This is a solo I did for one of my oldest good friends, Rey Fonseca, who is a guitarist, songwriter, and artist. He is known for playing with such bands as Agents of Man, Maximum Penalty, and too many more to name. He helped design my new Robocop themed custom guitar pick, and in turn, I did a guest solo for his new project. I hope you guys like it.
It’s 3:25am. I am about half-way through catching up with the latest episode of The Walking Dead. I find myself drifting. Bored. Questioning every logical move of the characters. Why go in that door? Why walk down that road? What the hell are these assholes doing?
Than emerges a revelation…an epiphany…a corner is turned….a shark is jumped.
It dawns on me that the entire concept of the zombie apocalypse is fucking stupid. I apologize for the language, but mentally malnourished subject matter must be engaged with the same level of nuance in which it was conceived.
Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing a handful of guest guitar solo’s I’ve done for a few friends. It’s all stuff I’ve done in the past year or so, and will give you a good idea of how my lead playing has been developing. It’s always a challenge writing solo’s for me. I try not to repeat the same ideas, and keep it hooky and know when to go for it, and when to keep it calm. Not over play.
This was one of 2 guest guitar Solo’s I did for the most recent Vext EP for my good buddy Tommy Vext. On the final release, they ended up only using the 2nd half of my lead, and guitar wizard, Angel Vivaldi, did a ripping lead for the first half. I thought it would be cool to show my full version for full context. I probably would have done something different for the 2nd half if I knew I was playing off of his solo. Cool stuff either way. Enjoy!
My only real rule with my writing is to pursue a genuine sense of honesty and self reflection. This can be difficult in general throughout life because often, we lie to our selves. How can you truly be honest with others when you can’t even sift through the subterfuge of your own subconscious self deception?
With that said, I’m calling bullshit on myself for not following through with my own pep talk from my previous entry, “The Cookie Crumbles”, which details my thoughts on persevering through adversity. The article was quite rousing, if not self-helpish in it’s tone, and somewhat sanctimonious in hindsight. (I often find people giving other people life advice sanctimonious.)
Since the posting of that piece, I’ve fallen into what could only be described as some sort of depression. I usually don’t go see a doctor unless it’s a dire need, so in times like these, I tend to act as my own shrink. I always feel that there should be a logical reason for depressed thoughts and feelings; A relationship breakup, a job layoff, a death in the family, etc. Hence, there should be a logical solution to said problem. Whether it’s getting more sun or exercise, socializing more, or perhaps taking significant time to heal from a loss is the only answer. Logic aside, one caveat is that there could be just a chemical imbalance, i.e., clinical depression, but I would only want to try anti-depressants as a last resort. I had a horrible experience once after trying them for a few days. I would rather to go to the root of the problem, not reach for a band aid.
As a write this, I am doing my best to arise from a creative malaise. It’s no revelation to most of us “artists” that creativity is a muscle that weakens without consistent use. The blank canvas, empty page, or barren Pro Tools session can seem like a tall mountain climb when you haven’t produced in a significant period of time.
I’ve had several ideas floating around my head, but I haven’t written an in-depth blog piece in almost 2 months. Despite my intro, I wasn’t creatively blocked. I just didn’t have any damn time. As many of you know, I took a touring gig filling in on bass guitar for metalcore heavyweight champs, Unearth. The month before the tour was a whirlwind of busy activity. In addition to tying up loose ends with my new rock band (Vagus Nerve), cover band (Rebel Noise Group), picking up extra shifts bartending, teaching guitar at School of Rock and privately, and curating an educational performance for Tomato’s House of Rock in NYC, I still had to learn 14 Unearth songs in whatever free time I had. Thankfully, all of the tasks were completed, but I was left little time to be creative….in any arena.
I will be filling in on bass guitar for Unearth bassist, John “Slo” Maggard, on their upcoming US tour as direct support to the legendary Sepultura on the “Tsunami of Metal Tour” also featuring Kataklysm, Dark Sermon with Scar The Martyr and Anciients featured on select dates.
I have to say it is a complete and total honor that the boys in Unearth have considered me for the position. Unearth and God Forbid came up together in the mid/late 90′s hardcore scene slogging it out in the same VFW halls, basements, and Rec centers. They are truly dear, old friends, and I can’t wait to spend a month together smelling their farts. I am especially psyched to hit the road since it’s been almost been a year since I’ve toured. Let’s see if my headbangin’ neck stick works. Tour dates after the jump.
I am a reactionary. External events and debates get my brain going, and inspire me to throw my opinionated hat into the ring of discourse. I remember not too long ago clicking on a link to a preview of the new Avenged Sevenfold album. Previously, I was lukewarm on the single of the same name “Hail To The King”. But it grew on me, and I really enjoyed the record top to bottom when I listened to the full preview, and in repeat visits since. It sounded like Avenged to me. Albeit more mid-paced, groovy and hook focused.
Apparently, the rest of the “real” metal world was not enjoying the album as much as me, and flatly considered the album to be directly plagiarizing early 90′s era Metallica, Guns N Roses and Megadeth. On the Metalsucks Podcast I was interviewed on, they viciously concurred this sentiment and even included a mash-up of Metallica’s “Sad But True” and Avenged’s “This Means War”. Metalsucks.net blog also preceded this with a track-by-track rundown of the musical borrowings of Hail To The King. The barrage of criticisms didn’t end as the legendary Rob Flynn of Machine Head posted a tongue-in-cheek Blog “congratulating” the band on their chart topping success. Not to mention the backlash by many fans of the band who thought they took a turn for the worse. The album was being considered a crime a against all things artistically viable and true to metal’s code of conduct.
Why wasn’t I hearing what everyone else was hearing? Of course I heard the influences. As clear and direct as they might have been, it didn’t bother me the way it did everyone else. As far as I was concerned Avenged Sevenfold was jocking Metallica, Guns N Roses, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden since City of Evil. It’s not like it was Cannibal Corpse and they put out an acoustic album. This is a band that has been on a major label for 10 years, who came out of the gate very image conscious and market savvy, has multiple platinum and gold albums, an MTV Video Award, and regularly headlines arena tours. How do you sell out when you are already one of the biggest and commercially viable bands in the world?
In all honesty, it feels silly to use a word like legacy when talking about my own band, but I was actually having some sentimental feelings about the musical catalog God Forbid has amassed when I was preparing for the last couple shows we did, before I decided to leave the group. I was practicing a few songs I hadn’t played in a while, and in that time, I started listening back to some songs and albums I hadn’t heard to in quite some time. And in that moment, I felt a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. For perhaps the first time, I heard a distinct sound that permeated from our first album to our last. Although that sound had evolved over time and become more nuanced and composed and lost some of it’s teeth, much of the feel was there. The groove was consistent. Dynamics always played a part. Darkness and melody persisted and coexisted. The words spoke about pushing through and striving for better.
I am sorry to say that I am indeed leaving God Forbid. I started playing with these guys since I was 16 years old. Now I’m 32. You do the math. To say this is difficult and a big move for me would be an understatement. It has been very emotional and very sad for me to actually follow through with this, but I feel in my heart and head that it is the right thing to do.
Let’s first remove the elephant from the room, and explain why I am leaving. I don’t want to leave the band, but there are elements of disorganization and unprofessionalism within the group that have made it impossible to be an effectively active band. I don’t feel like I’m being treated in a way that meets my standards, so I have to remove myself from the equation. I’m not going into great detail because I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. I still love all the guys in God Forbid. They will always be my family even if there isn’t a working band. But just because you love your family doesn’t mean you can work with them in a professional sense.
Last night I had the fortune to watch the highly anticipated documentary film, A Band Called Death. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but in short, it is the story of three black blood brothers from Detroit, MI who formed an energetic rock band in the mid 70’s called Death, that in hindsight is viewed as a predecessor to the punk rock movement.
This story really hit home with me because of the parallels to my own life and musical development. I know what it’s like to start a band in my seminal years with my brother, have an uncanny musical connection, and to later be estranged from that brother. I can identify with being in a predominantly black band trying to make a mark in a white world. It is the tale of truly being an outsider, and Death had it far worse than God Forbid in that they received tremendous blowback from the black community. They were trying to make their way in the capitol of traditional black music and the home of Motown Records. The story pinpoints how their morbid band name strangled the band’s progress like an albatross around their neck.
The element of Death’s story that struck the biggest chord with me was their dedication to the purity of rock n roll. They studied the greats, and put the hard work and time into becoming a first rate band with a high standard of excellence. They wanted to be a great rock band. Not just great for black guys. There was no handicap in being good in spite of their blackness as if it was a gimmick. They also didn’t feel the need to “black” up their music. Their standard was The Who, The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Queen, Jimi Hendrix. God Forbid was the same way. Our standard bearers were At The Gates, Morbid Angel, Candiria, Suffocation, For The Love Of, Pantera, Sepultura, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Machine Head, etc. We weren’t going to be legit until we were at their level from a technical standpoint. And that led to countless hours in the jam room, meticulous studying of our favorite bands, trying to decode the art of being the in the big leagues. Just being a nerd about your craft. Obsession. It never feels like work at the time. You just love it so much that you devour as much content as possible, and it becomes part of your DNA. It’s beyond culture. It’s purity.
A Band Called Death serves as a great contrasting companion piece to the previously lauded rockumentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil about 80′s Canadian glam-thrash, could-have-beens. For me, Anvil served as a cautionary tale as what not to become as an aging musician. They were desperate for stardom probably because of the colossal success of their peers. The 80’s set a standard that allowed for a swath of unreasonable expectations, as documented by The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. This was a generation of people who were not living in reality, and everything that goes up must come down.
A Band called Death is about family. It’s about dedication to music. It’s about holding on to artistic virtue. It’s about doing it for the right reasons. They called the band Death, because death is real. I can back that.