Doc welcomes Vio-Lence guitarist, Phil Demmel, to the show and they talk about how Phil has been dealing with life during the pandemic, how his decision to leave Machine Head has affected his life positively, confronting and questioning his playing abilities, why filling in for Slayer saved his music career, how the two bonded during the touring cycle for Through The Ashes of Empires in his early days in Machine Head, his new cover project, BPMD, reuniting with Vio-Lence, and take a walk down memory lane about the late 80s thrash scene and why Vio-Lence hung it up the first time around.
This episode features the songs “The Fall” by The Silencer and “The Permanent Decay” by Echoes of Reckoning featuring Phil Demmel, Brandan Schieppati, David Ellefson, and Dave McClain.
Doc welcomes Front of House Sound Engineer, Steve Lagudi, to the show and they talk about Steve’s break in the industry working for Metallica’s fanclub, learning on his own how to do sound by doing demos for Emmure, meeting God Forbid and hitting the road as their sound guy, his close relationship to the band and helping save the God Forbid by doing demos for their last album, Equilibrium, how he got the Machine Head gig after God Forbid broke up, what he has done to grow as an engineer, and why he gets so invested with his work that he almost becomes a “6th member”.
This episode features the songs “Wesley’s Theory” by Kendrick Lamar and “Circle The Drain” by Machine Head.
Doc welcomes Skinlab vocalist and bassist, Steev Esquivel, to the show and they talk about meeting each other in the late 90s, his early days with thrash metal band, Defiance, the downturn in thrash leading to the groove metal scene in the bay area and starting Skinlab, how much Robb Flynn and Machine Head helped with their career, working with producer, Andy Sneap, their relationship with Century Media records, seeing the scene change again with the rise of the NWOAHM, going on hiatus after the ReVolting Room album release, his time with rock side project, Re:Ignition, reforming Skinlab, and what life outside of the music industry has been like.
This episode features the songs “Resurgence” by Sons of Texas, “Take What You Want” by Re:Ignition, and “Overcoming” by Skinlab.
Doc speaks with Machine Head frontman, Robb Flynn, about his crazy, early years in the Bay Area experimenting with drugs, starting thrash band Forbidden, cutting his teeth on the road with Vio-lence, how the changing 90s metal scene inspired him to start Machine Head, how they secured a record deal with Roadrunner Records, the huge impact and success of Burn My Eyes, how the band defied categorization through the years as their sound evolved, and discuss race relations and outrage culture.
This episode features the song “No Return” by Void Vator from the album Dehumanized, and the song “Beyond The Pale” by Machine Head from the album Catharsis.
By the time I even viewed the damning video of Philip H. Anselmo, the legendary vocalist of Pantera, Down, and Superjoint Ritual, performing a forceful “sieg heil” Nazi salute followed directly by adamantly shouting “white power” to the crowd at the end of a star-studded Dimebash fundraiser concert at Lucky Strike in Hollywood, CA, the internet had already exploded with outrage, responses, defenses, theories, and excuses.
In just the few days after the event, it appeared that Phil Anselmo outrage fatigue had already set in. People were already sick of talking about it, hearing how offended people were, or even acknowledging that the heavy music world might have a race problem. Despite this fatigue and the fickleness of the social media news cycle, more than a few people reached out to me asking if I would write some type of response considering my track record of dissecting heavy metal culture and openness to discussing race and politics. I consider it my responsibility to weigh in, so here it is:
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.
Last week, during one of my daily perusals of this very blog, I came across a rather scathing recounting of Killswitch Engage’s self-titled album, which came out earlier this year. This caught me a bit off guard, as I considered it to be one of my favorite albums of the year and a step in the right direction from Daylights Dies, which was at first very disappointing but grew on me after some time. I was even more surprised when I saw that most user comments tended to agree with the blog entry.
Most of the criticism seemed to center around Killswitch’s supposed inability to stray from their winning formula. People seemed to think that their sound had become stagnant, and that there wasn’t enough variety between albums and songs. Now I don’t disagree that KSE has a pretty standard formula for their songs and a definitive sound that really hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, but I am disagreeing that this is necessarily a bad thing. I want to ask you guys if you think it’s better for a band to stick to a relatively confined style through their career like Hatebreed, Cannibal Corpse, or Motorhead, or is it better to expand and experiment like Mastodon, The Haunted, or Cave In.