Archive for the ‘music’ Category

I didn’t want to like this band. I assumed they were hollow megastars like all the pop musicians you see on TMZ (two of them start with a K…).

Boy was I wrong. I got into Vessel and Blurryface only a few months ago, purely out of curiosity.

The thing that struck me was how dark their tunes were, yet so full of hope. It reminded me of My Chemical Romance, my favorite band since 2006.

I began to explore the concept and themes of Blurryface, which is also strikingly similar to My Chem’s Black Parade, both by being a concept record and by having songs that switch out joy and nihilism at the drop of a hat. As the fans know, Blurryface represents inner demons and insecurities – being afraid to create art, afraid to advance in a career, afraid of relationships, afraid of who you are – “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.”

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about Blurryface because that character sets the stage for the Pilots’ latest effort, Trench. On this record, the name of insecurity – Blurryface, remember – seems to have been swapped for Nicolas Bourbaki, a name the Pilots borrowed from an historical pseudonym for a group of French mathematicians who, among other things, tried to prove the existence of God mathematically. Also known as Nico, this strange being with a face of pale and dark and a cloak of red leads a group of 9 “Bishops” – characters referenced on the Blurryface record that seek to control the population through depression and a religion called vialism, which worships neon colors within glass and gravestones (a metaphor for the glitz and glamour of fame, suicide, and the conflict that some sufferers of depression find addictive). This group chases a man named Clancy – front man Tyler Joseph’s new persona – through a land called Dema, which is basically depression incarnated as a city. Throughout the album, Clancy must put on his Jumpsuit – a form of protection symbolized by yellow, a color the Bishops can’t see. To manifest the Junpsuit, Clancy must struggle to make his art – his main weapon against the darkness (“Let there be light” “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend”) while seeking help from the Banditos, a group of people whom he loves (representing Joseph’s friends, family, and fans).

That’s the concept behind Trench. Confusing? Over thought? Or brilliant? In my opinion, all three. The lyrical narrative flows effortlessly over thunderous bass, chill ukulele, occasional guitar, groovy synth, and complex drum beats. On top of all this, the vocals are the best Joseph has ever offered us…I used to prefer the insecure, unique vocals of No Phun Intended and Vessel, but it seems that confidence has won the day for this band – the vocals, as well as the music, seem downright cocky…Joseph knows that his last Grammy award winning album was the first one in history to have every track go platinum. It doesn’t come across as arrogant though, and the same goes for Josh Dun’s better than ever drum lines….it comes across as a cohesive completely self-actualized work of art.

Though the concept is quite tight, each song can still stand on its own. A few personal themes even show up without the guise of metaphor, such as in “Smithereens”, where Joseph croons about selling out and writing slick songs for his wife. No, I don’t think the band has really sold out, but he’s certainly kept up with modern day pop and transformed his indie sound to match (is selling out even real? Or do musicians grow…simply wanting to make tunes that sound GOOD?)

The best songs are the deep ones. Underneath something like a digital guitar riff, “Morph” questions faith in God, and specifically the afterlife, with the juicy lyric “There’s no above or under or around it. For above is blind belief, and under’s sword to sleeve, and around is scientific miracle…let’s pick above and see.”

“Chlorine” uses the metaphor of a cleaning agent to discuss the difficulties of creating art, and “Neon Gravestones” cuts to the quick about our nation’s fascination with suicide. Tying in with the fictional vialism religion, and beneath haunting piano reminiscent of the Pilots’ self-titled LP, Joseph encourages the listener to continue living and resist the urge to go out with a bang and seek glitzy fame through ending ones own life.

“Neon Gravestones try to call for my bones….but they won’t get ’em.”

Some songs on Trench directly connect with past Pilots albums. “Levitate” borrows lyrics from “Car Radio”, and “Nico and the Niners” spouts the lyric “Dema won’t control us.” While this is obviously a reference to the fictional Dema city of depression, it sounds almost like “demon”, which calls to mind “Ode to Sleep” and many other songs from past albums about overcoming personal demons.

That’s the main thing I like about twenty one pilots. Everything they do connects together – every song, every album, and it’s all very well constructed (see Trench’s album cover for example – a black vulture, a theme common to this record signifying an ancient religion called Zoroastrianism that fed the bodies of Saints to actual vultures. This, in turn, is a metaphor for the Pilots’ music being picked apart by the public, and Joseph “feeding on death” through his lyrics about mental health.)

While it doesn’t resonate with me emotionally in the same way as Vessel and No Phun Intended, Trench is without a doubt the best twenty one pilots record. It’s the smartest, the best written, the most visual, and the most sonically pleasing thing the band has ever done. It’s just not my heart’s favorite…purely for sentimental reasons.

If they do any better on the next album – a feat that seems impossible – I may pass out for days due to sheer awesomeness.

10/10

(Still not as good as “Blasphemy” from No Phun Intended – again, purely for personal and emotional reasons)

By the way, Hi Everyone. I’m back.

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Cycle

Birth death renewal and I can’t breathe

I’ve lost my light I dropped my torch inside

This vacant

Tunnel

I search for trouble

Cause at least then I would feel something

Inside

I’ve looked for years

With empty eyes

What’s dark in me won’t you

Illumine

It’s all my fault we all lose our way

Stretch out your hands and keep the wraiths at bay

I

Can’t

Find my way through this damned labyrinth

I’m

Running out of thread

I

Won’t

Find my way I’ll say the Hell with it

I’m on the verge of giving in

I’ve tried it all

Chased vanity

I’ve looked for calm

But it always strays (tossed by the waves)

It’s not my fault that you’ve lost your way

Stretch out your hands and keep the demons at bay

I

Can’t

Find my way through this damned labyrinth

I’m

Running out of thread

I

Won’t

Find my way I’ll say the Hell with it

I’m on the verge of giving in

I hope someone up there

Can save me

That’s what everybody says

I plead are you up there

So save me

I need to pray for someone else

Save me

(These are lyrics to a heavy metal song I’m recording)

Check out my music page! The first two songs, “Wish Upon a Reset” and “Old winter Trees” Are brand new. The two songs each come from their own genre, dance and jazz, respectively. The band logo is also something I created, and it contains hidden messages/symbols. Who can tell me what they are?

PSYCHE’S REVENGE

The Germs: Forming

Infiltration, numbing your minds. Concentration, weve done time. Rip them down, hold me up, tell them that I’m your gun. Pull my trigger I am bigger than…

Marilyn Manson: Crucifixion In Space

This is your creation. The Adam Of Eden was a bomb. (ADAM bomb ATOM bomb haha I love it)

My Chemical Romance: Vampires Will Never Hurt You

Can you take this spike? Will it fill our hearts with thoughts of endless night…time…sky…can you take this spike? Can you wash away this jet black feeling?

My Chemical Romance: Destroya

Don’t believe what they say

We’re dead flies in the summertime

They leave us all behind

With duct tape scars on my honey

They don’t like who you are

You won’t like where we’ll go

Brother, protect me now

With blood they wash in the money!

You don’t believe in God

I don’t believe in luck

They don’t believe in us

But I believe we’re the enemy!

Underoath: Casting Such a Thin Shadow

In a picture perfect scenery, I’ve become a stick figure illustration.

Fall Out Boy: XO

To the “love”, I left my conscience pressed

Between the pages of the Bible in the drawer

“What did it ever do for me?”, I say

Green Day: Jesus of Suburbia

I’m the Son of rage and love, the Jesus of Suburbia. From the Bible of none of the above, on a steady diet of

Soda pop and ritalyn. No one ever died for my sins in hell as far as I can tell, at least the ones I had gotten away with

And there’s nothing wrong with me. This is how I’m supposed to be. In a land of make believe, they don’t believe in me.

Avenged Sevenfold: The Stage

It took the birth of sin to snake-rattle the mind

Before a blow to the head by the gavel of time

To wake up

Won’t you wake up?

When did the walking apes decide that nuclear war

Was now the only solution for them keeping the score?

Just wake up

Can’t you wake up?

Marilyn Manson: Angel With the Scabbed Wings

He is the angel with the scabbed wings, hard drug face, wanna powder his nose? He will deflower the freshest crop, dry up all the worms with his rock and roll sores.

My Chemical Romance: It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish

When you go, just know that I

Will remember you.

If living was the hardest part, we’ll then one day

Be together.

And in the end we’ll fall apart just as the leaves

Change in color.

And then I will be with you. I will be there.

One last time now.

Well when you go, just know that I

Will remember you.

I’ve lost my fear of falling. I will be with you. I will be with you.

This one is my own…just funny.

Monkeys with guns, haha, that’s all we are. King fucking Kong didn’t get very far.

It was announced recently that the metal core outfit known as Underoath is no longer a Christian band. This shocked the Hell out of many, myself included, but it only took a trip through the rest of their albums for me to realize they’ve been wrestling with the issue for a long time (especially in the last one “Disambiguation”) – discs riddled with doubt and uncertainty, even from the beginning.

While their new record, “Erase Me” does explore issues of questioning (in ways that outdo both Bring Me the Horizon and Marilyn Manson), it is far from blasphemous. There are enough “God save me” references to satisfy any Christian…or, better put, any hopeful spiritual person…There’s a lot on this disc that Fundamentalists would have a big problem with. But that’s rock and roll. That’s art. And though I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior, I am still happy to call this album the best set of songs I have heard since 2010 (Danger Days….).

There is so much raw authenticity to this disc…whether it’s Spencer’s chaotic vocals digging deep into the subject of depression, Aaron’s beautiful vocals that sound like fucking harmonies even when there’s only one vocal track, Chris’ innovative keyboards that can go from Skrillex to Beetheoven at the drop of a hat, Grant’s chugging bass lines that practically break the windows of my car, or Tim and James’ relentless guitars that go from mellifluous harmony to relentless assault within the span of a second.

This is CLASSIC Underoath. The darkness of Define the Great Line, the rawness of Lost in the Sound of Separation, the experimental tones of Disambiguation, and the heartfelt honesty of They’re Only Chasing Safety (Oath abandoned the black metal of Cries of the Past days long ago…but, surprisingly, this shit has the energy of that disc as well…fast, double bass, metal riffs, and less focused, more cathartic screams in some places). The best description I can think of for this album is that it’s like They’re Only Chasing Safety, but more mature, and way, way heavier. Digitized intros and bridges, industrial drum beats with just enough metal to assault the ears, beautiful clean vocals, and heavy screams that put all other “screamers” to shame –

this is Underoath.

This is the band that created the metal core genre…perhaps not literally, but definitely in that the style they created is what everyone else followed. So many bands reap the benefits from the ingenuity of Underoath (and I love them, and none are by any means ripoffs, but it’s true…Underoath are like the Beatles of metal core) – Memphis Mayfire, Blessthefall, Escape the Fate (some of it), Alesana, A Skylit Drive, Bring Me the Horizon, and so many more.

What’s crazy though is how DIFFERENT this effort manages to be while still remaining true to the style of what came before it. There are BALLADS now, along with punk rock (In Motion). “No Frame” is the most innovative thing I have ever heard from Underoath…it still sounds like them, but they have literally never written a song like this one before – the only thing I can compare it to is some of the spacey stuff from Thirty Seconds to Mars, but BETTER. And it’s not just this song – so much of this record is experimental, and while we’ve heard similar sounds before, it still pulls off the feeling of being fresh and unique.

I literally find no fault whatsoever with this album. It is perfect from start to finish.

Raymond Toro is a virtuoso. He knows what he’s doing. His first solo album, “Remember the Laughter” is proof of that. Writing, arranging, and playing nearly every single piece of music on this disc, the man proves his meddle as a solo artist with catchy vocal hooks, smart time changes, heartfelt lyrics, and passionate vocals. I don’t like it as much as I like the discs he worked on in the past with a band, “I brought You My Bullets, You Brought me Your Love”, “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge”, “The Black Parade”, “Conventional Weapons”(yes, I see it as a cohesive album all by itself), and “Danger Days”, as the primary writer and arranger of the music, but I’m still in love with it. The lyrics alone make it worth a listen, but there’s so much more to it than that. 

“Remember the Laughter” is a concept album about a middle aged man finding a “memory box” and reflecting on moments of his life via the contents of said box. Simple as hell, way less bombastic and complicated than “The Black Parade”, but just as heartfelt and almost as effective. 

A few tracks stand out to me, and they will be the main ones I write about in this review. The first, “Isn’t that Something”, is written from a straight up genius perspective when it comes to music. Good structure, a good balance of traditional music and electronic(just in the beginning really), and some of the most honest lyrics I have ever heard in a song. You can tell that the track is about Toro’s feelings after the MCR breakup of 2013, and it really pulls at your heart, especially if you’re a fan. 

“Mama told me I should stand alone. Papa said your better on your own.”

While I do think My Chem was the greatest ensemble of creators in the history of music, I still think that Ray’s parents were right, at least in a way. He’s finally making the music he’s always wanted to make. Sure, there’s none of that magical teamwork that occurs when a band full of separate artists with separate musical tastes work together to create the sonic hybrid known as an album, but it really does show that this artist can stand on his own two feet creatively just fine. A lot more than fine, actually. 

That being said, this record was A huge surprise to me. My favorite guitarist had always played like he was a hybrid of Brian May and Randy Rhoades – but with this album, he goes the pop route. It’s not “pop” like all that Beyonce shit you always hear, but it’s still catchy as hell. A very strange but very nice combination of modern pop music with 80s rock bands, which makes the disc play like a time capsule, and the record’s narrative lyrically fits well into that aspect of the album. 

“Walking in Circles” is my new favorite love song. The lyrics in it are simple, as is a lot of the music, but the thing delivers. His vocal holds notes extremely well, and the entire song is laced with strings that really give the whole thing an epic scope. As far as the guitar is concerned, this one shows the listener that Ray isn’t interested in shredding and showing off like he did with My Chem. He just wants to make something emotive and powerful with his music, even if it’s simple. But, like I said, there are stringed instruments, so it’s kind of a mind fuck that he would make a song that sounds so simple and then add something really complex on top of it. 

So far, the album has been pretty poppy. But with “We Save”, the music becomes straight up rock and roll, namely, blues rock. I can’t help but make a comparison to “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison”, chiefly because of the guitar style, but the song still doesn’t sound anything like that one or anything else in My Chem’s arsenal. It’s not heavy, but it’s not soft either-it’s just intelligent rock music that puts a smile on your face. 

Things get more complex a couple of tracks later with, “The Great Beyond”. Orchestral instruments  abound once again, but the real focus is the guitar and the vocals. Melodically, it’s one of the best songs of the album, especially with the soft bridge. I said before that Ray doesn’t really shred on this album – but scratch that, the solo on this song is excellent(I guess he does shred on this album, where the solos are concerned, but he does it sparingly). It’s soft but rockin’, smart, and gets stuck in your head just as much as the vocals do. There’s also a certain highly experimental sound employed throughout the verses that took me a while to get used to, but I love it now, even though I have no clue what it is. Something like scraping or clicking, I guess. 

“Take the World” reminds me of “The World is Ugly” and “the Kids From Yesterday”, but it’s still Signature Ray Toro, not My Chemical Romance. I think it would have worked with Gerard Way singing it, but it actually wouldn’t have been as good. This is the album’s initial single for a reason – it shows with glory Toro’s competence as a songwriter and especially as a vocalist. I’ll admit I like Way’s voice better, but I think Ray’s voice is perfect for this song. 

All the songs are great, but the next one that really stands out to me is “Requiem”. The vocals and lyrics of this record are all delightfully positive, and that infectious happiness shows the most through this track. It’s all about honoring the memories of those we have lost, living life to the fullest, and finding hope amidst the “madness of this world”

“You’ve got one life so make it right. If I had one more chance, I wouldn’t take it back.

Don’t die in vain, please light the flame.

And fill the sadness in your heart with memories of us.”

Just beautiful to the heart, man. Makes me wanna live my life to the fullest. And, at the end of the song, Toro goes full on African with the vocals and percussion. I’ve always loved tribal stuff. It’s just so emotional and real. 

And the last song, title track “Remember the Laughter” is just as powerful and infectious as the rest of them. Great way to end an album, especially with Toro’s “La la la” refrain during the bridge. 

I’ve been listening to this album for a couple weeks constantly, and it resonates with my emotions more than any of the solo efforts of My Chem’s other members. The main focus of the disc is family, and that’s something I desperately needed to focus on at this time. So, thanks Ray.

All in all, a cohesive, well constructed, and just damn good CD.

10 out of 10 

This isn’t Avenged Sevenfold’s best album. That honor will always be held by City of Evil (one long guitar solo) and, to some extent, Nightmare. 

But it’s their smartest, most ambitious, and most unique album to date. Think “The Wall” by Pink Floyd…but metal.

It’s a concept album, centering around the ideas of artificial intelligence and the implications its misuse has on humanity. Sort of like the Matrix, but less sci-fi and more genuinely scientific. This was the first thing that surprised me about the record. I never would have guessed that these metal giants would make a disc based Around scientific philosophy. Computers become the new God of society, people replace their body parts with mechanical implants so much that they aren’t human anymore, and the world gets destroyed. In my mind, this record is even an allegory for Facebook, social media, and the internet in general taking over the souls of the human race. I don’t really despise social media – but I do think our obsession with it is a bit excessive.

You would think with this concept that the album would sound digital and electronic – and once again, A7x surprise us by making it sound like their older metal core efforts, particularly on tracks 2-5. Instead of going full on 80s metal like they did on their last record, the disappointing “Hail to the King”, the band seems to have gotten back to their roots. It’s a blend of City of Evil and Waking the Fallen, especially where the guitar riffs are concerned. And while it doesn’t sound electronic, it certainly sounds cosmic. You feel like your up in the stars when you listen to it, and the cover art is a very clever play on their beloved logo, the death bat. Stars make up the skull and lightning energy makes up the wings, as you can see for yourself. 

The chorus on “Paradigm” hits mercilessly hard with speed and melody, the riffs on “Sunny Disposition” explode in your face (there’s a really pretty melody in there though at a few points), and “God Damn” combines black metal tremolo picking and drums with clean vocals to a very pleasing effect. 

The final track, “Exit” is primarily instrumental with smart time changes that go on for over ten minutes. There’s more music than lyrics on this one, but when those vocals come your ears will be blown away. This song is basically a narrative for the creation of our universe, the “Big Bang”, and it’s quite possibly the group’s most innovative song. Famed cosmologist Neil Degrasse Tyson even does a spoken word part at the end which he apparently wrote specifically for this album. I wouldn’t have ever pictured him working with a hard rock band, so this was another surprise. 

Yes, the album is full of surprises. It recaptures the brutal sound of their older albums while still remaining fresh and new to the listener. 

The only two problems I have with the disc are M. Shadows’ vocals and Synyster Gate’s guitar playing. Don’t get me wrong – both musicians still sound excellent and totally professional, but their work on this one just doesn’t capture me in the same way their previous material always did.

I award this album a 4 out of 5. If you love metal, go listen to it. Like, right now. 

smalltown

inthese

I interviewed these bands for a planned magazine for my hometown. But the editor bailed, so I’ve decided to post the piece on here. Our magazine is still in the works, however, and will probably be available early next year.

When you want to go to watch a rock band, chant lyrics back at its singer, and dance around like you just don’t care, then OKC is the place to be. Well…it HAS been. For a long time, it was the only place I could go to find shows, aside from an occasional trip to Dallas. But now, our own El Reno seems to be the go-to place for live music. Venues and bar shows are popping up everywhere, and it’s really bringing vitality to this town as well as bringing out the creative energies of our local musicians. Ever wonder what those musicians think about in regards to the shows, the songs, or anything else? Their take on the Reno scene? Look no further. We have two interviews with a couple of awesome bands who will most assuredly be among the first to put El Reno on the map.

First up, we have Cody Hassell, who plays guitar, harmonica, and does backing vocals for the band “Small Town Sound”, a real, gritty, honest, Red Dirt Country band with an awesome sense of humor matched only by the sheer talent they possess musically. Every show of theirs is ridiculously fun. The members are Tuffy Casteel(vocals), Tim Elliot(lead guitar), Jacob Moss(drums), Todd Neece(bass guitar), and of course Cody Hassell himself, the band’s mouthpiece for this interview. (As of this post’s date, Small Town Sound have unfortunately broken up, but Cody still does a lot of solo shows)

SMALL TOWN SOUND

  1. Tell me about the band name.

There’s really not much of a story behind it. I wasn’t there when they created it; I joined the band after that. But it’s pretty much flat out what it sounds like: a reference to the type of music that we play, which is the music that we learned growing up in a small town.

That’s awesome. Just starting out playing shows at bars, stuff like that, with people you know, and then growing from there?

Yeah you know, a group of friends in your living room after school or hanging out in your garage. You know, drinking beer… Wait, no, that was when I got a little bit older… Um.. Hi mom! (Laughs). But yeah, it’s pretty cool to go from starting there, playing at a campfire or your garage or your girlfriend’s house, to having people you went to school with come to all your major shows ten or fifteen years later. Everybody’s like “I knew you were gonna do something with this!” It’s a pretty good feeling, ya know? People think you’re doing something big ’cause of your recognition, but you’re actually still just basically screwing off, doing the same thing you were doing back in school.

I think it’s cool that something can start out small within the confines of a town, like bar shows and whatnot, and then grow to something way bigger while still retaining that personal and authentic quality.

Yeah, most everybody we play with, they are pretty authentic. Of course, there are those one or two people you run across every now and then who think they’re the biggest star on this side of the Mississippi. But they’re playing the same places we are, for the same amount of money we are, and we just usually have to let that go, you know? Don’t say nothin about it, don’t burn no bridges. But for the most part, everybody’s really cool. We have very few people we play with that we have any problem with. It’s a good scene.

  1. What genre would you call your music?

Oh man… We get a bunch of people that label us “Red Dirt Country”. And I think we do have a big influence from that type of music: The Turnpike Troubadours, Blackberry Smoke, Robert Okeen, and that type of stuff. But a couple of us also listened to punk music growing up, a lot of southern rock and classic rock too. So, when people ask me what type of music we play, I say “Red Dirt with a Southern Rock Feel”. We try not to do anything that has been done to death already though, ya know? We try to be unique.

  1. What would you say most of your songs are about?

All kinds of stuff. Most of them are pulled from an experience that we’ve had. We have one called “Outlaw” about a good friend of the band’s, and we have one that’s pretty much about driving back from a show or driving back from work out of state, with your friends back there calling and asking you where you’ve been. We got one about losing a girl, and then another one that was the first one that Tim wrote about his wife. We draw from any experience we can. We try not to overdo the “love” thing, ’cause just about any song you hear anymore is about some significant other. Or, “hopeful significant other” I guess.

  1. Where all have you played, and where is your favorite place to play?

Oh, man…we have played all over OKC, Shawnee, Lawton, Madison Park, Hinton, Okarchee, Sparks, Depew. We’ve been out of state too. Springfield, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas. Pretty much anywhere we can go. My favorite place to play…that’s a tough one. Almost impossible to choose; I don’t want any venues we’ve played to see this and be hurt that I didn’t pick them…but man, the biker rallies are great. That’s my crowd right there. They are so laid back, have a good time, hoot and holler. Sometimes they get a bad rep and people think there’s gonna be fights and all that, but it’s really such a “live and let live” type of thing, you know? Anytime we play at a biker rally, I like for our band to go onstage right in the middle of the band lineup. Then we get off stage, and plan on sleeping in the truck that night, cause you’re not gonna be driving home, you know? And I can’t pick just one rally. Both the main ones in Oklahoma are just great. We got a new one coming up where we haven’t played before, and I’m really looking forward to that one too.

  1. Who are some of your favorite artists?

I go through phases. Right now, I’m on a big “Passenger” kick. He’s a guy from Britain I think, maybe London. He’s such an amazing songwriter. He can just say things with words and make words rhyme in ways that you wouldn’t think could work. Really paints an image inside your head. And then his guitar playing is unbelievable. Like, I cannot believe that just one guy can have this kind of talent with both writing guitar parts and coming up with lyrics. He had a big hit on the radio with “Let Her Go”. I liked it but really didn’t get too much into it. Then one day I was listening to Internet radio, and another one of his songs came up, and it really caught my attention; like, “who’s that?” And then, “Oh, that’s that same guy who does ‘Let Her Go’.” So I started looking up all his stuff, and here I am a year later. I think he’s got maybe seven albums out, and I own every one of them. And of course, like I said, I’m also into “The Turnpike Troubadours”. I’m also really into the “Hamilton” musical right now, which is a Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton. And it’s a hip-hop musical, a musical with our forefathers up there rapping. It’s one of those things where you think it’s gonna sound like crap, and then it ends up being good enough to give you chills.

  1. What do you guys normally write first, the verse or the chorus?

It’s just whatever we get, whatever happens. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming and tuning up and all that, then one of us will come up with somethin catchy, and then Tim or Tuffy will end up writing a whole song from it. It could start with me jamming on guitar or a line Tim comes up with. And Tuffy, he’ll show up to practice and throw down a piece of paper and have all the words and lyrics right there. I guess we take the inspiration whenever we get it. We write whatever comes to us and just go from there.

  1. How long have you been playing music? Both individually and as a band?

I didn’t start playing guitar until 2000. Now, I carried a guitar around for about a year and a half before that, just trying to learn how to play it, but I didn’t start actually playing until 2000. I started school band in 96, and by 97 I had pretty much flunked out, dropped it halfway through the year and went to choir…cause that’s where the chicks were at (laughs). Worked out pretty well for me cause I met my wife in choir. So I played from 2000 to 2005 just playing around campfires, friends’ parties, jamming in the garage. Occasionally I would play a few songs between bands at the bar my dad hung out at; I’d just jam during the breaks and stuff. Then I stopped playing around 2005, started working a lot, and didn’t start playing again till like 2010. I picked it back up again with a guy I worked with, taught him a few bass licks, brought his cousin in who played drums, and started playing at bars in El Reno for $120 a night. As far as the other guys in Small Town Sound, I don’t really know. The band’s been together for like 5 years now. It’s Tuffy’s first band, and Jake and Tim have been in a few high school punk bands around El Reno, with Mike Randall from “James Bond Dracula”. And Todd’s from Dallas, and he’s been playing since before I was born. He was in some hair metal bands back in the 80s, then he got married and quit playing for a while, close to twenty years. Then he got back on it around 2012 or 2013, which was around the time I met him with the band we both played in before Small Town Sound. He dusted off his bass guitar, met me from Craigslist when I was looking for a bass player, auditioned, and we’ve been jamming together ever since.

  1. What all instruments can you play?

I’ve got an electric and an acoustic drum set, a four stringed bass, can play a song or two on the banjo, play mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar. I love the 12 string guitar. I jam out on percussion instruments too, and I play harmonica for the band. I’ll play anything I can get my hands on. Got a violin that I sometimes mess around on trying to get the hang of it. Now, that’s a frustrating instrument. I play a little bit on the saxophone, but of course not too much or I wouldn’t have flunked out of band in school. I’ve got an accordion too, and the best song I can play on it is the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.

  1. What has been your biggest moment musically, even in regards to music that isn’t your own? When was your life most affected by music?

The moment I decided to start playing guitar again after almost six years. In May of 2010, I got laid off from a job and then shattered my wrist right after that. Had to have a steel plate put in it and all that…I was sitting around the house, and my wife and family had convinced me to make a Facebook account. I thought “I’m sitting around the house not working so I might as well.” I’m sitting there adding friends and all that, and I come across a friend from high school whose son had bone marrow cancer. He was like 3 years old at the time. And I’d owned a motorcycle for a while and had done some bike runs and stuff like that, and I just thought to myself, “I’ve got all this time on my hands sitting around the house, making a few job applications, so I’m gonna put on a little poker run, make a little money for this kid.” Me and a buddy of mine put it together in this kid’s name, and at our last stop we were playing at this big party, and I had hit up a couple of friends of mine who played music. And the owner of the bar’s brother had a friend of his daughter’s who was pretty much his daughter, she was pretty much his daughter’s sister, and she had gotten really big into music and never looked back. Went on tour in Paris and all that. Her name’s Allie Harter. So he asks her to come up and play, and I had introduced her to the crowd at the party. I’m sittin there watching her play, and I’m thinking to myself, “Man, she is SO good. I miss doing that. I want to start playing guitar again.” I started playing a lot after that. Just pretty much picking it up and remembering how to play it. That’s what made me want to start playing again.

  1. Do any of your personal beliefs and opinions show through in your music?

Well I hope so. That’s kind of the point, right? I find that it all goes back to being sincere. I think the true artists are the ones who go up there, pull open their chests, and show their heart on stage. If you go up there and fake it, the audience can tell. It wouldn’t feel real to anyone. There’s just something about being sincere that makes people trust you, you know? And we’re not ever gonna write a song that we disagree with morally or religiously. We might do one we disagree with lawfully though. That’s half of the outlaw country genre right there I think. You know, you’re not really out their robbing banks and stuff, but you sing about it.

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

Well…you know how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. That’s the number one thing. And I could give a LOT of advice. I could give advice I wish I had heard when I was just starting out. But practicing is the most important thing. A lot of people think just cause they jam out in the garage with their friends that they can go up on the stage right away; in reality you have to be a lot more precise up there. There isn’t any room for stopping halfway through the song because you did it in the wrong key. Once you go, you go.

Thanks for doing the interview man .

No problem. If it ends up in the Washington Post or something make sure you let me know (laughs).

Next up, we have “In These Pages”, a local folk pop band consisting of Jeremiah Goodblanket(vocals, guitar), Zak Schroeder(guitar), and John Jones(bass). The first few times I watched them play, it was just Zak and Jeremiah, and what really struck me about them was how they combined extremely skillful guitar playing with passionate vocals. Now, with the addition of John on the bass guitar, they have a full sound and are able to convey even more emotion through their songs.

IN THESE PAGES

  1. What does the name, “In These Pages” refer to?

Jeremiah: I came up with it probably 5 or so years ago. It was the name of my solo project, back when I had had it planned to hit up the studio and track everything myself. And then, as time went on, I just decided I needed some help, ya know? And the name itself really refers to using life as a metaphor, or a book as a metaphor for life. The pages of your life, the chapters of your life. So this is literally just a page in our lives right now. We’ll just see how far it takes us.

Zak: Jeremiah is the one who started the band. I’d been playing solo at the Iron Tree a few times. We had both been in a band before called, “With Cities Below”, and we just decided with “In These Pages”, “Let’s make a duo and really just make the band expand.”

  1. What is your main inspiration?

Jeremiah: Really just life experiences. People you lose, people you love, things you do and things you mess up. My inspiration is mainly my life, ya know? And when it comes to the music itself, the music that really inspires me, like the mood of it, would probably be Lydia and Green Day. But it just goes all over the spectrum. I could talk about bands all day, but really just the music itself is inspired by my life experiences

Zak: Yeah life experiences. Most of the songs are written lyrically by Jeremiah, and I agree with what he’s singing and everything like that. But where I get my inspiration from starts with back when I was younger, when I first acquired my guitars. My uncle had passed, and he was a huge metal head and I inherited his guitars. I greatly looked up to him when I was younger. And so I wanted to be like him and play guitar, you know? Growing up, I was a little five year old listening to Metallica in the back seat of my grandma’s car, so it all started when I was super young and just with the love of music. We would play games with the car radio and try to scream out which song was being played on the radio before anyone else could say the name or whatever. So it all goes back to when I was at a really young age.

John: Inspiration for me has pretty much always been kind of more of a hard core. I grew up listening to country music like Johnny Cash. And there are very few people who have gone through the hell that Johnny Cash went through, and came back to see the light. So when you look at the different inspirations that I have witnessed throughout my life that can be sang and played to, it’s a different style for sure. You have to kind of take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and try to piece it together to make your own style. It’s different for sure. As far as what drives me – the fact that every single person out there has got a story. Everyone wants their story to be heard. So if you can write a song to make their story heard, that’s what will drive not just me, but every single person around me.

  1. Who are your influences musically?

Zak: I’ve been hugely into metal for a long time, really just the whole genre. Acoustic and metal scenes, I’m way into both of those, and I can’t really name names because there are just so many. But one singer-songwriter I’ve been jamming out to a lot lately is “Front Porch Step“. With his personal life, he’s gotten into a lot of trouble and everything, and I won’t get into that, but his music is just really great. I love his albums. So I guess right at this moment, I’d say “Front Porch Step” is my main influence.

John: For me, my inspiration originally started from Corey Smith because I had nothing more to play than like a bass note, and it was pretty awful. I really liked Josh Turner, Blake Shelton, you know, those kinds of singers were my main inspiration for wanting to sing. But as time progressed, I started getting more into the poetry behind music and not just the repetition. I started listening to more of the unknown artists like Corey Smith when he had just started out. He’s one of those singers who doesn’t exactly have the greatest voice, which is like myself, but the music he writes is pure poetry. Even if you don’t have the greatest voice, your lyrics can take you all the way.

So, as far as my main drive, it’d probably be Corey Smith, ’cause he’s a little guy out there pushing forward to make a difference

  1. What would you say is the main subject matter of your songs?

Jeremiah: Mostly love. I guess it’s kinda sappy, ‘cause people are tired of hearing love songs, but love’s the biggest drive in life and what gives meaning to everything in the human race. If there was no love, everything would be like how it is in “The Giver”, you know? It would just suck. And a lot of my stuff is about my current girlfriend and how we have plans for the future. And there’s songs that I’ve written about heartbreak in the past, you know, with friends and family. And recently I’ve been trying to expand our music’s subject matter to reach a bigger audience as opposed to just love. And the most recent song I’ve written is about how fast life goes by and how we all just lose track of it. I had spoken with my grandma a few years back, before she passed away, and she was saying how life felt like she had just blinked and then here she is in her 80’s. Life really does fly by. So the song I’m talking about is kind of hitting on little pieces of someone’s life and saying not to take it for granted, and to focus on NOW so it doesn’t all go by too fast.

  1. How do you guys feel about the quality of today’s popular music?

(all laugh)

Jeremiah: There’s some really catchy stuff out there

Zak: There is, there is.

Jeremiah: But there’s a lot of, you know… Cookie cutter…

Zak: Repetitive. I’ve heard that beat before, I’ve heard that melody before, where’s the new melody at. They just keep on remixing everything. We do covers though, you know? And they are covers of very popular songs, catchy and repetitive, but we try to throw our own unique spin on it. We’ve done acoustic versions of rap songs and stuff like that. But it’s sad to see what the music industry has started to head towards.

John: A lot of it’s not even music

Zak: Yeah, and then you have like a person who’s got a good voice or a half assed voice, and they can get into the studio and modify it all, make it sound good, and throw a generic beat on it. They’ll say something that caters to a specific audience, like “get girls” or “get money”. And even country now, it’s like, “I got a truck, I got some beers; let’s have a good time” and that’s it.

John: Skirts…

Jeremiah: My wife left me, my dog died…

(All laugh)

Zak: Yeah you know that’s it. That’s what’s going on record right now, but if I ever get into that situation with my music, please shoot me

  1. Do any other forms of art or creativity affect your songwriting?

Zak: Definitely. I’m a graphic designer on the regular side of life. In my eyes, all art is just about mood and feel. Art can be from any aspect of your life, whether it be painting on a canvas or messing around on a computer screen, or music. Again, it can all completely affect your life on how you view things artistically.

Jeremiah: Photography’s always been a really big one for me. I’ve always respected the hell out of it. My girlfriend is currently working as a photographer part time, and I love seeing her grow and learn in that because it’s something I’ve always loved doing. Aside from that, you have to really respect the big artists out there, you know, like the Renaissance artists. All the painting, all that stuff. I’m not really too big on modern art or “abstract” per se. But I respect all art in general. And acting too. Where I work now, most of my time is spent watching movies, which makes my job sound stupid. If it’s slow enough, we’ll watch Netflix. But anyway, I just try to watch just really good movies, and I really respect the people that make them.

Zak: If we could envelop people into our music as much as people are enveloped into something like “Game of Thrones”, that would be a dream come true.

(Pause)

Jeremiah: I think there’s a bug in my shirt.

(All laugh)

  1. What comes first in the writing process? The verse or the chorus?

Jeremiah: Usually for me it’s the chorus. I come up with a hook, a melody comes into my head and I just build on that. You know, there’s been songs that I like started at point A and went from there. Like, it’s really just all over the place, but most of the time, if it’s a not melody stuck in my head that I just turn into a chorus, it’s just a guitar riff that I throw words on top of. It ends up being all about simply purging emotions through the words in the songs.

John: For me, the very first thing is always my idea of a music video for the song. I always seem to fit what I’m singing into a music video and watch it myself in my head, to see maybe “What’s this person’s life been like, how it’s gonna end up?”. And I always end up with the bridge of the song first, then the chorus, and then I fit the verses in with it. But it always starts with a music video in my head. I picture what I wanna see, and what the bridge is, what the ending’s gonna be, and then I start piecing together from there what the chorus is gonna be, and then all the way down to the verses.

Jeremiah: I never thought of it like that. But that’s actually pretty much how that last song we played was made. You know, it’s all about my life and me experiencing it. But I think that’s a really nice method.

Zak: With me, it’s really just improvisational. It’s always been improv. You know back when I played at the Iron Tree, I would just show up without practicing anything beforehand. Set my guitar to a specific tuning, and then set a few chords down and just go off of those chords with solos and different melodies. Here tonight, about thirty percent of what I was doing was improv.

Jeremiah: Or sixty percent.

(All laugh)

Zak: Yeah, kind of. You know, playing at Iron Tree and everything has really helped with playing improv, like with Jeremiah and John and me playing off of each other and stuff, we all just kind of resonate off of each other and pick up on what’s going on.

Jeremiah: Yeah we’re really good at playing with each other.

(All laugh)

Zak: Yeah, we play with each other too much.

I’ve always thought ever since I first saw you guys play that it just all sounds really well together. You know, I thought “That’s some dual guitar.”

Zak: Yeah, and that’s what it all kind of hearkens back to. I’ll throw down some chords, and Jeremiah will throw down some leads, and then he’ll throw down some chords, and I’ll lay down some leads and we’ll just switch back and forth.

John: The great thing about playing with these guys is that no matter where we’re at in the song, I can always look at either of them and know exactly which part we’re at in the song, and I can start playing as well. But they play off of each other so well that no matter what, no matter who’s playing lead, it’s so easy to just turn around and be like, “Ok, I’m lost. What are we playing right now?” And just look at them for a couple of seconds and realize exactly where they’re going. They’ve been playing so long together and they’re so skilled at what they do. We can all instantly be on the same page throughout the entire song. Surround yourself with great musicians and you’ll be a great musician yourself

Jeremiah: I hate to break it to you, but we’re not great musicians(laughs).

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

John: For me it’s a little bit different, because I don’t play guitar, I play bass. I’m kind of one of those people who’s sort of in the background in the band, like I don’t have lead parts and this and that, but if I could give anybody advice, just from what I’ve done over the years, it would be “Don’t be afraid to go out there and get what you want.” I’ve been really lucky to be able to surround myself with really great people, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will try to cut you down in the music business, try to ridicule you for what you think you may be able to do. And unfortunately, that happens quite often. But don’t give up. You know, ten years ago, whenever people said “You’re not good, you can’t sing worth a darn.” – if I had listened to them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now. But I’ve got two guys here right now who are amazing people, good people, and they took a chance with me. I’m not the greatest bass player in the world. But they showed up and asked me to play, and I played my heart out trying to impress them the best that I could. But the biggest thing is, don’t give up. If you have a dream and you wanna be that person, go for it. Don’t let anybody cut you down, and I’ve had a lot of people cut me down over the years, and it does nothing but hurt you. But in the end, if you wanna play, play. Don’t let anyone stop you.

I’m reviewing this like I would review a full album, but I’m keeping in mind the fact that it isn’t one. It’s a collection of demos and scrapped tracks from my all time favorite disc, “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, released for the tenth anniversary of the original as “Living With Ghosts”.

First off, that’s a nice title. A fitting one. Since the band is broken up (but I believe they will reform again in 2019, and I do have an actual logical reason for assuming that), the songs on this disc make one feel that they are listening to echoes or specters of a band long gone. They also help us to see some of the creative process that went into the finished album from ’06. Raw sound, voices of the band members heard speaking about the songs at the end of some of the tracks, and a really rough, unfinished feel to it make this a disc well worth the money, but perhaps for diehard fans only. With the exception of four songs, nothing on the album is really new or spectacular. But it certainly is special.

“The Five of Us Are Dying” is an early version of “Welcome to the Black Parade”, written between “Bullets” and “Revenge”. The chorus isn’t nearly as powerful as it is on “Parade”, but the rest of this song is just as good as the finished track. The bridge/solo sounds even more like “Queen” than usual, and that’s awesome for those of us who love Brian May (and Ray Toro, obviously – my favorite guitar player).

“Kill All Your Friends (demo)” the second song on the album, really threw me off. It’s interesting, but it’s just bad compared to the polished version of the song released in ’06. This is obviously a demo played long before the full song was fleshed out – but you can still feel it gestating into what it would eventually become.

With “Party at the End of the World”, things start to get more interesting. Still raw, still a demo, but never heard before by any fan as it was never officially released until now. I bet I would have liked the “Kill All Your Friends” demo better if I hadn’t ever heard the actual finished version. But “Party” has really nice guitar, a pretty cool chorus, and Gerard’s voice somehow seeming more chaotic than usual. Not as good as usual, but hey, it’s still Gerard, so still great.

I don’t have much to say about the “Mama” demo. It’s much closer to the finished version than the other demos are. Some lyrics and vocal melodies are different, but it’s pretty much the same instrumentally, except for the third section of the bridge. It stays quiet from “If you could write me a letter” all the way up to “We’re damned after all”, and it makes the song sound quite different from the version I’ve always loved. It’s fascinating hearing a track like this and getting a view into the innumerable decisions and changes a band has to make during its writing process.

“My Way Home Through You” is also pretty close to the finished version…and I love that song, so even though the vocals aren’t quite as good as the real version, I still love this one.

“Not That Kinda Girl” is the first of the four songs on this disc that really stand out. One of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard, well written and hilarious lyrics (they obviously didn’t write the ones I’m about to cite, but here’s the funny part – “these boots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do” – I’m serious. Hearing part of that old song in a hard rock style is a real treat) such as “everybody’s talkin bout the way you cut your hair – I could give a fuck” make this one of the coolest MCR tracks I’ve ever heard. And the drums were eventually used for the song “Gun” on their “Conventional Weapons” album. Again, it’s awesome to know more about their writing process.

“House of Wolves version 1” is incredibly somber, in the vein of “Cancer” or even the songs on “Revenge”. Other than actually having the words “house of wolves” in the song, I’m not really sure how this one has anything to do with the finished Black Parade version, but I’m probably overlooking the connection due to not being able to discern a lot of the lyrics. “Version 2” follows “Version 1”, and it’s basically just a fun demo of the Black Parade version.

“Emily” is just beautiful. I know it’s fictional and somehow originally fit into the Black Parade story arc, but I can’t help but think about my daughter when I hear it. I’m always paranoid for my family’s safety, and this kind of stuff really moves me. It has heart wrenching lyrics, passionate vocals, well played guitar, and a fantastic drumbeat. Seriously, Bob Bryar, bravo.

The “Disenchanted” demo sounds completely different from the real version, and I feel the same way about it as I do the other demos. Good, special, but not spectacular like the end product.

Finally, we come to “All the Angels”. For the first time ever, MCR reminds me of U2, in a very good way. With angels, Catholic imagery, and people dying in hospitals, this song would have fit nicely on the real Black Parade album. The narrative within the lyrics is just as powerful as was for me on the full album when I was a teenager. It might have sounded random, but I think it would have really paid off as a hidden track, perhaps right before “Blood”, or even before “Famous Last Words”. Would have given the CD a Pink Floyd impression, a la “The Wall”. MCR is usually so bombastic and nihilistic, but for this song, the simple things are what stand out. When Gerard sings “ooo-ooo-ooo”(no, not like a ghost or something – it’s actually quite melodic), it literally gives me chills.

So how do I rate the tenth anniversary demos? 8 out of 10. I would have given it 7 had it not been for the near perfection of “Not that kinda girl”, “Emily”, “House of Wolves version 1”, and “All the Angels”. And I actually probably would have given the cd a 9 or a 10 if I hadn’t ever heard the finished version of the demos released in 2006 with the greatest rock concept record of all time.

Buy this album, or at least listen to it on YouTube. It’s no Parade, but it certainly is a fitting tenth anniversary bonus disc.

You can also read my Review for the full Black Parade album, which was one of the first posts I made on this blog.

If anyone on here enjoys rock music, then please check out my solo music project Cathartic Catapult

The first few songs are demos from my upcoming album, “Daybreak”, and all the songs starting with “Little Ant” are from my 2010 solo album called “Your Evil Broken World”

If you like Marilyn Manson, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, Green Day, or The Rocket Summer, then I believe you may enjoy my music as those are my main influences. I would call my genre simply, “rock”, but there’s a lot of metal in there as well as a good deal of melodic singing. Thank you!