March Madness during SXSW…or why I am such an asshole. (Day 1)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 12, 2012 by backstabbath

Once again, as Austinites, we survived another yearly invasion of hipster hordes and industry blowhards as they descended upon our fair city with their skinny jeans, man-purses and entirely overblown senses of self-importance. Normally I look forward to SXSW because there is usually quite a variety of different musical acts that I am excited about catching live. This year, however, left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, as there were some good acts in attendance this year, but many of the showcasing bands, especially those of the metal genre, have played here several times already or do so with such regularity that it made it difficult for me to get too overjoyed. In 2010 SXSW brought us Voivod and last year delivered Saint Vitus and Pentagram. So what incredible acts were in store for us this year? Job For A Cowboy, Devil Driver, and Impending Doom! Oh boy!

With all the hype and hoopla that SXSW has managed to generate over the years it seems only natural that the festivities gradually begin to start sooner and encompass more days than before. What used to span only a few days has now begun to take over the entire week and this year it was certainly more apparent than ever. On Sunday, March 11th immediately after band practice, Vincent and I decided, since it was an incredibly beautiful day, to walk downtown and check out the scenery…er, douchebaggery. Seriously, what reason could there possibly be for so many men to be walking around with purses? What could they possibly need to carry around that they cannot fit into their pockets? More hair product and a couple of changes of clothes? Ten more pairs of skinny jeans? My mind recoils in horror at the thought. The only person that has ever looked cool with a purse is Indiana Jones, but he fought the fucking nazis fer chrissakes…and he had to have somewhere to put that goddamn golden Fertility Idol that he snaked from the Chachapoyan temple before being chased by that giant boulder in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Initially, my plan was to head downtown to Headhunters later that night for the Ossuary Industries showcase, but since my friends in San Antonio sludge band, Pillcrusher, informed me that they had to drop off of the bill at the last-minute, the idea of witnessing a whole night of brutal death metal seemed like more than my already volume-damaged hearing could handle. After walking by Headhunters to survey the scene of black-attired longhairs, Vincent and I milled around for a bit on Red River and then made our way towards 6th Street. Just outside of the old Emo’s location we were stopped by a girl holding a stack of flyers. “Do you guys like metal?”, she glibly inquired. To which her friend retorted, “They ARE metal!” Once on 6th, I ate a hotdog and we decided that it was time to quench our ever-increasing thirst. If we were going to subject ourselves to the onslaught of the hipper than thou throng then many cold libations were definitely well in order. We opted for the decidedly unhip surroundings of the Dirty Dog Bar due in no small part to the fact that there was no cover charge to enter said establishment, but after a couple of beers and several minutes of gratingly mind-numbing modern metal miasma we hastily opted to depart the premises. Next up was Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub. We figured we’d have a couple more brews here and since we were only two bars away from Headhunters it would be the ideal spot to meet up with the two Pillcrusher members that still chose to make the trip to Austin for their label showcase. After a quick text message we were joined by Pillcrusher bassist, Marilyn, vocalist, Beer Reebs, and our mutual friend, Jaylen. Hugs and verbal jabs were exchanged and before long a general agreement was reached to repair to other more happening digs.

Apparently, those more happening surroundings happened to be found at The Jackalope on 6th. This place is a good spot for hipsters and punk rockers to converge and make fun of each others hairstyles, and there is usually a fair amount of lovely young ladies in attendance, though I am far from being hip or punk enough for it to make any difference. After a couple more drinks Vincent decided to call it quits for the evening, as he had to work early the next day, and not long after Jaylen decided to return to Headhunters for a good ol’ ear-raping.  I walked with her back to Headhunters and decided that the $10.00 cover was more than I wanted to pay for a night of blast-beats, buzzsaw guitars, and pig squeals, so I opted instead for the show at across the street and a couple of bars over at Beerland.

My good friend and guitarist/vocalist for The Blood Royale, Tim Corken, was working the door at Beerland so I talked to him a bit before venturing inside. Apparently, since I was too drunk to remember and I was primarily there just to check out the band Entropist, the bill consisted of Immerse, Entropist, Fed of Me, and Adamastor. I don’t know anything about the other three bands so therefore I have nothing more to say about them. Once inside I had just enough time to order a beer and a shot for myself and Tim before Entropist started their set. I believe that this was their second live performance and for such a new band they did a fine job. In contrast to the extreme and unrelenting brutality that was on display across the street, Entropist displayed a much more old-school approach to their death metal and it showed in their very riff oriented style of writing. Vocalist, Oscar Martinez, delivered the death proclamations competently and guitarist, James Hardin, is an excellent lead player, though I think his guitar was a bit too loud in the mix. All in all I was fairly impressed with the band and I will definitely try catch them again at some point when I am less inebriated.

Finally, after Entropist’s set I retired directly across the street to Valhalla for last call. After chatting with my friend Mel over a beer it was time to head out the door. A few people did come over for a bit of after hours festivities before I finally called it a night. It was going to be a long week and I definitely needed some rest. Though, as I expected, I was going to be getting very little of it.

Dark Sonic Rituals

Posted in flyers, Mala Suerte, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2012 by backstabbath

It has been a while since we’ve ventured outside of Austin for any live performances so next weekend we’ll be headed South for a two-day excursion. On Friday, March 30th we’ll be playing at Nightrocker Live in San Antonio with fellow Austin bands Ancient VVisdom, Watching The Moon, and Curse The Heavens along with Venomous Maximus from Houston, TX. San Antonio has always been somewhat hit or miss for us as far as live shows are concerned so if you live in the area please help us spread the word. This should ultimately prove to be an interesting show as all the bands on the bill have quite varied styles and will provide their own separate take on the dark sonic arts.The following day on Saturday, March 31st we’ll be joining Curse The Heavens for our first ever gig in Corpus Christi, TX. at TFC Rehearsal Studios. Also on the line-up are locals, Bertha and Prison Moon from ATX. We are really looking forward to playing for and meeting a lot of new people on this jaunt, so as I stated before please help us spread the word. We’ll see you all next weekend!

Deranged Doodlings: Universevil

Posted in Deranged Doodlings with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2012 by backstabbath

When Maligno bassist, Marco Gil, asked me to do the cover artwork for their second LP, Universevil, I was certainly thrilled, as I’ve never taken the opportunity, with the exception of the Caustic Death demo tape, to provide my own visual interpretation of another bands sonic creation. The band wanted me to create an image that reflected their Mexican heritage and they wanted something akin to 70s-era prog rock album art which would visually encapsulate their lyrical ideas and capture the overall sound and vibe of the music contained within. Marco sent me a package with some demo recordings of some of the tracks that were to be on the recording along with the lyrics to all the songs. For inspiration he also enclosed a small book of  illustrations and engravings by popular Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada, and I quickly got to work.

After listening to the CD of recordings and reading the song lyrics I began to formulate ideas for the cover image. I began by drawing a small thumbnail sketch which I usually do for most of the bigger or more elaborate pieces that I create. One of the songs on the album is called Son Of Tlalocanso I decided to make Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, fertility, and water, the central image and focal point of the cover. Though, after a bit of thought, since Maligno is a metal band and since I am a morbid bastard, I decided it would be cool to incorporate Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the dead and king of Mictlan, the lowest and northernmost section of the underworld, into it is well. As you can see in the final finished drawing I went ahead and split the main figure into two opposing halves, one representing fertility and the other representing death in an attempt to employ the old mystical symbolism of duality and the harmony of opposites. If you look at the upturned hand of Tlaloc on the right you can see the attached umbilical cord which leads to the floating fetus of the son of Tlalocan. On the right half, Mictlantecuhtli is crushing the head of a man in professional attire which is a reference to the song Dirty Black Suit  and it’s lyrical denunciations of  corporate greed, deceitful masters, and “bullshit bastards”. The ancient god of death has returned to reap his just rewards on the the evil conqueror that vanquished his people oh so long ago.

Now, I’m not too sure if this is what the band had in mind with the song Golden Demons  but I took the title as a metaphor for that wonderfully decadent elixir of life which I like to imbibe more often than most health professionals would probably recommend, and added the little gleeful mephistophelean reveler with upturned goblet down in the lower left-hand side of the drawing. Believe me, I’ve hung out with the Maligno boys enough times to know that they are not averse to the practice of consuming copious amounts of the sacred brew, so I feel that this choice of imagery was certainly apropos. Just opposite the golden demon you’ll notice the flaming witch of the album’s opening track The Red Witch. I was pleasantly surprised after initially viewing the video for this track to see that some ideas taken from my artwork were actually included within! For the cover’s background, two flaming suns for the song Two Sons can be seen behind the central figure, illuminating the whole joyous scene. And finally, to tie this album together with it’s predecessor, I borrowed the skull from that LP’s front cover which you can see there at the very bottom. Unfortunately, due to deadline restraints, I didn’t get to add as much detail and shading as I would have liked, but the band was more than pleased with the end result. Ultimately though, the experience of trying to visually capture the aural mood of a band which I thoroughly respect and enjoy proved to very rewarding and enjoyable and I look forward to more opportunities to do so again.

Deranged Doodlings

Posted in Deranged Doodlings with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2012 by backstabbath

Okay, fellow freaks and mutations, in addition to my miscellaneous mental meanderings I figured I’d use this blog as a platform to showcase some of my various doodles and scribblings. I chose the above irreligious drawing as my first choice for display here simply because it was one of the few that I’ve done that would actually fit in my home scanner. This drawing was done for use on a flyer for a show that Mala Suerte played at Emo’s with Buzzov*en. I can’t really remember what I was thinking of doing at the time but as is often the case when I’m at a loss for what to draw, I consulted one of the many books in my library for inspiration. In my copy of “The Christian World” edited by Geoffrey Barraclough I came across a detail from  Lucas Cranach the Elder’s The Trinity which pictures the Father as ruler of the universe, the Son as sacrificial victim, and the Holy Ghost as a dove. I copied a lot of the basic image but obviously I had to change things around to make it a bit more profane, so I changed the Ol’ Bearded One into Death himself with skeletal hands gently massaging the shoulders of Christ. I also changed the dove into the Masonic two-headed eagle and in keeping with that theme, added the all-seeing eye, checkerboard pattern, and sun and moon symbolism. After looking at both the original painting and my bastardized desecration, I’m not sure which is more morbid.

Vomitous Horsecorousous: A very old interview with original dead horse vocalist/guitarist Michael Haaga.

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , on January 20, 2012 by backstabbath

Back in the early late 80s/early 90s if you were a patron of metal/hardcore shows just about anywhere in Texas chances are that alongside D.R.I.’s ubiquitous skanker dude and any shirt with a Slayer logo on it, you we’re probably just as likely to see some mullet-headed thrasher adorned in a shirt with dead horse’s “death ride” logo or their classic “Farm Road 666” design. For a brief period there they seemed poised to be the next underground band to break out of the regional scene and bring the sound of Texas metal to national and international audiences. They most certainly had the talent and originality but, as has so often been the case within the annals of rock history, label issues and internal band strife proved to be too much and the galloping hooves of the stygian steed finally came to a halt.

dead horse released their very first recording in 1988 in the form of their Death Rides A Dead Horse demo which was quickly followed in 1989 by a self-financed proper full-length entitled Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming which, incidentally, was recorded at Rampart Studios, the same studio as D.R.I.’s monumental Dealing With It LP. This album established the bands unmatched penchant for writing exceptionally heavy songs with infectious almost pop-like sensibilities. Extreme grindcore blasts like “Murder Song”, “Crushing of the Irate”, and “Subhumanity” were juxtaposed with comedic gems like “Hank”, a little ditty about a good ol’ boy that likes  “shooting deer, drinking beer” and which starts out as a bouncy country tune before devolving into scathing grindcore madness, and “Bewah”, a groovy bass-heavy track about the plight of the underage drinker. Thrashier, slightly more midtempo songs such as “World War Whatever” and “Mindless Zombies” were also on display and one of the bands most classic cuts, “Scottish Hell” evinced a mournful dirge, proving that dead horse was much more than a one-trick pony. As L.G. Petrov, vocalist of Swedish heavyweights Entombed announced at a gig one dark night in San Antonio before launching into their rendition of “Scottish Hell”, “This is a cover by one of Texas’s greatest bands”. Indeed.

1991 saw the release of dead horse’s second LP, Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers on the ill-fated Metal Blade/Warner Brothers subsidiary Big Chief Records and once again showcased the band’s metallic heft, irreverent sense of humor and manic, derailed train of thought lyricism,  but this time around some of the speed was reigned in a bit in favor of more carefully crafted compositions which revealed a band that was ever-evolving and maturing. While there was still plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor manifested in songs like “La La Song”, “Aplo”, and the cover of the B-52s hit “Rock Lobster”, songs such as “Like Asrielle”, “Turn”, and the monstrous titular lament “Peaceful Death” presented a more thoughtful, somber, and sobering side of the band. Unfortunately, the band’s decision to sign with the fledgling Big Chief  proved to be a costly one and the label shut down operations some two years after the release of Peaceful Death.

Finding themselves once again a band without a record label, dead horse released a 5 song demo entitled Feed Me in ’94. The demo failed to  attract the attention of a major record label and guitarist/primary vocalist/songwriter Michael Haaga left the band amidst rumors of turmoil and dissension within the ranks. The rest of the band soldiered on for a while and in 1996 released the BOIL(ing), EP and added Force Fed guitarist/vocalist Scott Sevall to the line-up in an attempt to fill the huge void left by Haaga’s departure. Not too long after, the band would call it quits…well, at least for the next 15 years.

Michael Haaga went on to form the band demonseeds which released one  album in 1999 entitled Knee Deep In Hell’s Grasp and actually carried over the song “Every God For Himself” from dead horse’s Feed Me EP. Completely abandoning his metal and punk roots, he later formed another band and released a solo record in late 2004 of sunny pop material entitled The Plus And Minus Show. This group was short-lived however and disbanded not too long after.

Fast forward to 2009 and we see the majority of the post-Haaga dead horse line-up of Greg Martin, Ronnie Guyote, and Scott Sevall teaming up with underground icon Kurt Brecht, of crossover progenitors D.R.I., to form the excellent thrash outfit Pasadena Napalm Division. They released their first EP in September of 2010 and have been keeping busy, as their Facebook page states, “playing live, touring, drinking, gambling etc…” I have seen them live a few times now and I can say with utmost certainty that they are definitely worth your time and attention, so check them out.

In June of 2011 it was announced that dead horse would be reuniting for a show in Houston later that year in October. Almost immediately speculation began as to whether it would be the original line-up or the later post-’94 incarnation. I know many old-school Texas metal fans, myself included, were completely ecstatic about the idea of witnessing the original band back together again, but unfortunately it was not to be. Haaga expressed interest in doing the show but apparently he and the other members couldn’t come to an agreement in time and the show went on without him. Since that show they’ve gone on to perform a few more live dates including a gig at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin and it appears that they plan to keep the band going with a new lead vocalist, Michael Argo.  Finally, a full decade and a half after their demise, death rides again.

(This interview was originally conducted sometime in 1990 for the small metal fanzine that I did at the time called Subterranean ‘Zine. dead horse had recently played my hometown of Waco, TX. for a rabid following of music starved metal fans and I wanted to find out more about this group that was rapidly becoming one of my favorites. It was done the old-school way, through snail mail, and I still have Michael Haaga’s handwritten correspondence with the responses to all my questions.)

Please tell me a bit about the band’s origin.

well, dead horse is the final regurgitation of many nauseating band experiences. from mere acoustical trash dating back to the early 80s when greg and i chain smoked for a living to semi-seriously productive thrash bands that greg, alpo, randy (our manager), and rob the former bonehead guitarist that would be a part of the band that would eventually be called dead horse. four years ago after much vomiting greg and i would jam for the first time. later, alpotatoe would join and i don’t remember why they asked me to sing, but they had written a couple silly originals, so i wrote some silly original lyrics, not taking all this too seriously. we then called the band brain dead, bloody typical, eh? anyway, so rob quit the band and since i’d already been playin’ git fiddle for a long time it seemed logical that i start playing, consequently making the whole experience quite more serious for me. we had never done any shows yet, and we sorta unconsciously dropped the old name. it somehow unanimously became a different outlook at what we were doing: we sped up all those silly songs drastically. and like many bands still finding themselves (did you look in the toilet, yet?) we found ourselves in that beautifully categorized category, death, punk, thrash, polka, country, rock group. i can’t remember exactly when dead horse became dead horse, about 3 years ago or less, i think, and we started writing songs like bewah and scottish hell, a logical happening considering greg and my long time mutual musical friendship and understanding. viola, and otherwise check the john again, actually, cause i think that’s our real origin, some bacterial growth found on the spleens of dead horses.

Lyrically and musically, what influences you?

strangely enough, i’d say the reason our band works is due to our varied musical influences, our open-mindedness and the ganja god himself, chicken feet, a great historian. i don’t know, we’ll listen to anything that’s good, if you’re talking musical influence…lyrically i move my emotions out of the reach of the deadly pendulum of life recalling all the near misses. did i say something? ah, sure.

Who came up with the name “dead horse” and how?

greg, and i don’t know how. but neither does he, so rot.

I heard that you were getting signed to Big Chief Records. Will there be a new album out soon? Tell me something about your newer songs.

yes, we signed to big records and we’re setting a studio date for late april. this would place the record release date for sometime in june i suppose. the newer songs are more thought out. lyrically, they’re more sobering. they represent dead horse much better musically, not that “horsecore” didn’t, that album represented then. so what am i saying. chicken feet.

Were there any other offers other than the offer by Big Chief?

metal blade, and cargo in canada. big chunk offered more bucks and more concern for the artistic needs for seriously promoting a band. more sincerity and fewer bands on their rooster. turkey for thanksgiving, and did i mention chicken feet.

You played Waco once before. What made you decide to come back?

the sincerity in the people who went to the first show. those that kept in touch and their persistence in getting us to come back, also i had planned to do more headstands, so i figured wacko was the place.

What’s the crowd response usually like at a dead horse show?

interested. relieved that shows can be fun, instead of completely serious, with rock gods glaring at you like they want to kill your grandmother. can’t relate, man.

How often do you usually play shows and whereabouts?

over our three years of existence, we’ve made excursions, (what’s an excursion?) all the way to california, back to phoenix again, to colorado, places in mississippi, all the way to canada, and of course lots of places in between, and we usually play various texas shows monthly, except for now as we’ve been trying to finish our new material. there are talks (in the white house) about touring with rigor mortis all over the west. we like this idea particularly because of rigor mortis’ connections with dookie houser.

What bands do you listen to?

i’ll answer for me. and i like everything that’s good. lately i’ve been listenin to godflesh, the b-52’s. jane’s addiction, and rocky horror. everybody’s music is as varied. mentors to napalm to dee lite.

How would you describe the dead horse sound?

vomitous horsecorousous.

Any final closing remarks?

hmm? as you get older and more and more people die…people you and i know; arises the question of why all this self-destructing reactionism exists, death is more real than you might imagine. everything is funny, or can be. do you take it serious, murder, murder, murder? do you know what that song’s about? chicken feet…rot. thanks for going to the shows, we’ll come back for sure.(All photos in this post were taken by yours truly, and all flyers are from my personal collection.)

Tenebrous Tomes & Lurid Literature

Posted in Lurid Literature with tags , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by backstabbath

My financial affairs have been rather deficient lately, so my weekly to bi-weekly trips to my beloved used bookstores have been curtailed quite significantly. Last week I did, nonetheless, manage a trip to the big Half Price Books here in Austin on North Lamar. As is usually the case I did manage to find more books than I could afford, so I had to bypass the books on the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry that I was eyeing. There was also a really nice book in the rare book room about Amicus Films that at a whopping $150.00 was out of my price range. Perusing the collectible Sci-Fi section, however, did net me some rather obscure goodies with exceptionally lurid covers. I am a sucker for old vintage pulp horror paperbacks, especially the ones that have to do with witchcraft and occultism…and the trashier and sleazier the cover art, the better.

My first find was a nifty little novel from 1969 about black magic entitled, of course, “Black Easter” by James Blish. After glancing at the title on the book’s spine, I just knew the cover was going to suit my perverse sensibilities and it did not disappoint with its wonderfully Satanic charm. All of the required trappings were there, including candles, ancient grimoire, and skull. And this skull has little devil horns to boot! Huzzah!

From the back cover blurbs:

“In the sulphurous wake of Rosemary’s Baby has come a book on the ultimate feat of black magic that makes Ira Levin’s bestseller book look like The Five Little Peppers.”  – This World

“Black Easter is a frightening book, full of information on black magic, but frightening, really frightening, even to those who do not believe in devils or demons.”  – San Antonio Express

Next up, I found a copy of “The Ka of Gifford Hillary” by the UK’s master of the macabre and preeminent authority on all things witchy and devilish, Dennis Wheatley. If you are unfamiliar with the man, his sinister influence can be felt throughout much of 60s-70s era British horror cinema (Hammer Films adapted both Wheatley’s “The Devil Rides Out” and “To The Devil…A Daughter” for the screen) and ultimately on the creation of that little-known genre of music that we now call heavy metal, as I’m sure Messrs. Iomi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward would gladly attest to.

From the back cover:

“Britain is bitterly divided, torn internally by a crisis of national security. At the Government’s request, Sir Gifford Hillary throws himself into the secret struggle against the might of Soviet Russia. But danger is closer than even he suspects. Unknown to him, a tangled web of hatred and betrayal is already reaching out from Longshot Hall itself. Then, on the night of 9th September, an event occurs which shatters the bounds of human experience. Gifford Hillary witnesses his own death…”

I now own two copies of “The Devil Rides Out” and a copy of “Gateway To Hell”. My hunt for the rest of Wheatley’s black magic titles continues…

Wasted Life: An interview with D.R.I. vocalist, Kurt Brecht.

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , on January 8, 2012 by backstabbath

(This interview that I conducted in 2000 originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Whoopsy Magazine. I’ve included it here as well so that more  people have the chance to read it.)

I’m fairly certain that if you are reading this then you are at least somewhat familiar with the Texas-born band, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, or D.R.I. as they are more commonly known, so I won’t go into a long-winded account of the band’s history. I would, however, like to shed a little light on what they’ve meant to me throughout the years and on how their music was instrumental in exposing me to underground music. I must’ve been around fifteen or sixteen years old when I first heard D.R.I. At this point, I was already into bands and artists like Aerosmith, Van Halen, Twisted Sister, and Ted Nugent and I was starting to get into heavier stuff like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Growing up in a conservative town like Waco offered me very little opportunities for release, so one of my favorite activities back then was to go down to the local Hastings to shop for cassette tapes.

Back then I didn’t have anyone to expose me to cool new music since I don’t have any siblings and none of my other friends or relatives were into heavier styles of music, so essentially, I was on my own. On one particular trip to Hastings I came across the cassette release of D.R.I.’s Dirty Rotten LP and was instantly drawn to the wonderfully rendered cover of a skeletal soldier bursting through the door of some unknown residence. After looking over the track listing, I was intrigued by such subversive song titles as “I Don’t Need Society, “Money Stinks”, and “Capitalists Suck” and even more intrigued by the fact that they managed to fit 26 songs on one side of a cassette tape! I quickly purchased the tape and headed home, unaware of just how different D.R.I.’s music was compared to just about anything else out there, and of how much of an impact it was to have on my life.

The first thing I noticed when I popped the cassette into my tape deck and the first few notes of music began to blare out of the speakers, was that the production was extremely raw and when the opening mid-paced verse of “I Don’t Need Society” gave way to a virtually unrelenting blitzkrieg of blistering speed, the likes of which I’d never heard before, my first thought was, “What the hell? Are these guys ever going to slow down?”

After the tape ended I was somewhat bewildered, yet still intrigued, so I flipped over it again for another listen. During this second playback, as I read along with the lyrics, everything just clicked inside my head and it all made perfect sense. This was the truest sound of rebellion and rage, and of passion and unbridled aggression I’d ever heard. These guys were writing true songs of protest and were playing them at such an insane velocity, that your average listener would probably deem them utterly incomprehensible…and I loved every second of it.

D.R.I. exposed me to the world of extreme music and I dove into it headfirst and never looked back. They were playing hardcore music long before it was considered fashionable and before it became a “dirty” word. Hardcore, to me, was bands like D.R.I., Bad Brains, and Black Flag, and they have absolutely nothing in common with the fashion conscisous, trendy haircut, crybaby, cookie-cutter bands that comprise the majority of the hardcore and metalcore scenes today. However, before I go into an “old man” tirade about why today’s extreme music scene sucks, I’ll just get on with it. This interview was conducted with D.R.I. vocalist, Kurt Brecht, back in 2000 immediately after one of their shows here at The Back Room.

You guys toured with “The Social Chaos Tour” this past summer which was basically an “old-school” punk fest. I was wondering if you found the crowd to be more of the older punk rock types or was there a pretty good mixture of young and old, punk and non-punk?

Pretty much a mixture.

Overall, how was the response and turnout for the entire tour?

It was pretty good. You know, like any tour when you’re out playing seven nights a week – you’re just here or there on a Monday night and it may not be that good, but on Friday and Saturday nights it’s pretty good.

I was rather surprised by the show here in Austin because D.R.I. was billed as playing somewhere in the middle of the set, yet you guys ended up playing dead last.

There was a problem when we showed up in Austin. We arrived later than most of the other bands and there was kind of an uproar and the (promoters and club staff) were saying that they wanted us to play last. They were afraid that if we did not play last that everybody would leave, which I could not understand because I didn’t think we were that popular in Austin. Just from the vibe going on outside, before we got (to the club); everybody decided it would be better if we played last, so we were thinking, “Why aren’t we the headlining band?”

That’s exactly how I felt because you guys were the only reason I came out and I ended up having to literally wait around all day and night.

That’s what everybody else was saying too but it just didn’t end up happening that way, and what’s kind of fucked up is that the headlining bands got paid a lot more money than we did for the whole tour. Not only in Austin, but in other towns we were asked to play later.

When I first saw the band roster for the tour, I remember thinking that D.R.I. may be a bit too “metallic” or metal-tinged compared to the rest of the bands on the bill, although after witnessing your live set I noticed that it primarily consisted of songs from your first two albums. Was this consistent for the rest of the tour?

Yeah. What we played here in Austin that night was basically the set we had for the whole tour because it wasn’t our headlining set. It was just an opening set, about half an hour long.

You guys played “Suit and Tie Guy”, “Thrashard”, and “Do the Dream” from the Four of a Kind and Thrash Zone albums but I think the rest of the material was mainly from the The Dirty Rotten LP and Dealing With It.

During that tour we had days off and we played our full set. We even got to do some shows with TSOL where we each got to play our headlining sets. That was really cool.

So, what’s the word on a new album? I hear that you are going back to the “hardcore punk” sound of the first two LP’s.

We have no new album. We have no record label. We had our own record label called Rotten Records which our manager ran. We fired him and he’s still running the label so I don’t think we’ll be doing a record with him. We’re searching for a label and we don’t have a lot of offers. Nobody seems interested.

Is there any chance of you putting the album out yourselves, somehow?

No. We don’t have the money for that. It’s very expensive, not only to record the record, but also to promote and produce it.

I checked out the D.R.I. web site a while back and read that the band had written quite a few new songs that were in the vein of your older and faster songs.

Yeah, we have some new songs but we haven’t put a lot of time into (them) because of the fact that we don’t have a record label.

At this point a zealous, wide-eyed, and visibly intoxicated fan wandered over to our table to voice his appreciation for D.R.I.’s music.

“I’ve been listening to you guys since I was thirteen fucking years old, man! Thanks a lot, man.”

To which Kurt graciously replied, “Thank you”.

“How long are you guys gonna do this shit? Until you fall down?”

“Probably, until I fall off the stage,” responded Kurt.

Then the drunken patron went into a tale about the time he met Lemmy of Motorhead and asked him the same question, which unsurprisingly elicited a similar response.

“Sure. What else are you gonna do? I’ve already wasted my life. I mean, I don’t have any other skills,” offered Kurt honestly.

The guy thanked Kurt once again and headed back to the bar, as his cup of beer was dangerously close to being empty. I immediately engaged Kurt in more conversation.

A lot of lyrics for D.R.I. songs seem to have started out as one of your poems, which leads me to wonder about the song writing process. Which comes first, the lyrics or the music? Basically, what is the D.R.I. method for writing songs?

I’ll give lyrics to Spike and he’ll write music to them and sometimes he’ll write music and I’ll put lyrics to that.

You’ve put out a few books on your own publishing company, Dirty Rotten Press. Your last book, Whore Stories, is a collection of stories written from the first person perspective, about various exploits and encounters with different whores and prostitutes. At the beginning there is a disclaimer that states that the book is entirely a work of fiction, yet after reading it I got the impression that there may have been some truth to some of the stories or that they may have been based on actual personal experiences or situations. Care to comment?

There is absolutely no truth in that (book).

No truth at all? You mean to tell me that the entire book is a work of fiction?

Yeah, it’s something I made up in my own sick mind.

Isn’t there a bit of it that may be real?

Well, some of it could be true about other people’s stories that they’ve given me…or something like that. You know what I’m talking about.

What about your first book, Word War I? Is that still available?

Word War I was the first book that I put out. It was photocopied and stapled together. I only made a hundred copies. It was all poems, photographs, and drawings of mine and it ended up in Notes From The Nest. So that’s why I never really reproduced that one.

So there is some of it that hasn’t been reprinted?

Yeah. There is some stuff that people haven’t seen out of there. Some people have been wanting it lately and I told them that I would check it out when I got home from this tour and see what I could do.

I wouldn’t mind getting a copy of that myself.

Yeah, I’ll see what I can do. I was selling them for like, three dollars each and they went real fast. Originally, I just put it out so I’d have some money because we were going on tour year after year and we were starving. I was starving to death, basically. I was so skinny and weak and everything. I could barely even survive on tour and I needed something, you know. I saw other people like Henry Rollins selling books and I thought, “I gotta put something out. I gotta put some kind of book out and sell ’em so I can have some money (while) on tour.”

We never actually had any money to split up to live on. Our money was to pay for gas and hotels and our van and repairs and all that kind of shit. So that book, when it came out, was basically for that, but like I said, it sold out real fast and didn’t really help me out that much. After that I just started putting out other books. It’s the same thing basically now. We don’t really get paid much except for whatever we do on the side – like my books.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I do, yeah, but I can’t put them out because I can’t afford to. All the money that I make from my other books…I just spend it.

So, are you currently working any other jobs?

I have a regular job, yeah. Construction…remodeling. My boss is always pissed off when I go on tour. When I come back I don’t really expect to have my job back but usually he’ll (rehire) me after a week or so. He doesn’t like to hire me back right away because he thinks I get too complacent (and that I think) I can come and go as I please, so he’ll say, “Well, I don’t really need you now,” but after about a week he’ll call me and say, “All right”.

Back in ’89 when the Thrash Zone LP came out, and after reading the lyrics to the song “Gun Control“, which is basically a song about the need for stricter gun control laws, I remember being really surprised by the stance taken on that particular issue.

I didn’t write that song! Spike wrote those lyrics. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want those lyrics, but there are a lot of lyrics of mine that he doesn’t like either and he compromises, right. So I compromised with that song, and we rarely played it live, if at all.

So, what are your views on Gun Control?

I’m not into control at all.

Yeah. I always found those lyrics to be somewhat odd, especially coming from a band that seemed to have such strongly anti-authoritarian views, as evidenced on songs like “Counter Attack” and “I Don’t Need Society”.

Yeah, the deal was that Spike lived in Oakland with his wife in kind of a bad part of town, and at night all around his house, machine guns would be going off all the time. (When you’re) living in the city and people are shooting all around your house, you’re on the floor a lot of times at night because you’re afraid that a bullet’s going to come ricocheting through your wall. So, he came out with that song and he believed very strongly in it. I don’t know if he still does, but he did at the time and I had to respect that.

D.R.I. has been around since the early 80s when the hardcore punk movement was going strong, and the band managed to do well during the heyday of thrash and speed metal in the late 8os/early 90s and is still going strong here in 2000. What is your opinion on the current state of the metal/hardcore scene, especially considering the proliferation of so many rap-metal and black metal bands?

I like rap-metal and I like some black metal too. I feel that bands like ours should just get together with other bands and make big tours and go out, kind of like we did with the Social Chaos Tour. Bands like us and D.O.A. and bands like that that are still together and have been around for a long time may not be able to make it just going around on their own. We should just get together and present a good package rather that having somebody pay $15.00 to see us with some local bands that they’ve never heard of, or that they can see every night for free. I think we should just continue to do that sort of thing, but as it is right now, we do shit on our own a lot of times because that’s what the booking agency wants.

There’s something that’s been bugging me for years. There’s a song on Crossover called “I.D.K.Y.” After reading those lyrics over and over I’ve never been able to come up with even the slightest clue as to what that acronym could mean. What that hell does I.D.K.Y. stand for?

I don’t know yet. We were working on the song and Spike kept asking me every day, when we’d show up at practice, “Do you have a name for that song yet?”

I kept telling him, “I don’t know yet; I don’t know yet,” and he said, “Well, let’s just call it I.D.K.Y. (for) I don’t know yet.”

I couldn’t come up with a name and I still never have, so that’s what it ended up being.

What’s the key to D.R.I.’s longevity?

We like to go on tour (and) we like to travel a lot. None of us have ever wanted to be in some other band, otherwise we just would’ve split up and started other bands…and our fans that keep coming back and wanting us, and writing to us, and calling us, and e-mailing us, and saying “Come back on tour (and) come to our town. We love you guys. We like you and we like your songs.”

How can you give it up? You can become addicted to it. Like I said, I have a regular job and everything (but) when I go home and I check my e-mail and I’ve got e-mails from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, and places like that, with all these people asking, “When are you gonna come back to our town? We’re waiting for you to come”.

You know, they push you into it. It’s an ego trip, basically.

As long as you guys keep coming around, I’ll definitely keep coming to check you out. I don’t make it out to as many shows as I once did, but I always make it a point to catch all my favorite bands.

I’m the same way.

I guess that’s about it. Any last words?

I’d like to thank Austin for being there for us. At first we never had good shows in Austin because we were from Houston and people here didn’t like us. After we got Felix in the band, (and because) he was from Austin, we started doing better. Now that nobody thinks we’re from Houston, it doesn’t really matter (anymore).

(All live photos in this post are courtesy of Scott McCauley)

01-21-12

Posted in flyers, Mala Suerte on January 7, 2012 by backstabbath

The ever-evolving world of Mala Suerte.

Posted in Mala Suerte with tags , , on January 5, 2012 by backstabbath

What can I say? At this point, I might as well proclaim that this band has become somewhat like Spinal Tap with regards to line-up shifts. It has been almost two years since my last post and a lot has changed here at the MS camp, for sure. After the departure of founding guitarist, David Guerrero, and the recruitment of new axe-man, Jeff Nettles, we got busy with the seemingly difficult work of writing new material. We did manage to actually write one entire new song before things came to a head, or hit a wall, and after a gig with Eyehategod in San Antonio in December of 2010 we parted ways with long-time drummer and friend, John Petri. Incidentally, for those of you who are interested, John is doing well and keeping busy with one of Austin’s finest metal acts, The Blood Royale. Do yourself a favor and check them out here in town, as they play locally quite often.

Not long after John’s departure I remember calling Dave up to see how he was doing and to catch up a bit. Upon mentioning the current state of band affairs I remember him saying something like, “So, do you want me to write some riffs, or what?”

Soon after, I met up with Dave at a local watering hole and he gave me a CD with several new tracks that he’d been working on. Upon leaving, I popped it into the CD player of my truck and almost immediately after hearing the very first track of dark, acoustic, psych/folk I was almost brought to tears. This piece basically summed up all the negativity and sadness that had been consuming me and was exactly where my mind was at musically and emotionally. That pretty much sealed the deal and Dave was back in the band. Much excitement and creativity quickly ensued and writing music with two guitarists for the first time proved to be very exciting and fruitful, and allowed us to reinforce our sonic arsenal. Before we were even ready to start playing live again we were asked to play the opening slot for Saint Vitus here in Austin at Red 7 on Dec. 11th 2011. We didn’t have a drummer at this point but I damn sure didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of opening up for one of my all-time favorite bands. After asking everyone that I thought would be a suitable fit, to no avail, I had almost given up hope. Then at the last-minute, one of my old friends, Tony Brownlow, offered his services and as it turned out ended being the perfect addition to the band. After intensive rehearsals we had a sufficient set complete with mostly new material which we even complemented with one of our old thrash blasts that we hadn’t played live in several years. The show with Vitus was a resounding success, yet before the night was over, Jeff informed me that he was going to be taking a sabbatical in Mississippi for an undetermined amount of time, and so, once again, after only one show, we were left as a four piece unit.

We were determined to keep going and we really liked the sound of the two guitar format but didn’t have anyone in mind as a replacement for Jeff. Not long after, on a drunken night, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Vincent Pina, offered to step in on rhythm guitar until Jeff’s return. I didn’t really put much weight in his offer, as is so often the case with inebriated conversations at 4 AM, I figured it may have been just the alcohol talking, but he mentioned it to me again soon after and the all-crushing boulder of doom was rolling once again. Vincent hadn’t played guitar for quite a number of years (local heshers may recall his contributions in local bands, Evilution and Debauchery) but it didn’t take him long to get his chops back. His groovier rhythmic style of writing was quickly put to use in one of our newest songs which runs the gamut stylistically, incorporating everything from doom, psych, thrash and death. Currently, we are hard at work on a variety of new material and hope to have a new EP out in the very near future. In the meantime, you can catch the latest incarnation of Mala Suerte live at The Dirty Dog here in Austin on January 21st.

The end of an era.

Posted in Mala Suerte on January 30, 2010 by backstabbath

For those of you who are privy to Mala Suerte’s inner circle and for many of the people involved in the local underground music scene this will probably be old news, so this is basically for everyone else. Several months ago, co-founding member and guitarist David Guerrero decided it was time for him to graciously make his exit from the band to concentrate on other areas of his life and to pursue other musical interests. I’m sure it was a difficult decision for him to make as this band was a big part of his life for over a decade, but this was something that had been brewing for quite some time. We certainly hated to see him go and I can assure you that there are no hard feelings between Dave and the rest of the band. He will always be our brother.

I must admit that even though I knew that his departure was an eventuality, I was still somewhat shocked. I think the idea that this band was going to come to an end was a bit more than I wanted to face, but I had always said that if either Dave or I were to quit, that would be the end of Mala Suerte. And so that was it. I toyed around with different scenarios about new projects and thought about just focusing on my visual art for a brief period but I never really came to a concrete decision.  Since I was now the only original member of the band remaining, Mike and John left the matter of whether or not the band would continue solely up to me. After discussing the matter with many close friends and after much encouragement from many individuals whose opinions I respect, I decided that my work with Mala Suerte was not yet done and that the band was to continue on. Just so we’re clear, I didn’t arrive at this conclusion very easily, as Dave’s distinct guitar sound and style was a key part of what made Mala Suerte the band that it is today, but it is our intention to continue to make music that honors the work and creativity that he has put into the band over the last decade and to build and expand upon the sound that we have thus far developed.

Although Dave’s departure from the band came months ago, I was hesitant to post any news about it until we had an idea about what we were going to do. We put the word out to our fellow musicians that we were in need of a new guitarist and talked to many people involved in the local underground scene and we had many people offer to fill in, but ultimately no one really felt right. Finally, a friend and guitarist from other area bands, Jeff Nettles, offered his services and after a couple of rehearsals we quickly realized that he was the man for the job. In addition to already being a fan of the band and being capable of playing  the doom-laden riff he is also very proficient at many other styles and I think he’ll bring a possibly even more metallic approach to the band.  Jeff’s also a pretty cool and easy going guy so we hope that everyone welcomes him with open arms.

That being said, David’s chapter of the band is not yet closed. In addition to an upcoming split 7″ record which will feature his songwriting and guitar playing contributions, we will also be recording a cover song of an obscure 90’s era Austin band called Butterscotch Tuna. Look for both of those to be out sometime this year on our own label, Illwill Recordings…and if we can ultimately coerce him to do more, you may not have heard the last of him yet. Those releases aside, we’ve got plans for more splits and exciting musical collaborations in the coming months, so now is an exciting time for growth and creativity here at the Mala Suerte camp. Stay tuned.