Mishmashmagazine.com will be back online in JULY 2008 with an entirely new look and tons of new features. This is our temporary home until then. We'll continue to post 'Best Of Mishmash Magazine' features, new coverage and updates about our new site, so keep checking in...

MishmashMagazine.com has relaunched!!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Kooks 'Konk' - CD Review

The Kooks 'Konk'
{Virgin/Astralwerks 2008}

by Genie Sanchez

Most “new” things are usually better the second, third or even fourth time around. At least that’s what I’ve come to experience and expect when drinking whiskey, but it’s especially true when listening to new music. Particularly when that music is from bands I never really got into the first time around, when they put out their first album. I don’t like being force fed anything. So when my favorite radio station plays that one song over and over again (yes, Angelinos still listen to the radio! Even though we hide behind our beloved iPods and act like the only tuneage worth injecting into our denial filled self-denounced hipster ears is music we hold as being as “vintage” as the clothes we wear. We do still listen to the radio and secretly anticipate new music. So don’t be fooled) I can’t wait to turn the dial in an act of “sticking it to the man.” Usually I have to listen to a new album over and over, and over again just to be able to have its sound attach to the inside of my brain. I’ve got to allow it to fully wrap around me and absorb it before I can truly make any kind of sense of it…or at least tolerate it. Although this might be just me, I’m not sure. I think it’s probably some kind of toxic side effect of watching bad day time television and listening to the same 7 poorly produced pop songs in the carpool lane during rush hour traffic on the 101. In any instance, my aural senses need a vacation every once in a while, a breath of fresh air if you will. And every once in awhile my lack of auditory pleasure is satisfied, when those underestimated bands come out with a really well developed collection of songs. The Kooks sophomore album titled Konk satisfies my rock-snobbery. The record is named for the London studio in which it was recorded at. Pretty clever huh? Meh.

It's very seldom you discover a band nowadays that drives you to find out more about them. Like when you find an old vinyl record from some obscure band you’ve never thought twice about but in your mind that record has now become your obsession, it's the one that is the holy grail of all albums and instantaneously you fall in love with that band and from that moment your life’s mission is to find and listen to every single album ever made by that one band. You’re intrigued, smitten, infatuated, you’re in love. I never really got into the Kooks, I mean I had heard them on the radio a little bit, seen their music videos and sure they are cute guys, they have some catchy songs but for whatever reason I just never caught on to them. But then I listened to Konk and now I find myself trying to find any and all songs that they ever put out. This album is a great mix of Brit-pop rock. It’s got it all; rockin’ guitar riffs, a danceable rhythm section, and catchy vocals... really, what more could a girl ask for? Oh and don’t you hate it when every track of an album sounds oddly like the all the rest. I do, you can’t tell if it’s all one forty minute track or 12 separate ones, not to worry here though! Each track on Konk is completely its own, the way it should be. The single “Always where I need to be” is entertaining and could easily fill the dance floor with hipsters wanting to rock out behind their ray bans. While the fourth track, “Do you wanna,” has a swagger to it all its own and is sure to get even the most timid girl to the front of the stage to strut her stuff for singer Luke Pritchard. “See the Sun” gives off a warm glow shining light on the bands “vintage” fundamental influences making for an astounding opener to an album that screams the work of genius.

I’m not sure how “popular” this album will be on the top forty chart, in fact I don’t believe it will be on there for very long if it gets on it at all, but if it does I’m defiantly listening to my radio! I’m sure of one thing though, I know that this album will be held as jewel in the treasure box of our generation's music and will become on of those albums our kids find when they are teenagers or twenty-something’s and they will hold this as great work of art, a staple in their “vintage” music collection, a cut above the rest.Konk will shine on for years to come. Well done Kooks, well done!

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Thrice - CD Review

Alchemy Index Vol. III & IV – Air & Earth
Rating: 7/10
by Jeremy Deal

From the initial announcement of Thrice’s intentions to record a set of 4 EP’s, each attributed to one of the main elements, fans were polarized, with stances that ranged from calling the idea “genius” to “pretentiousness”. I fell moreso into the former, thinking that the idea held a lot of promise; the concept of taking their music to another level, making it more of an art than a collection of “itunes candy,” was commendable. For months we heard tidbits about the sounds and dynamics of making songs fit their respective “element”, a few songs were performed live mostly to acclaim, and the band kept fans in touch with the process via their own blogsite. After all the build-up, the band signed to Vagrant and it was announced that The Alchemy Index would now be split into two different two disc sets. It was this last step that I think gave Thrice the biggest hinderance to their latest endeavors.

It was with Vheissu that Thrice really began creating a sound apart from their mostly hardcore back-catalogue. What made that album a true gem, to myself, was that it ran the gambit of crushingly heavy aural assaults to beautiful soundscapes that really drew out one’s imagination. It was a complete package. The Alchemy Index would’ve faired better if it would’ve been allowed that same privilege. The second half of the band’s project comes in the form of “Air” & “Earth”. If “Fire” & “Water” were two polar opposites of the spectrum, “Air” & “Earth” feel like the middle pieces that would’ve cemented it all together.

“Air” consists of songs dealing mostly with the ideals of flying and hopefulness (funny how those two themes go hand in hand so well huh?). True to its namesake, the songs also manage to have a dreamy, wispy vibe to them, which is epitomized by the enveloping sound of the disc’s closer, “Silver Wings”. The two strongest tracks from this EP are “Daedalus” and “The Sky Is Falling”, the former which finds the band on their second visit to the story of Icarus (this one quite chilling in nature) and the latter being a rather rapid paced commentary on society’s unwillingness to “see” the world around it crashing. “A Song for Milly Michaelson” is an unusual tribute to an 80’s movie in which a boy proves that his belief in something, if strong enough, can bring it to fruition.

“Earth” is something more likened to Dustin Kensrue’s solo album last year. Its tone is more folky and simplistic in nature. One of the Alchemy songs that has longest been played in concert, “Come All You Weary” can be found on this disc; on it, they sing of camaraderie and redemption through brotherhood. After hearing the complete project, it remains a favorite of mine, though the general consensus from their fans is a bit more indifferent. This disc also features some of the more obscure instrumentation and experimentation in style of all four entries. “Digging My Own Grave” is a ghostly little number that features a rather well placed woodwind piece that makes it almost jazzy (if ghostly and jazzy can coexist, then there you have it). Two other oddities are “The Lion & The Wolf”, a piano driven, twisted lullaby, and the far-too-short closer for the disc, “Child of Dust,” which brings the creepiest element of their “Earth” disc in its closing.

The pair of EPs are a strong effort in their own right, but feel much shorter than their counterparts despite the inclusion of the 6 minute “Daedalus”. There also doesn’t feel to be quite as much diversity on these two albums as a ‘cohesive unit” as there was on Volumes I & II. This goes back to my argument from before that the Alchemy Index, if released as one project unto itself, would be a solid work and a more balanced affair. Thrice have definitely proven that they have the creative chops to carry out a vision and do so in high fashion. This album serves best as a reminder that they have the right idea and hopefully will earn them more weight in the decision making process next time. Eyes are already pointed forward to what the band will do next, as it has the potential to be a masterpiece if they’re allowed to keep their ideals from being diluted by typical commercial handling.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alternative Press Tour - Review + Pics

w/ The Rocket Summer, The Matches, All Time Low, Forever The Sickest Kids, Sonny

3.25.08 - Fonda Theatre - Los Angeles
by Joe Cortez
photos by Adriana Torres

Here's a thought: when several hundred screaming teenagers are all packed under one roof for a concert, does it really matter what they're listening to? That idea was tested at Hollywood's Henry Fonda Theater as the annual Alternative Press Tour rolled into town delivering a healthy dose of solid rock to the masses. With it's fresh lineup, low ticket prices and cross promotional marketing tie-ins, the event was clearly aimed at a young audience and that's a great thing-in theory. With so little emphasis being placed on the actual music in today's download-to-device music industry, it's important for teens just discovering music to have something to actually hold onto and associate with their favorite bands (beyond a $30 t-shirt, that is). A concert itself may be no more tangible than an MP3, but atleast there's an experience to be had that simply cannot be matched by listening to an iPod with your headphones cranked up to 11.

Rock is the music of the young and it's great to see it return to some prominence within today's teenybopper set after a long period dormant as pop and hip hop battled for playground supremacy. But doesn't the kind of rock being played matter? Maybe it's just me and maybe I'm still stuck in a 90's musical head-space but the bands featured on this year's AP Tour line up actually felt more like boy bands in post-punk drag, their guitars draped around their bodies like a prop. Oh sure, there was the occasional f-bomb dropped here and there by the bands on stage and maybe even a bra or two thrown about but where was the risk? The rebellion? Even the parents in the back seemed to be more jaded than appalled by any of the antics of the bands on stage.

I'm sure by now you've noticed that I've gotten this far in the review without actually talking about the music itself. Image and attitude go along way in selling a particular band's sound, it's a performance you're witnessing after all. The bands on the lineup, which included Forever the Sickest Kids, The Matches, The Rocket Summer and All Time Low, all looked the part convincingly enough and fit well together on the same bill but were all so mired in creating an accessible, radio friendly sound that they for got to be dangerous. That said, I was probably the only person in the Fonda that felt this way as kids on the floor ate up every band on stage.

Show openers Forever The Sickest Kids, hailing from Dallas, brought a unique sound to the set with their decidedly country flavored vocal harmonies and poptastic hooks. They were followed by Sonny Moore's band, aptly named Sonny, who urged the crowd to "make some fucking noise" about 17 times during their set.

The one band that truly embraced this cleaned up ethos of rock was The Rocket Summer. Just hearing the crowd of mostly young girls chant the band's name over and over before they took the stage turned the Fonda into a real rock concert venue and the band delivered with their brand of polished pop rock so clean that it would be difficult to imagine them sounding much different on disc as they do live. The most surprising moment of the set was when the lead singer took to creating a song all by himself through the miracle of looping elements recorded live before the audience to which the crowd responded by singing along on the fly. The band that closed the show, All Time Low, was a disappointment and actually wound up leaving a bitter taste after the show ended. Most of their songs were trite and juvenile although they did close their set with a near ballad that, while I'm sure intended as heartfelt, came off as insincere when preceded by their early work.

I'm sure this was the first concert for many kids in attendance and for them I hope it will lead to other more important shows in their concert going lives, but for me the AP Tour was just another show.



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Monday, April 21, 2008

Juliette and the Licks - Live Pics!

The Green Apple Music Festival for Earth Day was yesterday in Santa Monica, CA. Juliette and the Licks heated things up with their stellar hour long set. Additional photos and our full coverage coming soon!

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Flight Of The Conchords - New CD, Amoeba In-Store, Tour

The Flight Of The Conchords full-length, self-titled CD drops April 22nd! Packed with 15 professionally recorded versions of the band's concert and television hits, the CD is sure to "undisappoint" you. Today is the last day to pre-order and save two bucks! The guys begin their tour in support of their new release and hit TV show May 5th in Darby, PA. For those of you not lucky enough to score tickets, you can catch a special in-store performance by Flight Of The Conchords this Thursday at Amoeba Records Hollywood!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Road Recovery Benefit - Pics Are In!

photos by Alyssa Scheinson

The 10th Annual Road Recovery Benefit show went down last night in NYC. Mishmash has a super-amazing feature about Road Recovery in the works, but I lack patience so I'll post some show highlights and photos right now. Unfortunately, I also lack the ability to write exciting articles - but I'm great at making lists...

Things I know happened:

Tom Morello MC'd the entire event.

Denis Leary opened the show.

Jerry Cantrell covered Pink Floyd's "How I wish You Were Here," with Slash playing alongside him. (Question: How does Slash manage to keep 4 inches of ash attached to the ever-present cig dangling from his mouth?)

Perry Farrell sang Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song," with Tom Morello on guitar. Word has it that it "Rocked so hard!"

Perry Farrell cranked out the Porno For Pyros hit "Pets"

Jakob Dylan was in the house. (I still need to confirm this, but I'm sure he looked pretty hot)

A couple of bands with kids who are involved in Road Recovery played an incredible set that concluded with George Michael's "Freedom" and The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated."

The show finale was Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City"

Stay tuned for our 'real' coverage of Road Recovery and more amazing pics of the show from Alyssa Scheinson. In the meantime, head over to RoadRecovery.com and see what they're all about.

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Preview New Funker Vogt Song

Sneak preview of the new Funker Vogt song "White Trash" is available exclusively on their MySpace page. Click the image to check it out!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Road Recovery & Green Apple Music Festival coverage coming soon!

Stay tuned for the MishmashMag coverage of the 10th Annual Road Recovery Benefit show April 17th in NYC and the Green Apple Music Festival for Earth Day in Santa Monica April 20th! Road Recovery features performances by Slash, Jerry Cantrell, Tom Morello, Perry Farrell and more. Green Apple has Juliette and the Kicks, Escalera, Ziggy Marley, Taj Mahal, and The Frequency...plus admission is FREE!

Road Recovery is an organization comprised of entertainment industry professionals whose lives have been touched by addiction. Through their mentoring, educational and live performance programs, Road Recovery's goal is to help young people find their way towards a healthy future. Check out RoadRecovery.com for more info.

Road Recovery Benefit Show

The 3rd annual Green Apple Festival is America's largest Earth Day celebration. It's a weekend of music and environmental awareness culminating on Sunday, April 20th with eight free festivals occurring simultaneously in cities across the U.S. Head over to the Green Apple Music Festival page for more details.

Green Apple Music Festival

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Candlebox : Live At The Roxy

by Taylor Kingsbury
3.15.08 - The Roxy - West Hollywood, CA

Nostalgia is a very strange beast, and its cagey powers were put on full display as the original members of Candlebox took the Roxy stage. The moment the proscenium curtains parted, it was as if the band’s story had been completely rewritten. As the near-capacity house erupted into a rapture of enthusiasm, Candlebox were not greeted as a slightly-relevant 90’s band who thrived for a moment based solely on the strength of two certifiably fantastic radio staples, then faded into nothingness after two subsequent releases generated little fanfare and even less commercial weight. Tonight, they were returning heroes, old friends who had been away far too long. Those assembled at the Roxy gave a roar of approval that indicated they hadn’t truly dismissed the band, they were merely anxiously waiting for their return.

Of course, this isn’t true.

See, Candlebox were a slighty-relevant 90’s band with two hit singles and two follow-up records that quickly became fixtures in the 99-cent bins of record stores nation wide. Said records—1995’s Lucy and their even less visible 1998 effort, Happy Pills—weren’t just ignored by the casual fans who drove the band’s eponymous debut into the Platinum club because you couldn’t download “Far Behind” for free in 1993, they were also summarily dismissed by the band’s mainstays (i.e.- the few people who wouldn’t have been ashamed to wear a Candlebox t-shirt to Lollapalooza that year).

And, let’s not forget, even at the height of their radio powers, the larger world regarded Candlebox as a third-rate Pearl Jam knock-off. This comparison was certainly unfair, as the two bands had little in common other than the fact that they both released debut records that relied heavily on bluesy rock anthems, but, to most people, that’s who Candlebox were back then. (On an aside, it’s also interesting to note that another band whose upcoming reunion is being met with unbridled excitement, Stone Temple Pilots, was also initially panned as a “baby Pearl Jam” in 1993, and it was even suggested that STP really stood for “Stealing Tunes from Pearl Jam”).

But, wait, I come to praise Candlebox, not bury them.

You see, on that fateful night at the Roxy, something even more extraordinary than the audience’s 15-years-tardy praise unfolded: Candlebox kicked some serious fucking ass. And, while the audience rewrote the band’s story by pretending they had never been away, the band seemed content to do the same, and while they were at it, pretend that they never made two records that no one bought.

Indeed, if you scanned the setlist, it would appear that Candlebox were road-testing material for their sophomore LP. With the exception of two underwhelming singles from their dark period (anyone remember “Simple Lessons” or “Happy Pills”?… didn’t think so), the band relied almost exclusively on a combination of songs from their forthcoming reformation release and about two thirds of the self-titled debut that made the Roxy return even remotely possible.

It’s a great time to be a where-are-they-now contending 90’s band. After all, with almost nothing near listenable, let alone great, emerging on current Active Rock charts, it’s nice to re-visit a time when the shittiest band on the radio was Bush, and Bush was still a halfway decent band. Certainly, KROQ (L.A.’s “modern rock” monolith slash evil corporation that blackmails competing stations off the air and makes sure that when their listeners’ favorite bands come to town, there aren’t any tickets available to purchase) knows this state well, which is why about 75 % percent of their playlist relies on material recorded before the turn of the century.
Candlebox seem to know it too, and they relished in the adoration of the small, but packed, house before them as the assembled greeted even deep catalog numbers like “Arrow” with furor. And they benefited from the timeless quality of the nostalgia in the air as well. Without contemporary context to pigeonhole their tunes, a song like “Don’t You” doesn’t sound like a Pearl Jam rip-off, even as it nicks its groove and basic vibe from “Even Flow”; it just sounds like a great rock song.

One particularly gratifying aspect of the performance was that, while many bands of Candlebox’s stature struggle to get even a polite response to their new material, the several infant songs they nestled into the set received ovations that often matched those given to their more classic numbers. And, with good reason. The tunes the band premiered at the gig (their new record is due in July) were undeniably strong, propulsive dervishes that didn’t seem at odds with the decade-and-a-half old material they shared a set with, but actually complemented it. Surely, the more traditional hard rock leanings revealed that the band wasn’t looking much farther ahead than 1993, but, as we’ve already established, their fans aren’t either, so the debuts were a tantalizing glimpse of a future the band may have once again.

Of course, there’s a reason fans still care about Candlebox 15 years after they released their first disc; actually, there are two reasons. Reason Number One served as the finale of the set proper, and as the band launched into a powerful rendering of “You”, aided by the pipes of everyone else present, the Roxy could have easily been any arena in the world. Reason Two closed out the brief encore, and no one singing along with the anthemic strains of “Far Behind” seemed to notice that vocalist Kevin Martin could have been addressing them personally when he roared, “you left me far behind.”

But, he probably wasn’t. Because, after all, tonight Candlebox had never gone away. And, whether or not their upcoming release re-establishes them as a name again, they were sent away from the Roxy with the knowledge that they cemented a couple of genuine moments into Pop culture lore.

Not bad for a third-rate Pearl Jam knock-off, eh?

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Awesome Hyaena Gallery Exhibits

You still have time to catch the creepy, ghastly, dead-sexy art by revered Toxic Toons creator, Eric Pigors! His artwork had graced the T-shirts and album covers for bands ranging from Metallica, The Murderdolls, The Ghastly Ones, and the Genitorturers. Internationally, he has been featured in magazines such as Savage Tattoo, 1313, International Tattoo, Horrorhound, Hardcore Ink, Virus, and Rue Morgue. Exhibit on show at Hyaena Galley until April 15th.

Hyaena Gallery

Curioddities exhibit is showing at Hyaena Gallery April 16 - April 30. Opening reception is from 8pm-midnight on April 19th.

Hyaena Gallery

For additional info and to see the work of more insanely amazing artists, go here:

Hyaena Gallery

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DJ Rosstar w/ In-Studio guest Piebald

video by M'Lou Elkins

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Monday, April 7, 2008

The 88 : Show Review

by Aaron Pompey
photos by M'Lou Elkins
7.13.07 - Troubadour - Los Angeles

If L.A. bands sometimes have one shameless advantage over even the most talented groups coming out of music hotspots like Seattle, Minneapolis, or New York, it is their proximity to the entertainment industry. TV networks have become increasingly reliant on local music connoisseurs like Jason Eldredge to help round out the emotional force of shows like Six Feet Under with popular music like Death Cab For Cutie's "Transatlanticism". Eldredge, the current host of KCRW's Accidental Rhythm, has worked on shows like Six Feet Under and The Closer as a music coordinator, crafting soundtracks for the shows' unique visual landscapes.

And certainly in film. That added layer of popular music was critical to pet projects like High Fidelity - which featured a 15-song pop music soundtrack, along with 40-something more songs dispersed throughout the film - and the interminable, over-inflated Garden State mixtape-slash-soundtrack.

While some of these bands are well known, most play gig after under-the-radar gig. Outside of a relatively established local L.A. fan base, The 88 seem to have made themselves a ubiquitous presence in the few years since releasing their first LP in June 2003. Songs like "Good Feeling," "Hide Another Mistake," "How Good It Can Be," and "Hard To Be You" have appeared in television (How I Met Your Mother, Grey's Anatomy and The O.C), film (Failure to Launch, Surviving Christmas, You, Me, and Dupree), and in various commercials (Target, Sears).

The 88's July 13 show at the Troubadour brought out the local fanatics. Gracefully inhabiting their post-Weezer world of hooks and irony, The 88 is not a band that enjoys the kind of name recognition afforded to Chris Martin's band, or Dave Grohl's spinoff outfit. Still, people in fly-over states probably know the band's songs from one soundtrack or another. And in L.A., they definitely know the band. Maybe that's all that matters for now.

The Troub show (introduced by Orange County band Satisfaction) rolled out an image change for the quartet, too. Abandoning their casual style, keyboardist Adam Merring, bassist Todd O'Keefe, singer/guitarist Keith Slettedahl, and drummer Anthony Zimmitti now appear onstage as something akin to four different versions of lovesick office cynic Jim Halpert.

The songs are catchy and the fans sing along rabidly. After opening with "Go Go Go," "All 'Cause of You," and "Like You Do," the set drew equally from Kind of Light and their 2005 follow-up, Over and Over. Between songs, the audience screamed out requests. Frontman Slettedahl just smiled coyly, glanced down at the 8½ x 11 set list duct-taped to the stage floor, and continued with the prescribed schedule.

The audience didn't mind. There's hardly a song they don't love. And that they didn't hear before that goddamn Sears commercial.

The 88 continue their California tour in San Francisco with the Smashing Pumpkins and down along the coast with Satisfaction. They wrap their Summer Tour in Vegas, where they reunite with the Pumpkins at The Pearl. For more info, check out www.the88.net.

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QOTSA & Eagles of Death Metal : Show Review

by Aaron Pompey
photos by M'Lou Elkins
7.22.07 - PacAmp - Costa Mesa, CA

Queens of the Stone Age are the definitive fuck-you collective. Josh Homme, who formed the band of out the ashes of his own youthful discontent seems to have avenged the disadvantages that plagued him during those fucked up adolescent years (Homme walked away from high school at age 16) with the mega-success of his "robot rock" band.

QOTSA played the Pacific Amphitheater on July 22 and, while I generally steer clear of the arena venue, The PacAmp was a mix of perfect Summer weather and dynamic energy.

The Palm Desert supergroup has been a revolving door of guest musicians, both in the studio and on tour, and an important influence on the flexible creative expression that seems to have defined music to a much greater degree in the last several years. But more than that, QOTSA has made a significant impact on the sound of rock music.

Opening for QOTSA were The Duke Spirit, a My Bloody Valentine-inspired English group led by Liela Moss, and Eagles of Death Metal, Homme's project with Jesse Hughes. Homme has lent his drumming to EODM's albums and to a few tour dates, but has more often shared that seat with Joey Castillo and guest performers like Dave Grohl.

EODM's catchy 70s rock sound and the flamboyant stage dancing of the iconic Hughes has made EODM a destination band - attracting the talents of Jack Black, Ween's Claude Coleman, The Distillers' Brody Dalle, and both Grohl and bandmate Taylor Hawkins.

Hughes plays the crowd with flair and confidence, tailoring his performance to the crowd's energy and wandering into the aisles. Hughes takes his cues from instinctual showmen like Mick Jagger, who could conduct his audience with almost as much creativity and control as he could his own vocal musings. Am I comparing Hughes to Jagger? Absolutely. Hughes' swagger rivals even the most prolific stage performers and arena rockers.

Unlike the colorful Hughes, Homme's presence is more commanding, more authoritative. But both performers know exactly what their bated audience wants to hear and, what's more, what they want to feel. Homme has said in interviews that he wants sex to, essentially, bleed from QOTSA's music. For music to rouse our most fundamental urges is maybe the most any performer could expect from fans.

QOTSA's new album, Era Vulgaris, is harder-edged fare - even for trailblazing hard-asses like these guys. It's a step further off from 2004's Lullabyes. The show featured a number of tracks off the June release, including "3's and 7's," "Battery Acid," "Into the Hollow," and "Make It Wit Chu." Mixed in were QOTSA standbys like "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," "Little Sister," "No One Knows," and the band's brief encore "Song for the Dead."

The Queens continue to play U.S. and Canadian dates through to the end of September. Check out www.qotsa.com/tour for dates, venues, and ticket information.

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Social Distortion : Show Review

by Josh S. Henaman
photos by M'Lou Elkins
12.1.04 - The Wiltern - Los Angeles

And like the song says, "I only wish the good times would last a little longer." But as short and fleeting as the good times may be one thing is for certain, you enjoy the HELL out of 'em when they roll around. Such was the case on a chilly December 1st when Social Distortion banged out their sixth and final gig of a phenomenal run at the Wiltern. Tacked on at the last minute, the sixth show ended the band's Los Angeles leg of their tour promoting Sex, Love and Rock’n’Roll, their first full length album since 1996. Like a battle scarred reunion with the one friend who had stuck with you through all the highs and lows, the band ground out not just an hour and a half of music, but two and a half decades of hard fought and won memories.

The band's sound hasn't changed much in the last 25 years, but then again, we’re talking about Social Distortion here. They’re growth comes from the emotional evolution of their music. From the oftentimes violent Orange County punk scene of the late ‘70’s/early 80’s to the reflections of loss and maturity of today, they bring a "been there, lived that" insight that demolishes any thought of technical advancement. If you’re looking for the next big turntable cum emo whinefest, then you came to the wrong place. Social Distortion has long since ceased the frantic run and dodge across the stage which has sadly become commonplace in today’s market. Instead, for this band, the music IS the show.

From the moment Social Distortion filed onstage and Mike Ness broke into "Mommy’s Little Monster", the audience’s excitement and applause never died down and the furor of the pit continuously built upon itself until the mad crescendo of the final performance, "Story of My Life". As the band slid into their third song, "Cold Feelings", the night’s theme of disenchantment and ultimate redemption became evident. "Reach for the Sky" found Ness alone as the band took a step back and let the frontman do his thing. If anybody could trademark or patent the guttural growl brought on by the early years of hard living, then it should be Ness. The man exudes a rough cool you can’t fake onstage. But if it’s anything Ness has learned over the years it is that you can’t go it alone. You would expect more than ever after an almost total lineup change, the band would focus solely on one man, but Ness had no qualms about stepping out of the spotlight. After "Highway 101" kicks in with Charlie Quintana’s thump-thumping beat, you realize Social Distortion isn’t just about one man, it never was. It’s about living life and looking back. Every song had a meaning, every minute held a memory, never more so than with "Don’t Take Me for Granted", Ness’s first attempt at dealing with the death of his friend, and former bandmate, Dennis Danell.

Of course, no Social Distortion show would be complete without some of their vast achievements. "Bad Luck", "Prison Bound" and "Ring of Fire" burned through the audience like a rapid-fire compendium of greatest hits and Ness’s brogue and haunted opening of "Making Believe" brought the audience to an emotional standstill, that is, until the lights blazed on and the song became a rousing and oddly upbeat paean to love lost. Soon to be staples of future Social Distortion concerts, "Nickels and Dimes" and "Footprints on My Ceiling" were also included and Ness, in the role of the storyteller, peppered the night with snippets of trademark insight. It was during these moments between songs that you became aware that Ness wasn’t just lecturing on past events or just trying to keep the momentum of the evening flowing, but rather, he was talking to the audience as a man who wanted to share his life experiences.

The band knows where they came from and knows where they’re going. It never became more apparent than when Ness invited little 5 yr. old Tyler onstage and informed the audience the little boy was the future of Social Distortion. Looking back on the multiple changes in the band’s roster over the years, the statement made perfect sense. Social Distortion is about rejuvenation. Taking the experiences and lessons of yesteryear and moving forward. Always forward. And knowing you’ll have a few hundred friends to join you on the way.

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KMFDM & Combichrist : Show Review

by Aaron Pompey
photos by M'Lou Elkins
10.27.06 - Fonda Theatre - Los Angeles, CA

The line that divides the satanic from the godly is more grossly misrepresented in some contexts than in others. When I was a teenager, I was forced to watch an extremist right-wing video about how demonic artists like Cheap Trick and Meatloaf were enabling the corruption and dissolution of morality among worldwide youth. The film, Hell's Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll, demonized everything but the most impotent songwriters of the 1980s, with its message that anything that wasn't written for the flock was written for the Devil himself.

I'm certain that both Combichrist and KMFDM would have made it into that pseudo-documentary, had their brand of hard-edged tribalism been around a couple of decades ago. But what parents and youth leaders alike might be missing is that what might seem like Satanism, even marketed as something spiritually deviant, might simply be its own brand of modern primordialism. After all, the rhythms, melodies, and performance art of these artists perhaps trace back more directly to alternative forms of communication than to devil worship.

Combichrist's earsplitting "This Shit Will Fuck You Up" incited a crowd who seemed to be waiting as anxiously for the aggrotech Norweigan expats as they were for KMFDM. "Intruder Alert," "Feed Your Anger," and "Without Emotions" seemed to flood their signature aggressive melodies right on out to Hollywood Boulevard. And the iconoclasm of their white banners, emblazoned with angry fists, framed the white-faced Andy LaPlegua, whose performance alongside Mr Petersen, Joe L, Jon H, Shaun F, Syn M swelled with the energy of the music. Combichrist closed out their set with "Get Your Body Beat" and "Blut Royale" before exiting the stage, whetting the crowd for the taste of KMFDM, whose own brand of heaving musicianship could perhaps co-anchor a Hell's Bells 2.

In fact, KMFDM's set was on par with the energy that Combichrist had raised. Sascha Konietzko's Parisian industrial collective stormed the stage. Like Combichrist, KMFDM is an ensemble cast of characters whose talent lies in the overlapping of their unique performances and musicianship. KMFDM grew out of artistic collaborations that were comprehensively musical and multimedia and continues to be a revolving door of artistic contributions. Bringing their "ultra-heavy beat" sounds to the Fonda, KMFDM's shows seem to be an extension of their offstage, online connections to fans. Their hour-and-a-half-long set featured songs from both the pre-breakup years and since the 2002 reformation, including songs off the recent 2005 album Hau Ruck and their EP Ruck Zuck.

During those years of purgation, KMFDM secured some unwanted publicity when Columbine gunman Eric Harris posted several of Konietzko's lyrics on his website days before the national tragedy. In the immediate wake of that, and in the years since, KMFDM has demonstrated that its commitment has been to creating unique and powerful art through music, bringing together a subculture of fans with its featured members and consistent output.

Combichrist and KMFDM wrapped their recent tour on Halloween night in Seattle. Get Your Body Beat, Combichrist's latest EP, is available on Metropolis Records, as is their full-length 2005 album Everybody Hates You and the rest of their catalog. And check out their Myspace page www.myspace.com/combichrist and their official website at www.combichrist.com. KMFDM is online at www.kmfdm.com and www.myspace.com/kmfdm. Pick up their latest EPs and stayed tuned for more concert dates. The Music Box Theater at the Henry Fonda is located at 6126 Hollywood Blvd and at www.thefondatheater.com. Hell's Bells 2 and 3 are bound to hit theaters some time within the next few years of the Bush presidency.

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The Aquabats : Interview

by Aaron Pompey

It's the last night of the Teenage Pajamas from Outer Space Tour, and the Phenomenauts are onstage at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre in Hollywood. Several feet below the stage, in the venue's basement, Orange County band The Aquabats are sorting out some final details before they go on as the night's headliners.

Without his leotards, Paul Frank belt, and signature Dirty Sanchez mustache, MC Bat Commander's alter ego Christian Jacobs looks remarkably mild-mannered as he wipes off a small water bottle that's been sitting on ice and twists open the cap. Courtney Pollock, better known as Chainsaw to throngs of Aquacadets, looks over the various sandwiches and drinks that will sustain the Bats during what will be a high-energy set featuring heroes, villains, and a surprise cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Despite this being the Bats first high-profile tour in several years - or perhaps because of it - Pollock is looking remarkably relaxed. He's been waiting a long time for this.

While the Bats have been touring consistently since the late 1990s, their fans endured a 6-year dry spell when, after releasing Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2, Goldenvoice shut down its distribution arm - and any pending Bats projects. But last year, the band scored: they signed with Nitro Records, began recording a new album with producer Cameron Webb, and geared up for a national headlining gig on the Pajamas tour.

And the new album, Charge!!, is unlike anything the Bats have released. That said, it might also be the best album to date from a band whose music is all about resisting genre and embracing influence. The artistic success of Charge!! owes perhaps just as much to circumstance as it does to the band's more deliberate creative development. In fact, the forward strides evident on the new album are related directly to some of the challenges the Bats have faced over the past six years. Along the way, it's been the strong - and remarkably two-way - relationship between the band and its fans that's been critical to their current success.

In fact, to measure the success of the Aquabats by just tallying up album sales or the number of sold-out shows they've played over the past ten years would be to miss a key quantitative factor: the rich creative energy that characterizes the band's squad of Aquacadets - fans who demonstrate their devotion to the band by developing imaginative identities and costumes based on the band's mythos and unique backstory. Claiming to hail from the distant land of Aquabania, the Bats have created a universe that's looks shrewdly similar to a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, and one in which the fans are often as much a part of the show as the Bats themselves.

Contributing to the band's mysterious, otherworldly image, are their individual names. Alongside MC Bat Commander and Chainsaw are current bandmates Ricky "Ricky Fitness" Falomir, Chad "Crash McLarson" Larson, James "Jimmy the Robot" Briggs, and Michael "Popeye" Vogelslang. Past members have included Adam "Prince Adam" Diebert, Boyd "Catboy" Terry, and Blink 182's Travis Barker who, while with the Bats, was known as "The Baron Von Tito."

Bats concerts are marked by, among other things, scores of rag-tag superheroes lined up outside, hours before a show. But these kids aren't dressing up like their favorite Bats. "Most of these kids out there are not dressing up like us," explains Chainsaw. "They're dressing up as their own characters."

"That's so much fun," adds Jimmy the Robot, "seeing the creative stuff all the kids come up with. It's awesome - they take the idea and run with it. Shoot - we even steal THEIR ideas from time to time. I mean, they're so good - they're so rad!"

The Bats are well aware that it is this cultish level of fandom that has helped sustain the band's popularity, but they also see it from the fans' point-of-view. "The fans have always been the same way," says Chainsaw. "They've always grasped onto the costume stuff - the fun aspect of going to shows with their friends - just being dorks and having fun. Showing up at 4:30 in the afternoon and sitting outside drinking Gatorade." As yet, there are no annual conventions or spin-off television shows, but this level of fandom is a pretty good indicator that the Bats will be around for awhile. "I guess it's kind of like the same reason why jam bands have a parking lot scene," Chainsaw muses, then laughs. "Well, I mean, they do DRUGS but - maybe the kids out front are doing drugs, I don't know. I don't care what they do - just come!"

Despite the band's reluctant 6-year break since their last album, the fans have kept coming. Their last album, Myths and Legends, had been the second album of a two-record deal with Goldenvoice Records. With the album's success, the label was eager to re-sign the Bats for additional projects. "We did the two records," recalls Chainsaw, "and then they were like 'Yeah, we want to do another deal' and then we were like 'Whatever, just let us know'." But after the first Coachella Music and Arts Festival in 1999, which Goldenvoice had underwritten, the company faced some financial difficulties.

Despite the festival's overwhelming turnout, its role in resurrecting a floundering music industry, and its spectacular line-up of bands that included Beck, Jane's Addiction, Jurassic 5, Sigur Ros, Super Furry Animals, and Weezer, Coachella had not turned a reasonable profit and Goldenvoice had to do some fast reshuffling. "The first Coachella was awesome. Now it's like - it is what it is. It's saved everything. But the first two or three, I think, weren't moneymakers," Chainsaw remembers. "They had to kind of switch gears, as far as their business plan, and kind of close the doors on their label." And despite their untimely departure, the Bats have maintained a good relationship with Goldenvoice. "They're still involved with the band," assures Chainsaw. "They still help us out."

After Goldenvoice Records closed its doors in early 2000, the Bats' momentum slowed. "There was just no label interest," says Chainsaw. "We were just kind of a band that did pretty good for awhile and then we were just in the background - just kept playing shows." In addition to playing a series of local shows, the Bats maintained a solid presence on the web. "We did tons and tons of website stuff," notes Chainsaw.

In 2003, the Bats released Serious Awesomeness!, a DVD packed with live performances, music videos, and tons of extras. After not seeing anything by the Bats in over three years, the DVD only made fans more restless. Then, in 2004, the Bats self-released the EP Yo, Check Out This Ride!. But their objective remained simple. "We were basically looking for someone that could put out a record." Their consistency eventually paid off when, in 2004, the band signed with Nitro, joining the likes of AFI, Bullet Train to Vegas, The Damned, and The Offspring.

As the Bats prepared to offer their fans a brand new album, they were also about to unveil the result of some of their latest musical experiments. In fact, the EP was a preview for what was up next for the Bats. In their reviews of Yo, Check Out This Ride!, some disappointed critics had lamented the band's artistic departure from their 90s-era ska sound. But after drummer Travis Barker left to join Blink 182, the size and line-up of the Bats had undergone a series of changes. "We'd been trying to find other ways to incorporate our horn section," remembers Chainsaw, "and then, literally one by one, people quit. Prince Adam quit last year. Boyd quit two years ago. So, there are our trumpet players gone." The departure of both Diebert and Terry hastened some of the band's experiments with new instrumentation.

Unlike many post-90s purist ska bands, the Bats didn't necessarily face an identity crisis when the genre's popularity began to wane. Instead, they welcomed the opportunity to rethink their direction. "I think it was mainly circumstance but - I have to be honest - there was a percentage of consciously deciding," says Chainsaw. "The typical ska band has a horn line, a melody, and a vocal part. But the way we always had horns was kind of not like -" Chainsaw interrupts himself to makes some frenetic ska horn sounds. "The way we always wrote with horns in our band," he continues, "we always felt was different than, let's say like maybe Save Ferris or something like that. And not that Save Ferris would even compare themselves with us."

Because the band was already looking for more flexibility, they were willing to work with what was left. Jimmy the Robot, whose sax had lent richness to the sharp sounds of the trumpets, began to experiment more with both the sax and the keyboards. "When Jimmy moved on to the keys, all the horn stuff that we wanted to do came out through the keyboards," Chainsaw explains. "But also, my man plays a mean sax. So there's a sax on stage every night. The horn section's there, it's just not as full, maybe."

Chainsaw thinks for a moment, then continues. "But you can't really have a horn section with only sax. I mean the sax is so deep and so bold, but it's not, well, it's not three horns, it's only one horn. It doesn't cut the same. So we kind of had to make do."

"I would love it if Prince Adam and Boyd were here," Chainsaw says, "but they had to do other things. Just like everyone else has to do what they gotta do."

As excited as they are about the sound on the new album, the band has not outgrown their previous work. "The part I miss is the dueling trumpets - the Mariachi sound we used to get. I really miss that," admits Chainsaw. "But what are you going to do? Economics comes into play - we can't pay everybody. I mean, maybe someday we can pay a Mariachi band to play the old parts. I would love to hear that." So would some of their fans. "Last night, we played in San Diego. A huge group of TJ kids came down - or came up, I should say! - and they were just the best. It was seriously so cool to meet those kids - and they were talking about the old trumpet lines and stuff like that. They were asking the same questions - 'was it circumstance?' or 'was it planned?' or 'what happened to so-and-so?'"

Beyond their changing circumstances - a shrinking line-up and artistic choices that are forging a new path - there is a pragmatism that plays into the band's creative evolution. "Honestly, when you're getting older and you want to at least come home with something and not have to pay fourteen guys, it's hard. So you just kind of go 'Okay, well, let's just do what we got and deal with who wants to do it.' I mean, that's the honest-to-god truth."

From a distance, the Aquabats may look like they rode into the new millennium on the same boat as bands like No Doubt, Save Ferris, or Dance Hall Crashers. But the Bats have also been a world apart from most of their so-called peers. As fans and critics have begun sampling the new album, that distinction has become more apparent. "I've read so many reviews," Chainsaw says, smiling. "And most of them - 75% of them - start out with 'I tried to hate this - but I don't.' You know what I mean? I'm stoked to hear that. Honestly, I read that a lot: 'I tried not to like this' or 'I tried to be biased toward the whole they-lost-the-horn-section thing.' A lot of ska bands have tried the ska-is-not-as-cool-so-let's-get-rid-of-the-horns'."

"We just made a record and tried really, really hard. I'm not going to lie to you - we tried really, really hard. We worked with a great producer and we got on a great label. It's pretty awesome. It's a really good situation. Everybody's really happy."

So, what does the new album sound like? After the horn-heavy Myths and Legends, Charge!! just seems to tilt slightly toward the band's punk roots. In fact, the change in sound is remarkably smooth. The result? "It cuts pretty good," notes Jimmy the Robot. "It's pretty nonstop. It's pretty relentless. It just comes swinging from beginning to end." Chainsaw agrees. "We had this luxury this time where we got to the end of the recording and we had more songs than we needed on the record, so we could trim the fat a little bit. And what we're left with is just screaming the whole time."

"The only record of ours that I've ever left in my car and listened to all the time is this record," confesses Chainsaw, laughing. "It's weird - I still listen to it in the car sometimes. All the other records I've really liked, but I'm not going to listen to them."

A band's creative development must be deliberate or it isn't genuine. And achieving that kind of authenticity ultimately requires the kind of insight that sometimes can only develop over time. "As you grow up, as you get older, you start to see why you like certain records, right? Or you see why you like certain bands that you saw live. Because before, I couldn't put together, like, 'Why is this band so good?' or 'What is it?' or 'Why do they sound so good?' or 'Why did that show not bore me?' or 'Why does this record not bore me?' I think that's what it is. We kind of learned how to not bore people - or bore ourselves."

But growing up doesn't mean forgetting the past. In fact, the Bats - whose line-up includes a range of ages (the oldest, Crash, is about to turn 40) - have always spent a lot of time introducing each other to different styles and eras of music. "There's a lot of time span of influences that everybody's kind of taught each other," notes Chainsaw. "You learn a lot of different styles - not so much styles, I guess. We all like rock and punk and ska and reggae...It's not really like we have these broad influences." One of their influences, certainly, is Oingo Boingo. Chainsaw laughs loudly. "They've always said we sound like Oingo Boingo. But on this record were, like, so Oingo Boingo. But I don't care. I really don't."

Another band who the Bats identify with, perhaps on a more visceral level, is the Ramones. "Have you ever seen the Ramones documentary?" Chainsaw asks, referring to the 2004 doc Ramones Raw. "It sounds cheesy, but we watch that all the time. I feel like - not to compare any percentage at all of us to the Ramones - but these guys went through years and years and years in one kind of level. I feel like that's where we're at - we've been kind of stuck in this one level, and I think we're really comfortable with that."

"I guess we could be in much bigger places," he continues, "or selling more records, or - I don't know what could happen, but everybody's really stoked and proud of what's happened so far. Especially doing something so far away from our last record."

The Bats' focus is evident on what many critics are calling their most cohesive project. "I think a lot of it has to do with Cameron Webb - he's the guy who produced it and he owns the studio that we did it at. And he's just like - he's not a super-demanding guy, like everything has to be perfect, but he really works on things sounding like they belong together."

Webb, whose production credits include Limp Biskit, Motorhead, and Social Distortion, recorded the Bats at his Maple Studios in Orange County and describes his collaborative experience with the band as uniquely inspiring - attributing the craziest sound he's ever gotten in the studio to Chainsaw. "I was recording guitar with Courtney," Webb recounts, "and he asked for me to get the most fucked up sound I could get. So I ran a mic from his API mic pre and turned it all the way up. When that wasn't good enough, I ran it through another pre and did the same. It sounded great and inspired an amazing solo."

Chainsaw offers another explanation for the album's cohesion. "All the songs were kind of written for this album - it wasn't like a bunch of old songs we wrote five years ago and decided 'Oh, by the way, this is a good song'. I think 'The Fury' was spread out - the songwriting was spread out - over kind of a long time, but a lot of songwriting was really close together. So that maybe helped."

"It was basically the same group of people, too," adds Jimmy. "Because on any other record, it was like four different groups putting songs together. Even, obviously, Myths and Legends."

With Jimmy and Crash on main songwriting duties, the rest of the band stepped up to make this one count. "If we were going to make another record," Jimmy recalls, "we might as well make one that we liked. So we just went to town and that was that. The record could not have been done if it wasn't every person in the band - if every person in the band wasn't there, there's no way. It's so good. The way it worked out, I'm so happy."

"We didn't really even think about it, or have a business plan about how to make a record," Chainsaw observes. "We just wanted to make one more. It was either do or die - really. Now we're like 'Let's make one MORE!'"

Having just completed both the Teenage Pajamas From Outer Space and Son Of Teenage Pajamas From Outer Space tours, the Bats will soon be heading out for tour in both the UK and Japan. The new album, Charge!!, is available now on Nitro.

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GWAR : Interview

by Taylor Kingsbury

It's 6 p.m. on a Saturday night and I'm in my best friend Andy's truck. Normally the company, the cigarette in my hand, and the awesome force of Tiamat's Clouds that blares from the stereo would be a combination resulting in utter peace. However, on this particular night, I'm not in the best of moods, because I'm not supposed to be listening to Tiamat in Andy's truck as we sit completely stopped in what, at the moment, seems to be the most epic traffic jam the 101 Freeway has ever assembled.

At this particular 6 p.m., I am supposed to be backstage at the Key Club interviewing GWAR. Since I am not doing so at the moment, and it is, indeed, 6:00 p.m., frustration is gathering on my face. Not even Clouds can soothe it, even though Clouds is, indeed, a fucking magnificent record.

I call their tour manager, and it's really just an act of courtesy, because I already know that I'm still at least 20 minutes away, and 20 minutes is an eternity for a band to wait for a lagging interviewer, especially when they are preparing to play another sold out date on their 20th anniversary tour. This interview is not going to happen tonight, that much has already set in.

The call reassures me; he's cool and understanding, and we arrange to speak the following day to set up a phoner. Things start looking better. I can still look forward to interviewing GWAR, the cool-as-hell editor I don't want to let down won't be disappointed, and, even more kickass, I'm still on my way to see GWAR completely destroy the Key Club. Yes, things are looking up.

By 6:20 we're on Sunset Blvd, immediately ensconced in the wonderful, horrible beast that is Hollywood. By 6:30, we're at the Key Club, or more specifically, navigating the quarter mile that surrounds it looking for a place to park.

We find a lot across the street that only costs $7 to park, and for a moment I have to consider the absurdity of the fact that somehow I consider 7 bucks a reasonable price to rent a concrete rectangle of empty space for a few hours.

When we approach the venue, it's 6:40, and the Key Club is a ghost town. There's not a single person outside the venue, save for the one black-clad security guy that stands at the door. In the hundreds of shows I've been to, I've never been the first person there, and I know immediately that something is weird.

But before I can investigate, I have to navigate the will-call window, always a lively part of the entire press experience. The guy at the Key Club's window doesn't disappoint me. We share familiar banter: he asks what my name was again, scans the list again, tells me I'm not on it, I tell him to check under the magazine name, he doesn't see that either, I tell him I'm supposed to have two tickets and a photo pass.

But, he continues to tell me I'm not on the list. And then, I'm not sure how or why, he reaches into a drawer and pulls out a photo sticker, writes GWAR on it, and hands it to me along with two red Admit Ones. I'm happy to have my tickets after the annoying exchange, but I'm left wondering, if that dude just gave me tickets and a photo pass just because I told him I was supposed to have them, even though I wasn't on the list, how many other shows would that work at?

When we try to give the doorman our tickets, we solve the riddle of why no one is standing outside. He tells us that doors don't open until 10:30, and GWAR doesn't go on until 1 a.m., which means that we're still about 4 hours from even being able to go inside and have a drink, and 6 hours away from seeing the band. This sucks.

Silently, I'm pissed off that I rushed to get off work and race out to Hollywood in the heart of early evening traffic to attend an interview that said traffic prevented me from making, but verbally, I express the opinion that I don't want to stand out in front of the Key Club for 4 fucking hours. What to do?

We walk across the street to a liquor store to get some smokes. The counter has a clear plastic protective top, and beneath the plastic are several dollar bills signed by various celebrities. There are four signed by Paris Hilton, who apparently frequents the establishment regularly.

"She comes in quite a bit then?" I ask the two guys behind the counter.

"She comes in a lot for Binaca," one of them tells me.

As we leave, I wonder if he's joking, but I decide it's a lot funnier if he isn't.

Once back at the truck, we consider our options. No matter what we choose to do, we know we have to accept the fact that we ultimately paid 7 bucks to leave Andy's truck in a parking lot for 20 minutes, since the Key Club is located precisely at the spot on Sunset Blvd. where everything else isn't.

That accepted, we head to Amoeba Records. It is a fruitful visit, and I leave with the vinyl soundtrack for John Carpenter's The Thing, a so-awful-it's-fantastic early 80's Sci-Fi movie called Laserblast, and a Napalm Death bootleg from Bolivia.

That's the good news. The bad news is that it's still only 8:30, and we've now visited the only place in Los Angeles that I genuinely enjoy going to.

We then drive aimlessly for what seems like an eternity. We will ultimately cruise down the entire Sunset Strip a total of five times, and we also enjoy a thorough exploration of Beverly Hills and the luxurious neighborhoods that surround it. Along the way, we note the prominent signs on Sunset that implore for "No Cruising", and the civil disobedience feels good.

By this point, we've pretty much said fuck the opening bands, because we're too amped up for GWAR to sit through anything resembling not-GWAR. And, after spending most of the evening waiting for the club to open its doors, the last thing we want to do is arrive with the crowd so that we can stand in line for an hour before getting in. We finally arrive back at the Key Club around midnight, and another 7 dollars secures us another narrow parking space that looks exactly like the one we sat in five-and-a-half hours earlier.

We are only an hour from GWAR now, and the frustrations of the early evening have all but dissipated. We anxiously await $6 beers and onstage defilement as we cross the street from the massive parking garage to the venue. But, as we approach, we see something dreadful that we neither expect nor want: a line.

There are about forty people in front of us when we reach the rear, and, we do our best to be patient for about 20 minutes. But, when that time elapses, and the line has not moved a person, we decide that this sucks. For a moment, we think we're in the wrong spot, since we already have tickets. We ask the people in front of us if they're waiting to buy tickets, but as they answer, we realize how stupid we sound, because nearly everyone in line with us is holding a ticket in their hand.

Something is wrong.

I walk to the front of the line to see what's holding things up, and I see that the reason no one in our line is going inside is because the doors are closed, and the velvet ropes that places like the Key Club put out in front to pretend their establishments are classy are snapped to their posts, blocking line from entrance.

I address the doorman and ask him if I was mistaken about the doors opening at 10:30. He explains that the show has been oversold, and they can't let anyone else in until people start to leave. I am more than confused, because I do, in fact, have a ticket to see GWAR tonight, but if what this doorman is telling me is true, then the Key Club has an unusual take on the ticket/admittance relationship.

I want to scream at him and tell him that when someone has a ticket to see a band play, they should be able to see that band play, and that the very notion of 50 people suddenly calling it a night right before the headlining band hits the stage, thus allowing room for those of us stranded outside to come in, is fucking unlikely. But, I know, ultimately, he doesn't care that I was assigned a review of the GWAR concert on this particular evening, and that I am expected to do that as well as deliver the photographs implied by my assignment of a photo pass, and that I cannot perform any part of this equation without actually getting inside to see the show.

We mill around outside the Key Club for another 20 minutes, and nothing changes. There is no last minute deflux of people who decide that they really didn't want to see GWAR, after all. As the band takes the stage inside, we remain standing on the street, deflated and disappointed. Eventually, we crush our pathetic looking Admit One tickets, because, after all, those fucking tickets didn't admit either one of us to shit.

I curse the Key Club the entire way home, and for many days afterward to anyone who asks me how the GWAR show was. Time has not granted me the wisdom to understand why the Key Club management has their heads too far up their asses to count how many people fit into their place, and stop selling tickets when they reach that number. I will see GWAR next time they come to town, but I will never buy tickets for any show at the Key Club, since I now know that having a ticket doesn't really mean that you're going to see a show there.

Two days later, I finally get my interview, after being forced to make the daunting decision levied at me by GWAR's tour manager: Do I want to talk to Flattus Maximus or Beefcake The Mighty?

I choose, and Beefcake takes the phone, greeting me with exactly the gruff hello one would expect to come out of a road-weary Scumdoggian war-lord.

"God, my throat is fucking killing me. I think I caught something in Los Angeles," the bassist/vocalist explains.

This doesn't stop him from generously reflecting on the significance of the 20th Anniversary Tour his band is currently embarking on. In today's musical climate, it's hard for any band to last that long, especially when said band is comprised of crack-smoking monsters from outer space. But, GWAR aren't just persevering, they're still on the rise.

Their last record, War Party, was a churning thrash metal feast that many fans and critics called the band's best since the one-two punch of Scumdogs Of The Universe and America Must Be Destroyed, the 1990 and 1992 releases that garnered the band the best exposure of their career and fully demonstrated the might of their musical powers. Since the Party, a funny thing has been happening to GWAR: they're selling out shows all over the world.

"Since the last record, the War Party album, and then the Sounds of the Underground Tour, there's been a resurgence of GWAR," Beefcake explains. "When we were on this Summer tour, the booking agents and the so-called powers that be, the ones that we let walk around and think they're making big decisions for us, they're like, 'maybe in the Fall, because GWAR's huge for Halloween we'll do like maybe three weeks around Halloween in the East and the Midwest.' And then the calls started coming in, and people were like, 'we fucking want GWAR, GWAR, GWAR, GWAR.' Pretty soon we're going to do a month. Oh, we're going to do five weeks. Maybe we're going to do six weeks. Seven weeks. Now it will be fucking, like nine and a half weeks by the time this fucker's done and we're selling out rooms and just fucking slaying. It's been great. It's a fucking killer tour.Ó

After 20 years in the game, Beefcake says that GWAR have achieved the "infamous notoriety" they sought when they first donned their armor in 1985. But, one thing has eluded them in their quest for world domination.

"Money," Beefcake demands. "We've yet to make a fucking dollar. We need money. And Japan."


"We haven't been to Japan. All the fucking years, and chrissakes, we're monsters, and we haven't been to Japan. Can you understand that? It's a logistical nightmare to send GWAR anywhere. To go on a U.S./Canada sweep, let alone put our stuff in a plane, or a giant bat-shaped helicopter, and send it over to Japan."

It's really a shame, because it's a safe bet that Japanese audiences would appreciate the band's legendary performances. I won't insult you by divulging the details, because you wouldn't have read on this far if you didn't know exactly what goes on at a GWAR concert. Beefcake says that the performance aspect of GWAR has always been a key component of the band's existence.

"The stage show has always been over the top, and that's never been a question. It's always been entertaining. Without trying to sound like a big-headed egomaniac, it's one of the greatest shows in fucking rock."

This time out, the band's set features a well-rounded cast of celebrity guest-stars, including Sharon Osbourne, Dick Cheney, and, as one might suspect on the "War Party" tour, the "War President" himself, who meets a particularly gruesome onstage demise. Beefcake assures me that this is merely business.

"Seems like no matter how many Presidents we kill, they just keep growing new ones," Beefcake laments. "We've been killing all the Presidents since Grover Cleveland. You wouldn't know it though. Only in public since Reagan."

After their hectic touring schedule lightens, GWAR plans to reconvene to shape the record that will kick off the band's third decade.

"We've got two more weeks, then we'll retreat back to the Antarctican stronghold. We'll write and record for a couple months, then we're going to work on another battle plan."

Beefcake says that fans should expect the band to continue to build on the onslaught demonstrated on War Party, further distancing themselves from the stylistic stretching they noodled with through the turn of the century. In recent years, GWAR have been more comfortable sharing the stage with some of today's most prominent death metal acts, which may partially explain the abundance of heaviness in the band's latest output. But, Beefcake reminds me that GWAR burst from the underground long before Sounds Of The Underground even existed.

"We're just being reinspired by our own roots," Beef explains. "I'm not taking anything away from the bands we've been playing with, because I fucking love a lot of the bands that we have been playing with. We're all from the old thrash metal and punk school, you know? It's been there the whole time, we just had to fuck up with that ridiculous 'Fish Fuck' and such. The metal's always been there, we were just trying things. We were fucking whacked out on the junk, man. War Party has assured the fans that it is metal, and the one we come out with next Summer is going to solidify and hopefully put us back in the same kind of category as Scumdogs did, if not bigger, because it seems like metal has a new acceptance globally."

When I ask Beefcake about the band's songwriting process, his explanation is typically off-kilter.

"Parts is parts, I've heard said. We've all got different little ditties that go through our heads as we sleep in our little coffins, flying down the highway. Being in that bunk is much like being in a drawer for me with my immensity. Sometimes I take the helmet off when I go to bed, sometimes not. At least we don't get up to go to the bathroom, we just lay there and piss ourselves. That's the beauty of being GWAR... Now, the question was what?"

I remind him, and he elaborates.

"We go into the studio, and it will be myself, Flattus [Maximus, guitars], Balzac [the Jaws Of Death, guitars], and Jizmak [da Gusha, drums], and we'll throw ideas around, toss things around, break things, yell at each other for a while. We'll have ideas, and we'll play for a while. If it catches someone's attention, that's good. And then the next day, we'll come in, and see what we did, and then change everything."

Ironically, amidst their outrageous antics and otherworldly personas, GWAR's music is the one component that seems to get the least attention from the music public. Even cursory inspection of the band's wide catalog reveals that, yes, in fact, the dudes can fucking play. With the sophisticated arrangements and volatile riffing on War Party, Beefcake says that people are finally paying attention to the tunes, as well as the mythos.

"I think we're finally getting some merit as musicians. Other bands are stepping up, and we're getting accolades from the metal community. We're getting some real respect on the musical side, which is good, cause I think we deserve it."

After 20 years, GWAR remain as lively and creative as ever, and their continued presence on the scene is a welcome kick in the nuts for people who can't take a joke worldwide. Perhaps before their next 20-year anniversary, the band will be able to make it to Japan to kick some nuts out there.

And maybe, just maybe, next time they come to Southern California, my ticket will actually get me in to see them.

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Weezer : Interview

Arena-Rock Weezer Style
by Taylor Kingsbury

Okay, I know we live in an enlightened age, and we've created six thousand different subgenres of music, most of which have four hyphens in them. But, just to make it easy on me here, can we all agree up front that Weezer is a "Rock" band, period? Thanks.

Since we're on the same page, I can simply say that Scott Shriner is a great rock bass player, and you'll know exactly what I mean. You've heard his steady bottom end on the last two Weezer records, and chances are you've either seen him thrash around on stage with said band, or you're going to when the band's cross-country jaunt with Foo Fighters brings him to your home town.

If you fall into the latter category, you might want to get to know Scott, since part of their performance involves pulling someone from the audience to play guitar on Weezer's breakout single "Undone". So, if you read this, you may be a little ahead of the game.

"I think we're just trying to bring some kind of element of fun for the fans to be involved in," Shriner explains. "We're just trying to get the crowd more involved in the show and kind of get away from the vibe of us up there doing our thing and you sit there and watch."

"Fun" is a great summation of the Weezer/Foo Fighters tour-or "Foozer", as numerous "clever" journalists have monikered it-which pairs two of rock's most consistently enjoyable and respectably artistic acts in one huge arena-rock spectacle. (I'm sorry about that hyphen, but I was describing the show, not the bands, so I hope we're still on track.) Given Weezer's success, they could have safely led an arena trek of their own, but Shriner says that the band recognizes the benefits of touring with another well-established act.

"I think we're always looking to play in front of as many people as possible that haven't seen us," Shriner elaborates. "I mean, that's great that we can go out and do an arena on our own, and we have, and we will, but it's cool that there's a lot of people that are at our show that wouldn't normally come. It's like doing those festivals in Europe where people aren't really there to see us. But we enjoy the challenge of playing in front of people that wouldn't normally [see us]. There's always a few people...on the front barricade that are just hanging on for dear life until they can see their favorite band, and I totally appreciate that. So, my goal is always to get a couple of those people to smile."

"It's awesome playing with the Foo Fighters," Shriner continues. "They've been super gracious, and their fans are great. They inspire us to really bring our best stuff."

With a band like Weezer, "best stuff" equals big radio hits, but Shriner and the band refuse to make simple set-lists that don't offer anything beyond what casual fans can get off on.

"Hopefully, the tour's going to continue to grow and change as we go through the next month and a half," Shriner reveals. "We're just trying to actually take the best songs that we have and throw in a couple of surprises."

Among those surprises are moments in the show where frontman Rivers Cuomo turns the vocal duties completely over to his bandmates. Shriner has eagerly welcomed the opportunity to lend his pipes to classic Weezer songs.

"It's been really fun," says Shriner. "I think we're all taking turns, kind of trying different songs. For a minute I was singing a song off of Maladroit called "Fall Together", which is one of my favorites off that record. But, a few fans would be into it, and the rest of the room would be like, 'huh?'"

Recent performances have found Shriner belting his rendition of "Blue Album" favorite "In The Garage", which may seem surprising for those who know the undeniably Cuomic descriptions in the song. But Shriner assures that the tune is still a great fit for him.

"I always thought that song was like really personal to Rivers and I couldn't imagine singing it," recalls Shriner. "[But] I think we all have our own version of that. Mine's not particularly Dungeons and Dragons, more Sgt. Rock and monster magazines, but we all have our equivalent of that. So I think I just kind of embraced the story, and it's just a super great, sweet Weezer song, and I was really happy to get a chance to sing it, actually."

Also different on this tour is the band's willingness to tackle other people's material. Weezer have been playing Foo Fighters' "Big Me" during their set, and Shriner says they may have more previously unheard gems in store.

"We'll probably change up and do a couple of cover songs. We're experimenting with doing a couple of Pinkerton songs, or not, and maybe we'll do a couple more songs off Maladroit. We're just trying to find the perfect set, and it's going to take more work."

Part of that work, Shriner reveals, is examining other band's performances; including their co-headliners.

"The Foo Fighters really do a great job of breaking it down, talking to the audience, and making everybody feel into the show. You know, Dave goes out and runs around, and it's really cool. I think we're just looking to other bands that have done really well with including the audience and breaking the barrier between the band and the crowd. We're trying to branch out of our normal thing a little bit. I think when we were doing the Enlightenment Tour on Maladroit, we got a little carried away with the weird little interludes between songs, so we're just trying to bring a little bit of that."

Said tour followed the release of the band's last record, Maladroit, a collection of tunes that was the band's most accomplished and diverse, but yielded puzzled reactions from both fans and critics. For Shriner, the larger response to Maladroit does not diminish his happiness with his first recorded Weezer appearance.

"I think it's rad," Shriner says of Maladroit. "I love that record. It's a little chaotic, and I think Rivers was a bit detached from the actual lyrics he was saying. [But] it's self-produced. We made that record the way we wanted to make it. It was kind of a cool session. We sang all kinds of wild background vocals and got to play some totally different stuff. I'm not disappointed if people are into it or not."

The eccentric (according to Weezer fans) approach to Maladroit has led many to describe their latest record, Make Believe, as a return-to-form. Shriner notes definite distinctions between his band's previous record and their latest. "Make Believe is like totally different to me. It's super thought out and well-restrained, I would say."

Part of that could be attributed to production guru Rick Rubin, who helmed the Make Believe sessions and helped frontman Rivers Cuomo find the wastebasket while he was writing songs. Shriner says that Rubin's approach to the session was unlike anything the band had previously experienced.

"I wasn't in the band when they were working with Ric Ocasek," explains Shriner (who joined the band in 2001 during their "Green Album" tour). "I think, from what I've heard, Ric Ocasek was really into sounds, and guitar sounds, and he was super into the more technical stuff. Also, [he] has such an extensive musical background; he's an amazing musician. But, I think Rick Rubin's not really a musician, so to speak. He's just kind of a super music fan and scientist. I think he really helped clear up a lot of the unnecessary stuff on some of these songs and make it really clear so that more people could understand what Rivers what talking about. I think he's just got a super good pop kind of sensibility and is able to understand what people want to hear."

One of the things the band wanted to hear was louder guitars, which Rubin's technique brought to the forefront.

"It's funny," laughs Shriner. "I actually think we were trying to have bigger guitar sounds on Maldroit, but there was so much racket going on. By Rick Rubin clearing out all the unnecessary stuff, people actually are saying that it sounds heavier and darker."

Rubin's multi-platinum ears were instrumental in the album's creation (he reportedly helped Cuomo whittle down some 200 songs into a much smaller number before the band began working them) and the producer worked with both Weezer, the band, and Weezer, the members, to forge Make Believe.

"He's really into pre-production," describes Shriner. "We did like three weeks of pre-production and he worked with us individually. But, really when it came down to doing takes, he was just trying to get the absolute best kind of drum takes and get the core kind of vibe together, and then let us do overdubs as long as we stayed within the confines of the pre-production stuff that we already agreed on."

For Shriner, keeping up with the seemingly infinite pen of Rivers Cuomo has not proven impossible. "I grew up in Toledo playing in cover bands where we had to learn songs all the time. So I think I grew up learning other people's songs really quick. It got my chops up for Rivers's writing."

This time out, that writing produced "well in excess of 50 songs" that were eventually trimmed down into Make Believe. But, according to Shriner, fans shouldn't expect too many glimpses at the yet-unheard material. Unlike the days before Maldroit, where the band posted new songs on their website on a weekly basis, Shriner assures that the chances of the castaways from Make Believe reaching the ears of Weezer fans are very unlikely.

"That was fun, and who knows what will happen next year, but I think this year, we're pretty much sticking to what we got," reports Shriner. "I think the motto is just to put out the absolute best songs that we can. I think that if those songs were worthy of making a record, they would have made a record."

Indeed, the band has shaped their career with concise, uncluttered albums full of great tunes that don't merely fill in the gaps between their respectable roster of radio hits; in many cases, they eclipse them. This is certainly one thing that accounts for Weezer's amazing mass appeal, which spreads across several generations of music fans. Shriner's assessment of the band's unifying element is about the best summation of Weezer you're liable to hear.

"It's the same thing that captured my attention," remembers Shriner. "The first couple of Weezer songs I heard, like when I heard 'Say It Aint So, it's like, 'cool, I dig this guy, I dig his voice, and it's great'. But when the choruses hit, the guitars got really heavy. It's some really powerful shit, and I think that attracts the metal heads and all the people who are just into melodic rock. There's a little something for everybody. It's just great songwriting, so what's not to like?"

With a venue-filling tour with Foo Fighters already underway, and three singles from Make Believe in heavy rotation on every modern rock station in the world, Weezer are firmly fixed to continue their admirable legacy. Not bad for a plain old "Rock" band, eh?

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30 Seconds To Mars : Interview

by Aaron Pompey

Hours before 30 Seconds to Mars takes the stage at the Roxy in West Hollywood for the first time in over a year, the band is huddled around a booth in the venue's VIP lounge talking about inspiration. Jared Leto, the band's frontman and guitarist, likes to attribute some of his own inspiration to simple circumstance. "Wherever you go, there you are," he remarks glibly. And before he can elaborate, his cell phone rings. Jared frowns and reaches into his back pocket. "It's all the last-minute motherfuckers," Jared mumbles as he pulls out a flip phone and stares blankly at the number flashing on its screen. "The funny thing is," Jared places the blinking phone on the large round table in front of him, "there are a couple tickets that sold on eBay for $217." He shakes his head, "Crazy motherfuckers."

But Jared's predilection for Oedipal metaphors is meant to be neither harsh nor disparaging. In truth, the band – which also includes Jared's older brother Shannon Leto on drums, Matt Wachter on bass, and Tomo Milicevic on guitar – has enormous affection for its ever-growing fan base, including those who would shell out two hundred dollars for a standing-room-only show. "We definitely have some very, very hardcore committed fans out there who like what we did the first time around," he notes with a kind of deliberate reticence, referring to the band's 2002 eponymous debut.

But before there was 30STM, there was Jared and Shannon, two brothers sharing a bedroom with some Marshall amps and a drum set. "You know what, it was a great time," recalls Shannon. "It was very cool." Although the brothers lived in Hollywood, they avoided playing venues in L.A., opting instead to travel cities – sometimes states – away. "We refused to play L.A. – we were in it for art rock's sake. We would change our name every night. We didn't give a fuck if a show was promoted or advertised or any of that. We played to play." Shannon nods, "We were playing for ourselves." And their sound was slightly different back then. "It was like super long progressive songs," says Jared, "and it was basically a 'Fuck you – love it or leave it'."

The brothers' fearlessness eventually paid off when EMI's Virgin label signed 30STM in 1998. By that time, the band's sound had evolved into what some critics were calling neo-Prog and post-Grunge. Then their music caught the ear of legendary record producer Bob Ezrin, who had worked previously on several groundbreaking projects – including Alice Cooper's Love it to Death, KISS's Destroyer, and Lou Reed's Berlin – but who may be best known for his production of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Ezrin came on to produce the band's first album, helping them to create a larger, more distinct sound that would set them apart from the mainstream. "The size of the guitars, and everything really, was big. But it's not aggressive. It's not heavy music. It's not metal. But it's not shoegazing indie rock, either. It's kind of it's own thing, it's own world." Matt agrees, noting that "It's somewhere in between." Ezrin also helped the boys understand the importance of an album's structure and how to create a progression, rather than a simple series of songs. "Bob Ezrin was really helpful with that because there could be two songs that are really great, but share too similar territory."

Ezrin's influence on the band carried over into their conception of a follow-up project. "The thing that the first album set up," Jared recalls, "was that we wanted to be different." And the first album was different, establishing the group as a unique voice in music. So when Jared began thinking about the kind of music he wanted to write for the second album, he anticipated a challenge, albeit a good one. "We knew it was going to be a long experience and we made a decision to embrace opportunities when they became apparent."

And an opportunity soon came along when Oliver Stone cast Jared in his grand epic Alexander. The film was shot on location in, among other places, Northern Africa and Thailand. During that period, he found a great deal of inspiration, writing several new songs – including what would become their first single "Attack". But "Attack" proved to be somewhat problematic, and was nearly excluded from the album. "'Attack' was a song that wasn't scheduled to be recorded at all," Jared recalls. "I'd been playing it – I'd play it in the desert in Morocco, I was playing it in Thailand – I was playing it everywhere." But when he tried performing the song with the rest of the band, something wasn't falling into place. "On acoustic it was great; but when we played it as a band, it just fell flat on its face." The guys nod. "As soon as the bass got in there…" Matt interjects, hanging his head in disgrace. Jared takes the cue. "Yeah, so it was either replace Matt or throw the song out." Thinking that the song had hit a dead end, but holding out hope, Jared played it for Josh Abraham, their promoter and Virgin's VP of A&R. "I was playing it outside of the studio one night on acoustic guitar and Josh walked out and, as a joke, I said 'Hey, you wanna hear a hit song?' I was just talking shit. I started playing the verse and went into the chorus and he stopped me on the first chorus and said 'It's the best song you have. You have to record it'." Having already given the song a shot, something needed to change for it to come alive. "So we all got in a circle and something about it changed. Something about us changed. And now it became the first song on the record and the first single off our new album. So he did a great job on encouraging us to do that song. And now I really love it."

That's when his cell phone begins ringing with those eleventh-hour requests for comp tickets to the show.

Matt brings the conversation back, touting Jared's inspired writing. "Jared was in Africa a few months before we got there," he recalls. "When we got to Africa, one of the first songs Jared played for us was 'Was it a Dream?' and it was unlike anything he'd ever written before." "'A Beautiful Lie' came out of Africa," Jared remarks, "Really productive time. Almost every song that we worked on down there ended up on the record." But Matt brings it back to Jared. "When he played 'Was it a Dream?' for us, all of us were just like 'Wow, this is a great direction he's going.' He was obviously influenced by his surroundings." Matt pauses a moment, then adds, "Because it's like no other place on earth. If we were stuck in L.A. the whole time, I think there would have been a much different record."

When 30STM finally entered the studio in April 2004, Josh Abraham was at the controls. Abraham, who had produced Velvet Revolver's Grammy-winning debut album, brought perspective to 30STM's shift toward a more confessional sound. "Josh likes to keep things organic," Jared observes. Abraham's organic approach meant catching the spontaneity and immediacy of the band's in-studio performances. "A lot of the songs were their very immediate takes," Jared explains. "We wanted to catch that excitement of something being fresh and new." Which, of course, can be challenging among perfectionists. "A very difficult thing to do," Matt admits, "is to let go and just be like 'It's good'." The result was a substantial stride in the band's creative evolution. "We're always on a search for our own true voice and to be as unique as possible," says Jared, "We definitely, I think, succeeded a lot of times, even on the first record. But there are clear moments, this time around, where I hear it."

But that doesn't mean that the band doesn't acknowledge their creative influences. As Jared will quickly point out, embracing your creative influences is a natural part of finding that voice. "I think anybody has someone – whether they apprentice with a painter, or you have a teacher, if you're a writer – who influences your style." And 30STM counts among its influences some classic artists. "I don't listen to music very much, and the music I play is pretty old." But artists like Pink Floyd, U2, Björk, The Cure, Zeppelin, and The Police continue to resonate with the band. In fact, some of the melodic phrases and stylistic twists on A Beautiful Lie bear their signature. "There are songs where it was kind of fun to let the influence kind of be alive," Jared admits. On a few songs, that influence is unmistakable, including the heavy Cure sound shaping "Was it a Dream?" and the early U2 sound that is particularly striking on "The Fantasy." "It was nice to let that be there and to put that in there as homage or a nod to one of our heroes." And there are notably clear distinctions between artists like 30STM - who absorb inspiration, using it to generate innovative music – and bands that offer little in the way of stylistic imagination.

And what about more recent artists? Jared pauses to think of a few. "Interpol…Muse…Bloc Party's pretty good." Jared looks over at Tomo and adds, "These guys have been listening to the new Nine Inch Nails." Tomo jumps in with "My Chemical Romance." The other guys nod. "We played with them recently," Jared explains. "Very nice guys. And we opened for Incubus. They're a very melodic band and good friends of ours now. That went really well." What about an artist like Aphex Twin? "I used a lot of his drum sounds on the album. I manipulated some of the sounds he manipulated. He's a genius," Jared pauses, then adds, "or a retard." Matt chews on that idea for a second, then notes, "there's a fine line between genius and retard." Jared pauses again and it seems as though he may be pondering that fine line. "We're weird, though," he says. "We're strange compared to a lot of rock out there. It's always really difficult to think who we would tour with." That's a good question. 30STM is currently touring alongside Chicago band Chevelle, hitting about 35 U.S. cities this summer. They will also join The Used later this year.

Since the growth of the band from two to four members, 30STM has enjoyed a new dynamic, complete with greater variance in style and influence. "Matt and Tomo were really instrumental in helping shape the new record," says Jared of Wachter and Milicevic, who had been playing live shows with the band before officially joining them for studio work on A Beautiful Lie. For Matt, being a part of 30STM has been a critical part of his development as a musician. "For myself," explains Matt, "it was rewarding in a couple of ways: I got to be on an amazing record – it's something I'm very proud of. And I've learned a lot from these guys." One thing he learned was how to do less, "which is something that is a really hard lesson to learn. It's easy to go in there and go –" Matt interrupts himself to make some hardcore bass solo sounds. "But the songs are so strong that we wanted to let them breathe on their own." And that may be what distinguishes 30STM. It's difficult to create exceptional music marked by so much honesty, yet the band's inspired execution of Jared's exceptional writing achieves that with skill, maturity and, perhaps most importantly, grace.

Far too many albums produced by recent bands wind up being 10-track CDs with so much filler that they might well have been cut down to 5-song EPs. Another too many albums open with introspective ballads and don't really hit their stride until the third or, god forbid, fourth track. A Beautiful Lie dodges any potential missteps by opening the album with the strong, driving sounds of "Attack", then gradually steering the album toward more contemplative, introspective tracks – all without compromising the energy that has become one of the band's signature elements. This may be one of the greatest compliments paid to a band who has worked under a producer like Ezrin and who appreciate the importance of an album's structure and its progression. "That's exactly what we wanted – not just a collection of songs that were trying to make it to the top of the list, but a record that was cohesive. Otherwise it just becomes white noise."

Creating a cohesive narrative after having written over 40 songs for the album, meant having to decide which songs would be eliminated from the finished project. And deciding that meant again drawing on what the band had learned from working under Ezrin's guidance. "It was about telling the story and what songs were appropriate," Jared observes. Ultimately, the band faced the daunting task of paring down those 40-something songs to a damn-near-impossible 10 for the album. Jared laughs. "Somebody said to me that I'm very decisive. But I said that I'm only indecisive when I'm undecided. So once I make that decision, I'm good. But until then, the songs take their beating. And they all took their beating." So which ten made the cut, conceptually speaking? "The ten that tell the story the best, the ten that are the strongest. The ten that survived." And now that the album is complete and set for an August 30 release, does he maintain his decisiveness? "Absolutely. I still feel like the ten most important songs made the record."

Although it may be too soon to be thinking about what's next for 30STM, it's worth a shot. "Who knows what's in the future. But this time around, I think we explored every possibility of what the first record was about. So to repeat any of those things would have been a big mistake."

"We made sure this time around that we were going to be brave enough to leave all the tricks of the past behind. And in order, I think, to move forward, you have to let go of your past. It's not always an easy thing to do, especially if certain things worked."

"And sometimes people aren't going to grow with you, and that's okay. But I think that means you're doing the right thing." So don't expect a simple return to form from 30STM. "I heard, when I was a kid, this quote that's attributed to Picasso, but I think he probably stole it from somewhere else. It's that an artist who doesn't move forward, moves backward. And I've always applied that to myself as an artist."

A Beautiful Lie hits stores August 30. "Attack", the new single, is available now.

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