle rocket playing Congress.

JP: I showed up for the (Weezer’s) "Blue album" only. And I showed up just in time.

PM: Were they (Weezer) playing them by album?

JP: I don't know what they played before hand. But they played the "Blue album" at the end and that's when I got there. And I noticed a lot of people with haircuts.

CM: Oh yeah, it was horrible. A lot of trendy kids.

PK: Yeah before I was in Raygun even we played back up bands, y'know we backed up The Damned.

CM: Oh nice!

PK: Yeah it's nice until you meet The Damned and you find out there a bunch of fucking assholes.

JP: Captain Sensible was a nice guy.

PK: Well, not to us he wasn't! And I've never bought a Damned record after that. 

CM: Pete, you've played with some Chicago legends like Dan Schafer in the Methadones, Denis Buckley in Explode and Make Up, and The Bomb w/Jeff among others. And when I interviewed you for CM in August you said that playing with Raygun "is surreal." Do you still have to pinch yourself every now and again and say "Oh my god I'm playing with these guy's"? Or is it more comfortable?

BS: You know there's many ways to look at surreal.

JP: For example having Bill answer your question for you. (Laughter)

PK: Well, like a direct kinda surreal?

PM: Well, when I said surreal I meant like it's just strange cuz it's y'know I grew up watching...I'm sorry that I'm 40 and I grew up watching you.

ES: He said it's surreal drag! (Laughter)

PM: I saw the band all the time at Metro and places like that, and then this just doesn't seem like anything you would think it would be beforehand. When Lou (Raygun's merch guy) called me and said you know "do you wanna play that show" back in February, my first response was "I can't do that...I can't do that". And then the other part of me kicked me in the ass and said "what the fucks wrong with you?" So, to answer your question I do enjoy doing it. But I would enjoy more seeing him (points at Pierre) being able to do this again.  

CM: Bill, what's it like not being the "new guy" anymore after 20+ years?

BS: Well, I've been in this band now for 4 decades, 2 millennia, 2, if that's, I know sure...It seems, it actually seems much longer. 

Stay tuned!!! Part 2 coming soon!!!