Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Suppurating the studio part 1

So, I'm gonna wait a bit to finish recapping our (seemingly) endless supply of marginally humorous road stories (that usually begin with, "this one time in _____, I was soooo wasted...") and talk a bit about what we're doing right this second. We are once again in the studio at work on a new record. We've returned to beautiful (and by beautiful, I mean "beautiful" Corona, California) to record drum tracks at Trench studios with engineer John Haddad for album number five. Right now it's the morning of day three, and things are well under way. 

The question I get most often right now is "When the fuck did you guys have time to write a new album? You've been on tour non-stop since February?!?" Well, unlike All Guts, where we were able to write at our leisure and swap pre-production files, this album has been put together in fits and starts. Due to being on the road so much, I have been writing in between tours - a little bit here, a little bit there, and as the deadline neared, I have been clearing out my "riff warehouse" with feverish speed. I always have songs that never get finished, or get finished but only have one or two cool parts, or a riff with nothing to go with it that has been bugging me for years. Luckily, our former guitarist Wes and I were on an intense writing jag when we did All Guts... and I had about six songs written that didn't make the cut. That said, they didn't make the cut for a reason - we recorded the strongest songs for the record. However... there are always a couple of good ideas in those songs that just need to be gleaned, extracted, strengthened and molded into something else. They have been an excellent springboard for new stuff. So between coming up with completely new songs, getting ideas from the best riffs and unused bits I had languishing around, and writing in the jam room, we have about 40-42 minutes worth of brand new material. Again, we're shooting for an album length of about 35 minutes (I feel that with this style of music anything longer starts to drag and sap the listener's endurance / attention span), so we have more than enough new stuff. 

What we didn't have enough of however, was rehearsal time. Between our liver-destroying and brain-numbing road schedule, disparate zip codes, line-up shifts, occasional bouts of employment, and any facsimile of personal lives, we have had little to no prep time as a band to work out these new songs. Every time we would get in the jam room, we were getting a set list ready for a tour, and if we did work on a new idea, it was neglected for a month or more and never really picked up again. 

So, we spent a little over two weeks after returning from Summer Slaughter in the jam room, pounding away at the new material and getting the basic framework of the songs down. The details and fancy bits we're honing as we go in the studio. It's been an exciting way to work, and each take really captures the vibe of that particular moment, which I really dig. Mike's drum set is sounding fucking huge already, and I'm itching to get to Chandler, AZ to start laying down guitars and vocals. 

Day one was spent tuning the drum kit and getting some tones. The vibe of this record is a little darker and more open, so we went for a little lower tones, added a bigger tom, and got a bit bigger and boomier drum sound from the get-go. That took most of the day (which is pretty normal, actually pretty quick compared to most recordings), but we opted to track a song in the remaining few hours. Since our prep time was so limited, we compensated by booking more studio time for everything this time around and we were shooting for getting tones the entire first day and nailing two songs each of the following days. So we were psyched to get a little ahead of the game - the extra cushion always comes in handy. However, it was a bit late to drive out to LA for the Murder Construct CD release show we were considering attending that night, which was disappointing. I would have loved to have time to hang with friends and enjoy some top-notch grind. If you haven't checked out their album Results, do yourself a favor. It features a bunch of my old buddies kicking some serious ass. But I digress... Instead we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine (yes, go ahead and snigger) and retired for the evening. 

Day two, Rob and I headed to the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles (about 50 miles from Corona - which means about two hours away in LA traffic) to file for our visas for the Japanese shows we have coming up in October and get one of my guitars repaired. Meanwhile in Corona, Mike got to work on a song recording along with the midi pre-production tracks I had whipped up. By the time we made it back to the studio, several frustrating hours had elapsed sitting in traffic and we were a bit behind schedule. I settled in, got hastily warmed up, and Mike and finished the track. After a short break for a late lunch / early dinner, we decided to try and nail another one. Then one of those killer moments happened when things just started working. The vibe was awesome and great ideas kept coming out at breakneck speed. Even our engineer, John (who used to play drums in Phobia back in the day) suggested a beat that no one had thought of that worked out perfectly. Before we knew it, the song was in the can, and we were all pumped on our day's work left fully stoked! Which brings us to the present. Which means I need to stop typing, and get my ass over to the studio to get this record done.

- Harvey and the lads

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Finally, an update. What has it been? Like three months? Jeez...

Wow, I really have not updated this thing in a long time. I can only say to myself, in the immortal words of Tim and / or Eric: "Ya blew it". So... what better way to get things going again then with some news and crap. And then onto the tour diary entries that anyone familiar with this blog probably knows and tolerates. 

So... First off, in the "news" category, as anyone who came out to the Summer Slaughter shows undoubtedly noticed, we have a new guitar player whose name may be familiar to you: Bud Burke. Bud joined the band on bass way back in '99 for the Contamination tour we did with Soilent Green, Today Is The Day, Morgion, and Nasum (who were on the first ten shows with us).  Bud had always been a guitar player, and we first met him in '94 or so when he was in a local San Jose Death Metal band called Pale Existence (which also featured Lorin Ashton, better known today as international DJ extraordinaire Bassnectar - true story). At some point someone had borrowed his PA and he thought we might have it and he called us up right after we had parted ways with the inimitable Ross Sewage. Instead of finding his PA, he ended up touring with us on and off for the next four years. After our original skinbeater, Col Jones departed the band in '03, Bud also opted to split - probably because he is a monster shredder and would rather be known for that than for playing distorted bass and throwing up onstage. Anyway, when the decision was made to split with Wes, he was the first and only person we thought of for the job. We are super psyched to have him back in the band and had a killer time partying with him on the Summer Slaughter tour.
Bud Burke: He's Partying.

In other exciting (at least to us) news... Mike (Hamilton, drums), Rob (Babcock, bass / vox) and I have been rehearsing nonstop in beautiful San Luis Obispo California for the last couple of weeks in preparation for our next LP since we got back from tour. We enter the studio September 24th and should be done with the whole shebang by October 21st. We have 12 new songs worked up and will be shooting for a May 2013 release. Even though our rehearsal time has been extremely limited due to our road schedule, we managed to come up with couple of new ones in the jam room in the past week and have been having a blast working through all this material (when we haven't been rebuilding my dad's backyard). Our plan for this one is pretty similar to what we did on "All Guts...". We'll be tracking the drums in Corona with John Haddad at Trench Studios and then heading to Chandler Arizona to do everything else with Ryan Butler at Arcane Digital. After the tracking is done we'll be sending the whole ball of wax off to get mixed while we're on the road with Napalm Death and Municipal Waste throughout late October and November. Oh yeah, and while we're recording, we'll be taking a quick break to head over to Japan for three shows with Cannibal Corpse. So Fall is gonna be fucking nuts. The plan for now is to take some time off until the new album hits after this last 2012 tour, so if you live in the US or Canada and somehow you still haven't seen us (we've done like 190 shows since last April- c'mon!) this will be an excellent opportunity.

This tour is going to fucking rule your face off. 
So... that's what's new with us. Now, I'm going to launch into one of my tedious reminiscences about our tours. So if that sounds boring, you can go look at internet porn or cat videos or whatever else you do at work. But, if you like stories about idiots being idiots, then by all means, continue reading. In the interest of "staying current" I'm gonna launch into the Summer Slaughter Tour, which in all honesty was a lot less fun than our tours supporting Cannibal Corpse and Black Dahlia Murder, but it was the most recent, the freshest in my mind and the pictures were the first ones in my phone.

The time between the conclusion of the Black Dahlia Murder tour and the Summer Slaughter was really chaotic. I ended up stepping in at the last possible moment to fill in for the Death To All tour, which was exhilarating, humbling, stressful, and nerve-racking all at once. When I get another second, I'll post some pics and tell that tale in its entirety. Basically as soon as I got home from DTA we made the call to get a new guitarist, which was a rough move to make, as Wes is a killer guitar player and  a great songwriter, but it was definitely the right move for us going forward. Then we were forced to cancel our show at Obscene Extreme (which we were going to do as three-piece - '97 style!) due to the death in one of the guy's immediate family, so the whole week seemed to be going to shit. Three days before the start of the tour, Bud flew out to California from North Carolina and rode north with Rob from sunny Orange County to sleepy San Luis Obispo for a whopping two days of rehearsal. Luckily, a lot of the older material was still somewhere in Bud's beer-soaked memory banks and things went really well. We did totally revamp the set list we had planned and ended up playing a lot more old songs just due to lack of preparation time. At any rate, we left for Los Angeles on Thursday July 19, as ready as we would ever be for five weeks of sun, fun, and corporate rock.

Summer Slaughter - 1st leg - July 20-31
To begin with, I'm gonna say that tours like Summer Slaughter just aren't really my thing. As a dude rapidly closing in on 37 years old who's been listening to Metal in some form or other since the end of 1986, the idea of a ten-to-twelve band bill that starts at one in the afternoon is about as attractive as Roseanne Barr's taint. That said, our record label and booking agent, both of whom I really do trust, insisted that we take this tour and that it would be an excellent way to reach new fans. I believe they were correct in that assertion, so please take any subsequent bellyaching on my part (there will be quite a bit) with a grain or six of salt and remember that they are simply the grousings of aging, road-weary crank. 

My main concern was that I really didn't want to play first and have to go on at 4:00 in the afternoon every day. Well, we were second on the tour package, and played around 4:15 everyday. Obviously, I really need to aim higher. 

At any rate, most shows featured a local and regional opener, because hey - on a ten band package tour, introducing as many variables per day will definitely make things run smoother. Yes, italics represent sarcasm. However, Charlie and Redbeard, the production and stage manager really did a bang-up job keeping things organized and on-time. Of course with eleven or twelve bands every day, there is not a lot space, backstage room, catering, beer, guest list spots for friends / family, room to set up merchandise etc. etc. to go around. This would get interesting many times on tour. 

The first show being in LA was very convenient for us logistically, as it's a three hour drive from where we live. Our agent extraordinaire, Dan Rozenblum was on hand for the tour kickoff, which is always a sign of an excellent time. We were also very stoked that our old pals in Goatwhore were on the tour with us, so that there would always be someone around that wanted to listen to Venom or Judas Priest at any given moment. The LA show was weird, in that it was packed, but not with people we knew or normally saw at our shows. That would be a continuing theme throughout the tour. We hung out with the Abysmal Dawn dudes a bit, met up with Kevin Stewart-Panko, our tour manager / merch Guy / Babysitter-in-Chief / internationally renowned journalist, saw a bunch of friends, and ended up spending a decent amount of money at the bar ($6 PBR, House Of Blues!?!? You guys are dicks.) after finding out that we were only receiving water on this tour. Ugh. That news went over like a Ratt shirt at an Exodus show in '85. Thankfully the next day's drive to San Diego was mercifully short and the tour was underway. 

Limb From Limb Live in LA

San Diego was fun. We started getting the hang of sneaking friends into the show (which can be tricky at some of these more "professional" type venues), and left after our set to drink beer and watch sports, which was a much better use of our time than hanging out at the venue and seeing the same bands we would have dozens more opportunities to see. Of course, San Diego has probably the best weather in the country, so it's always nice to be out there. And aside from their odious sports teams, it's a pretty great place. Vegas was next... One of my least favorite cities in the US, but we've never had a shitty show there. And I have to admit, the food at House Of Blues (the LA, Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago shows were all at House Of Blues) is pretty good, even if it is a soulless, contrived, fake, trite, corporate rock in the absolute worst sense of the term, touristy, and overpriced bullshit place to hang out. And they have air conditioning. Vegas was a lot of fun, and the audience was actually fucking great. 

After the show, we undertook the first of many all-day drinking tailgate parties with Goatwhore in the van area (which was mercifully covered, but still very, very hot). By the end of the night, we were all tanked. Right as things were winding down, Rob "Wild Card" Babcock somehow wandered off. This is never a good thing. By the time one AM rolled around we were the last vehicle in the parking lot. I was looking forward with rapt anticipation to arriving in Chandler Arizona at the home of the aforementioned Ryan Butler around six AM for a nice four or five hours of non-van sleep in air-conditioned comfort. Instead, I was looking for Rob. By five AM, I was furious and also a little bit worried. I felt like the father of teenage girl who hasn't come home hours after her curfew had passed. Or something similar but less weird-sounding. We called the local jail and drunk tank, who assured us that they hadn't arrested anyone we knew, which was mostly reassuring. By six AM, still sitting in the House Of Blues parking lot, we began considering the drive time to the Scottsdale show. In order to make our load-in time (noon - to give you an idea of our typical day, three or four PM is the average load-in time for a show - so noon feels really, really fucking early on tour. I'm not even usually awake at noon - yeah, I know, I'm a real winner) we would need to depart Las Vegas no later than eight AM or cancel the show. On a show with ten bands, moving spots or changing set times is simply not an option. By 7:30 AM, any worries I may have had were completely replaced with anger - keep in mind, we'd been outside all night in 90+ degree weather, waiting for nearly eight hours.  Any reasonable person would be a bit cranky at this point. At 7:40, Rob finally stumbles into view with the sentence, "I just woke up on the roof of one of these buildings... That was weird." At last the van starts moving, the AC comes on, almost everyone passes out, and we push off for AZ. 

I've always considered myself to be a warm-weather, outside-in-the-sun kind of guy, (I mean, I did live in Hawaii for almost two years) but after this tour I have serious doubts about that assumption. Being outside in Scottsdale in the summer is sort of like being on fire, but it doesn't look as cool. We did make it to the show more or less on time, everything was fine and we were already laughing about our night in Vegas. We hung out with Ryan and Matt from Landmine Marathon and Tim from Sorrower, and afterwards, I headed off to go drinking with an old buddy I hadn't seen in years. The day turned out to be awesome. By the time I got back into the area of the venue I still got to knock a couple back with the Goatwhore guys. The next day was a drive day... it's quite a ways between Phoenix and Dallas, let me tell you. Having just played El Paso twice on the Cannibal run, it didn't make sense to fill the off day with a show there, so we just trucked out through the desert. 

Bud and yours truly in Scottsdale. Photo by Aly Webstar.
Dr. Philthy presses the flesh in Arizona. Photo by Aly Webstar.
Trying to stop being morons long enough to get some new band photos after the Scottsdale show. Photo by Aly Webstar.
Dallas has never been a city I've been particularly fond of either for some reason. I like San Antonio and Houston, hell I even dig El Paso, but Dallas has never done much for me. The show we did at Trees back in '04 with Cannibal Corpse and Hypocrisy was fun there, though. At any rate, I honestly can't remember anything of note really happening in Dallas on this tour. I'm sure it was relatively cool and stuff, but I'm totally drawing a blank. San Antonio, however was a bit more memorable. The show itself was fucking excellent, and the audience was killer. Afterwards, it was soon time for another ridiculous all day / night parking lot rager, where we socialized a bit with some of the other bands that I wasn't all that familiar with and had a great time. We later found out that Rob (surprise!) got a little rambunctious with the Job For A Cowboy guys, so he bought them a bottle of Jameson in Mission TX the next day and any non-consensual roughhousing was forgiven. Mission was fun because we went to the grocery store (HEB) and filled up our coolers with snacks, gatorades, soda and of course, beer (duh). We also met Sally, sister to one of my oldest dearest friends Lily. She was beyond hospitable and helped us run a ton of errands (not as easy as it sounds on tour - especially when you have a trailer and you have to load in at noon every day) and of course eat amazing Mexican food. We left Mission replenished and headed for the cradle of Willie D, Scarface, and Bushwick, H-town. 

I finally ate at Jimmy John's for the first time in Houston after we loaded everything in. I had heard a lot about Jimmy John's before finally sampling their menu. A prime example: James Harvey from Goatwhore's rules are: don't talk shit about his girlfriend; don't talk shit about his motorcycle; and don't talk shit about Jimmy John's. Even without the threat of angering a 6'4" 250 pound man-mountain like James, I would say that the sandwich was pretty damn good. I wish we had Jimmy John's in Cali. But I also with that the entire country had taquerias, taco trucks, good Asian food, In-and-Out, Fatburger, Tommy Burger, and Nations like we do in California. But I digress. After the show (at yet another House Of Blues) and dinner, we headed to the bar down the street. It was actually a pretty fun and cool bar. Here are a couple of pics from the night:
Rob, Cowboy Space Ace, and Bud.
This chick was fucking weird.
At any rate, after some extremely intoxicated Geto Boys rap-alongs, we passed out as we headed into yet another drive day. This time, en route to Tampa. By this time, we had noticed something was going on with our AC. Thankfully, it was fully functioning, but the entire floor of the van was soggy. That was not too cool. Faced with an extremely long drive, we decided to figure it out in Tampa and charge through the deep south, wet feet notwithstanding. We did make a couple of noteworthy stops. Apparently our faithful drummer Mike Hamilton owned a non-camoflaged piece of clothing and wanted to rectify his oversight, so we stopped at the Bass Pro Shop / Outdoor world in Alabama. This place was fucking nuts. Bud headed to the nearby Hooters for a beer where we picked him up later. Yup, we were in the South.
This place is bigger than most Wal-Marts and also includes a diorama of stuffed animals (like taxidermy, not like cute and fluffy) in various salient poses on top of fake trees, fake mountains, the works. Lots of cool fucking guns though.
Hooters- Where attractive women with questionable self-esteem serve awful food to people of questionable intelligence.
We pressed on to the land of early nineties Death Metal, extreme humidity and my least favorite Pirate-related professional sports team: Tampa. The venue, The Ritz, was in Ybor City, the downtown area, so there would definitely be stuff to do after the show. We loaded in and took the van to Midas for $500 or so of repair work (always a great way to start the day), then Brian Hopp, our dauntless sound guy informed us that he had mono and was leaving the tour after that show. Hoo boy. What a day. I was dying from the humidity, not really getting enough sleep for the past week (the earlier load in times were seriously interrupting the part of the day where I usually sleep though my hangovers - and I am being 100% serious on that), and pissed about the van and losing our sound guy (although the tour stage manager Redbeard stepped up to the plate and did a killer job) so I retreated to the bar across the street, put on some go-to juke box selections (Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, and Deep Purple) and had a couple cold beers. The day was starting to look up... Our van was ready, all we had to do was grab a cab across town and pick 'er up. And then... the police arrived and started emptying the venue due to some idiot writing a death threat to Job For A Cowboy. My formerly quiet Monday afternoon bar was packed with people blasting Death Metal on the jukebox and the street was cordoned off so the cab took 45 minutes to get there. So much for relaxation.

At least I used the time waiting for a cab wisely... Photo by Dr. Philthy.

This is what you do not want to see pulling up outside your show.
At any rate, like any person with poor judgment would do, upon returning to Ybor City with the van and finding out that the show would proceed as planned, I proceeded to ease my fatigue, frustration and general malaise by getting totally blitzed. I remember multiple bars, beers, gay people singing karaoke, scotch, shots, martinis, maybe a slice of pizza?  At any rate, I woke up at some point in a house I'd never seen before being told to get back in the van by Kevin. It was a confusing night, and I barely remember enough of it to even make a good story out of it. 

The next day in Ft. Lauderdale however, I remember with excruciating clarity. I woke up in the van at about 12:45, covered with sweat, wearing only my underwear, ready to throw up. And I did. Many times. By the time we went onstage at 4:00 or so, I was still throwing up. When we got offstage - wait for it... - I threw up. I had two interviews to do after the show, and in between them, I - stay with me now... - threw up again. Finally when everything was done, I - yes, after throwing up - laid back down in the sweltering van. I didn't load any gear in or out, I was just a complete loss for the whole day. This is why I can't get too mad when other band members tell me they woke up on a roof after being MIA for eight hours. At any rate, finally around eight at night, I made it over to hang with our friend chef Bill and his son John and his lovely lady Alyssa for some a-fucking-mazing barbecue, and a couple of drastically needed sodas. I was going to post a video from this show, by my vocals are honestly so terribly blown out that I will let you find stuff from this show yourself on youtube if you want to see / hear me at my worst. Although considering how I felt, I'm surprised they aren't worse. We left around 9pm that night in order to make sure we would get to Atlanta on time... I know it's not much of a cliffhanger ending (spoiler alert: We did indeed make the show and play) but it's a good point to leave off until the next installment, which with any semblance of work ethic should be up in a couple of days.

Harvey and the lads