By Carl Begai
During a recent BraveWords interview with Danko Jones for the band’s new album, Wild Cat, frontman and namesake Danko was met with a question he didn’t expect, which led to the revelation of a new project coming down the pipe. An inquiring mind (mine) wanted to know why the band has never covered a full-on metal song even though Danko is a diehard nail-spitting metalhead who is loud and proud when it comes to the bands and albums he holds in high regard. Sure, he’s performed on stage with Motörhead and Sacrifice, the band has covered The Ramones, but Danko Jones have never gone into the studio to lay down their best versions of their favourite metal cuts, which seems odd somehow.
“There are a few reasons for that,” he begins. “First of all, we could never agree on a song. JC (bass) will suggest something and I’ll go ‘meh.’ I’ll suggest something and he’ll go ‘meh’ and on and on it will go (laughs). We recently did agree on some covers, though, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point. The second reason we haven’t done any metal covers is because I don’t feel I could pull them off without sounding like a joke. And the third reason is I just want to be a metal fan, and depending on what band you’re talking about I couldn’t even begin to try and pull off an Obituary song or an Annihilator tune. How do you even start writing a song from one of those bands? It’s intimidating to me.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
You have to respect Firewind guitarist Gus G. for remaining true to his original vision for the band even though he’s won a career-altering jackpot as Ozzy Osbourne’s right hand man. Granted, he launched the band in 1998 as a project and spearheaded the writing and recording of seven albums since then, but Gus wouldn’t be the first artist to abandon long term goals for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
To his credit, Gus isn’t stupid either. Having been a member of the Osbourne camp since 2009 and having recorded and toured for Ozzy’s 2010 album, Scream, that notoriety led to the decision to book Firewind’s first ever North American headlining tour for Fall 2011 in support of the Days Of Defiance record.
“It was an experience,” Gus laughs. “Times are tough everywhere, let’s face it, so I didn’t really expect to have sold out arenas or anything. We did small clubs, we did it on the back on an album that was a year old, but the reason we chose to do it at that time was to capitalize on the hype that I got and re-introduce the band. We wanted to go out there and see who our fans are and what was actually happening with Firewind in the US. I’ve got to tell you, things look positive. For a first headline tour we did really well and I think it can only grow from here.”
“Of course there were better shows than others as far as attendance, but that depends on the places you hit and the days that you hit them. And Canada was awesome; you guys love your heavy metal. We didn’t play Toronto, but we played Ottawa, which was one of the best shows of the tour. It was like a festival in a club with two floors and some local bands playing. It was fucking amazing. Montreal was great, and that’s always a good place for us. We even went out west and played Kelowna, British Columbia (laughs). That day was funny, and it was one of the misfortunes of the tour. We had some weird promoter that moved the show around a few times, and we ended up playing a bowling alley. But hey, what are you gonna do? (laughs)” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with keyboardist Adam Wakeman, the son of Yes keysman Rick Wakeman, to discuss his new prog metal band Headspace. Formed in 2006, the band – also featuring vocalist Damian Wilson, guitarist Pete Rinaldi, bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Richard Brook – issued their debut EP in 2007 and are now gearing up for the release of their first full length, I Am Anonymous. Wakeman also offered a look into his current status as a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s band and how that will affect his activities in promoting Headspace when the album in released.
“I would love nothing more, as I know the other guys would, than to dedicate 100% of our time to be out touring with Headspace and making more records. Part of the problem with not being 20 years old anymore is that we’ve got families, and mortgages to pay. We have to balance the time we allocate to each thing. Ozzy is going to be relatively busy this year, but it’s not going to take over the entire year which is good. We will have some time to promote Headspace.”
The easiest solution to the promo problem would be, of course, to nab a support slot on the next Ozzy tour, whenever that comes around.
“I think we could probably do a few shows,” Wakeman agrees, “but the reception we got when we did some support slots (in 2007) was quite funny. I asked Sharon (Osbourne / wife and manager) is we could do it and she asked me ‘Why would you want to be fourth on the bill? There’ll be nobody here.’ This was at Wembley Arena. I said ‘Yeah, but if there are 5,000 people in it’s the equivalent to us playing 20 club shows. We might as well get it out of the way all in one go…’ (laughs). It was good, but people weren’t really expecting us because we got on the bill quite late. So, when we walked on stage people thought we were Black Label Society. You could see the looks of confusion on the faces in the crowd (laughs).” Continue Reading
With their comeback only two albums young – the decent enough Reborn (2005) and the superior Murder By Pride (2009) – news that Stryper were gearing up for a cover album seemed like a step backwards. A tracklist of done-to-death classic metal staples from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Deep Purple made the band’s lack of inspiration all the more apparent, and tacking on a title that sounds like a 2-for-1 Wal-Mart housewares sale item did nothing to raise dangerously low expectations. A mere two songs in, however, and vocalist / guitarist Michael Sweet’s claims that they are paying tribute to the bands that molded and shaped the Stryper sound ring true. On 10. In fact, with the exception of a painfully dull rendition of Judas Priest’s ‘Breakin’ The Law’ – which falls as flat as the original studio version – The Covering is a romp that breathes new life into a metal history many of us take for granted.
Lead off scorcher ‘Set Me Free’, originally done by Sweet (the band, not the man), makes the Vince Neil / Steve Stevens version from Neil’s Exposed solo record (1993) pale in comparison – no easy task – served up fully loaded with guitar shred. The Scorpions’ ‘Blackout ‘ is delivered vocal warts and all, the arrangements for Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ are eyebrow-raising surprises in that they’re played straight yet loaded with elements (guitar leads, vocal harmonies) that are distinctly Stryper. Continue Reading
Call this a public service announcement.
My close bud The Rev has been in the music business for over 15 years. He’s a veteran everyman at a major record label based at home in Toronto and knows his job inside and out. Of course, a lot of folks on the outside only see his job as paid schmooze fest with artists big and small, with exclusive swag as only one of the many perks that comes with being part of the elite. The actual truth is that he works his LBG ass off… not that he’s complaining. His job does indeed have some fringe benefits, but there is a skull-to-grindstone side to it as well. I’ve seen both sides of what he does, and it’s a pity more people don’t have that opportunity for the simple fact that it would make them think twice about hitting up label connections for free shit just because it’s supposedly part of the job description.
All that said, The Rev has posted a blog entitled A Week In The Life as a little bit of insight. An excerpt is below:
“Wednesday – to the office at 8, then to the Ozzy press conference at 11 – there till 4. The press conference consisted of making sure everything was set-up (we had a team, not just me; in fact I was just a helper), escort in press, winners and making sure all the tech stuff for recording was hooked up. Ozzy arrived and we began by playing back 3 songs from his new CD out June 22nd (plug 🙂 ). Being as we were in a castle, it was a cool setting so an organist, dressed as the grim reaper, played Mr. Crowley. Haunting but not overly so given the room was pretty bright from the outside sun. Continue Reading