Neurosis – Live at Union Transfer

I saw Neurosis in 1997 when they were featured on the second stage for the Oz Fest, touring Through Silver and Blood and it was life changing.

Yeah, it was hot. In the parking lot of Mile High Stadium. Black top cooked the gum of my All Stars. I got dared into having my nipple pierced, cuz, well, that was a thing people did at the time.

“Locust Star” was the song that made me a convert. The outro was decidedly more tribal with Steve and Noah and Scott banging the shit out of floor toms. I think they might have only played three songs.

After their set I got to hang out with them. We had beers and smoked cigarettes. They made fun of me for getting my nipple pierced. Well-deserved.

We had beers and smoked cigarettes. They made fun of me for getting my nipple pierced. Well-deserved.

They made fun of me for getting my nipple pierced. Well-deserved.


I’ve been following Neurosis and their off shoots for over twenty years and they never cease to leave me in awe. From the last show with Josh Graham on visuals at the Fox Theater in Oakland to a New Years Show at the Great American Music Hall on Dec. 31st 2007 with Saviors and Earth, the band expands and hones their sound with each outing.

This video/performance from Union Transfer is remarkable. Noah Landis mastered the audio and I’m hoping they make this an official release because it’d be worth documenting on vinyl.


Kim Phuc – Copsucker

kim-phuc-copsucker-coverKim Phuc


Iron Lung Records

After eating shit in relative obscurity for the better part of a decade, Pittsburgh PA’s Kim Phuc released the provactively titled Copsucker, a collection of 7” singles released by the band culminating in an LP.

Oh, you haven’t heard Kim Phuc? @tedleo’s favorable tweet about the band must have been buried in your feed.

Just like the band’s namesake, a Pulitzer Prize winning photo by Trang Bang depicting a naked Vietnamese girl burned by napalm, Copsucker is immediate and fucked. An homage to power violence with trace elements of punk rock.

It is messy with riffs, nihilistic noise-drenched confessional barking, and includes several tunes about ‘thinking yourself into a black hole’ and ‘shitting on republican graves,’ with variations of those themes mined throughout.


Perfect, the band imploded.

To extend the energy further would diminish the work.

Underappreciated and overlooked in their brief tenure, Kim Phuc burned bright like white phosphorous, leaving a terse musical document as a reminder: we were here.

A scab to pick at.

A scar to ponder.

How many years are you going to sleep on the fucking floor after drinking too many tall boys only to wake up, drive six hours (or more) to the next shitty town hoping that the slightly less obscure headliner or the local band got some motherfuckers to the show?

Or that anyone, anywhere, was (is) actually listening.


Kim Phuc – Animal Mother/Local Roundup – Copsucker

Kim Phuc’s humorous, deranged history in text.


Converge “Aimless Arrow”

There are a a few things I’m eagerly anticipating this fall. The new season of Walking Dead (hoping that Lori Grimes will meet her grisly end, fingers XD for newborn zombie!), the end of the world per the Mayan calendar, new Neurosis record, Omar Rodigruez Lopez Group at the Casbah in Oct., Chelsea Wolfe in LA in Oct and last but not least, the new album from Converge.

The video is completely unwatchable unless you are smoking salvia and want to give yourself a seizure but the song is well written. These guys just keep getting better with each album.

Unkind – Harhakuvat (Review)

Somewhere along the approximate trajectory of Integrity’s convincing mastery of gallup-beat hardcore with Guitar World magazine quality solo action dressed in hoody-and-trainers thrash vis-a-vis Systems Overload and the monolithic riffage of Souls at Zero era Neurosis lies the album Harhakuvat by the Finnish band, Unkind. In some alternate dimension, this might have been the record writer and social critic John Berger might have made had he grown up in the 80’s in Finland listening to Discharge. Released by Relapse records, Harhakuvat combines pummeling syncopated mic-in-fist vocals–language barrier not withstanding, the style of music has never been known for clearly annunciated verses or tonal choruses—and though they seamlessly adopt many of the genre’s cliches, Unkind displays an uncanny authenticity.

I have no idea what they are saying. Instead, I can only intuit their unbridled passion. Making music to rail against things like corruption, injustice and disappointment in not just THE system but any system is paramount. The disruption that this music creates in the listener is immediate, visceral and poignant. Not unlike a poem by Nazim Hikmet; painting by Francis Bacon or film by Werner Herzog Harhakuvat sets a new precedent for revolutionary music. Czech band LVMEN’s watershed album Mondo or Japanese hardcore band Envy’s Insomniac Doze are comparable achievements in the hardcore-around-the-globe category. I don’t get paid for these and if I did the pay wouldn’t be enough to buy a Tecate tall boy anyway.

Though the review is nostalgic, hyperbolic, and filled with ridiculously obscure references and five-dollar-words, Harhakuvat will be on constant rotation in the cube, iPod, car etc.

Please tour the US soon. Maybe with Fucked Up.

Here is a cut from Harhakuvat:

Minor Threat: Jeff Nelson Reflects on his work with Seminal Punk Outfit and Record Label

Minor ThreatWhat began as fun, became a hallmark and inspiration to many of today’s current bands. Dischord Records is a model to new Indie labels starting up.

The reluctance from the major labels to take chances on smaller, radio-hostile bands during the arena rock era eventually led to the do-it-yourself ethics of the early eighties punk bands. Most importantly this helped lead to one of the most enduring and prime examples of an “Independent” and DIY, label, called Dischord Records, co-founded by Ian McKay and Jeff Nelson of the seminal punk rock band Minor Threat, based out of Washington D.C. The first record put out by Dischord was a seven-inch by Jeff and Ian’s first band, The Teen Idles and the second came from Idles roadie and S.O.A. front man, Henry Rollins.

Recently Jeff spoke to about the early days of Dischord and some of the things that have since changed from that era. According to Jeff, “Ian (McKay) and I met in eleventh grade in public school in German class. We were both interested in skateboarding and rock, and once punk came along we both really got interested in that. We decided that we had to be in a band together so we started a band with some other friends called The Slinkies. Then when the singer went to college we replaced him and then became The Teen Idles, Ian was on bass at the time and not singing at that point. We learned a lot about being in a band and we got much better as musicians and Ian got a lot better as a lyricist and by the time that band broke up we had six hundred dollars saved up and we were gonna’ split it up and get 150 bucks each or we thought much more fun would be to put out a seven-inch record ourselves. We know that no one else was going to be interested in putting it out. Ian came up with the name Dischord as a name for a label, even though we didn’t think we were starting a record label per se, we just needed something to stick on the record. We pressed 1000 seven-inches, this is fall 1980 and by the time that record came out Ian and I were already in our third band, with Ian singing at this point. That band was Minor Threat which was only together two or three years but we got much bigger and we did start putting out other records, our friends records and just grew from there. We grew from putting out seven-inch records, jammed packed with songs, to putting out full-length vinyl records and it wasn’t until years later that CD’s came along. Minor Threat sales were the bread and butter of the label for years and still bring in good money to this day. My partner Ian’s band Fugazi is now the main bread and butter of the label. They’ve pretty much subsidized the cheap prices of the rest of the Dischord catalogue, some of the bands that have been popular over the years, but rarely do we sell enough records to make tons of money.”

Some of the most inspiring aspects of Dischord is the fact that it is run by musicians, and there are also many things put in place in order to keep all aspects of the label fair to the fans and to the bands. It was started out of a house Ian and Jeff were living in on the other side of the Potomac in Virginia they called the “Dischord House”, bands were recording, rehearsing and putting together vinyl packages and shipping materials to various record stores while maintaining full time jobs and finishing high school or starting college. Certain aspects like keeping costs of the records down, by stating an upfront price on all Dischord releases and a warning to anyone being fleeced by a big corporate chain for marking up a CD. Most CD’s are 12 dollars post paid and Jeff says that, “some kids will write and complain that some record store is charging thirteen but the problem isn’t the record store because they have to make some kind of overhead to run their store.”

He adds, “its funny because you’d get completely different answers if you are asking me or Ian (about pricing ethics). When we started out we were very much into the do it yourself ethics. I do not hate major labels because a lot of the music I grew up on came out on major labels. They were certainly not remotely interested in the kind of music we were doing or the bands we liked. We liked it that way. We liked it being underground, keeping things cheap, small record stores, doing it yourself, whether it was cutting and pasting flyers to advertise for your shows or cutting and pasting the art work for the cover art on the records. It was born of necessity, because we didn’t have any money. Selling the records for cheap was an important part of things and there were many records that came out with a “pay no more than” sticker on the sleeve, whether than in England or the States. We quickly came to realize that was hard to do and it really puts store owners in a bind and makes them look bad when you say, “pay no more than five dollars”, but by the time they get it from the distributors they are paying 4.50 and they aren’t getting anything. The world isn’t perfect so from my perspective we have softened that over the years. Ian would like to sell things cheaper than I want, and I would like to sell them for a bit more in order to give a bit more to the bands, because that ultimately is what pays the bills for the Dischord bands.”

Who knew what an amazing business model a bunch of eighteen year old kids in our nations capitol could start from scratch without any prior knowledge? Not only has Dischord been a role model for many independently owned record labels but the amazing bands that have grown with Dischord have inspired new musicians all over the world. So many bands have cited Minor Threat as an influence and so many bands in the Indie Rock scene cite Dischord as an influence and inspiration for the way they record, tour, rehearse, self-promote and play all ages shows in order to keep the music where it should be, right in front of the fan.

Since the break-up of MINOR THREAT, Jeff Nelson has played in Egg Hunt, 3, Senator Flux and High Back Chairs. Ian MacKaye has played in Egg Hunt, Embrace, Pailhead and still plays in Fugazi, while also producing Dischord bands like Q and Not U. Both Ian and Jeff still run the Dischord label. Jeff currently resides in Arlington Virginia where he not only manages to run Dischord from his home but another label he started on his own to showcase the music he is currently interested in called, Adult Swim Records.

Converge’s Ben Koller: A Well-Rounded Timekeeper

Converge came into existence at the behest of founding members Jacob Bannon (vox, lyrics) and guitarist Kurt Ballou in 1991. Subsequent lineup changes and several albums (met with critical appraise) later, Converge has been one of the most interesting and influential bands in hard core metal today. Their highly acclaimed album, When Forever Comes Crashing, produced by Steve Austin (Today is the Day), found Converge getting into their respective creative groove, solidifying a sound that is both unique and brutal and always evolving.

Though Converge has been around for the past 10 years, it wasn’t until the release of their highly lauded and groundbreaking concept album, Jane Doe, that mainstream metal pundits started taking notice. At which time gave them more footing in not only the hardcore metal scene but also garnered much respect among metal enthusiasts and art rockers alike. The intelligence in lyrics and songwriting make Converge a compelling and formidable band.

Drummer Ben Koller took some time between his busy schedule working a full-time job and recording for the new Converge album to talk to

How old were you when you started playing music?
I got a drum set for Christmas when I was 13. I started playing in bands a couple years later.

Did you play music in school? Were you involved in any after-school band programs?
Hell ya! Let’s see if I can name them all off. Jazz band, elite jazz band, concert band, pep band and a Blues Brothers cover band. I also took guitar class.

What is your first recollection of music? What inspired you to become interested in playing the drums?
I grew up listening to stuff like Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The song that made me want to be in a band was “I’m Not a Loser” by the Descendents.

What are some of your early influences as a drummer? Who are some of your most inspirational drummers?
Drummers in local bands on Cape Cod were a huge inspiration when I was in high school. Some drummers that I dig are Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents), Danny Carey (Tool), Dave Lombardo, Bonzo, etc. There’s so many, it would be impossible to try and list them all.

What benefits, if any, did you attain from playing music in school?
I learned how to read music and sight-read, I learned from other drummers, built some amazing friendships, built up my chops, learned to play with other musicians (not just guitarists but brass, woodwinds, etc.), learned dynamics (although I always played way too loud), and kept my sanity by having a break from the monotony of the rest of school.

Did you take lessons? What was the most important thing you learned from lessons?
I took lessons for a few years after I started playing. I did a lot of stuff that I probably never would have done on my own like jazz, salsa, Latin, etc. Also all the nerdy stuff like rudiments and reading music.

What is the songwriting process like for Converge?
Don’t ask. It’s ugly.

How often do you get to compose an entire song on drums, and is it easy or hard for the other members to write around drum parts?
Rarely are entire songs written from drum outlines, but many songs start with what we like to call “drum riffs.”

Do you favor speed over technique and style in your own playing, and which do you focus on the most?
It all depends on what the song calls for. In Converge, I try to compliment the rest of the band as best I can while still having a unique voice.

What kind of playing style do you gravitate toward? Converge has some very jazzy bits, and it’s in those bits that your playing really shines. Is this something the band strives for with each release, slowly moving away from the traditional hard core or metal style and into a more freeform improv style?
We write what we think we would want to listen to, and what we write is drawn from so many influences that it can be hard to categorize.

On “Homewrecker’s” intro there are some serious rolls—do you use triggers at all? How important is a double bass pedal, and how often do you use it?
I don’t use triggers with Converge. I never played double bass before coming into this band, and I probably wouldn’t have if the old songs didn’t call for it. When writing new songs I don’t consider using it all that much.

“The Broken Vow” has some interesting timing changes—was that something conceptualized when you were writing with the bass and guitar, or does it just sort of appear out of the creative process?
I’m so used to writing with odd timing and time signatures that I don’t really notice it that much. Ever since I started playing in bands I have grown accustomed to playing non-4/4 rhythms, so it just comes naturally.

What does your dream kit look like?
Led Zeppelin John Bonham custom kit. Clear amber vistalite shells. 26” kick, 14” rack, 16” & 18” floor toms.

Are there other projects you are currently pursuing? If so, what are they? If not, is there any you can see yourself being a part of in the future?
A couple months ago I assumed drumming duties for a Boston band called The Cignal. They’re amazing people, and they write amazing music. With any luck, we’ll be recording the band’s first full-length in the future.

Do you have any advice for new drummers? Any tips or insights that would benefit someone in the early stages of playing?
When I first started playing, I would practice playing along to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols songs with a boombox and headphones in my basement.
Start a band! Start a lot of bands! Playing in a band is one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences one can have. Start today!

For more on Converge, visit

Helmet: An Interview with Page Hamilton

I liked interviewing Page. For all the sort of jockular dick swinging his band seems to inspire, the man can play some amazing guitar. He’s also well spoken and articulate, a trait that doesn’t normally extend to many of his contemporaries.  I OD’d on Helmet when they got back together. Slowly realizing that Meantime was sort of their best and that all subsequent (Betty excluded) had that same militaristic marching chug chug thing going on. Not to discredit his contributions to popular hardcore, I think he’s a great writer and musician–fuck it, maybe I’m just old. That and I saw them like five times in a row at SXSW in 06 and a dozen times on Warped when they reformed and put out that record on Lyman’s label. He is really nice and I did get drunk near him and James from Against Me! during an after party during Warped Tour one year. There is my famous person story.

The famous person stories are all the same by the way, it involves drinking heavily and turning around, shaking some dudes hand and thanking them for making music. I’ve been known to nod during conversations that I’m not involved in also. Yes. I’m announcing my uncoolness on my blog, not sure if that makes me uncool-er or maybe I’ve just never been. Nah, I’m definitely not cool.



Helmet is Cool

Helmet is Cool

Like all decades, the ’90s has its importance in the annals of rock history. Aside from the botched corporate-sponsored Woodstock (AKA ‘mud fest’), death of Kurt Cobain and birth of the boy band phenomenon (to name some quick ones), the ’90s had some shining musical moments-and most of them took place somewhere on the fringe of the mainstream. The post-hard-core movement began in New York City with bands like Quicksand, Orange 9mm, Into Another and, at the helm-at least the visible one-was Helmet.



Helmet released their Amphetamine Reptile debut Strap It On in 1991 and inspired a million bedroom guitarists with their Interscope follow-up, Meantime. Meantime was the band’s first commercial success and garnered them plenty of critical praise and a wider fan base. The marriage of hard-driving guitars, drop tuned with vocalist/guitarist Page Hamilton’s deadpan delivery and smart lyrics, made Helmet stand out from the rest of the dying hair bands and solidified the band’s place in history as a trendsetter. So much so, in fact, that this past year Page decided it was time to reevaluate Helmet and bring it back for the next generation of heavy music lovers.


Helmet officially disbanded in 1998. After four full-length albums and thousands of miles covered in touring, it was time to move on. Page went on to become a session musician, working with film composer Elliot Goldenthal doing scores for films like Julie Taymore’s screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus, Neil Jordan’s The Good Thief and In Dreams (Annette Bening) and, most recently, S.W.A.T. Page also toured with David Bowie as a guitarist for Bowie’s album, Hours. During this time, Page was playing with a band of friends under the name of Gandhi, but due to the stress of having a band made up of bicoastal members, Gandhi broke up in 2002.


Page met drummer John Tempesta in 2002, and started jamming with him and guitarist Chris Traynor (Orange 9MM) who toured with Helmet during the Aftertaste tour. The three of them demoed the track, “Throwing Punches,” which eventually made it into the hands of Nine Inch Nails bassist Danny Lohner, music supervisor for the film Underworld. The track made it onto the soundtrack of the film, and the fire for Helmet was sparked again. Jimmy Iovine, chairman for Interscope, contacted Page earlier this year to ask him to produce music for his label and also asked him to return to Interscope with Helmet. Page started by producing Bush front man Gavin Rossdale’s solo project and then made the comeback album of the year with Helmet called Size Matters. recently caught up with Page after a wild night in Vegas playing a date on the SnoCore Tour with Chevelle, Future Leaders of America and Strata. His tour mates owe a debt of gratitude to Page and the sound Helmet helped grow and cultivate.


Page got his start playing music by actively listening to music and says of his early experience, “I went to a school where they didn’t have much that would get you interested at 15 or 16. They’ve got you listening to classical, and all you want to play is Led Zeppelin. They have you singing, “Nothing could be finer than bein’ in Carolina,” and wearing a blue bowtie,. You’re thinking, ‘music sucks!’ Then you hear Zeppelin and you think, ‘music rules!'”


Yet, regardless of taste, Page comes from a strong background where he got his chops going to Manhattan School of Music for jazz guitar. With the current state of things as they are, Page says, “Of all the things they could cut (from budgets), they cut something like music. They don’t even realize the value of it, even if a kid doesn’t want to be a professional musician, they don’t realize that the value of studying an instrument stays with you the rest of your life. ”


Page started obsessing about the guitar when he was about 15. He was introduced to the guitar wizardry of Jimmy Page and his stellar work with Led Zeppelin, and by 16, Page had almost every Zeppelin album except In Through the Out Door. By 17, Page had bought his first guitar, a $40 acoustic, and his goal, like many new guitarists of the time was to learn “Stairway to Heaven.”


“I started fantasizing about being Jimmy Page. I would listen to two Zep records a day from beginning to end. I bought a $40 acoustic and started taking lessons from this guy. He was a good guy, but he said “Stairway to Heaven” would be too difficult for me to learn, so I left and found a teacher who would help me learn it. I believed I could learn to play anything if I wanted.


“I went to college as a pre-med major ’cause I was in advanced math and science in high school, and they basically said I’d be a doctor or lawyer, but soon realized that seeing the sight of someone injured and the sight of blood makes me pass out so I wouldn’t be a very good doctor. I was still really into music, and in the spring semester I got a music teacher and started studying and playing a lot and decided to continue after one semester. I asked my teacher if he thought I could be a career musician and he said I could if I wanted it bad enough. So I started working really hard-12 hours a day. I did a year at the community college ’cause I wasn’t quite good enough to get into the university yet. I took a ton of music classes and some philosophy and English lit and kind of got myself together. Then I auditioned for jazz guitar and classical guitar and got in.


“I got my degree and moved to Seattle and auditioned at the Cornish Institute, but they said, ‘You already have your degree but we’d love to have you here. We could give you another bachelor’s degree.’ But I decided to go to New York instead and give it a go and went to grad school, auditioned for jazz guitar and got my master’s degree two years later. I was obsessed. I literally didn’t go out, and for me it was a wise thing to move to New York without any money ’cause you can literally get swallowed up by the city. I lived in a welfare hotel and worked the graveyard shift from midnight to 8 in the morning. I had a little Fender amp and a Charlie Parker Omni book, and unless something was going wrong, I just had to buzz people in. I worked my way through grad school doing that.


“When I was done, I picked up a copy of the Village Voice and started looking for bands that were auditioning people and that’s how I met the Band of Susan’s. I got into that band and then got into Glen Franken’s guitar orchestra and did that for about a year when I said, ‘Hey, I can write, I can sing,’ and started working on Helmet stuff from there and put my band together.”


As an album, Size Matters is a great way for Page to be reintroduced into the wild, so-to-speak, and the guitar work on the album is earthquake-inducing heavy, yet the mild, melodic delivery and un-obligatory throaty yells from Page keep the spirit of Helmet alive without repeating old techniques. His work in jazz (he’s also taught himself to play trumpet), film and as a session musician have helped expand his musical vocabulary and in turn expanded his creativity when it comes to writing for Helmet. Page paints the picture of the consummate musician, continuously learning and honing his craft, and taking bits of the jazz and classical world and sprinkling them into the sound of Helmet.


When working with film, Page says, “I was just hired as a guitar player to play on the orchestral score by Elliot Goldenthal, who had heard about me through Warner Brothers. He needed some weird guitar stuff, and they called and said, ‘We’re going to hire you to get some other guitar stuff and do this orchestra thing,’ and I thought it was cool. They ended up hiring me and this guy Mark Stewart, who is this amazing guitar virtuoso from New York who played with Paul Simon and can do all the really slick reading and everything like that. I can read but it’s not something you really do in rock. I’ll read a big, slow passage and do it with my sound and build pads under the orchestra, and then work with the composer-mostly just color stuff. So I’ll do anywhere from six to 20 guitars on a queue and let them do what they want with it. It’s really fun.


“This last year with Elliot, I worked on this opera he’s doing called Transposed Heads and worked on S.W.A.T., and those guys recommended me to this other group of guys who did the sound for the movie HEAT, and so I ended up helping them with Catwoman. And worked with Elliot on Collateral.


He adds, “I’ve been really lucky to be able to do a film a year.”


One key aspect for Page as a growing and learning musician was the purchase of a recording device. He says, with regards to self-improvement, “One major key for me was getting a four-track and a drum machine. You spend time listening, putting structures together. It helps when coming up with ideas. You can have two guitars, three guitars-anything goes. You’re in your room working and having that expands your knowledge. Hear different things and become a better musician. For me, working on movies helps me in my writing for my band, playing in my band helps my jazz playing. It has provided a springboard for me to help develop these sonic soundscapes, and I’m a good arranger because of the time I spent with the four-track writing and arranging, which helped me on the Gavin Rossdale solo project. I produced this band Toti Moshi from Oakland who we took on the road with Helmet. All these things are part of being a musician. It’s not just a one-dimensional world, and I would encourage people to not just listen to rock exclusively.”


Helmet hit the road for the SnoCore tour in mid-January and will be traveling with the tour until March 13, where the final stop in is in a very ‘un’ snow-like place: Orlando, FL. Former Anthrax bassist Frank Bello stepped in on bass for Chris Traynor so Traynor could focus on guitar, and with former White Zombie/Testament drummer John Tempesta manning the skins, Helmet is once again a force to be feared. For tour dates and general info on Helmet, please visit