Storytime: I Call It Vera · 7:35am
For those of you that missed it, Jeff Hanneman's memorial service was today in LA. This blog is a good read, and the thought of a bunch of circle pits going on at the service warms my heart.
Throughout history and fiction, people have always given names to their weapons. From Jayne Cobb's Vera, to Stephen Colbert's Sweetness, to Blain's Ol' Painless, to Aragorn's Anduril, name's are abundant. And like any good weapon, musician's like to name their weapons, particularly their axes.
* The most well known named guitar is Dr. Brian May's (he wrote his PhD dissertation while recording Queen's early material) Red Special. Hand built by the Good Doctor himself, it includes wood taken from an old fireplace and a tremolo system made out an old bike brake. It has its own Wiki page, if you want to really read about the unique-ness of it.
* Zakk Wylde has many variation's on his signature Bull's Eye Les Paul guitars. His classic white-on-black bullseye is named "The Grail". The orange and black is called The Buzzsaw, and the camo one is called Stormin' Norman. And like any good ol' boy, he does have a Confederate Flag finished guitar he calls The Rebel, but is semi-affectionately called The Tetanus Special by his guitar tech for all the rusty bottlecaps nailed to the thing.
* Eddie Van Halen has the famous Frankenstein, which he says he built by hand by throwing a bunch of parts together. It miraculously worked, and has used it ever since. The name spawned the term "frankenstrat", which typically means guitars built from a mish-mash of parts taken from other guitars. He also had another guitar called the Bumblebee, which was appropriately a Strat with black and yellow stripes. The guitar was buried with Dimebag Darrel, who was laid to rest in a Kiss coffin.
* Yngwie "Unleash the fucking fury" Malmsteen's cream colored Strat is nicknamed The Duck, for the Donald Duck sticker he has on the headstock.
* Vadim Pruzhanov, keyboardist for DragonForce, named his keytar Batman. That is possibly the most radical sentence I have ever typed.
* Steve Vai has a custom Ibanez superstrat (Official Fender Stratocasters are called strats, stratocaster-shaped guitars that aren't made by Fender are called superstrats. Funny thing, the Strat body shape isn't copyrighted, but the Fender headstock is) called Evo, which has the snazzy tree-of-life inlays on the fretboard and the bizzarro carry handle in the body. His green guitar from his Zappa days is called the Green Meanie. His current touring drummer, Jeremy Coulson, has a drumline drumset he calls the beast, which has to be seen to be believed.
* Lemmy of Motorhead has his Rickenbacker bass, which he calls The Rickenbastard, in true Lemmy fashion. He's played the thing since his days in Hawkwind, back in 1969.
* Tony Iommi has the Monkey, the bright red Gibson SG he recorded the entirety of the original Black Sabbath record with. The SG copy he has used since Heaven And Hell is called The Old Boy.
* ZZ Top guitarist and beard afficianado Billy Gibbons named his sunburst Les Paul Pearly Gates. Miss Pearly Gates, she's a classy lady.
* Jeff Hanneman was very fond of his custom ESP Soloist guitar, that featured the Heineken logo changed to have his name on it.
Hey, remember when I said I would eventually write a story? I lied. Maybe. I dunno. I'm a liar now, but I might not be in the future.
Jeff Hanneman - 1964 - 2013 · 4:39am
Dude was the brains behind Slayer. For starters, he wrote Angel Of Death, Raining Blood, War Ensemble, South Of Heaven. While some (Kerry King) will say Kerry King was the driving force behind Slayer, it was really Jeff. We lost a great one today.
Raise a Heineken in his name tonight.
Ever thought "how in the Hell did they come up with a name like that?" The short answer is, more than likely, a combination of drugs, stuff lying around, and/or drunken/stoned shenanigans. But some bands have pretty interesting stories behind how they got their names.
What do an old Horror movie, a blues-jazz band out of Birminham, UK, and talcum powder have to do with Black Sabbath?
Sabbath, before they really hit it off, was just a touring blues-rock band in the Birmingham area, going under a variety of names. The pre-Sabbath moniker was Rare Breed, and featured Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy, and Bill Ward. After a couple of gigs, they enlisted a saxaphonist and a second guitarist, under the name The Polka Tulk Blues Band (this proves my point above, Polka Tulk is was off a talcum powder bottle Ozzy found in his mother's bathroom). Iommi very briefly left and played for Jethro Tull, and then they reformed, sans second guitarist and sax, under the name Earth. They kept getting confused with another local blues act called Earth in the area, and thought of a name to change to. While they were lazing about, they noticed a line out the door for a horror movie. Geezer mused "strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies." They thought it was a good idea, and made it into the title of a song, which then became their name.
The movie? Boris Karloff's Black Sabbath.
Guns n' Roses
How did two tangentially related bands give their name to one?
The initial lineup of Guns n' Roses consisted of Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin of Hollywood Rose, Tracii Guns, Ole Beich, and Rob Gardner of L.A. Guns. However it came to be that all the members from the "Guns" side of the equation were replaced, by Slash, Matt Sorum, and Duff McKagan, respectively. They were all kept out because they would rather get high/laid/lit/shitfaced/whatever-euphemism-you-prefer, and were all kicked out by then-band-leader and then-pillar of responsibility Axl Rose.
Fun fact: Every song off Appetite For Destruction was either about drugs, sex, Axl Rose's girlfriend, or all of the above. Axl broke up with his girlfriend not too long after "Sweet Child o' Mine", dedicated to said girlfriend" was released as a single.
How are YtseJam Records and Dream Theater related?
The original lineup Dream Theater, with Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, and John "The Silent One" Myung, started as a jam band covering Iron Maiden and Rush at Berklee College Of Music. The originally got their name while waiting in line for Rush tickets. Mike Portnoy quipped that the song Bastille Day sounded "majestic". And so the band Majesty formed. They filled out the band with keyboardist Kevin Moore and vocalist Chris Collins, whom they recruited after they heard him belt of Queensryche's Queen of The Reich. After a couple of lineup changes and a really successful demo tape, they were contacted by a band out of Vegas called Majesty, who threatened legal action if they continued using the name Majesty. They couldn't come up with a good name, until Portnoy (again) mentioned that his dad owned a small theater in California called the Dream Theater. And history was made. Mike Portnoy still sells live bootlegs of Dream Theater sets and their original Majesty demo under his YtseJam label, which is just Majesty backwards.
Others are a lot more mundane.
* Rainbow was named after the Rainbow Bar And Grill in Hollywood.
* Deep Purple was named after Ritchie Blackmore's grandma's favorite song.
* Judas Priest was named, and I shit you not, a Bob Dylan song called The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.
* Kyuss was named after a monster in the 1st edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
* Rush was coined by then-drummer John Rutsey's older brother, commenting on their rush to find a new name.
* Tool was picked by Maynard James Keenan because it was a nickname for penis. No, really.
* Soundgarden was name for a sculpture in Seattle called "A Sound Garden".
* AC/DC got their name off a sewing machine. No one in the band knew what it meant until after they chose the name.
* Pantera was originally called Pantera's Metal Magic, back when Dimebag Darrell was called Diamond Darrell, and they played really cheesy glam metal. the name was shortened by the label.
* Alice In Chains came Layne Staley's glam metal project Alice n' Chainz. It changed before they hit it big, but bootlegs of the Alice N' Chainz-era pop up on eBay occasionally.
* Bolt Thrower is named for the quite frankly gigantic guns Space Marines wield in Warhammer 40k. Lots of their album artwork and lyrics, especially their album Realm of Chaos, come from Warhammer 40k, or in the case of artwork, directly from the creators Games Workshop.
* Buckethead, because he wears a KFC bucket on his head. Wierd, huh?
* Queensryche came from the observation that few bands have names that began with Q, and a bastardization of their first big hit, Queen Of The Reich.
* Metallica came as a suggestion from Lars Ulrich's friend when asked for names. Other names included MetalMania.
* Megadeth came from a pamphlet going out against nuclear proliferation Dave Mustaine found on the floor of a bus after getting kicked out of Metallica. He said the name represent an annihilation of power, which is a bastardization of the term megadeath.
* Motörhead came from the last song Lemmy wrote for the band Hawkwind before getting kicked out, which in turn was about meth. Lemmy has gone on record that he wanted to be that band that if they moved next door "we would be so loud, your lawn would die."
* Queens Of The Stone Age came about from Josh Homme's stoned ramblings, much the same for the bands Eagles Of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures.
* Sepultura is Portuguese for "grave".
* Slayer, as the urban legend goes, was originally named Dragonslayer, though guitarist Kerry King denies it.
There you have it. The origins of a bunch of bands.
Since I've mostly run out of genre's interesting enough to actually devote blogs to (the most interesting one I can think of right now is post-metal, which is really just one stroke away from musical masturbation, really), we are gonna have a little story time. This week, the infamous Parent's Music Resource Center, or the PMRC. They are the reason most CD's have the explicit content warnings on them, even if they do next to nothing.
Way back, in the ye olden days of 1985, back before Master Of Puppets, back before nu-metal, back before Guns n' Roses Appetite For Destruction, when MTV actually was Music Television, a group of "Washington Wives" decided they wanted to get rid of the filth of modern music. They were devoted to giving more control to parents on what their kids listened to, God forbid they actually get their mitts on something like Cyndi Lauper. Their master plan was creating a rating system, much like movies, that would allow parents to choose what they want, or outright remove it from store shelves like it was hardcore porn. If that didn't smell like bullshit already, artists who had their stuff rated "obscene", based on rules that were really arbitrary, they would have to donate a certain amount of funds from the album to a certain charity. They charity? The PMRC.
The real action started with the hearings. If you have the time to read the entire transcript, here you go, but I'll give you the run down of the highlights of the trial.
First at bat was one Paula Hawkins, then-senator from Florida. She presented the covers of several albums, including Def Leppard's Pyromania, and claimed "Much has changed since Elvis' seemingly innocent times." Or y'know, the time where the phrase "Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll" was coined. Next was Susan Baker, who claimed that this filth caused every social in society from truancy to sadomasochism to suicide. Rob Halford (I think, might have been Ozzy Osbourne) said "Why would we put hidden messages in our albums telling our audience to kill themselves? We'd say "Buy our merch and albums", if nothing else." The rest of the witnesses for the PMRC went along the same lines. One psychiatrist called heavy metal "a religion", which is a step up from a cult, if nothing else.
The defense was where it gets really interesting. First was Frank "Motherfucking" Zappa, who is quoted as saying:
...the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretation and enforcement problems inherent in the proposal's design.
He also voiced concerns it was a front for making money, in particular as a distraction to allow a so-called "blank-tape tax" to go through, in order to either cut down on recording music via tape player from radio (the old farts among us might fondly remember swapping recorded songs with friends on tapes) or put more money in their pockets to account for "lost sales". He also delivered this line to the US Senate:
"A couple of blowjobs here and there and Bingo! — you get a hearing."
The next was one John Denver, which the PMRC expected to side with them. They were dead wrong, as Denver claimed people would misinterpret lyrics, as they did with his song "Rocky Mountain High", and said that censorship was counterproductive, using the forbidden fruit metaphor:
Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.
Now the real show was Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister, the man , the myth, the legend. Now he normally doesn't look like it, but Dee Snider is actually an incredibly well-spoken and eloquent individual. Now the PMRC expected him to act liken a drunken stoned scapegoat for all the evils and excess of metal. And he showed up to the Senate, dressed like he just got back from an all-night rager. Ripped jeans, giant dirty 80's hair, probably smelling like sin personified, covered in more body glitter than a particularly trashy stripper, whole nine yards. He then took his prepared speech, wadded up in his back pocket, and delivered the single greatest verbal beatdown the senate has ever witnessed. To quote:
the only sadomasochism, bondage, and rape in this song is in the mind of Ms. Gore.
The full responsibility for defending my children falls on the shoulders of my wife and I, because there is no one else capable of making these judgments for us
It brought a tear to my eye. It was beautiful.
Of course, the PMRC won, probably due to a good part of the PMRC being mostly wives of senators or congressmen. But it really doesn't do much. The sticker shows up on albums, but its not really much more than that. Most stores still carry the albums, and don't really screen against minors getting their hands on them. It's become more well-known by parody than as an actual thing. For a list, here it is. Note that Frank Zappa, for his trouble of defending himself and his livelihood, he remains the only person to get an explicit content sticker on an entirely instrumental album, which later got a Grammy.
So there you have it. Next up: how famous bands got their names.
God Is Dead? · 2:11am
Coachella and Stuff · 6:57am
So the first weekend Coachella Festival started Friday. You may remember Coachella from hologram Tupac appearing and doing stuff last year. This year seems to be a little less interesting. To wit, there are 3 things that caught my attention about it:
1. Stone Roses got back together
They have a couple of good songs, and apparently they reunited after a couple years to tour again.
2. Daft Punk Did A Thing
They did a short snippet or something of a new song during a set. Daft Punk is pretty much the only electronica band I really like, and I am getting pretty excited for their new album.
3. Ghost BC at Coachella
Take another glance at that setlist up there. On Sunday, they have two openers, Ghost BC, and then a bunch of pretentious indie folk rock acts, then Social Distortion, then more indie rock crap, then Red Hot Chili Peppers.
How made this set, and what the hell was he on?
I almost want to go to see all the people who are too stoned to move after the Ghost set get totally wierded out by the next few sets.
Question: Why the Hell would I plan to lump those together?
Answer: What makes you think I actually plan these things?
1. Industrial Metal
Not really metal, per se. It occupies that nebulous not-quite area. At its core, it is essentially industrial, using repeating metal riffs and thrash's punk-stolen "Fuck You" attitude. A large part of springs from some guys love of taking metal licks and layering them over sequencers, samlpes, and drum machines. The result was not unlike thrash metal. The scene came to be around around the late '80s and early '90s, and after it hit the "mainstream" it came to influence, of all things, death metal and black metal. The prime example being Obituary's The End Complete, which used a drum machine for most of the album. Given that industrial metal was/is highly political from its punk roots, and became mainstream enough for Marilyn Manson to become a household name, it became the genre of choice for serial killers after Tipper Gore (The PMRC Shenangians is a whole 'nother post) claimed Marilyn Mason helped cause Columbine. But everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that isn't the case. Anywho, the most modern offshoot is the German Neue Deutsche Härte, aka "Rammstein and everyone who wants to be Rammstein".
2. Neo-classical Metal
Now if you like your guitar wankery, this is yours. It takes the stylings and melodies of classical music, stick the melody on the guitar, turn up the BPM to as fast as the drummer can take it, and go. The big influence with the genre is from Deep Purple, largely from classically-trained organist and keyboard virtuoso Jon Lord, who composed a whole concerto for orchestra, with Deep Purple backing it up. A lot of metal guitarists, particularly in the 80's, picked up their soloing method by stealing compositions from Baroque composers. Randy Rhoads took influences from Bach. Ritchie Blackmore took classical guitar theory and applied it to his solos. Steve Vai stole Nicollo Paganini's Caprice No. 5 for that one scene from Crossroads any guitarist worth their weight in picks knows. Unleashing solos straight from Mozart's leftovers is just about all Yngwie "Unleash The Fucking Fury" Malmsteen is known for, besides being a gigantic douchebag.
3. Stoner Metal
"Hold up, didn't you already do this?"
In a sense, yes. While the old doom metal gods did, quite frankly, and inhuman amount of drugs while doing their thing, stoner metal is still slightly different. The basic framework for any good stoner metal album is essentially a bunch of musician's going "dude" around a bong, and then jamming until they can't jam no more. The reason it sounds so similar to doom is because Black Sabbath did it first, and did it the best. In fact, that's how we got Sleep's Dopesmoker, the stoner metal album. The story goes that Sleep got their money from early sales of Holy Mountain, another great album. They blew all their money on amps and weed, and upon realizing that they did so, they collectively went "oh shit", hit record, and jammed out Dopesmoker. Almost all the good stuff comes out California, particularly Palm Springs, where Josh Homme tries to be in everything. Rumor has it that if you leave a microphone recording within 25 miles of Palm Springs, Josh Homme will appear and play a guitar riff, no questions asked.
Stoner metal is on sort of an upturn from the retro-metal crowd, particularly with bands like Red Fang and the Sword. Both are awesome, and Red Fang is bringing back the music video, which is awesome.
And unrelated: I might write a thing for Chendar's Winningverse Anniversary (Winningversarry, you're welcome). I've had an idea kicking around that I haven't written because a) I suck, and b) I'm lazy, so don't get your hopes up.
Today is a Good Day · 9:52pm
3 Things · 1:43am
2. The episode this weekend will probably not suck. They know what they are doing. On the flip side, so did Bioware, and they totally screwed the pooch on the Mass Effect 3 ending.
Conversely, it will be hard to suck more than the Mass Effect 3 ending.
3. How has no one made a Twilight Princess joke yet?! It doesn't get any easier than that!
Also, I'm still bitter about Mass Effect 3.