By Carl Begai
Folks can argue that the Sleep Is The Enemy album from 2006 put Canadian (former underground) rockers Danko Jones on the map. If that’s the case, Below The Belt gave the band free reign to choose when and where their three-man circus would touch down on that map. Released in May 2010, it yielded three singles and star-studded videos for each, support tours with Guns N’ Roses and Motörhead, international festival gigs, and headline tours across Europe. Frontman and namesake Danko Jones calls Below The Belt an album that had to be made in the wake of the disappointing – as far as he’s concerned – Never Too Loud record from 2008. And in the end, it laid the groundwork in a big way for their new platter Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.
“Below The Belt did really well for us on radio in Canada, the States and Europe, so I’m glad it had the legs; definitely more than Never Too Loud did. In hindsight Never Too Loud was a bit of a misstep for us, but I wouldn’t really take it back now that we’ve done Below The Belt and Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue because I like bands that have hills and valley to their discography. Living through Never Too Loud for those one-and-a-half years wasn’t torturous, but the outcome of the session was kind of annoying. I’d rather put Never Too Loud out again, but only as the demos. When we had those demos we were going into a world class studio with a world class producer (Nick Rasculinecz / Rush, Death Angel) thinking that was the album, but it didn’t turn out that way. I resisted saying anything when we were doing press because I couldn’t understand what people were hearing that I wasn’t. When we were finishing Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue I went back and listened to Never Too Loud, which was critically the worst received album we’ve done, and I wanted to make sure we weren’t at that level. I didn’t realize how sonically poor Never Too Loud was compared to the more recent two albums.” Continue Reading
One of the things I enjoy most about the whole music biz schtick is the people I meet along the way. Not just the so-called rock stars; label reps, tour managers, promoters, stage crews, promo people, merchandise watchdogs, other journalists…. I’ve met plenty of each and I’m proud to call many of them my friends.
One such specimen is Australian sound engineer Matt West, who has worked for the likes of Testament, Motörhead, and several non-metal artists; a gentleman whom I met by chance and turned out to be quite a nice guy largely due to his warped sense of humour and love of metal. Turns out we also share a love of photography, and Matt has taken a big step by releasing a book of 200 shots compiled from his travels around the world.
Gotta say, I’m impressed.
Following is an overview of the book by Matt and the official press release for the book, entitled Moments:
Matt: “Moments is a collection of images with minimal information: only a title and location accompanying each shot. My desire is to leave the interpretation up to you. A random sequence of apparently unconnected photos, moving from one country to the next, through the randomness of the images you are invited to make your own connections. The dialogue of this book is both personal and internal.
There are to be no band or celebrity shots here. These are moments that caught my eye while wandering foreign lands. A collection of images from around the world taken while on the road, mostly away from the crowds and the flashing lights.
This is a book for when you have a few quiet moments of your own to drift away. It’s easy reading and easy viewing. I hope you will find something that inspires your imagination.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
If you grew up in Canada during the ‘80s hair band cock rock era you were well aware of Brighton Rock. They were a fixture on MuchMusic and video shows as of 1986 with their Michael Wagener-produced full length debut Young, Wild And Free and first single ‘We Came To Rock’; the same year Poison blew their wad all over Los Angeles, thus making mega-glam ultra-cool in North America. Unlike Bret Michaels and his ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ crew, however, the big push behind Brighton Rock was focused on the band’s lighter side. Second single ‘Can’t Wait For The Night’ and ‘One More Try’ from the 1988 follow-up Take A Deep Breath were massive hits that ultimately came to define the band. It was a travesty for those of us that truly knew Brighton Rock in that there was nothing prim or proper or fluffy – read: stereotypical Canadian rock – about the vast majority of their material. And anyone who saw Brighton Rock perform live will argue (successfully) that the band stood toe-to-toe with any of their glammed-up L.A.-based peers… when they didn’t crush them entirely.
And for the record, the title of this story is ripped off the back of a Brighton Rock tour shirt…. that I so foolishly didn’t buy when I had the chance some 24 years ago.
“That was the piss-off of being Canadian,” says frontman Gerry McGhee, the head honcho at Canadian music distributor Isotope for over 10 years now. “They always wanted to stick us in that box of fluff. I remember one time we were on tour and we did ‘Unleash The Rage’ at a soundcheck; we came off stage and some guy says ‘Are these the same guys that do ‘One More Try’?’ That was one song on the record, man (laughs). I love the tunes, don’t get me wrong, but if I had my way it would have all been the heavy stuff like ‘Unleash The Rage’, ‘Bulletproof’, ‘Nightstalker’ put out there because that’s what the band was all about. We kind of captured that on (third album, from 1991) Love Machine because it was close to that raw sound, but it was the label pressure that put us in that ballad box. That would have been fine if they’d at least released some of the rockers. I got in shit on MuchMusic once because I said ‘The new album doesn’t come wrapped in a condom, so open up and say aaah.’” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Kobra And The Lotus are one of the busiest bands around.
Sure, a comment like that comes off as a whole lotta bullshit lip-service when people are aware the journalist hack doing the talking is in good with the band, but the fact is that from month to month – and in some case from day to day – the lads and lady that are Kobra And The Lotus are touring or packing their bags to head out on the road. Even as I write this, they’re gearing up for shows in the UK supporting Buckcherry through the end of November, having just wrapped up dates with Steel Panther and confirmed for December shows in the US supporting Sonata Arctica.
Back in August during my annual trip home to Toronto, I received a call letting me know that the band would be in town shooting a video for ’50 Shades Of Evil’ from the new self-titled album, would I like to come down? The invitation – and from what I understand, the video shoot – came out of nowhere considering Kobra And The Lotus had just wrapped up a European summer festival tour only a week or two before. Accepting the invite was a no-brainer.
The shoot took place at the Berkley Church on Queen Street West, just off the Don Valley Parkway. Near as anyone can tell, the only services the church is used for these days involve DJs and drinks on the weekends, but on August 19th director Lisa Mann – who has previously worked with Apocalyptica – turned it into a Kobra And The Lotus dreamscape. The photos below were taken following the band performances for the clip, involving mirrors, lights, a leaf blower and assorted old school camera tricks.
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with Kamelot guitarist Thomas Youngblood to discuss the band’s new record, Silverthorn. It’s what you’d call a big deal amongst Kamelot fans in that the album features new vocalist Tommy Karevik in place of Roy Khan, and it puts the band’s previous album Poetry For The Poisoned to shame. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive across the board in spite of Khan’s absence – something that potentially could have cut Kamelot down at the knees – and most fans agree that Silverthorn is the album that should have followed Ghost Opera from 2007.
Silverthorn was planned as a concept album featuring a tale that’s too long to explain here, suffice to say that involves a tragedy, mystery and death. In other words, a story that’s tailor-made for Kamelot’s drama-fuelled symphonic metal approach. Vocalist Amanda Somerville, who has worked behind-the-scenes and recorded backing / guest vocals with Kamelot since The Black Halo in 2005, was on board for Silverthorn as a backing / choir vocalist, and she wrote the story as it appears in the book included with the limited edition box set of the album.
We took some time out from assorted travel madness to discuss her part in the production.
“They had the concept thought out first,” Somerville begins. “Sascha (Paeth / long-time Kamelot producer) and Tommy did the songwriting and they came up with bulletpoints, so they had the main outline of the story for me. The songs are like the details of the story that are still kind of left open to interpretation. We had a Skype session and they explained what they had in mind, but they didn’t have the story with the specific events of what actually happened. For example, they told me the story should start with two brothers and their sister; they’re doing something together, a tragic event takes place, and she dies. I asked how she was supposed to die and they didn’t know, so I came up with situation and scenario. I basically fleshed everything out.”
“I also came up with the way the killings in the story start happening. It’s told from the ‘good brother’s’ perspective, and I thought it would be cool to make it so that it wasn’t quite clear if he really has a twin or if he’s schizophrenic. I mean, we never learn the good brother’s name. It leaves the question open as to whether it might be him doing all these weird things. I wanted it to be intriguing and suspenseful. The time limit and the page limit and the budget made it hard to get all the details in there, so I had to make do with writing the story over 10 pages.” Continue Reading
Guns N’ Roses – better known by the old schooler such as myself as Axl & Roses these days – kicked off their residency at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV on October 31st. Author, journalist, musician, internet radio host, long time BW&BK supporter and good friend Joel Gausten was in attendance and checked in with an exclusive review of the show. An excerpt is available below:
By Joel Gausten
“One-hundred minutes. That’s how long it took Axl Rose and his current incarnation of Guns N’ Roses to take the stage at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on October 31st AFTER the 9:00pm start time actually listed on the damn ticket. While a local opening band called 333 did their best to placate the crowd with their brand of Nickelback-lite alt metal (and came back and played an additional 20 minutes AFTER ‘Thank you, good night!’), the groans from within the crowd grew louder with each passing minute. Was that bastard going to screw his audience AGAIN, even on the first night of a lengthy residency in Vegas? Would the headlines about Axl’s erratic behavior once again take center stage over the guy’s unbelievable talents? Would this guy flat-out suck? Anyone who has witnessed the train wreck that occurred at the band’s recent Bridge School Benefit gig surely couldn’t know what in the world to expect as the lights finally dimmed on the Joint’s stage. Would this much-hyped string of shows be the final nail in the coffin for one of Rock’s most incendiary acts?” Continue Reading