Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kasey Keller: It's metal and punk tunes for the former World Cup goalkeeper

Kasey Keller at a recent soccer camp. (All Andy photos)
By Andy

Kasey Keller is into the "heavy stuff."

He's good friends with bassist Justin Chancellor of TOOL -- a band he listens to the most. Guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera of Sepultura and Soulfly is another of Keller's buddies, and those bands get some play time in the former four-time USA World Cup goalkeeper's world.

As a teenager growing up in Lacey, Wash. (near Olympia), Keller "kind of got into the punk scene a little bit without actually being a punk," he told me recently at a Seattle-area soccer camp, noting that he listened to bands like Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies and the Sex Pistols.

"So more of the Henry Rollins side of being a punk: If everybody else in my social group has a mohawk, then I wanna be different, then I'm the guy who doesn't have the mohawk. If everybody has tattoos and earrings, and I don't have tattoos and earrings, then I must be the different one -- so I'm the cool one."

Rollins actually had a mohawk early on and, of course, splattered himself with tats later, but it's the be-yourself attitude that counts. And when Rollins went from baldie to longhair to the chagrin of the hardcore toe-the-line followers, he was still more punk than any of them.

My wife Cat and I didn't adhere to the mohawk-and-tattoos side of the punk scene, instead going with the jeans, flannel (before "grunge," mind you), leather-jacket, boots, Converse, band T-shirt and thrift-store sweater look during the early to mid-'80s Los Angeles punk scene. I did crop my hair short for a while, but let it grow, shaggy beach-punk style for the most part. And I did wear a kilt over my jeans at a 999, Circle Jerks, Wasted Youth gig, but that was a one-time-only thing.

So, back to Keller.

Gangsta rap was next on his musical agenda, but he was still a punk, he says.

"When you're a 15-year-old, middle-class farmboy from Olympia, Washington, the next punk that came about in the mid-'80s was gangster rap. So when gangster rap first came out, you couldn't get any more punk than being a white kid from Olympia, Washington, listening to gangster rap."

Keller, 42, played soccer all over the world before retiring his Seattle Sounders uniform last season. Prior to that, he was the first American goalkeeper to become a regular in the German Bundesliga (Borussia Mönchengladbach), the English Premier League (Millwall, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Fulham) and the Spanish La Liga (Rayo Vallecano).

He spent his off time in England going to see metal and punk bands, but when game time neared, music wasn't going through his head.

"The hard part about being in goal and listening to metal is you can't be wound up. If I'm a linebacker, and OK, for this three seconds I gotta crush whatever's in front of me, that's one thing. But in goal, I could come into a game, put my headphones on and... 'aaarrgh!'... the ball's at the other end for 44 minutes, and then for one minute, I'm going crazy-- there's no way I can sustain that," he said, noting that he's got to get fired up for games, but stay focused at the same time.

"I still don't understand how somebody can truly be focused and are listening to anything," said Keller, who's currently on the Sounders' broadcast team and has done some Euro Cup 2012 games, as well.

From hanging out with Chancellor, Cavalera (both huge soccer fans), the System of a Down guys, Dave Grohl and some of his fellow soccer players, Keller has found that "musicians wanna be athletes and athletes wanna be musicians. I can't play anything or sing or anything, but I just appreciate what they're doing."

To close out on a punk note, Keller raved about seeing Social Distortion in Seattle in February of 2011 on his blog and saying hi to Mike Ness and the band before the gig.

Ness dragged me -- age 14 -- backstage at a Black Flag, Adolescents, DOA and Minutemen gig in '81 at the Santa Monica Civic, and I saw the band many times in the '80s.

It's nice to see that Keller is keeping the Social D. support alive.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Negative Approach and DYS pair up for SoCal gig

Negative Approach's John Brannon.

About seven years ago, Andy yelled out to John Brannon, "Play 'Evacuate!'" during an Easy Action gig in Seattle. His reply, "Be careful what you wish for."

Brannon and crew didn't unleash the pummeling Negative Approach song that evening -- to Andy and Cat's dismay -- but they sure did last Friday night when NA teamed up with other old-time hardcore fave DYS for a gig at Alex's Bar in Long Beach.

We couldn't make it, but attendees Chris O'Connor, Ben Edge and Steve Coombs share their thoughts below. Jeff Terranova captured the evening through his camera lens.


It was a warzone...(I was) just in it up front -- blocking, kicking and head-rocking (to the) hardcore goodness.

DYS sounded so good...stop/start on a dime...low-end bass and both guitarists blazing -- Franz Stahl ruling.

NA were blistering as hard as back in '81...Brannon's vocals were completely blown to shreds...and I mean that in the best way possible.

DYS' Dave Smalley.

A friend of mine asked if DYS would play "More Than Fashion" because some or all of the members aren't straight edge anymore, and sure enough, they opened with it, lyrics intact.

They played a mixture of "Brotherhood" and the self-titled LP buttrock material, and three new songs, including the one about Boston. The new songs sound like Dropkick Murphys and totally suck.

The "Brotherhood" songs sounded off. The drummer, whom I've been told played in Powerman 5000, had a strange, fast beat that sounded like he was being lazy, and not furious enough, even though the tempo was correct.

Even stranger was the presence of new rhythm guitarist Stahl from Scream. Scream got back together fairly recently, and they're actually good, so what's he doing wasting his time in DYS? Jon Anastas was the worst part. He played without a shirt on, so we could look at his bulging pecs and tattoos and had a "look at me!" attention-starved rockstar presence that was totally off-putting.

DYS bassist Jon Anastas.
Musically, Negative Approach were awesome. They sounded exactly like NA should sound. Brannon growled all the lyrics. There's no way anyone who didn't already know the words could make out anything he was singing. He sounded like a monster from beginning to end. It was pure, unadulterated hardcore aggression.

They played all of their songs, plus "Borstal Breakout" by Sham 69 and encored with "Chaos" by 4-Skins.

NA's Brannon shares the mic. Writer O'Connor is in the middle, gray T-shirt.


NA came to Southern California last weekend to play a large fest, which is their main M.O. these days. When I was 15, I first heard NA and never thought I would ever see them play. Fast forward 17 years later, and I had the chance.

They were cool enough to bookend the fest appearance with two smaller shows. The first happened to be at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, along with DYS. To see a band like that play at a dive bar that only holds a few hundred people seems a lucky thing to witness in this day and age.

In the end, it was a mixed bag. Both bands have little to no original members playing with them. DYS are in name only with singer Smalley and bass player Anastas. Stahl from Scream is on guitar, and the drummer is from Powerman 5000. They have another guy on guitar, but I am not sure who he is. I had been anxious to see them since they got back together. I have the live record they recently put out, and while I thought it was too clean and clinical for hardcore, I thought they sounded good.

Friday night was a different story altogether. Smalley looked into it, but he is far removed from the "Wolfpack" glory days. I have no problem with guys doing straight-edge songs, which they no longer adhere to, but the magic of DYS was perfectly captured on "Brotherhood," as it was angry music made by young men.

I have no interest in reliving the past, which is all hardcore seems to be about these days. The old songs were reworked, and the drummer sounded way off. The new songs sounded like watered-down mall punk, complete with a moronic hometown-crowd song about how great Boston is, but I don't think most of the guys still live there, or are even from there. The added solos and Anastas' shirtless Van Halen posturing (complete with Fedora) just made me want to go outside, but there were no ins and outs. The crowd joined in on vocals on the closer, "Wolfpack," but the double bass was not helping the song out. The magic is clearly not there.

NA only have one original member, which is Brannon. O.P. Moore recently left the band, but the bass player and guitarist have been in the Necros and Brannon's other band, Easy Action, and you could tell they had a lot of chemistry.

He got up on stage and went into their setlist (which was essentially every song they ever recorded) with little stage banter and pure aggression. Minus some aging, Brannon looks the same, and as pissed as ever. The sound was similar to the old bootlegs you here from their heyday.

Brannon makes the mic feed back with his thunderous voice. The band sounds like soundchecks are out of vogue, but somehow it all fits and is encapsulated into a  blunt, tight delivery. They ended the set with their perrenial cover, "Chaos," by the 4-Skins, a song which they have made their own over the years.

I bought a shirt for $10, when a lot of bands will charge $15 or even $20.

I have the feeling Brannon still believes in his lyrics, and conveys this on stage. After the show, I got home and listened to some Laughing Hyenas, and realized his voice is one of a kind, and has never really changed. It made me miss guitarist Larissa Stickland (RIP) and the fact that I will never see that band play. But I will catch NA the next time they are in town. They are doing it right, while few reunion bands these days are.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Chrome Cranks -- 'Ain't No Lies in Blood' / Review

By Andy

You're gonna get dirty on this one. Just deal with it.

With its first album of all-new bludgeoning ditties in 15 years, The Chrome Cranks' "Ain't No Lies in Blood" oozed into this world in February. Cat and I are blissful that this rabble-rousing foursome has finally found its way into our already tattered eardrums after 30-plus years of punk and rock gigs.

The Cranks, who formed nearly 25 years ago in Cincinnati and then relocated to New York City, are now part of the There's Something Hard in There playlist -- Cat is especially baffled why these guys have flown under our radar for so long ... well, that doesn't matter now, right? On a recent airplane ride, Cat's headphones were probably shaking as she was floored by songs like "I'm Trash," "Rubber Rat," the blood-draining, 10 minutes-5 seconds of gunk joy "Lover of the Bayou" and others on the nine-song release on Bang!/Thick Syrup Records.

Swans/Angels of Light frontman Michael Gira is pleased with the Cranks, as well.

“(The Chrome Cranks) had me screaming with joy,” he said in a press release about seeing the reunited band’s return show in 2009. “I almost threw my beer at them, I was so happy.”

Courtesy photo

Gira's knives-to-the-ass artwork graces the cover of "Ain't No Lies in Blood"; Kevin McMahon handled co-producer duties with the Cranks and has also dabbled in the varied musical stylings of Swans, Titus Andronicus and the Walkmen. They probably handed McMahon a towel to clean off after this record's completion.

On its eighth album, singer/guitarist Peter Aaron, guitarist William G. Weber (formerly of GG Allin's Murder Junkies), drummer Bob Bert (formerly of Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore) and bassist Jerry Teel (formerly of the Honeymoon Killers) go for the jugular from the get-go with "I'm Trash."

On the opener, the guitars gouge and the drums go tribal as Aaron barks: "I'm trash/ dead last/ I'm trash/ fading fast."
"Rubber Rat" starts off all jazzy and foot-tapping... and then the guitars kick in, the growling is unleashed and the martinis crash to the floor.

Other noteworthy tracks are "Star to Star" with its pummeling, start/stop beats that require all listeners to don neck braces; "Let it Ring," a slow-burner that appears to have the Cranks hanging on to the tune as if clutching to their last breaths; and the steady-rockin' "Black Garage."

"Did I cause you duress?... get blood on your dress?" Aaron asks on "Star to Star."
That about says it all. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another round of raucous rock with Corrosion of Conformity / Review

Drummer Reed Mullin revs up the COC crew. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Call them what you want: Corrosion of Conformity. COC. Punk-metal crossover creators. 

To me, they're the dudes from Raleigh, whom I've known for 30 years. My parents dug the band (their cool demeanor, I'm not so sure about the tunes) back in the early days, my sister enjoyed having them sleeping on the floor of our home while they were on tour.

We'll go anywhere the COC machine takes us: Cat and I have seen them in Seattle, Northern California and Baltimore at last year's Death Fest. I saw them solo in Los Angeles copious times and even traveled with them on a mini East Coast tour in '86 to New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Whenever the band rolls into town, we're there.

Woody Weatherman, top, Mike Dean below.

On Monday night, the band brought powerhouse tunesmiths Torche, Black Cobra and Gaza along for the tour ride and they all packed a punch at Studio Seven in Seattle.

The COC trio of Mike Dean, Reed Mullin and Woodroe Weatherman are always spot-on in the musical department: the tight-knit trio is ultra tight when the amps are turned up and guitars get manhandled; Mullin's drums get pummeled to the point where they're in danger of falling off the riser.

Dean still sings hard enough to make his eyeballs nearly pop out of his head. It's funny to watch him gingerly set up his hot-tea maker backstage, and then roar through the COC set later.

Mullin unleashes the demon vocal yells when it's his turn at the mic, and Weatherman's stack of Orange amps produce glorious noise that pulverizes the ears. Earplugs? Fuck 'em.

Old songs like "Hungry Child," "Loss for Words" and "Holier" still rule the day, while new fare like "Moneychangers," "Rat City" and "Your Tomorrow" buzz and howl with verve. It's upper-echelon stuff. (For you completists, they cranked out "Deliverance" and part of "Vote with a Bullet.")

Here's some of Cat's photos of COC, Torche and Black Cobra.



COC's Dean closes it out ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Afternoon delight: Black Flag crushed Los Angeles' Federal Building on July 4, 1983

Photos © Glen E. Friedman, used with permission from the book FUCK YOU HEROES
By Andy

Punk rock for me in the early 1980s usually took place in dark, dingy clubs that reeked of alcohol, clove cigarettes and who knows what else was creeping into the air in those places. I didn't mind — I was at a punk gig, after all. The bands' blaring music added to the festive atmosphere, and to this day, I associate some bands with those smells.

However, we broke free from the clubs on July 4, 1983 and were treated to a solid outdoor afternoon gig for free from Black Flag, Wurm, Peace Corpse and more at the Federal Building along Wilshire Boulevard in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.

Pot was the stench of the day since this event was a smoke-in for the California Marijuana Initiative. I didn't partake, but plenty of people did, and in between the bands, speakers took the stage to spread their sensimilia spiel.

As Wurm prepared to rock, bassist Chuck Dukowski played the riff for Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and grinned at the crowd. My friend John and I smiled at each other as I tried to chow down on my pastrami sandwich while some stoned aggro dude grabbed at it and begged for a bite. An interesting start to our day, no doubt.

Wurm got the job done and then the mighty Flag took over with some Fourth of July fireworks of their own.

Henry Rollins worked the crowd into a frenzy, as always, as the band played a host of unreleased tunes like "My War," "Black Coffee," "Modern Man" and others that John and I dug just as much as the usual raging Flag fare.

As Dukowski, Greg Ginn and Bill Stevenson laid down the tuneage, we couldn't help but wonder what drivers must have thought as they cruised up Wilshire and peered toward the Federal Building and saw the wild scene happening on the front steps.

Definitely a gig for the ages.

Later that night, we went to a party in Gardena and tossed firecrackers at each other. One of them grazed a kid in the ear and exploded. He was OK, but a bit woozy.

His ears were probably ringing the next day, as were ours after receiving the Black Flag sonic treatment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rockin' hard and fast with Portland's Lopez

Singer Joel Ross, headbanging in Portland. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

When Lopez revved up its rocket-fueled tunes at a recent gig, the only thing missing was the smell of gasoline.

Cat and I were visiting Portland, Ore., on May 25 and headed down to the Hawthorne Theater to check out rockers Red Fang... and the Lopez guys ripped it up punk-n'-roll style, paving a path of destruction in the slam pit prior to the headliners' set.

We'd never seen or heard the band, but were on board with Lopez right away. We also knew they'd be a good addition to our blog, so we tracked down singer Joel Ross and got the inside story on this sonic squad.

Lopez formed in the spring on 1994 in Wenatchee, Wash., playing house shows (with Hellworms, One Eye Open, Schlong and others) and a grange-hall gig (with Gas Huffer) in that town and plenty of concerts in happening Spokane, which was home to the Makers, Motherlode, Fatty Lumpkin and tons of other bands, Ross said in a phone conversation today.

The band moved to Portland in 1998 to gig more regularly and be in prime position to hit the road to San Francisco and Los Angeles for shows. Lopez has released two full-length CDs -- a self-titled one in 2001 and a Jack Endino-recorded one, "The Sound of Alcohol," in 2005 -- a 7-inch and some split 7-inchers with Fireballs of Freedom, Bottles and Skulls, Humpy and the Automatics.

Guitarist Tim Hoff, left, and bassist Tom Glose. Below, drummer Mike Jacobson.

Lopez presently consists of Ross (vocals), Daas Bersano (guitar), Tim Hoff (guitar), Tom Glose (bass) and Mike Jacobson (drums). Ross, Bersano and Glose are founding members, Jacobson joined in 1997 and Hoff jumped on board in 2001.

"All of us have crested the 40 mark and are climbing toward the mid-40s," Ross said of the band members' ages. In short, they've been rocking for a while now.

The band plays out about three times a year, Ross said, and usually does so to play with bands/friends they haven't seen in a while or for a benefit, such as the Red Fang gig in support of the Grant High arts department.

"I was surprised, there was a lot of kids there and they were really into it," said Ross of a host of front-row students -- one of whom was sporting a Dead Kennedys T-shirt -- who were timid at first, but became energized after getting slammed into a few times, both by the crowd and Lopez's tunes.

Since Hoff plays bass in Gaythiest and Glose sings for Black Elk, Lopez probably won't get much action until a possible September gig in Seattle and some shows with the Bar Feeders in Hawaii next February.

Ross and Bersano.

Aside from cranking out their loud-'n-fast originals -- which land on Zeke and Supersuckers terrain -- Lopez has paid homage to AC/DC and SST Records bands on cover nights.

On AC/DC, Ross noted: "They're super influential to anybody that plays rock."

As for the SST numbers, Lopez ripped through the Descendents' "Jean is Dead," Husker Du's "Something I Learned Today," Minutemen's "Party With Me, Punker" and Black Flag's "Annihilate This Week."

"Black Flag-- they are the first punk-rock band I ever heard. I don't think they creep so much into our music so much as they creep into the do-it-yourself ethos that we've always kind of had with our band," Ross said.

"The Descendents, they are influential for me as far as having the confidence to even start trying to sing. Milo (Aukerman)-- he obviously just has the ability to get up there and do it... just a good solid singer, good stage presence."

Ross' first punk show was watching the Descendents in 1985 in Seattle. He'd been to some hair-metal shows before that, but he forged a punk path after checking out Milo and crew.

"They just blew me away, the whole thing sucked me in; the fact that I could go and talk to Bill (Stevenson) afterwards when I was buying a cassette from him was huge to me," Ross said.

"The accessibility of punk-rock bands-- that really started to get me into it a lot. Seeing them live and just how much it was a one-on-one thing. It wasn't so much of like, OK, here's this huge stage with a light show and the whole nine freaking yards, and then the 30-foot barricade and then the crowd."

And things really haven't changed much since then, Ross adds, as evidenced from him speaking with Joe Baiza, Saccharine Trust's guitarist, when he was on tour with Mike Watt in Missoula, Mont., two years ago.

"(He was) just a sweetheart of a guy," Ross said. "You meet a guy like that and it just affirms that I made the right choice as far as musically, which direction to go when I was 14."

To close, I asked Ross what his top-five desert-island discs are. He reeled off a solid list:

Descendents, "Milo Goes to College"

Black Flag, "Who's Got the 10 1/2"

Supersuckers, "Smoke of Hell"

Zeke, "Flat Tracker"

Queens of the Stone Age, "Era Vulgaris"

Check out some Lopez tuneage:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Red Fang sharpens its metal riffs on seemingly never-ending tours / Interview

Red Fang's Bryan Giles rages in Portland. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

My cousin Eric gets a steel-fisted high-five for flipping on his laptop one Thanksgiving day a few years ago and suggesting -- he should have demanded -- Cat and I check out Red Fang's "Prehistoric Dog" video. It's a beer-guzzling, medieval-battle-royale of a film and tune that stuck with us and had us cracking up all day.

We kept missing Red Fang's live experience, however, because we always had something else on tap or we were out of town when the Portland rockers rolled through Seattle.

But the stars -- and beer cans -- finally aligned for us the last two Fridays ... and we caught their gigs at Portland's Hawthorne Theater and Seattle's metal mecca The Highline.

They were raucous gigs, especially in Seattle, where the sweaty crowd had fists raised high and certainly brought their moshing shoes/boots to the heavy-duty affair.

Bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam and crew expect to see arms and legs flying during the upbeat tunes in their set, but there was a surprise in store in Seattle.

"Whoa, people are moshing during 'Humans Remain Human Remains' ... OK," Beam said in an interview after the gig of one of Red Fang's slowest songs. "It reminds me of in the mid- to late-'90s when people would mosh to, form a pit for Charlyn Marshall, Cat Power." (He laughed, saying it's a slight exaggeration, but close enough.)

Beam surveys the scene.

Although Seattle gave Red Fang a lukewarm reception early in their career, the Emerald City is on board to the hilt these days.

"Seattle was the first place where I saw people stage diving for us," Beam said of a gig at Ballard's Sunset Tavern. "Seattle has been really supportive and really enthusiastic for a long time, almost as long as Portland has.

"It's been especially good since my family is from Seattle, I was born in Seattle, the music that we love and has inspired us is all from Seattle, so we would hope that Seattle would appreciate what we do."

Joining Beam in the Red Fang realm are Bryan Giles (guitar, vocals), David Sullivan (guitar) and John Sherman (drums). They've been pounding away since 2005 and have two albums under their belt (2009's "Red Fang" and 2011's "Murder the Mountains") and a handful of supporting (with Mastodon) and headlining tours. More is on the way, Beam promises.

"We're four older gentlemen who are too stupid to stop playing rock music and touring," said Beam, noting that the Red Fang guys range in ages from 36-42.

"We're drawn to the Pacific Northwest kind of music that was coming out of here from the late '80s, early '90s -- this little thing called 'grunge' you may have heard of. Probably the main thread throughout the band musically is 'grunge.' But we like all kinds of heavy music --my tastes run the gamut, really," Beam said... at the Hawthorne Theater show, three of four band members' T-shirts told the tale: Goatsnake, Thin Lizzy and Unwound.

"We love a whole bunch of different kinds of shit. It's just a mish-mash of stuff," he added, noting that some Melvins-type riffs creep into the tunes, as well.

Sullivan gets on the Goatsnake.

In Red Fang, everybody handling the stringed axes up front get in on the riff action. Beam's originally a guitar player and he works his bass much like a rhythm guitarist, giving the band an ultra-meaty sound that pounds people's ears and jolts their bodies at gigs.

On their recent headlining European tour, crowds flocked to watch them unleash their rock in places like Moscow, Paris, London, Nijmegen (Netherlands) and more.

"It was great. I had no idea what kind of reception we would have, but the majority of the shows were sold out and kids are really enthusiastic for music over there," Beam said.

"It's a totally different world from what it was a year and a half ago," he added. "We had never done even close to the amount of touring that we have to do now. We're trying to figure out how to balance the amount of touring we're doing and being able to have a personal life and being able to write a new record.

"We've made the transition from hobbyists to professional musicians. It's interesting."

Next up is a US tour, an appearance at Metallica's Orion Festival in New Jersey and another European jaunt.

Is it true that Metallica hand-picked Red Fang for their fest?

"That's the story we've heard. It's great, I love Metallica, they're one of the most inspirational bands in my life," Beam said.

Singing and string bending.

As far as Red Fang videos go, their friend Whitey McConnaughy writes and directs them and will most likely get the band back in front of the camera to entertain metal film enthusiasts with a sense of humor.

"The people in the videos are characters that are more or less us," Beam said. "It reflects our personality. There's a feeling about them, they're not just some clever director's concept, they actually have a human element to them. You sort of get to know us from watching those videos."

Check out "Prehistoric Dog":