Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Goodbye to Deft....be there!

REGULAR readers will know that I have a cerain disdain for those with narrow definitions of hard rock and metal. Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Def Leppard.

It is because they were among the bands that defined what Ulster Hall gig shold be about.

In recent years I have become alienated from recent Lepps product.  But the glory years have been rekindled by what in humble opinion is the best Def Leppard tribute act in Europe, if not the world.

Ash, Mike et al make up Deft Leppard.

For many a drunken night they have rocked venues across the land - and as far as I know I am to date their only stage-diver (yes, I have no shame!).

But now Deft Leppard have decided to call it a day.

This bunch of slightly reprobate and wonderful guys are stepping back. And where will be the last ever Deft gig? Well in Belfast, of course!

January 8th, at The Empire.

I'll be there, and if you too can make it, say hello to me Baal and Sylvia...we'll be down the front!

A muse not a rant for a change

THERE are times when one stops and contemplates one's own mortality. For many of us (Hello Sid and Paddy!) it is in the darkened hour of bright sunlight when the libations of the previous evening(s) cast a vicious potency of hangover revenge upon fragile metabolisms.

But of recent weeks the thought of mortality has been nagging at me: the loss of people that I either knew, knew "off and on" or knew by reputation.

Too often this celebrity obsessed world with its potions, lotions and fake - sorry alternative - medicince and ambition to reach the Andy Warhol defintion of fame there is narry a care for consequence or dignity.

Too often we see the platitudes proferred by a media that has more people reading about X-Factor or some other reality shit that actually watches the crap.

Too often we see news dominated by what passes for entertainment.

That is why when one experiences loss - either of those close at hand or of those who you admired at a distance - it is sometimes difficult to quantify that loss on your own personal emotional radar.

Today I learned that someone who I both admired as a professional and a person had passed away. This came too hot on the heels of the loss of Sweet Savage's Trev and that came a few weeks after the mighty Dio left us.

Thus, I ponder my own mortality. And that is just a shit way of thinking. And drinking cheap lager and Jager ain't in psychology 101 classes as fit and proper ways to handle this type of stuff.

But a moment's contemplation is fit and proper.

For me that is looking to where one seeks solace.

Solace can be found in the music we all love; the sheer unadulterated pleasure of hard rock, no matter how dumbass it can be. Or in the complex world of heavy metal that now has almost as many genres as it has bands.

For when one stops picking fluff off one's belly button (navel gazing that is!) it is through friends and music that most readers of this blog can truly rely on.

Whether it is raising a glass to one who has died, with BLS melancholy to the max in the background, or having the amps cranked to 11 with pure furious metal, it is the right and proper way to say goodbye.

Viking funerals are now generally frowned upon, and you can't get hold of a longboat for love, money or mead once you admit it is to be either burned or buried (think Sutton Hoo).

Persian Pillars of Death are a wee bit awkward as the average rambler around the Mournes tend to call the police when they discover a body, even if it is placed there ceremoniously.

But, amidst all this there is the reality. What those have passed away leave us is a legacy . That legacy may be of friendship; that legacy may be he music; that legacy may be just a Tweet or status update; and that legacy may be that sheer undefinable presence some people have.

Such contemplation is morose - but as fans of some of the darker expressions of musical and lyrical emotion this type of contemplation always lurks close to the surface.

Somehow hard rock and metal performs a cathartic role for us fans. Sometimes the sheer fact that that there are bands (local, national and international) who capture the mood that we know was never for us, means we find succour from them.

Writing this has been my own personal catharsis, aided and abetted by cheap beer and the rapidly dwindling bottle of Jager.

I understood the concept of death at a realitively young age through the reality of the Troubles and several family deaths; but the night that it hit home really hard empathatically was when driving down Dunbar Link, with the then girlfriend. The news came on Radio One that Phil Lynott has passed away. They played Phil's tribute to Elvis, that he penned when Presley died (and if you are a Lizzy fan you shouldn't need me to ID that one!).

The then girl was annoyed, to say the least, when a planned drive was abandoned.

But it highlighted to me that there are some people who 'get it' and some people who 'get shit' instead.

So tonight I say raise a glass to absent friends, those we knew closely, those who passed away years ago but live on in  memories, those that we wish we had had the time to say a wee word to....

And, remember before it all gets a wee bit heavy: you've got the music, and in the words of the mighty Zakk, "No-one gets out alive". We just need to rock out in the meantime.

If any of the issues I have written about here has affected you or you suspect a friend is 'down' then just ask for help, or just talk. A single word to a friend can be enough to make them think again.

Live, long, prosper and rock on!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sad, sad examples of what passes for entertainment

OKAY - I've just about had enough I can take. I don't watch X-Factor, or any of the other so-called reality shows masquerading as entertainment. But on Facebook and Twitter tonight I have seen normally sane and sensible people getting their lattes all frothed up about manufactured rubbish. Even broadacasters I respect like the BBC's William Crawley have been getting involved in posts about spurious, talentless, so-called 'acts'.

Can they just step back for a minute and look at the things they are getting all so engrossed in?

No, I doubt it: such is the allure of the filthy luchre that Cowell and co peddle with a slick production and a stylist there are few of the hypnotised massed ranks of deluded who will lift their eyes beyond the over-produced set [as I mentioned I haven't watched the rubbish, but I've seen the so-called 'news' reports on it and the tabloid hype].

Which, of course, led me to a moment of reflection - or beer fuelled ranting!

"Back when I were a lad" the promotion of popular music lay within the gift of Top Of The Pops, and latterly the likes of The Tube.

You could expect pop songs sitting next to Motorohead and Marillion, Judas Priest juxtaposed with jumping dance troops; or even Iron Maiden matched on TV next to New Romantic frilly shirts.

I mention Judas Priest deliberately. This blog kicked off in 2006 when I met, after way too long, my friend Mark and his wife Sylvia when Judas Priest played at the Odyssey with Scorpions. I was, at the time, busy trying to explain by way of gigs and playing rock and metal CDs endlessly in the car to both my children that they could think independently about music (as long as it had guitars and drums!). Meeting Mark and Sylvia re-kindled days arguing over whether Ozzy or Ronnie was the best Sabbath singer, necking beers against a backdrop of Lizzy and Slyvia's devotion to John Sykes.

The relevance to today is that then there was a reasonably fair spread of musical genres across mainstream media. We could devote our time to rock and metal with TV playing metal acts as equals to the likes of Duran Duran.

The mainstream media has now become a cold house to hard rock and metal. Bands now rely on merch sales and touring to recoup the costs of albums; even the mighty Iron Maiden admitted in an interview with Classic Rock that they would need 1,000,000 sales of Final Frontier to break even (and thankfully Bruce and Harry Harris accountants can rest easy as it looks that total will easily be reached!)

But, here is what the mainstream media misses: there is much more longevity and sheer songwriting talent in hard rock and metal than will evet be noticed by the likes of X-Factor wannabes. Northern Ireland has a small population, yet has had a disproportionate amount of horns worthy acts and individuals happily corrupting the young and old.

The Answer have played to more people than watch X-Factor - several times over. Therapy? have sold more albums than any of the Cowell creations. SLF have retained integrity when they could have easily become a tribute act to past glories. Acts such as Million$Reload are scoring record deals, and that is not to even mention the likes of Trucker Diablo, A Little Bitter, Escape Fails, Last Known Addiction, Black Freeway, Interrogate and the many, many more that lay down the licks night after night.

But what of the future. Will we ever see The Answer on an X-Factor like show? Can you imagine a stylist trying to get to grips with Cormac's flowing locks? They'd need a team to hold him down and another team to see where the hell to start. The future, I fear, is to see more and more of the TV for the gullible and the gormless.

Will, we ever see proper live acts - you know with an actual drum kit, guitar and bass amps and people who know how to play them on the main TV stations again? [I am reliably informed by someone close to the production crew on X-Factor et al that they don't have bands as it takes too long to set up their 'shit' and they refuse to have their music altered/dubbed/mimed.]

So where is all this waffle going?

Apart from being a rant (it's my fecking blog I can rant about what I want!) it is also a call to the acts in Northern Ireland to keep on doing what you do, keep on playing and keep on just being some of the best artists this forsaken planet has ever seen. Keep on being musicians not numpties. Keep on recording music that is exciting and engaging. Keep on playing the Limelight, the Pavillion, the Diamon Rock Club, and anywhere where you can get three or more together to rock their tiny socks off!.

 Keep on playing gigs, and cranking it up to 11 and raising a glass to rock and feckin' roll.

To quote Trucker Diablo...DRINK BEER, DESTROY!

This rant is now officially over :)

Wizzard tribute to Ronnie

White Wizzard, who are playing in Auntie Annies on November 6th,  are currently streaming new single 'Shooting Star' here.
A tribute to the late and great, Ronnie James Dio, it's the first song to feature the Los Angeles band's new line-up. This comes out as a single through iTunes on October 18, together with a cover of Dio's 'We Rock'. All proceeds form this will go the Children Of The Night charity, founded by Ronnie Dio. Limited edition vinyl version will be available on the night.

Gotthard vocalist motorcycle accident

Seems too much news is bad news of late. Gotthard vocalist Steve Lee has been killed in a motorcycle accident in California. (Source http://www.totalrock.com/)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Glyder split

TALENTED Irish band Glyder have split up. Bat Kinane has posted an explanation here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sad news

A NUMBER of reliable sources are reporting the sad news that Trevor Fleming, guitarist with Sweet Savage, has passed away.

At this time there is no formal confirmation, but if it is so then this will be sad loss to those nearest and dearest to Trev and the wider Sweet Savage family.

It is also time to reflect on the contribution Sweet Savage - in all its incarnations - made on the metal scene in Northern Ireland, and further afield.

Yes, everyone can quite that Vivian Campbell was once a member, and that Metallica covered Killing Time, but few can actually recall what the heady days of NWOBHM were like.

Sweet Savage were among the select few that were caught up in the heady days when the brashness of punk was combined with musicianship of early bands like Purple.

Savage were regarded highly enough to get airings on Tommy Vance's Friday Night Rock on BBC Radio 1, and if my pre-alzheimer's memory is not failing me they also got a play on the covetted John Peel Show, as well as a slot in Sounds before Kerrang! spun off from that mag. Hell, they were even granted a BBC Session recording.

The sound of Sweet Savage, despite the NWOBHM tag, was always rooted in a Northern Ireland that produced - and still does - many acts that defy genre classification. Yes, SLF, Van Morrison, The Undertones, Therapy?, Ash, The Answer etc can all be slotted into one pigeon hole or another, but really there is a magical chemistry about 'Norn Iron' music that Savage exemplified.

Sweet Savage endured much too-ing and fro-ing in terms of line-up and reformed several times from the ashes of previous incarnations. There is a much awaited new album that is virtually in the bag at the time of writing. We hope that it will be a suitably loud and rocking tribute to Trev.

There is one thing we want to hit on the head right here - Sweet Savage deserved none of the pre-pubescent twaddle posted about them on various forums whenever they were slotted to appear. For some children the appreciation of what a dedicated set of musicians can do will never really be known. Those children prefer to notch up the 'mega' gigs they've been to, or rave about some obscure act that few will know and even fewer will care about. If you don't 'like' a band, or they don't conform to your narrow definition of 'metal' then there is no need to publicly offer views that speak more about your own vanity rather than genuine critical comment.

Sweet Savage were in toto man enough to rise above such crap.

If you are fan of metal in its broadest sense, then the passing of Trev will cause you to pause in silent reflection.

I've seen Sweet Savage on quite a few occassions, but two will stand out in my boozee addled brain: ripping apart the Queen's Student Speakeasy one early Saturday evening in the 80s and a gig a couple of years back in the Spring and Airbrake. Neither one of these were perfect shows, but they were perfectly passionate metal affairs.

We offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to Trev's family, his bandmates and the many friends he gathered throughout the years. Rest In Peace

Salvation online

THERE comes a time when it is past midnight: beer and mini-Jagers (79 in local Russell's Shop4U...nice way to spend a tenner!) are being consumed and you can't be bothered setting iTunes to shuffle again. What is one to do when effectively grounded owing to health - or lack thereof - and doggie minding?

It used to be the case that the latest CDs would be rammed unwillingly into the player, but they're really for the car or when you can scare the shit out of the neighbours and terrify the Christian family across the street.

Past midnight there must be some way to score a fix of hard rock and metal when tip tapping on the keyboard. After all Wednesday nights are sorted with Carrie Davenport's Pure Rock Fury on Blast 106FM doling out two hours of mayhem in her own inimitable style.

The rest of the week...well thanks to Seatzie's tip off to us at Metal Mansion, and Phil's dedication salvation is at hand thanks to Rock Radio NI. The concept is simple - a web based radio station which regularly plays rock and metal, and backs local bands and is available online, through wi-fi radio and other outlets. What is more if you are a fan with some time on your hands you can create your own playlist and become an online rock and metal DJ.

We're going to grasp the technical side of it when the Carlsberg runs out (sometime next week) and we get a Jager free evening (at 79p a mini bottle that's not altogether likely anytime soon!). Might even try and pull together a playlist....

But what the spirit of Carrie and Phil shows to us is that the hard rock and metal scene has massive potential.

And I'm not talking about some mythical breakthrough to the mainstream.

There is a healthy live scene. James's Distortion Project has kept the flame alive for more than a decade, and local gig venues are proliferating, from the hallowed land on OrmeauAvenue, to the Pavillion and the Diamond Rock Club in North Antrim.

Musically the scene is in rude good health, from beserker metal, through to hard rock and all the way to black metal, hardcore, classic metal and even a wee bit of thrash. The quality of the bands is growing and developing all the time.

FFS there's even a healthy rock and metal DJ scene [hat tip to Monk and the Paradise City crew!]

With this groundswell of support, interest and local dedication at some time there must be a coming together: a collective will that can bring the scene some collective earnings, that can be ploughed back into providing more and more ways to expose the scene.

And in a theme touched on previously on this blog, there is a lot of talent that merges around the scene (I have always said that headbanging stimulates brain cell growth!). Linking it all up is a challenge beyond mere mortals, but just for a few moments ponder what Norn Iron heavy fuggin' metal could achieve.

Bands who can be backed to generate the revenue to record and produce new material; live outlets; a community of support that can support the bands with everything from t-shirt designs through to PR, writing and album and poster design...

Okay, that's the maybe the Jager talking, but a collaborative approach just might begin to bring a burgeoning scene together...

Ahh feck! Re-read that and realised I was a misty eyed hippy dreamer for a moment! Action required: temporarily pause Rock Radio NI and slam some Slayer on!

Ahhh, that feels better know.

Calmness has infused the cells, more beer has been consumed. It's safe to switch back to Rock Radio NI and enjoy some new tunes, some old favourites and relax...

Your thoughts or random slagging off welcome as always either here or by email...