My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Hello Darkness

“Hello Darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”.

My brother was recently singing these words after hearing the lyrics in an Arrow TV episode. He didn’t care much for music or songs, so it was a surprise to hear him sing these lyrics or even remember them.

And then, just like that, I lost him to a brain aneurysm on Friday. He collapsed at home, had a massive bleed in the brain and by the time he was in hospital, he was on life support.

The Dr’s didn’t sugarcoat it. They said he’s gonna die, and for some insane reason I thought of “Die With Your Boots On” from Maiden.

Music always gets me through.

Once they turned off all the machines, he didn’t even last an hour.

51 years old. And it’s his 52nd birthday on Wednesday.

“The Sound Of Silence” has taken on a new meaning.

My bro always had a joke in him about death.

He would say to me, “make sure, Pete, there is a mobile phone, fully charged, put in the coffin with me, just in case I wake up and need to call for help.”

Or he wanted his face painted like a scary clown so he could freak people out at the viewing.

And he said to me to make sure a certain song is played at his funeral.

“Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?”

“No way, get fucked, fuck off.”

He was the ultimate shit stirrer. I’m gonna miss him.

Rest In Peace bro.

Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

In The End Nothing Really Matters

Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, I guess we’ll never know the why and maybe those lyrics you guys wrote are very close to home than we believed. 
Adored by your fans but it wasn’t enough. Somewhere in the far reaches of your minds, a dark sliver of a thought was growing with such ferocity that both felt it was better to leave their world than live in it. 

Does it get to a stage where the people who make money from these artists need to be held responsible? 

Ivan Moody is battling addiction. He’s in and out of rehab, quitting the band on stage when intoxicated and apologizing the next day when he’s sober. It’s very public. 

So does FFDP stop everything, so Ivan Moody recovers properly or do they still roll forward with their schedule. And when Moody comes back from rehab, it’s back on tour like nothing happened. 

And then the new album release cycle starts again and another tour. 

Managers and all the artist hangers on make their money when the artist is on the road and earning. If things are not doing well, its the managers that set the tone of the conversations. If those millions become thousands, it means the manager cut is reduced. Managers used to care. It was personal. Most managers are now corporations. It’s all about schedules and percentages. It’s borderline negligence. 

The show must go on but there is no show when there is no artist. 

All death is tragic. 

David Z is a bass player and not a household name like Cornell and Bennington. For a lot of people, they’ve never heard of him. To me, he was one hell of a worker and an inspiration to all musicians, that you can have a career in music. 

He never made millions, but he recorded and toured. And when you strip it all away, music is basically that. Write a song, record it and play it live. 

And he had a career because of his never say die work ethic and all round good guy attitude. From his many different gigs, he built up a network of musician friends. And it’s because of that network, he got so many different gigs. 

So when a truck lost control on a Florida highway and slammed into the Adrenaline Mob RV parked on the side last week, David Z lost his life. 

All death is tragic.

A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Master At Re-Interpretation: Joe Cocker (R.I.P)

When I started to play guitar in the Eighties I was obviously into the whole metal and hard rock scene. As far as I was concerned, it had to be all pedal point riffs, fast eighth or sixteenth notes and a whole lot of shred thrown in. I was self-taught for about three years however my dad kept on pushing me to go to a guitar teacher.

My dad got the number of a teacher from a work colleague of his, who had has son visiting the same teacher. To cut a long story short, the lessons were structured on theory, rhythm, scales and it ended with the teacher (his name was Michael) showing me a song to play. Michael asked me in advance to give him a list of hard rock and metal songs that I want to learn so that he could figure them out and show me. I told him that I got that part covered and I would like him to show me songs that he likes regardless of what styles they are or from what artist they are.

I must say it was a dead set eye opener. Apart from sitting down and learning songs outside of the style I was interested, I also learnt the art of melody, better chord placements and vocal phrasing. Overall these sessions made me a better musician and a songwriter. It changed my viewpoints from being just a guitar player to being a band player and to play for the song instead of the glory of the solo.

“Bad Moon Rising”, “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay”, “Mr Bojangles”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Shot The Sherriff”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, “Imagine”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Lambada” happened in the first 9 weeks. Then we started with some Beatles songs like “Yesterday”, “All My Loving”, “Come Together”, “Let It Be”, “Day Tripper”, “Eight Days A Week” and eventually we got to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

And that is where Joe Cocker comes into my life. It was his version of the song that I remembered. So I started to study some of his most well-known songs and I found out that he didn’t write any of them. But it was his re-interpretations of those songs that made him a superstar. Some people are great at just writing songs, some people are great at writing and performing their own songs, while others are great at re-interpreting other people’s songs. That is Joe Cocker.

His fame is tied to what he did with the words of other songwriters. And Cocker (along with his collaborator’s) chose well.

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “With A Little Help from My Friends” released in 1969 and 1968 respectively. “She Came In” was Cocker’s big U.S hit at the time, while “With A Little Help” was his big U.K hit.

“Delta Lady” released in 1969 was written by Leon Russell. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” also released in 1969 was written Nina Simone and covered in 1965 by the Animals. “Feelin Alright” was written by Dave Mason with Traffic.

“The Letter” released in 1970 was a song from 1967 by the band Box Tops. An upbeat rock version of “Cry Me a River” was released in 1970 by Cocker however the song’s roots go back to 1953 and it was written by Arthur Hamilton. “You Are So Beautiful” released in 1974 was written by Bill Preston whose original version first appeared in 1974 however it was Cockers slowed down version courtesy of producer Jim Price that made the song a hit.

Cocker’s biggest single came in 1982, when ‘Up Where We Belong,’ a duet with singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes’ from the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. This is one song that wasn’t a cover of a previous song, however it was written by a song writing committee in Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings.

Then in 1986, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” came out. The song was written by Randy Newman and it goes back to 1972. “Unchain My Heart” was released in 1987. The song was written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles. Then in 1989 came “When The Night Comes” a song that wasn’t a cover, however it was written by hit songwriters in Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren.

The point of all this.

In the mid-nineties I was in a band. We played three sets each night and got paid $150 each. The set up was bassist/vocalist, drummer and myself on guitar. The first set was originals. Hard rock originals. Think about that for a second. The mid-nineties was very hostile to hard rock bands, however we didn’t care. Anyway the second set involved covers from the sixties, seventies and eighties and the last set was all nineties modern rock songs. It was the second set that got the best applause.

The bassist and I had a knack for re-interpreting  songs. “Stormbringer” and “Knockin On Heavens Door” became one song with music coming from Deep Purple and the lyrics coming from Bob Dylan.

“Foxy Lady” and “Immigrant Song” became another song. “Born To Be Wild” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” was one more. “We Will Rock You” and “Long Way To The Top” also got merged. I am seeing a lot of this cross merging on the internet, especially between Metallica and Megadeth. Fans of the bands are doing their own merging and re-interpretations of the bands classic songs. One song that we didn’t change at all (and played within our originals set) was “Breaking The Law” from Judas Priest. And the grunge/industrial crowds we played to at the time lapped it up. They thought the songs were our own song and we didn’t tell them any different.

Throughout this whole phase, Joe Cocker was in the back of the mind. I kept on asking myself, how would Joe approach this song. Would he slow it down, speed it up, funk it up or just fuck it up.

Hell, our heroes hooked us with cover songs or crossed over into the mainstream because of cover songs. Motley Crue with “Smokin In The Boys Room”, Tesla with “Signs”, Machine Head with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Killswitch Engage with “Holy Diver” and many more.

As a musician, there is a lot to learn from re-interpreting other people’s songs. There are some songs that are just perfect for you and relate to you in a way that they could have been written by you. It’s okay to cover songs and to have a career based on your re-interpretations of cover songs.

Rest in peace Joe Cocker, you showed me that music is much more than the clichéd “these songs are my children” point of view.

Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Symbolic Acts Into Another

My relationship with weight has been yoyo’ish. I was always overweight growing up. Some years it was more than others. As my height was shooting up, my weight would adjust to be within the normal ranges for a while and after a few months I would pound em on.

When I turned 17 I started going to the gym and within a 12 month period I was down to 92kg. I started playing soccer again, so along with soccer training and gym training my weight went down to 82kg. That is the lightest I have ever been. I felt great and I looked great, however according to the BMI index I was still overweight for my 6 foot height.

Then I broke my leg.

I didn’t know I broke it at the time. I remember going into a slight tackle with my goal keeper and the other teams striker. Our legs collided and I remember the pain as I hit the ground. However I saw that the ref hadn’t blown the whistle as yet and I got up to kick the ball out. As I stood on my left foot to kick the ball out with my right, I collapsed again.

I called to the sideline to replace me. The game was only 12 minutes old. I limped off to the change room, had a shower and got changed. I then tried to walk the best I could to the stands to watch the rest of the game, having a few smokes and a few beers during the game, along with an ice pack on my knee.

After the game was over, I limped back to the van I was driving along with a few other players that I had to take home. Eventually I got home myself and went to bed. During the night, I felt the leg getting sorer and more painful, however at no stage did I think it was a broken leg.

Morning came and my brother called me to get ready for work. At the time I was doing concreting with him. I told him I cant as my leg was hurting me. My brother looked disappointed and he thought I was faking it to have a day off. My bro is 10 years older than me and during my teen years, he was my bank roll, no questions asked.

Eventually the whole family left for work and I was alone at home. Being awake, the pain got worse and i started to get dizzy from the pain. I needed to go to the toilet but I couldn’t. As I stood up, the pain got super intense and I sat back down again. I needed to call someone, however the phone was about 10 metres away. It was agony, however it was only the beginning.

My godfather eventually came over, however it was by pure accident. He was coming over to see my parents and he ended up being my hospital driver, plus he went back home to get his fathers’ crutches for me.

So I finally get to the hospital and check in. Then I am in the waiting room. After 2 hours I get called for X-Rays. Then I am back in the waiting room. Another hour goes by and a doctor calls me in.

Then I wait another hour as the Doctor attends to 6 different patients in 6 different rooms. Eventually he tells me that nothing is broken as shown on the X-Ray and that it could be a ligament tear. I tell the Doctor that I want to see a specialist, so he gives me a referral with a booking in six weeks. I said no chance, the booking has to be today. This pain is too intense. So I was the last one in the afternoon to see the specialist who resided across the road from the hospital.

He took one look at the X-Ray and told me that my leg is broken. He called the hospital and organised for me to get it put in a plaster cast. The cast started at my ankle and went all the way up to my thigh. Thank god I insisted on seeing the specialist right away. Imagine I waited six weeks to see him. My broken leg would have started to heal incorrectly.

For three months I was out of action.

All I had was my Winfield Blues, my acoustic guitar, Coca Cola, more caffeine from coffees, a notepad to write songs and my music.

I was overdosing on Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” and “Awake”, Blind Guardian’s “Somewhere Far Beyond”, Tad Morose’s “Sender of Thoughts”, Fates Warnings “Inside Out” and “Parallels”, Morgana Lefay’s “Sanctified” and Queensryche’s “Empire” and “Promised Land”. On top of all that was Blue Murder’s “Nothin But Trouble” (I was replaying “Cry For Love” and “We All Fall Down” constantly) and the new super heavy John Corabi Motley Crue album.

When all you have is a lot of time to recuperate, you start to be very productive. The downside is that you also have a lot of time to think. Being injured sucks. It’s all mental. For the first week, I was thinking of what I could have done different to avoid the tackle. Then I was thinking it was meant to be. Then I lost so much leg muscle that the plaster cast got so loose, that I had to go back to hospital to get a new one put on.

Through it all there was music and “Subhuman Race” from Skid Row just hit the streets.

“Into Another” is as Rush as Skid Row could get. Sebastian Bach is a huge fan of Rush, however the song is written by the heart and soul of Skid Row, Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo.

It’s 7/4 in the verses and then it moves to a 4/4 timing in the chorus.

Searching for circles end
Hoping the wounds will mend
Should this scar, then it was meant to be

The song hit me from the start. I felt like I was that person who was going through the healing process, something that I have never gone through before and I had to do this all on my own. For 4 minutes and 2 seconds all of my problems didn’t exist.

The my cousin brought over “Symbolic” from Death.

I don’t mean to dwell
But I can’t help myself
When I feel the vibe
And taste a memory
Of a time in a life
When years seemed to stand still

I felt like I was back in 1984, going to the beach, catching waves and overdosing on heavy metal. An innocent time that is forever etched in my memory.

When did it begin?
The change to come was undetectable
The open wounds expose the importance of
Our innocence
A high that can never be bought or sold

And then I am older. Where did the years go? What happened to the innocent dreams?

Do you remember when
Things seemed so eternal?
Heroes were so real…
Their magic frozen in time

Thanks Chuck Schuldiner. Rest In Peace. You are the real hero forever frozen in time.


The Development Of Zoltan Bathory – Grit and Determination

Raw talent has to mature. So what we have is the artists that stick with music and mature themselves. All the other wannabes got out when they realised that there sole purpose of being involved in music was driven by money and fame. So when those artists that do stick around break through, guess what happens. The majors come knocking with big money.

It is interesting to hear or read about an artist’s development and the things they did to get to where they are today.

If you look at the Wikipedia page for Zoltan Bathory, the earliest musical output you get is from 2004, where he played bass in the band “U.P.O”. However his story begins a long time, in communist Hungary.

So he grows up in a country where the average person is making pennies. In dollars speak it was like a hundred dollars a month. It doesn’t leave a lot of money lying around for guitars, amplifiers and record purchases. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist, however that music is censored. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist but he doesn’t speak English. He is basically trying to succeed in a genre that doesn’t technically have a voice in communist Hungary.

You can see already the grit and determination exhibited by Zoltan just to even get to America. Compared that with people who are cruising on sub-standard effort and constantly told that everything they do is great. You can see that an edge exists in Zoltan’s corner.

Determination has been part of Zoltan’s mindset since childhood. I remember reading an interview that his parents enrolled him in judo classes in an attempt to temper his schoolyard aggression and how that discipline has served him well as he got older.

So he puts together a band that would become Five Finger Death Punch. The band is his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night. He lived and breathed the band. Even the style of music that Five Finger Death Punch produce wasn’t very popular at the time. It was Hard Rock, merged with Thrash Metal, merged with Death Metal and classic Euro Heavy Metal.

I have heard bands like Accept, W.A.S.P., Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Possessed and Annihilator mentioned as early influences.

It was all underground. They had no label but they had people connecting with them on MySpace in the thousands. The record labels started to take notice as this underground band where getting more views and plays than their major label artists.

The first album was recorded on their own. They produced it and paid for it. The version that we all got to hear was the Five Finger Death Punch version. The label at the time just picked it up and released it.

If you look at Five Finger Death Punch in 2013, every single member came from bands that had some level of recognition before. Jason Hook goes back to the late Eighties and early Nineties, with ties to hard rock bands, plus various session work and backing bands for pop stars.

Ivan Moody goes back to the mid Nineties before achieving some recognition with Motograter and his side project Ghost Machine.

Drummer Jeremy Spencer has a similar story to Jason Hook. Hard Rock bands are attached to their stories.

Bassist Chris Kael was doing the Las Vegas circuit with various bands and had made enough contacts to vouch for him when the Five Finger Death Punch bass auditions happened.

They took a risk on their music. They gambled. They didn’t know it would resonate and connect with people the way it did. If the music is good, there’s a ton of money to be made. Not all of that money would be on recorded music.

Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they DID THE WORK…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they kick ass…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they rock each place they visit…

That’s the way rock and roll works.

Life is tough and no one is owed nothing.

People want bands to make a living because we all want to be involved in some way. It makes us feel good on helping artists by going to a show, buying some merchandise or by purchasing their recorded product.

Remember that all of the music that Five Finger Death Punch has released is available on line for free to either stream, view or illegally download. Yet, they still sell. Funny that.


Andy Johns – Rest In Peace and Thanks For the Music

Does anyone remember the band Cinderella?  Tom Keifer had the best blues rock voice ever.  Andy Johns, produced and engineered their first two albums, Night Songs and Long Cold Winter.  Both albums where hits.  That was my first introduction to Andy Johns.  He nailed the glam hard rock sound for Night Songs and then he got he got the blues rock (Bad Company/Aerosmith) inspired sound that the band was going for on Long Cold Winter.

Then came For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge by Van Halen.  Ted Templeman was on board to record Sammy Hagar, as Andy Johns was too demanding for Sammy.  Eddie returning to his hard rock roots and Andy Johns on board to capture it.  It spawned the hit Right Know.

Majority of music lovers will remember the artists and the songs attached to them.  Key players in the history of recorded music are the producers, engineers and the mixers.  They are the ones tasked with getting the ideas of the artist recorded.  They need to please the artists and the record label at the same time.  They do not get the credit they deserve. Alan Parsons deserves more credit for his engineering role, especially on Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd.  Martin Birch should be credited as the god father of heavy metal and hard rock.  Andy Johns alongside him.

Rest in Peace Andy Johns and thanks for contributing to my soundtrack