Monday, November 19, 2012

If you're not wasted... the day is... Tour diarrhea Fall / Winter 2012

Municipal Waste / Napalm Death / Exhumed tour diary

October 26, 2012

We drove up to Richmond, VA from Bud’s pad in Charlotte, North Carolina and arrived there around one in the afternoon, after picking up our token-Canadian tour manager / merch guy / internationally published journalist, Kevin Stewart-Panko. It was good formally meet a couple of guys in the ND / MW crews that I hadn’t had a chance to hang out with just yet. We bought some new merch racks from Home Depot, picked up a slug of new shirts from indiemerch that had arrived at the local FedEx location, and were underway. Vektor got there at the last possible minute, and all proved to be awesome guys. I have to admit, when I heard their first album, I wasn’t into it, but seeing them live really changed my mind. The band was tight, interesting and had a lot of dynamics and stage presence. The show was a lot of fun, with Municipal Waste closing this date out. We kept the party rocking at a hotel room with some old friends. Apparently we all got uber wasted, because we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning by Bud, utterly blacked out, pissing all over my shoes.

October 27, 2012

The next morning, I managed to take a quick shower and find my flip-flops before we said our goodbyes and headed to the Big Apple. My first order of business was to find some new shoes. Once we loaded in for a sold-out show at the Gramercy Theater, I headed to Union Square to pick up some new kicks. I have worn the same shoes, Vans “Off The Wall” Skate Hi-Tops for the last 15 or so years, so I knew exactly what I was looking for. The only store I could find within quick walking distance didn’t have them in plain black (my first choice), blue, or checkerboard. They didn’t have the Bad Brains, Maiden, or Slayer hi-tops in my size. The only cool shoe I could find in my size (12 isn’t that unusual, right?!?) was the Spicoli-style checkerboard slip-ons. I have been toying with the idea of getting a pair of these shoes forever, and I needed something pronto, so I took ‘em. It was a little weird not playing in hi-tops, but I persevered like a champ. Oh yeah, and there was a storm coming. The day was played in NYC, it was very much business as usual, tons of people on the streets doing their thing. My mom, avid Fox-News watcher that she is, was deeply concerned for our safety. Like any dutiful son, I called her to assuage her worries and assure her that the storm was probably not going to be that bad anyway. The show at Gramercy was awesome, albeit a little early. We had a huge stage to work with, which allowed us maximum opportunities to ham it up and do our best Steve Harris impressions. After we wrapped up, got everything in the van, and skarfed down some extremely mediocre pizza, we hung out with friends at the show for a bit before heading over to Brooklyn to catch the Tombs show at St. Vitus. We fought NY traffic to get there just as they were starting. The band sounded awesome, and soon alcohol of all types was flowing fast and furious. After the show, they had a karaoke DJ come out. Exhumed + drunk + karaoke = extreme stupidity. The next day someone reminded me of my presumably awesome rendition of Ratt’s “Lay It Down”. Much after that is hazy, people started thinning out, I puked up a couple of shots, lost a flannel shirt, and four AM rolled around before I really knew it.

"Necrotized" live in the big apple

October 28, 2012

I woke up in Connecticut, not too terribly hung over, but I soon discovered that I had, blacked-out, pissed all over my phone, ruining it. Two days, two urine-related accidents. Yikes. From the beginning of the day, my thoughts were on one thing: Game Four of the world series. After loading in, we grabbed lunch at a local sports bar a few blocks away and it was nice to see the Raiders actually winning on Sunday for a change. The local opener for this date was a power violence band called David Carradine, who were killer. The crowd that night was basically a hardcore crowd, but our set went over pretty decently, regardless. As soon as we were loaded out, Dr. Philthy and I headed off to a bar to watch baseball. Most of the town was shut down due to Hurricane Sandy, and it was getting windy and drizzly, but not too bad. Unfortunately that meant the first bar we went to closed at 11:45 instead of 2 AM. Undaunted, we trudged the mean streets of New London Connecticut until we came upon an Irish pub with the stones to stay open in the face of impending disaster. Needless to say, the night on a personal high for me, as my team won their second World Series in three years. But I digress.

October 29, 2012

We all passed out in the van and got up pretty early to make the drive to Boston. This is when it started to hit me that the storm was for real. Half the town was closed, including the UPS outlet where Mike had some new cymbals shipped to him. While it was nice to be able to find parking in Cambridge pretty easily, we had to do a bit more walking than usual to find someplace to eat. Lunch was an Indian buffet, such a welcome change from the usual fast food crap that we often subject our bodies to on the road. I was pleasantly surprised that the show was even happening in the wake of the storm, but dubious as to how the turnout would be. I needn’t have worried, the show turned out really well, and a good time was had by all. The Napalm and Waste dudes headed straight to Canada, while ourselves and Vektor went to Burlington, Vermont for an off day show.

October 30, 2012

We drove overnight, just to get away from the storm, which by now I was starting to realice was actually a pretty big deal. It was good to have a day to run errands and do little shit that we often don’t have time for. I got a new phone (yay!), and we started to plan our Halloween costumes. Phil from Waste assured me that their costumes were hilarious and insisted that we participate. After many ideas were tossed around and rejected, we decided to do something subtle and classy. Dress as Motley Crue. After eating some rad gourmet-ish tacos at Gordijo’s, we killed some time hunting down leopard print spandex, black and red lipstick, wigs for Mike and Bud, and bananas to stuff our pants with. Then we headed to the venue, a tiny bar in the Burlington suburb of Winooski. The guy putting the show on, Jake (of Vaporizer, who were killer that night) was a stand up dude, who actually read our rider and had fresh fruit, veggies and hummus waiting for us on arrival. That was awesome! Then we found out that Vektor was still two and half hours out getting their transmission replaced and might not make the show – not that awesome. Like I said, Jake was good people, and he headed out in his band’s van to pick them up. We re-shuffled the line-up since they were running late, and we ended up playing second of four. I was just stoked they were going to make it out and be able to continue the tour with everybody. I wasn’t too terribly sure how well the Vermont show would end up going, as we had just played there recently with Cannibal Corpse, Abysmal Dawn, and Arkaik, but the crowd was killer, the room was packed, and people were crowd surfing inches from the ceiling. Because the turnout was killer, everyone ended up making a little bit more money that we had planned on, which was especially cool since it allowed us to donate some money to the Vektor dudes to get their van fixed up. We stayed at a house down the street with a super sweet couple who were at the show.
Bud and Mike decided to start a two-piece Bluegrass band on the side to help make ends meet on tour.
October 31, 2012

So far this blog has been yet another chronicle of our seemingly endless heavy metal triumphs and wacky anecdotes, but here’s where the story takes a turn, dear readers. So… here goes. We woke up and grabbed quick showers before heading to cross the dreaded Canadian border. It’s always a nerve-racking experience, simply because they can choose to tax you on every piece of merchandise you’re carrying. Not to mention, if you have a DUI, like four out of six people in our tour party do, they charge you $200 per person to obtain a “temporary resident permit” to be in the country, or if they feel like being dicks, they can arbitrarily decide to just not let you in. Now, most Canadians I know are not dicks. In fact, they’re some of the nicest folks out there. We’ve never had an issue getting in, and had already been there on the Summer Slaughter tour for Heavy MTL and Heavy TO, as well as on the Black Dahlia Murder tour, which was mostly in Canada. Ironically, our tour manager Kevin (one of those extremely nice Canadians I was referring to earlier) is writing a book about the travails of various bands crossing over from the states to Canada. Given the lead in to this paragraph, it should be obvious that we were denied entry into the great white north. This was extremely disheartening, since the Montreal show was already sold out, and our headlining show at the same venue had been insane, so we were looking forward to a night of seriously intense mayhem. The woman we spoke to at customs informed us that we had received too many TRPs in too short of a time, and had been taking advantage of the largesse of the Canadian government long enough. She stated that we would not  be able to apply for any further TRPs until we had all completed their extremely convoluted rehabilitation process. To give you an idea how complicated it is, our drummer Mike Hamilton has been trying to complete it for over seven months. In short, she was a fucking bitch. We had to sign documents that legally bound us to leave the country immediately, and stated that if we were found in Canada after being denied entry, we would be arrested. Gnarly. The US border folks (you have to go through customs if you get denied entry into Canada) told us that they see this sort of thing all the time. Then they searched our van anyway, but at least they weren’t dicks about it. After informing the necessary parties (MW’s tour manager Cartel, our label, our agent, etc.) we drove to a McDonald’s to use the free wifi and start making alternate plans.

So it was a totally rip-roaring Halloween party. Or something. Anyway, we decided to hit the Canadian consulate in Buffalo the next day to try to make the four remaining Canadian dates. Our intrepid agent, dauntless Dan Rozenblum, threw a show together for us in Buffalo the next night at a DIY venue called the Funeral Home, which was located in an old… wait for it… Funeral Home. Trying to not think about all the money we had just lost from losing these dates (not to mention missing the opportunity to embarass ourselves in our Halloween costumes), packed into the van and headed for Buffalo.

November 1, 2012

We finished the (not particularly long) drive to Buffalo, dropped Kevin off at the airport so he could go cover Fun-Fun-Fun fest for Terrorizer Magazine (where MW and ND would both be appearing). We quickly learned that the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo was closed this summer. So we planned to hit the consulate in Chicago, where we would be arriving Saturday. Of course, the consulate is… wait for it… closed on Saturday and Sunday. So we realized pretty quickly that there would be no more Canadian dates for us in 2012. Then we went to a Napa Auto Parts to test our van battery, as it had been failing to start sporadically. We had just gotten a jump, so our battery tested fine, as did our alternator. There was another part that might have been causing the problem, the neutral safety switch, which was had replaced just to leave no stone unturned. After all that fun stuff, we grabbed a big ol’ bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) to stave off the upstate NY cold and headed to the venue. There were already some folks milling about and the place was pretty cool looking. Clint, the guy that set up the show, was super cool and helpful, we loaded in and set up merch. The night actually ended up being awesome. The bands Cain and Avulsion were both killer and great guys and the crowd was killer. Given that the show had been booked the previous day, it was a total triumph. We ran through some songs that aren’t in our normal set list like “Vacant Grave”, “Open The Abscess” and “In The Name Of Gore” with varying degrees of tightness and had a great time with everyone. It turned out to be a great night.

Here's the entire set from Buffalo. If you have an hour to kill or whatever.

November 2, 2012

One of the cool things about heading to Buffalo was that it enabled us to do some banking. Nothing worries me more than having a bunch of cash floating around. Plus, once we have money in the bank, we can actually pay some bills, which is a good feeling. So on the 1st, we had deposited all the money we had on hand. I went to the bank before we left town to deposit money from the Funeral Home show, which ended up being way better than we had anticipated (thanks again, Clint!). I was profoundly concerned to see our band account balance at zero. Turns out, unbeknonst to your truly, I owe the state of California back taxes. I also had no idea that the state can simply remove money from your bank account at will. No notification, no nothing. They may have tried to notify me, but probably don’t have my current address, and I’m not home anyway, so… Long story short - because of me being an idiot somewhere down the line, we had a lot less money than we thought we did. Between the storm, Canada, the van not starting without a jump again that morning (even after replacing the switch thingamajiggie the previous day), The tour had already been a doozy. We dusted ourselves off and headed for Kent, Ohio - famous for being the place where National Guardsmen shot and killed four Viet Nam War protestors. We got to play with some old penpals of ours, Drogheda for the first time, and hang out with some friends from Hell's Headbangers and JakPrints. The show was not bad either. The people at the bar were awesome and let us keep drinking there until four am or so - serving up various shots of anything and everything. 
Custom Merch for the kids in Ohio. Grind Bloody Gore - get it?!?  Pretty clever, huh?

November 3, 2012

We re-joined the Napalm Death and Vektor guys on the 3rd for a sold-out show at Reggie's Rock Club which was awesome. Loads of old friends were there, the Cardiac Arrest crew, the Macabre crew, Bruce LaMont, and lots more I'm sure I'm forgetting at the moment. Not too much to say about the show except that it totally ruled and was super fun. After Napalm left the stage, we headed to the bar attached to the venue and checked out a cool redneck rock / country outfit called the God Damned Gallows who were excellent and a lot of fun to drink with. Then it was a relatively short drive to St. Paul where Municipal Waste would re-join the package. 

November 3, 2012

We rolled into St. Paul without incident and headed, of course... straight for the Mall of America. The largest mall in the country. It's frankly a little scary. Packed with disciples of consumerism with every damn store you could possibly imagine. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to catch some football. I was a bit too hungover to deal with all of the bright lights, crowds, screaming children, etc. But a couple of beers and some food softened the blow. The show that night was excellent with friends from Bodies Lay Broken and Black Market Fetus in attendance. From there, we had a day off before we hit a last minute show in Denver that Reed from Speedwolf set up for us.  Good times were imminent.
You can build some crazy shit with legos.
Dr. Philthy meets his dream girl at the Lego Store in the Mall of America

November 4, 2012

Driving out to Denver through the "fly-over" section of America. We did stop in North Platte, Nebraska and some some cool Wild Bill Cody stuff before hitting Applebee's for dinner and football. IN a weird turn of events, one of the busboys actually recognized us from the show we'd done in Lincoln earlier in the year with Cannibal Corpse. It was flattering, but it did not score us any free drinks. We decided to skip Monday Night Football and charge straight into Denver to hang out with Steven and Brian from Cephalic Carnage and inflict some serious brain and liver damage. We hit a bar called 3 Kings and proceeded to get intensely intoxicated. They let us stay after hours for some ski shots and insanity before the cab ride back to Steve's, where we kept drinking until 5 or 6 AM or something ridiculous like that. 
Bud cares about the dental hygiene of our furry friends in North Platte NE
For some reason, I love those old-timey dioramas. And apparently, Wild Bill Cody agrees.

'Merica. North Platte, NE

If the van breaks down, there's always covered wagon. North Platte, NE
Dr. Philthy makes new friends, North Platte, NE
November 5, 2012

By the time we were in a state resembling human, it was late afternoon. Luckily, Mike Hamilton is the ultimate breakfast maker. His staple of fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, chorizo (sometimes soyrizo), and tortillas have cured thousands of hangovers. We ran some errands and putzed around Denver for a minute before heading to the show that evening. The show was in a glorified jam space, but it turned out awesome. The place was packed, we sold a lot of shirts, and had a lot of fun running through songs like "Vacant Grave" and "Waxwork" that we rarely ever play. That night, we picked up a show for the next day in Cheyenne Wyoming at Ernie November - a record store I'd been wanting to go to for years. After the show wrapped up, we hit Chubby's, an infamously greasy Denver burrito spot that I highly recommend and then headed back to 3 Kings, where we once again stayed after hours riding the shot ski into brain dead oblivion. Great times.

November 6, 2012

The drive from Denver to Cheyenne is a mere hour and a half, so we had time for another epic Hamilton afternoon breakfast before we headed north. The store was smack in the middle of downtown Wyoming, and full of killer vinyl, CDs and shirts. Of course, I nabbed a few things. The turnout was actually really cool and everyone loaded up on shirts and whatnot, making it a pretty damn successful night, especially since the show had been booked the previous day. We headed across the street to (surprise!) a bar where we grubbed on all manner of deep fried appetizers and even some Rocky Mountain Oysters. Hey, you only live once, right? We all passed out in the van for the trip to Salt Lake City for the show with Havok and Skeletonwitch the following day, as well as reuniting with our intrepid merch guy  / babysitter / token Canadian, Kevin Stewart-Panko. But that, as they say, is a tale for another day. 
Vinyl score in Wyoming!!! Yes!
More triumphs, trials, tribulations, trephanations, truffles, and trundle beds to follow when we pick this up. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Suppurating the Studio IV: The final chapter

We had been hammering away at the new record with uncharacteristic discipline for a couple of weeks and it was time to take a break. In fact, not only were we in the studio for 8-9 hours a day, but we were rehearsing most nights after recording, getting our set together for our impending trip to Japan and subsequent tour with Municipal Waste and Napalm Death. We found ourselves staying up later and later in an effort to decompress after 12+ hour days. But things were chugging along. Our big board was filling up rapidly after the rhythm guitars were knocked out. After eleven days in the studio (one more day than we had to finish all guitars and vocals for the 17 songs on All Guts…) we got a little time to unwind and cut loose in the form of three shows in Japan supporting Cannibal Corpse. 

We left for Japan from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix with a rough mix of the 15 tracks we’d recorded, most still without vocals. All the solos were finished, and it was still exciting to listen to everything, as rough as it still was. The veggie meal I got on the plane was actually damn good, which was shocking. Since beer and wine were free on the flight, I drank a lot, listening to the new Exhumed stuff and watched The Avengers without sound. I barely dozed off, and then started catching up on movies I hadn’t seen yet. Moonrise Kingdom was unsurprisingly awesome. I love Wes Anderson’s stuff.

We landed and made it through customs with our nifty Japanese visas without incident. Everything was going so well, so smoothly, that something lame was bound to happen. And it did. We got all of our luggage except my guitar, which was lost somewhere in LAX. The funny thing is that we actually had the baggage allowance to bring one more guitar, and I almost did. That would have been a very good idea in hindsight. We headed to the hotel and crashed out for the night, after a quick production meeting with Nambu from Smash and Jumbo from Relapse Europe. Since I use Fernandes guitars (which totally rule – yes, this is a shameless plug), and their HQ is in Tokyo, I was hopeful I could get another Vortex without too much difficulty. Nambu was good friends with the president of ESP’s Japan office and he was speaking with him about getting a loaner was well.

The next day, Mike and I walked around the city for a couple of hours, and then we all had lunch at a delicious Korean restaurant across from the hotel. I also found out that everyone in the Fernandes Japan office was in Shanghai for a trade show – d’oh! Luckily, Nambu’s buddy at ESP came through. I ended up playing a Kirk Hammet-style strat-shaped guitar, which was a cool guitar, but it was odd not having a V. The main issue I had was that the guitar was set up in standard tuning, and I had about an hour and a half to set it up in B before we were due on stage. Also, all my tools were in my missing guitar case. Needless to say, it was not my best setup job, but it managed. I also met the folks in Sigh, who were all awesome. By the time we were ready to go on, the sold-out show was fucking packed and the vibe was so positive I couldn’t have cared less. The Tokyo show was one of the absolute best we’ve played since getting back together with a great positive energy on both sides of the stage. Before we left, Nambu, the booking agent, advised us to bring 100 shirts for the three shows. Well, by the time we finished playing, we had sold 96 of them. Which was awesome, but a bummer for the kids in Osaka and Nagoya. We relaxed backstage with some old friends while Cannibal was crushing the universe as usual. After the show, Rob, Bud, and I went to a bar called Rockaholics and had a great time, drinking ‘til after four in the morning and getting the whole bar to sing along with Maiden, Fate, and Priest.

Decrepit Crescendo in Tokyo

Later that morning, we boarded the bullet train for Osaka. Honestly, I crashed out for pretty much the whole ride, and subsequently broke my phone (that will be explained in the next update) with the videos of the beautiful Japanese countryside rushing past anyway, so… We arrived in Osaka and took a quick nap and shower at the hotel, then it was over to the club. I spent most of the time working on the ESP and finally got it pretty playable. I still didn’t have as much pull-up room on the whammy bar as I normally like, but other than that, I was able to play a lot tighter the second night in Japan. The crowd was pretty decent, definitely not as crazy as Tokyo, but still awesome. I took advantage of one of the dozens of opportunities I’ve had this year to watch Cannibal Corpse, and I gotta say, I really enjoyed their set. They have so many great songs throughout the years and they always sound killer. We owe them for taking us on the road so much this year. After the show, we headed to a tiny place called Crunch Bar, kind of a thrash metal pub. We were joined by Pat from Cannibal and then got the bartender to put on Ultimate Revenge 1 and 2, which was really fun. I turned in a little earlier that night and got a good night’s sleep before heading to Nagoya.

We were back on the bullet train the next day to Nagoya for the last show in Japan. The club and the hotel were in the same building, which made getting back and forth incredibly easy. My guitar finally arrived – thanks a lot Delta. We were in full-on recording mode when we left, and by show three, we were getting back into the groove of playing live. The fact that we had been having an incredibly good time for the past couple of days didn’t hurt either. During our soundcheck, Rob Barrett hung out and hopped on the drums, and we ran through some incredibly sloppy versions of “Circle Of The Tyrants”, “Dethroned Emperor”, and a couple other Frost tunes for a goof, which was loads of fun. The show was more intense than Osaka, which was awesome, the only downer in sight was that we had to be at the airport the next morning at 6:30. After the show, we headed (three guesses where) to another Metal bar whose name I forgot and partied with Corpsegrinder and our Japanese friends. Even Alex Webster stopped by for a minute to say hey to everyone. The next morning, we all woke up still drunk, but made it on time to catch our flight from Nagoya to Tokyo’s sprawling Narita airport. Our connection from Tokyo to Phoenix, however was not for another seven hours. Once we got to Narita, we had some breakfast and passed out on chairs until we could check in. By the time we got on the plane, I was finally awake and still a bit hungover, and I just couldn’t get back to sleep. One more movie marathon later, we landed in LA. Traveling to the states from Japan is the only form of time-travel I have ever done. Thanks to the international date line, we arrived in Los Angeles two hours before our flight left in Tokyo. One more flight and we were in Phoenix again, checking back into the Extended Stay America to try and finish our new record. Our friends in Death Angel were playing in town, but we thought going out might leave us under-rested for the following day’s recording. So instead, we ended up staying in the hotel room drinking until 3 in the morning like idiots.

The following day it was back at Arcane Digital for more fun and vocal tracking. That night we were finally joined by our mascot / tour driver / personal shopper Dr. Philthy, who flew in from San Luis Obispo. This time, we actually had the time in the studio to double-track all the vocals for a little bit more power. Also, since I’ve been doing harsh vocals for the last year and a half, I felt like my voice came out a lot stronger on this album. The last album, I hadn’t even sung like that for over 5 years, so I didn’t really have the endurance or power in my vocals that I have regained. Like anything else, it’s just a question of practice and consistency. It was really cool to hear Rob’s voice recorded for the first time – and he was sounding killer in the studio. Bud got into the act here and there, doing a few vocal bits in verses and pre-choruses in addition to thickening up the choruses. We also knocked out a bunch of band and promo photos while we were there, which was fun and full of excessive mugging. I’m really looking forward to see how Orion at Relapse will incorporate the photos into the design concept of the album. By the last day (day three since returning from Japan, day fourteen overall), Rob just had two or three more songs to nail down, and our friends in Bereft were heading back to LA from Tucson, so they stopped by and did some gang vox on a few songs as well. By the end of the recording, we knew that we had enough time to get everything done and the atmosphere was really chill. We reinstated the “pick up a thirty pack on the way to the studio” policy that was in effect when we recorded All Guts, No Glory. That’s how you know it’s fun. 

We finally headed out to Charlotte, North Carolina on October 22nd. The drive was exactly what you’d expect. Long, boring, and not particularly interesting. So we’ll leave it at that for this time. Tune in next time for all the excitement our tour recaps usually deliver.