R.I.P., identity of the last 27 years

Yesterday I played guitar for quite a while. It was the first time in many moons that I’ve done so by myself, writing some material and practicing some technical shit. I really enjoyed it for, I don’t know, maybe an hour?

Then, all of a sudden, a switch was flicked, and I felt the way I usually have about guitar for the last 10 years: bored and annoyed. But it’s deeper than those words convey. I felt so bored and annoyed that it put me in a foul mood. I couldn’t just put the guitar down and go do something else and be happy again. I ended up feeling like doing anything at all was pointless. It was miserable.

I don’t know why I was having so much fun and then suddenly hated it, but it got me thinking about it this morning. I love…well, I was going to say metal but that’s not really true. I grew up listening to metal and still do so a lot of the time but I’m just as picky about it as I am any other genre. I love lots of other styles of music too, like pop and electronic and disco and funk, but I feel like saying “I like a genre” is a silly statement because I don’t like every song or artist in that style. In fact, I’m so picky that I hate the vast majority of all genres. The few songs or artists I like are exceptions, regardless of genre.

So anyway, to be precise, I love a lot of metal but this morning I realized that almost all the metal I listen to is stuff I’ve loved for many years. And just the other day I was wondering why I still bother to read the metal news every day when I rarely like or care about any of the bands being covered. And it made me think, maybe I don’t really love metal anymore. I mean, I used to love some bands that I eventually came to loathe, like Anthrax and Testament. I’ve really thinned the herd when it comes to my metal tastes, and it’s not really any different than my approach to any other style of music.

So I don’t think I really consider myself a metalhead anymore. I think I only like metal as much as anything else. I’m just more familiar with it than other styles. No, I think I’m now better described as a general music enthusiast — golly, that sounds dry. What have I become?

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A: Dry as fuck.

To finally bring this back to where I started, I think my great familiarity with metal is why I suddenly hated playing guitar yesterday. I’ve been playing metal on guitar for so long that unless I’m doing something fresh with it, it doesn’t take long before I get bored by it. So maybe it was fun while I was writing something new, but as soon as I started practicing some old shit, it just felt tired. Sure, I could try to take up jazz or classical or whatever but I’m not interested in those. I’m just fucking tired of guitar, and I’m tired of playing metal. Generally speaking.

That’s why I want to find a god damn funk/disco band I can play bass in. That is exciting and fresh to me. I can write the most basic, simple, obvious slap bass riff, yet it is infinitely more exciting to me than an intricate, complex death metal guitar part. The change of scenery is that welcomed at this point.

It’s a good thing I already transitioned away from wearing camouflage and metal shirts, otherwise this would be a much more jarring realization.

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Sad people from old bands making themselves look bad

I love the White Zombie record, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1. It’s a unique, groovy, catchy, fun, smart, and slightly unsettling album.

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Fuck yeah.

A big part of what I like about this record is the drumming of Ivan De Prume. I’m not technically proficient enough with drumming to be able to explain what about his playing is so amazing, but I can sum it up and say that he has an inimitable groove. Like a lot of my other favourite drummers, he can play a simple beat but right away, it’s distinctive and stands out — his playing is extremely recognizable to me, and I love it. There’s a certain swagger and confidence to it.

So I was really bummed when he left the band, and every few years I look him up to see what he’s been doing. Today I found something really sad. It’s a clip where he talks about White Zombie and his contribution to the band with an inflated ego. Here it is.

Yeah, WZ was a big deal…25 years ago. Of course there are some aging cats like myself who still love a few of the records but I don’t think that justifies the tone De Prume takes in the above vid. Actually, I don’t think there is any accomplishment that justifies an egotistical tone, ever. I admire humble people, and am instantly put off by braggarts, regardless of what they’ve done. Bragging is annoying.

I also didn’t like how he disparages WZ’s output after he left. He merely says it doesn’t have the groove that he injected into things, and I agree with that statement 100%, but the way he says it makes it sound like more bragging. It feels like he’s implying, “Johnny Tempesta is a good drummer in his own right but I’M BETTER.”

On top of those things, I also find it sad when people clutch desperately to their accomplishments from long ago. I mean, he’s had 27 years to let go of this but it sounds like he’s still bitter about how things went down, and the success the band continued to enjoy after he left. That’s a long time to hold onto negativity.

Yet another miserable aspect to this is that the video states it contains “big news” and came out just a few weeks ago, yet it has only 22 views currently. That speaks volumes about how much the world cares about De Prume’s big news.

It’s all so embarrassing, and it sucks because this guy has had a huge positive impact on my life up until this point, but this is going to taint my memories and feelings associated with him. Bummer.

I feel similarly about David Silveria from Korn, who has a remarkably similar story: groovy, talented drummer with a distinct style who was kicked out of a big band way back when, and still gripes about it to this day, making himself look bad. It’s such a shame. I guess it must be tough to climb such mountains, only to tumble off of them and into obscurity for the rest of your life. Great highs can lead to some great lows, it seems.

Moral of the story: never succeed at anything. Intentionally hamstring and sabotage everything you do so that you avoid success. Jk, real moral of the story: I want to stay humble, no matter how many millions of records I sell and how many fans swamp me on a daily basis. I’m just a dude like you, except I’ve got an amazing blog that dictates world events. NBD. Jk again, my blog actually dictates universal events.

all the bass players in the metal bands i grew up listening to sucked

 

when i was 14 and first became a musician, i came at it all wrong. first off, i let my friend nick (who played guitar) convince me to learn to play bass when i didn’t know or care about bass at all back then. i loved the sound of distorted electric guitar so i should have started there but nope, i listened to nick.

second, i didn’t have any bass heroes until i had been playing bass for many years. almost all the bass players in the metal bands i was listening to sucked. they either couldn’t play worth a shit, had terrible tone, were mixed way too low on the records, or some combination of those things. shall i list some of them? i shall.

  • cliff burton (metallica) – he’s actually awesome, of course, but the only time you can hear him on a record is when he has a solo — which is twice on three records.
  • jason newsted (metallica) – sucks, bad tone, mixed low.
  • dave ellefson (megadeth) – sucks, bad tone, mixed low.
  • frank bello (anthrax) – sucks, TERRIBLE tone.
  • rex (pantera) – stupid scooped mid tone that lacks any body, mixed low.
  • nikki six (motley crue) – sucks, bad tone.
  • billy gould (faith no more) – sucks, bland tone.
  • david vincent (morbid angel) – sucks, mixed low.
  • paulo jr (sepultura) – sucks super bad, bad tone, mixed low.
  • tom araya (slayer) – perhaps the worst bass player ever, mixed completely out.

i’m sure there are others i’m forgetting too. i suppose i didn’t mind greg christian from testament and DD verni from overkill but they also didn’t exactly get me hard, either. about the only bass player that stood out to me as really mattering to a band was type o negative’s peter steele. you could hear him, his bass sounded cool, and he played neat things.

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plus he looked fucking awesome.

as a full blown adult now, i’ve managed to find a few other bass players that really inspire me. jeroen paul thesseling (pestilence, obscura) is ridiculously talented and creates some frightening, unsettling sounds on his fretless. eric langlois (cryptopsy) always had super heavy tone, and mixed in some slap playing too. i think tony choy (pestilence, atheist) is probably the single biggest influence on my bass interests now though. he has a nice, well-rounded tone, plays a lot of slap (tastefully, mind you — it doesn’t sound out of place like a funk bassist in a metal band), and does a great job of making the bass just as important and interesting as the other instruments. he’s fun to listen to, fun to play along with.

 

if only i knew about these guys when i was 14. because, i mean, i was a horrible bass player myself — shit in, shit out, right? i didn’t realize that bass could be cool, and that led to me mostly giving up on bass and focusing primarily on guitar up until the last few years. now that i love playing bass and realize how cool it can be, i wonder where i would be if i only had this knowledge 20-odd years ago.

whatever, i was a bonehead then anyway. i probably would have squandered my talents and written some stupid generic metal bass lines regardless. i’ll just be grateful i don’t suck at bass anymore and continue searching for an outlet for my bass love before i become a mouldering corpse.

there’s a distinct lack of quality in hateful, misanthropic metal.

i’ve been on a real binge in the last few weeks, listening to every metal album that espouses hatred for mankind and life in general, but they have all sucked so far. they all promise big with great band names, brutal and depressing song and album titles, and unsettling greyscale cover art…but when it comes time to deliver the actual product, they all fall short. it stinks.

like this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

none of the above bands or records are terrible, but none of them are notable either. each one i listened to was like, meh. i don’t even remember what each one sounded like.

what i do remember is being disappointed by each one for the lack of dynamics, textures, and/or dimensions; the lack of hooks (ie memorable parts); and a lack of overall professionalism. for the most part, the music in the above links is generally just flat and monotonous. it’s boring. and when they do occasionally find some neat textures, they don’t do anything with them. it’s just like, “that’s sort of a neat sound…huh, i guess they’re not going to do anything cool with it…and i guess they’re just going to keep under-utilizing it for the next 3 minutes…”

for a serially hateful, depressed SOB like myself, this is really frustrating. i want to find music that matches my miserable outlook, but that doesn’t mean i want to listen to mediocre shit. vile, dismal art doesn’t have to be lazy, droning, unimaginative, or unprofessional — quality songwriting and bleak art are not mutually exclusive.

i think part of the problem is there really aren’t that many artists exploring this realm. i think that for every 20 artists in any given genre, 19 are going to suck, and there are probably only 19 bands or artists doing what i’m looking for right now. so maybe in 10 years when a few more have joined the glum fray, i’ll be able to find a few i actually like.

there are two things i want to say before i end this post: the first is that the bands akercocke and voices both pull off what i’m looking for, and they do it splendidly. so there are a few out there. i’m just annoyed that i seem to have already found all the good ones.

the other thing is that as much as i’m pissing on a bunch of obscure artists, i still want to give them kudos for making art that appeals to such a tiny audience. they are obviously doing it because they love it, and i think that’s the only viable reason to make any art at all. whether i like it or not should mean nothing to anyone but me.

nothing ruins a song faster than words

i recently stumbled across a band i’ve never listened to before, and have had one of their songs stuck in my head for a few days now. i’ve been totally enamoured with it because of the power and strange mysteries it conveyed to me. here it is.

i couldn’t decipher the lyrics, and knew that i shouldn’t look them up since i was very likely to be disappointed by them. but my curiosity got the best of me, and yup. very disappointed. there are no lines that stand out as particularly bad and worthy of me posting them here but they are generally uninspired, typical, boring. just metal heads trying to write typical metal lyrics about typical metal topics.

i have a hard time finding much music i like, and i have an even harder time when i also have to consider the lyrics, especially in metal. it seems like lyrics are a second thought to most metal musicians, like they first come up with music that they like and then feel obligated to put some vocals over top of it so they throw some trite words together and use that. and i’m sick of that approach. words don’t have to suck. words don’t have to be so plain and dull. they don’t have to sledgehammers, driving home the point of your dumb statement. the right combination of words can be as abstract and interpretive as any music. they can paint swirling, multi-textured scenes if you use a finer brush.

and i prefer that. i want more depth in my art, more layers, more to consider. i don’t want to read grade 8 history reports presented as lyrics to a song. that’s dumb.

if people really suck with words, they should stick to instrumentals or get some help with their lyrics. shit, you don’t even have to use real words. you can just make sounds, or make up your own words. fuck it, it’s art, you know? no rules. i’m just tired of people ruining perfectly good music with their garbage words.

but i guess i could have just never read those lyrics. then i could have still liked the song. i guess i have to accept my part of the blame for this mess. shit.

finally liking my stuff

i recently recorded an old song of mine at home, and i really like it. i like it so much that i’ve been listening to it a lot — so much that, as supportive as jenn is, she moaned “not again” the last time i put it on.

 

i’ve played in bands since i was 14 and recorded lots of shit, and i hate most of the songs that i’ve recorded over the years. i don’t like the recordings, don’t like the performances on the recordings, and don’t even like the songs themselves — i can be very critical. but i love this one, and that’s refreshing as all hell. it’s not a perfect recording by any means but i think that overall it’s very good, and i was able to do for free in our dining room on a 15 yr old laptop.

i think my satisfaction with this particular recording is due to several factors. i had zero deadlines for getting it done so i could take as long and make as many changes as i wanted. plus by doing it all alone, i didn’t have anyone sitting around watching my performances. that helped me to relax and perform better. another benefit of working solo is that i didn’t have to deal with clashing egos: if i didn’t like what the drums were doing in one section, i didn’t have to be kind and supportive while telling the drummer that their part sucked and to do it again but totally differently, only to still be unsatisfied with whatever they did. instead, i just went ahead and changed it to something i liked.

essentially, by recording my own songs at home by myself, i’m able to tailor make music that fits my tastes exactly, so i shouldn’t be surprised i like it so much. i guess i’ve just been accustomed to disappointment for so long that this has really come as a shock.

we’ll see how the next home recording goes though. this is the first and only ‘serious’ song i’ve been happy with so maybe it’s a fluke. maybe i will make a future blog post on how frustrating, pointless, and unsatisfying writing and recording any music is, under any circumstances. maybe i should quit now, while i’m ahead with one positive experience.

hmmm.

grow up

i hate when rock music takes itself super seriously and tries to sell listeners on the music being an experience. it’s childish. it reminds me of a grade 10 metalhead playing a shitty riff for you on their out-of-tune guitar but prefacing it with a supremely confident introduction like “i call this one ‘deathtrooper incursion’ because it’s so heavy and complex that it completely destroys you.” buzz, buzz-buzz, twang, weedly twang twang. it is the moments following the end of the riff — the ones when you stand there not just undestroyed, not just unimpressed, but thoroughly disappointed and shocked at the sub-amateur skill and lack of integrity, and you must then either lie to the ‘artist’ about how great deathtrooper incursion is, or tell them the honest truth that they should quit playing music altogether right now and focus on learning a trade sooner than later — that are among my least favourite of all time. the awkwardness, the embarrassment, is too much to take.

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quit now

i first noticed this kind of ridiculous rock confidence long ago when reading the back of an iron butterfly vinyl album. back in the heyday of vinyl, the back side of the record sleeve would often have a biography about the artist(s), and laud the hell out of them. i understand they were trying to sell records but it was corny as fuck, even back then. it went on and on about the band member’s classical and jazz training and how these styles mixed together in iron butterfly to form something so unique and crazy that blah blah blah. even as a kid, i thought, this is dumb. even i know that iron butterfly sucks and people only like in-gadda-da-vida as a novelty.

fast forward to today, when i read about the new album called trinidad scorpion hallucinations by the bass player from six feet under, jeff hughell. the press release he sent out tells us that he’s made some mind-melting music. here is an excerpt.

Just like the scorching pepper the album is named after, these songs are not for the faint of heart. The record takes the listener on a roller coaster of extreme highs and lows which parallel the emotions one would experience after having the misfortune of inhaling one of the world’s hottest chilies.

The first track, “Burn The Soul”, scorches ear holes with blistering bass and drums as capsaicin burns the throat. An ice-cold glass of water in the form of track number two, titled “Relief”, quenches a sweltering pallet, but only momentarily. The smolder continues as delusions ensue on the title track, “Trinidad Scorpion Hallucinations”. “Brief Lapse of Clarity” provides a false sense of comfort in the form of a mellow harmony. Realization that nothing can halt the heat happens in the next song “The Crown Won’t Cool It Down”. As science demonstrates, what goes in must come out: “The Other Side” provides a climatic close to a wild ride.

wow, it must be good!

now the thing is, i can almost forgive the grade 10 metalhead for this kind of thing — he’s just a dumb kid. but an adult? no way. this is so stupid, it’s unforgivable.

jeff hughell’s press release makes me puke and it has nothing to do with hot peppers.