By Carl Begai
Hitting the 25 year mark of anything is a big deal. Birthday, marriage, time spent in prison, it’s a milestone to be celebrated (okay, two out of three ain’t bad…). Of course, like anything Swedish bashers Meshuggah do, even an occasion supposedly as simple as an anniversary comes with a certain amount of head-scratching. Do the math and you find that folks are about two years too late, as Meshuggah was formed in 1987. If you take the band’s first official release, Contradictions Collapse, in 1991 as the jump-off point you’re late to the party. Turns out the band is using their painfully limited edition three-song Meshuggah EP from ’89 – otherwise known as Psykisk Testbild – as their first official sign of life to be celebrated. And even then, according to guitarist Mårten Hagström, it isn’t your predictable music industry tip of the hat to a momentous occasion.
“There’s the Ophidian Trek DVD, the 25th Anniversary touring that we’re doing in December in Europe, the re-release of the I EP, so for me it’s all been mashed together and has become a bit confusing,” admits Hagström. “The DVD is basically just a representation of what we did on the Koloss tour; it doesn’t really celebrate 25 years of the band. We started out recording every show on the tour as far as audio went because the gear was alll hooked up anyway, and I think it was Fredrik (Thordendal/guitars) who came up with the idea for the DVD. We had a new stage set, we took great care to implement the light design and create an actual show, so doing a DVD made sense at least for our sake. And as always with this band, things got out of hand (laughs). If we were going to do it we decided we might as well do it properly, and when Nuclear Blast heard that they decided we should release it. So all we’ve been doing for the last six months is looking after the re-release of I, rehearsing for the tour and preparing the DVD.”
“The first release from Meshuggah that we commemorate 25 years isn’t a Nuclear Blast release, it’s Psykisk Testbild, and that was only 500 copies or something. That was the real start of the band, but I guess we worked differently than other bands because before we did Destroy Erase Improve (1995) we weren’t on any map. We didn’t tour before 1995, so the whole 25th Anniversary depends on where you count from (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Vocalist / guitarist Danko Jones is best known as the mouthpiece for the Toronto-based rock trio that bears his name. He writes songs admitting that he thinks bad thoughts about your daughter, that maybe just maybe he has a regret or two in life, and that rock n’ roll can never be too loud. When he’s not on stage somewhere in the world or locked in the studio, however, downtime beyond his private life extends to the realms of an online blog, the official Danko Jones podcast, and keeping the fans informed on the state of the world via Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else he can think of. Call it a working vacation from his daily grind.
“I really cut out all the time-wasters in my life,” he says of pulling off this Olympic-level balancing act – “I don’t watch too much TV or movies, I don’t drink and I never really did so I don’t go to bars, I don’t sightsee, so that’s how I can do it. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. When I’m walking around, the things that are going through my head are the things you’re reading on the Huffington Post or wherever.”
Case in point this past April, when Danko took the unusual step of expressing his disgust for what he considered a poorly written and unfair concert review posted on Beyond The Watch. Yes, he took it personally and ripped into the journalist that wrote it via his Huffington Post column:
“I fucking skewered them so hard (laughs). And then you posted it on Brave Words, so it was even more hammering on those guys. My whole thing with pointing them out is because it wasn’t just a blog or a writer, it was people from our home town. It was a more sensistive place to write a review. You can be from Toronto and put us down, but you should know why and how you’re putting us down because we’re from your home town and we’ve been doing this for 17 years. These guys are mid-20s probably, so they’ve grown up seeing our videos on MuchMusic. There’s kind of no excuse. It was a Toronto blog so I figured that fair’s fair.” Continue Reading
When you encounter a band boasting a song entitled ‘Feed A PETA Member To A Starving Child In Africa’ it’s a reasonable assumption they aren’t going to be giving you Mötley Crüe or Slipknot anthems. Los Angeles-based Ana Kefr are the culprits in question, and it’s clear from the word “go” that the very last thing they’re interested in is playing to singalong industry / scene expectation. Described by yours truly in a 2009 review as a demented mating of Dimmu Borgir and Voivod, the band’s independently released debut album Volume 1 is a large-as-life offering of off-the-wall strangeness. Not because it meanders like a Mr. Bungle prog thrash experiment gone mad, but because in spite of the epic scope of the music the songs are rooted firmly at street level. Ana Kefr never get lost in their own brilliance. No surprise, then, that frontman / co-founder Rhiis Lopez is likewise grounded with a very simple and well fed passion for what he does.
“Dimmu Borgir and Voivod happen to be two great bands, so comparisons like that are a big compliment,” says Lopez. “Ana Kefr’s sound is actually the product of both myself and Kyle (Coughran / rhythm guitars). Kyle and I both come from diverse musical backgrounds, we’ve grown up listening to artists from every genre you can imagine. As far as any ‘off-the-wall strangeness’, there’s not really a point to writing music, being in a band, performing or anything else if you’re just going to rip off someone else. I understand being inspired by other artists, but sounding like another act is kind of like being in a touring karaoke band – it doesn’t feel artistically honest. I’d rather have a flawed original work than a perfected forgery. Continue Reading
It’s a strange day in hell when a band bridges the gap between Dimmu Borgir and Voivod. Ana Kefr’s debut succeeds in doing just that; a vicious stand-alone conceptual piece featuring an uncompromising and ultimately unique sound in spite of the comparisons drawn. The Death Cult Armageddon vibe over top an instantly recognizable Voivod thrash and clatter is a shock to the system as lead-off track ‘The Day That Guilt Turned White’ gathers momentum, to the point that one wonders if Shagrath and Away were conscripted for the recordings. Dynamics reign, however, as Ana Kefr churn out what is quite possibly one of the most captivating listening experiences of the year, never remaining in one place too long yet smart enough to keep things simple and to the point. Continue Reading