Nothing New Under The Sun

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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?

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In Memoriam – A God Forbid Retrospective

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It’s only been a week since we closed the door on God Forbid, but with so much outpouring of affection, sharing of memories, disclosures of sadness bordering on mourning from friends, fans, fellow compatriots in the music industry, and my own reflections burrowing their way from my subconscious to the surface, I thought I should share some of my thoughts about what kind of legacy we left.

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.

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I am leaving God Forbid

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.

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A Band Called Death

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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.

Seeking a Guitar Player For a New Rock Band

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Guitarist Doc Coyle (God Forbid) and vocalist Ravi (Phyllotaxis) have started an unnamed rock band with drummer Moe Watson and multi instrumentalist Aden Oxenreider, and are looking for a guitar player. Here’s a statement from Doc Coyle:
 
“I started working on material with Ravi almost 2 years ago by trading files over the internet. I was tied up with God Forbid, but now we finally have the time to put together a full band. We’ve included a small music sample and you will hear that it is not metal, although there are some heavy overtones.
 
I am very picky about what kind of guitar player I want in this project, so I will lay out some guidelines. You need to live in the area between New York City, Central New Jersey, and Philadelphia. Rehearsing and playing gigs will require travel so the person must have a car. You need adequate and professional equipment including effects. The band is very ambient and will need someone who understands and likes to create soundscapes. There are some technical aspects to the music as well so you will need some chops. I have to emphasize that this is a rock band, not a metal band. I would prefer a non metal guitar player, but I’m fine with anyone as long as you understand it’s not about sweeping picking at 220 BPM and playing 8 string guitar breakdowns. Our influences for this band are Tool, Muse, Deftones, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Karnivool, etc.
 
It’s also important that I emphasize that this is a passion project. We are here for music and art first, and being signed or getting on the radio takes a back seat to doing something that is meaningful and being part of something that is special.”
 
Please send a written or video statement about yourself, a photo of yourself, along with any examples of any music you’ve created or videos of live performance if these requirements apply to doc4bid@gmail.com
 

 

I Forgot How To Get Laid

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This may be the most disheartening title to any of my pieces of writing, but I’m going to push forward. The aforementioned title is a caked in irony in that I’ve been pretty damn good at getting laid throughout most of my adult life. Being tall, somewhat good looking, and living an adventurous rock n roll lifestyle probably contributed to this state of success, but I think that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The real key to getting your fair share of poontang is being focused on it, and seeking it out. with determination Look at this scene from one of my all time favorite films about picking up women, Roger Dodger, starring Campbell Scott and a young Jesse Eisenberg. Roger explains to his teenage nephew how the first component to meeting women is to be in the air of sex, and to make it part of your being and perception of the world.

The truth is lately I’ve been too preoccupied with the day-to-day rigors of everyday life to be in an air of sex, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  My unintentional abstinence really began in the springtime after a woman I had been seeing for a couple months, whom I was starting to develop feelings for and could see some long term potential, took a trip to Africa and decided not to contact me again. (Very Chappelle-esque move if you ask me) Yes, it was a kind of brutal and it hurt, but I thought I would do what Clint Eastwood would do, and walk that shit off.

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Introducing Paradise City

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So back in May, my old buddy, Tommy Vext, asked me if I would do an acoustic set of cover songs for a performance at a benefit show for our mutual friend, Tim No 37, at Tammany Hall in NYC. I wanted a more full sound, so I asked God Forbid guitar player, Matt Wicklund, to play second guitar. Our other old pal, Acey Slade (Dope, Murderdolls, Joan Jett), came in to play bass on a couple songs. We weren’t very well rehearsed, but we had a really good time, and apparently the set went over well enough that the venue offered us a residency to do a rock/metal full cover set. We rallied the troops and have been hard at work to put the most badass show together.

It kicks off this Wednesday at Tammany Hall, and we look to play there every week. We’ve also enlisted my fellow School of Rock brethren and drummer, Moe Watson, as well as New York City rock royalty Ms. Jenn City (Kittie, Suicide City) as a second bassist. I’ve always wanted to do something like this. Jamming out some of your favorite songs with your friends is as good as it gets. It’s going to be rock, it’s going to be metal, but above all, Paradise City will be about having fun, so spread the word and come out to Tammany Hall on Wednesdays. We will also be looking to take the party on the road, so be on the look out.

Paradise Fucking City

 

RIP Mick Deth

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I am truly shocked and saddened to hear of my buddy Mick “Deth” Morris’ passing. I wasn’t aware of his heart condition. It’s increasingly weird as the older you get, the more people you know die before their time.

I met Mick when 18 Visions opened up for Mushroomhead and Lamb of God at the Birch Hill Nite Club in NJ in 2001. He was always super cool, humble, affable guy. Although we never did extended touring with 18V, we got to do some spot dates together like Furnace Fest 2002, and a show later that year w/ Everytime I Die, Bleeding Through and Avenged Sevenfold opening.

18 Visions deserves credit for being a trailblazer. For better or worse, they brought style to hardcore scene. They wrote the script for bands like Motionless in White and Falling In Reverse to follow. And when 18V did it, they were playing with real hardcore bands, and it was not always cool with the status quo. That takes some balls.

We stayed in touch over the years as he started to work for Hatebreed, and even chatted about jamming together at some point. Unfortunately, it never happened. I was just enjoying his Instagram feed last night. This sucks. I’ll miss you dude.

GOD FORBID Announce 1st Shows of 2013

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You asked for God Forbid shows, you got em. After taking a brief break this year, the God Forbid fellas decided to book a couple local dates. We apologize to fans who don’t reside in the Northeast of the US. Hopefully we can venture out at a later time. Check the dates:

Aug 2nd – Wilmington, DE @ Mojo 13 (Rescheduled show) 21+

Aug 3rd – Trenton, NJ @ Club RHO (Ride for Dime Philly w/ Shadows Fall, Thy Will Be Done & more) 17+ Click here for advance tickets!

Amazing video about Race, Music, and Identity

Someone sent me a link for this video on Twitter, and I have to say it really touched me in a personal way. I am surprised that it was released 5 years ago, and I am just seeing it now. This young lady eloquently tells a story that I relate to very much. I understand what’s it like to never truly fit in; To be caught in between cultures. Being bi-racial tends to put you at odds with uniformity.

I often see many things through the prism of race. I can’t really help it. My favorite Podcast is called The Champs. I identify with the show because it straddles the White and Black experience, but with affection for both equally. It’s hosted by comedians Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher. You may know Neal Brennan as the co-creator of Chappelle Show and Kasher is a self-described ex “wigger” from Black dominant part of Oakland. Both these guys are white, but have a deep affinity for Black culture. The hook of the show is that they only have non-White, but mainly Black guests. A good deal of the conversation is about race and culture, and tackles many issues that I don’t think are being talked about in main stream outlets. They grew up with “Black” culture which is just another way of saying modern Hip Hop and street culture. I think this is a reflection of America’s evolution. In many ways, Hip Hop culture which was on the fringe in the early 80’s has become the mainstream Pop culture. Ice Cube is the spokesman for Coors Light. Jay Z is besties with the President. Diddy is pretty much the next Donald Trump. I think even the “wigger” category has been marginalized. In general, people, white or not have come to accept Hip Hop culture as mainstream.

Unfortunately, this has not swung the other way in equal effect. Although there have been some strides, say in the Black Hipster movement or the Backpack Hip Hop genre, having a dissenting cultural preference within the urban sect of the black community can be extremely difficult. I grew up in New Brunswick, NJ, which was a mostly poor Black and Latino city. Later, we moved and I went to an upper class private school for High School, which was 95% white. I really got to live in both worlds, in terms of race and class. I like rap and R&B. I’ve seen New Jack City and Menace II Society 9,000 times. I was lucky enough to have a large Black side of my family and would attend big family reunions with the fish fry, collard greens and all the rest. I pretty much quote Chris Rock as if he were Neitzsche. It’s not a secret I love basketball. I say the word “nigger”, a lot. Mainly to my friends.

With all of that said, I like a lot of “White” stuff too. In fact, in many ways I probably identify with White culture more than Black culture or what would be thought of as Hip Hop or Street Culture. Do yourself a favor and check out this website Stuff White People Like. I love pretty much 50% of that list. Well, mainly coffee and all of the TV Shows (The Wire, Mad Men), not all the pretentious liberal posturing bullshit. I’m not trying to keep it real, or keep it hood. I want to live someone where safe. For the most part, I can’t stand the vapid, materialistic elements of Bling Hip Hop. I understand that all of the braggadocio and macho chest thumping exists because strength, money, and power is all that is respected in the inner city where weakness can get you killed. There is very little room for frailty, or neurotic self examination. Perhaps if I stayed in the city, I would have a little more “street” in my blood, but I always wanted out of that type of environment that didn’t fully value nuance or an oddball like myself.

Another great thing about The Champs Podcast is that they also aren’t afraid to criticize the more (self) destructive parts of Street culture, and call out a lot of the “ignorance” that tends to perpetuate in the community. This type of criticism was also detailed heavily in a brilliant cartoon show called The Boondocks. The show satirizes Black culture from the perspective of a young, radical, Black protagonist, who is ultimately the voice of the show’s creator, Aaron McGruder, who is a Black man. It is social commentary at it’s finest. If these criticisms came from a White show runner, than it would probably never make it to the air for fear of being called racist. The show eviscerates BET, Gangsta Rap, unhealthy Black eating habits, and even blind Obama supporters. The show got severe backlash from many prominent figures in the Black community. It pissed people off because it told the truth, at least from McGruder’s perspective.

The Champs and The Boondocks common bond is that they both give the modern Black intelligent counterculture a voice while still showing a deep appreciation and respect for those things considered traditionally Black. Above all, they keep a racial dialogue afloat that pokes at things that are considered politically  incorrect, but are altogether necessary for collective progress. Because of our unique history, this is distinctly an American issue, but it’s important to keep talking and being honest.

What is this all leading to, and how does it relate to the video up top? I’ve always been someone whose never really fit in and struggled with identity. That was until I discovered metal and hardcore. The element of those scenes that I gravitated towards was the idea of challenging the systems and domineering paradigms that surround and engulf us. God Forbid didn’t form to buck any trends, but if our impact was that we could make it ok for a few Black kids to follow their hearts, and be who they want to be, than maybe it makes everything we did worth it. I just hope I live long enough to where a Black person speaking English fluently and crisply, is not referred to as talking “White”. No race should have domain over education, and Black culture needs to stop feeding this fire.

You’re race doesn’t define you. The religion you were raised with doesn’t define you. The town you grew up in doesn’t define you. We are lucky enough to live in the most free society that has ever existed. You should try everything out that interests you. You can like Wu Tang and Doctor Who. Be like Russ. Express yourself.

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