Monday, December 12, 2011

And the tour recap continues...

My exciting new shelf.
I needed somewhere to put my Shogun Warrior -
it really ties the room together.

And so we continue with our seemingly endless saga of road warrior-ism... As those of you who have been following our story so far may remember... We had spent the summer criss-crossing the western two-thirds of the US and Canada with Macabre , Cephalic Carnage and Withered - topping things off with a trip to Europe for a four-day, four-festival marathon. We got back from Belgium late Monday night, August 15th, more than ready for a bit of rest. I have to admit, I was pretty psyched about having a month and a half off the road. While I was still in Orange County (after Rob kindly picked Mike and I up from LAX) I went out and bought a new amp, a Peavey 6505+, a new phone that doesn't totally suck, as well as a much-needed new bookshelf that actually fits all my records (for now, haha!). When you live on the central California coast, you're hours away from the nearest Guitar Center and Ikea, so I decided to make the most of my proximity to mega-shopping during my Tuesday in SoCal.

Amp mod in progress.
Wes and Rob: Working hard. Me: hardly working.
Good times.
Since I'm talking about the gear I bought, I want to give you a brief idea of how out of control my gear situation was when we did the “All Guts...” record: for starters, I didn't even own an amplifier. I had three guitars in various states of disrepair (now at least one is functioning at 100%, another at about 75%, while there's still one in pretty bad shape), some pedals (noise suppressor, tuner, and tube screamer) and a busted Marshall cabinet. While on the Macabre tour, I picked up a Line 6 relay wireless system, a delay and EQ pedal for a lead boost, a pedal board to organize my crap and a new stand case for the side of the stage. In early June, Wes set up my old Ibanez RGT-350 so I wouldn't have to keep using my shitty blue RG 270 (that I used at MDF and our first few shows in Europe). The RG-270 used to be my back-up guitar before the wiring in my RGT got shot to hell and the bridge rusted beyond usefulness. I got a new, Gotoh bridge for the RGT-350, which totally rules and stays in tune perfectly after Wes' expert set-up work. After the North American tour ended, Wes also fixed my cabinet by removing the circuit board and replacing all the wiring (I think he removed the circuit board – I really know next to nothing about all the technical stuff) as well as doing a really cool mod on it. He and Rob lined the whole front of the cabinet with caulk that gave it a lot more bottom end and really darkened up the sound of the cabinet. I think it sounds better than the rectifier cabinets, to be honest, because it still has a bit of that Marshall warmth. If you're wondering how we recorded the record... We recorded everything with Wes' and Ryan's (Butler at Arcane Digital Recording) gear.

The bar whose name I have
forgotten. But I remember the pic
of Billy Dee Williams distinctly! 
I had enough time in those six weeks to play a really fun free Gravehill show in Los Angeles at a cool bar where I tried Johnnie Walker Green for the first time. It's expensive, but I highly recommend it! Matt Olivo from Repulsion came out and hooked me up with an awesome Genocide LP which totally made my night! The stage was about 6 inches high, and I totally got knocked flat on my ass by someone in the pit - always the sign of a good evening. 

I also went up to my old hometown of San Jose for Labor Day weekend to hang out with my old Exhumed and Scarecrow band-mates and managed to get a DUI, which was a bit of a drag to say the least. Luckily, my license wouldn't become suspended until after we were supposed to leave for tour so I was free to roam around and get whatever needed to get done in the interim. One thing that was a bit of a sticky wicket about the DUI was that my court date was set for October 18th – the day we were scheduled to play in Ljubljana, Slovenia, so I ended up having to spring for a lawyer to go to court for me... Which meant that on top of the thousands of dollars for the DUI + classes, I had to fork over another $1500 for a lawyer. Awesome. Needless to say, I didn't buy anymore gear during / after the Goatwhore / Havok tour we finished in November... But more on that later.

Now that is a cool record!
My Death Metal nerd status:
Our plan when we did the record was that we would just concentrate on doing a couple of festivals and then maybe add a few dates depending on what the vibe was with the band and the reaction to the album, etc. etc. Needless to say, things grew beyond our expectations pretty quickly with “All Guts...” and we ended up kind of piecing tours together around the festivals we already had booked – so our North American tour ended up being two separate three-week tours, rather than one five-week tour. Europe was sporadic in a similar fashion. Having already played a bunch of places with Atheist in April, and a few more in June, we had some pretty wide swaths of uncovered ground there. So we made plans to trek back to Europe in September and October with Cephalic Carnage. As things were a bit slow coming together logistically, the tour ended up kicking off in October. In the meantime we decided to hit the California Discord Fest, since we had been talking about doing a “punk rock” style show in Los Angeles anyway. Several scenarios were discussed, mostly revolving around Exhumed + Despise You at the Boulevard, but this festival featuring Dropdead, Rattus, Ghoul, Magrudergrind, Lack Of Interest, Despise You and many others seemed to cover the same ground more effectively, so we opted to do this instead. Then my old friend Joe Axler (drummer extraordinaire for Splatterhouse, Book Of Black Earth, etc.) hit me up about the Discord weekend. It turned out that his new band, the killer Theories (click the link to download their record for free, dude!) was playing some shows on their way down from Seattle with the also excellent Transient and was wondering if we'd like to do a bay area show in addition to the festival. A few emails to our intrepid agent, Dan Rozenblum at the Pantheon Agency (who not coincidentally is Theories' agent as well) and we had managed to squeeze into a last minute spot at the Uptown in Oakland. I made sure we got my former band-mates' new band Mortuous (featuring Col Jones on drums and Mike Beams on guitar) on the bill as well and things were set for a pretty fun weekend. Wes flew to Orange County from Arizona and he and Rob arrived in time for a couple days of rehearsal. We worked in a few different songs to the set, adding new tracks “Distorted And Twisted To Form”, “Death Knell” and “Necrotized” as well as “Torso” from the Hemdale split. After a couple of rehearsals (and the aforementioned cabinet repair / mod) we were ready for a weekend of grind.

Rehearsing in SLO.  With any luck, we may have actually
been in tune and playing the same song in this photo!

Hammy blasting away at rehearsal.
Since all this stuff was more or less local (San Luis Obispo is about four hours south of Oakland and four hours north of Los Angeles), we were doing the drive in our own cars, my SUV and Mike's pickup with a minimal amount of gear. Foolishly, the night before we left, Rob, Wes and I drank some hash-infused rum. I failed to take into account that the longer hash (or weed for that matter) sits in alcohol, the more potent it becomes. The last time I imbibed this felonious concoction, I had a pretty tall glass mixed with Grapefruit juice – the vitamin C from the juice supposedly makes it hit you a bit harder. It was pretty intense. With this in mind, I fixed us each a pretty small glass with ice – about the size of a generous “on the rocks” drink. Well, it had been a couple of months at least since the last time I had indulged in this particular libation, so it had plenty of time to steep in the rum and it hit even harder this time. This is worth mentioning because when the three of us woke up the next morning, we were all still very much under the influence. When we met up with Mike that morning at our jam space, he could tell we were a bit sideways. Okay, let's be honest: we were still high as fuck. Rob, Wes and I aren't particularly habitual stoners, so we were pretty spaced out as we drifted through the trip to Oakland in a heavy haze of stupefaction. I was still not quite right when I ate a burrito around 5:00 that evening or so, but the food really helped a lot. I was slowly coming back to a state resembling normalcy, which was a relief since I did not want to have to play the show stoned. I've never done that before, but it doesn't seem like a good idea and I am stoked that I didn't have to start in 2011.

A little bit about this Oakland show: The Uptown is not a rock / metal club – it's more of a “club” club. Cover bands and dance nights and shit. So most metal people don't really like going there. Strike One. Also, Hammers Of Misfortune was playing the same night in San Francisco. Strike Two. The club already had a cover band booked for that night, so our show was schedule to start at 5:30 PM and run until 9:30. If you know anything about the Bay Area, the traffic there is terrible, so if you're off work in San Jose / San Francisco / Concord at five, there's no way you can be in Oakland by 5:30. Strike Three. Oh yeah, and we had just played a packed show in San Francisco a month ago, which usually hurts your draw in a city 8 miles across the bay. So, there goes my baseball metaphor. The point of all this is... this wasn't looking like it was going to be a good show.

And it wasn't. Things were already off to a rocky start when two of the Mortuous guys were caught in traffic (I'm not gonna name names, but Mike Beams is one that comes to mind, haha!) and didn't make it to the venue in time to even play their set. They ended up setting up half their gear, and then tearing it down 30 minutes later without playing a note, which was a bummer. Transient was up next, and played an awesome set of powerviolence to a pretty empty house. Theories followed and also sounded killer, despite the lack of much of an audience. By the time we got onstage, some folks actually started filtering in and the place had gone from sparse to not that bad (although by no means great). I got to meet Mike's family which was cool, and we tested out our new set, which went pretty smoothly. There was another show in Oakland at a warehouse that Mortuous had jumped on (which probably didn't help the draw either), so we headed over after we loaded out to actually catch their set this time. They played their killer take on early 90s Swedish / Finnish death metal, and sounded heavy as hell. Since we had to be in LA the next day, we headed back to San Luis for some proper sleep and got back about three or four am.

Exhumed drummers past (R) and present (L) -
Mike and Danny at CA Discord Fest (the 1st venue)
Truly a meeting of the grinds...
The next day it was nice to wake up sober. We headed down to Los Angeles stoked that the set had gone well, and feeling ready to rock. We got to the site of the festival, a huge warehouse space, and despite the show being sold-out, the crowd was a bit sparse. Of course, it was still early. Since there was no alcohol at the festival, as soon as we finished loading our shit in, we decided to head to a bar. The show was in a really industrial area, so it was about a 2 mile walk to the nearest place that served beer: a bikini strip bar (in California, it's illegal to sell alcohol anyplace with full nudity, so there are a bunch of topless / bikini bars that try to split the difference). It was not a cool Motley Crue type of strip bar where chicks that dress like Kelly Bundy dance, but a fancy 21st century hip-hop style one. They had just opened and the place was pretty much empty – which was cool because we didn't feel quite so out of place, but not that cool because we were the only people there for the dancers to harass with their lap-dance sales pitches. After a couple of drinks we started getting texts from various LA friends that were arriving, so we headed back to the venue with a plan to hit a liquor store and drink in someone's van / car / etc.

We got back and ran into a bunch of friends, procured beer and headed to the rear parking lot where we were joined by our friend Deedee, who had done our merch on the Macabre / Cephalic tour. As we were proceeding to get inebriated, Aimee from Progeria / Bastard Noise happened to walk by and told us that the show was being broken up by the cops and that everyone was getting all their shit and leaving. Needless to say, that got our attention. We got back to the venue, explained to the police that we were one of the bands and we had to get our stuff out of there. They seemed cool with that, and I didn't see them beating anyone up or anything, but there was a lot of confusion. In the hubbub, we managed to lose a toolbox, Wes' backpack and something of Mike's I can't recall at the moment. I managed to find the promoter, who didn't have much information for me, but assured me that steps were being taken to get something going the next day (Sunday) where us and a few other bands would still play. Of course we agreed and exchanged numbers so we could (hopefully) play the next day.

You know it's a party house when this is the
clock on the wall. 
There was quite a bit of confusion as to what to do next, as there was a house show that Magrudergrind was playing, a party nearby, and some other stuff going on. We opted for the party house, because we didn't want to try to see Magrudergrind and end up being at yet another show police were going to shut down that night. Luckily for us, we're touring Europe with them in February so we'll have ample opportunity to see them soon. More on that later... Apparently that show went off without a hitch, which is cool, but we ended up going to the Poor Kids' Radio house in LA. Every Saturday they have a party there while they do their online radio show, spinning killer punk, metal and crossover. We grabbed some burgers and more beer and headed over. It ended up being a pretty happening scene there with a lot of folks cruising by and a lot of beers drained. We had a bottle of Jack Daniels whose appearance dictated that we would remain there all night getting stupid. We then proceeded to get totally blitzed. Wes crashed out in my car around one, and later, Rob got a bit riled up (as he sometimes does when things get really alcohol-soaked - hence his nickname "Wild Card") and almost fell over into a bunch of guitars, which was unilaterally frowned upon. After trying to keep Rob from fighting people for about 30 minutes, I finally decided I was too tired to care and passed out on a picnic table outside at about 5:30 in the morning. I woke up cold at some point in the early morning light and wandered into the house and passed out on the floor, which demonstrated some comparably sound judgment. I discovered later when I woke up that someone had punched my windshield and cracked it pretty badly. I suppose that's a lot better than our gear getting stolen out of the back of my car, but still... C'mon man. Anyway, it was Sunday morning (okay, morning-ish), so we headed to Rob's house in Anaheim for football and see if there would actually be a show to play.

Hijinks at the Poor Kids' Radio House. There was no
lampshade, so Wes made do with a frisbee.
Rob in pre "Wild Card" mode...
I have to admit that I was very skeptical about our prospects for playing that day, but my cynicism was unfounded. The Discord folks had found a place in Fullerton called the Riffhaus (which was conveniently very nearby Rob's place) and were having two mini-shows. I missed their first call somehow or other, so ended up on the second show of the day with Dropdead, Ghoul (who played both sets) and Mange. We found the place pretty easily and had a few hours to kill once we got there, so we headed to a nearby bar called Bananas (the name alone totally sold me on the place) with Leon, Danny, and Ross. It was like an Exhumed reunion party in there, and we all had a laugh, several drinks and caught up. We totally missed Mange, and headed back in time to catch about half of Ghoul's set, which was really, really fucking good. I was grinning ear to ear the whole time. The place was tiny and was totally packed – you would've needed a shoe-horn to get another person in there, and we had a great time grinding it out for the kids. Dropdead followed and were fucking great, I hadn't seen them in years, and they are still one of the deadliest pure Grind bands out there.  I think everyone was glad that there actually was a show to play and the vibe was good all around. Wes stayed down in Orange County with Rob for a family wedding the following weekend, and Mike and I headed back to SLO to rest up for the European run with Cephalic Carnage we had looming in our very near future – a mere thirteen days later.  

To be continued at this blog in the same sense-shattering, pulse-pounding manner in which you have become (hopefully) accustomed...  

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