Friday, 23 May 2014

The lines of interactions

Today’s blog is more off topic. It is about relationships that one develops with another. Yes, I refer to music in some form but this is more of a diatribe on life.

“Life’s fantasy, to be locked away and still think that we are free. So live for today because tomorrow never comes” 

This is a line out of the song 'Die Young' by Ronnie James Dio. It basically says embrace life, even though you think you are trapped, you are still free. I love this. Life is all about your interactions with others.

It amazes me some of the people you meet.  On one side you can meet a person and instantly hit it off or you meet someone and hope that their limbs are ripped from torso in mere moments.  It is the chemistry of relationships.

Music is much the same way.

There are not too many people in the far flung reaches of this earth that do not have an opinion of the music you listen to or the relationships you have – whether they are through love or torturous hate.

There has always been an affinity of distaste between pop culture and metal. Both genres at the opposite ends of the spectrum and sort of a grey muted middle. From Bieber singing Baby, Baby, Baby to Cradle of Filth offering up vampiric vestal virgins the gap has widened for years. No fans could have a foot in both camps and neither could they respect the others music.
In recent years there has been a shift in dynamics in regards to this and most has stemmed from the Nordic country of Sweden. Yes the country that brought us Abba, Roxette and A-HA also has brought us the most brutal metal ever created such as Mayhem, Death, Meshuggah and Soilwork.

In recent years a crossover scene has emerged out of a town in the south of Sweden called Gothenburg.  Such bands as Sonic Syndicate, Amaranthe, At the Gates and In Flames have changed the way metal and pop has evolved. Swedecore, Melodic metal or pop metal, whatever you want to call it has bridged the divide and has musings from both sides of the musical valley listening in awe of what these bands are producing. A collaboration where without one you could not have the other.

But what of human relations? Does one wander through life looking for that true soul mate that they could find on the other side of the world, through adventure or danger or do they look at the place they grow up, not expand the search and enjoy for what they have or through everything do you end up alone? There is the best of all worlds in either arguments.  The same as the music genre.

Humankind’s ability for internal growth stems from 2 things: Routine and new experiences. On one side of the coin going through the motions of everyday life and the ability to make informed choices develops the maturity of a person, it instils responsibility and respect. The flipside of this – Our new experiences, delving into the unknown can change our perspective on life, create love that was not there moments before and let us dream. However you cannot have one without the other for fear of boredom or heart palpitations. 

I have met the most loathsome people in my life, people who I would be quite happy to never see as long as I live again. I have also met the most amazing people too. These are the ones I surround myself with. The people who I want to be with, the people that make me feel good. But it’s these horrid souls of people who help create me, help mold me and shape my opinions. For without you, I would have never known adversity, know my strength or how much my convictions are upheld. 

Your hate creates my love.

The people I have met in my life have made me who I am;

To the man who beat me – You made me stronger, To the bullies – You made me resilient, To the people who tried to kill me – I am still here.

To my family – You gave me love, To my friends – You gave me a reason.

To my life. I have a purpose.

So in retrospect, you need 2 outlets; Love and Hate, for the one to survive you must have both in your life. You can hate the life you love or love the life you hate, or you can embrace both.

At the end of the day, we are all human and we need interaction on some level, good or bad.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Death of an unknown legend

Death of an unknown legend

Again here is an old guest blog that I wrote in 2013 for a music page. I hope you enjoy.

Last week I awoke to the news that Jeff Hanneman, the legendary guitarist of Slayer passed away from liver failure due to complications from a spider bite.
This is the first time I was at a loss for words and sad at the passing of a music identity. Yes, for the fact that he actually died but more so for the fact that this would now start the decline of Slayer. Jeff Hanneman was the soul and glue of that band. He wrote, directed, empowered and constructed most of the songs that made the band what they are today. He was, without bias or prejudices one, if not the greatest musicians of our lifetime.

Can I back that up you ask? Yes. Yes I can. Look at the blogs and reviewers on the internet, the media coverage and the outpouring of grief from musicians and fans all over the world. There are celebrities also who you would not associate with heavy metal music also saddened by his passing such as Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon, this is worldwide grief people.

One thing that has confused me throughout the week is the coverage via social media and news outlets of Jeff’s death. Not so many years ago a member of a metal band dying was hidden away on page 9 of the newspaper if it even made it there at all ( see the deaths of Paul Grey from Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio from Dio and Black Sabbath and Mitch Tucker from Suicide Silence ) . Cast your minds back to the murder of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell and the amount of media outlets that reported it. Apart from Music magazines and the odd opinion column, most of the information was spread by person to person. It was not reported as widely as Jeff’s death. Why? What has changed in the last 10 years? Metal is no longer as big as it was from the 80’s though to 2000 so why in 2013 is his death relevant to the masses? Could it be that Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest at his funeral? Or could it be that Metal is making a comeback? Is it now an acceptable form of music?
I for one cannot answer that, but what I do know is the world has lost a huge talent. A talent that for all intents and purposes was relatively unknown in the music world as a whole. Jeff was never in the limelight as Kerry King always seemed to be the Slayer frontman, He rarely gave interviews and apart from stage and obligatory band shoots he was not photographed outside of this arena.

There are currently only 2 original remaining members in Slayer with Tom Araya and Kerry King left, following the release of Dave Lombardo and the sickness of Jeff Hanneman it is highly unlikely that we will see a follow up to the critically acclaimed “Come Back” album “Christ illusion”. This 2006 album squarely put Slayer back on the map after a few sub-par albums let them down and ‘World Painted Blood” kept the aggressiveness going.  They have always been part of the Big 4 with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax making up the other 3 slots but Slayer has solely been responsible for leading this pack. They have never changed their stance, never changed the music nor the speed and loudness. They have been resilient the whole way through, not wavering at the outside pressures of dumbing down the music and cutting their hair while having a cry baby doco about how their life sucks or writing a 400 page book about how life is not fair or trying their hands at Rap ( yes I am talking about Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax ). They have been the strong thrash metal band and will forever be the leader.

Reign in Blood is one of the best albums. Not just of Slayers, not even in metal, but of all time. I stand by this. If you listen to the time signatures, the complex riffs and the heavy vocals it eclipses all that has come before it and maybe to this day, what came after it. Hanneman wrote 3 of the biggest songs of his career on that album ( he wrote 11 of the 12 songs ) – Angel of Death, Raining Blood and Alter of Sacrifice. They all still stand the test of time and even a musical songstress like Tori Amos has covered the song Raining Blood for the last 15 years of her career in her live shows. The music was a cross over, a change in direction and a kick-start to destroy the hair metal facade that was taking over. It was a game changer.

To give you an idea of how much the Reign in Blood album meant here are a few facts:

  • Legendary producer Rick Rubins first Heavy Metal produced album
  • 1 of only 2 Def Jam titles to be distributed through major labels by Geffen and Warner Brother Records
  • Through the relationship with Def Jam Records and Rick Rubin, Kerry King met The Beastie Boys. He later came up with and performed the guitar on the debut album Licence to Ill’s song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
  • The very first album to enter the Billboard top 100 charts with no radio airplay whatsoever
  • The songs on the album combined have been covered in total more than 116 times by recorded artists on their subsequent records.

So while this piece has been primarily written about Slayer, Jeff Hanneman’s untimely demise and the Sterling album “Reign in Blood”, the underlying guttural for this is about talent that is not revered until it’s gone. It’s about something that can be held in high esteem and even being a foreign idea that it can be loved. Jeff Hanneman and Slayer started something in 1983. They kept it alive and made it their own. Even if you are not a fan you can see the talent and the attitude they brought.

It is something that all musicians can inspire to be. \m/ \m/

Let The Children Play

Children by Robert Miles.

So this is a guest blog that I wrote for a friend a in October 2013 on his music blog - Never Miss a Beat.

Enjoy people

I never thought much of this song; yeah sure it was good when it come out in the mid 90’s but not something that ever stuck out with me. However it was one of the vivid memories I have from the 21st September 2013. That was the song that was playing in the café I was in were in when it was attacked by terrorists in Nairobi.

That was the song that was playing when I was shot and almost died.

It’s amazing what sticks in your mind when events such as that day unfold. The music playing on the café speakers was something that really held focus as I was bleeding from the multiple gunshots and grenade shrapnel. All through the attack that haunting tune just stayed with me.
I will not go into the events of that day too much. They are still pretty raw to me but what I will tell you about is the music that I listened to enable my recovery in hospital. Music is good for the soul and if anyone says it does not help when you are injured or sick has never used it as therapy. Trust me, it works.

I listened to that song again today for the first time while writing this piece. It gave me shivers, brought back memories of that day. But to be honest, I now have a new and unusual love for that song. It will always sit with me and it does have a sort of special, morbid place in my heart.

After 12 days in the hospital I was hooked to my iPod to get me to sleep, wake me up, keep me going and hold my concentration. The drugs I was on, the lines I was hooked up to and the moaning of the other patients mixed with all the sounds of a Kenyan hospital created a cacophony of noise I needed to escape from. Sometimes I had my ear plugs in, other times I let that shit play loud.  I can tell you right now, Kenyans are not fans of Slayer’s “Divine Intervention”.  Maybe they just haven’t really appreciated metal here yet?

But there were several tunes/albums that stuck out with me, held and kept me going. A few oldies but a couple of newbies that I heard while living in Kenya.  So here they are:

Robert Delong – Global Concepts. Its about 9 months old now but this song has so much energy and oomph I was listening to it every day. It got me up and got me going and really got me moving. This eclectic German fellow is going to be a big star one day.

Watch The Duck – Poppin’ Off. This song is almost a year old but damn its catchy. When you can mix a little dub step, blues, indie, D n B and a very Bobby Womack lyricist this song is a winner out and out.

Blakroc – Blakroc. There really is not one song one here that is filler. Every song is great and  is one of the most complete albums I have ever heard in Hip Hop. The Black Keys were awesome in this collaboration and as some know I am not a huge fan so they really did themselves proud.

My Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West. I do not care what this guy does in public. Hell, I don’t read gossip mags. This by far and away was my fav Hip Hop album in the last 5 years – Close second was “Watch the Throne” but I listened to this album trying to get to sleep at night. Runaway is the best song to drift off too.

Divine Intervention – Slayer. It’s the greatest band in the world. Enough said.

Coming From Where I’m From – Anthony Hamilton. This guy’s voice is one of the best I have ever heard There is a touch of Jackie Wilson and you can tell he is channelling Sam Cook and Marvin Gaye as well. He is also the face of Kenya’s Premier lager too. Unfortunately I will be missing his concert here in Nairobi by a few weeks as we should be back in New Zealand by then.

Tired – Stone Sour. I have never been a huge fan of Slipknot but thoroughly enjoy Stone Sour and have a new found respect for Corey Taylor after reading his book – The Seven Deadly Sins. This song is one of my favourites off the concept 2 part album “The House of Gold and Bones Part 1”

So I go back to that song that I started this diatribe about. Children by Robert Miles. I will never forget this song. When it come out in 95’ it didn’t really resonate with me as I was in a Hip Hop/Metal phase at the time. I can tell you right now, that song; I will remember as long as I live.

Take care y’all.