much like his other release ACCESS ALL AREAS: STORIES FROM A HARD ROCK LIFE (DA CAPO PRESS, 2017), which i covered in a previous review, legendary THRASH METAL guitarist SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX is a more than capable narrator of his own life story in his debut book I'M THE MAN: THE STORY OF THAT GUY FROM ANTHRAX (DA CAPO PRESS, 2014), which sees him overcome a troubled childhood with a neurotic mother, two failed marriages and surviving the music industry over 30 years with his mind and band intact.
it may be due to his long-term sobriety (minus a few PANTERA and OZZY tours) that the detail of his recollections seem to be precise and noteworthy. i made the point before in the other review that his writing style is very utilitarian, much like his guitar playing and this is holds true with this book as well. he tends not to embellish and hold himself to account for past misjudgments and moral lapses, which only further gains his voice credence in the reader's mind.
of interest to me with this book, which is very much a traditional chronological affair (unlike ACCESS ALL AREAS which is more a series of interesting stories), is the beginnings of THRASH METAL and MEGAFORCE RECORDS. specifically the stories IAN chooses to tell about his friend and legendary bassist/composer CLIFF BURTON (R.I.P.) and the formative years of METALLICA and ANTRAX. sharing the same indie label and manager provided him a front row seat to their early development which is compelling in historical terms. you really get a sense of the brotherhood of that early scene that carried on throughout their entire career, most famously in the BIG 4 concerts that happened this past decade.
i have to say that i also enjoyed his humor. too many times METAL bands take themselves and their image way too seriously (i'm looking right at you SLAYER) and even though ANTHRAX come off juvenile and goofy from time to time, in the end they come across as themselves: a bunch of METAL dudes from NYC.
and i can't fault them for that.
if you're interested in THRASH METAL, this book is worth your time and is a painless read, which is not always the case (cough, cough COREY TAYLOR).
it has been said that the lasting cultural impact of 1980s HARDCORE was the touring circuit they networked one city at a time. this circuit of VFW halls, LIONS CLUBS and basements across the nation was the common proving ground for INDIE bands of that same era and underground ALTERNATIVE bands of the 90s. this self-published printing (now long out of print) of his tour journal finds BLACK FLAG frontman HENRY ROLLINS in GET IN THE VAN (1995, 2.13.61) giving the reader a first-hand account of the hardship and endurance it took to get out the message.
in ROLLINS we see a guy that knows his place. he appreciates his good fortune in being asked to join his favorite band at a moment when they sought to reshuffle roles within the band. one theme carried on throughout journal is this theme of isolation and alienation from the straight world he so passionately wished to escape from. the longer he is on the road, the more severe that estrangement becomes, for his former peers (exception being friend IAN MCKAYE) can't appreciate his position. they see a rock star on tour where his actual reality is sleeping in vans, moving equipment, fighting skinheads, fighting concert promoters, lack of food, lack of sleep and lack of money. on top of that they are blazing through under-appreciated markets that don't have a frame of reference for their version of PUNK ROCK quite yet. they are very much the pioneers that got scalped to borrow horrible offensive and culturally antiquated turn of phrase.
ROLLINS attitude throughout is one of defiance. he talks about hating his audience, his bandmates and the straight world in general. his misanthropy seems rooted in a deep-seated internal fortitude to bear any burden, carry any cross for his band. what seems interesting in retrospect is how much he has transitioned since the myopia of his early 20s, when much of these entries were written. he is the very embodiment now of adventurousness, traveling tirelessly and choosing to use any of his various platforms (spoken-word albums, documentaries, podcasts, tv shows) to promote the understanding of culture across borders and inclusivity. it is basically the opposite trajectory of MORRISSEY, once the embodiment of transgressive gender politics and now just a sad mouthpiece for the extreme-right in ENGLAND (sighhh). as someone who traveled a lot growing up as a THIRD CULTURE KID, i definite sympathize with his misanthropy and retreat into himself when confounded with radical change and senseless violence during what amounts to his formative years. its comforting to know he transcended such self-destructive ideations.
one of my favorite aspects of this book is the friction between AMERICAN HARDCORE bands and their BRITISH counterparts. at the time it had only been a handful of years, but the chasm culturally between these two cousins was pretty wide and ROLLINS spares no quarter in taking on what he considered shitty bands that couldn't play their instruments. i take this as a grain of salt given the fact BLACK FLAG were the tip of the spear for a new more potent wave of PUNK ROCK and for them there was a definite "us vs. the world" mentality, but it is interesting nonetheless on purely sociological grounds.
the journal is a bit hard to get through and is quite repetitive but at its most potent you get a real sense of the absurdity of touring life, fan adoration and the unique hardships of being a trailblazer. true, ROLLINS was the 4th singer of BLACK FLAG, but none of the others toured like his version of the band, which makes them the de facto committed to popular memory.
in the 80 and 90s with maybe the exception of scene favorites JANE'S ADDICTION and FISHBONE, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS were the de facto definitive ALTERNATIVE band from LOS ANGELES. incorporating disparate elements of PUNK aggression with off-kilter FUNK feel and time signatures, their sound was unique in an era where originality was a virtue. their revolving door of guitarists (HILLEL SLOVAK, JOHN FRUSCIANTE, DAVE NAVARRO) and the foundational core of FLEA and CHAD SMITH provided one of the great rhythm sections of all-time.
but this is ANTHONY KIEDIS' memoir and i'm not gonna lie, he's the weak link in my opinion. i'll just say that up front. even on their best releases, his word-salad approach to lyrics and frat-boy demeanor and general public womanizing was something to be tolerated and not applauded (this is even more problematic given the later accusations that have come about in recent years way after the publication of this book).
getting my bias out of the way, SCAR TISSUE (HYPERION 2004) by ANTHONY KIEDIS and LARRY SLOMAN is mainly about the three major relationships of KIEDIS' life up until this point: his father BLACKIE DAMMETT, his best friend and bandmate FLEA and drugs, specifically heroin. for as much as this book is about his unconventional nomadic upbringing and later numerous trysts and relationships over the years, which all seemed pretty boring quite frankly, in the end I foung this book to be about an extroverts need for attention in a community only too willing to grant such.
i can only imagine what growing up with a failed-actor, drug-addled father would do to a young psyche. the messages spoken and unspoken about one's self-worth in a HOLLYWOOD community that trades on humans like they are commodities. not to mention how women were treated as arm candy in an ambitious arms race for fame and notoriety.
I found KEIDIS to be pretty shallow on most subjects in the book with the exceptions being his thoughts on those three relationships and how they informed him as a person. in some ways this book feels like a celebration of his friends and the LOS ANGELES artistic community that challenged and supported his band. for that I applaud him, but it doesn't alter the fact that on some level he's a LARS ULRICH-like impotent mouthpiece where his talk is supported by the actual talent and virtuosity of those around him.
or maybe i am too hard on him, this was written during a renaissance in his career after two successful reunion albums with legendary guitarist JOHN FRUSCIANTE. maybe he was coming to terms with the fact that he was a chauvinistic douche. i doubt it.
if you are fan of KIEDIS, definitely check out this book, if not do yourself a favor and listen to a FAITH NO MORE or MR. BUNGLE record. When is MIKE PATTON gonna put out a book, anyway?
NYHC: NEW YORK HARDCORE 1980-1990 (BAZILLION POINTS, 2014) by TONY RETTMAN is a compiled series of interviews regarding the origins and influence of the HARDCORE community in NYC by the participants that were there. It would seem that this book is more of a document cementing the legacy of the NYHC scene for and by the community itself, rather than as an entry point to those that were not there. part of that is due to the structure of the book itself.
unlike UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN (book review linked HERE) which covered similar ground for the LA PUNK scene but gave each participating voice a chapter, this book chooses to go paragraph by paragraph. this results in more participation and coverage at the risk of redundancy as often many people kept repeating the same thing over and over again. the impression it gave me was the uniformity of opinion regarding the history of the scene and that concerned me a bit just in terms of the anthropology of it all. when humans get together and agree on things so thoroughly it usually means either there is a hierarchal power structure playing out or a very strong peer group influence.
when i think of the music produced by this scene, especially the celebrated marquee second wave bands (AGNOSTIC FRONT, CRO-MAGS, MURPHY'S LAW, SICK OF IT ALL) what always stood out was the uniformity of its sound and approach. call me crazy, but music is universal and the whole idea of "you had to be there" or "you wouldn't understand because you weren't a part of the scene" is a weak argument for substandard product. i'm not trying to be harsh on the music itself, but at times it is almost laughable when people from this scene talk about how it wasn't fair that bands like NIRVANA gained popularity at their supposed expense. bands from the pacific northwest came from an equally insular scene that celebrated diversity and inclusivity, often at the risk of alienating more conservative elements in their ranks. the NYHC bands where conservative in their approach to their craft and politics, which veered from reactionary to downright thuggish.
what i gained from this book was a wider appreciation for the origins of the NYHC scene, which grew out of a legendary punk scene that celebrated a diverse community of artists (PATTI SMITH, TELEVISION, THE RAMONES) and initially attracted a like-minded next wave (BAD BRAINS, KRAUT, THE MOB, THE UNDEAD, THE NIHILISTICS) before the second wave took cemented the rules of the scene from there on out.
i made reference to the LA PUNK scene already but it followed a very similar trajectory. to me it is always interesting how with social movements new opportunities beget new rules and both scenes are guilty of such. it is just human nature i guess. i wonder with our modern digital social media world where access to music is immediate via the internet and streaming services whether or not such regional genres can develop apart from one another. i doubt it.
in this way i think a book like NYHC: NEW YORK HARDCORE 1980-1990 is a beacon to a mode of culture that can literally never be repeated as technology has erased the potential of such. whether that is good or bad i don't know. my only hope is that it won't lead to more uniformity because then we all lose.
written at the turn of the millennium in a jovial, conversational style in first person, WHITE LINE FEVER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (CITADEL PRESS, 2002) by legendary MOTÖRHEAD frontman LEMMY KILMISTER is an engaging look back at a most interesting career in music and the legend's almost ZELIG-like ability to be connected to various cultural movements and figures over the years.
i would like to get the drawbacks of this book out of the way before i go all fanboy, because obviously the draw of reading this is to learn more about one of my all-time favorite bands, who really cemented the attitude of PUNK ROCK in a more technical METAL landscape, even if he was a precursor that ultimately transcended both scenes. the tone of the book feels like you are in the presence of a great storyteller at the end of a bar drag on about his life and the reasons for past decisions to date. this is a double-edged construction for a book since all bases are covered chronologically but can come off a bit forced and repetitive at times, especially give the life of a successful musician with the requisite recording and live performance schedules. about halfway through this book i had a good idea of how the trajectory of his narrative was going to pan out and the book didn't disappoint, which was unfortunate as you want the reader to not be lulled into boredom by being predictable.
which is odd given the subject of this book. KILMISTER led an anything but normal life, even by ROCK AND ROLL standards. he was an ENGLISHMAN who grew up primarily in WALES to a single-mother and grew up in the 60s scene where he was able to see THE BEATLES pre-fame at the CAVERN CLUB, roadied for JIMI HENDRIX and found himself a part of the 70s PROG ROCK culture fronting HAWKWIND before ultimately venturing out with the PUNK/METAL juggernaut MOTÖRHEAD for the rest of his life.
while this book does provide some interesting asides and stories about his upbringing and friends, famous and not, throughout his life, the tone of this book feels like that of a ROLLING STONE in the BLUES sense, in that he doesn't seem to stick too long to any subject before moving on to something else. this includes losing friends (and even a lover from his youth) to heroin. heroin is a drug he acknowledges despising because it took so many of his peers but often instead of diving deeper he glibly goes on about getting on with his life. on one hand you get the sense that you are listening to the ultimate ROCK AND ROLL survivor, but it feels like a lost opportunity in that these disappointments are what inform his decisions and trajectory as a major cultural figure for over 30 years (at the point of publication). as a reader i wouldn't mind if more attention were paid to such instead of giving it the same care as his many screeds against cliche fair like record companies and concert promotes.
thats my gripe. i wish this book had been a bit more in depth on his life but really, this is his book to have written the way he wanted. i don't think this is the definitive MOTÖRHEAD book but i look forward to reading such when it is ultimately written.
when i began doing this blog thing in earnest i knew that i was going to need to provide some sort of regular content. since i've always been reading memoirs and biographies of musicians as long as i can remember, writing about them seemed a natural fit.
we've got many coming up in the new year including next week's review of the late LEMMY KILMISTER's 2002 memoir WHITE LINE FEVER. so look for that coming very soon!
here are links to all those reviewed this year:
the MC5 was an explosive, powerhouse DETROIT rock outfit that both infused revolutionary politics with an unbridled, kinetic energy that made good on the promise of the recent BRITISH INVASION. if anything, their sound was the answer to how AMERICA does BLUES-based ROCK AND ROLL and paved the way for THE STOOGES, NEW YORK DOLLS and PUNK ROCK in general. kick out the jams, indeed!
and essentially that is the starting point for legendary guitarist WAYNE KRAMER's stellar memoir THE HARD STUFF (DA CAPO, 2018). while this book does dive deep into his career and cultural influence, its focus is far more concerned on how his experiences in federal prison in the 70s on drug charges informed his politics surrounding social justice and drug policy.
first off i want to say that this memoir is remarkably well-written. cogent, thoughtful and very direct. in particular, his description of the lost promise and debasement of DETROIT from its post-WWII peak as an economic and industrial juggernaut to its steady fall from grace and how such affected long-simmering race relations (due to racist labor practices and union self-dealing) was artfully written. KRAMER expertly provides a vivid firsthand eyewitness account at the DETROIT riots of 1967 and how they were fueled by race resentment fear and resulted in a further distancing of the races by the subsequent WHITE FLIGHT to the suburbs, leaving the urban center destitute and long-suffering. you really get a sense of how destabilizing and demoralizing such was in the psyche of a young idealist. it basically set up DETROIT as a political metaphor for the 60s idealism and the frustrating limits of the AMERICAN DREAM, the very chaotic backdrop by which the revolutionary politics of the MC5 were born.
the mismanagement of the MC5 and their inability to make good on their promise, for a variety of factors both external and internal, resulted in a career that flat-lined, which saw KRAMER fall into the seedy drug underworld of DETROIT that had shifted markedly from the late 60s into the 70s. if anything it became more corporate and opiates had taken over. his decent into a series of bad choices involving relationships, drugs and money resulted in KRAMER going to federal prison in KENTUCKY for a period in the mid 70s.
a central argument from this book is the nature of recovery and rehabilitation and how such is seeded in hope. from his vantage point incarceration should be a place of providing opportunities and hope for inmates largely not equipped to function on the outside within the usual guardrails. they need assistance and providing them fear and discouragement only fuels their unsuccessful reintroduction to mainstream society upon gaining back their freedom.
its hard not to see the WAR ON DRUGS as a colossal failure. this testimonial only one more drop in that ever-growing bucket. i just don't see MIDDLE AMERICA ever waking up from their slumber and seeming existential fear of the other.
we need empathy and that is basically his realization. he caused damage from his choices and all he can do now is help others in this moment when possible. not in the future. now.
this centering of the locus of control in his mind from longstanding macro structural failures of the AMERICAN political and economic apparatus (that the MC5 fought against) to making good personal decisions in the moment is quite the narrative arc.
excellent read that i would recommend to anyone interested in the 1960s counterculture, PUNK ROCK, free jazz, revolutionary politics or rehabilitation.
this straightforward, un-adorned memoir co-written by BLINK-182 drummer / FAMOUS STARS & STRAPS founder-owner TRAVIS BARKER delivers on the goods of walking his audience through the ups and downs of his improbably career.
my interest, aside from the fact that he's a sick musician that has been in several killer bands that basically defined my formative adolescent years (i.e. THE AQUABATS! , BLINK-182 and THE TRANSPLANTS), was mainly in how he went about his career. what i learned is that the dude has an addictive personality that basically informed his relationships with weed, women, tattoos and all things material. that drive throughout this self-spun narrative of his life essentially allowed him to pursue and push further without being sidelined by doubt or obstacles.
and man, were there obstacles. namely the death of his mother at 13, but also the horrific experience of being in a lear jet plane crash after a gig in 2008. both events defined him and the later gave him the opportunity to reassess his priorities.
its easy to find many of the things written about here wrote and rife with cliches, but i dont think that was a concern of his when considering pursuing this book. if anything, what i took from his story is the intense level of engagement he has with his instrument and how that singular focus provide him a unique vessel to communicate with an ever growing cadre of musicians and artists. through everything, that core relationship was intact.
you really get the feeling he'd be drumming somewhere in a small club with a no name band happily even if BLINK-182 never took off. its that love of his art that i resonated with. the stories of sex addiction and pursuing of celebrity relationships and material bullshit less so.
this book was easily digestible and straight to the point, much like a good 90s skate punk song. worth it if you are a fan of the POP PUNK genre.
BOOK REVIEW | "SEVEN DEADLY SINS: SETTLING THE ARGUMENT BETWEEN BORN BAD AND DAMAGED GOOD" BY COREY TAYLOR
ok before i completely unload on this subpar book i want to make clear that i am a fan of SLIPKNOT. i've followed their career since their national live debut on OZZFEST 99 when i was years old which is insane now that i'm thinking about it. 20 years. wow. all im saying is that back then even with a festival loaded with other notable acts like SLAYER, ROB ZOMBIE, DEFTONES, FEAR FACTORY, STATIC-X, PRIMUS, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and BLACK SABBATH, they still stood out.
so i say this with love. SEVEN DEADLY SINS: SETTLING THE ARGUMENT BETWEEN BORN BAD AND DAMAGED GOOD (DA CAPO, 2012) by SLIPKNOT frontman COREY TAYLOR was awful.
it read like a cross between an overly dramatic teenage journal entry (with all the requisite directionless first-person self-referential diatribes) and someone who literally just discovered a thesaurus. it was tiring to the point of exhaustion reading run-on sentence after run-on sentence and awkward word choices that were unnecessarily complex for the sake of being verbose.
its one thing that it was badly written (or in need of serious editing), but the premise of the book itself was garbage. this idea that the seven deadly sins are bullshit and that we should be able learn from and transcend our transgressions. sometimes i dont think TAYLOR even realized he was coming off pro-CATHOLICISM with all his seemingly anti-religious screeds. if anything he was proving the essence of the religion. this is the kind of book that probably does well with people that don't like to think very hard about anything for too long, which likely describes his audience. im said to say that this book did well, but he's made several other books since then so... ugh.
what annoys me the most is that his actual biography is compelling and worthy of a memoir. SLIPKNOT is arguably the last major rock band to reach stadium status since NIRVANA. think about that. a bunch of masked DEATH METAL / THRASH METAL fans from IOWA have pretty much owned the METAL genre and whatever is left of ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio for the better part of two decades and they come from the middle of nowhere in the forgotten midwest. the heartland. goddamn trump country! i'd be interested in reading THAT BOOK that talks about how his upbringing impacted his lyrical content and drive to succeed, not his lukewarm attempt at defining morality. what a letdown.
yeah, i have a copy of this book. anyone wants it just ask. i'm looking to move past having read it. i'll stick to his SLIPKNOT records.
i always found it interesting with movements, whether they be artistic, social or cultural, are entities constantly in flux with new blood constantly reevaluating, interpreting and contextualizing what came before into a new modern amalgamation/expression.
PUNK ROCK is such an artistic/social/cultural phenomena whose innate value and very definition is forever a controversial topic to its many participants and stakeholders. personally, that discussion has long bored me (dating back to high school) and it is refreshing to know that KEITH MORRIS, iconic frontman of 80s HARDCORE legends BLACK FLAG and CIRCLE JERKS, felt much the same as well.
KEITH MORRIS makes a point in his memoir MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (DA CAPO, 2016) to elucidate upon why he got into music (i.e. passion and personal expression) and how such a foundation has maintained itself over his career as an under-appreciated (in my opinion) cultural force.
it always happens that underground bands like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE STOOGES and THE SEX PISTOLS all had cultural influences that far outweighed their record sales and BLACK FLAG was no different. their ability to refine and harden PUNK's edge into a more potent, punishing musical variant has influenced bands far outside the PUNK community. i'd argue modern METAL music is indebted as much to BLACK FLAG in its ethos and attitude as it is to the doomed riffage of BLACK SABBATH. again, my opinion.
one aspect that caught my eye about MORRIS was the energy and genuinely altruistic (to the point of naivete) he put into the community of artists in southern california, irrespective of genre or scene. for every anecdote dealing with members of THE ANGRY SAMOANS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, CRO-MAGS or THE ADOLESCENTS, there are others with members of RATT, VAN HALEN or THE RAVEONETTES.
to me PUNK ROCK is almost a religion and its not surprising that core, unassailable members of its royalty are by no means interested in the "punk police" bullshit that well-intentioned fans, and in some case other peers, hoist on the public. he really makes a point that this idea that to be a true appreciator of PUNK ROCK you need to wipe away all that came before is sad, pathetic and just wrong. in his career this came full circle with the formation of OFF! where his younger bandmates had many outside influences that didn't coincide with his. to him it was an opportunity and the idea of a bands as a democracy (both artistically and financially) is something that has been constant in his post-BLACK FLAG career.
growing up i got tired of PUNK ROCK fans that just shat on everything else. it just seemed so counterproductive and stunting on a human level to have up barriers like that. its nice to know part of the underground cultural vanguard of the 80s had his ears open to the street.
still does. do damage.