November 13, 2011

The Stooges at the peak of their decadence

The Stooges – Metallic K.O. (1973, 1974)

This album sounds like it was recorded at some smoke-hazed cellar club where people are doing both kinds of blow in the bathroom, and it’s too crowded to even try and walk through the sea of rabid, dysfunctional twenty-somethings. The recording quality is so bad you’d think the sound guy was just some idiot picked off the street trying to score some money for pot. The album sounds so rough, the performances are full of obvious mistakes, and after you blast these tracks through your speakers you’ll be clinching like you just heard a thousand nails on an electric chalkboard.

So, why would anyone hold this album in high regard? Fuck man, ‘cause this is exactly what The Stooges are supposed to sound like. I don’t want to hear these guys playing a sold-out show for 100,000 people at Wembley stadium. The Stooges are a band who play shitty clubs for a handful of people, concerned with stuff that today's rock 'n' roll superstars wouldn't think twice about – like Iggy Pop yells into the mic back in ’74 “how much time do we have ‘til the power gets cut off?” 

This album is made up of a show on October 6, 1973, and The Stooges' final show–on February 9, 1974–before they broke up. You can tell in both shows how influenced Iggy is by Jim Morrison; he’s conversational on stage, he rants, he talks in slurs, and he improvises a lot of the lyrics on the spot, but you can’t ever mistake the two, especially not on a show like this.

What Iggy lacks in poetry, he more than makes up for in power and passion. He doesn’t sing the words, they burst out of his throat. Each time he barks, it sounds like he's about to cough up a lung. James Williamson is full of flaws as a guitar player, but he too, makes up for it with a guitar sound that could be used for a demolition crew. You can hear him pushing his amp so hard and so loud you can almost feel the speakers ripping apart from the inside. On bass Ron Asheton's—I’m just going to guess who was on the bill those days, so correct me if I’m wrong–Scott Thurston’s also got his amp so loud that his bass is distorting and causing so much feedback he has to keep it pounding harder than usual. With Scott Asheton setting a thunderous pace on drums, you don’t just have a wall of sound. You’ve got a fucking battalion. (Thanks to Dustin James for confirming the line-up).

Even the slow numbers sound visceral and diseased. “Gimme Danger” and “Open Up and Bleed” are full of improvised, almost pretentious lyrics–especially the latter. It's like Iggy’s some kind of Warholian exhibitionist selling the crowd his own decadence, and if he were in front of me right now–after I get over being starstruck–I’d gladly let him have every dime in my wallet. That’s because this guy challenged our perception of what art is and what art should be.

Punk rock was all about the message, and their depraved aesthetic was the building block for a new school of rock music. The Stooges invented punk rock along with The MC5, and The Velvet Underground, and what sets them apart from the ’77 bands is that they all oozed a different kind of personality, charisma, and some kind of charm that danced on the land-mine line between rock 'n' roll and punk. It was something different, almost Vaudevillian in its decadent attractiveness, and no one did it better than The Stooges.

The Stooges remind me of Hunter S. Thompson describing his character Gonzo from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “There he goes. One of God’s very own prototypes. Some kind of high-powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die.”

If you don’t like it, and you feel compelled to cast the proverbial tomato, Iggy would probably tell you what he told the crowd back in ’73: “you pricks can throw every goddamn thing in the world, and your girlfriend will still love me, you jealous cocksuckers.”
Image from
The Stooges preach the credo of raw power. This live album is as raw and powerful as a bloody steak slapped across the face. Finding any live material from pre-1974 Stooges is a hassle enough on its own, but to find two full bootlegged shows available to anyone with an iTunes account (or Internet access, really) is incredible. I only wish I could see these shows live.

You hear all these myths and legends about The Stooges' live performances back at the peak of their decadence, but we're only exposed to a handful of bootlegs in audio and even fewer video recordings. If you've chewed up the records and need an extra fix, cook up a batch of Metallic K.O. and serve it straight up your favorite vein.

November 12, 2011

The Nasty Souls

Hollywood, California. The spring of 2011. Show after show, venue after venue, night after night, I come out feeling completely ripped off. “Why do I always pay 10 bucks to see these assholes play? Can somebody shoot me in the fucking head please?”. Physical talent scouting sucks, I’ll just stick to myspace from now on before I ever pay to see a a god damn shit show.

It was about 6 PM on a dead Monday night. I go to the liqueur store next to my apartment to get some groceries. The marquee of the Whisky A Go Go from a distance displays: “Classic Rock Night: The Nasty Souls”. Interesting. I go back to my apartment and throw the groceries on the table. Clickity, clickity, clickity, clickity. There’s no music posted in any of The Nasty Souls’ social network sites. Fuck. Not this again. Now I have to physically go see the band to find out if they’re good or not. Whatever. There’s nothing else to do on a Monday night. And I sure as shit ain't gonna see Steel Panther again for the 72350124975th time. I put my leather jacket on and head to the Whisky.

This guy who looks like Jim Morrison with very long hair hits the stage. Everybody else in the band all look like they just came out of an early issue of Creem magazine. I like my rock n roll to have the swagger and vibe of Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. And I haven’t seen anyone come close to that vibe in eons. The bands these days are either too hipster or too fratty or too slobby or too dark or too saturated. None of which feel very “rock n roll” to me ... until I looked at The Nasty Souls ..

Ok, they have the look, but do they have the chops? Honestly, they were only decent. I enjoyed 2 numbers, the rest were mildly amusing but nothing too mind blowing. They were the kind of discovery that you’d call a “potential”, but they weren’t a debut-ready showstopping act yet. Being in the state of mind that I was in though, finding a band that isn’t absolutely terrible -like the rest of the shitshows I experienced- was a huge delight. So at the time, I thought that I just struck gold. Alright Trip, walk up to them and introduce yourself.

Anthony of The Dirty Eyes was close to the stage. I ask him: “Hey brother are you their manager? I’d really love to meet the band”. “Huh? Yeah yeah. Brett!” he calls out. Brett is no where to be seen. I see Jeff Turpin (bass), Dustin James (rhythm guitar) and Matty Dee (lead guitar) loading their gear outside. I walk up to them and introduce myself. Matty and I talk about music and I bring up that I just came from New York. “All my favorite bands are from New York”, Dustin interrupts, “The Dolls, The Velvet Underground. I love that shit. That’s my favorite scene”. Dustin had a very serious tone in his face. It felt like talking jams is the only thing that's important to him and nothing else deserves his attention. He's kinda like me. I instantly loved him.

Turpin was silent the whole time. Always with a subtle smile on his face. He had that warm hearted innocence about him. He likes to leave people alone and let them be. Their drummer, Luis, at the time was the new guy. I didn't notice him. He felt like their sessionist cause’ he wasn't dressed like the rest of the band. So I figured he was a hired gun. I turn to Matty and ask "Listen I'm a blog guy. I'd love to do a web show thing with you guys or whatever". Matty feels uncomfortable talking business. "Yeah talk to Brett about that" he evades me as he loads the rest of his gear. I turn around and find a cheerful face in front of me. "Hey what's up bud!". It's Brett. "I just joined the band 7 months ago! I love it!". Ok. So this line up is still in it's infancy. Interesting.

I make arrangements with him and he gets excited about everything I say like a spirit that never runs out of enthusiasm. Yes. This is the exact kind of energy I need to build a great scene here. Right there and then, I had a feeling that this is the beginning of a real rock n roll movement in LA.

Brett and I correspond over text. The guy puts at least 7 smiley faces in each text he sends me. No ego at all. The rest of the people I dealt with before were too standoffish thinking that they're hot shit, but not Brett. A class act, that guy.

I wanted to investigate if there's a demand for the kind of rock n roll they're doing. And if there isn't, I wanted them to be a story to inspire the rest of the Los Angeles scene. I want rock n roll to have more of that Peter Fonda vibe back so I wanted to campaign them and sell the shit out of them. So I go inside their rehearsal space with 4 camera men and I interview them. The silent Turpin finally speaks up. And to my surprise, I got my best soundbites out of that guy. Him and Dustin, they had an intense drive and passion for rock n roll. The resolve and fight in the answers of Turpin and Dustin were the best. The rest of the fellas said good stuff too, but it's funny to see how those who talk the least in real life have the best things to say when they're on the record. After we were all done, they take us to their rehearsal space and they perform a number for us in front of the cameras. The first thing that came to my mind was, why the fuck didn't I see this at the Whisky!? "We just wrote this", Brett mentions. "It's called You're Lovin' Ain't That Good". Maybe her lovin' wasn't but the song is pretty damn good!

I wake up the next day with a text from Turpin. "Hey how about those beers?" I read. I visit Nasty Souls manor. Jeff and Dustin are inside. Posters of The Rolling Stones, The Stooges and The Velvet Underground are all over the place. We go to a night out in the town and come back to the manor a little buzzed. Turpin gets more talkative than he ever was. Talking about how unfair the industry is and what we should do about it. "We needs cats like you, Trip. Someone like Andy Warhol who pushed the Velvet Underground". Holy shit Jeff, nobody ever said that to me. I'm no Andy Warhol but thanks, that means a lot to me! Matty and Brett pop up at the manor. Me and Matty exchange songs that we turn each other on to and Brett just dances to all of it with his girl. Matty is so deep into everything about black music. Whether it's blues, soul, motown, funk or disco. He could listen to any hip hop song and tell you exactly which song they sampled it from. John Sinclair told us that we learn how to be hip from black music and Matty really understood that. He likes his music dirty too. Two of his favorites are Rick James and Prince. No wonder they call themselves the "Nasty" Souls.

The combination of minds in that band really made me predict a great collaboration. Especially after that day in their rehearsal room when they wrote "Lovin' Ain't That Good". I saw promise. I kept visiting them and I had long conversations with Brett and Matty about songwriting. Matty is a writing machine. Every time I see him, he goes: "Yo Trip I just wrote something!". Then he either describes it to me or plays it for me. I always give him my brutal honest opinion about his ideas. His buzz gets completely murdered then he gives me a look that says: "I'm gonna get you someday, I'm gonna write something really good and you're gonna love it". I almost felt like a producer when I was hanging out with them. Of course I really SUCKED at attempting to be a "producer". I realized that all my input was forcing them to be Deep Purple or Grand Funk or some shit. I wanted them to be a copy of MY favorite bands. I never really gave them any input to be their own beast. Lesson learned, understand the band before you open your mouth. If I ever become a producer someday I'll never forget that lesson.

Dustin and I drive back from a gig they did in Santa Monica. Here I am thinking I can teach them shit or "guide" them or whatever then Dustin opens my eyes to the biggest epiphany I ever had in my life. He taught me that the most important roots music of all isn't just blues. It's Chuck Berry. "Chuck Berry is the most punk rock guy on the planet. He just tours around with his shitty car. He parks that shitty car and gets his shitty guitar out of his shitty trunk, he walks up on stage and finds 4 musicians and goes 'Hey you're all in my band now. We play in a couple of hours'. That's the most punk rock thing in the fucking planet!". He lays it down on me with that super serious face again. He says it all with a heavy passion. I've heard a lot of people telling me how important Chuck Berry if you’re doing a rock n roll sound but I was never sold on it until Dustin talked about it. Bon Scott era AC/DC is Dustin's favorite band. He made me connect the dots when he told me how AC/DC got their sound from Chuck. I always see Luis walking around with either a Chuck Berry shirt or an Mc5 shirt. No wonder they chose him as their drummer.

As I dropped him off to his place he lays down something even heavier before he leaves: "Trip, if it weren't for you we'd probably slip and be what the industry wants us to be. We need you to keep us on our toes". I literally didn't know what to say. "Thanks Trip, if you ever see us do it again, set us straight". Shit man, I never felt this important to anyone in my life.

It's been weeks since I saw any of their live shows. I've been so busy with my film projects that I was out of touch with everyone. Brett's been giving me some cool news about a producer from San Francisco that wants to help them develop their sound. Anytime I had a break from work to hit an ihop with him he texts back: "Can't bud we're in pre-pro brotha!". Smiley faces sprinkled all over the screen of the phone as usual. I finally cut together the 1st episode of my web series. Featuring non other than the Nasty Souls with footage of the interviews I did and live performances included. After I screen it to them, Dustin looks at it and says: "We can't release this. It'll misrepresent us. Our new songs are much better". What new songs? What are they talking about?

I go to a gig ... they're a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BAND. A go to another one, they play a bunch of songs that "they just wrote". I go to another one, they play more songs that "they just wrote". Not only that, all their old songs are rearranged and injected with superhooks. No lag or filler in any of it's parts. What the fuck did I miss while I was gone?! I was only away for a couple of weeks! Shit!! They're being booked in everyone's birthday bash and they're everywhere. They're almost playing 2 gigs a week. One of which was a house party in Compton. They never turn a down a request. And EVERYONE is booking them. They're relentless!

My absolute favorite is what they did with Lovin' Ain't That Good. It's a thousand times better now. It feels like an opening title sequence of a blaxploitation movie. Isaac Hayes did Shaft and Curtis Mayfield did Superfly. If anyone in Hollywood wants to do a blaxploitation movie, call The Nasty Souls now! Granted, they're all white + 1 hispanic. I guess a better term for that sound could be called "whiteploitation".

All kidding aside, if I were to give their sound a description I'd call it "High Voltage Blue Eyed Soul". All their songs are starting to have a consistent signature. As opposed to different sounding genres spread out in different numbers like they had when they started out. I look at their old YouTube clips online and I can't recognize them at all. Brett's frontmanship is that of cheerfuless. His spirit is contagious when he sings. Even serious ol' Dustin gets all cheered up when Brett does his magic on stage. He lifts the whole crowd's energies up. Shit, he lifts my energy up with that cheerfulness just by his text messages. Luis just always steals my eye. I saw Brian Tischy when he was still a nobody with George Lynch. When I saw the way he played I said, "That guy is gonna be a fucking legend!". And I was right. He's crazy hyped in the press now. I have the exact same feeling when I see Luis play on stage. He steals everyone's eyes when he performs. The band improved that much. I was really curious to meet this producer they're working with.

My phone rings, it's Matty: "Yo Trip, Bill saw the rough cut of your show. He wants to come to your place and talk". "Uhh .. yeah man he's more than welcome ..". Bill Cutler, their producer, comes inside my place with his small afro and jean jacket. Matty and their sound engineer, Mark, roll inside with him. We talk shop then we find out about each other's histories. Turns out Bill was a contemporary of everyone in the Haight Ashbury scene in the 60's. The way he talked .. holy shit dude.. I was observing him with my documentarian brain, and the guy could pack a million enlightening insights in two soundbites! I HAVE to get this guy to do commentary for my show. Maybe he could even write an entry for this blog. He's really intelligent and literate. I wanted to steal him for the cause. No wonder their songs kick so much ass.

Every party I meet Matty in, he still says the same thing: "Yo Trip, I just wrote a new song". I answer: "When are the souls playing it?". "Nah this isn't for the Souls. I just wrote it, I don't know what to do with it". Holy shit Matty, you have that much surplus? Every time I go to the Rainbow everyone is complaining about their band mates. "You see how The Nasty Souls are now? They're playing is tight. I wish my band can play as tight as they can". I never thought they'd evolve that fast. They're the fastest growing band I know. Out of all the talent roster I'm trying to push and campaign, they are my crown jewel and proudest discovery as of yet.

So here's my answer to you Turpin. I'm no Andy Warhol that's a trump card for you, you and the rest of the Souls are the trump card for me. And I'm counting on you guys to take this wave to the stars.

The Nasty Souls are gonna stop playing for the holidays so these are their last shows of the year. And being that this show is at The Roxy, it's their biggest last show of the year. This performance is gonna be taped for the web series so show up looking all pretty and sexy.

They're playing TONIGHT 11-11-11 at 11:30 PM with Hammered Satin (10:30) and Them Howling Bones (12:30).

8$ cover.

ROXY THEATER 9015 Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood. Don’t miss it. This show goes up to 11 11 11!!

November 9, 2011

Hammered Satin

On a cold December night in Manhattan, “the band from LA” was all the talk as everyone was flocking to another Kelle Calco night at the Bowery Electric. A bunch of cool bands played on the bill then finally, Hammered Satin hit the stage. A California tanned front man, Noah Wallace, blinded our eyes with the flare of his glitter attire. The way he acted and talked was like a movie star diva strutting in front of photographers on a red carpet.

A lot of people were into it, but the New York in me kept stirring with anti-LA sentiments. “Who the fuck is this LA mannequin monkey clown?” I raged. After a few numbers, my instinct was to just haul ass and ditch the party. Just as my foot was at the exit, Noah speaks. “This is called Glitter Goddess”, he announced.

Oh Gimme a break. What is this? A female empowerment anthem by a bunch of dudes?. I wanted to leave but the outrage that was about to happen was too compelling to miss.

The opening foot stomping riffs halted me in my tracks. My body faced the exit although my eye can’t help but peek at the show. “Girl you rock like a boulder, through the windshield of a car”. That’s a cool fucking line. Then the chorus. He squealed like a siren of an alien cosmo spaceship. And the back up vocals sounded like a larger than life army marching to get you. I see Noah spider crawling on the ground then springing back up all over the club. He’s almost like a villain in a Marvel world comic book. And his vocal delivery sounds like Dick Dastardly of that Hannah Barbara cartoon. With that voice, you keep expecting him to say “Mutleeeeeeeeey!! Dooooooooo somethiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!!!”. Before I knew it, I was in this awkward standing position next to the exit for the whole number.

I was in denial that I stuck around for that whole song. “Fuck this”, I told my self. So I fucked off to Hudson, where Kelle had his after party. Noah shows up. Shit. While everyone else is mingling and conversing, I see him doing a weird hip shaking boogie movement next to all the go go dancers. Then he started DJing after Kelle. Alright, let me have a conversation with the guy. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two about LA since I’m moving there. We both stare at each other with blank faces. Completely uninterested in each other. We had this weird awkward small talk. My anti-LA sentiments grew bigger. “Ok thanks”. I guess that’s the last time I’ll ever see them again.

After I moved to Los Angeles, I find them at another party. Shit. This time I meet the guitar player, Conor Behrle. The people at the party kept telling me that they wrote new songs and the testimonials say that they’re very tight. Since I’m “that guy from New York” who met “that band from LA” when they were in New York and .. well .. now I’m in LA, I figured he’d remember me. I really hate the band, but my professionalism told me that I can’t let my personal grudges interfere in my evaluation of talent. (The same token goes about my personal friendship with a band won’t affect my evaluation if I think they suck).

I wanted to talk shop with Conor for a bit. He had a half numb face. He had an eye lid that was about to close and another eye lid half open.“Hey man, get the fuck outta here” he slurs to someone. I talk to him for a while and we actually had a cool conversation. Turns out there’s more to these guys than I thought.

One day, I catch one of their shows at Crazy Girls. They played the set. “Fuck .. They’re good …”. It sucked to admit it. Noah is a force of nature. All the other bands have singers that make you snore. Noah, on the other hand, does this..

He runs down on stage, grabs a random girl, jumps her down on the floor and DRY HUMPS her in front of everyone! … WHOA!! The songs had this deep bass tone, you can’t help but get down to it. It’s the kind of bass work that feels like a soundtrack of fucking a fat chick. Then they play “glitter goddess”. Heeeeeeeeeeey. That’s the shit they played in New York.

As I walk around in Hollywood with my ipod, Glitter Goddess is stuck in my head. I was playing some Slade at the time and I was scrolling up and down to find Glitter Goddess, then I come to my senses and go “Shit. That’s not a Slade song. It’s that Hammered Satin band that wrote it”. I go to iTunes. Defeated. Then I cave in. I buy the song. I stopped resisting Hammered Satin’s whacky appeal. It’s official, I am now a Hammered Satin fan.

Their other songs aren’t posted online yet. One that I really love is “Rock n Roll Discotek”. Just when you think it has the average pop arrangement, the drums, bass and guitar does this loud heavy sexual chaos that happens in the middle. Kind of like the chaos in the middle of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. I love it when songs catch you off guard like that! I wish there was a complete live YouTube clip of it but all I could find was a clip where you can only catch the end of that chaotic trance. You can catch a glimpse of what I mean here.

I got to know Noah and Conor overtime. They’re pretty funny people. And Noah is one of the wackiest personalities I ever met in my life. I’ve been hearing stories about the bass player, Dan Sandvick. There’s one where, in a drunken whim in their Sweden tour, Dan randomly decides to grab a canoe at 6:00 AM in the morning and just sails far away into the sunrise. Then he was mad at the band for not finding him in the middle of the ocean when “he was lost”. I’ll leave that story for later.

Noah is a brat inside an adult’s body. And I mean that in awesome way. Especially when the rascal inside him shines on stage. Arthur Rimbaud said: “Genius is the recovery of childhood at will”. Noah didn’t lose touch with that. And Jack Kerouac said: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”.

People like David Lee Roth, Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper are examples of who Kerouac was talking about. And to see someone who isn’t afraid to be mad like Noah Wallace makes me a little proud that I’m a part of the early supporters of Hammered Satin. It’s good to see madness again.

Hammered Satin is the kind of band that polarizes their audiences. You will either extremely hate them, or you will extremely hate them but can’t help but dig them later. Noah brings “the brat” not only out of himself, but out of his crowd too. Once the show is done, you’re gonna start nagging until they play again.

Get yer dose of wacky here before the show.

Hammered Satin hit the stage on 11/11/11 at The Roxy Theater at 10:30 PM alongside The Nasty Souls and Them Howling Bones. Start nagging and get that ticket!