Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

At least it's the shortest day of the year; 2015 can't come and wipe the slate clean soon enough.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who Gives a S#!t?: My Music Picks for 2014

Too exhausted for pithy intros.

For most of the year I was still wrapped up in a pop wonderland, so I'm sure there are some gems that've been missed. But as someone who habitually shuffles through 24,000+ songs on an iPod Classic (what of it? they're worth money now), it's seldom that I become obsessed with hearing a record in its entirety. Over and over again.

That's pretty much the only criteria I used in choosing my Top 10 Albums of 2014. Enjoy.

UPDATE: How did I ever miss Eyehategod? Also, the Tokio Hotel record is garbage. What did they do to you, Bill?

Best of 2014 (in order, based on how many times I spun the record straight through):
1. Cold World - How the Gods Chill
2. The Afghan Whigs - Do To the Beast
3. Rancid - Honor Is All We Know
4. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun 
5. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2 
6. Godflesh - A World Lit Only by Fire
7. BehemothThe Satanist
8. Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons to Die 
9. Eyehategod - s/t
10. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
Pretty Damn Good:
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
At the Gates - At War With Reality 
Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out
Youth Code - A Place to Stand EP
Finch - Back to Oblivion
Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
Vance Joy - Dream Your Life Away

Have yet to listen to these artists' latest records: Swans, Tokio Hotel, Shellac, Ex Hex, TV on the Radio.

Postscript: I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever get into Taylor Swift. Basic pop music has never suited me.

Best Shows of 2014:
Motley Crue @ Madison Square Garden - Though the set list was better when I caught Crue's Las Vegas residency, there was nothing like sending off the geezers at the most befitting NYC venue of them all.
Godflesh @ Irving Plaza - This was an experience for all senses, including the vibrations it swept through my body. Loudest show of the year that left me physically spent.
King Diamond @ Best Buy Theater - The double-decker stage, replete with gates! The actors! The light-up upside down crosses and pentagram! King's live show was like everything all concerned parents assume metal shows are like. READ this take on it.
Infest @ the Well - Seeing the underground icons plow through their discography was eye-opening; and a good hang (thanks for the ticket, Richard!).
Gorilla Biscuits @ House of Vans - Every summer there's one magical show where you get to see all of your friends, meet some new ones and enjoy some old-school hardcore. This was it.
Bonus: Pussy Riot @ Vice 20, Brooklyn Navy Yard - It was an honor to be in the presence of these blunt, independent Russian women (who are willing to risk their lives for their expression) as they covered riot grrl darlings, Le Tigre.


Monday, December 8, 2014

A Decade Without Dimebag

Hard to believe it's been a full 10 years since "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was shot to death as he performed onstage with his band, Damageplan, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, OH. The result is my almost-exact recollection of what occurred that day—a rarity for me. Probably the only other date and time this could be said for is September 11, 2001 in New York City.

A decade ago on this day, I was finalizing up ankle surgery plans, then met up with some High Times staffers to catch Doug Benson and Tommy Chong perform The Marijuana-Logues off Broadway. For that reason, I clearly recall this joke from the show:

"They call marijuana a crutch..." 
"...Yeah, but crutches help people."

The lot of us went and had dinner with Tommy afterwards and it blew my mind that he actually spoke in THAT lackadaisical voice; somehow surprised by how chill he was, considering he'd just gotten out of jail for selling glass pipes online.

I can't remember if it was there, or on my way home when I got a text message alerting me to a shooting at the Damageplan show. Truth be told, I can't even remember if it was my old editor at Revolver, or mutual friends. I was shocked as much as any fan could be, but didn't want to spread false rumors. Then I started thinking about the vulnerability of my friends and idols in bands (especially as Superjoint Ritual was starting to resurface).

Like so many others, I spent the night reaching out to my network of friends, kept others informed, and hoped against logic that the news was false; that somehow this brother in metal was still with us. Sadly, national news confirmed the worst.

There were three other people murdered by gunman Nathan Gale that night, including a fan who was trying to give Dimebag CPR. Let's not forget them, either.

Rest in Power. Forever.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Heavy Hearts and Black Clouds

Seems like the news is true at this point, and the thought of losing another member of our metal family this year is too much to handle. Sympathy and love go out to the friends and family of Black Tusk's Jonathan Athon, who died today from injuries he sustained in a collision while on a motorcycle.

Black Tusk were always such a great band to see live, and he was their driving force. Athon will be missed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Leaving Song

After putting in almost five years of work there, I recently left a job at a very mainstream and very corporate media company.

To say I was burned out and frustrated is an understatement. Sure, I got to work with tons of incredible entertainers and colleagues, I learned a bunch about digital marketing (and the world of social media) and had some unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences that made for memories that'll always stay with me. But with that came long days and hours, all too many miscommunications, and the defeat that comes when a supervisor suggests you become "more dispassionate." About my work, my pride.

I didn't really think I'd have a hard time leaving. Certainly, I didn't expect to feel any kind of emotion. After creating my own grand finale by way of our annual festival in Las Vegas, it was up to me to come in for one last day - to hand in expenses, and to turn in my laptop and work ID.

It also came to my attention that the one and only rock icon, Robert Plant, would be in the building on this fateful day. So after hustling together my final expense report, I made my way to the office in time to coincide with his interview.

After waiting on Plant to finish recording for some time, radio legend Jim Kerr walked him out, and in front of me, introduced him to the company's happy-go-lucky receptionist, Anita—also Kerr's friend of several decades. What happened next nearly made me lose my shit.

Anita proceeded to tell Plant, while holding his hand, about her impoverished childhood and how listening to the music of Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin helped her cull her self-esteem and strive beyond her upbringing. "It really is the best medicine," Plant replied after listening intently, nodding his head in agreement.

It was a little too much to witness on my last day. It brought to mind how many contest winners I'd helped reach their idols and thought about how that opportunity could have affected them in the same way Anita's inclinations shaped her. And most importantly, the conversation evoked the power of music—that huge, overpowering love of music that carries fanatics like me through each day. That was all it took.

Luckily, I had dark sunglasses on, so no one could see my eyes getting glassy (to be fair, this could also have been partly due to jet lag). It wasn't until I saw Kerr downstairs and gave him a final hug that the waterworks started. I joked that no one would believe him if he'd actually told people I teared up, but I guess that front's gone.

So there it is. Much luck in all future endeavors to those who meant something to me. And for the rest, well... Murder City Devils sing it best.

PS: Did you really think I'd fail to get a pic with the artist? Remember, J-E-T-L-A-G.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mastodon Bring the Motherload

The Atlanta homeboys in Mastodon keep making me proud, and since this was their second appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, I really love that Brent decided to take a piss out of it by dressing up. More cowbell, forever!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Head to The Meadows with Red Fang

And the winner for the most far-flung hard music tour of the year is... Communion of Sirens, featuring Opeth, In Flames and Red Fang. Should be interesting to see how the melodic, straight-forward rockers will fare with the more traditional metal-loving audience their Swedish cohorts attract. The package will be coming through New York City this December to perform at the horrendous Terminal 5, and with any luck I'll be catching it from the balcony. More dates listed below.

The Portland group have also just released a video for their Scion A/V collabo, "The Meadows," and it's as good humored as the gents that make up the group. Check it out! Couldn't be happier for their continued success.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Beacon Theatre

This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to catch guitar virtuosos Rodrigo y Gabriela live during their three-night run at the historic Beacon Theatre from probably the best vantage point I've ever had at the venue - if not anywhere - thanks to Thorns.

Naturally, I had to take tons of pictures. All of which were taken with my iPhone, largely without zoom (all without filters). Below are a few selections and HERE's the link to all of them.

And if you're a fan of classical guitar or music of any kind, definitely check them out live on their summer 9 Dead Alive tour. Just don't forget to tip the merch guy.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Place Called Home

Shortly after I moved into my Manhattan apartment in 2001, I discovered the building next door served as a halfway house for LGBT minority youths. Needless to say, the experience has been entertaining, colorful and extremely loud - especially during the summer when they raged all night their stoop-side torch songs. Sometimes in ass-less jeans.

Walking by this past week, I realized they moved out. And I'm planning the same. Was this the final seal? (And what does that say about me?) East Gramercy will never be the same.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Machine Head Cover Ignite

Not the first cover I would have thought of, but this is kind of dope - Machine Head covering latter-day Ignite. Check out their cover of "Our Darkest Days."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Death Angel's Rob Cavestany on His Signature Riff, Latest Album & That Damn Burger Ad

Image lifted from
A while back, I had the pleasure of interviewing Death Angel’s Rob Cavestany for High Times magazine and was truly impressed by how friendly and chill he was. Before we knew it, our conversation exceeded what could ever be committed to print, so below are essentially the outtakes from our talk. Most surprising tidbit I learned? Apparently Rob thinks the riff to “I’m Bored” is overrated. Read on!

ZT: What were your expectations for Death Angel when you first got back together?
RC: We had no goals at all. It was only the immediate goal as to why we reunited in the first place, which was to play the benefit show for Chuck Billy [2001’s Thrash of the Titans]. We didn’t even exist when that benefit show was being set up.

Then we played the show, and, of course, it was so killer… Then we started getting offers and offers. Still, we were just going to close it up, then all of a sudden we got asked to play the Dynamo festival in Holland –we headlined that thing in 1990 on the Act III tour, so for us, it was one of monumental shows of our career. So then we were like, OK, we’ll do the one show in Holland, and that’s it. Then it just went on and on and on. We couldn’t stop after that happened.

What does your latest album title, The Dream Calls For Blood, mean to you?
The title is kind of our mantra at this point; the dream being our band, and the blood that it calls for is the sacrifice. The blood, sweat and tears, the ridiculously hard work and your life that you pour into the efforts of something that you really want to make happen very badly. Anybody can put their story to that kind of thing. 

For a long time, you were used to playing with family. How is the vibe different now?
At the beginning, it was extremely different and very bizarre, because I was used to playing with the original members for most of my life. In time, I grew to be familiar with the different styles that these guys play, and their personalities. Now, it’s like they are family, they just look different. They’re our less brown family members.

Do you still see the ex-members of the band at family gatherings?
I actually hung out with Andy [Galeon, original drummer] a couple of times recently. Andy’s got a couple of kids, I've got one kid, and our kids don’t even know each other, which is really sad because we were the closest of brothers. 

Our entire relationship revolved around our music, so now that we weren’t in the same band together, there was just an uncomfortable silence of nothingness, of trying to avoid discussing music when we’d see each other. They know I'm still doing all this stuff. In the end, it caused us to lose complete contact with each other. I practically didn’t talk to those guys for a year straight or more. We’re now starting to say hi… Andy’s oldest daughter is as old now as he was when he was already playing shows.

Technology has changed the music landscape in the last decade or so, do you think it’s helped or hurt the scene?
Obviously, the Internet helped with the ability to download and share files quickly, and has helped spread music quickly. But it hurts the recording musician and the songwriter, in a way that you just can't sell music very much anymore. So it depends on how you use it, but it’s unstoppable… so you gotta figure out how to play the game within the rules that have been shed forth.

What was your experience with having a "viral" demo back in the day?
The Kill As One demo was produced by Kirk Hammett. We played with Slayer and Overkill in New York at the Ritz [nee Webster Hall] before we even had an album out based on our demo tape. And when we got out to NY for the first time and played, all these kids were singing the lyrics to our songs! That was only possible because of tape trading… because we mailed it to them - one by one. I was sitting there duping off them tapes and mailing them from my house. That was a little bit more magical… everything felt more exciting when you finally did hold your first album. Now, every kid can make a CD out of their bedroom, no problem.

Any thoughts on the current thrash revival?
The style and the music holds its own because that energy doesn’t go away. The same reasons that we were drawn to it all those years ago is the same thing that can happen to any fucking kid of that age now, then, whenever. It’s got that youthful angst, but its also got musicality for musicians who want to geek out. My kid loves thrash, and he’s 7 years old.

Tell us about the signature riff to Frolic Through the Park's “Bored.”  
I wrote that riff as a joke.That song was never even going to be on Frolic, it was completely a joke. Friends of ours were like, "You have to put that song on your album!" At first we were laughing at the idea of it, like, "That’s not a metal song at all!" But then we did, and now it's become the song that we get defined by. Its not my favorite song of ours, but I'm glad that we have at least something like that at all. 

When you see old performance footage or listen to old live albums, what goes through your head?
When I see videos of us from back then... obviously we were way younger, but we’re way better live now. And we pay more attention to playing better. We used to swing around our hair a lot back then, but we actually go off on the stage much more so now. We’re in way better shape than we were back then. Back then we were just skinnier, we have stamina nowadays. 

And I can't let you go without bringing up the Carl's Jr. commercial that used your song, "The Ultra-Violence."
Carl’s Jr. –  Yeah, haha.
I still haven’t gotten a free jalapeno turkey burger out of it [laughs], but seeing it on TV was such a kick. Everybody was blowing up my phone. I never got down to the bottom of why us and why that song. It seems pretty coincidental that we were touring for the 25th anniversary of our debut album, The Ultra-Violence. We re-released it and we were playing it beginning to end live.

I was with my parents, my wife and my kid watching the Golden Globes and they cut away to commercial, and that’s the commercial that came on! When it happened, it was a glorious moment in achievements…. My music being played on a Carl Jr.'s commercial!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Goodbye, Roseland

It's fair to say that I've spent a lot of time inside midtown's Roseland Ballroom. From big acts like AC/DC to the dozens of Slayer, Pantera and countless other shows I caught there - it's been a fun place to see gigs since my teens.

Last night, I went to pay my final respects at Lady Gaga's closing run of the place; the second-to-last night they'd ever hold concerts at Roseland. Though I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish it wasn't a harder act I saw there last, I appreciate Gaga's reverence for the place. She's a native New Yorker, so she understands the space was more than just a slab of real estate, it was a temple where tons of music fans like myself went to worship the thing holiest to them: music.

If you're not in NYC - or couldn't get tickets, here is a link to where the Roseland's last show will be broadcast tonight, starting at 9pm ET right HERE.

Posted below are some of the stubs I found from my history with the venue. If you look at the dates, you'll notice one of my many Slayer shows was less than 24 hours from a remarkable Hole show during the Live Through This period.

RIP Roseland, I'll always have my memories... and dozens of ticket stubs.

The rest of my iPhone pics of Gaga's show (including the moment she climbed a rose-encrusted ladder - in heels - up to VIP to serenade Tony Bennett) can be found here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Donate to SxSW Cares

UPDATE: There's been a fourth casualty. An 18-year-old named De’Andre Tatum passed away on March 27. He joins victims Steven Craenmehr (35), Jamie Ranae West (27) and Jamie Ranae West (26).

The four senseless deaths that occurred at South by Southwest this year hit me harder than even the Harlem building collapse that happened so much closer to home. All I kept thinking was, "it could have been me or any of my friends."

Now, the people behind SxSW have set up a charity portal where folks can help the remaining 22 victims who were hurt with their medical bills and more. I urge you all to join me in making a donation here, at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Eyehategod Music

Last night, the boys in Eyehategod debuted this lyric video [pardon] for the rather uptempo "Agitation! Propaganda!" and it's pretty bitchin'. Right around the 1:40 mark is when stuff slows down and some good Bower Power riffage comes through. A good presage of things to come.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In Defense of South by Southwest

We're in the throes of South by Southwest season and surely if you're in some way a music or media fan (or check social media even occasionally), reports about it are pretty hard to ignore. And in more recent years, people have actively started to make an armchair sport of mocking how overblown and commercial SxSW has become.

Yes, it IS incredibly commercial. I roll my eyes every time I read an insane announcement about how the iTunes Festival is setting up shop and bringing Coldplay and Pitbull. It totally tickles me to think about Lady Gaga playing the Doritos stage, which in past years has been modeled to look like a giant vending machine. And please believe I'd pay to have access to a Judge stage-dive cam for their throwdown for Converse.

But you know what? I'd still go back in a second if it fit into my schedule. My experience with the Austin-based culture extravaganza extends only to attending the music portion several times over. I've never really done the tech or movie parts (despite having access) because of time constraints and to spare the health of my liver and kidneys.

Here's the thing, though: in all my many years of going, I've never had a bad time. Whatever type of music you're a fan of, you'll likely find it. There are literally thousands of artists that descend upon the city for your entertainment. And you have the nerve to complain that these acts are picking up some corporate exposure along the way?

Sure, my experience is biased as a member of the press. I've never had to load in or find parking around closed streets flooded with jaded day-drunks. (FYI: I'm saving all my intoxication, band and make-out stories for the inevitable book.) But are you seriously willing to tell me that hanging outside in (usually) warm weather, drinking a free beer while watching an endless array of bands is a BAD thing? Buddy, you've got problems.

So after reading and hearing so much dumb smack-talk over the last few years, I present my reasons of why you should stop complaining about SxSW.

In Defense of SxSW in Five Gripes:

Ooh, SxSW is So Lame! When Have I Gone? Never
Those who actively denounce SxSW but have never attended can just step over to the left and STFU. It comes off petty. All that shit-talk sounds like embitterment because you've never been connected, adventurous or intrepid enough to make your way in. Hell, even without any kind of pass, bracelet, credential or guest list, ANYONE can catch free music, eat (good) free food and drink free beer if you resolve to get in the thick of it and show up in Austin.

Not Liking SxSW is Kind of Un-American
Think about the tenets this country and the Peoples Republic of Texas are founded on: loud music, ever-flowing beer, cool breezes and seared meat. Guess what? That's pretty much what you're in for at SxSW. And since Austin is home to Whole Foods, chances are there will be a veggie option. You're going to tell me that this is a TERRIBLE proposition? Time to move to Canada and attend NxNE instead.

There's No Discovery Because People Are Busy Watching A-List Acts
Sure, your editor might expect you to cover the huge marquee performance, and that might conflict with the set time of the new band you're dying to check out. Luckily, said unknown band probably has five gigs at SxSW, so you can do BOTH. Or if you're not obsessed with being the humble-bragger, pick a lesser marquee act that you've always wanted to see but haven't. A few years back when Metallica was headlining Stubb's, I decided to go check out Devo for the first time and my mind was blown. Then I probably went off to see some metal band stomp all over Emo's.

There are literally opportunities to see music each day from noon until 4am - day party to after party - the great alpha and omega of South by Southwest. Even without trying hard, I've probably caught 35-50 acts per trip, with plenty of eating and schmoozing in between. Remember the time there was a Profound Lore showcase, followed by a jaunt to see Panic! At the Disco before grabbing a Sausage King dog and hopping in a pedi-cab to see Eyehategod and Pentagram play a huge field? I fuckin' do. That was also the same day I caught The Kills and Havok back to back. Yes, folks, you CAN see it all.

It's Way Too Commerical
In a one-block radius, I once scored Mountain Dew sunglasses, a remarkably soft Rolling Stone T-shirt to sleep in and a much-needed chicken burrito from a truck with Danny Trejo's visage and the Shady Records logo painted on it. Why? Why the hell not!? It was there and marketing is everything. Might as well suck on that teet and save your food money for drugs and bartender tips.

SxSW is Too Impersonal
Ooh, I can't get into this panel and see my favorite NPR commentator or the kid I know from Twitter.... I'm gonna call bullshit right here. Since Austin is smack-dab in the middle of the country, people from LA and NY (and all those other places in between, even from across the world) attend, making it a wonderful place to rub elbows with tastemakers, potential employers and the dorks you had flame-wars with in the Geocities days.

Still not convinced? Not much more I'm willing to say. But at least do yourself a favor and live through SxSW once before shrugging it off. As Albert Einstein put it, "The only source of knowledge is experience."

Zena T

PS: Want to see who've I've seen? Some SxSW galleries HERE and HERE.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dan Lilker's Swan Song

I must admit, I was surprised to see the following post from my old buddy, Dan Lilker. When I think of metal lifers, he's one of the first I picture. And unlike many of his contemporaries, he's somehow maintained his passion for the scene without picking up any of the hardened embitterment so associated with pioneers who never quite hit it big. I'll definitely miss seeing him at various fests, but respect the hell out of him for getting out on his own terms.

It looks like Brutal Truth is a wrap, but Danny's and their legacy will continue.

"A Message From Dan Lilker

I regret to inform Brutal Truth fans that as of October 18th, 2014, I will be retiring from being a full time recording and touring musician. That date is my 50th birthday, so I chose it symbolically as a significant milestone to make such a weighty decision. As a lot of you know, I've been an active member of the metal scene since the early 80s with the thrash metal bands I've been in before the formation of Brutal Truth in 1990, and I'm simply just tired of the rigors of touring mostly. Unlike some of my peers from the 80's who went on to sell millions of records I have always been drawn to extreme underground metal. I don't care about staying in 5 star hotels and having a big cushy tour bus but I am getting tired of squeezing into a van for 8 hours after all these years on the road. I have always played what I believe in and that is been priority #1, but the time has come to have a little bit more stability in my life.

Brutal Truth will still be active on the touring front until mid-October and will aim to do as much as we can in the next 9 months or so. After that, I will still have creative output with my 2 local bands in Rochester NY, Nokturnal Hellstorm and Blurring and do the occasional project tour, but yes, as of mid-October, Brutal Truth will no longer exist. I do realize that will be an extreme disappointment to all the grind freaks out there that have supported this band so rabidly all these years, and your enthusiasm will always have a special place in my heart, but I've made my decision, and I hope everyone can respect that.

Thanks, Dan Lilker"