Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thirteen appears to be a lucky number for Dave Mustaine

Written By:  Patrick Prince / Powerline

There’s quite a lot going on (or about to go on) in Megadethland. Of course, there’s the latest studio release of “Thirteen,” one of the finest metal albums in years, and then the December 10th jam of Dave Mustaine and Metallica, back on stage together again, playing old songs, for one of the 30th Anniversary Metallica shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California — a remarkable event that brought everyone from Jason Newsted, to Lloyd Grant and Ron McGovney out to celebrate.  And soon will be the launch of Gigantour on January 26 in Camden, NJ — the mega-Megadeth tour with Motorhead, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil (all bands hand-picked by Dave Mustaine, of course).
The following is an interview with Dave Mustaine on December 13, 2011.

This new album sounds fresh and exciting. Do you think the reappearance of David Ellefson had something to do with that?

Dave Mustaine:
Oh, he had everything to do with it. I sucked without him.

Well, I didn’t mean it that way, man (laughs).

Mustaine: (laughs) I know, I’m just playing with you. Yeah, Dave added an element of excitement and fun to the band. Every player who plays an instrument is gonna have their own way that they handle the neck and the strings and stuff like that. We could have had the last guy [James LoMenzo] who was playing before Dave do this record and play exactly what Dave played but it still wouldn’t have sounded the same.

Dave was in the studio while we were getting ready for the Rust In Peace tour and I said ‘Hey, you want to try and record on (the song) “Sudden Death”?’ And he did and we just knew it was gonna work out. So, yeah, I think he added a really great element but I think there are a couple other guys in the band [Chris Broderick on guitar and Shawn Drover on drums] that aren’t so bad either.

In all sincerity, I think Thirteen is one of the best metal albums in years. I’m a traditional metal guy and the thing about it is that it sounded a lot more like traditional metal … songs like “We the People” and “Deadly Nightshade” … Was it intentional to bring back some of that classic sound?

Mustaine: There was no intention of anything on this record. Honestly, we just went into it with the desire to make our last record for Roadrunner and to make a really great offering and who knows where this record goes because I hadn’t had my surgery yet [neck surgery] and I pretty much thought as soon as this record was turned in I was gonna crawl off into a retirement home somewhere because my neck and back were becoming such a problem. But the record turned out pretty well and the label’s done really good with it and I got the surgery and, man, everything is just going great right now.

And some of the songs were written years ago, right? “Black Swan,” “New World Order” …

Mustaine: “New World Order” was really, really old. We had never really officially recorded that and some people had said stuff about Nick [Menza, drummer 1989-1198, 2004] and, you know, yeah, he wasn’t a really busy writer but he did write a couple good things and “New World Order,” he had a hand in writing some of it, so it’s kind of cool. I don’t know what he’s doing right now but I do know that when he wrote that, it was very modern sounding. So when I came to do that song on this record, because we hadn’t done it officially, it was a no-brainer.

And it still seems to fit seamlessly on this new record, it’s hard to tell it was written way beforehand.

Mustaine: It was. (laughs)

Looking at the lyrics on Thirteen, you lay out your political and spiritual views and it doesn’t come off as preachy, at least not to me. Do you agree?

Mustaine: I’ve become more active in politics and more concerned in my fellow man because of my own discoveries and decision-making. I know if someone would have told me ‘You couldn’t do that,’ I would have said ‘Watch me.’ Because it’s just part of my nature. Not that I’m defiant just for the sake of being defiant because that would become kind of predictable, and there’s nothing cool about being predictable. It all just kind of goes back to what you want to do with your life.

And you still feel strongly that we’re headed towards a global government?

Mustaine: Yeah, I do. You hear China say that they are preparing to go to war with the U.S. — they said that on Fox yesterday — that’s not small potatoes, bro.

Don’t you think that the government sometimes seems like a puppet for banks and corporations?

Mustaine: Yeah, it is. It is the elite that are doing this. But I gotta tell you, the elite have been running the government and all this stuff for a long time. People with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and with the Fed and it’s all the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, they’re the ones that call the shots. I just think right now that the American people are getting screwed so bad and they just don’t know it. They cannot see the forest for the trees. Actually I think there’s lot of stuff that’s going on right now — I read a lot, I study a lot, I watch the news a lot because I’m a political writer. Not by choice. I started off writing about cars — “Mechanix” — and jumping into the fire. That had nothing to do with peace selling. …

You do say it best in the song “We The People”: “The devil’s henchmen in suit and tie.” That sums it up a bit.

Mustaine: Yeah, yeah, I think so. This whole nonsense … if you watch what’s going down with the super committee [on deficit reduction]. I called that before it even started — that it’s a joke and it’s not gonna work. And it didn’t work.

Do you agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Mustaine: I think that the intent was very misguided. I believe that people going out into the streets to demand change — they went to the wrong address. They needed to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You don’t go out and tell a bunch of guys who are working on Wall Street that you want change. You go to the President.

Or Congress.

Mustaine: Well, Congress is pretty much completely gridlocked right now. And the President is insulting them every chance he gets. So, I think the Occupy Wall Street people, if they really really want to see this happen, they need to go (to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), instead of going to the ports and shutting down commerce ,which is hurting people like the truck drivers and longshoremen and all the people on the boats. It’s just ultimately hurting us because that’s just gonna raise the price of food and stuff. And there’s that old saying: He who controls the water and controls the food, controls the people. Well, these guys are handing our control over to the elite by taking the food off of the shelves. If you’re gonna have anything to do with these guys, somebody smart has to tell them what to do.

Recently in an interview you called yourself a survivalist — and the song “13″ expresses that — but if this were a reality show like Survivor you’d probably be the finalist.

Mustaine: (laughs) Maybe.

And it looks like you’ve had a guardian angel over the years.

Mustaine: That I have. I still have it.

And good luck comes into play, too. And maybe 13 isn’t such an unlucky number after all.

Mustaine: Well, it wasn’t on the day I was born. The number 13 was bad for the Templar Knights — the knights who helped Solomon’s temple — those dudes were all rounded up on Friday the 13th and burned at the stake or something like that. I think people don’t know about that and they kind of just connotate the number 13 with marijuana and that it’s bad, you know. I was born on the 13th, I started playing guitar when I was 13 and this record’s my 13th record.

As far as spirituality in the lyrics, as a born again Christian, the less challenging creative road would have been to write songs like Stryper. But you do a pretty good job at being provocative.

Mustaine: Music is something that we listen to give us a change in our mood, to help us get out of a bad mood or continue to perpetuate a good mood. And I think if you put on music and someone’s condemning you and making you sad or making you cry … that ain’t my gig. Somebody else can give that. You know, I like listening to stuff that’s sentimental and emotional and stuff, too, but I don’t want to be the guy who does that. I’m good at beating my guitar until it throws up and I think people got a good look at that this weekend when I went up and played with Metallica again. That was really fun. I know a lot of people were really surprised because they never saw me play with the band.

It must have been a great feeling going up there onstage again with them.

Mustaine: I had some mood swings. There was some ups and downs and stuff. And, you know, got excited, and kind of got impatient, ‘Let’s go. I’m okay. Well, lets go!’ and this kind of thing and that’s just the artist in me. I’m just squirrely like that.

Playing some of those old Metallica songs — did you have favorites or are there still favorites now?

Mustaine: You know, it felt fun to play them. I wish I would have had a little bit more opportunity to get prepared with the band. You know, because I’m a perfectionist. I would have liked to have had my sound just so and make sure when I did the solos they would jump up the volume and stuff like that that I’m used to, but we were at a club and playing at a club and playing like a club band. It was fun to take off all the rules and regulations and stuff and kind of shoot from the hip.

I was surprised you didn’t play “The Four Horsemen.”

Mustaine: I think there’s a reason for that. I think I know why we didn’t play that song but I’m not going to go out on a limb on it. I think one of the things was because we recorded “Mechanix” and they recorded the other way, there’s not really a need to do that. There were several other songs that were really important — like “Jump in the Fire” was the first song I brought those guys. And “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia” were songs that I brought to them, too, and the only other song was “Mechanix” which later changed to “Four Horsemen.” And the rest of those songs were written by James (Hetfield) or by Hugh Tanner or Lloyd Grant and that’s why those guys were there .. and a little weird for me, too, you know, standing onstage. I thought it was cool to be just with Metallica but Ron McGovney’s up there and Lloyd Grant’s up there. I was kind of like ‘Alright, well, I’ll bite the bullet. I’ll be cool. This is not so terrible.’ I got up there and, you know what, I didn’t even notice them. I was having so much fun they weren’t even there.

Well, you mentioned mood swings. You should have had flashbacks with McGovney ….

Mustaine: Actually, you know what. I didn’t even see him the whole time I was up there. It was cool that he was there. He was pretty nervous, too. Ron’s a good guy. I was locked into Lars’ playing and James’ playing. Me and James, we were like the the Toxic Twins back when we played together and we were a very very dangerous duo. And for a moment I think I stirred some of those old feelings up. I saw one of the videos and it looked like he was having fun. I know I was having fun. I had a smile that I went to bed with.

Do you remember the very first Metallica gig? I think it was in Anaheim, 1982.

Mustaine: You know, I remember a lot of those shows but not which one was the first one. One of them, when we played there .. this is funny, I was just saying this to somebody the other day, and I don’t even know if James will remember this. He used to go partying with me and we used to go out drinking all the time and we found out that when we were up there, there was a contest, a battle of the bands and the winner got to open up for this new band from Ireland — a band that had just come on MTV and had this song “I Will Follow.” I told James: ‘These guys are gonna be huge, dude. You watch.’ It was U2, when they came over and if we had entered the battle of the bands we probably would have gotten to open up for them which would have been pretty interesting. You know, there’s been a lot of firsts for Metallica but I don’t think that they’ve opened up for U2 yet.

Lastly, Gigantour. Are you glad you picked bands like Lacuna Coil for Gigantour?

Mustaine: Yeah, I ‘m glad I picked Motorhead and Volbeat, too. I think that all the bands that are on Gigantour this year are gonna be great. They all have a certain type of cool factor. Motorhead has that straight-forward, ‘I’m gonna kill you’ kind of music, and Volbeat is that kind of dangerous kind of music — kind of like Elvis metal — and listening to Lacuna Coil with the two singers, it’s very dynamic and they’ve got good guitar players in there. It’s also cool that at one point we had Christina (Scabbia) sing a song with us. We haven’t discussed having her come up and sing “À Tout le Monde” with us each night. We probably should but we haven’t talked about that yet.

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CD Review: Paul Rodgers & Friends - Live at Montreux 1994

CD Review: Paul Rodgers & Friends - Live at Montreux 1994
Eagle Records
All Access Review:  A-

In 1993, Paul Rodgers was a free man. The Firm had dissolved, the legendary front man was above and beyond The Law, Bad Company had become a distant, but still treasured, memory and the revered Free was long gone. Left with nothing to do, the singer with the brawny, torn-and-frayed pipes and expressive, denim-clad delivery looked again to the blues, his one true love, for inspiration. He found it in the music of Muddy Waters.
Keen to pay homage to the great man, Rodgers didn’t break character. Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters may have contained the spark of the Chicago-style electric blues that Waters once perfected, but it was powered by the blues-rock combustion of Rodgers’ work with Bad Company and Free. Not all of the tracks on Muddy Water Blues, the second of Rodgers’ solo albums, were Waters covers, but his spirit haunts the record, inhabiting its grooves and inspiring Rodgers and his collaborators. In 1994, a year after Muddy Water Blues’ arrival, Rodgers brought much of that record to life in a blustery, sweaty concert at Montreux, where he was joined onstage by the likes of Journey guitarist Neal Schon, drummer Jason Bonham, guitarist Ian Hatton and bassist John Smithson, as well as several guests, including Queen’s Brian May, Toto’s Steve Lukather and blues veterans Luther Allison, Eddie Kirkland, Sherman Robertson, Robert Lucas and Kenny Neal.
Though a star-studded affair, Live at Montreux 1994 has more of a blue-collar feel. This is a workingman’s record, with dirt under its fingernails and calluses on its hands. Sprinkled with plenty of songs that Rodgers made famous with Free and Bad Company, Live at Montreux 1994 also finds Rodgers digging his hands into the earthy soil of blues classics like Waters’ “Louisiana Blues,” which simmers with menace and pure nastiness on the stove here, letting all the rich flavors – including a particularly tasty guitar solo – sink into its meaty textures. In a surprising turn, May gets down and dirty on the Sonny Boy Williamson number “Good Morning Little School Girl,” his distorted guitar becoming a careening crop duster that dives and climbs with all the daring of pilot with a death wish. The highlight of a sensational set, “Good Morning Little School Girl” is simply mean, burning with intensity and passionate playing. To finish off the night, Rodger and crew slam into Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and the closer, “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Willie Dixon, with all the force of a hurricane. The guitars sound like switchblades on and cut deeply with every note on “Crossroads,” as the rhythm section works up a mean, mean thirst crawling through the gutter on “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
Three of the songs Dixon wrote for Waters, including 1954’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’m Ready” and 1961’s “Let Me Love You Baby,” are included here and performed with all the righteous fervor of a tent revival ministry, as is Booker T. & the MGs’ “The Hunter.” Just as propulsive and muscular are the Rodgers’ classics “All Right Now,” the old Free hit, and rust-covered Bad Company diamonds “Can’t Get Enough (of Your Love)” and “Feel Like Making Love.” Ever the professional, Rodgers’ nuanced vocals add richness and depth to each track, while his handpicked group of hired guns plays the daylights out of this material almost all the way through, with the exception of the rare uninspired moment. The recording quality is pretty sound and world-class music writer Malcolm Dome does the show justice with well-written, informative liner notes. All of this makes you wonder if, or when, Rodgers will delve even deeper into the blues down the road.

- Peter Lindblad

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Bad Company

CD Review: Riot - Immortal Soul

CD Review: Riot - Immortal Soul
All Access Review: B+

More an indictment of apathy towards war in foreign lands than a desperate plea for attention, “Riot,” the incendiary opener off Riot’s latest album, Immortal Soul, asks a pertinent question: “What’s it going to take to make you riot?” What, indeed, is it going to take for people to wake up and take notice of a grossly under appreciated cult band that’s been around since 1975 and tossed a few exquisitely explosive heavy metal Molotov cocktails into the fray between 1977 and 1981 with the albums Rock City, Narita and the quintessential Riot classic Fire Down Under?
When the New Wave of British Heavy Metal threatened to drown us all in spiraling twin guitar leads, screaming vocals and stampeding rhythms, Riot, the pet project of guitarist and lone remaining founding member MarkReale, a man who understands the capricious nature of rock and roll all too well, seemed poised to become America’s answer to English cousins Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, the Tygers of Pan Tang and Saxon, among others. Riot was cut from the same cloth, from the blazing guitar duels ignited by Reale’s ambitious fretwork to pulse-pounding rhythms and wailing vocals that could fill up the most spacious of arenas. The pace of their songs was blistering, and they didn’t opt for the clichéd fretwork and grooves so many lesser bands take when confronted with a fork in the road, musically speaking. At the very least, while opening for the likes of Sammy Hagar, Black Sabbath and KISS, Riot’s ballistic live performances should have spurred a groundswell of support that would eventually lead to massive record sales and sold-out stadiums. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
The usual suspects are to blame, of course. Too many lineup changes, record label treachery, seismic shifts in musical trends and the occasional lukewarm effort all conspired to keep a good man like Reale down. Word has it he was even living out of his car in Los Angeles at one point. And yet, through it all, Reale kept Riot alive, tenaciously holding on to the belief that his time was coming. Occasionally, he’s been able to recapture that old magic that made them one of metal’s top title contenders in the late ‘70s, as Riot did near the end of the ‘80s. The faithful always held a special reverence for the lineup that recorded 1988’s Thundersteel and 1990’s The Privilege of Power, and Reale has reassembled the crew of Tony Moore (vocals), Don Van Stavern (bass), and Bobby Jarzombek (drums), along with live collaborator and guitarist Mike Flyntz for another tour of duty.
The band’s rebirth is nothing short of remarkable. After a recent scorched-earth tour of Japan and a triumphant Sweden Rock Festival outing, Riot unleashed Immortal Soul in late 2011, and it is a beast. Out of the gate, the blinding speed and white-hot fury of “Riot” – a ballsy title considering it’s also the name of the band – outraces many of Riot’s thrash-metal brethren, with Moore’s squealing vocals adding urgency and excitement. “Sins of the Father” is just as scintillating, traveling as fast as a bullet from point A to point B and not forgetting to plant a series of hooks that claw flesh. “Crawling” is something altogether different. With an undeniably exotic Middle Eastern feel, courtesy of serpentine, hookah-smoking guitars, the undulating “Crawling” is a seductive and hypnotic siren’s call that listeners must repeatedly heed. Even more melodic is the soaring epic “Fall Before Me,” which artfully contrasts meaty, grinding riffs with angelic harmonies, while the title track is stylish and dark, a not-so-subtle nod to Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime.
Blessed with an impressive vocal range that easily reaches high notes other singers would have to stand on a chair to tough, Moore is impossible to ignore. He can sound tough and tender, as he redeems an otherwise lackluster “Whiskey Man,” or he can fill a room the size of a football field with his volume and high-pitched screams, as he does on “Insanity.” While Reale and Flyntz pound away at dynamic, thundering riffs and construct intricate helixes of notes that amaze and awe, as they do in the high-flying “Believe,” Moore’s presence is just as powerful. And don’t sleep on Jarzombek’s drumming, with its crispness and propulsive momentum, augmented by Van Stavern’s flexible bass work.
Not the edgiest album to ever see the light of day, Immortal Soul is, nevertheless, a classic-sounding heavy metal record, with strong songwriting and interesting diversity that mostly goes for the throat and takes daring risks. At times, it sounds almost reeks of desperation – not a bad thing for a band that’s been around this long – as if Reale and company are willing to try and do anything to catch your attention. More often than not, Immortal Soul does just that.
-        Peter Lindblad

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Metal Evolution - "Thrash"

Metal Evolution: "Thrash" - Episode 106 
Sam Dunn
VH1 Classic

All Access Review:  A-
Squaring off against everything that ‘80s glam metal represented, the soldiers of thrash – glam’s uglier, angrier cousin – wanted to eradicate every trace of makeup, lipstick and hairspray from heavy metal’s dark underworld. Or, as Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine puts it in the “Thrash” installment of Sam Dunn’s “Metal Evolution” documentary series, the androgynous purveyors of glam metal, many of whom looked almost as pretty as the girls they were bedding, were “fleas on the balls of a camel” and thrash “was a flea bomb.”
The strongest of pesticides, thrash almost killed glam metal dead. Grunge would finish the job in the ‘90s. Obviously a fan of one of metal’s most extreme sub-genres, Dunn, author of the acclaimed “Metal A Headbanger’s Journey” documentary, explores the fiery origins and virus-like developments of thrash metal in the latest chapter of “Metal Evolution,” which appeared over New Year’s Eve weekend on VH-1 Classic. Up to this point, Dunn has done a fine job detailing with great care the genealogy of heavy metal. Every piece is rife with riveting interview material, classic live footage and historical fact. With the exuberant enthusiasm of a fan and the intellectual curiosity of an anthropologist, which is what he is, Dunn has dissected the body of and probed into every nook and cranny of that most reviled of all musical forms.
So far, “Metal Evolution” has taken viewers on a loud, crazed journey through all the mayhem and madness metal has produced over the years. Yes, it’s a history lesson, but the scope of Dunn’s work is wide-ranging, studying the influence of classical and jazz on metal, while also investigating the connection between the gritty, early ‘70s Detroit proto-punk sound of The Stooges and the MC5 and confronting the strained relations between English punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And that’s just a small sampling of Dunn’s exhaustive, but never tedious, testimony.
“Thrash” is another winner. Starting off at its birthplace, Soundwave Studios in California’s Bay Area, where Testament is running through a fiery rehearsal, Dunn, through content-rich talks with Mustaine, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, Testament’s Alex Skolnick and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, finds the merging streams of hardcore punk and NWOBHM flowing electricity into thrash’s roiling sea. Taking the energy and spirit of punk and the melodic aggression of bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, thrash’s innovators, like Slayer and Exodus, upped the ante.
As Skolnick relates in “Thrash,” musicians like him loved punk’s songs and its undeniable vitality; however, what was missing was musicianship, and they wanted desperately to create something that would challenge their chops. Thrash was it. Heavy and punishing, the riffs raged, flying at unheard-of speeds. And the guttural vocals screamed and growled, spitting out graphically violent lyrical imagery that occasionally touched on war and social issues but more often told stories of serial killers and gruesome deaths. Using this symbiotic relationship as a jumping-off point, Dunn segues into how thundering, high-velocity double-kick drums became the driving force behind Trash. Ulrich and Testament’s Paul Bostaph give all the credit to Motorhead’s Phil Taylor for bringing the double-kick drums into fashion, and Thrash’s young vanguard of drummers took Taylor’s style and gave it a shot of adrenaline. Taylor is one of the surprising stars of Dunn’s “Thrash,” a metal veteran telling his war stories and explaining his absolutely vital contribution to metal, with Dunn hanging on every word.
When the conversation turns to Metallica, Jon Zazula, founder of Megaforce Records, and his wife reveal how their mom-and-pop metal label served as the launching pad for the band that would become Thrash’s version of The Beatles. Metallica’s tale serves as the lynchpin for “Thrash,” as Dunn follows the band from its lowly beginnings on through the explosion of San Francisco’s underground metal scene and into the controversial, MTV-courting “Black” album, which some in the Thrash community saw a betrayal of its values. Dunn and Lombardo make no bones about how they felt. It was treason, but to Dunn’s credit, he shares his feelings with Ulrich, who offers Metallica’s side of things. Ulrich feels that “betrayal” is such an ugly word and that if Metallica had done a rehashing of … And Justice for All, that would have been Metallica selling out. They needed to do the “Black” album to expand their horizons and grow artistically, as Ulrich explains. His reasoning makes perfect sense.
So does Nunn’s storytelling. In less capable hands, “Thrash” could have been a jumbled mess, but he sticks to the philosophy of “Metal Evolution,” and that is to follow each stage of metal’s growth and development to the wherever the story leads. Slayer’s Reign in Blood is treated with awe and respect, and the story behind landmark show at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City that led to major-label deals for Raven, Metallica and, eventually, Anthrax is told with an insider’s perspective.  By the end of “Thrash,” Nunn has traversed Sweden to investigate Thrash’s unlikely revival in the land of ice, snow and Lutherans – the Gothenburg sound, which, after Thrash’s mid-‘90s swoon, which married melody and harmonies with blinding speed and crushing heaviness in bands like In Flames – and Richmond, Va.’s burgeoning scene, which roared to life because of Lamb of God. Though previous segments of “Metal Evolution” – including a surprisingly sincere look at “Glam,” strategically shown the week before “Thrash,” the juxtaposition probably being no accident – were strong statements of purpose, “Thrash” is the best of the lot. Next week, it’s “Grunge,” as Dunn goes to Seattle to take on the movement that many say destroyed the careers of bands like Warrant and Ratt, among others. Let’s hope Dunn treats the subject matter with just as much care as he does with Thrash.
- Peter Lindblad

Episode Summary - Arguably metal's most popular and passionate genre, Sam journeys to Northern California to trace the roots of Thrash by interviewing the architects of this hugely popular genre. Sam interviews Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Testament, Exodus, and many more Thrash Metal legends.
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