August 8, 2013

Bonzai!: Debut Show in Philadelphia

I'd like to apologize for my lack of activity the past few months. I'm more than ten articles behind. I left everybody with my word that I'll post the third installment of The Nasty Souls series. And I didn't. I was supposed to post about the album release of Hammered Satin's "Glamorama". Which is a great record and a very big deal. Not to mention their tour in Sweden. I was supposed to blog about The Biters and the Atlanta scene. I was supposed to blog about The Booze reunion. Which is also a very big deal. I was supposed to blog about The Baltimore scene. The comprehensive reports on The LA and New York scenes. I was supposed to blog about The Nuclears' new record. So much news and so much work to do. 

I missed out on Sonny Vincent's show here in New York with Dino's Boys and Barraracudas. I missed out when The Ravagers played here. Twice. I missed out on everything.

I've just been ass raped with film school lately. By 2015, once I'm done with film school, and hopefully make it to stay and work in the country, the activity here will be twenty-fold. The re-branding of this blog and launch of will take over. My documentary series on this whole counter culture will debut once goes live. And soon enough, this counter culture will grow bigger and there will be so much to report about that we will rival both the and constructs. 

I'm not supposed to be blogging right now. Principal photography for my first year thesis in film school is approaching and I'm behind on deadlines and I'm fucked with pre-production. But the guy I'm blogging about is about to have his first ever debut show with his new project. A guy that's extremely dear to me. One of the very few people that loves talking about and gets the same bands that I love. I would never miss out on a scoop like this. And I'm going to Philly this weekend to see him live. I don't care. I'm going out of my way for this. To me it is absolutely worth it. 

The guy I'm talking about is Lee Torres. Famously known in social network websites as "Cowabunga Banzai Geronimo". And this Saturday at Voltage Lounge at The High Five's monthly event "High Voltage", he will debut what I believe will be his magnum opus project: "Bonzai".   

Ladies and Gentlemen, Lee Torres. 

In my early encounters with you, you were wearing a Graveyard t shirt. When you joined my group "Rock n Roll Gems" on facebook you were posting rare Heavy 70's Proto-Metal bands. We always shoot the shit on Lucifer's Friend and Atomic Rooster ... etc. Then you brought up Bonzai.

I'm really psyched about the debut show. Finally.
Mainly because not a lot of my peers are into that genre other than Space Panther from Ventura CA. And the rest, sure they’re into it but they don't have a band with that shtick

Yeah hard rock has always been my real true love. Even being a part of the Philly punk and metal scene, I've never really considered myself a punk or metal head. I don't really refer to myself as anything but if I did I guess it would be a rocker. At least that's what they called us in high school. That and Longhairs, haha. But yeah in the past 5 years I would say I've had a real reconnection with 70s blues rock, hard rock and prog rock. Rediscovering bands I grew up listening to. And discovering some bands I had never listened to. Bands like Toad, Cactus, Captain Beyond, Birth Control, Lucifers Friend, Dust to name a few

I'll tell you a secret. I'm exactly like you, Hard Rock and early 70's Proto Metal are my favorite genres.
Here’s my issue. I know a lot of bands who are into the same influences that end up starting Stoner Rock bands. That's my only main concern. I'm a little afraid that Bonzai is gonna turn out like that. Is that a legitimate concern I should worry about?

Like take the 1st Graveyard record for instance. Did it stand out to you as much as the second one?
The first one was too moody and atmospheric instead of something that can live up to energetic live numbers like the second one.
It's just that I know a lot of bands that quote Sabbath and Dust and Atomic Rooster that  fall into the trap of making it sound too Stoner Rock instead of Hard Rock.
So where does Bonzai fall?

I really like stoner rock, but no that is not the sound we are going for. When I write I try to stay strictly to that classic hard rock sound mixed with a little punk and a little metal, high energy stuff, if anything I can see us sometimes getting more thrashy or metal, but mostly the idea for the band is high energy rock and roll, I wanted to be in a band where I could be weird and pumped up on stage while playing blues solos.

Oh I like Stoner Rock too. I just think there were too much of them recently that it's gonna prevent a Budgie/Dust/Blue Cheer-influenced band from being a stand out.
Aside from you and a few others in the Philly community, [Joe Reno, Kelly Broll and Eddie Gieda come to mind], I don't know anybody in Philly that quotes those particular bands that often. I'm familiar that most people in that community are mainly into punk. How easy was it for you to find band mates who are into the same bands and into the same vision?

It definitely took me awhile. This is a project I've been working on some time now. I'll go into who the band members are. Dave Mendez, our bass player, has been a friend of mine since we were in high school, we've known each other and have been good friends for a long time. We've always listened to the same music and wanted to be in bands together since we were teens so I knew the chemistry would be there. In fact we were both in our previous band Vulcan which was thrash metal. Jack Oswald our keyboard player is a recent addition to the band, he plays keys in another band called Village which I refer to as Stoner blues. It's very mellow trancy stoner rock stuff. So far it's goin’ pretty good. Having that 70s synth/organ sound is definitely what I was looking for, we were gonna do without it for the time being but he jumped on so hopefully it turns out good, still writing some key parts. Johnny Mateu is a dude I've know from goin’ to shows for years and a biker buddy of mine. He's also a top FDR skater guy, does a lot with building the park. I knew he would be a good front man, loves rock and roll, and is a wild high energy mother fucker which I absolutely
Blake Anderson & Frank Chin
wanted for a front man. And the last two dudes who are really the building blocks for this band are Blake Anderson on drums and Frank Chin on guitar. These guys play together in what has become a very popular thrash metal band called Vektor who is signed to Earache records, one of the biggest labels in metal, and they’re all over the country and recently outside as well. They just played hellfest in France alongside fucking ZZ top and Kiss. These dudes up and movers their entire band from Arizona to Philly. And it really worked out to my advantage ‘cause Vektor is one of my favorite bands and I love getting to hang out and play music with these dudes. Originally I wanted Frank to play bass and have there be one guitar but he wanted to play guitar  too and we figured us together could really do some cool Harmony stuff and he writes as well. Blake is the glue that holds everything together, seriously talented musician, definitely the most talented out of all of
us. The drummer is the backbone of the band and I knew after jamming with Blake right away that Bonzai was going to be possible. Dudes also a crazy Zappa nut like me so that's pretty fuckin awesome too. Honestly I couldn't ask for better band mates, we all listen to the same stuff and understanding that I wanted Bonzai to be a hard rock band. Bunch a punk/metal head/biker/stoner/rockers playin’ 70s inspired hard rock

Aside from Graveyard or Bigelf (and now Bonzai). Do you know anyone else doing this shtick in the current landscape?
I know my friends from Ventura CA, Space Panther, are doing this shtick as well. But I was wondering if you know any others that I can explore

Yeah there’s a band from Philly called Hound and they're awesome 70s-esque rock and roll. Hoping to play a show with them soon.
And if you like Motorhead you’d love this band No Stayer. They’re d beat punk meets motorhead. Not really 70s rock but wanted to throw them out there cause they rule

I'd really love to see a comeback for heavy hard rock. My issue is that bands like Graveyard and Bigelf are still themed around "Gloom" and "Darkness". Which I think they did because they have to in order to market themselves with brands like Hot Topic or Ozzfest or
But the kind of Hard Rock I love (Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Cactus, Aerosmith) isn't really gloomy. And I'd really want the comeback of Hard Rock to be liberated from its association with gloomy imagery.
What's the aesthetics and branding behind Bonzai's image?

Not really sure yet. I definitely want us to seem weird or far out, might seem a little dark at times but definitely vibrant as well. For me sound comes first, Image comes second. I think bands spend way more time on what they look like and what the image of their band is gonna be than what they sound like and we’re definitely not gonna do that. We're hippies punks metal heads and rockers so we'll probably look like a mixture of that, leather vests, jean biker vests, long hair...shit man I might even wear a daskiki if I'm feelin weird enough! haha

I agree that the clothes thing is a trivial thing to worry about. But branding is very important to get fans hooked on you at first glance.

I think your Logo is great. Any thoughts on album covers, Photo Shoot themes ... Etc?

Very true, I definitely agree with you, image is important. You can't get on stage wearing a sponge bob t shirt and Ufo pants and expect people to take you seriously as a hard rock band, haha

Yes our logo is absolutely Roger Dean/Budgie influenced. There are some other Roger Dean style logos we’re working on too. The B is the exact B in the Budgie logo, dont' wanna seem like we’re ripping off too much, what do you think being a big Budgie fan?
Yes I have many ideas. Actually the word Bonzai is a combination of the two different spellings: Bonsai- the art of gowing miniature trees and Banzai- a Japanese war cry which kamakazi pioltes yelled out before crashing their planes into enemy territory which actually meant "long live the emperor of Japan or 10'000 years" so I would like our first demo to be called "The 10'000 Year Demo" taking its name from the Banzai saying and also because it feels like its taking me forever to start playin’ in a band again and releasing music.

Another concept I've been working on is an album titled "Hell Cats, Witches and Weird Ass Chicks" which will be a tribute or ode to all the weird women we run across in our lives. Artists, tattooed girls, freaky chicks, musicians, punks, hippies, I’m sure you know the type of girls I'm talking about. And for the album cover I want to do a photo shoot of a bunch of weird girls we’re friends with sitting around doin’ weird shit in crazy outfits and combine it with drawing and painting over certain things in the picture. Once we’re ready for it that'll probably be our first album or ep.

Some other names I've been workin on are:
In The Fields The Bodies Burning
Enjoy The Ride
Silentium Universi (which means silence of the universe)
Primordial Soup

So a combination of Budgie and Zappa. That fucking rules
What should we expect in the debut show this Saturday? How many originals have you finished? How many covers will you play at the set?

No covers yet. Still working on a Hawkwind cover but its not ready. 5 originals. I'm hoping people will get pumped up!! And definitely look for a Zappa medley in the future

Tight! I know that you're a big staff member at Voltage Lounge. Are you in charge of bookings? A lot of the bands I know from NYC and LA wanna tour in Philly. What sort of bands are you interested in booking?

I'm not in charge of it but I help and mostly deal with the rock & roll, metal and punk stuff. Send it all my way and if I can't find a place for it at Voltage I can always try and send them somewhere else.

That's great to know. When are the punk, metal and rock n roll nights? Monthly? Weekly?

It's random

I see
I don't have any insight on the Metal Community in Philly. I'm familiar mainly with the Punk and Rock n Roll people. Can you give us a few insights on the metal scene there?

It's pretty underground and it mixes with the heavier punk scene. A lot of people you see at hardcore punk shows or crust punk shows you usually see at thrash, death and black metal shows. There's a pretty big stoner/doom metal scene in Philly as well

Can you name the leading bands?
They go to Voltage Lounge for their events?

The bands that stick out to me the most and which I believe have serious talent are Casket, Plague Dogs, No Stayer, Coffin Dust, Vektor (although they're signed, they're not above playing underground or DIY shows). Plague Dogs just played Voltage last night with old school street punk Philly legends The Virus. It was a huge show, probably close to 450 people, the bar was fucking packed. People were raging hard as shit. I'd like to see more shows like that at the bar whether it be rock, punk or metal

Any contemporary Hard Rock bands in general outside of Philly that you're a fan of? Or see yourself on a bill with?

Yeah I wanna open for Black Sabbath!!!

Haha, uhhh, not really I guess, there's bands that I can see us fitting on bills with but they're not really contemporary hard rock bands. Really I'll play a show with anyone and for anyone, don't really care if certain people don't like it or don't think we fit, I just wanna play music.

It's 100% a band that is for the musicians. I write these songs cause I like them and they get me pumped, and if people happen to like it as well that's awesome, it not, that's fine. I think Zappa said something along the lines of that

Graveyard? Airbourne? Bigelf?

I've never listened to Airbourne but if you like it I’ll probably like it! But yeah playing with Graveyard would be awesome, I've seen them a bunch and I'm sure their kinda fan base would be into us

Well you know what? I'm gonna make sure that I'll promote the fuck out of you until the newer heavy rock bands say they wanna be the same bill with Bonzai. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Any closing remarks?

Hell yeah, thank you dude. Glad you're interested and thanks for listening!
"Man you ever get that feeling like you just wanna ride something 100 miles an hour down the highway!? Or jump off something really fucking high?!?! That feeling that you get when you turn your guitar up and play as loud and as fast as you can?!? That's high speed fucking adrenaline my friends. The kinda feeling that can only be expressed by yelling out... BONZAIII!!!"



And with that, the only thing left to write is the details of where and when the show is gonna be.

As you look at the flyer below:

It says August 10 (This Saturday). 8 pm. Voltage Lounge. 421 N 7th Street Philadelphia PA. 5 bucks. 

As you can see The High Five will headline, and Stihleto from NYC will be there too. Stihleto is a great great band so don't miss them. If I have time I plan to blog about them before the show.

An update about The High Five. They changed singers. Ali is singing for them now. A very interesting dynamic since I heard that he has a soulful and powerful voice. Sad to hear about Johnny leaving the band. I'm still a huge fan of both The High Five and Johnny and I look forward to see and report about what The High Five and Johnny will do in the future. 

Anyway ... BONZAAAAAAAI!!!!!  I'll see you all there!!! It's gonna rule!!!

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