From There To Here…

A blast from the past, posted a few years ago on Facebook and resurrected here in the now because it’s one of those fond memories that never gets old for me. Any Canadians reading this will appreciate the irony that wraps this tale up…

Some names have been changed to protect the presumed innocent…

A few years back, my best bud Paco decided he was going to visit me in Germany. He was overdue for a vacation and worked out a trip where he’d spend time in Holland with friends, then come visit me in Nuremberg, and cap things off with a jaunt through the pubs of Ireland (I’m happy to report he survived the last bit). I was all for it and was looking forward to four days of playing tour guide, talking metal, drinking copious amounts of beer, and (as it turned out) adopting the word “SMORE!” to express our appreciation of the opposite sex. We used it a lot.

Things began in Munich where, following the 45 minute subway trip from the airport into the city, I dragged Paco to the infamous Hofbräuhaus, a tourist trap armed to the rafters with beer. In other words, our version of Disneyland. We stashed his bags in a locker at the train beforehand and took our time doing The Walk downtown. We had a good two and a half hours to kill before our train to Nuremberg was due to leave, so no rush, everything was cool. Good weather, awesome scenery of the female variety – there’s something to be said for German engineering after all – and when we finally got to the ‘Haus, great malt beverages. We killed a liter each, shot the shit, I think I may have ordered a second beer (dumb idea). We took our time leaving, even getting one of the girls working there to show us her rather large pretzels (no, really) figuring 20 minutes was plenty of time to get back to the station.

My dear friend Audrey will tell you this is one of the dumbest assumptions person can make when travelling around Munich…

Paco and I quickly realized I’d made a “slight” error in judgment with regards to time versus distance, a fact we were reminded of by the clocks that were seemingly hanging on every street corner and on the side of every building. We were forced to run for our train; not a fun exercise when you’ve really gotta pee and you’re buzzing. Continue Reading

As one of the members of the BW&BK family that posts news on the official website daily, I have the opportunity to promote artists that I feel are worthy of the coverage. In other words, folks that I like. The boss trusts my judgement, I’m not into bullshit tabloid reporting, our daily traffic is ridiculous, which makes it a great forum to offer some free exposure. There are things going on in the metal world to report on that don’t involve KISS blowing up a stage somewhere on tour or (insert black metal band here) being accused of offending (insert prudish social organization here), and today was no different. A buddy of mine with a long professional history of shredding up a storm let slip that he has a new project in the works, and I figured the fans would be interested in hearing about it. When I sent him the link to the news, however, he was grateful but not exactly enthused.

He explained that as much as he appreciated the exposure, the amount of trash-talking that has come his way over the last year or two as a result of these extra credit news bits had gotten to him, making the music world an increasingly lousy place to be. Basically, online talk and reports of new song ideas, experiences or projects has earned him the disdain of a small group of people that are quite happy to slag him in online forums for no good reason. I was appalled to hear this, and deleted the post without a second thought.

It sickens me to think that efforts meant as a helping hand did more harm than good in the end. Symptomatic of the psychotic digital information age we live in, I suppose, where every computer comes with a built in God complex for the user with no concept of respect. Continue Reading

In July 2007 I did an interview with a rather talented veteran musician I considered a friend. Haven’t spoken to him since, and I’m guessing it’s because he saw the blog below – originally posted on MySpace – and didn’t have the balls to call me and say “Y’know what, doodness, you have a point, I’m sorry I was a douche-nozzle.” This being the fourth anniversary of the incident recapped below, I thought I’d celebrate my ever-present righteous disdain for self-absorbed oh-woe-is-me people. Enjoy….

I recently did an “interview” with a guy I’ve known for a long time. His band is gearing up to release a new album, and because I’m a fan and a friend I elected to do a story for BW&BK. As much as I was looking forward to speaking to him again, however, I was also dreading it because during the last three of four interviews we’d done he started ranting about how the music industry has gone to hell, how the artists are getting fucked, how no one is buying music anymore, and on and on. I still have all these interviews on tape and they’re completely interchangeable because of this incessant bitching.

Sure enough, five minutes into our latest chat he started in on the industry. I tried to steer the conversation back to the new album three or four times, but he managed to turn things around so we were back discussing how the music industry is fucked. I probably should have said something, but out of respect for the man and his music I kept my mouth shut, gritted my teeth and dealt with it. It was an excruciatingly painful 35 minutes.

As we were wrapping up, however, he had the audacity to tell me he was going to email me the concept for the new album “so I could send him more questions for a better interview” because I didn’t ask him about the album concept. I said “fine, cool, no problem,” but I was stunned, insulted, and over the last week have become increasingly pissed off.

I have no problem with people criticizing me, but it seems to me that if someone would stop whining and moaning so much about his chosen profession and how the world is so goddamn unfair there might be room to ask pertinent questions. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

On June 2nd the lamest of lame-ass festival line-ups descended upon Nuremberg, Germany for the annual Rock im Park, guaranteed to impress only those tweens and under-35s that consider MTV and Glee quality programming. Several kilometers away in the city’s old town, veteran German rockers Sinner were down to the far more satisfying business of filming a video for the song ‘Back On Trail’, the first single from their forthcoming album One Bullet Left.

Following is a photo-documentary of the shoot, which took place at the – for lack of a better word – abandoned Volksbad (which must have been bloody impressive when it was fully operational). And if some of the mugs in the shots below look familiar, they should, as Sinner’s present line-up consists of guitarists Christof Leim (The New Black), Alex Scholpp (Tarja) and Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear) – yep, three of ’em – drummer André Hilgers (Rage), and last but never least, bassist and namesake Mat Sinner….


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By Carl Begai

Carmen 4

Talking to musicians / artists about the creative process is what this journalist tour-of-duty is all about. Actually being part of the creative process offers a new and valuable perspective of the time and energy spent on bringing the music from vision to the studio. Since 2004 I’ve played a small role in helping to shape the lyrics for the German / Norwegian folk metal band, Midnattsol, an ongoing collaboration that forces me to dig deeper each time vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs asks for my feedback.

For the record, I couldn’t write a song to save my or anybody else’s life. When I was first approached by ex-Midnattsol guitarist / co-founder Christian Hector about proof-reading lyrics for their debut, Where Twilight Dwells, I took on the task not really expecting to do anything more than offer suggestions on using correct tenses and how to improve grammatical structure. In actual fact it became an interesting exchange of ideas with Carmen who, at that point, was very much in a learning-by-doing phase as a singer / songwriter.

Three albums in and Carmen has found her stride. In truth she doesn’t need my help anymore, but I was happy to offer it when she was finalizing the lyrics for the new album, The Metamorphosis Melody. I was pleasantly surprised – and more than a bit impressed – to find myself challenged by Carmen’s ideas rather than being met with grammatical errors, resulting in a full week of chaos and comedy as we bashed her lyrics into shape.

Following is our behind-the-scenes look at Carmen’s work on The Metamorphosis Melody, with me playing her soundboard and the voice of sporadic reason.

(And if any of this seems self-serving or narcissistic, it is. If you can’t be proud of your own accomplishments there’s no reason why anyone else should treat them seriously :-)…) Continue Reading

I’m a voracious reader. It’s an addiction that started upon my entrance into geekdom with comic collecting, a pursuit I would be following even now if the price of 5-pages-per-issue of sub-standard artwork wasn’t so frickin’ high. My actual book devourment started with cheesy sci fi / fantasy novels from Alan Dean Foster, David Eddings and the like, and as I grew older my horizons quite naturally broadened. Mostly because I was hopeless with girls. When I finally did manage to figure out the boy-girl thing, the comics and books took a back seat, but I was slowly drawn back into these paper-and-prose worlds of escapism when real life convinced me to take a break now and then or risk losing what was left of my mind.

I’ve done a fair bit of reading in my 42 years, to the point that I’ve found myself buried in a book written by one of literature’s finest (as not defined by some damn Wuthering Heights-bent school curriculum) and thinking “I could write better than this. Hell, I have written better than this.” The arrogance of delusion, I suppose. There are a couple works of “art” sitting here waiting to be published, in fact, so maybe one day I can put my money where my mouth is.

With that in mind, I was recently reminded of something Stephen King once said. I’m not his biggest fan but I’ve enjoyed several of his books over the years. One of them, entitled On Writing, is basically his take on what makes a good writer versus a bad one. He offers anecdotes, advice and a number of stories related to his craft. The one slice of wisdom that has always stuck with me is “Write what you know..,” and while I have no idea if King has ever gone face-to-muzzle against a rabid dog or had dreams about being chased down by a psychotic clown, the message was and is clear. Basically, if you’ve been weaned on estrogen-charged I-Can’d-Beleev-Iss-Not-Budder cover model romance novels, you probably shouldn’t try to one-up Tom Clancy on the political thriller front.

After a recent bordering-on-frantic search for something good to read I’m thinking King’s rule should be updated as follows:

Write What You Know, But Step The Fuck Out Of Your Show-Me-The-Money Comfort Zone, Dammit.
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As a late birthday present to myself I decided to make the trek to Lichtenfels, Germany to check out Avantasia, primarily because a good friend happens to be part of the band. I also happen to be a fan of Tobias Sammet, Amanda Somerville, Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske, Sascha Paeth and Jorn Lande in their own respective projects, so putting them on stage together for a three hour show more than piqued my curiosity.

A trek it was, and while I enjoyed the show and hanging with the folks that matter after the show, I was reminded early on of the old Styx song ‘Nothing Ever Goes As Planned’…

— train delays because it snowed three days earlier.

— being unable to get away from the idiot and straight up inconsiderate mobile phone yappers on the train. An hour is a very long time to endure that particular insanity. Especially the asshole with the speaker phone…

— zero public transit once in town because, jeez, it snowed THREE DAYS earlier.

— standing in line for 20 minutes in -10 because the venue decided to use ONE DOOR to get 1,000+ people inside. I don’t mind the cold, but understaffed stupidity pisses me off.

— sidestepping stumbling drunk morons every 2 minutes. When you’re in your teens and 20s that kind of inebriated behaviour is expected regardless of how much you paid to get in. When you’re in your 30s and 40s and require the wall or five of the closest strangers to remain upright is classless, even for a metal show. You can’t sing either, so just stop it.

— Lichtenfels’ taxi central switchboard taking the phones off the hook, making it impossible to get a cab back to the hotel… in -10 at 1:00am. How much do you like walking…? Continue Reading

RayBWBK

On November 27th, 2007 the Toronto metal scene lost one of the most influential people to ever champion our homegrown noise. I lost a good friend. I can’t believe three years have passed so quickly.

Ray Wallace, affectionately known as “Black Metal” by those of us that he called friend, was taken from us unexpectedly, the hand of fate having decided at random he was needed elsewhere. He was laid to rest on December 1st, but getting home to pay my respects proved to be impossible; something I still regret to this day.

It was my birthday. There was nothing to celebrate.

Instead, I started a tradition. Every year I go out on December 1st and buy an album I know Ray would approve of. Something loud and proud, neighbour-unfriendly and blatantly on-10-obnoxious. A present to myself and a tribute to Ray’s memory. If it has to be this way, I’m glad I’ll be sharing that day with him for the rest of my life.

I don’t believe that time heals all wounds, but the tears sting less.

More importantly, I’m able to look back at the good times and smile.

Loud and proud, Ray. We miss you.

\m/ – _ – \m/

RayCarlTrev

rayband

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Every so often I retrace my steps and review my own writing from years gone by, patting myself on the back here and there for a clever turn of phrase, or giving myself a kick in the ass for being painfully lame and cliché. I recently stumbled across a “gem” from November 2006 – published on MySpace and read by nobody – featuring a rant against bullshit “talent” shows on television. It seems I was set off by some idiotic programming by a German network and decided it was high time that I shoot my mouth off about the world going to hell in an American Idol-manufactured elevator with no “up” button and no brakes. Enjoy…

It’s funny. When I was a teenager and Married With Children was at its peak, some critics trashed the show, saying it contributed to the erosion of the moral fibre of society. Uh-huh. Sure. Take a look around you now. I’d much rather have my moral fiber eroded by Christina Applegate’s boobs bouncing across the screen or through hearing Al Bundy tearing the sacred institution of marriage a new one every five seconds than waste an evening watching reality TV. Continue Reading

Once upon a time music journalists walked around with an air of superiority, as if we were somehow better than the mere mortals we interact with. It was the delivery of advance music, often on a daily basis, that spawned this attitude of being bigger and better than everyone else. Visions of blister-packs danced in our heads each night before bed, the promise of promotional CDs stuffing the mailbox like a too-small Christmas turkey come morning keeping us warm with the knowledge that the game of Stroke My Ego would continue in our favour….

Not anymore.

Nope. At some point a select number of my fellow “journalists” – you motherfuckers know who you are, may you rot in Celine Dion / Kenny G. hell – decided they would offer up promotional music online as a public service to anyone with a computer, trust of the record label, promo people and artists be damned. As a result the industry was forced to experiment with ways of preventing the advance music from being posted online, or at least make it unattractive to keyboard warriors with no conscience. Mid-song audio tags, merged tracks, watermarked CDs… methods varied from label to label, each one a surefire way of annoying the living shit out of honourable journalists who were just trying to do their jobs as well as the asshole file”sharing” minority. Continue Reading