Day Two (July 28, 2007)
Saturday was hot, sunny and humid in Austin, Texas. Not a good combination for walking to the convention center with a backpack on your back when the closest parking lot was three blocks away. I felt so relieved when I walked into the climate controlled air conditioning of the Austin Convention Center. I passed through one of the many entrances into the Summer NAMM show and began checking out exhibitors I might have missed the previous day.
Taking everything in at a NAMM show is an entertaining yet daunting challenge. Imagine brand new shiny guitars, many more expensive than my car, stacked five rows high in a pyramid fashion. Mike Portnoy’s billion piece drumset on display, aisle after aisle of amps, cabinets, studio outboard gear….I could go on, but instead please look at the pictures I took to take in the full effect.
Venturing towards the East end of the convention center I came across G# Guitars traveling all the way to Austin from Fredrikstad, Norway. What makes a G# guitar so unique, besides each one being handcrafted and modified to your playing tastes by luthier/creator Oivin Fjeld, is that the guitars were tiny enough to fit in a backpack and they were meant to be tuned to G# for a special sound. Oivin showed me a humorous video of Elton John’s guitar player coming on stage to do a solo on one of the micro guitars.
I pondered if things would have turned out different for Michael Shenker at the Rock and Blues concert if he had played his god-awful guitar solo (as recently seen on youtube) on one of these beauties. Perhaps he would have received a more lighthearted reception, I thought. Hmmm…well, back to the interview…
“The whole idea (for the G# Guitar) came when people began asking me to design a guitar, and I did not want to copy Fenders and Gibsons like everyone else does, so I figured out I had to design something special and I had an idea in my head and I wanted to achieve that. I’ve made a shorter guitar, with a mahogany body and I made a prototype, and after I made the prototype I tried the guitar in different tunings and when I tried the G# tuning it was perfect and that is why I chose the name G#”
Walking from booth to booth I often came across fellow longhairs, people of a heavier musical faith if you will. I would stop them and talk metal and see what they’re band was all about. One such group of headbangers was Demonseed, who must have brought they’re street team to NAMM because I saw t-shirts for this band everywhere that weekend. Demonseed describe themselves as brutal death metal from Dallas, Texas.
“Brutal roots influenced metal, that’s what we are. We grew up on Slayer, early Metallica…we just got out of the studio, we got a six song EP, it’ll be out in about a month, it’s being independently released.” Commented Demonseed guitarist Carlos.
Putting forth some of my personal philosophy, “roots influenced” is usually a scary way to describe your band to me. I’ve never been a fan of “roots rock” or the atrocity that was Sepultura’s “Roots” album. Or washed up has-beens like Metallica claiming to go back to their “roots”, but to be fair, I found the bands’ myspace page and discovered that Demonseed was a capable enough death metal outfit, nothing that hasn’t been done before, but very well produced for an unsigned band and fans of the death metal genre should dig it.
Moving on, I had an appointment with Erik Tarkiainen director of product marketing for Line 6, Line 6 did not have a booth at Summer NAMM but coordinated a time for me to chat one on one with Eric in the lobby of the convention center, which I was very grateful to them for. Line 6 had just released the revolutionary Pocket Pod and Eric was happy to fill me in on that and what comes next from the makers of the best selling POD family of products.
“What put us on the map about ten years ago was the POD, and the initial application for the POD, the reason for the POD was recording. It’s impractical and difficult to record a guitarist through an amplifier, no matter what studio you are in. The POD became a mainstay for the studio and then we realized people were using it for more than just recording. People were plugging into the POD and using it to just play, whether they were in their living room with headphones or in a hotel room or whatever…I gotta admit the Pocket POD is something people have been asking for years.”
“I had one guy on the Line 6 websites forum who practically launched the idea of the Pocket POD he posted a post that he had created years ago, he must have saved it or something, he had pretty much described what he wanted he said “Here is what I need, I need a POD that I can put in my guitar bag, it runs on batteries, that has a built in tuner, and a little mp3 input and I can plug my iPod and headphones into it or plug it into an amp and play on a beach, a plane hotel room or wherever.” So that’s what we did and the initial reaction has been great.”
Another product Eric was able to tell me about was the Line 6 Toneport GX, a guitar pre amp that can clip on your guitar strap and interface with the customtone website that archives hundreds of different tones for the user to choose from.
“The Toneport GX has one guitar input, one output, USB (connectivity)…. it’s for people playing in garage bands or wherever it’s a simple way to record guitar. Which baffles people….You get two issues, how do record your guitar to your computer….there is no guitar jack on your computer…. and if you could plug your guitar into your computer, it wouldn’t sound good because it would be a totally dry signal, so people can pull up the Toneport website and choose their tones and record with the Toneport GX directly to their computer. It’s very simple, very cost effective, it’s priced right at $69.00 ”
I enjoyed meeting with Eric. He came across as being really passionate about music and seemed just as interested in hearing about metal-rules.com as did hearing about Line 6. We swapped business cards and he let me know he’d keep me up to date with all of the latest happenings at Line 6.
Next up, I had previously received an invitation in my email inbox to attend a small get together in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition Bus featuring special host Vernon Reid of Living Colour fame. Vernon was set to debut a music video that area high schoolers had participated in creating. I decided to show up a little early just in case I could shoot the breeze with Vernon. I’m glad I did because A) he was hanging out by the bus and I did get to ask him a bunch of questions, and B) the “small get together” on the bus eventually got cancelled because the music video never materialized by the end of the day. The following is what all Vernon had to say.
On how Vernon got into hard rock/metal
“It was back in the day, the music before metal, like Zeppelin, there was the hard rock thing. People argue whether Sabbath was the first or Zeppelin or Deep Purple, I wore “Live in Japan” by Deep Purple out.”
On why he chose to play guitar over drums or bass
“I got into Carlos Santana, Hendrix, then Robert Fripp, Ritchie Blackmore, and Tommy Bolin was really important to me.”
Why the name Living Colour?
“Well you know, I go back to when before there were color TVs, when I was a little, little boy before the show would start they would say this program is brought to you in Living Colour. It just stuck on me, I was born in London so I spell it the English way. Like H.P. Love craft “The Colour Outerspace” and things like that.”
On Vernon’s opinion of some of today’s other subgenres or metal
“Well you know the thing that’s going on with all the different genres of metal is there’s so many different subgenres there’s like Meshuggah a really sorta complex type of thing, then you think of bands like Queens of the Stone Age kinda the weird rock kinda thing. There’s like the goth thing that doesn’t use guitar so much, it’s become really subdivided, very tribal. Some of it is very, very based on religious themes like God vs. the Devil and then you got the Christian Metal thing that stands toe to toe with the bands that play with Satanism and what have you. There is really a wide array of things that are happening. When you think of a band like Mastadon, they’ve only been around a minute, and they’re about as heavy as it gets.”
And what would we find on Vernon’s iPod?
“A lot of blues, a lot of Podcasts, audio books…. I’ve been listening to H.P. Lovecraft , I’m a HUGE H.P. Lovecraft fan, and it’s funny because there are even metal bands that have taken that same inspiration…. There’s a band called Cthulu right? ”
On Vernon’s favorite bands and Charlie Benante from Anthrax
“I’ve been really into Meshuggah and Mastodon in terms of the metal genre, but talking about favorite bands I listen to Radiohead I listen to hip hop, if you check out the Living Colour thing, we’re all over the place…..from jazz, to metal, to hard rock to punk, I’m into inside of metal outside of metal…it’s so funny because people talk about Charlie Benante from Anthrax, he’s a big U2 fan and I am too, but he’ll deny it.”
Now on to the famous or infamous debate… Maiden vs. Priest?
“The fact that Rob Halford came out of the closet, I think is a very brave thing to do. You know what I mean I think that’s really, really courageous for him to do that, especially when you think of the way Freddie Mercury passing the way he did. I’m not saying…I mean… for someone in a very male ujmmm macho genre for a person who really own up for what’s going on in his life., I gotta say I admire that, as much as I love Eddie (Iron Maiden’s mascot) I’d have to go with Judas Priest. You know the fact that he you know….it took a lot of courage. Like when Doug Pinnick came out from Kings X. We did a one time only thing with Doug Pinnick, when Corey couldn’t make it and it was great. All those kinda debates are like apples and oranges at the end of the day. They are both great bands, but I would say because of the Halford thing I’d have to give the edge to Priest.”
On being one of the first “black metal bands”
“Rock and roll has evolved to become everyone’s music…. White people, black people, latino people…women, men whatever. The idea that there is no place for black people or African people don’t have a place in the musician is an idea I really reject. People talk about MC5 all the time, but you don’t hear enough about Funkadelic. Bad Brains is as hard and heavy as it gets they inspired speed metal, hardcore all of that you know what I mean. We were influenced by a lot of diverse people. I’m very proud of being a part of a community that is very forward thinking people. I’m me. I don’t have to try to be like anybody else. Everybody that’s into rock and metal, we’re all in this together.”
On the infamous gig in California backstage with Guns N Roses opening for the Rolling Stones
“You know…You know what? Our managers, the thing about it is….it was a thing where they really kept me and Axl separated, but Axl kinda ran up on my skills and subsequent to that Axl has become like Charles Foster Kane, a recluse in a way. But Chinese Democracy, people who have heard it say it’s really dope. I’m looking forward to it, if Chinese Democracy comes out, it’s gonna hit number one.”
After that Vernon had to run, and so did I.
There was a NAMM showcase downtown with Outworld featuring Rusty Cooley headlining and I was lucky enough to get a VIP pass to the show from the Diamond Amplification booth. This was the first time in Austin Outworld played with they’re new singer Carlos Zema from Brazil, and he had KILLER range. I was able to catch up with Rusty Cooley and talk metal, here’s what he had to say.
What has Rusty has been up to lately?
“Well basically, we’ve been working on a new album, we have a new singer in the band and we have been writing hardcore since February. We headlined Madfest in Houston and we’re in this Famecast concert in a running for $15,000 bucks…..we have about half the material for our new album, we wanna be back in the studio in September, October so we can get one out in 08. We recorded the first album at Bobby Blotzer’s studio in Houston, so that might be an option but we haven’t decided on a studio yet.”
On finding new Outwolrd singer Carlos Zema
“A friend of our keyboard player had ran across a band that he was in on myspace, and I just friggin’ emailed him cold and just told him what was goin’ on and explained the situation and he was ready to go. It’s a real bitch to get someone into the U.S. from outside the States with visas and especially all the bullshit with terrorists and you know, all the things that have been associated with 9-11 so…..so yeah, it was a pain in the ass to get his visa, we’re in the process of getting him another visa so he can actually work, he hasn’t been able to work since he’s been here which makes things really difficult.”
I continued to ask… Maiden vs. Priest?
“Oh wow….shit…I don’t think I can answer that. They are both equal and amazing power, how can you pick?”
Answering questions from the readers of the metal-rules forum…
Metal Obsession wanted to know “Why are you so awesome?”
“Hahahah I don’t know dude, I wish I felt that way about my playing….”
Madman wanted to know “If you were a bird, what kind of bird would you be?”
Oh shit, I don’t know, some like, really bad ass bird! (Rusty and his whole table crack up.)
I don’t know like a bald eagle or something…A hawk or falcon…..the millennium falcon!”
On bands he’d like to tour with…
“Dream theater, If we were able to land the opening slot for Dream Theater or Symphony X That would really land us, really put our band on the map.”
On how Rusty started playing guitar…
“Ummm well, it’s kinda a funny story, actually me and this guy (points to a member of his entourage) were in eighth grade and we had been jamming out with tennis rackets to Ted Nugent records, and uh, then we got the brilliant idea one day “Hey, how ’bout we get some real electric guitars, and uh, that was it man.”
Outworld played a really dynamite set that night. It was my first time seeing them in concert, and given the chance I would definitely see them again.
I saw many people within the Texas metal community at that show, members of Helstar, members of By Any Means Necessary and Paul Lidel. I had the chance to talk with Paul Lidel (formerly of Dirty Looks) axe slinger for Dangerous Toys and most recently Adrenaline Factor over a cold Shiner Bock (Texas beer).
On Paul’s new band Adrenaline Factor
“We are out on Perris Records….Adrenaline Factor has been doing a lot of shows, we got a video out for our song “Ride” which happened to be the most requested song on KLBJ FM here in Austin. We’re expanding as we speak, we hope to go over and play Europe. It’s old school rock, a mixture of like old AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith, even a little Deep Purple meets Pantera, Metallica that kind of thing, with a little bit of melody in there. ”
Is there a looming reunion album with Dirty Looks?
“There’s been talk about doing an album, but at this point there’s nothing happening with that unfortunately. We had all kinds of big hopes and plans, I sent him (Henrik Ostergaard) some songs and he sent me some songs, and uh, we were hoping to get some shows together and all that, and at this point right now nothing like that is happening but you never know.”
On Dirty Looks opening up for Kiss back in the day when Paul was 23
“That was unbelievable. We were at the catering tent, and KISS was sitting at the table next to us and we didn’t wanna go over and say “hi” or anything, but anyway, so I was getting some food and Gene Simmons came up and said “Hey, I’m Gene”, and I was like “Hey, how ya’ doin’! I’m Paul!” and they dug the band and had us play some shows in New York City with them.”
On playing guitar for Lizzy Borden…
“I hooked up with Lizzy through Metal Blade Records, I met with Lizzy and we hit it off, I played some on his demo for the Master Of Disguise record and that all went really good…. And Lizzy’s a great guy, he’s so cool.”
On landing the lead guitar slot in Dangerous Toys…
“Dirty Looks was on tour and I was a huge, huge Dangerous Toys fan and our road manager said “Hey, Dangerous Toys is playing in town, who wants to go?” and I said “Ohhh, I definitely do!” So we ended up all going to see them play and somehow I ended up back stage and ran into Jason (McMaster) and he said “Hey, you’re Paul from Dirty Looks!” and I’m like “Wow you’re Jason, man!” and we stayed in contact ever since.”
“I moved to Austin, the 1st of January 1994 and that I was still kinda concerned at auditions, I still couldn’t believe they just hired me just like that, but they had shows booked the next week, so it was a good thing I had my act together ’cause they were ready to go and so was I, so, we rehearsed the first day and it went really well, we rehearsed the second day and the drummer Mark who’s kinda the leader of the band stopped everything halfway through the rehearsal and said “We’re good.”
Is there a Dangerous Toys Reunion?
“Our 20th Anniversary DVD is coming out in October and there is definite plans for Dangerous Toys shows on the release of the DVD. Definite plans.”
Saturday had turned out to be an exciting yet exhausting day. I got to talk to a lot of cool people. After I spoke with Paul and had finished watching Outworld tear up the stage, I was headed for the door.
But then I came across Stephen Fernandez, the bass player for local thrashers “By Any Means Necessary” Being a big fan of their brand of Bay Area Thrash via Austin, Texas I wanted to be the first to present the metal-rules readers this band, and Stephen was cool with sharing with us what his band has been up to this summer.
On what has been going on with By Any Means Necessary…
“We’ve been writing some new material, staying off shows for a little bit, other than that we’re trying to finish recording songs for our new 5 song EP, it’ll probably be out within the next few months or so. We recorded it at NoiseFarm Studios, we’ve been there over a year and a half working on it due to conflicting schedules.”
On the development of the bands sound…
“There’s still a definite thrash element to our sound, but we have incorporated a new death metal sound into our music, it’s really a fusion between thrash and death metal.”
On who Stephen would most like to tour with…
“I personally would like to tour with Decapitated, they are one of my all time favorite bands, they have added a really cool element to death metal.”
After talking metal all night it was time for me to go home and get some sleep before the huge undertaking of wrapping up the 2007 Summer NAMM convention.
Check out day 3 when I talk to GHS/Rocktron, Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, Watchtower)…