Exclusive Interview: Static-X (Ep 92)

[This interview was originally aired live on-air on WXLV Radio on 07.19.2019]

Celebrating 25 years since their debut release of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ and set as a memorial to their late charismatic frontman Wayne Static, Static-X is back on the road playing SOLD OUT shows all over the country. Utilizing Wayne’s final vocal recordings, the surviving founding members have been hard at work crafting a new album titled ‘Project Regeneration.’ Performing live vocal duties on the tour is a masked frontman who goes by XER0.

Old images of the band filled the large LED screens behind them as new animations, lyrics, messages of tributes to Wayne Static punctuated the background.  In fact, the screens led us through a protracted opening before the band came out and started with “December” before going right into “Bled For Days”.  The first 9 songs were all from ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ before they launched into samplings of some of their bigger songs from most of the other albums.  “Get To The Gone,” “This Is Not,” and “Start A War” were personal highlights.  Of course things ended with “Push It” as a show of this magnitude without it would be woefully incomplete.

Before all of that, I was lucky enough to speak to Static-X bass player, and really, the guy who had the biggest part in putting all of this together, Tony Campos.  We talked a bit about the tour, the album, the old days, an interesting celebrity encounter and more!

Interview by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung

Children of Bodom, Swallow The Sun, and Wolfheart on the “Hexed Tour” at Reverb (Ep 90 + 91)

4/18/19 – Children of Bodom / Swallow The Sun / Wolfheart – Reverb Reading, PA.

After a hearty dinner at the nearby Pike Cafe and Bar, we made our way into the venue to catch the tail end of Summoner’s Circle‘s set.  Robes, makeup and doom.  Check.  Check. Check.  

Next was Wolfheart. Hot off of last year’s ‘Constellations of the Black Light’ the band came out with an energetic set, featuring a drummer who may or may not be the Energizer bunny.  This is the latest project (yet still rather long-running) of Tuomas Saukkonen.  The bass player frequently engaged the crowd and this was the point in the evening where the audience was beginning to congregate around the stage.

Wolfheart – Photo by Henry Chung

Swallow the Sun brought a more meditative and somber set.  The lights were mostly low and the more melancholy, less doomy material on their latest album, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ was an appropriate pairing for the set.  First single “Firelight” was featured along with “Under The Water” and “Stone Wings” the latter of which especially seemed like a crowd favorite.  To be honest, a lot of the crowd didn’t seem to know what to make of the set for the first few songs.  The evening’s consistently low vocal mic didn’t do anyone any favors though it improved slightly as the show progressed.  At a certain point, everyone seemed to wake up a bit and respond to the music with most people seeming to be on board by the end.  While half of the set was new, they ended with their traditional closer “Swallow (The Horror Pt. 1”).  

Swallow the Sun – Photo by Henry Chung

Our headliners, Children of Bodom came out and so did the red and especially purple lights which was appropriate for their latest album ‘Hexed.’  “Are You Dead Yet?” was a pounding way to begin the show

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

Interestingly, the band had recently toured on their very earliest material, so a fair amount of that was in the set along with a lot from mid-period favorites ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ and ‘Hate Crew Deathroll.’  Of course there were the new songs, the perfect first single “Over Grass and Clover,” along with “The Road,” “Platitudes and Barren Words” and “Hecate’s Nightmare.”  These tracks reflect a lot of the best aspects of ‘Hexed’ which many are considering a bit of a return to form for the band, embracing some of their neoclassical roots while having some catchier tracks than the last few albums.  

Relatively new guitar player Daniel Freyberg proved himself to be a worthy additional as he held up his end of the deal with the songs.  Of course, everyone else in the band are longtime constants so no questions there.  Seeing keyboardist, Janne Wirman, in action was especially a treat as his tremendous dexterity and manipulation of the keys is truly the X-factor that helps to set the band apart.  All of this was done on his backup keyboard which, itself, had some faulty switches, as he explained at one point in the set.  

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

One of my personal favorites “Bodom Beach Terror” was played early and the rarely heard “If You Want Peace…Prepare For War” lent a bit of extra speed and heaviness to the show. Really, the selection was very good to appease fans new and old.  Of course, with ten albums out, there are always going to be few songs that don’t make the cut for this go-round but, all things considered, everyone in attendance should have been, and seemed very thrilled.  We even had some late-show crowd surfing. 

The encore started with another of my favorites “Hate Me!” and ended with “Downfall.”

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

This package was a really rare treat as to have three wildly different bands from Finland playing in a little B-market (maybe C-Market?) like Reading in a tremendous convergence of unlikely factors.  More than that, it was a great time.

Before the evening began, I had the pleasure of speaking with Janne from Children of Bodom.  Of course, we talked about ‘Hexed’ but we also dove into their studios, some glaring omissions from the album, barbecuing, their beer and quite a bit more.

Interview with Janne Wirman, keyboardist from Children of Bodom

Pick up Children of Bodom’s ‘Hexed’HERE

Right after that, I tracked down Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun.  The interview was conducted right outside the venue which of course, featured a passing train, passing fans, and angry yellow jackets. Distractions aside, we spoke about his vocal evolution, other projects, Nick Cave, Paradise Lost, and quite a bit more.

Interview with Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun

Pick up Swallow the Sun’s ‘When A Shadown is Forced Into The Light’HERE

You can pick up Hedonihil ‘I’HERE

Words / Interview by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Goatwhore (Ep 89)

The 2018 edition of the Metal Alliance Tour which began on Halloween came to a close on November 30th in Easton, Pennsylvania at One Center Square.

For reasons to be explained later, I was unable to see any of the local openers and much of Gozu’s set. 

For that reason, let’s resume with The Great American Ghost which brought intensity to the stage and brought their energetic stage show to a crowd that was, admittedly, still filling in. 

The Great American Ghost – Photo by Henry Chung

Georgia’s Black Tusk was next up and by this point, the room was filling up.  Their rough and tumble brand of rock, most recently heard on their album ‘TCBT’ brought a different vibe to the show, highlighting the lineup’s variety.  Being a fan for some time, I knew a lot of the music but didn’t particularly have a clear picture of the band, especially in light of lineup changes.  Seeing all four of the band members contributing vocals was very cool and showed a wrinkle that many of their contemporaries can’t boast.

Black Tusk – Photo by Henry Chung

Next was The Casualties, a very distinct punk act that dates all the way back to the 90s.  Their newest album ‘Written In Blood’ is certainly up to their usual high standard but I wasn’t aware that they had acquired a new frontman, David Rodriguez.  He contributed a ton of energy and, to be perfectly honest, they might have stolen the whole show.  The crowd was clearly pumped to see them, judging by the Casualties patches and punk attire in the crowd and the fact that the pit exploded during their set.  The set ended with Rodriguez somehow getting up to the second story of the venue and jumping down into the crowd where the audience (thankfully) caught him. 

The Casualties – Photo by Henry Chung

Finally, things got heavy and dark with the mighty Goatwhore headlining the show.  The set could be best described as unrelenting.  There were selections from newest album ‘Vengeful Ascension’ plus older favorites.  The songs varied from fast and pummeling to occasionally heavy and doomy.  This created the needed ebbs and flows for a dynamic set.  The rhythm section was tight but everything was led by the tasty riffs of Sammy Duet and the rasps and energetic stage presence of Ben Falgoust.  It was to be said, Falgoust spent a huge percentage of the set right up in the crowd’s face, slapping high-fives and fist bumps, really keeping the front row (at least) engaged.

Goatwhore – Photo by Henry Chung

As many would, presumably, hope, they ended the set with “FBS’.  There was no need for an encore as I think I can speak for many others, we were all spent.

Before the evening began, I was able to sit down with Ben to talk about all things Goatwhore.  It was also one of the relatively rare times I get to talk to someone on the last night of the tour and be able to get a true view of the tour with it being in hindsight.  We got into how to survive being the road demons that they are, the fact that this tour came on the heels of the previous tour being canceled, hot sauce, Queen and so much more.

Much respect to Ben for being such a cool guy to talk to and for the band existing and thriving for the last 20 years.

Pick up ‘Vengeful Ascension’ HERE

Exclusive Interview: Exmortus (Ep 88)

Friday, September 7th Reading, PA – Reverb

A violently rainy Friday night couldn’t stop truly devoted metal fans from a show. Eyes of the Living Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch any of Eyes of the Living’s set, as I was….occupied by an interview. They could be heard slightly from up in the green room and an excited concertgoer shared his enthusiasm about them as I stood in line for the bathroom. So…that’s something. Secret Face They were certainly energetic and the singer had a capable yell, but the detail that dominated was the drummer who provided nearly constant double bass thudding. I’m a fan of Kataklysm, but even they mix it up once in a while. Exmortus
Exmortus – Photo by Mark Morton
Oh man. Exmortus (Facebook, Instagram) was the band I truly came for and they did not disappoint. Judging by the rapidly increasingly crowded, pit, it’s probably a fair assumption that many others felt the same way. Since they were promoting their latest album ‘The Sound of Steel‘ they leaned on that release, heavily. So much so, they started the set with the first three songs on the album. From there, they mixed it up a little with some older tracks and did a rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” before ending with “Metal Is King.” Exmortus - The Sound of Steel This was all the more impressive considering their regular co-guitarist, Chase Becker of Warbringer, had other commitments and couldn’t make the first half of this east coast tour. He was replaced by Richie Brown from Mindscar with only one rehearsal. Considering the neoclassical guitar pyrotechnics on display and the number of jaws that were on the floor, Exmortus made at least a few new fans this night. Obituary This marked only my second time seeing Obituary. The first time was in a dingy VFW hall in Wind Gap a few years ago. It was cramped, no-frills and just seemed like the perfect environment to see the band. This was a more traditionally produced show with bright lights, smoke and a stage that was more than 12” off of the ground. Of course, Obituary still puts on a great show under these circumstances, most bands would, but it seems a little counter to their aesthetic. Their latest addition and secret weapon, guitarist Kenny Andrews, has added a lot to the last few albums with his leads and this extends to the live show. That said, he stayed tucked away in a corner of the stage and dutifully shredded away. The sampling of new material “Visions In My Head,” “A Lesson In Vengeance,” and “Sentence Day” played to this. The set was varied and touched on all eras of the band. The encore included “Chopped in Half” (which audience clamored for all night), “Turned Inside Out” and “Slowly We Rot”. The headliner’s set seemed a bit short (about 45-50 minutes of the main set and maybe 15 with the encore for about an hour’s work) with a protracted introduction replete with southern rock and copious moments when the band seemed to check in with each other and joke around. It was still a quality show, though. I guess it’s always better the leave them wanting more, right? Before all of this happened, as alluded to before, I conducted an interview with Exmortus main man, Conan. There was a lot of ground and we covered every inch of it. There was the new album ‘The Sound of Steel,’ Conan keeping the band going despite being the last original member, Youtube, changing things up, keeping things the same, art, food, being underrated, movies, giving lessons (hit him up on the band’s socials!) and more.
This was a fantastic talk. Exmortus is a band that continues to grow, evolve and perseveres even though their first album came out a decade ago. The next time they come to your town, check out Exmortus, that is if you’re ready for the shreddy. Words by JJ Ellis Photos by Mark Morton

Exclusive Interview: Our Final Warped Tour Interview with Silverstein (Ep 87)

Silverstein – Photo by Henry Chung

Over the last decade, there have been a number of bands that have come to define the Warped Tour for a generation. The ever-present Silverstein has certainly done their part to carry the flag.

Silverstein – Photo by Henry Chung

In fact, they’ve done so much, they even came back for a stretch on this final run after doing it just last year.

I spoke to Paul-Marc and Josh (the guitarists) about last year’s release Dead Reflection‘, getting more extreme in all aspects of their sound, field recordings, and some sports, actually.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Sinking Our Teeth In With Sharptooth (Ep 86)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be torn apart by a velociraptor?

I certainly hope not, that would be an odd and unpleasant thing to dwell on, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps the musical equivalent to this, though, would be experiencing Baltimore’s favorite co-ed hardcore band Sharptooth.

I spoke to their fiery frontwoman Lauren Kashan and we dove right into their full-length ‘Clever Girl’, Magic: the Gathering, dinosaurs, cruises and much more.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Doll Skin (Ep 85)

With the overwhelming number of bands at Warped Tour and the limited time, it’s usually easiest to try to just stick with the handful that you’ve known for years. While that can be fine, it can also be rewarding to branch out a little bit and get a glimpse at the next generation.

Speaking to Sydney Dolezal from Doll Skin was a joy. Though they may be young, the Arizona band are all excellent musicians (thanks School of Rock!) and magnetic stage performers. Their set was the only one I was able to catch beginning to end with no interruptions (thanks busy and strangely spaced-out interview schedule!) but it was memorable.

We talk about their full-length ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’, having their faces in unexpected places, slam poetry and character tropes, hiding bodies, the perfect doll-themed music festival and their ties to eastern Pennsylvania.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Digging Deep with Buz McGrath of Unearth (Ep 84)

The last we heard from Unearth, they had put out ‘Watchers of Rule’ in 2014 and had done some touring. That seems par for the course but the landscape around them had shifted.

Most of their New England brethren had undergone some transitions: Killswitch Engage had reunited with their original singer and was starting to build back momentum, dusk fell on Shadows Fall and All That Remains charted a melodic-radio ready course that challenged their entire fanbase.

Unearth – Photo by Henry Chung

Unearth did some touring but really went silent in 2017. This was not a cause for concern, though, they just recharged their batteries and were quietly working on new material. This will see the light of day in fall of 2018 on Century Media Records in the form of a full-length called ‘Extinctions.’

I spoke to guitar wizard Buz McGrath about this, collaborating, challenging themselves, bowling, the legend of Jimmy Phipps and more. Interestingly enough, the band had an extremely small sampling of Warped Tour in the early 2000’s but had wanted to get back on for a full run ever since.

In just under the wire, boys.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Punk In Drublic Festival: Philly + Interview with The Last Gang (Ep 83)

PID_header-poster_philadelphia_00

Punk isn’t for kids anymore. Sure, they may have been teens when they heard their first punk records but we all grow up and adulthood claims us all.

When the Punk In Drublic festival came to Philadelphia’s Festival Pier on Mother’s Day, it brought out the 21 and way up crowd to let loose and enjoy a festival of alcohol and music.

PID_Philadelphia_05.13.2018 - Set Times

What could possibly go right?

Rain the previous night and that morning did nothing to deter any of the action and provided sloppy, soggy grounds for all to wade through.

PID_Philly_-_The_Last_Gang_©2018_Henry_Chung 05
The Last Gang – Photo by Henry Chung

First up was The Last Gang, a new addition to the Fat Wreck Chords family. The three-piece played an energetic brand of punk rock and largely drew from their debut full-length ‘Keep Them Counting’. More about them later.

PID_Philly_-_The_Mad_Caddies_©2018_Henry_Chung 05.jpg
The Mad Caddies – Photo by Henry Chung

Next was The Mad Caddies. Last we heard from them, they put out ‘Dirty Rice’, a collection that showed a lot of maturity and refinement from them while also having some of their catchiest tunes. The horns and ska/reggae was in full-force. They have something new in the pipeline with a covers album called ‘Punk Rocksteady’ due out June 15th. From that, they played a reggae-fied version of Green Day’s “She” slowing things way down while still making it work.

PID_Philly_-_The_Interrupters_©2018_Henry_Chung 05
The Interrupters – Photo by Henry Chung

Continuing the ska-theme was the hardest-working band in America, The Interrupters. Seriously, does anyone know when they sleep? Along with a healthy selection of songs from their two full-lengths (and of course their rendition of Operation Ivy’s “Soundsystem”), they played new single “She’s Kerosine.” This was a great choice for a single as it fits right in with the rest of the set’s energy. Look for their new album ‘Fight The Good Fight June 29th.

PID_Philly_-_Bad_Religion_©2018_Henry_Chung 03
Bad Religion – Photo by Henry Chung

After this, we came to the truly heavy-hitters as Bad Religion came out, starting with “Recipe For Hate.” It was odd seeing a band that should be headlining everything playing while the sun was still out but at this time of year and for an early-starting festival, it is what it is.

PID_Philly_-_Bad_Religion_©2018_Henry_Chung 15
Bad Religion – Photo by Henry Chung

This was my first time seeing the band in a number of years and they have undergone a number of changes. You know Greg Graffin, Jay Bently and Brian Baker are solid, so no worries there. First of all, long-running rhythm guitarist Greg Hetson is out and Mike Dimkich is in. Superstar drummer Brooks Wackerman (who was so instrumental in revitalizing the band) jumped ship for Avenged Sevenfold and Jamie Miller from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead is in. Regarding these changes…wow. Dimkich’s playing was super tight and precise and Miller, while a different player, was just as impressive as Wackerman. Ultimately, I have never heard the band sound so good. Along with classics like “Atomic Garden” “American Jesus” “Infected” and other expected/hoped for songs, the band gave us a treat. They played ‘Suffer’ in its entirety, straight through for the middle of their set. Actually, they seemed to focus a lot on older material for this event, perhaps a product of not being there to support a new release.

PID_Philly_-_NOFX_©2018_Henry_Chung 08
NOFX – Photo by Henry Chung

Since Fat Mike was the one whose name was tagged as presenting this whole festival, NOFX brought it all home. It went as you would expect/hope a NOFX show would go. Some appropriate alcohol-themed songs made it in “Seeing Double At The Triple Rock” “The Brews” along with some newer numbers early on “Six Years On Dope” “72 Hookers” “I Don’t Like Me Anymore”. The latter portion of the set largely skewed toward older classics (or crassics) Some noteworthy details include a new, slimmed down version of El Hefe and Karina Denike from the Dancehall Crashers helping out on keys. After threatening for much of the day, some rain arrived late in the set but didn’t have much of an effect on anything.

PID_Philly_-_NOFX_©2018_Henry_Chung 16
NOFX – Photo by Henry Chung

Before the night concluded (specifically, between the latter half of the Mad Caddies and the very start of The Interrupters, so actually, rather early in the event) I was happy to be able to sit down with all 3 members of the Last Gang: Brenna Red (Guitar and vocals), Sean Viele (Bass) and Robert Wantland. We talked about Keep Them Counting, their first visit to Philly, working with Cameron Webb and all of the other cool things that arose from that and…..well, just listen. Special thanks to Sean for joining us for the interview despite being on a flight-related time crunch.

Check out the band on www.thelastgang.com, buy their record on Fat Wreck Chords or at least stream it and show them some love. Maybe we can get them back in town.

PID_04_Philadelphia_Festival_Map_CC_05_10_18

Words/ Intervierw: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: The Lawrence Arms ‘Are the Champions of the World’ (Ep 82)

TLA : RCR Tour

A slightly chilly night in Lancaster, PA was the setting for The Lawrence Arms, Red City Radio, and Sincere Engineer as they came to the Chameleon Club as a part of the North East portion of their tour.

Sincere Engineer

Sincere Engineer (aka. Deanna Belos) sometimes plays with a full band, but at least for this tour, she was touring solo and acoustic. Her performance was largely in support of her debut LP Rhombithian which came out late last year. She also covered “My Friend Peter” by the Alkaline Trio with copious amounts of crowd participation. The future is bright for Sincere Engineer. Keep an ear out for her to be making some real noise in the future.

Red City Radio

Red_City_Radio_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 06
Red City Radio – Photo by Henry Chung

 

Red City Radio is the band that always seems to be playing when I’m there to interview a band. With that said, they lived up to the other times seeing them and brought the four(!) part vocal harmonies and guitar interplay to the party. Of course, there were some of the usual highlights “Two Out of Tree Ain’t Rad” and “Electricity” but they also introduced new material from their first release on Red Scare Industries an EP called Sky Tigers.

The Lawrence Arms

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 11
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

After releasing their sort-of best of collection We Are The Champions of the World, one might think it would be appropriate for the Lawrence Arms to draw heavily from that for their live set.

Well, that’s exactly what they did. As such, this meant that they played a variety of their biggest songs, touching on all of their eras, much to the delight of the crowd. We got oldies like “Ramblin’ Boys of Pleasure,” “On With The Show,” “Right As Rain Pt 2” some ‘Oh Calcutta’ goodies “The Devil’s Takin’ Names” “Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, God” and some recent favorites (“You Are Here” “Seventeener”).

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 18
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

They began their encore with “100 Resolutions” and by the time they walked off the stage for a final time, it was clear that the band has a lot left in the tank and a lot left to say.

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 22
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

Would you expect anything less from the champions of the world?

Before all of that, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 2/3 of The Lawrence Arms: Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan. We dove deep into a lot of the thought process behind putting together their sort-of best of collection ‘We Are The Champions of the World’. Plus, we got some insight into where the band is at in life now and what their intentions are for the future.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung