Saturday, July 11

Videos from Purgatory: King's X at Woodstock

Following up on my recent article on the documentary Electric Purgatory which explores the difficulties of Black Artists who dare to defy conventional wisdom and genre-restrictions by playing Rock and Alternative Music I will now be posting Videos of some of these artists both to highlight their talent and to counter those who would claim the only reason for their lack of greater noteriety and success is because they someone fail to "Measure Up".

First : King's X from Woodstock '94, Fifteen Years ago with a Cover of Jimi Hendrix Manic Depression between performances by Sheryl Crow and Blues Traveler.

This is a band I've actually following and personally known since before this video was shoot - I met this guys in Sacramento after a performance at the Boardwalk in Orangevale, my first time there, while they made a stop during the Gathering of the Tribes Tour, which also featured Fishbone and Primus.

Fans on the GOTT tour hadn't been treating the band well, I specifically recall lead singer dUg Pinnick calling out in comment to one guy who was very obviously reading a newspaper during their performance. In response the guy made a big show of turning the pages and continuing to ignore them.

At the Boardwalk it was different, it was swelteringly hot - somewhere around 120 degrees that Summer - and incredibly humid. The club was packed literally to the gills making the entire place one big Mosh, and the band was totally energized to have a crowd so INTO what it was they do - and believe me they were.

To. This. Very. DAY. I don't think I've had and seen a more intense - near religious - musical experience. It was frankly Amazing.

After the show we met the band in the parking lot next to the trailer park and they talked with all the fans for hours and hours... totally enjoying everyones company. They were cool, smart, funny, completely unpretensious and fantastic musicians.

I've considered them friends of mine ever since. A couple years later, in 1992, during their next tour we had one friend of our fly out from England to L.A. to join us (me, my wife and step-son) following the band on as many of their tour stops as possible - we did four of them. L.A., Fresno, San Francisco and Denver. It got to the point where their Bus Driver knew who we were, and at one stop where we had planned to drive all night long the band - actually dUg - offered to let the four of us stay in his hotel room, while they slept on the bus since they only rented the rooms to take a shower after the gig. So we did, then followed them on the next town to another great show. When we arrived the venue said it wouldn't honor our tickets - because the show had moved from another location at the last minute - and that we'd have to fix it at "The point of sale".

Well, that was 200 Freaking Miles Away - we'd pretty much miss the whole show driving their and back.

The band stood up for us, first Ty the Guitarist, then Dug, and then finally their Road Manger Jay Feebus said something to the club owner that completely chilled his shit - and got us into the gig. That's why I say these guys are my friends, because they've proven they are.

THAT is who King's X is - don't forget it.


Tuesday, July 7

One Musicians View on the Michael Mess in this Economy

Ok, today will hopefully be the last day of Michael Mania although I think that may be far too much to hope for.

Some of last nights coverage from the CBS Evening News.

Watch CBS Videos Online

I have a connection to this which is not the usual one as a Musician. For example my Wife (also a Musician) used to take Drum Lessons from Joe Porcaro at Musicians Institute in L.A. Through that connection and others she eventually ran the Official Fan Club for the band his kids put together with their friends from Grant Hight, otherwise known as Toto.

Most of the members of Toto played on Michael Jackson's Thriller LP, in fact Steve Porcaro actually wrote "Human Nature" and his dad Joe used to Joke around about his "Son the Millionare" based on the Royalties that song generated. The funny thing is that Toto only gave that song to Michael because they were expecting to play Stadiums after the success of Toto IV, and didn't think that soft song would work in that setting.

Then Micheal went and played it in Stadiums. Figures.

On a personal level I find a lot of this spectacle really disgusting and crass. My day job is doing graphics for Websites and one of my primary clients is with a Silkscreen Company - in "Jimmy Jam" (as shown in the CBS Report) is one of my primay clients - and I've been really torn about doing graphics on the job. I was even on site during the segment taping, but I preferred not to be on camera consider my ambivilence about it all.

Yes, it's a paycheck. Yes, it has clearly created a mini-boom in the Local Los Angeles Economy that is in desperate need for a boost.

But as a Musician, as a person who in my own case spent Four Years in a Trademark Dispute with another band, fighting against a former member of Dream Theater who actually DARED to provide a falsified affidavit and phony flier to try and prove his band had been in place before my Band - I know the value of Copyrights and Trademarks in a way that most people don't.

During the time that the Original existed, my old group (the Original) Planet X made some real money purely from listeners streaming our songs, but after Napster and other sharing services shut that site down, that revenue stream dried up. Why should advertisers pay for something that everyone can simply Take?

From my perspective a lot of these Michael Chotchke's are RIPPING Michael and his Family off. I've heard the arguement that - "Oh, he's got MILLIONS - why shouldn't I get some" - I've heard "Well, the FANS want it" and oh, the "Family isn't doing it = why shouldn't we"? and I find all of this completely unconvincing.

I don't think once the dust settles that Michael's Attorney's are going to find it very convincing either. That kind of Raw Naked Greed is frankly the same thing that drove the selfishness behind predatory lending, the sub-prime mortgage crisis the relentless pumping up of stock prices and exportation of American Jobs overseas to the determine of the American Worker and Economy.

It's high time we turned away from that as a people, society and country and once again began to embrace - well - Values.

You can't really fault fans for wanting a momento, but from my perspective - head down in the midst of the grind to get all this stuff made. It's a Crazed Feeding Frenzy. One of our guys says that one woman bought the shirt Off His Back on Hollywood Blvd.

And still I have mixed feelings about it all.

I saw this same kind of Frenzy to make Obama T-Shirts during the Campaign, and even though as my day job I was actually helping make designs - i didn't even KEEP one of those shirts for myself. I felt then, and still feel that the proper thing to do was to make a donation to the campaign and get an OFficial Shirt, not a bootleg. We actually did make Official Shirts for the McCain/Palin Campaign when they made their local swing through at Cal State Dominguez, and it was so funny to think all those people shouting Neo-Racist Slurs while wearing "McCain/Palin '08" on their shirts imported from Haiti and printed by a bunch of Black Guys and Mexicans in South Central.

That was kinda hilarious.

But this Michael thing to me is still kinda sad. All the drama is just so pathetic and ridiculous with his kids and the drugs and his own personal history with the law, his own personal quirks with plastic surgery and body modification. Ugh! To me, and this remains to be determined, he died much like Elvis. Drained of all functional cash reserves, he essentially Had to go on Tour or else begin liquidating his catalogue to pay his $500 Billion in Debts. To my mind, depending on the final autopsy results, it's is very likely that he Worked Himself To Death - trying to prevent that from happening.

And now people are doing everything they can to make a buck off his image and name - and we all supposed to just smile and nod and go "Well, it's good for the economy..."

Yeah... ok.

The services is starting as I type this, and the thought of thousands of hucksters around Staples trying to Hawk all this stuff - just doesn't feel right.

They even asked me at work if I wanted to make a few bucks out there - and even though my personal finances suck, I'm two or three days from having my Cable/Phone and Internet Shutoff I said "FUCK NO!"

I can't do it. I can't disrespect Michael that way. The thought make me sick.

He was far - FAR from my favorite Artist. I would say I like Prince much more, but I knew his career going all the way back to ABC. I watched as he grew up - as he was just 5 years older than me. I learned the Jackson 5 dance moves as a kid. I remember when they left Motown and Jermaine had to go solo because he was married to Barry Gordy's daughter and decided to stay with their original label. I remember the Triumph and Destiny albums long before Michael would explode with the Thriller Album into both a phenomenon and and many ways a "Freak".

Today he will be laid to rest, and hopefully he can rest in peace.


Sunday, July 5

We got a Black President - Now can we Finally have a Black Rock Band?

This Documentary from 2006 details the difficulties trials and tribulations faced by Black Rock Musicians in an industry that is far more interested in exploiting the current body image biases of the Rock Audience, than promoting the best and brightest artists.

As a personal confession, I actually know quite a few people in the documentary - including Reggie McFadden, Mike (Maggot) McGinnes of Bozaque (The Original Rap Metal Band), Bernie K. (Sound Barrier/Total Eclipse) and Oscar Jordan who I was very briefing in a band with. In the lat 80's and early 90's I joined the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization dedicated to addressing this very issue which had originally been formed in New York by Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Greg Tate (Writer for the Village Voice) and Artists Manager Konda Mason.

Quite a few different people were supportive and involved in the early days including members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Tom Morello just before he formed Rage Against the Machine and some members of Body Count. Although it should seem quite obvious if you simply ask yourself "Where did all the black people in Rock n' Roll go?" there are still those who want to deny it's any kind of issue and instead basically blame the victims.

On the Full Length YouTube Version of the Movie there are comments like this:

this is not a race issue as this is portayed (along with many other issues). these guys have talent, but black rock bands are not money makers. why are the majority of rap artists black? same reason. people just need to accept the cold hard facts. if you have a good band, people will listen no matter your race. its not uncommon for a great band to be unsigned.

Or this...

They portray this as a race issue, but it is not. Most people have never heard of my favorite band, they have been around since the mid 90's, but they are not black, so they can't use the race excuse. The music industry is here to make money. Who makes money? Whoever 13 year olds like. Apparently, it is not black people making shitty rock music. The people in this movie want to be rich and famous. They are not content with making music that they love.

They contend that the music industry is somehow racist, but they overlook the impetus of greed on the situational dynamic. Doing so allows them to absolve their greed and blame someone else for their lack of success, on an unrelated basis. The music business is a business. The only color that matters is green. There is no racism involved. If a group of 4 black guys came out with a record on par with "Master of Puppets", they would be unbelievably fucking famous.

Let me tell ya, if it wasn't about race - why was it that the very first BRC Shows in Hollywood received Bomb Threats? Who threatens to BOMB a Rock Show? Country/Western Fans?

And this wasn't in the 60's, or the 70's - it was 1989!

But here's the thing Greed is exactly the point and exactly the problem. It's not about what is the better art, or who is the greater artist, with the challenges that the music industry has been facing, particularly with free downloading, they have no desire or courage to challenge any existing status quo no matter how biased and/or bigotted it may be. They just give in to it.

This is not just an issue that affects these artists, it affects anyone who doesn't fit a very molded, easy to market Body Image. An artist that is too old, or not slim enough, or has the wrong kind of hair, not puffy enough lips, not wide enough eyes - faces all the exact same things. Sure, a lot of these people can GO ON A DIET, but then in far too many rather extreme cases, this has led to Anorexia, Bulimia or even plastic surgery to change their appearance.

We all know that we've seen the affect of Body Image on many Hollywood and Music SuperStars, some like the Late Michael Jackson have even clearly come down with Body Dismorphic Disorder, where they've become literally addicted to having procedure after procedure to satisfy their desire for acceptance and visual "perfection." That's not an option for artists who are either unwilling or financially unable to transform themselves into Skeletor the way Micheal did, or be willing to Shuck and Jive with Rap-style "Bling Bling" as ?uestlove of The Roots points out during his interview just to be able to have their music heard.

Being expected to give in to someone elses bigotry by descending into self-parody, self-loathing and self-destruction is not exactly my idea of a solution. Some prices are just too high to pay.

I think it's going to far to expect everyone to cowtow to stereotypes rather than challenge the basis for those stereotypes. America is supposed to be land of the "Free", not land of the "Wannabe's!" This issue has affected all of Rock, particularly Women Rockers from Pat Benatar to Heart who were basically forced out of the business because Nancy didn't fit the "Image" they thought she should project. Or to put it another way - She Got FAT. It had nothing to do with her ability to write or sing, they just didn't think she looked cute girl in the videos anymore - y'know like Madonna or Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers? And please, it's not like any of those Miley (Spawn of the Original Billy Ray Vyrus) or one of those Jonas chicks are the greatest musicians in the world or have ever released an album as AWESOME as "Master of Fucking Puppets" dude. WOOO!

We all know damn well they haven't, but we keep smiling at the American Idol/Disney Assembly Line of SUCK anyway.

This "Image" issue (which he saw as inherently racist and sexist) was a driving force behind much of Kurt Cobain's music, however the end result of his efforts were that a skinny stringy hair drug addicted white-guy in spandex was replaced by a skinny stringy haired drug addicted white-guy in a flannel shirt and mohair sweater. Again, not much of an improvement IMO.

One of the commenters, just like those people who have attacked Judge Sotomayor for applying current judicial precedent in the Ricci case, want to automatically assume that the White Guys must be better, and the Black Guys who didn't get the promoted in that case - MUST HAVE BEEN SHITTY - which is a typical defensive response to people's passive inaction in the face of bigotry.

Yeah, ok. If you're a Rock/Metal fan Check these videos out.

If you don't know, one of the Videos is this selection includes a song by the band Wicked Wisdom which features Jada Pinkett Smith as lead singer - yes - Will (Independence Day/Wild Wild West/MIB) Smith's Wife Jada who just started a brand new TV series. Even with his and her considerable Fame her participation in this band is practically A Secret - even after they toured with Ozzfest last year.

Another featured video is Dionne Farris of the Rap group Arrested Development who basically had to quit the industry after she scored a #1 Hit on the Billboard Top 40 with the Medium Rock Song "I Know" because they wouldn't let her do ROCK anymore, and insisted she only sing R&B. Let me repeat: After she had a #1 HIT ROCK nd her label refused to let her sing ROCK!

Frankly, I hope to God that was Racism because if not it's just Frakin' Crazy!

Farris’ return comes after a nasty parting of ways with her former label, Columbia, which wanted her to produce black-radio-friendly, neo-soul tracks, even though her post-Arrested Development breakout single, “I Know,” was a mainstream video pop hit. At a creative impasse, she requested and gained a release from her contract.

That was more than a decade ago.

Some people assume that everything in America is a perfect Meritocracy at the same time they admit that the situation, particularly with music is inherently unfair - and that's supposed to be "Just fine."

Crazy Much?

If one of these bands had made "Master of Puppets" or an album as good they would be naturally be HUGE just because right!? Not exactly. A lot of the hype around that album came from the fact that it was one of the first American Band that reflected the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It was a bunch of guys that people could easily relate too, and the fact that it was different from everything else around it that helped propel that album forward as much as the music itself.

Living Colour is a Multi-platinum, Multi-Grammy Winning Band. "Shitty?" Fuck no!

It would be easy to argue that Fishbone's "Reality of My Surroundings", King's X "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska", Living Colour's "Time's Up", Mother's Finest "Black Radio Won't Play this Record" and 24-7 Spyz "Strength In Numbers" and the debut album by Sevendust if not match that challenge, they surpass it.

But they weren't made by the right (looking) people at the right time.

Another couple examples would be the arguemetn Guns N Roses "Appetite for Destruction" and Rage Against the Machine's debut CD are equally as good as Master - but the one big difference between those records and the others is that practically no one at the time knew - and some still don't know - that Gun's guitarist Slash and RATM guitarist Tom Morello Are Both BLACK.

Ok, technically half black, like Barack, but still Black. Except both of them can and did pass for White since they're both fairly light-skinned. See - Look White Enough and the problem is solved. No biggie, just borrow MJ's old Skin-cream, he's not gonna need it anymore.

The point serious, is that if it's not something that's obvious, and it's not in your FACE, it doesn't become and issue. In order to duck and dodge the issue - the first couple Living Colour singles and their originally album cover didn't include a image of the band, just so people wouldn't automatically assume they were an R&B or Reggae group.

Not a problem?

Not hardly.

These bands and these artists are going to keep fighting this injustice, and eventually they're going to win. The funny thing is - it's going to help every other artists whose fighting against being Prejudged based on their Image just as much as it will help themselves.

All the rest of you are already welcome. Just remember who did you the Solid. Again.