Friday, December 16, 2011

"My Personal Top 10" - Kevin Sierzega from P.T.'s Revenge

This weeks Top 10 comes from a guy who's given so much to the punk community and has asked for very little in return. He's the voice behind such bands as Teen Idols (mach II), Bullets To Broadway and P.T.'s Revenge. He's currently hard at work on a brand new P.T.'s album, the bands first to feature new material in over 10 years, you can read the official press release from Whoa! Records here, as well as gearing up for P.T.'s reunion show coming up on Dec. 30 at Small's Bar in Hamtramck, MI. With HIS "Personal Top 10" favorite punk vocalists, one of my personal favorite punk vocalist and an all around great guy, Mr. Kevin Sierzega! Take us into the weekend, Kevin!

My Personal Top 10 Favorite Voices of Punk Rock

I would like to begin by stating that this list took many attempts to finalize. The first few drafts may have well been my favorite punk albums of all time or the most influential front men of punk or my favorite lyricists of the punk community. Maybe it’s my love for the different sub-genres punk music has to offer or maybe there are simply too many legendary voices to choose from, but I found it nearly impossible to come up with a list without excluding some of my favorites. So I’ve cheated a little bit as you will soon discover. I’m leaving out some of the most obvious voices to create a slightly less dated Top 10. Therefore Joey Ramone, Joe Strummer, Glenn Danzig, Iggy Pop, (you get the idea) did not make the list. In addition, this is not a list of “political voices”. Justin Sane from Anti-Flag, although largely influential in voicing his opinions on topics regarding our government and our rights as American citizens is also not on the list. That’s not the kind of “VOICE” I’m referring to. I’m talking about that feeling you get when you hear the vocals begin to your favorite song. How the sound and tone of that singer’s voice moves you beyond the lyrics and chord progressions of that record.

10. Chris Wollard/Chuck Ragan - Hot Water Music - As you can see I’ve begun my list by cheating. Fuck you! It’s my list and I can include duos if I want. Raw uncompromising power is how I would describe the vocal onslaught that is Hot Water. It’s easy to make Fugazi references here, but I’d rather listen to “A Flight and A Crash” or “No Division” than any Fugazi album out there mainly due to the marriage of Chris and Chuck‘s voices. Sue me. Not only that, but their respective solo projects find themselves in heavy rotation on my ipod.

9. Ben “Weasel“ Foster - Screeching Weasel/Riverdales - He sounds like an asshole! And most of the time he is. That’s what I admire the most about his voice. It’s real. Snotty and out of tune (like 99% of the tracks on Boogada) is how I like Ben’s voice. There is some kind of weird chemistry on other poppy gems like “Veronica Hates Me” and “Totally” that can only be pulled off by Ben Weasel. Sir Asshole…I salute you. Listen to "Kill the Musicians".

8. Fat Mike - NOFX - Not because of the lashings he has been dishing out to the Religious Right over the past decade (BRAVO Mike!!!) or the tongue and cheek lyrics that find Tegan and Sara wishing they would have finished high school and chose a different career path, but because of the bratty teenager that never left his vocal chords. Listen to “The Brews” or “Don’t Call Me White” off of Punk in Drublic and you will fall in love with Fat Mike’s voice. Fuck it, listen to the entire album. I’m gonna put it on now!

7. Blake Schwarzenbach - Jawbreaker/Jets To Brazil - This is one I struggled with. Maybe it’s the guilt of liking “Dear You” exponentially more than it’s punk sounding predecessors “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” and “Bivouac“. Maybe I’m influenced by his brilliant lyrics or the enjoyment I get from listening to Jets to Brazil. Or maybe I struggled with the “emo” to “punk” ratio of the band as a whole. That being said, I’ve always thought of Jawbreaker as a punk band and ultimately, the legendary horror story of the million dollar major label record deal and the coincidental breakup have no bearing on how I feel when I listen to “Save Your Generation“ or “Jet Black“. Blake’s voice has a melancholy and grit that combine to form an unmistakable tone that has influenced many current artists of punk rock like Chris McCaughan of Lawrence Arms, Chris Fogal of the Gamits, as well as many other Chris’s.

6. Jay Navarro - Suicide Machines - DETROIT!!! It’s hard not to be influenced by the fact I’ve looked up to this dude since I was twelve or the fact that “Destruction By Definition” is one of my top 3 favorite albums of all time or that Navarro has the greatest stage presence I‘ve ever seen, so I’ll talk about something else…his voice! Largely influenced by hardcore’s finest acts, Jay’s ability to transition between melodic hooks and throat shredding screams is unrivaled. If you have ever played the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game, you’ve heard the song “New Girl” and you know exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. Huzzah!!!

5. Dennis Lyxzen - Refused/International Noise Conspiracy - Another amazing front man/lyricist. When I heard the first line of the first song off of “The Shape of Punk to Come” I knew I was hearing something special. Dennis had “a bone to pick with capitalism” and I sure as hell believed him. I’ve never heard as much conviction in a voice and I don’t think I ever will. Dennis’ voice is unmistakable and unique with screams that push his vocals to places I’ve never thought were possible. And he makes it sound sexy! “New Noise” is the obvious classic I suggest you hear.

4. Brendan Kelly - Lawrence Arms/Falcon/Broadways/Slapstick - Did I miss any? Somewhere I read that the Lawrence Arms are the “punk bank for the people”. That probably has to do with their memorable songs, clever lyrics, and catchy hooks, but for me it means a bit more. Brendan seems like your average everyday guy venting his frustrations and that’s something that attracted me to Punk in the first place. Being able to vent about work, society, my parents, school, love, the government or just life in general. Nobody will make you feel like it’s acceptable to drink a shitty beer an bitch about your life more than Brendan. Through all his musical projects there is one constant, his voice. Raspy and coarse, it slurs at times and is precise at others. Either way it sounds like he swallowed sand paper before he hit puberty and I love every second of it!!! Get a 12 pack of Old Style and listen to “Oh! Calcutta!”.

3. Tim Armstrong - Rancid - If someone that has never heard what punk music sounds like asked me what record they should listen to get the best idea, I’d be inclined to say “Check out Let’s Go from Rancid”. What the fuck is Tim saying? Don’t know, don’t care! Funny thing is that he speaks normally when he’s not singing. Bullets To Broadway opened for Rancid in Nashville a while back and we ran into Tim for a brief second by our van after we played. He walked up to Heather and said, ”You guys sound really good, nice set.” I guess I half expected him to spit all over the place and sound like Sloth from the Goonies, but he spoke with an unnerving clarity. Fucked up. Listen to “Radio”, but you all know what Tim Armstrong sounds like.

2. Jason Beebout - Samiam - Remarkably inspiring is how I would describe Jason’s voice. The way he can take a verse to a chorus is a dynamic perfection. “Capsized” or any of the first four tracks off of “You Are Freaking Me Out” are perfect examples of his talent. The way he attacks a song has directly influenced the way I write and sing. His lyrics are brought to life by a passion and vigor that I could relate to the first time I heard his vocals. Do yourself a favor and add “Clumsy”, “Your Are Freaking Me Out”, and “Astray” to your music library. You can thank me later.

1. Jesse Michaels - Operation Ivy’s “Energy” is the most infectious and memorable album I will ever hear in my life. I know songs like “Knowledge” and “Unity” are punk rock classics, but imagine them with a different voice. They’re simply not the same. His voice has an angst and honesty that lends a certain authenticity to his lyrics. I remember sitting on the couch at Sonic Iguana while Jesse was recording lead vox to a song on Common Rider’s “This is Unity Music” (the title of the particular song escapes me). I also remember getting chills as he sang the first few lines thinking, “Holy shit, this is the voice of Op Ivy”. A few minutes later came a moment I’ll never forget. After finishing a verse with one of his raspy vibratos Jesse asked, “Hey Kevin, did you like the smooth take or the rough one?” Without hesitation I replied, “the rougher one.” Then he asked, “Why?” I said, “Cause it sounds more like you.” He paused for a second and then told Mass to keep the rough take with the raspier vocal. To this day I always wonder what he was thinking when he paused for that moment. Maybe he was thinking, “This kid is an idiot! Of course it sounds like me. It’s my voice.” Or maybe he understood what I meant. Maybe he knew how much the actual sound of his voice could influence people like myself when it has that magical tone. Just like on “Energy“. My favorite album of all time due to my favorite punk rock voice of all time.

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