Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

June, 1993

It’s June 1993 and I am flicking through the new issue of Hot Metal Magazine, which at the time was Australia’s premier metal and rock magazine. For $3.50 it was an excellent alternative to the overpriced American and British magazines.

On the cover there was the John Bush fronted Anthrax. Three members are wearing white t-shirts with blue Jeans, and two members are wearing black t-shirts with blue jeans. It was a sign of the changing times as publicists and record labels pushed their artists to have a more grungy look.

“The Sound Of White Noise” got 5 skulls in the magazine review, which equates to ‘KILLER’. A few months after it’s release the album was certified GOLD. This is probably the album that Scott Ian was referring too when he made his comments that in the past they would sell a shitload of albums.

It was a hungry album. John Bush’s transition from a struggling band to a major label act was the catalyst. It was an album chock full of metal “hits”. “Only” comes to mind straight away. Even James Hetfield called it the perfect song. “Black Lodge” didn’t sit out-of-place with the current crop of chart toppers in Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Credit producer Dave Jerden who produced both “Dirt” from Alice In Chains and “The Sound Of White Noise”. It was the last good Anthrax album and it is not even up on Spotify. Actually none of the John Bush-era of Anthrax is on Spotify which is a shame.

And the critics that said “Worship Music” is a great album cannot understand why it didn’t resonate with the audience. Look at the top ten songs on Spotify for Anthrax. Not one song from “Worhsip Music” is on the list. Same goes for YouTube.

Then you have the bloodbath from the Eighties scene.

Jani Lane (RIP) and Warrant had split and both acts had their contracts reduced to demo deals. So even though you had three albums that had moved 500,000 plus units each, they still ended up on the scrap-heap. Kik Tracee also split with vocalist Stephen Shareaux (bet he wished he tried harder for that Motley Crue vocalist spot) and both of them had been reduced to a demo deal. Looks like all the promo to sell the act just didn’t connect with the audience because in the end the songs where rubbish.

Meanwhile Rowan Robertson from “The Lock Up The Wolves” Dio era inked a deal with Atlantic Records for his new band that had Oni Logan from Lynch Mob on vocals. We all know that this didn’t end up going anywhere.

While, Roberston’s former employer, Dio (RIP) was working with WWIII guitarist Tracy G after his “Dehumanizer” venture with Black Sabbath went sour. These sessions would go on to create the “Strange Highways” album while Jake E.Lee was working with WWIII singer (and i use that term loosely) Mandy Lion.

Reports coming through at that time spoke about the new Bruce Dickinson solo album being an “updated, toughened up Santana vibe with a heavy leaning towards Peter Gabriel type atmospherics and experimentation.”  That album would become “Balls To Picasso” and apart from the song “Tears Of The Dragon” which sounds like an Iron Maiden song the rest of the album was a listen best avoided.

On the drug front we had David Lee Roth getting busted in New York after purchasing a $10 bag of weed. Seriously, for someone like his stature surely he could have done it more discreetly or gotten that $10 bag delivered to the studio. However, Roth is Roth and he decided that he should go out into the town and look for a dealer. On the other drug front, there was news that started coming out about Tim Kelly (RIP) from Slaughter who was alleged to have been involved in a major drug smuggling ring that was busted after a five-year investigation by the F.B.I.

Then we had the Motley Crue vs Vince Neil shenanigans.

The Vince Neil “Exposed” album got a good review in the magazine. I suppose it was inevitable that the solo album from Vince Neil would sound a lot like Motley Crue, even though NIkki Sixx insisted that Vince Neil had nothing to do with the creation of the songs in Motley Crue or the Motley sound. I think Nikki Sixx missed the memo that the actual voice plays a big part in the sound. Credit music business vet Phil Soussan for delivering a stellar performance in the songwriting department that helped kick-start Vince’s solo career.

Then on the other side you had “The Scream” with new singer Billy Scott battling to get their album done in time so that they can tour with Motley Crue as part of the singer transfer deal. For the uninitiated John Corabi from “The Scream” replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue. However, the Crue’s album was REJECTED by Elektra Records. It wouldn’t be until the following year that the self-titled Motley Crue album saw the light of day. And within 6 months it disappeared from the public conversation and the tour got reduced from arena’s to theaters to getting cancelled.

Finally Pride and Glory was still on hold while Zakk Wylde worked with Ozzy Osbourne on the follow-up to “No More Tears”. Producers John Purdell and Duane Baron took over from Michael Wagener (who produced the first few songs and was then retained to mix the album until Micheal Beinhorn got involved). James Lomenzo was being used as a bass replacement for the recording sessions. The album that would become Ozzmosis would take another two more years before it saw the light of day and the style of the songs would be re-imagined into the modern sound of the day.

In the end the majority of artists mentioned above are still part of the music business in some way. And for the ones that aren’t, only death could separate them from the music world.

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Metallica: Hot Metal – June 1992, the “Through The Never” Stage Idea Goes Back To This Period and Staying Power

I have been re-reading a lot of the magazines I have accumulated during the Eighties and the Nineties. I just finished reading a story about Metallica from the Australian magazine “Hot Metal”. It is the June 1992 issue.

The article is written by Robyn Doreian, who was the editor once however when this story hit the press, she had moved on to Metal Hammer. The story was a combination of two days she spent with the band, plus separate interviews with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.

The first part that got me interested was the following answers from James Hetfield;

RD – First up, I ask him about the new stage design, which not only challenges conventional rock shows but also has consider-able advantages for the fans.

JH – “We sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. For instance, Lars has his travelling drum kit that was all his thing. I have to make that clear,” he scoffs, “because I find it a little silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to travel. He’s basically a front man on drums. We should have thought of it earlier in our careers, I guess.”

“The snake-pit was a combination of ideas from band members and management. Initially that hole in the middle of the stage was meant to be a special effects area, with things like little crosses rising up, or a blow-up ‘Justice’ lady or something.” sniggers Hetfield.

“We said no’ Why not put some kids in there, some fans. That would be cool. We usually put between 40 and 90 kids in there, depending on each city’s fire regulations and stuff.”

RD – What about the area set aside for taping?

JH – “Fans have to buy a special ticket for the tape section. It’s like five bucks more, and there are like 20 or 30 kids who can get in there and video, audio or whatever they want to do. It’s a cool thing to do, to flood the market with bootlegs. And it makes it a little more personal.”

The above got my interest for two reasons;

1. The stage design.
2. Bootlegs.

First, the stage design. The grand stage design that is seen in the movie “Through the Never” was conceived back in 1991 for the tour in support of the Black album. Of course, an idea is just an idea until it is executed and with the exponential rise of technologies, that idea finally came to fruition in 2012.

The point of this is that no one should ever give up on an idea. If it doesn’t work at a particular given point in time, keep it filed away as it could work at a later time.

Second, the bootlegs. The Black tour did something great for the hard core fans that no other band had really done up until then.

Metallica in 1992, wanted to flood the market with bootlegs. Metallica in 2013 has the following disclaimer on their Live Metallica website “Terms of Use”;

Any violation of copyright laws may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. Violators will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.

Compare the above to the comments from Hetfield. What a difference between Metallica and the Metallicorporation? This is why Metallica messed up big time with Napster by handing over names of fans at the Senate Hearings.

Next up in the interview was Lars Ulrich. Knowing what we know now, words from the past is always interesting.

RD – Seizing the opportunity I ask him whether, seeing as Metallica have now been so firmly embraced by the mainstream, it’s possible that they are becoming what they once rebelled against.

LU – “I don’t disagree with that, but we were always more into doing our own thing, never about being shocking for its own sake or pissing people off. You should always be yourself.”

Lars admits that he and Metallica are becoming the entity that they rebelled against. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Can a band remain the same after they accumulate millions? No chance.

RD – Do you ever think that in years to come there is a danger of Metallica being viewed as a dinosaur band, some sort of corporate rock giant similar to what happened to bands like Zeppelin in the 70s?

LU – “I think there are a lot of people in the States right now who, simply because we have gained confidence in what we’re doing, are saying that we are doing the same arena rock clichés that these other bands were doing. My attitude is basically that if people come and see us and think its arena rock crap then that’s fine. It doesn’t affect me; because I know what we’re doing is distinctly different from what everyone else is doing.”

RD – With Grammy awards, cumulative record sales in the millions and adulation the whole world over, what is there left for the band to achieve?

LU – “Staying power. In terms of numbers, it’s not going to get much bigger but its important not to burn out. A lot of bands don’t have the confidence for a long term career, so they try and milk everything while they can. We plan to be around for quite a while, so when this tour is over we’re going to have a long period of inactivity.”

The above is interesting to me for the following two reasons;

1. Be Yourself / Stay true to yourself
2. Staying Power

I was a fan of Metallica coming before the Black album came out. It was “Ride the Lightning” that did it for me. I cannot recall how many arguments I got into over what is the better album between “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”.

Then the Black album comes out and I really liked it. I thought it was perfect. The songs hammered the ear drums from start to finish and the groove was undeniable. Metallica wrote and recorded an album that they wanted to write. It was never designed to have a hit single whereas “Load” and “Reload” to me, feels like Metallica had that single idea in the backs of their mind.

The comments about staying power ring true. As Lars said, in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t get any bigger than the Black album. However reaching the top is not the end of the journey. That is when a new journey begins.

Twisted Sister failed after “Stay Hungry” exploded.

Motley Crue fired Vince Neil after “Dr Feelgood”.

Guns N Roses became Adler-less after “Appetite for Destruction” and after “Use Your Illusion,” Guns N Roses became an Axl Rose solo project.

Motorhead had Fast Eddie Clarke play on one more album (“Iron Fist”) after “Ace of Spades.”

Skid Row got one more album out in “Subhuman Race” after the massive “Slave To The Grind” and disappeared.

Van Halen released “1984” and then fired David Lee Roth. They are one of the rare bands that changed lead singers and went on to bigger success, with the Van Hager era.

Poison got “Flesh and Blood” out after the mega successful “Open and Say Ahh” and it was curtains, even though “Native Tongue” with Richie Kotzen was a great album.

White Lion never recovered from the mega success of “Pride”.

Warrant released the excellent and heavy “Dog Eat Dog”, however it was no “Cherry Pie” and they got dropped after Jani Lane left.

Also when a band reaches the top, it opens up the opportunity for some time off. Metallica had been on an album and tour cycle since “Kill Em All” was released in 1983. After 11 constant years, by 1994, they had some time off, before they regrouped for the “Load” albums.

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The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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