Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Concert Review: Dan Vapid & The Cheats May 27th Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL

Expectations were high for Dan Vapid & The Cheats first ever show May 27th at the Cobra Lounge in Chicago. People came from out of town to see the show that was a make up of sorts for the aborted Weasel Fest that was supposed to have taken place Memorial Day Weekend at Reggies. Besides the die hard locals and out of towners, there were even some celebs in the house for the show. Joe Principe from Rise Against, Jeff Pezzati from Naked Raygun and Larry Damore from Bhopal Stiffs/Pegboy were there for the show getting their drink on and getting ready to blow the roof off the Cobra in a celebration of music.

The show kicked off with Sheboygan, Wisconsin's Jetty Boys who's sound and style are very reminiscent of Green Day. Although I'm not a fan, they seemed to get the crowd ready with their brand of pop/punk music. Singer/guitarist Drew Fredrichsen worked the stage like a madman trying to get the crowds attention. And it worked to some degree. Just not with me.

Up next was the Kurt Baker Band. This was my first time seeing them, and I was actually won over by the bands super catchy power/pop songs. Baker, formerly of The Leftovers, has a style that's a modernized version of new wave era Elvis Costello. The band is tight, and Baker takes control when he performs. Keeping you in his grip and never letting you go. If people where not fans when he hit the stage, they were by the time his bands set was over. Myself included. I would make the trek to see the Kurt Baker Band again!

Now it was time for the main attraction! The moment we were all waiting for! The Cheats hit the stage running and never let up, playing 20+ songs from Vapid's entire musical career. From Screeching Weasel and Sludgeworth, to The Mopes, the Riverdales and Methadones. "Bored Of Television", "Make Way", "Baby Doll", "High School Psychopath"...they played them all. The band consisted of Dan (Schafer) Vapid on vocals/guitar, Mike Byrne on guitar, Simon Lamb on bass and Mike Soucy on drums. And band was tight, dead on and seemed to be having fun. Which is what the night was all about. FUN!

There were even a few guest appearances peppered in to make a special night even better! Chef James Toland from the Black Sheep restaurant/band sang the chorus on "I Could Be Into You (If You Were Into Me)". Adam Cargin, formerly of the most recent line up of Weasel and Riverdales, played drums on "Crash Of The Moons". Joe Principe played bass on the Sludgeworth classic "Someday". And at the end of the show the band brought up Pete Mittler for a Methadones reunion (Schafer, Byrne and Soucy all played in the Meths with Mittler) playing "Far Away" and the Pointed Sticks cover "Out Of Luck".

The smiling faces proved beyond a doubt that the Cheats made the start of the 2011 Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago memorable. And to them I tip my hat!

Now on a more serious note. It was in the wake of the events at SXSW, and the cancellation of Weasel Fest, that this show was made possible. It shows that with positive energy, good music and loyal friends and fans, the mistakes of others can make way for a brighter future. That we CAN learn from past mistakes and move forward in a positive way. Dan Vapid & The Cheats PROVED that! And we can only hope that they continue to bring happiness through their music and live performances for many more years to come. Job well done gentlemen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Rush DVD Set For Release On September 27

According to UltimateGuitar.Com, Canadian power trio Rush will be releasing their new live DVD on September 27. The concert filmed in Cleveland, OH on April 15 at Quicken Loans Arena will feature the "Moving Pictures" album in it's entirety. The band has been performing all of "MP" on their current Time Machine Tour to mark the 30th anniversary of the legendary album that spawned such Rush classics as "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta" and "Limelight". Direct link can be found HERE!

Interview With Squirtgun Vocalist/Poet/Teacher Matt Hart

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Matt. Fans know you as the lead singer for Squirtgun. Can you give us a little history on how the band got started?

Matt Hart: Squirtgun started in 1992 – 93—though we weren’t called Squirtgun at that point.  The Giorgini brothers (Mass and Flav) and the inimitable Dan Lumley were in a band at that point called Rattail Grenadier.  I was in graduate school at Ohio University studying Philosophy and teaching Logic.  For a variety of reasons that I can’t remember, Rattail’s singer (their 4th, I think) quit the band.  That’s when I got the call from Mass to come to Indiana and do some demos with Rattail.  The connection there is that during the late 80’s I was in a band in Evansville, IN (where I’m from originally) called Freaks of Nature, and we used to play shows with Rattail (who were from Lafayette, IN).  That’s how we all became friends in the first place.

At any rate, in the spring or summer of ’93 I did go to Lafayette to do some demos, but it became pretty clear to all of us that with me singing it wasn’t going to be Rattail anymore (they were a more hardcore/metally band, and I just didn’t have the throat for that).  Plus, I had a bunch of songs to add to the mix, and I started writing lyrics/melodies for some music that the other guys had already worked up. That’s how it all started.  I think in those first sessions we recorded “Social,” “Mr Orange,” “Allergic to You,” “Long So Long” “Liar’s Corner” and “With a Grin and a Kick,” among others.  because of Mass’ connection with Lookout at that point, it made sense for us to try and get a deal with them.  Mass wanted the band to have a cartoon-y pop-punk sort of name, and I came up with Squirtgun (I wish I hadn’t, but I did.  In retrospect, I should’ve come up with Piano Smash or Death’s Head Rabbit or Notes after Blacking Out—anything but Squirtgun…).

CM: I had the chance to see Squirtgun play, and actually meet you, a couple of years ago in Chicago when the band played with Teen Idols and 88 Fingers Louie. And you guy's were amazing live! Are there any plans for another Squirtgun album or possible tour?

MH: I’m glad you liked the live show.  We had fun doing those a couple of summers ago, but I kind of think that was it.  The end.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ve been wrong before, and we’re all still great friends, so I guess anything is possible.  But Flav is a research scientist in genetics at the University of Leicester in England now.  Mass just got his PhD in Spanish and is teaching at several colleges/Universities.  I teach Writing and Literature at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (a four year college of Art and Design) and I’m a poet (more on that below).  Dan writes for the Lafayette newspaper.  Additionally, Flav and I both have young children, so it’s tough to get away to rehearse, much less tour.  The truth is I haven’t even picked up a guitar, other than the toy guitar my daughter has, in more than a year.  I get the same charge writing and reading poems that I got playing in bands, so it’s hard to imagine going back to music, but if something comes up that’s too good to be true…well, I’ll never say never, but there are no plans.

CM: Who were your musical influences growing up and do you think those influences come through in your songwriting?

MH: Songwriting?  Oh man, I’m sure it’s mind boggling to some people, but I don’t write songs anymore AT ALL—NONE.  That said, the music I grew up with certainly influences who I am as a poet.  In fact, I just wrote a long essay in four parts for Coldfront Mag online where I discuss exactly the connections between punk rock and my writing.  You can see them here:

One thing I don’t discuss in the essays above is how much music performance, especially punk vocalists, have influenced the way I perform poetry.  I think I’ve always been someone who likes singers/bands that nearly fly apart on stage. That’s certainly something I’ve always tried to do.  There’s a recklessness to performance, which is both thrilling and potentially disastrous.  I mean, if you’re really in it, you’re totally weird-wired and also vulnerable as hell…  Every time I walk on stage/up to a mic whether it’s playing with a band or reading poetry, I’m trying for ekstasis—that is, to be literally beside myself, watching myself, the audience, the vast and the void.

Actually, I want a similar thing to occur when I’m writing; I want to “wake up” typing with a poem in front of me.  I get pretty wound up whatever I’m doing, but this keeps it exciting.  Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s terrible.  Extremity is crucial.  The experience has to be full-throttle.  Volcano mixed with trickster mixed with stars and giant heart.  Giant vision, giant voice. 

In this respect, my influences were and still are bands like Alice Cooper, Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys, The Sex Pistols, The Circle Jerks, The Germs, Lifetime, Jawbreake. More recent bands I’ve really been into are The Blood Brothers, forgetters, Shellac, Titus Andronicus, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Hold Steady.

I like performances (and try to give performances when I read) that are volatile, dynamic, noisy, and declarative.  I mean, whether I’m at a poetry reading or a rock show, I always want to have my face blown off and leave feeling like I’ve just seen something which is nearly inexplicable, totally surprising and somehow also provocative (both physically and intellectually).  I want to be moved, and I want to move other people.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”  To me this is the bedrock of punk rock, and it’s exactly the reason so many of us are so wide up awake even in our sleep.  I’m looking in performances for something ecstatic (and there it is again, ekstasis), something outside the outside, totally in fits—like breathing fire by creating a flame thrower in one’s gut, not metaphorically but for real with the real.

CM: Back when you first started out playing in bands, pre mid 90's punk explosion, was it hard to find places to play outside of house parties?

MH: We definitely played some house parties, but we also played a lot of gymnasiums and college student centers, VFW Halls, and little all ages clubs that would pop up here and there (then disappear just as quickly)—for example, Mass’ Spud Zero in Lafayette, which was around for a couple of years and hosted everybody from The Zero Boys and Screeching Weasel to Naked Raygun and Green Day.  There were plenty of places to play, and when there weren’t we created them.  We did it ourselves, and that continues to influence who I am.  I don’t ever have the sense that there’s something I can’t do.  Not having money or resources is no excuse to not follow one’s dreams and passions.  DIY all the way.  Make it happen.

CM: How do you feel the scene has changed since those early days? Do you feel the scene has gotten better or suffered in the wake of "mall punk" and bands like Green Day going multi-platinum?

MH: Well given that Squirtgun’s most famous song is in a movie called Mallrats, I don’t really think I can disparage mall punk.  I mean, where I come from mall punk is all there was/is?  I was mall punk in 1984.  There was no such thing as punk rock in southern Indiana back then.  We had nothing to do and nowhere to go, so we hung out at the mall—and hatched plans to have shows in people’s basements, etc.  I once played a show in a stairwell, between a basement and a first floor.  I played a show in a kitchen in Knoxville, TN.  I’ve also played shows in soccer arenas.  The point is: punk is and always has been about doing it yourself.  The labels don’t matter.  Labels are the antithesis of punk.

As for the scene, I don’t really think there’s much to say.  And even if I did think there was something to say, it wouldn’t make any difference—which is a great thing.  I’m just one guy, and I don’t even go to shows anymore, so I don’t really know anything about the scene—not even whether or not there is (or ever was) one.  The important thing is that to some extent or other there will always be young people in revolt—both literally and figuratively/artistically.   And that means things may ebb and flow, but punk rock and its various tributaries (those established and those not even thought of yet) are a fact of our existence, which is lucky for us.

CM: Are there any newer bands out there, not necessarily punk bands, that you really enjoy listening to?

MH: More recent bands I’ve really been into are The Blood Brothers, forgetters, Shellac, Titus Andronicus, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Hold Steady. 

Additionally, I love jazz—especially super noisy, squealy, squawky, tear your hair out jazz, e.g. Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra…  Love those Sonic Youth Records’ (SYR) Sonic Youth records (the super feedback-y noisy ones), Storm and Stress, DNA.

But man, I listen to everything from Classical music to Bluegrass to Hardcore.

I always wanted to be in a hardcore band.  Johnny Whitney, late of the Blood Brothers, has the most kickass voice of anybody.  Blake Schwarzenbach, too.  And Darby Crash…

CM: In recent years, as mentioned, you've worked at the Art Academy Of Cincinnati and have even started writing poetry. Has any of your writing been published?

MH: Just to be clear, I started writing poetry long before I was in Squirtgun and I’ve continued writing it very seriously all these years.  I have three published full-length collections, Who’s Who Vivid (Slope Editions, 2006), Wolf Face (H_NGM_N Books, 2010) and Light-Headed (BlazeVOX, 2011).  A new book of poems—my punk rock book of poems—Sermons and Lectures both Blank and Relentless will be published in the spring of 2012 by Typecast Publishing.  I’m really excited about that one.  My hope is to open some punk shows reading from it.  It’s pretty out there, weaving together references to early punk rock, my own personal life, and various philosophers/philosophical positions as a way to talk about human feeling/being, visionary activity and transcendence.  The poems are really fiery, and it would be awesome to deliver them in front of a wild at heart, punk rock audience.

Speaking of the Sermons and Lectures, I should mention that a different section of it appears at the end of each of the essays I linked you to above. 

Beyond that, there’s a ton of my poetry out there for anybody who’s interested.  I also give tons of readings, so it’s pretty easy to catch me live.  Over the last ten or fifteen years I’ve given readings from NYC to San Francisco and everywhere in between.  Last summer I read in China for the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and the US Department of State.  This fall I’ll be back in NYC and also Portland, OR and Seattle.  It’s great work if you can get it.   

CM: Can you give us some of your influences as far as literature?

MH: Yeah, I tend to like things that are surprising (both in terms of their content and the way/s they use language).  I love the Romantics, the Surrealists, The Beats, The New York School Poets… Here’s a reading list:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (especially the Conversation poems)
John Keats
John Clare
The Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud
“Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville
Emily Dickinson (one of our weirdest poets!)
Walt Whitman
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
The Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
The Dada Painters and Poets, Ed. Robert Motherwell
The Poetry of Surrealism, Ed. by Michael Benedikt
The Dream Songs by John Berryman
The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara
The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan
Flannery O’Connor
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Wallace Stevens
On the Road, Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans and Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Gregory Corso (anything)
On Bear’s Head by Philip Whalen
Dean Young (anything)
Indeed I Was Pleased with the World by Mary Ruefle
This Is Not a Novel by David Markson
Grave of Light: Selected Poems by Alice Notley
Haruki Murakami (especially the short stories)
Donald Barthelme
Kenneth Koch
Lydia Davis
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
The Tennis Court Oath by John Ashbery
The Savage Detectives and 2666 by Roberto Bolano

CM: Do you enjoy writing poetry as much or more than writing music or is there a nice counter balance between both art forms?

MH: I love writing/reading/performing poetry.  Writing music I was never very good at.  I never really cared all that much about being a musician.  I wanted to be a frontman.  I wanted to go the distance lyrically/melodically in dissonance and harmony, but more than that I wanted to be a presence on stage.  I wanted to throw myself against the wall.  I wanted to BE music.  With poetry, I can do that.  I do that.  I try everyday to do that.

CM: Is there a website where we can get news on what you're up to? where we can get some info on your literature writings, music news, possible new releases, up coming appearances or merch?

MH: Yes indeed: www.matthartpoet.com.

CM: I would like to thank you again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. It was a pleasure talking with you, Matt. And I hope we get to hear more from you in the future. Thanks again.

MH: Thanks, Chris.  It was fun.

Friday, May 27, 2011

From The Vaults: Interview With Jake Burns From Stiff Little Fingers

                                                                   Photo by Julie Loebbaka
Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Jake. Being from Belfast and coming up in the early days of the punk revolution, who inspired you to play punk rock and get Stiff Little Fingers going?

Jake Burns: "The Clash were the band’s first and main influence, pretty obviously. But, we listened to everything we could get our hands on. When we started, there weren’t many records available so we gobbled them up as soon as they came out; the first Ramones records, The Damned, Pistols. Even wider stuff like Blondie, The Stranglers and Elvis Costello. I guess we were all sick of the prog rock and guitar noodling crap we’d been listening to before."

CM: How do you feel the punk scene in Belfast was different compared to the American or the English scene?

JB: "It’s difficult to compare it because we didn’t have first-hand experience of those places at the time. Northern Ireland was very insular because of the violence that was happening there. Bands didn’t even want to come over and play. But later on, we realized that certainly the English scene was very similar. No one really knew what they were doing so there were no rules."

CM: I read that before S.L.F. got its name, you were in a band called Highway Star doing rock 'n' roll covers. Obviously the band name is taken from the Deep Purple song. So besides Purple, who were your musical influences early on as well as punk influences later on?

JB: "That band was more a school band kind of thing while it’s true that three of the players did eventually form S.L.F. My first musical influence was undoubtedly Rory Gallagher, who was an amazing blues guitarist from Ballyshannon, Ireland. He gets kinda overlooked these days, but he was every bit as good as the Claptons, Becks and Pages of this world. In fact, there’s a famous story of Jimi Hendrix being asked, 'What’s it like being the best guitarist in the world?' and he replied, 'I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Rory Gallagher.' The next phase of bands I got into would have been what was referred to in Britain as 'pub rock' bands, because they (surprise, surprise) played in bars! Bands like Dr. Feelgood, Eddie & the Hot Rods, then Graham Parker & the Rumour. Guys who played it a bit 'closer to the bone.' Not so much showing off and more emphasis on the song and the attitude."

CM: There's a legend that when you originally released "Suspect Device" on cassette, it was packaged to look like a cassette bomb and that when you sent them out for label consideration one label exec thought it was a real bomb and tossed the tape into a bucket of water. Is there any truth to that? Or was it just a rumor? Truth be told, that's funny as hell if it did happen.

JB: "Yeah, that did happen. Although our manager of the time now isn’t so sure. We had to send them a replacement copy. They never signed us though."

CM: When the band packed up and moved to England in the late '70s, were you well-received upon your arrival? Was there any tension between your band and the British punks of that era?

JB: "Not really. Everyone was very welcoming. We found that we had a lot in common with those guys, even heroes like The Clash were nice guys to us. (Although, I do remember having to listen to a very drunk Rat Scabies once saying to me, 'We did all the fucking work then you swan over the Irish Sea and take all the fucking money!' He & I became very good friends later!!)"

CM: S.L.F. songs have been covered by so many bands over the years from Naked Raygun and Screeching Weasel to Dropkick Murphys and The Swingin' Utters. Do you feel your band's influence has grown broader over the years with these covers?

JB: "It’s always flattering if someone cites you as an influence, although to be honest, there are a lot of bands who say it and I can’t hear us at all in what they do. We’ve been name-checked by everyone from those bands you mentioned to folks like U2, Green Day and even artists like Manu Chao."

CM: Of all the bands who have covered your songs, who do you think did a better version?

JB: "My favorite version of any of our songs was done by an Argentinian band called Attaque 77. They did a fantastic flamenco-esque cover of 'Listen.'"

CM: I know you were part of the recent Black Sheep sessions. How did you get involved in the recording of the upcoming single?

JB: "I was asked by Eric Spicer if I could get involved and as he’s a friend and it was for a good cause, I said, 'sure.' When I later found out that Herb Rosen was doing it as well, that was a bonus. It was great to meet the other guys as well and I enjoy playing on other people’s material so it was cool to contribute a guitar part to Dan Schafer's song."

CM: I had the privilege of interviewing Eric Spicer, Dan Schafer and Mike Byrne, all of whom contributed to the Black Sheep sessions, and all three have said what an honor it was to be able to work with you. How does it make you feel knowing you inspired so many bands who, in return, inspired bands themselves?

JB: "It’s not something I, or the rest of S.L.F. think about that much. You don’t want to come across as 'Old Father Rock,' y’know? But, as I said, it’s always flattering when someone says not only that they like what you do, but that it inspired them to get off their ass and do something for themselves."

CM: After moving to Chicago, what do you think of our local music scene? Are there any bands from the area that get you excited?

JB: "I wasn’t as aware of the Chicago scene as I was of, say, New York or L.A. Those cities just got more coverage outside the U.S. and also, we’d played there a lot more and my wife is from D.C., so I’ve been made aware of the whole D.C. hardcore thing, although that’s not really much to my taste. So, I’ve found out about Chicago bands since I’ve been here and obviously, I’ve been working with Mark DeRosa from Dummy and Joey & John Haggerty from Pegboy in the Nefarious Fat Cats fun/side project. John is a phenomenal guitarist; one of the best I’ve heard. His sound could take your face off. It’s so powerful and yet, his playing is so accurate. Also, another friend, Sean Joyce, who toured with Ministry and The Revolting Cocks has been filling me in on the whole Wax Trax history. He used to work in that store back in the day and has been very generous with his time and expertise. I went along to the first night of the Wax Trax Retrospectacle at Metro and was just blown away by Rights of the Accused. I wish I could have seen them back in the day. And obviously, I’ve guested a couple of times with Raygun, who are just fantastic live as well."

CM: Are there any plans for a new S.L.F. album or possible tour?

JB: "Yep. I’m writing at the moment and we’re just about to head out on a little 'both coasts' kind of tour. Sadly, no Chicago date, although we did try, but maybe have something later in the year."

CM: How can fans get in touch with you and the band? Is there a website where we can get info on new releases, tour dates and merch?

JB: The easiest way to keep up with what we’re doing is to visit: HERE Or you can find us on Facebook, either as S.L.F. or just as myself.

CM: I want to thank you for talking with Critical Mass. It's not every day I get to interview someone who's done so much and influenced so many. I hope we get to see S.L.F. live in Chicago again real soon! Thank you so much Jake.

JB: "You’re welcome. All the best."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interview With Milo Aukerman From Descendents

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Milo. So the Descendents are BACK touring after 15 years away. How does it feel to be back on the road playing to packed houses full of fans?

Milo Aukerman: I have to admit, I was a little stunned at the level of response.  We go away for 15 years, and come back with an even larger audience??  But from a different perspective, it does make sense:  there are many out there who never got to see us in the 80’s or 90’s, so people are really committed to coming out for these shows.  I’m totally loving it, especially because I watched the extreme toil that ALL carried out for many years, and Bill/Stephen/Karl deserve every bit of the attention we are currently getting.

CM: Can you give our readers a little history on the Descendents and how you got involved with the band?

MA: Bill started the band with Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo, in 1978.  They put out a single in 1979, “Ride the Wild”/”It’s a Hectic World,” and Bill started selling it at high school during recess/lunchtime.  I was a classmate of his, and bought a copy of it, and loved it immediately.  I heard where they were practicing at the time (The Church in Hermosa Beach), and showed up at a practice, professing my love for their music.  They actually had a girl singer at the time, who never showed up to practice.  So there was a mike set up, and I said “hey I know Hectic World, lemme take a crack at it!”  It wasn’t a “tryout” at all, just me having some fun, but they asked me to join a few weeks later…not that I could sing at all, but I guess I had the right level of enthusiasm!  We practiced like crazy for the next year or so, then recorded the FAT EP (1981).  Then all the other records after that (dates in Wikipedia)…We played locally in L.A. and San Francisco from 1981 to 1985, then did our first U.S. tour (to be followed by many others).  We didn’t go to Europe until 1996.

CM: I see and hear a lot of you in so many young bands these days. Being an influence to so many I have to ask, who are some of your influences?

MA: Beatles, X, Germs, Black Flag, The Last, Bad Brains.  Extreme punk (especially LA-based), plus melody.

CM: Back in the bands early days you guy's played with bands that are now considered legendary in their own right. How was the scene different then as apposed to now?

MA: Some of the bills were unreal – Black Flag + Minutemen + Saccharine Trust + Husker Du + Red Cross + us +….etc…That will never happen again!  We were the young unknowns on these bills, and that was OK, because the Black Flag/Minutemen guys were always helping us out, putting us on the bill, helping us record, etc.  I felt like part of an extended punk family during that period (1980-1983), and it was definitely a legendary time for South Bay punk rock.  The DIY ethic really crystallized during that time, thanks to Greg Ginn and SST.

CM: When the bands '95 comeback album, Everything Sucks, came out it was a surprise to see that Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo played on a couple tracks ("Dog House" and "Eunuch Boy"). Where Frank and Tony brought back for those songs specifically? Or were those songs unused tracks from the 80's?

MA: Bill invited them to contribute songs, to “join the party,” so to speak.  Frank came in with “Doghouse.”  Tony had a great song that didn’t make the record, “Gotta” – it’s on one of the CD singles.  Those were relatively new songs, whereas “Eunuch Boy” WAS an old song; in fact it was the first one I wrote for the band back in 1980 (Tony wrote the music, I wrote lyrics).

CM: The bands last album Cool To Be You came out in 2004, but the band decided not to tour in support of the album. Why not tour behind such a strong album?

MA: Thanks for the positive review!  Unfortunately, I really couldn’t commit to the touring; I had recently started my job at DuPont and didn’t have much vacation time to use; nor could I take a leave of absence.  We went into that record knowing we would not be able to support the record through touring.  Fat Mike was also aware, but still wanted to put it out, ‘cause he was so into it.

CM: With the new tour and the band playing here in Chicago at Riot Fest this October, are there any plans for a new Descendents album?

MA: Not at this point.  I’ve got some songs, and I’ll bet the other guys have a ton (they always do!), but trying to figure out how to fit in recording will be difficult.  As it stands, I’ve used every vacation day from my job that I can, so there’s no time left for recording…We’ve had to prioritize our activities because of my schedule, and so far the priority has been on doing shows, because there is such a huge demand for it.

CM: I understand ALL are gonna be doing a show with every singer they ever had. Will there ever be a history of the Descendents show where you'll bring out Frank, Tony, Ray or Doug to play a few songs from their time in the band?

MA: That would be fun!  Something like that has happened the last few years in Fort Collins; the band puts on an event called Stockage where there has been a reunion of sorts (without me, though).  One year Bill played with Frank and Tony, for example (Original Power Trio Lineup!!!  YEAH!).  Sadly, Frank died a few years back, so the true original lineup is no more.  Ray and Doug are still available, so maybe they can show up some time and play on some of the old stuff.

CM: Being a father it must be hard to be on the road. Do you or the other guy's bring the family on the road with you?

MA: We’re actually NOT on the road, these days.  What I mean is, we can only do a handful of shows per year, so I’m rarely out of town for more than a few days.  Although it would be great to be able to play more shows, there is a silver lining, and that is that I’m not an absentee father or husband.  Back in 1996-97 we toured like crazy, and I would come back from tour and be useless as a husband…luckily, I didn’t have kids back then.  This time around, my wife and the kids are coming for a few shows, and that’s perfect…any more than that, and they would get sick of it!  Bill’s and Stephen’s wives have come to a few shows also, plus their kids.  It’s a family environment (aside from the stage volume and dirty lyrics…).

CM: After this tour what can we expect from the Descendents? Are you back for good, or just for now?

MA: “For good”??  Do you realize how OLD we are???  Seriously, it’s been a blast, and as long as we can stay healthy AND the shows are fun AND people want to see us, we’ll keep doing it.  On a limited basis, of course.  I keep assuming we will eventually fade into obscurity, but so far I’ve been wrong, so I’ve stopped predicting the end.

CM: I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say it's GREAT to see you guy's back again after so long. Is there a website where fans can keep up with Descendents news, shows and buy merch?

CM: Again I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. It really is an honor for me to interview you, Milo. I'm looking forward to the Chicago show in October. Until then..."Thank you for playing the way you play!"

MA: Thank YOU for listening, and we’ll see you in Chicago!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From The Vaults: Interview With Keith Morris From OFF!/Circle Jerks/Black Flag

Critical Mass: Thank you very much for taking time our of your busy schedule to talk with Critical Mass/Squid Pro Quo, Keith. I know you've been touring nonstop with OFF! for the past few months. How did the band get together?

Keith Morris: "We can blame this OFF! mess on those swell guys in the Circle Jerks. Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), the guitarist in OFF!, came to the CJs to get us in songwriting mode in order to create a new record and of course, it turned into an ugly situation. Dimitri was fired as producer and in the process, I quit over this shitty crybaby episode. Now it was my idea to start the CJs in the first place and I wasn't gonna walk away from something I helped create. I thought to myself, 'everybody in the Jerks has 20 other things they do to make scheduling nothin' but a royal flaming CLUSTERFUCK so I'll add to the confusion by starting OFF! and creating my own schedule!' This new band's probably the best decision I've ever made. During our creative process, I told Dimitri that the other guys in the Jerks were gonna figure out a way to ruin the scenario and that the songs we've written are way too happening to be tossed out with the garbage. Let's come up with plan #B, #C and #D and make something outta this! That's when Mario Rubalcaba (Earthless/Hot Snakes/Rocket From the Crypt) and Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) stepped up and it's been pretty much non stop party action since then."

CM: The short, in-your-face blasts of music that you're doing with OFF! are reminiscent of the first Circle Jerks album. Was it the band's intention to make fast, in-your-face hit-and-run music? Or was it just a natural direction to go in?

KM: "Well, we were attempting to make a CJs record but one day, Dimitri hit the strings on his guitar and I was totally wiped out! YEAH! That's where we need to take this! The way we'd work is him starting out riffing and us going back and forth as to how it should be put together which also applied to my lyric writing. He played something on the six string device which reminded me of where I came from in Hermosa Beach. He comes from a 'heavier' Nirvana-esque place and I told him to pay attention to the guitarists we'd listened to the previous day: Link Wray, who is the Father of the 'down stroke' and Johnny Ramone, who popularized it! No more 'butterfly,' which is the technique a metal or folk guy uses to strum on the strings, it has to be down strokes and attack! AIM FOR THE FLOOR!"

CM: The band's been touring nonstop. Any plans for a break in the tour to record a full-length album?

KM: "'The First Four EPs' is our album! I'm on break as I type and we'll get together next week to start writing new songs so we won't fall into the same hole as before. My initial idea was to release a four-song EP every two or three months until we had 16 or so songs then compile them into a full-blown record. It didn't work out that way as we were gonna sign with Epitaph Records but then decided to see what else was out there and test the waters. We signed with Vice Records 'cause their marketing's beyond CRAZY! Vice gave us a couple of deadlines to meet to really make this happen as they had abso-fuckin'-lutely nothing goin' on for a couple of months and told us we would be their priority until the Black Lips finished their album. We jumped at the opportunity and here we are!"

CM: You worked with legendary artist Raymond Pettibon on the artwork for the band's 7" EPs. Being the original singer for Black Flag (Pettibon did the album artwork during their career), did it feel like you came full circle having worked with him again after so many years?

KM: "The great thing with Raymond Pettibon is that we get to re-establish a long lost friendship as when we hung out at the Church in Hermosa Beach and were drug and boozin' buddies! I'm no longer doin' any of that stuff as I'm a diabetic so I've got no time for that but Raymond and I immediately hit it off and started carrying on like a couple of crazy teenagers! He realized how his older Bro stepped all over the bands and peeps he dealt with so we had that in common and Raymond allowed me to come into his workspace and gave me carte blanche when it came to his artwork. He's a Stud Prince Rawker of the tallest order and plays a seriously mean tambourine!"

CM: When you worked with Black Flag on the "Nervous Breakdown" EP or the first couple Circle Jerks albums, did any of the band members get the sense that the music you were creating was going to be as influential as it turned out to be?

KM: "We were CLUELESS! We were excited to just be doin' what we were doin' and being able to receive an invitation to the punker-dunker party. There wasn't a map or a plan as to how we'd do things; we just did them and suffered whatever consequences later on. There weren't any managers telling us what to do or record companies that sniffed around at our gigs. We had to go by the "live and learn" technique and let it all go down however it was gonna' happen! We didn't sit around talking as to what our music/noise was gonna' do out in the public 'cause our credo was pretty much just 'go for it!' and worry about all this stuff further down the road."

CM: How do you feel the hardcore scene has changed since the early days? Do you feel it's gotten better or worse?

KM: "I try not to pay any attention to this as it's music and it's gonna be shoved in some of the faces of the music-listening public, dark corners and under dirty rugs. As with any genre of music, some of it will stick to the wall and some is gonna be so thin and watered down, it'll slide right off. I listen to so much music that I really could care less about any one category! College rock, hardcore, sweater, foxcore, punk, prog or whatever they're labeling it; if it's great, it transcends or rises from any box it's being placed in!"

CM: Is there any bands out there that you feel are carrying the torch as far as making music on their own terms and not conforming to what's considered popular by today's standards?

KM: "I'm moved by Deerhunter's "Microcastle" recording, who are a drone band outta Atlanta, Georgia or The Shins who made an almost perfect "Pop" record called "Chutes Too Narrow" that came out on Sub Pop a few years back. I'm also very partial to Trash Talk, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Moon Duo and Fucked Up."

CM: It's been 16 years since the last Circle Jerks album of original material. Are there any plans in the near future for a new album or possible tour?

KM: "When it comes to the CJs, it all started to come down to money and the fact that we're older guys who are set in our ways; TOTAL BUMMER! The mentality became, 'We're who we are and can write/record whatever we want and our fans will buy it because it's us!' and that's REALLY weak! I told them that I wouldn't be a part of the 30th anniversary tour 'cause I'm busy with the OFF! first anniversary tour."

CM: You seem to still have that fire and energy in you that you had back in the late '70s and through the '80s. Your passion for your craft is obvious. Do you still find enjoyment in playing live and creating new music?

KM: "Well, I'm on a bit of a roll and OFF!'s providing me with new opportunities that my other band couldn't make happen. OFF! is going to Europe for the entire month of August to play several festivals and tour across Holland, Germany, Sweden and Norway and my feelings toward this is that I'd be a fucking idiot to not go over there and have some fun! The CJs would only talk about this and end up not doing it!"

CM: Who are some of your musical influences? And what drives you to be as creative as you are?

KM: "Too many: The Kinks, Iggy Pop, Jagger & Richards, MC5, Jeff Beck, John Dwyer, Jon Wurster, Ray Davies, Lennon & McCartney, Pete Townsend, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins, Dave Vanian, Jerry Morris, Bob Caldwell, John Jancar, y mas!"

CM: Your musical history has influenced countless bands for more than 30 years and counting, with no signs of slowing down. Where can people get in touch with OFF! for tour dates, new releases and merch?

KM: "OFF! has a facebook page that has an 'Events' section that lists all of our tour info. or go to http://www.offofficial.com, which is our 'real' site!"

CM: Keith, I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with Squid Pro Quo. It's truly an honor and a pleasure to speak with you (NOTE: via web). We're all looking forward to more OFF! releases and more amazing live performances. Thanks again.

KM: "Well that's really a misnomer as we didn't speak! Don't be a liar! Just kidding! If you wanna take the time to write questions, I'll gladly take a portion of my time to answer them. YER' WELCOME! Have fun!"

Interview With Kira Roessler from Black Flag/Dos

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would like to state that I do not do interviews with the purpose of being confrontational or mean spirited to the artist. This is a hobby for me, and a fun one at that. I send out many interview requests and get very few back considering. So the ones I DO get, I appreciate. I would never go out of my way to be rude or hurtful of anyone's feelings. That being said, here is my interview with Kira Roessler.

Critical Mass: Thank you for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Kira. A lot of people may remember you as a former member of the legendary band Black Flag. Can you give us a little history as to what you were doing before, and how you got involved with the band?

Kira Roessler: I played piano from 6 to 11. I started playing bass at 14 to join my brother's prog rock band. I was never good enough to do that ... my brother and I got into punk rock and we started playing together in my first band Waxx ... I played in several other bands in the Los Angeles area for 7 years before I joined BF.

I knew the guys in BF from shows and stuff, they were my favorite band when I was playing in DC3 with Dez Cadena and Henry called and asked if I wanted to stay after DC3 practice and jam with Bill and Greg (we practiced at the same place). After we jammed, they asked me to join.

CM: During your time in Black Flag did you find it difficult being a female in a predominately male, and I'm sure ignorant, punk world?

KR: Um ... ignorant? You mean that a woman might be able to play? I guess I disagree with the premise ... And as to it being difficult to be a woman ... I have no real frame of reference.

As I mentioned, I played bass for years before BF, so I never felt that it was significant that I was a woman, I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to. That being said, it was an extremely difficult physical challenge to be in BF.

CM: How do you feel punk and hardcore in general has changed since the early 80's? Do you feel it's gotten better or worse?

KR: I have no idea ... I do not participate enough to have an opinion. As for "punk" and "hardcore" what is the difference??? I mean, hardcore is more punk than punk? We (in BF) never called ourselves "hardcore" that was others and after the fact.

Punk was supposed to be about going against what was (I thought) so I am not attracted to bands who are following some rules about what they think they should play or look like ... So hopefully it has changed in the sense that it doesn't sound anything like it did then ....

CM: What's your relationship with your former band mates? Do you still keep in touch?

KR: Not really ... I have had minimal contact with them ...

CM: Do you think there will be a Black Flag reunion, and would you be interested in playing if it happened?

KR: Greg did play a gig with some former members ... I have no idea ... but if I had to guess I would say that he doesn't want to do a re-hash and I would tend to agree.

As to whether I would do it, the opportunity to play with those guys would be very tempting ...

CM: Post Black Flag you were in the band Dos with Mike Watt. Over the years you both recorded a few albums, the last being the '96 album Justamente Tres. Are there any plans for a new Dos album or possible tour?

KR: Dos has a fourth record coming out in July. As for tours, Mike is a busy guy and I work for a living ... so the most likely thing is that we do some gigs here and there ... like we have for 25 years....

CM: Do you have any favorite albums or songs that you've played on?

KR: Because you didn't mention them, I will mention that I played on Twisted Roots recordings and with a band called Approximation.

Dos is probably the sentimental favorite because I express myself the most in that format ... and happen to really like the bass . I also have come to appreciate writing material that breathes ... and where there are spaces ... as supposed to more of the "wall of sound" effect ....

CM: People may or may not know this, but you're an Emmy winning dialogue editor who's worked on television as well as such feature films as Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind and more recently Twilight: New Moon. How did you get started in the editing field?

KR: Actually through playing bass. My brother was working on composing some music for a student film that a guy named Bryan Franklin was editing/mixing. Bryan was running a small company that specialized in sound editing. We became friends and after a couple of years I twisted his arm into hiring me. I started just answering phones and doing office work as I learned to be an editor.

CM: What's more fun for you, playing music or working on TV and films in the editing department?

KR: There's that "fun" word ... always trips me up ...

OK ... here we go ... if I have to use that word ... the most "fun" is writing songs or bass lines in my room ... Playing live has so many elements to it aside from the actual playing that it is therefore less "fun" ... And work is challenging, at times creative, at times exhausting and demanding, I get paid well ... so there are perhaps "fun" moments ... but they can be fleeting ...

I would use the word "satisfying" for all these things ...

CM: I know recently your home was burglarized and your custom made bass was stolen, only to be retrieved about a week or so later, and the thief arrested. What's happened to this guy since then? Has be been prosecuted?

KR: I have no idea whether he was even arrested. The last thing I knew was that the police had a copy of his driver's license. Remember they probably couldn't even prove he was in my house, just that he was in possession of stolen goods. They would only have followed up with me if they had come across other stolen items from my home, which they did not ...

CM: What was it like getting that call saying your bass was found? you must have been ecstatic.

KR: I was ... I rushed to the police station and the officer said he usually makes the person explain how they know the item is theirs ... but the look on my face said it all ....

CM: Well, us fans are very happy you were reunited with your bass. Is there a website that you would like to plug where fans can get in touch with you and find out what you're up to these days?

KR: I have a Facebook  page ... and post to it pretty regularly ... won't be long before I hit my 5000 friends and then I will have to create another site ... but I will ... and there is a dos FB  page too.

CM: I can't thank you enough for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Kira. It's such an honor and a pleasure. Thanks again.

(no reply)

EDITORS NOTE: Upon receiving Miss Roessler's answers, I realized maybe I should have worded my second question differently, as to not confuse what my intentions were. Below is an open letter to Miss Roessler, and her response.

CM: Thank you very much for the interview and your time.

I want to apologize for any misunderstanding on questions 2. What I meant by "ignorant" was the fact that there were so many guy's playing in punk bands that THEY seemed quite macho and ignorant to a certain degree. Too much machismo going on, it seemed to me. It wasn't until I heard "Not Just Boys Fun" by 7 Seconds that I actually HEARD a band stick up for women in punk rock. And Kevin saying that women are just as talented and strong as the guy's. So, I am sorry. I should have rephrased that question.

But again I want to thank you for your time. I really do appreciate it.

All the best.

KR: And I am standing by my disagreement ... in Hollywood when punk was starting there were LOTS of girls in bands and not in bands who were key parts of the movement ... the faces gracing the covers of the fanzines were as likely to be female as male. A little later the Orange County affect occurred and the scene did skew a little more male ... but the women defined the fashion for example ... And again, I never really caught shit for being a girl ...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview With The Legendary Chuck Dukowski From The Chuck Dukowski Sextet/Black Flag/WURM

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass Chuck. Black Flag fans will remember you as the man behind the brutal bass assault as well as a SST family member. Can you tell us how you got involved with Black Flag initially?

Chuck Dukowski: I got involved with Keith (Morris) and Greg (Ginn) who had a group called Panic after WURM (Chuck's then band) moved to Hermosa Beach. WURM was working on recording an album and we'd just lost our place in Torrance. WE had looked all over the city for a new place to live and rock. WE were taking a break on the beach in Hermosa when we noticed a faded for rent sign on an old building with broken out second floor windows called the STRAND BATH house.

 We managed to figure out the phone number and rented the largest of three downstairs rooms (About 600 square feet.) that had once been a restaurant. We squatted the whole downstairs but developed our allocated space into a lockable sound insulated rehearsal hang out space. Ed met Keith on the Strand (Hermosian for Boardwalk) and he introduced us to Greg and eventually drummer Bryan (Migdol). We were on the lookout for people who were interested in music especially hard rocking underground music and we all became friends. Keith and Greg started hanging out at our place, THE WURMHOLE, and eventually rented the next one over of the three downstairs rooms.

Keith came over almost every day as we were getting up and Greg would come over in the evening when we had regular parties and played music.

Panic was without a regular bassist so Greg asked me to learn their songs and fill in. I played in their sets at the WURM HOLE and at parties over the summer and fall of '77.

At the end of '77 Greg asked me to record with them. I was stoked. That's the recording that became "Nervous Breakdown" and the Keith material on "Everything Went Black". A few months later WURM broke up and Greg asked me to Join PANIC full time.
In the middle of '78 shortly after ROBO joined we changed our band name to BLACK FLAG.

CM: Black Flag released what are now considered classics between '78 and '81. Did you guy's realize then that what you were doing was gonna have such a long lasting affect on the punk scene?

CD: I felt like we were making important music. Music that was important to me and anyone like me. We were also working on pushing it across. The music had immediacy, accessibility and intensity. I knew it was going to make a dent if we did something about it.

CM: With all the bands and bass players you have influenced over the years, can you tell us who your personal musical influences were?

CD: Black Sabbath is probably the single most important band for me. I also was into: The Stooges, MC5, Captain Beyond, Hendrix, David Bowie, Cream, Allman Brothers, King Crimson, Mott The Hoople, Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, Montrose, Blue Cher, Budgie, and a bunch more.

CM: You're currently in The Chuck Dukowski Sextet. Can you give us a little history on the band and how you got it started?

CD: In late '98 I wanted to start a new band. I'd played with a drummer I liked a few times and got together with him weekly for a couple of months then I started adding other players to that foundation. Then I asked Lora (Norton) to try doing vocals. It all worked out great and that group became the CD6.

As soon as we had a good groove going I started booking shows. Even before we had songs. We did a year of shows playing an improvised set.

We recorded two songs in our living room, The Hammer Will Fall and My War. Flea heard that and showed up at one of our shows and invited us to record in his home studio. That recording became our first album. Milo (Gonzalez) joined us for that recording "Eat My Life" for one song at age 16. He became our full time guitarist and is featured on the 2nd album "Reverse the Polarity".

CM: Does the Sextet do any out of state gigs? And are there any plans for a tour?

CD: We did one out state show at a festival in Belgium.
We are looking to get more active out of LA but so far have played exclusively and extensively in Southern California (a couple of times a month for years and years) with the exception of the Festival in Belgium.

CM: The bands last album, Reverse The Polarity, was released in 2007. Are there any plans for a new album in the near future?

CD: We are currently mixing a new album.

CM: You're a pretty intense performer. When you're not playing and recording, how does Chuck Dukowski relax?

CD: I play a lot. It's really my main thing. I also like to cruise around Venice on my bike or walking. I enjoy hearing other groups play. Especially the kids groups like, Insects vs Robots, The Shrine, Voodoo Merchant, Grapes and Nuts.
I like to hang out with my family: LORA, ISAAC, MIRA, LOLA, MILO.

CM: Is there a website where we fans can get information on The Chuck Dukowski Sextet? Where we can get show dates, release info and merch?

CD: Right now the best thing is to be friends with me on Facebook. {Don't join the page where I'm wearing a green shirt because it's full.} I post infos there on what we're doing.

CM: I want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Chuck. It is TRULY an honor to interview The Duke! Thanks again

CD: Nice and Friendly, Chuck

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Keith Richards "Wingless Angels" Deluxe Box Set Available Soon At PopMarket

                                         Taken From Examiner.Com

May 20, 2011 (New York, NY) -- Keith Richards has his fingers in many pies these days.  He's, of course, appearing again beginning this weekend with Johnny Depp in the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" installment.  His best-selling memoir is out in paperback.  He's working on a new solo album with his band the X-pensive Winos.  And then there's the Wingless Angels.
If you don't know the story, you should read this excellent interview with Richards.  But essentially, while visiting his beloved Jamaica over the years Richards became friends with a group of local musicians, including the late, great angel-voiced Justin Hinds.  It took some doing, but Richards eventually convinced the crew to record some of their music.  There was an album in the mid-1990's and then another just last year.
They are spectacular.
These are not pop or rock records, though.  They are percussion-and-voice based, with only a hint of Richards' guitar here and there.  (Apparently it took some time and trust for Richards to convince the rastafarians involved that his guitar work wouldn't destroy the spiritual connection to the earth that they believe their collaboration holds.)
Here's the cool part.  Today only, the Wingless Angels Deluxe Limited Edition Box Set will be available on PopMarket.com.
Assembled by and recorded with Keith Richards, the Wingless Angels Deluxe Limited Edition is the definitive way to explore the world of Rastafarian Nyahbinghi music. This collection captures the sound and spirit of these extraordinary musical sessions, most recorded Richards' home in Jamaica.  And it includes the last known studio recordings of Justin Hinds, too boot. 

 The set includes:
• Hemp-wrapped tri-fold book housed in a solid wood box;
• 2 CDs (Wingless Angels I and II);
• Leather-bound, 32-page book with interviews, rare photos and more;
• A lithograph print of Keith’s Wingless Angel sketches;
• DVD of Wingless Angels - A Short Film: Culled from never-before-seen interviews with Keith, his personal home video footage from the making of the recordings in Jamaica and rare footage of Justin.

Only 1,000 of these handmade sets were produced so when they are gone, no more will be made.  This may indeed be your last chance to pick one up.
PopMarket is a great place to find deals on some of the best the Sony/Legacy has to offer, and this is a truly unique deal.