Flames Tour, Purple Quake, and Ramblings from Tokyo.

I’ve been back here in Japan for about a week and half now and the weather has been all over the board.  It has been substantially warm during the day and mild at night, but as I write this, I’m simultaneously being soothed by the sounds of pitter patter if you will from outside the second story window of my singer's office.  I got here a day late due to some Air Canada mishaps which forced me to stay in Toronto for 24 hrs, thus missing the 1st rehearsal by just a couple hours really.  But, 2 solid sessions with new drummer Dean Kennedy proved not only his talent but his professionalism.  It’s be a pleasure so far sharing the stage with him.  The first three shows were intense to say the least; AWESOME, but intense.  Tomorrow the tour picks back up with a 10 day stretch of shows…bring it.

April 24th, Shibuya Club Asia  

April 24th, Shibuya Club Asia  

Shortly before my departure, we lost Prince.  I’ll be the first to admit that throughout the years growing up, I never truly picked up on what he was doing.  I was a little biased back then, and when I was properly introduced to Purple Rain in the year 2008, I gained a lot of respect for him as an artist, however, it wasn’t until fairly recently I truly started to enjoy what he was doing musically.  Not all of it, but a lot of it.  That being said, as a guitar player, its been a major hit.  The rush of videos, pictures, and heavily bittersweet social media posts have been actually quite inspiring for me.  I feel we learn so much more about an artist’s work after an unfortunately abrupt passing, or even a somewhat expected passing. 

The uprise of people sharing memories and thoughts of such an overwhelming outpouring of emotion and heart will unfortunately never cease to usher in the negativity on primarily FACEBOOK.  Many people’s posts saying things like “Oh now everyones a Prince fan” or similar pointless and negative “cries for a rise” from their beloved news feed which they depend on to validate their status and overall worth on a daily basis.  I will say this, Don’t be that person.  

First of all, when your Facebook “news feed” is filled with useless memes about useless shit, politics (and people who invest WAY too much of themselves in politics to the point where they unknowingly devalue themselves and their personal worth), and falsely glorified celebrities and sports players, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t find stuff of artistic and spiritual value in that feed.  As soon as something you don’t understand or like becomes a headline next to your Beyonce GIF, or your celebrity click bait, you need not add any negativity to the pot, just keep scrolling…I’m sure there’s a grumpy cat if you scroll further.  This is not a generalization, i swear.  If Facebook is a source of inspiration to you and you’re aware of it, carry on.  

 

Be inspired and allow your heart to be warmed by these types of posts that display personal meaning behind the music, or personal experiences.  Who cares is someones actually been a fan for 30 years! When something as sad and painful as death surfaces, there is no right or wrong way to deal with it whether you personally know someone or not, and no one is better or worse at it than another.  When someone who creates something beautiful you resonate with punches out, allow yourself to work through the emotions…there’s no right or wrong.  So before you rain on a parade of people in mourning at ANY level, simply pump the breaks and move on…don’t be another source of useless negativity.  There is already PLENTY.  

image.jpg

 

On that note…I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and best of luck over here.  In regards to the recent earthquake activity on Kyushu Island: just hoping for the best when we head that way next week.  My heart goes out to the people affected by these quakes…stay strong.  Rest In Purple Prince! See you on the road! Lay off the FaceBook and the NEWS! 

 

Cheers!

image.jpg
Studio away from home. Working all the time  

Studio away from home. Working all the time  

Human Misery Tour Rehearsals.

Quarter past 8 pm in Tokyo and AD rehearsal night one is about to begin. My 26 collective hours of travel from my now cold homeland, though lengthy, passed by smoothly and rather flawlessly you could say.  But who am I to tell you what you could say? 

The time adjusting is getting easier and easier with every trip here.  This being my third trip here since June, jet lag seems to only effect me upon getting back home. Only a few hours after getting to Uzi's house, I packed it in for the night and slept a respectable 7 hours or so which was great.  

The ride from the airport to Uzi's was business as per usual. Broken singled worded English and hand gestures signifying future plans and new happenings since my last trip. There's hopes of a major release of my solo album here in Japan which I hope to have more details on when and if they arise, not to mention the new Aggressive Dogs album mixes are sounding mighty! 

The song I wrote during the preproduction stages of the new album that I did from home made the live set for this tour which is huge.  The whole band knows the song already and vocals are ready to go, I'm minutes from playing it for the first time with them. It's title is "Isei Toumei" and I'm beyond elated to perform it. 

 

Grand Bleu Rehearsal Studio. Shibuya Tokyo, Japan  

Grand Bleu Rehearsal Studio. Shibuya Tokyo, Japan  

Z E T E T I C (a collection of rambling thoughts and recollections)

 

Good Morning from my home in the now colder Dover, New Hampshire.  The leaves are starting to turn, and frost covered cars are just around the corner.  I welcome it personally as this is my favorite time of the year as it is for many, and it always has been since I can remember.  Creeping up on my 31st birthday not much has changed in that regard.  I'd be a liar to say I didn't enjoy the feeling of pulling out my favorite flannels and hoodies, pumpkin flavored craft beers, and foliage; but to me, it's something a little more spiritual and internal.  There is, without a doubt in my mind, a feeling of indescribable comfort with this time of year.  A sense of joy and love that's rather hard to put into words.  Rather than question it or wonder TOO much, I prefer to put on my favorite Type O Negative album "October Rust" and nestle myself into my current hoodie. 

This fall season is also a special one for me because I have, on October 9th, my solo debut ep coming out!  I've been quite busy over the past 2 months writing and recording it in my house.  I have a small make shift studio set up in my bar (nothing fancy AT ALL) with just the right setting for creating; accolades from my past, my record/cd/tape collection, expensive shelved craft beer, my dog on the couch, a few candles burning, crafts and art from everyone from my grandparents to paintings from my wife, and of course all of my guitars. 

Upon returning home from Japan after recording with the Aggressive Dogs in late July early August, I found myself playing guitar more than I have in years.  I was also extremely inspired and constantly putting ideas into the iphone voice memo or into the jamup app recorder on the ipad.  I was rehearsing for a one off show I played with my old band Thy Will Be Done as well which had my slinging the 7 string a lot again which definitely prompted some serious riff ideas.  I had toyed around with the low G tuning that the EP is in a little bit last year but I was having a hard time getting what I wanted both in clarity and play-ability, plus I don't think I was in the proper mind set to be writing at that time looking back now.

After the one show with TWBD, my thoughts, inspirations, feelings, and ideas started literally falling off my fingertips.  The first thing I wrote (which didn't make the album) was such a breath of fresh air to me.  Finally I understood what I needed to do with this tuning.  The second song I put together became the song "Beyond Meridian" (track 3) and from there it was on!  I was in a writing mindset for sure but I was also very inspired by any and all things and people I was experiencing as well as books I was reading, which had never really happened to me that I can recall.  Sure I've wrote a song with something in mind before, but never like this. 

The next song I put together turned out to be the closer as soon as the first resolution kicked in less than a minute in during the writing.  This is where my daily process of getting up, pounding coffee and reading, grabbing my guitar to practice, playing for 15 minutes, and then immediately running down to the studio to write and demo started.  It was like clockwork.  The following week and a half or so before my trip to Italy it was generally a couple songs a week.  I also managed to cover the song "Real Guitars Have Wings" by classic rockers Wishbone Ash. 

An extremely underrated band and a huge influence on my playing lately, Wishbone Ash STILL tour half the year worldwide and have some 30+ albums out.  I was honored to do this cover and even MORE honored to put it in with my songs and have it fit so nicely.  Before I left for Italy with my wife for 10 days ( 10 guitar-less days ) I had every song recorded excepts the leads for the two latest songs. Our stays in Italy ranged in variation. To the boutique hotel we stayed in on our last night in Venice, to the 12th century abbey in the deep country near Perugia, there was never a shortage of inspiring sites and sounds.  I actually wrote the guitar line in the song "Blinded, We Ride" in the shower at the abbey. I was playing the unfinished songs off my phone while I was scrubbing away and started humming the guitar lick nearly note for note to what it became on the record. 

As soon as we returned to the states, I got back to work.  It took me a couple of days to get my hands back in shape after not playing guitar for a week and a half, but the ideas and inspirations were there in full force.  Within 4 days or so, all the guitar tracks were done.  Originally I was going to have a friend of mine take over bass duties on the songs, but as I continued to listen to the songs I kept getting ideas for what I wanted.  The personal importance of this project and the concept behind it lead me to the decision to do the bass myself.  I didn't necessarily want to buy a bass, but I took to the internet and asked for some assistance.  A great friend from my home town approached me and said he had a bass he would just give me.  Nice price. 

He now lives just north of Portland, ME, so I loaded up a cd of a rough mastering of the songs and jumped in Outlander and rolled north! Upon inspecting the bass I did notice the neck was warped...Really Warped.  It did, however, seem to relax after some tension was loosened.  I got back to Dover and tuned the bass down to dropped G, knowing damn well the low G wasn't possible with these gauge strings, but I wanted to see if the other strings could handle the setting.  7 dollars later, I had a huge gauge string on top and the bass tuned, plugged in to JamUp, and ready to go.  I laid ever bass track that night.  Hearing the songs with low end finally was so refreshing and exciting.  That extra layer brought it all together.   

I'm elated with the final product, and having spent only about 170 bucks to create, record, distribute, and pay royalties for the WBAsh song...not bad.  I hope you all enjoy this 25 minutes of excitement.  

  

image.jpg

Wherever I May Rome

I pulled one of the bright purple chairs from the dining set in our small dwelling here in Rome, Italy   just outside the door out into the I guess you could call the "common area"  which is completely surrounded by rather tall buildings.  My wife is taking a short nap before we head out for the evening, so I felt compelled to fire up the ipad and continue working on some rough materings of some songs I plan to release later this fall over some pino grigio.  This trip began at the tail end of a rather busy week for me in which I completed the writing process of the release at hand.  I've been writing and recording for about 3 weeks and I can safely say these tunes have been literally falling of the tips of my fingers at an incredible rate.  I haven't been this inspired in years and the results are truly exciting as I can't stop listening to these tunes.

 

My current view as I write this

My current view as I write this

"Final Touch" as well as "Jam Up" from Positive Grid is hlping tremedously with this project.  

"Final Touch" as well as "Jam Up" from Positive Grid is hlping tremedously with this project.  

The release, which I have a concept for but NO titles yet, will consist of 5 original instrumental songs.  I also have a cover of an instrumental Wishbone Ash song that I hope to include if the circumstances line up.  My focus as the songs began taking shape was to create songs that not had riffs for days and some of my finest lead work, but also some layering of ambient guitars that would add a memorable and almost "hum-able" factor to the songs.  Dio once said something to the effect of a guitar solo is the part in a song when the guitarist becomes the lead singer.  With that in mind, I wanted to add the element of a "singer" with strictly guitars.  

I will have more updates on this album in the near future as progress continues.  As of now, bass parts need to be recorded as well as lead parts for the two latest pieces.  The sites of this trip in Italy with my beautiful better half have already provided some real inspiration to take home to track out these final parts and get into mastering.  The release, as of now, will be strictly digital, but who knows! 

talk soon!  

Ride The Lightning

Yup...it's Tuesday. Day 3 at Studio Sunshine is afoot and after day 2, it's safe to say it's "a foot" with blisters. Chris Bass finished his drum tracks yesterday around 9 or 10 pm, and all day throughout tracking, we filmed 2 videos. Today I track the rest of my parts.  

After my recent post concerning Kill Em All turning 32 the other day, I also realized the follow up album "Ride The Lightning" turned 31 yesterday! So without further ado, the story of THAT cassette tape. 

I was between 9 and 10 years old I think, and my mom and I were in the Villiage Bookstore in Littleton, NH; my main source of tapes and CDs growing up.  My mom was getting some sort of book and, like I always did, I went to the tape and cd section and started wishing.  

The glass display that the tapes were in was locked to inhibit the local riffraff from slipping the latest releases into there newly discovered foot deep JNCO jeans pockets and slipping out the door.  So as soon as my mom had made her selection I flagged her over and began my classic you never buy me shit routine until she caved and bought me a brand new copy of Metallica "Ride The Lightning" 

This album at the time was 10 years old, but it was new to me and I could not wait to fire this into the tape deck of my mom's minivan and turn it as loud as she would tolerate.  I ripped it open as soon as we got into the car, and that smell of brand new cassette tape ( a smell I will never ever ever forget )  filled my nostrils. 

Side A, "Fight Fire With Fire", still probably my favorite from that album, starts as the tape begins to makes it journey to the opposite reel filling the van with the beautifully crafted acoustic intro of the opening track.  "See, this is nice" my mom said. 

My mom would prefer instrumental versions on MY records! She has NEVER been able to understand or tolerate any aggressive music which is fine, but to have her approval of the first few seconds made it seem that she felt better about her purchase.  

Being my first time hearing this song, but knowing what drew me to Metallica in the first place, I knew that this beautiful sound of acoustic guitar that she found not only tolerable but enjoyable wouldn't last long.  This feeling of excitement grew over me as that swell in of overdriven guitars snuck in upon the final note of this misleading intro.  I just knew that first second of heavy metal was going to send her into a frenzy and she would hit eject so hard that the tape would drop the back window of the van!

 "Nope"

"Take it out!"

 Its ok, as soon as I got home I picked up right where we left off and let the music play!  

This story came to mind a few years ago when I was lucky enough to share the stage with Metallica while in Thy Will Be Done.  James Hetfield hand picked us to open for them which to this day, still blows my mind. It was the night before the final day of the 2012 Orion Fest which we were playing and Metallica was closing the night out by playing Ride The Lightning in its entirety.  

This moment was probably the most I've ever felt like a kid in my so called "adult years" I was laughing, and shaking my wife Chelsey in excitement and screaming every word.  They played the album in reverse so the song from that day in the minivan kicked in last.

I thought of my amazing mother for always supporting me as a musician and being understanding of my love for heavy music. She has seen where it has brought me.  Thanks mom. 

Back to work!  

 

Kill Em All

Good morning Japan and good night America. Today is day one at Studio Sunshine in Tokyo for the recording of the new Aggressive Dogs record.  I was just having a conversation with Uzi ( in single words of English and many hand gestures as our conversations usually go)  about cassettes and how great they sound, as well as the contents of our collections.  I told him how "Kill Em All" from Metallica just turned 32 years old yesterday and how it was my first cassette ever. 

 

I was around 8 years old and for one reason or another, my dad and I were at the old pawn shop in Littleton, NH (back when it was next to the elementary school being operated out of an old house) and I was really just starting to get into music.  

At this point my brother had introduced me to the newly released "Black Album" which I was floored by. Accompanied by a video with strobes, swinging sweaty hair, and a kid narrowly escaping from his bed before a semi blasts through it in a raging nightmare scenario, at that young age, I had to have more. 

As my dad and the person working the shop did big people stuff ( my memory doesn't recall what the purpose of us being there was and I'm sure it escapes my dad's memory at this point as well haha) I began looking at the wall of used cassette tapes and there it was...a whole stack of Metallica albums; a vision that has never left my mind.  I grabbed the first one I saw and brought it over to my dad. 

Maybe I liked the word "Metallica" in red on the spine, or maybe the cover with the shadowy hand over a hammer sitting in a pool of blood solidified my selection, but basically at random, I grabbed this tape and begged my dad to pull 25 cents out of his pocket and buy it for me. 

After some debating back and forth, the end result was the start of my tape collection and my love of metal. "You're mother is going to kill me" he said. Sorry mom haha

We got in his work truck which, at the time, was an old repurposed telephone company truck that he converted into a handy painting truck. The speedometer didn't work, the clutch was completely shot to piss from all of his young employees learning to drive stick with it, and of course the tape player I IMMEDIATELY jammed this debut album from what became my favorite band ever played for about 40 seconds and unspooled inside this junk cassette deck. 

But, like anyone else, we grabbed a pen, wound it back up, and gave it another go. I'm pretty sure that spot on the tape is still a little bubbly over the speakers.  I still have that tape in my collection and I'll never forget that day.   

Long winded trips down memory lane aside, 22 years later at Studio Sunshine in Tokyo, Japan, I'm cleaning and re-stringing my guitar and listening to Kill Em All.  Thanks Dad. 

The Jet Lag is Real

Good afternoon from Grand Bleu rehearsal studio in Shibuya, Tokyo.  It seems like I was just here yesterday rehearsing with countless amazing local musicians in preparations for the big 30th anniversary Aggressive Dogs show at Toyosu Pit in Tokyo. What an amazing experience.  Now we set up for some final rehearsals before we start recording the new record. Christian Bass from German metal machine Heaven Shall Burn is setting up to dial everything in with us before he starts tracking drums.  It's about a 95 degrees F with about 600% humidity right now but luckily the ac is rippin and the coffee is cold and only 150¥. 

The flight was a breeze quite frankly.  Smooth sailing, plenty of rest, and about halfway through Randy Blythe's book "Dark Days", I landed at  Narita Airport around 8pm. 

Aggressive Dogs bass player Kei and I are running through the song I wrote to contribute to this album...the guy has virtually every part down before I even plug in...unreal! I had to teach him 2 riff tails...once a piece. Nailed!  

Talk soon!  

image.jpg

Justin Lowe of After The Burial

I am unbelevably saddened by the passing of After The Burial guitarist Justin Lowe. I spent two months on tour with Justin and the boys in ATB while on tour with Trivium and Devildriver. I remember early in the tour I think it was in Reno, we almost always shared a dressing room with those guys, and I walked in to those guys warming up and Justin had a harmonizing effect going on his practice rig and he had loaded a loop of the clean guitar part  from Metallica's Master of puppets and played the solo part over it and it was just so spot on and smooth.  I just stopped warming up myself and watched this it sounded so beautiful.  What a player...what a talent.  He and the ATB were very kind to us and we had some killer nights on that tour with them.  I extend my deepest condolences to the ATB boys and Justin's family. RIP brother.