Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with Darren Chewka from Teenage Bottlerocket

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Darren. I know you're a busy guy, so I'll just jump right on in. You're officially the new drummer in Teenage Bottlerocket. How did this come about? Did the band contact you about trying out? Or was there an open audition process that took place?

Darren Chewka: Thanks for having me. It's been a crazy couple weeks for me but I still remember Ray contacting me on a Monday afternoon. I knew it was a Monday because I was still in my underwear lying in bed watching TV or playing video games. Mondays are my only day off from everything... My job and the 4-5 local bands I'm usually in. He asked if I wanted to come down and see if it'd work. This all came about as I think every time TBR rolled through Edmonton Old Wives would open. We just became friends from that.

CM: With the tragic passing of Brandon in November, TBR fans worldwide wondered if the band would ever regroup and perform live again. Now that its official, how have the fans reacted to the news of your hiring?

DC: The reaction I've gotten from people everywhere has been amazing! I've felt the love from all over the world. Edmonton has been great, everyone has been so supportive. And without them, I wouldn't have any of these opportunities given to me now. It's been so overwhelming, but in a great way.

CM: Now you guys already have new show dates scheduled for March. Will we be seeing a full blown TBR tour in the near future? Or are these more warm up gigs than anything?

DC: Yeah, we got a Two'ur in March that I think are gonna be bananas. Laramie on the 11th and Denver on the 12th. Both shows with Gamits and the Nobody's. Not sure how to label these shows... Ray has a solo record coming out soon and he may get busy with that for a bit and we need to see what we got before things get hairy. Look for an announcement in March regarding on what's up for the summer with TBR... should be a ton of chances to see us.

CM: You also play in the band The Old Wives who are based out of your hometown of Edmonton Alberta. Will you continue to play with TOW as well as TBR? And if so will it be difficult to not only juggle two band's, but two band's in different countries?

DC: Shaun and Ryan are my two best friends. I'm going to try to do my best to juggle both. Like I mentioned, I'm usually juggling a pile of bands in Edmonton... I've only screwed up scheduling a few times so I'll just have to be on top of that a little more. The whole Edmonton to Laramie thing was pretty easy for the first weekend. It's a quick flight, and then a couple hours drive to Laramie. Compared to playing shows in different cities in Canada that's pretty quick.

CM: I understand the new Old Wives album is complete and the band is shopping it around looking for a label. How's that coming along? And is there a possible street release date for the new album?

DC: We literally just got back the masters so we haven't shopped it around quite yet. It's the best Wives record yet. We have a couple labels in mind but we'll see how that pans out. With the delays with vinyl lately, I don't see it coming out till summer.

CM: Who were some of your musical influences growing up? And how have those influnces helped shape your style and sound over the years?

DC: Oh man, that's a loaded question. I was and still am all over the map when it comes to music. Dave Grohl was probably my first huge influence but once I started finding music (which was hard growing up in a small town in Alberta) it really expanded. I had a friend who started ordering all kinds of shit from the SST catalog and that got me into Black Flag and Descendents. I remember hearing the drums on "ALL" and going "Whoa... they are so loud, and huge sounding..." and they were up front and in your face. I had another friend who started diving into the Lookout! catalog and I think the first record he got was "My Brain Hurts". The drums were so simple but so perfect at the same time. I had to get everything Dan Panic ever played on. That spun off to Aaron Cometbus from Crimpshrine and Pinhead Gunpowder. Looking back now, I can't believe how much of a nutbar I was over Screeching Weasel. I even flew to Chicago with my then girlfriend to see a one time only Weasel show at the House of Blues back in 2000. I froze up when I saw Dam Lumley after the show, he probably thought I was going to attack him with a knife or something. Anyways, where was I? Oh, yeah I really got into that Lookout! stuff. And Dinosaur Jr. Oh yeah, and a friend of mine also had Fugazi's "In on the Kill Taker" that I think I borrowed off him more than he had a chance to listen to it. I could go on and on... I'm just rambling now. Atom Williard for president.

CM: As of right now have you and TBR even started tossing ideas for new songs? Or will that be a work in progress?

DC: No new songs in the works as of yet, but there is talks of something... That's all I can say about that .

CM: Any chance of a Bottlerocket/Old Wives tour in the future?

DC: Maybe? Who knows! Anything is possible.

CM: Now its time to let you plug away any and all projects you're currently involved in. Are there any band's, websites, pages or online stores you would like to plug?

DC: Look for the Old Wives album in the early summer, I didn't think we were ever going to get it done and we faced a lot of adversity in the process. I'm really proud of it and the guys I got to do it with.

CM: I can't wait to see you guys in Chicago! All the very best to you, TBR and The Old Wives. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Darren. I greatly appreciate your time.

DC: Thanks for having me. Maybe I'll see you July 23rd!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Interview With Vincenzo Scutchartney from The Scutches

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. For anyone new to The Scutches, can you give us a brief history on the band and how you got started?

Vincenzo Scutchartney:  Glad to do it!, I started the Scutches as a name just to record under about 11 years ago on my own after playing drums in so many bands for most my life. Got a good solid line up by 2006 starting touring then from 2007-2011 there were a bunch of line up changes finally got a solid team by 2012 and pretty much have been none stop releasing records and playing out for about 10 years.

CM: You recently returned home from a short tour in support of your latest release, "Glass House". How was the tour for you guys?

VS: It was great the run was just over 2 weeks and the responses from the people we meet and the crowds just keep getting better and better. Makes those 8 hours a day in the van way worth it.

CM: Speaking of "Glass House", how has the response been from fans to the new songs?

VS: Ha, ya know its fun to answer questions like this cause people have favorite songs off every album right? but these last to releases we had out "ten songs, ten years" and "Glass House" seemed like everyone wanted to hear all the songs off both. so I'm guessing that's a good thing

CM: You also just recently did a split 7" with the Shocktroopers. How did that collaboration come about and will you and the Shocktroopers be sharing the stage in the near future?

VS: Shit yeah we are already speaking with Shocktroopers about doing some shows next year together. I believe Tyler from Shocktroopers either saw us open for Teenage Bottlerocket or Miguel from TBR put him in touch I forget the exact conversation with him cause it was over 3 hours on the phone. But yeah Tyler called me and said he's starting this label Tranquil Records and they have some new songs they would love to release with us so of course I jumped at the change. Great dudes, great band

CM: I hear a lot of different influences in your music from punk to pop to surf. Who are some of your musical influences?

VS: See I have different influences for different reasons especially when it comes to music but just to name a few, Richie Valens-Buddy Holly-the Ventures-The Beach Boys-the Beatles-Ramones- Motorhead- Johnny Cash- Tom Petty

CM: Now besides playing guitar, you also play bass and drums as well. How long have you been playing music?

VS: Yeah well ill be 31 this year so as early as I can remember probably like 23 , 25 years. I started playing drums when I first heard the Beatles I was 6 and had built a make-shift drum kit out of a drum pad and a set of bongos I had, used my moms cookie tin as the snare and started playing along to Beatles tapes. Then I got a guitar when I was about 10 never really did anything with it until I was around 13. I was more pulled towards drums... ha I still am for that matter And ya know Bass came along few years down the line when I really started to understand song structure, melody and guitar.

CM: Until recently most of your albums were only available for digital download. Do you feel that the trend of buying physical CD's is behind us and digital is the way to go? Or will you continue to press CD's and vinyl with upcoming releases?

VS: Well yes and no cause I mean we all have ipods and shit like that so digital is good in the sense that its easy to download and carry with you but then its bad cause know ones buying records, I buy records, all my friends buy records but that's a small percentage of the world. We will always release physical albums especially vinyl.

CM: Speaking of upcoming releases, Are there any plans for a new Scutches full length in the works?

VS: I'm always writing songs so maybe, there are alot of factors to way in with recording and releasing full records so yes but not any time soon right now we are focused on touring, we are pretty much touring into 2016

CM: Will we be seeing you guys on the road later on in the year?

VS: For sure we are talking about doing a big U.S. thing early 2015 and some cool surprises already lined up for this year.. So we are pretty excited.

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug where fans can get up to date news on upcoming releases, tour dates and merch?

VS: Yeah you can get all our music at thescutches.bandcamp.com and any news from the band you can view on facebook.com/thescutches also #thescutches @thescutches

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Vinny. I greatly appreciate the time. And I wanna wish you and the guys the very best in the future! Thanks again man.

VS: Thank you Brotha! keep ROCKIN'!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with The Young Rochelles

Editors Note: Hot on the heels of their debut 7", "Cannibal Island", Rookie, Ricky and Ray Jay sat down with Critical Mass to discuss everything from songwriting, to their musical influences to recording their debut full length. I hope you enjoy, and help spread the word on this amazing new band.

Critical Mass:  Thanks for taking the time to talking with Critical Mass guys. For anyone who doesn't know who The Young Rochelles are, can you give us a little info on the band and a who's who as far as personnel?
Ricky Rochelle: I’m Ricky. I sing and play drums in the Young Rochelles. We began in January 2013 and we were born from the New Rochelles.
Rookie Rochelle: I’m Rookie Rochelle and I play bass.
Ray Jay Rochelle: I’m Ray Jay and take care of the six-stringing and backup singing.
CM: What separates The Young Rochelles from The New Rochelles? And what has the response been to the new band as opposed to the old band?
Ricky Rochelle: Different voices and songwriting separate the two bands. There’s a healthy interest in the Rochelles music. I’m happy with the positive attention the Young Rochelles have received so far.
Rookie Rochelle: The New Rochelles were Ricky, Rookie, and Ronnie Rochelle. The Young Rochelles are Ricky, Rookie and Ray Jay Rochelle.
Ray Jay Rochelle: In regards to the sound, Ricky, Rookie, and I have put what little minds we have together to write a catalog of originals that cover a lot of ground, but still stay exciting.
CM: The bands songs are very catchy and melodic. And you can hear a lot of different influences in your songs and sound. In your own words, who are some of your personal musical influences?
Rookie Rochelle: The Ramones.
Ricky Rochelle: Thanks!! I can’t get too specific because my influences are everything I hear.
Ray Jay Rochelle: The Ramones, Green Day, The Methadones, The Descendents, Teenage Bottle Rocket, and Anthrax.
CM: The band’s first ever released recording was a cover of "Less Than Zero" by The Methadones for the "Sorry to Keep You Waiting: A Tribute to the Methadones". Was that the first song the band recorded up till that point? Or were you already working on the "Cannibal Island" tracks?
Rookie Rochelle: We recorded “Less Than Zero” the same time we recorded the “Cannibal Island” EP.
CM: Speaking of "Cannibal Island", I have to admit that I was blown away at how amazing those tracks were even before you put ‘em out. Have you guys been picking up new fans since the release of this EP?
Ricky Rochelle: All right. Yes. Even my girlfriend says, “There had to be someone who’s heard a song since and become a fan. No?”
Rookie Rochelle: Hope so.
Ray Jay Rochelle: The response has been great and our merch is moving, so I would say so!
CM: The video for the first single, "I Need My Mommy to Do My Laundry", is so fun and great to watch. Any plans for a second video?
Rookie Rochelle: We’ve had some cool ideas for more videos, but we will probably wait until we record the next batch of songs before we film another.
Ray Jay Rochelle: There is a lot going on in regards to the EP already, so it will likely be for something off of our next release.
CM: When can we expect a debut full length from the band?
Rookie Rochelle: Hopefully soon, we’ve been writing for it.
Ricky Rochelle: Our focus right now is writing for a full length.
Ray Jay Rochelle: We want to deliver a record with nothing but winners, so when all the tracks are golden, we are going to hit the studio.
CM: Are there any plans for the band to hit the road in 2014? We would love to have you guys in Chicago in the coming months.
Rookie Rochelle: I’d love to get on the road a little more with this band. Hopefully 2014 brings us the opportunity to do so.
Ray Jay Rochelle: We have been offered a couple of opportunities, but it has to be just right. I could use a couple of weeks sleeping in a van with my LJ.
CM: What else can we expect from The Young Rochelles this year? Another EP? Possibly a split or another comp?
Rookie Rochelle: We have a whole crop of new songs. We are deciding now how exactly they’ll be released. Possibly a full length, maybe another EP and a split 7inch. But in 2014 we definitely have our version of The Ramones “Animal Boy” album coming soon.
CM: Are there any websites/is there a websites you guys would like to plug? Anyplace where fans can get a copy of Cannibal Island, get up to date news on further releases, merch and tour dates?
Ricky Rochelle: If you buy a t-shirt, we’ll consider a tour. Hey, at least we’re not asking for donations!
Ray Jay Rochelle: FacebookBandcamp, and  Storenvy.

CM: Guys, it’s an honor to pick your brains for a little while. I wanna wish you guys nothing but the very BEST in 2014. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass!
Rookie Rochelle: Thanks bud!
Ricky Rochelle: Right on. Thank you.
Ray Jay Rochelle: Cheers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Interview With Jamie Coville from Shock Nagasaki

Editors Notes: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the site that hosts this blog is not allowing me to upload photos. So, I will do my best to add plenty of link so you can hear Jamie's music via YouTube. Jamie is a pure talent, and NEEDS to be heard. I hope you folks will look him up and discover his musical talents. Thank you.

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Jamie. I've been a fan for over 14 years, so this is pretty exciting. You've played in the bands Libertine and Shock Nagasaki over the years. What are you up to currently?
Jamie Coville: Thank you! Well, I JUST got back from Spain; I spent some time over there working on some music & catching up with a few close friends BUT the best part was checking out some of the new music coming out of there right now. Really cool sort of Spanish lo-fi death rock scene going on which I'm digging right now. Also, Metadona Records out of Mallorca is putting out a ton of great KBD style punk rock. It was actually quite a surprise because I wouldn't have thought that on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea that there would be so many people that are really keyed in to some great underground music. Definitely had a few great nights just taking turns spinning records in the bar & the place would be rocking on all kinds of crazy shit. Some of the old Spanish stuff is KILLER too. But other than that man, a new Shock record will be happening sometime over the next couple of months. I think we're gonna do it in Berlin & I think there's gonna be a lot of people playing on it. The process should be a bit looser this time around; the sessions I've been around for at the Radio Dead Ones studio in Berlin have been controlled chaos with like, 20 people at all times & enough German beer to fill a swimming pool, so that sounds to me like a recipe for a good record.
CM: When I hear your songs I automatically hear your style of playing. Some people just have a sound that you instantly recognize as being their own. Who were some of your personal influences growing up?
JC: Anything that has heart can be influential. That's the main thing; I can get into anything that's real. You can't fake that. But for me, I started out with the obvious stuff, & then started digging deeper & your mind really gets blown when you realize just how many bands happened between '77 & '82- I mean before & after that as well, but there's a point in the 80's to my ears at least, where records started to sound different. They just didn't have that gritty, lo-fi, shitty sound that's so good. So late 70's/early 80's is sort of that sweet spot where almost anything sounds good to me. In EVERY town, in EVERY country, someone, somewhere started a band, & maybe only did 1 single & were gone forever. But there's a few of us out there that go to great lengths to find that stuff, haha. In fact, when I travel, I always make it a point to get area specific. For example, when I started getting into 80's Japanese punk/hardcore, it was like fuck this shit- I'm going to the source; forget about looking all over NYC for an Aburadako or Stalin record. And then you come back from Nagoya & Osaka with a suitcase full of the stuff, haha. Kind of like if you live in Syracuse, you might be able find an album by one of the greatest bands of all time: The Penetrators- (& then send it to me, hahah!).
CM: How old were you when you first discovered music and picked up the guitar for the first time?
JC: I started playing around 12ish. I kind of just got into music on my own. You'd have to go on straight intuition because there were no computers then, so there was a lot of winging it & hopefully not getting a raspberry. I bought the first New York Dolls album strictly based on the fact that Johnny Thunders was the coolest mother fucker I ever saw; had no idea who they were or what it sounded like; I just KNEW. I was always pretty dialed in; most of what I liked back then, I still like in some capacity. But I think the first couple of punk records I was exposed to were some Dead Kennedy's stuff &, haha, I remember clearly my parents thinking the DK record was the most fucked up thing ever because of the lyrics, & maybe the name of the band itself, haha. Actually, I just remembered this, but in elementary school, I had this art teacher who told us one day that her nephew's favorite band was called "Black Flag" & she proceeded to show us a bunch of Pettibons art & it was so colorful & just left an impression. I just met him recently & I should have told him that story, haha. I mean for a little kid to see "Slip It In" & just "whaaaat" ?! But the British stuff for me was mind blowing & still is. These days, I'm so far down the wormhole & I'm still invested in that era, but I've been paying attention to new stuff too, which I never did before. I had this thing, that if it came after '83, I wouldn't even bother, haha. But there is some good stuff out there if you look in the right places.
CM: Let's go back in time. As I mentioned earlier, you were in the band Libertine back in the late 90's and put out some solid releases like the "Rise Above" EP, "Guttersnipe Glamour" 7" and "See You In The Next Life" album. How did you guys get together? And what was it like playing in a band with Belvy K? (who people may remember as being in 7 Seconds for a short time and an original member of D Generation)?
JC: Well, let's see…I was up in Syracuse at the time. Young & pretty green around the edges as far as never having been out on any tours or even having to be somewhat responsible within the confines of a "professional" band. I used to hang out at this joint called Styleen's Rhythm Palace; they used to have some really good punk/alternative type nights in the early days. I knew this crazy chick who kept showing up with this dude who looked like he could have been in D-Generation, ya know with the hair & shit. Turns out he WAS in D-Gen, haha, but anyway, I think we must've drank a bunch of times before one of us idiots finally put 2 & 2 together & realized that we both played & needed a band. Why he was in Syracuse in the first place- I think he was taking a little rehabilitative leave of absence from New York City & getting himself healthy. There's not quite as many distractions in Syracuse. I think while upstate, he'd started planning something out with Bobcat (those guys used to play together in The Catatonics, an early hardcore band that did an EP in '84 called "Hunted Down" right before Belvy bailed to join 7 Seconds). Then somehow or another I came down to sit in with 'em & they kept me around. Then we just started rehearsing & recording all the time & trying to jump on any show we could. We toured with U.S. Bombs when "War Birth" came out which, I think that must have been the apex of Duane's insanity. I've seen some legendary U.S. Bombs shows & legendary Duane Peters antics as well. We played with The Misfits, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Warped Tours. We did so many stupid fucking shows too, but regardless of what it was, they'd book us on anything. Belvy was an absolutely amazing drummer; that's what he did in D Gen & 7 Seconds. He did an old U.K. Subs record too. But he was singing in Libertine.
CM: People may not realize that there has been song bites from the tracks "If Wishes Were Horses" and "See You In The Next Life" used over the years on MTV shows like Cribs. Did you guys give them permission to use your songs? And have people come up to you in the past and said "Hey, I heard your song on MTV"?
JC: Yeah, I would actually get that all the time- "Hey, I heard this song or that song on MTV" or whatever. I was probably the last one to find out that they were using that record in the editing room on so many shows. A couple of years after we split, I just started receiving royalty checks in the mail. After a while I didn't even bother to see what it was being used on. I don't watch that shit anyway, & the list got pretty long with all of these ridiculous shows- "Pimp Your Mom" or "Date My Ride" or whatever the fuck they do. I still get 'em so apparently that record is still kicking around over there. Is MTV even on anymore? I remember a song or 2 being used for a movie around that time as well. Fucking God awful movie with Steve Zahn, but Belvy was in it for about a 1/2 a minute maybe, haha. When the Shock record came out, TKO got a song on some other show too. It's a bunch of crap & I have no idea who watches that stuff, but when the mailman comes by & all of a sudden you've got drinking money, it's hard to complain, haha.
CM: In 2000 you guys did a split CD with American Heartbreak called "You Can't Kill Rock N Roll". Again, solid material from both bands. But you guys split up not long after that release. Was the split on good terms? And do you still have contact with your former band mates?
JC: It wasn't on good terms, haha. I think we'd done a U.S. Tour that year & then went to Europe for a month. And then we were supposed to come back & hop on the Warped tour & the pressure cooker just finally exploded & it was like me & Belvy yelling in each others face. That was it really. Someone contacted me later about the remaining tours that we'd committed to, but at that point I had no interest in going thru the motions. It's like what I was saying about the "heart & soul"; it was a meaningless, irrelevant band & it needed to be taken out back & put out of it's misery. That whole thing was just a vehicle to play & go on tours & have fun, but I had no heart invested in Libertine. I usually don't even acknowledge that band when I'm talking about music with people. Shock Nagasaki was my deal & I'm still proud of that.
CM: As you've mentioned, after Libertine's split you were in Shock Nagasaki. You guys put out the album Year Of The Spy some years back. Was this the only release the band put out? Or is there more material out there?
JC: "Year Of The Spy" is the only record we did. TKO put that out in the States & we had another label out of Holland do a Euro release which included a press of 300 white vinyls. There's some 7"s & we were on a, shit ton of comps, but all stuff was pulled from that record, except for 1 old version of Palisades that turned up on a comp.
CM: Is Shock Nagasaki still around?
JC: It's around in the sense that I've never stopped writing songs & that there was never a decision made to end it. I've always just kind of looked at it like some weird art project. Anything aside from the piece of wax on the turntable is incidental. I don't care about how it's done, or who get's involved, or even if anyone knows what the band looks like or anyones names even, haha. To me, that stuff, in a lot of cases detracts from the music anyway. Ya know, take Rudimentary Peni; I love the fact that you could Google Nick Blinko, & there are no pictures to be found, haha. Maybe there's 1 or 2 bigfoot style photos, but it really lends itself to the music, because you don't have those distractions, & your imagination can just run wild with it. That & the fact that I personally don't have any interest or patience for that whole world of self promotion. A Shock record will end up right where it belongs, because the right people know about it, & the wrong ones probably don't & I'm perfectly content with that scenario. It's not really about getting bigger; it's more to exist to be discovered now or 20 years from now just like 98% of the shit I would be spinning on any given day. If you want to talk about Libertine, that went against everything I'm saying here, so it wasn't a hard decision to bail. Some people can't resist taking a bite of out the forbidden fruit. That's fools gold. Give me a bottle of wine & a guitar and as far as I'm concerned, I'm wealthy, haha. I'd rather make an album that retained a bit of credibility & garnered a bit of respect over time than to jump on the fast track to nowhere. The money will go away. The record will exist long after you cease to exist. And besides, there are some people- I'm one of them- that couldn't do it that way if they tried. I love music too much to cheat.
CM:  With the music you've put out over the years, what do you feel is your greatest musical achievement?
JC: It doesn't exist yet
CM: What can we expect from Jamie Coville in the near future? And new releases or tours on the horizon?
JC: Well, the Shock Nagasaki record; It's funny because I really started writing in Kreuzberg after that tour in 2006. Instead of getting on my flight back to the States, I shacked up in Berlin & the plan was to not slow down, & to stay there & write & demo out a bunch of songs for a new record. Some of the guys came back & hopped on other tours filling in, etc. & we never did get to the 2nd record. But a lot of that stuff from back then will be on this record. The good ones are just as great as when I was working them out years ago, so it's like, just getting to this point where your going, it's got to be born sooner or later. It'd be a shame to just never get around to recording it. And actually, I was out in Berlin earlier this year with the whole crew & my buddies band "The Uprising" was doing an EP, so we're all in the studio drinking beers & doing backup vocals, & I said to myself- grab a bunch of the guys & we'll hole up in there for a while & knock out a couple of these Shock tunes for a single, just totally on the dl, & press 'em up. But we just didn't have the time then & also, I'd like to see a whole record happen, not just a single. It's gonna be good man; I feel like, it's been so long since the first record came out, but all of that time in between- it really gives you the space to just let the songs happen when they're ready to happen. Even now, after 7 years, I'm still thinking to myself- I'm so glad we didn't record this a few years ago, because something just came to me this morning & it kills, & we wouldn't have had that line or that riff back then. I'm cool with doing a record every 10 years if it's great, not just good. And the first one, I would've done some things differently listening back. So I feel like this new one has got to be spot on. The songs are fucking ace though
CM: Jamie, it's been an honor to be able to talk with you. Your music has given me so much joy over the years and I thank you for the gift of music you've give the world. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I greatly appreciate it.
JC: Cheers & thanx !

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Music Reviews: Red Novella - "Failure By Design"

It's been a long couple years for Red Novella. The band has been working hard on their recently released debut full length, "Failure By Design", and playing shows to let people know they're still around after some internal issues saw a small line-up change occur. It was definitely worth the wait for the new album! The band is better than ever, and ready to unleash their fury on the world! But the question remains...are YOU ready for Red Novella?
"Failure By Design" kicks things off in high gear with "Won't Back Down". Intact are the twin guitar assault of Emo Manuel and Jay Lovell who flesh out each track with precision and accuracy. "Won't Back Down" is definitely a calling card for anyone that doubted the band's return as the leading force in the Chicago metal scene. This is a
great song to kick things off.
"Pieces" is another stand out track letting everyone know this is a new beginning and a fresh start. I can't help but feel that this whole album is coming from a healthy place...mentally, physically and emotionally. When singer Mike Perez sings the line "pick up the pieces and move on. No one wants to hear all your excuses." I wonder, is this a kiss off to a former friend? Maybe a lover? Maybe a former bandmate? The band leaves it open for interpretation. So we can make it what we want it to be. But it's a powerful track through and through.

With 2 maniac shredders in Manuel and Lovell, and a singer with the versatility and range of Perez, it would be easy to be lacking in the bass and drums. But that's simply not the case with Red Novella. This band has one of the tightest backbeats around in the form of drummer Jeremy Feinberg and bass player Jeremy Hooley. True meat and potatoes players who bring their A Game to this album, especially on the track "Ashes Fall". These 2 gentlemen are the glue that holds all the pieces in place and give just as much crunch and tenacity as the rest of the band. It's a true group effort in the highest regard.

If I could change one thing, and it's a small detail, I would ask for a more tracks. 8 songs left me feeling less than full. This has always been an issue with me when it comes to full on solid releases. It ends too soon and leaves me wanting more. Sure, I'm a greedy bastard...but I can't help it. When it's as solid and polished, both musically and lyrically as "Failure By Design", I want MORE! But, like the bands 3 song EP from a couple years ago, I think that great things are on the horizon for Red Novella...and like "Failure By Design", the wait will be, once again, well worth it.

5 / 5 stars

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interview with Jamie Yorke and Dec Fox of Blame Bilston

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. So, the new album, Yesterday Again, is officially out in the U.K. and will be out shortly here in the states. How has the response been to the new album? 

Jamie: I think the response has been great. We've had a lot of people sending us messages sharing their thoughts on the album and so far it's been really positive, so we're really pleased and we hope it continues. We just want to find a way of getting the album to reach more people!!

Dec: I think the response has been great, people close to us have a commented on how much they enjoy the album but also it seems to have brought new people in who appreciate our music to, which is really nice.

CM: How do you feel this album is different from your last release? 

Jamie: Well, I'd say the album is different to our previous release for a few reasons: 
It's better quality, better songs and since "Ta-ta For Now" I've recruited Dec on bass, who has written some amazing bass lines and we mesh really well. And we bounce off of each other, but before with "Ta-ta For Now" that was pretty much just me, so this time around it's been more fun! And overall I'd say the attitude towards the album was to record it at our pace
and not to cut any corners.

Dec Fox: I enjoyed Ta-ta For Now as I could see what Jamie was trying to achieve and I think with this album we're both pleased with the quality of recording and as well as the range of styles we've incorporated. For example, going from songs like Sunshine, Silly Little Black Bird, Strange Girl and Adolescence 

CM: I can still hear some old school alternative influences in your songs. Bands like Alice in Chains and especially Nirvana come to mind. Do you still look at those bands as major influences when it comes to songwriting?

Jamie:  When it comes to influences we often get branded for just sounding like a "Nirvana" rip off by people who obviously didn't listen to a lot of the "grunge movement". We have many, influences and yes it'd definitely fair to say Nirvana and Alice In Chains are a big influence, but we also have many others. We try to create a sound mixed with a lot of different elements from a lot of different genres such as Psychedelic, "Grunge", Punk Rock ( E.g The Germs ), and Hardcore punk. 

CM: Speaking of songwriting, do you find it easier to write songs now as opposed to early on? And do you feel you've both grown as a songwriters? 

Jamie:  For me, writing songs, is neither easy nor difficult. for me it's a release, if I didn't have that I think I'd probably implode haha. In an average week I write between 3-5 songs in that time span. and I think I've definitely grown, especially by having a full band behind me, who are all very competent musicians.

Dec Fox: I feel I have definitely grown as a song writer as me and Jamie both understand  the creative mindset behind each others songs, so we are able to make each others songs better, also now being in a band where we play a lot it has improved me as a musician and its made me work harder and be more willing to branch out into other styles

CM: You have some really powerful songs on this album in the forms of Alien Whore and RaPe ApE dEbAtE. Can we expect more heavy hitters like this on upcoming releases? 
Jamie: Definitely. "RaPe ApE dEbAtE" is literally the most metaphorical song on the entire record, its angry but at times, I think it's sweet. (Hear me out) It's gentle in an aggressive way. "Alien Whore" is a funny one, as when I wrote it, I had two ideas in my head a softer version or a hard punky version. After showing the song to Dec, we went with the heavier version and he wrote the bridge to that song as we felt it was lacking something. and we enjoy writing these heavy songs just as much as we enjoy writing our softer songs, so there fore we want to always incorporate both of our styles.

CM: You also have a pretty controversial track in What If God Were Gay. Here, in America, Homosexuality is more accepted than ever...except in the eyes of the Government who try and keep same sex marriages illegal. Personally, I have no issues with it. Where do you stand on same sex marriage? And how different is it in your native country as opposed to here in the states?
Jamie: "What If God Were Gay?" That's a track I've been asked about a few times and I don't do this often, but why not haha.  The song is literally me (and I'm sure the rest of the band word agree with me) just being pissed off with how homophobia can still be found in our current society. It's ridiculous. People are people, why can't we just let them be happy? And we are all for same sex marriage and over here they "say" it's fine. But we live in a very.."secluded" area in England, where racism and homophobia is still very prominent, which we are fully against.

CM: You have a lot to say in your music. And it's pretty deep material, which I find refreshing. Do you try and stay ahead with the times as far as socially conscience goes? Or do you just write from the heart?

Jamie: Every song I've ever written and will ever write is from the heart. It can be me dealing with a personal 
issue, or me just being pissed off about certain things in this world and example used before "homophobia". But it's not always about the lyrics. I like the music to reflect how I'm feeling as well. I personally like writing lyrics that are either metaphorical, or sarcastic as you can still say what you want to say, but no one knows which way to perceive it.

Dec: although I do not write vocals or lyrics the tone of the song I write tends to reflect the mood I am and it just comes naturally.

CM: With the release of Yesterday again, will we see Blame Bilston hitting the road for some tour dates in the near future?

Dec: Well we cannot wait to start playing regularly, but first we're sorting out a few logistical issues that are holding us back. We're also moving to a city with the band so at the moment this is taking up most of our time. But we're still playing a few local shows and then come January we'll be on the move up and down the country! 

CM: Will there be any new material by years end? And will we see any singles from the album released?

Jamie: It's hard for us not to release something instantly as all we do is work on songs together and so we'll definitely be releasing at least and EP or two before the years end. With regards to singles, we're currently trying to sort out a video for Adolescence and we did shoot a video for "Silly Little Black Bird" however we're still toying with the idea of releasing it.

CM: As always, it's been nothing short of a pleasure talking with you guys. The new album is amazing and I wanna wish you guys all the best in the future. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass guys.

Jamie: The pleasure has been ours, thank you for listening to the record and for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to the release in the states! Peace & Love - Jamie/Dec

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Music Reviews: "Sorry To Keep You Waiting: A Tribute To The Methadones"

Editors Note: Recently my record label, Infested Records, put out a compilation CD to pay tribute to one of Chicago's greatest punk bands, The Methadones. All the bands featured on this CD put their heart and soul into capturing what was so great about this band and their music. My old friend Teresa Spann asked if she could review the CD for Critical Mass. Without hesitation, I agreed. After all, she's the bands biggest fan and number one supporter of all things Dan Schafer. So, here it is! Enjoy!


A proper introduction might be nice.  My first tribute album was for the Kinks called “Give the People What They Want.”  I bought it because of the Briefs not knowing much about the Kinks.   The Briefs killed it and because of that album, I love the Kinks!  I’m not into most of the other bands on the record but the music made me want to know what the Kinks had to offer.  It’s was a good precedent for me for what a tribute album should be, good enough to like the bands on it and good enough to find out about the original band.

The Methadones were the first band that I loved.  I’m talking about the kind of love that makes you find their first album, and read the liner notes to see who they thank.  This love then has you buy the albums of those bands to see if they returned the thanks.  It’s a consuming love that has you hop in your car for what you think is a 2 hour drive to some never before ventured city which turns into a 4 hour drive into the middle of America but not bat an eye because it is your opportunity to see them live for the 2nd time that year after just meeting and seeing them play 8 months earlier (true story). When they recognize you when they walk in the venue a tear forms in your eye, then that love is validated and justified.

The Methadones music speaks to me and I’m listening to every single note so intensely that my ears hurt.  Dan’s sugar money voice, Pete’s metal thumping bass, Soucy’s maniac drums, and Mike’s sweaty guitar combine to into this artistic experience that challenges you to live better and be better at everything!  Starting as a side project with an original lineup that included B-face and Lumley, several albums had been recorded down the street from my place.  Although I complained often about residing in Indiana, I really didn’t mind living in Lafayette, because the Methadones had recorded here.  

I could prattle on about the Methdones, and I haven’t said hardly anything since they called it a day.  I lost my first love.  Nothing will ever replace it and talking about it is like pulling the scab off a wound trying to heal.  It hurts, makes it messy, and doesn’t heal quite right leaving a scar that isn’t pretty.  A tribute album for one of my most beloved bands isn’t going to be fair or objective.  These are terrible qualities for a review of something subjective.  It can’t be.  Messing with my heart is a dangerous undertaking and I will protect it with the utmost security but as long as you can appreciate where I’m coming from you know that it’s honest.  That’s what I think a good review should be at the crux.

I am thankful that I’ve seen at least five of the contributing bands live and was excited to see their names on the track list.  For some reason, Dan’s voice is the right pitch to make my insides melt with joy.  I love just about every single band that he’s been a part of and his musical quality is, for me, on level that’s really really hard to match.  Because of this, I didn’t hold back on some of the songs.   Please keep this in mind, because I’m am aware if you “don’t start none, there won’t be none.”  I volunteered to do this, but as their self-proclaimed biggest fan, I’m going to be the harshest critic.

Track by Track:

Solitude by the Fairmonts is choice start.  It’s the first song on Ill at Ease, the first album.  It’s a decent start.  Definitely makes me want to hear their stuff.

The Promdates are from Norway and I got to see them last summer when they were on tour with/as the Parasites.  I like these guys, their stuff is really good.  When I saw their name on the list I was stoaked because I talked to them about the Methadones.  I usually talk to everyone about the Methadones.  They did a good job.  Mess We Made is from Not Economically Viable; the lead singer said that this was his favorite album.  I’ve heard another band cover this song at a live show, this I like better.

Hygiene Aisle from Ill At Ease is my favorite Methadones song (if I had to choose) followed very closely by Ugly Things About You. I’m also aware that the person who contributed this song has been known as a racist.  I don’t want to people to think that I’m coming from predisposed criticism.  I don’t like this song, I think it sucks that this person decided to take a song that punches you in the balls by turning it into an acoustic wet willy.  Aside:  The Specials said it best: “If you have a racist friend, now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end.”

On the Clock by Back Alley Riot, has the right amount of anger for this song from the Methadones/Copyrights split (the last album) and puts a smile on my face!

I just got to see the Young Rochelles at Insub this year for the first time and I think they are cool.  I hadn’t seen a singing drummer before in a pop punk band.  I don’t count the Jetty Boys because he does mostly backing vocals.  Their version of Less Than Zero from Not Economically Viable is exactly how a tribute song should be done!  

I was fortunate enough to start 2013 at a show where the Manges played this live.  It almost made me cry.  I love this song and the Manges!  I remember having my friends call me on the phone asking me why the Methadones were on MTV when Say Goodbye to Your Generation from Career Objective opened up some show that had nothing to do with music.  I was so proud!

Okay, there really can’t be enough said to how jacked it was that the DeeCracks couldn’t get into the US to tour.  A permission slip to do something you love is the dumbest thing ever!  I know plenty of people with a college degree that are complete idiots!  A piece of paper shouldn’t have that much power, yet we live in a world where it does.  It sucks and blows!  Yes!  I love that the DeeCracks played I’m About to Crack from Career Objective.  It’s like you knew it was coming, it’s in their name, duh.

Transistor Radio is my favorite song off of Not Economically Viable.  Jason Duarte’s cover is not bad.  I knew that is wasn’t bad when I instinctively started to sing along upon my first listen of the album.  I recently just met him as well (didn’t even know it either, I’m that person), what a nice guy!

Falling Forward came off of This Won’t Hurt was covered by Deyv Dee and Alex Rose.  This is my own bias, I didn’t like this song.  This song was on This Won’t Hurt and I was in denial about the end of the Methadones being an actual possibility.  The band had changed and I wasn’t going to admit that the break was coming.  This Won’t Hurt did hurt, liars!  The album has some really good songs on it, but in retrospect this was my own stubbornness ignoring the inevitable.

I don’t like the last Methadones album.  I would have been happy with the split with the Copyrights being the end.  It had some fantastic songs.  A nice sending off, but there were still some songs that needed to be put out.  The last album is untitled/self-titled and seems like it was one last hook up that was drunk and sloppy where you want to forget but you’ve got a gross rash that won’t go away so you can’t ever forget (not a true story, but you get what I’m saying).  Not to say that Braceface didn’t do a good job.  I just can’t be objective.

Far Away from the Skunk Muffins, makes me want to make sure I have a band tee with their name on it.  They did a really good job.

I love that in being a Methadones fan, I got to be exposed to other fans that love the Methadones as much as I do.  I get why Arielle is spelled two ways.  It’s a sweet tribute to a sweet lady.  I want to listen to original work by the Heartaches and Hangovers.  This song is pretty complicated with heavy vocals.  They did tried and did alright, but Dan has that sugar money voice so any comparison to the original wouldn’t be fair.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to plenty of Methadones shows where Dan didn’t seem to have a full bank on that sugar money, usually it was made up for by Mike jokes.  This song was just not that great.

I just saw the Parasites perform You Don’t Know Me Anymore live two nights ago.   It was way better live, like most music.  Parasites should have their own tribute if they don’t already.  Fantastic!

Whole Lot of Nothing by CHaMOMILE was a hard initial listen.  After a few more go rounds,  I liked it and was singing along.  This band should be good live, I have a feeling.

Suddenly Cool is such a good song.  I can relate to the lyrics and it’s loaded with pop!  The Piniellas did good work!

Already Gone by the Shallow Hearts was a decent effort but came up short relative to the other songs on the album.  By far, it was the weakest entry.  The beauty of the Methadones was that a song seemed simple but had lots of musical layers that weak vocals and soft drums will expose and make you feel kind of bad like a pedo in a trench coat.

I believe was kind of a surprise on This Won’t Hurt.  This song definitely gave way that a transition was already underway within the band.  The start was so angry with the middle finger to society and your boss but then the heart’s exposed and made you listen twice or three times to make sure that all that anger and unhappiness doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be loved and happy.  Frank Makak’s I believe definitely made me listen at least 3 times to make for sure, it’s good.

At first I was disappointed that there were no ladies that seemed to share my love for the Methadones, but Girlcrush gave a great rendition of Far Away.  It rocks just as well as the first and doesn’t leave any regret that this song is on the album twice.

Past Mistakes by the Aquaholics was by far the icing on an otherwise decent tribute album.  I like that it was instrumental; it meant I didn’t have to make the harsh vocal comparisons.

The album should make you want to check out the original Methadones, and definitely the bands that contributed!  I just hope that the Methadones know that they are well deserved of a tribute album and all the work done by everyone to make it came from a place of love and respect.  I love and miss the Methadones!
4 / 5 Stars