Thursday, September 29, 2011

W.A.S.P. - L.O.V.E. Machine - and about touring with WASP

Last year I had the privilege of going on tour with my band Warmachine around the north-eastern United States opening for the legendary Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. It was a terrific experience that I wish could have lasted longer. I was recently thinking about that tour because W.A.S.P. announced that next year they will be going on a pretty big tour (check out the details here), so for this post I decided to cover one of the songs that became a favorite of mine, and one that I watched them play every night for two weeks: "L.O.V.E. Machine" or like our drummer called it HE-LLO BEE-EE haha.

About the song

For me this song reminds me of Kiss, I'm not really sure why, but it sounds like a meaner, heavier, darker Love Gun. Maybe its the similar titles of the two songs that makes me relate them. The song is very straight forward, with lots of energy and a great melody. I didn't play the lick before the verses too well, but I faked my way through them haha. For the first half of the verse, where there is no guitar, I palm muted my notes to keep the volume a little lower and make the next section when the guitar comes in sound more powerful. However I didn't use the standard right-hand palm muting, I used my left hand to do it. That's a trick I learned from my college professor which allows your right hand to have more freedom of motion in instances like this one where the left hand does not need to move much.

I remember Mike Duda (WASP's current bass-man) playing the end of this song an octave lower than I did, but I just played it the way it is on the record. Speaking of Mike Duda, he is one of the most entertaining and energetic bass players that I have seen in a really long time, it was a treat to watch him, and if you haven't seen him I invite you to check out some live videos of the band, or better yet, go see them live next time they're around.

About the tour

As I was saying before, I was really lucky to be able to share the stage with WASP last year. It was a hard tour to do but it was a lot of fun. For one, we tried to save as much money as we could, so we went in a mini-van, no trailer. That meant having 4 guys plus all of our drums, amps, instruments, clothes, and boxes of CDs and shirts crammed into it. It was so tight that I didn't have enough room to bring an amplifier. I did the whole tour by plugging in my trusted Sans Amp directly to the sound board and cranking the bass through the side-fills on the stage. Plus our drummer had to pack his drums like a matryoshka doll and put toms inside one another and putting them all inside his bass drum; which we then strapped to the roof of the van.

We all took turns driving through the different cities. Luckily for us the weather was pretty good most of the time. But there was one drive from Wisconsin to Massachusetts that took us a whole day to complete with all of us driving straight through the night. I had the 2 am to 8 am shift if I remember correctly. We slept in cheap motels, had to pee in bottles while driving, and changed into our stage clothes in the van. But even though it sounds rough (and it was a little bit, looking back on it), we had an amazing time and I would do it all over again.

We became great friends really fast with the band and crew, who seemed to love our music and our sense of humour. Their guitar tech helped me fix my strap button when it fell off while I was playing. Their merchandise guy always gave us tips and helped us find the best spot to set up our "booth". And in the end they all wanted us to stay and finish the tour with them, but unfortunately we could only do those two weeks at that time. You can see from the picture at the top that we all had a blast together, and we still keep in touch, which I'm very happy about. Oh and of course the crowds were amazing, and very open and receptive to our music, we made a lot of fans during that tour. I can't wait to do it all again.

Do you guys have any good "road" stories? please share them in the comments box. See you soon! What will be Up Next??

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nickelback - Bottom's Up

  I know this post might surprise some of you, considering that most of you know me as a "metal-head", but that's part of the reason why I've chosen to talk about Nickelback here. I want to explore the reasons why we all love or hate a particular band, or song, or style of music. Of course most of the reasons are completely subjective, a matter of personal taste, but lets talk about the specifics of why a song or a band or a singer may makes us cringe or give us goose bumps.

 We all have those bands that we can't stand, and others that we adore but our friends can't understand why. For me some of the bands I cannot listen to are The Tragically Hip, or Coldplay. On the other side, I like Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, and Nocturnal Rites, all bands that most of my friends don't like and can't figure out why I would.

 I find that what makes me like or dislike a song or band may change, for example I don't like Coldplay because I find their sound very depressing, and generally I don't like to listen to music that brings me down. However, I love Billy Holiday, and she is a "blue" as it gets. Maybe its my fascination with her tone of voice and her way of phrasing her parts that attracts me to her music. So its difficult for me to pinpoint what exactly makes me decide if I like something or not. Sometimes I may like a band's music but not their singer, and at times its ok and I can still put up with listening to their songs while ignoring the singing, but other times its bad enough that I cannot listen to them at all.

 With Nickelback there is the opinion that they are just one more of a mass-produced group of bands that just put out songs in a very formulaic way, with the sole purpose of getting more radio play and as many listeners as possible. I call it the "junk food" of music, everyone eats it up but its not very good for you. Although listening to the radio has never been bad for your health, and there are good songs on the radio. This "Bottoms Up" is a good example, I kind of like the song, its got a very catchy tune, aggressive guitars and drums, a ripping guitar solo, some great vocal harmonies, and it makes for a good party song. Its a good "snack" for your ears; I wouldn't put it on my iPod and listen to it all the time, but i wouldn't change it if it came up on the radio. Does that make me a Nickelback fan? not at all, everything else that I have listened to by them has not been of my taste, but I have to admit that probably part of my reasons for not liking them are simply that everyone else in the world does, and I like to fool myself and think I'm "different" from everyone else. So I tried this, I listened to the song without thinking who was playing it. If I had never heard of Nickelback, and I was hearing this song for the first time, would i like it? and the answer was yes, its a cool tune. A song is either good or bad, regardless of who's playing it. For me anyways. I'm still going to put on my Mars Volta and Mahavishnu Orchestra CDs.

 What do you guys think? what makes you hate, or love, Nickelback? or any other band for that matter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meshuggah's "Straws Pulled at Random" by Maurizio Villeato

Ok so here we go with another guest post. This time its my good friend Maurizio Villeato, all the way from Italy!

  I met Maurizio last fall when I was out on tour with Annihilator. He is the bass player of Adimiron, a progressive metal band from Italy, and they were opening for us for the first couple of weeks of the tour. We all became friends very quickly since they are all very nice people; they are very funny and light-hearted guys, although you can't tell when they're onstage, at that point they're all business and they kick some serious ass. Maurizio impressed me very quickly because he is very versatile in his playing, he can use his fingers, pick, and slap, and he does it all very well and in great context within the band and whatever song he's playing. Here he is playing a song by what I'm sure is one of his favorite bands. This is Messhugah's "Straws Pulled at Random":

  Maurizio had this to say about this song:

  "Why did I choose Meshuggah? Very simple, at the moment it is my favorite band. I really love their sound, their way to conceive music, the melodic and rhythmic structures of the songs. Specially this song I think contains the most important Meshuggah elements: catchy intro and verses, powerful chorus and bridge, a beautiful solo, and a simple but circular outro. Don’t forget the tuning! I tuned the bass half a tone up, in F, and I have to say that this little change, if added to a good distortion, gives a unique and violent sound to the bass, which makes it the leading instrument of the song, and of the band. Whoever has seen Meshuggah live in concert knows what I mean; I understood it when we played with them in Turin, Italy.

  "This is the live version, which is the same as the studio record, but just a bit faster, and more violent. This band gives no space for improvisation during live shows, so I tried to be the most faithful as possible, Hope you like the performance!

  "I just wanna thank you guys for watching my video, and my friend Al who gave me the opportunity to play for you from the other side of the ocean, thank you very much brother!

  "Bye guys, see you on the road. Respect!"

  Maurizio Villeato was born in Rome, Italy in 1989. At the age of 14 he started to play bass after watching Steve Harris on TV. He has always listened metal and rock music in his life, and has played all metal genres, from death to power, from classic to thrash. But when he joined ADIMIRON in 2007 he found his real dimension. He recorded “When Reality Wakes Up” in 2008 and “ K 2 “ in 2011 , having the honor to tour around Europe with some metal legends such as Annihilator and Death Angel, and open for  Sepultura and Meshuggah in Italy. Since 2009 he has also been studying Double Bass in The Academy of Classical Music, to play and understand music in all its forms.

Don’t forget to check out ADIMIRON on the net

  Thanks again for checking this out! Don't forget to leave your comments. 

Brought to you by the code 3RJUAHHFG2KH

Monday, September 19, 2011

Edguy - Pandora's Box

  My last post was a big hit, and I thank you all for that. It seems a little variety is appreciated, and believe me I also like variety. So I will be having more guests on here, in fact I already have the next one lined up (who could it be??) Please feel free to leave comments and don't forget that you can sign up to receive notices of whenever I have a new post up. Ok on to our new topic.

  For the past two weeks I have not been able to stop listening to the latest Edguy album, Age Of The Joker. It's full of great, catchy and epic tunes. I knew right away that I wanted to use one of them for this blog, the hard part was figuring out which one. I opted for Pandora's Box because it is probably the most different in style on the record. It has that very bluesy sound right from the beginning that makes it stand out right away from the rest of their songs. Here it is:

  I love the whole this song all the way through. Tobias Sammet vocals are raw and soulful. Interestingly they use the word Badlands in the lyrics, and that is precisely the band that came to mind when I first heard this song (check some Badlands here) I wish that riff around the 01:14 mark would come back later, but at the same time it's made even more special since it only happens the one time. It's great to hear the slide guitar and harmonica on the acoustic bridge, and by contrast it makes the solo section so much more powerful. I had to keep reminding myself  not to kill my strings during that guitar solo, but its SO much fun to play hahaha. 

  This actually was a tricky song to play for me. Its not that complicated, but I had a bit of a hard time locking in with the feel of the drums. They are very laid back, and a little hard to hear at times, so I had to concentrate to keep from rushing the eight-notes. I think it turned out ok though. 

  I am really looking forward to seeing Edguy live again. I have to say they put on one of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen. In fact, when i saw them it was the first time that I have seen a Toronto crowd get into a show so much. Everyone was clapping, jumping, singing along, and even laughing, because the band is really quite funny. Check out their music videos and you'll see what I mean. Big thanks to AvaloN-TLW for the picture I used on my video \m/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Annihilator's "Betrayed" by Mike Harshaw

  Well this time I'm changing things up a little bit, I'm having a special guest do this post. I'm hoping this turns out to be a sort of regular thing where I can showcase some of the great musicians I have been fortunate enough to work with at one point or another. This week is Mike Harshaw
Mike Harshaw
Mike with Warmachine
  I remember the first time I saw Mike, it was June 6, 2006. I know that because he was playing a show at a metal club celebrating the date: 6.6.6. I was immediately blown away by his skills. He looked so young and yet he played as if he had been doing it forever, lots of confidence and power even back then. Being in the same scene meant that I obviously saw and heard a lot from Mike and his band at the time, Nexus. We did a bunch of shows together (including both the filming and the release of Warmachine's DVD) and eventually Mike got hired by Mastery, a band in which he can display his full abilities. Most recently I had the pleasure of playing a show with Mike as we opened for Accept here in Toronto. I am very happy to have him as my first guest on the blog, I guarantee he will blow your socks off with his rendition of Annihilator's "Betrayed" from their latest, self-titled album. Enjoy! 

  Here's what Mike had to say about the song:

  "Annihilator is one of those bands that I've always known and liked, but not untill recently did I really start to seriously get into the band. Being Canadian myself, I am pretty proud to call Annihilator a Canadian act. I really respect that after such a long career they have managed to put out such a variety of albums while staying true to their sound. That is why I decided to "Betrayed" off of their latest self-titled release "Annihilator". I was really impressed with how awesome this record was being such a recent album. I sometimes have trouble getting into some of the newer cd's and find myself constantly listening to classics like Megadeth's "Rust in Peace" or Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and other greats from the past. 

  "I chose Betrayed because I can't listen to this song without getting really pumped up. A really catchy and driving song like a lot of Annihilator's material. I liked the drums a lot in this song. One of the first things that caught my ear was the cymbal grab fills that happen in the middle of all the choruses, such a tight fill and works so nicely with the guitar riff. I also dig the fills that appear at the end of each verse before the chorus: building off the snare, going down a couple toms and then making the fills more complex, incorporating different snare/tom fill combos as the song goes on. I really love how the drummer builds the fills progressively as the song goes on. You can tell the attention to detail in how the fills are placed and created. As the song progresses, so do the fills.

  "When I was coming up with how I would play the song I tried to sort of take that idea a little further, changing/extending a couple fills. Especially the fill at the end of the last verse before the last chorus. Another cool part is the intro when the actual beat starts. I've always been a fan of those type of slow double bass/low tom grooves. With flams being played on the snare drum and toms to give it that extra fat sound. Of course the end is totally killer, all out double bass with the snare on the downbeat for a fast heavy finish. Can't deny that haha. The guitar, like any Annihilator tune, was really catchy and driving while also being melodic. The one part that especially caught my ear was at 3:12 to 3:30 in the video. This melodic lead section totally reminded me of the Amott brothers and Arch Enemy. Just a supper cool harmony part that really did it for me. Back to the drums for this song, I tried to stay true to what the drums do on the record but I can never help putting my own little twist on things. Hope you enjoy! \m/"

  Mike Harshaw (Michael Arthur Andrew Harshaw) was born in 1988 and has been playing drums for about 8 or 9 years. He enjoys playing anything from classic rock to heavy metal, specializing in progressive speed metal. He has played in many different groups along the way, currently with Mastery: A Toronto/Austin TX speed thrash metal band fronted by Billy Milano, (S.O.D/M.O.D). Hailing from Grimsby, Ontario, Canada Mike plans to have a future playing drums and music.

  See you guys next time. Don't forget to add your comments and follow me if you want to be informed when the next post is up \m/

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Megadeth's Public Enemy Number One

Megadeth - "Public Enemy No. 1"
David and I
  Some of you know of my connection with Megadeth because of David Ellefson's involvement with the first Warmachine album, which he co-produced and played on a few tracks. Since then David left and returned to Megadeth, and now is putting out a new album called TH1RT3EN. This first single is pretty kick-ass so here it goes: this is Megadeth's "Public Enemy Number One".

  This one is one of the best songs I've heard from Megadeth in quite a while. It's got a good groove, cool guitar riff, and more importantly (for me at least) it's catchy. Before I do these videos I listen to the songs constantly for a couple of days just to really get all the parts and the arrangement in my head. But for this one I didn't need to use my iPod because the song kept playing over and over in my head. For me that is always the sign that I really like a song.

  It's a pretty straight forward tune, nothing too special or particularly impressive when it comes to the performance of it. However, there are a few highlights for me: I really like how the second half of every verse has a totally different sound because of the change in the bass line. While on the first half Ellefson just rides on the "A", during the second half he changes it and goes to the F-F#-G. I also really like that David uses the whole range of the bass, he often plays parts an octave higher than normal, and on the second half of the guitar solo he goes to the B string and rattles your head. After listening some more to my video I realized that I made a mistake during the last chorus at 04:05 and 04:17 I played a "F#" when it should have been a "D".

  I think I will have to do a video of one of those Warmachine tracks that David played on. Any suggestions as to which one?