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

Chris Adler

I got a lot of time for Chris Adler. I am not the biggest fan of Lamb of God, however with each album, there are songs on it with a killer groove or a killer section that just blows me away. Then from out of nowhere, Adler appeared on Protest The Hero’s fan funded “Volition” album and that was another “wow” moment for me. So I am heaps keen to hear how he goes with Megadeth on the “Dystopia” album.

There is an interview with Chris over at Music Radar where he talks about the albums that influenced his drumming style. Link is here.

At number one, he has the Wrathchild America, “3D” album. The drummer on that is Shannon Larkin, who is now the drummer with Godsmack. After recording 2 albums for Atlantic Records, the band was dropped because of a lacklustre of sales, however they were around enough to give Chris Adler an influential drummer.

Funny thing about Wrathchild America, is their music faded away instantly after they got dropped. Their sense of technical thrash grooves just didn’t suit the ones in charge. But it’s on Spotify and Chris Adler has brought them back into the conversation. All because of his love for the band and how Shannon Larkin inspired him to sell all his bass and guitar gear for a drum kit.

So I am streaming the “3D” album as i type this.

At number 2 and number 3, he has Aerosmith’s 1973 self-titled debut (Joey Kramer is the drummer) and “Reggatta de Blanc” from The Police (Steward Copeland is the drummer), released in 1979.

For Joey Kramer;
“Obviously not a very complex record, although the guy has a lot of feel and everything, but that was how I learned the basics – when to go to the ride cymbal, just learning the coordination of hands and feet.”

For Stewart Copeland;
“Even at this point in my career after playing now for 21 years, it’s still probably one of the most difficult songs out there, other than maybe Rosanna, from Toto, which I was listening to today.”

At number 4 and 5, he has Strapping Young Lad’s 1997 “City” album (Gene Hoglan is the drummer) and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s 1971 album, Inner Mounting Flame album (Bill Cobham is the drummer).

For Gene Hoglan;
“Gene was bringing funk and gospel beats into metal and speeding everything up and he sounded like no other metal drummer out there. I think that really helped the band stand out, so modelling myself after that, I love metal more than anything, but I wanted to be able to offer my metal band a unique take on what a metal drummer could or should be able to do.”

For Bill Cobham;
“I’ve watched a couple of clinics online and even a show I saw at one point where he came in and sat down at the kit and just decided that night he was going to take one of the toms off, so he’ll just mix things up and go from there.”

The attention to detail and trying to bring something new and unique to metal drumming is what separates the great from the good. When all you listen too is metal bands, then your style is a carbon copy of those bands. But when you listen far and wide, your style starts to incorporate feels, patterns and phrases from those different genres.

At number 6, he has the mighty “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying” album from Megadeth, released in 1986. The drummer on that album is Gar Samuelson.

“Megadeth has always been about the guitars and that’s why I love the band but Gar did have that jazzy feel, especially on the first record, Killing Is My Business, where everything felt like it was just a hair away from running off the tracks. It was just chaos and he had that jazzy style and sped those things way, way up.”

The beauty of the first two Megadeth albums is that Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson both came from jazz fusion backgrounds. Combine their chaotic free jamming experimentations with Dave Mustaine’s angry chip on the shoulder chainsaw riffage/lyrical writing and you have a potent combination of styles that prove a solid foundation to build upon.

“Peace Sells changed the whole game as far as hard rock and metal music goes. To this day I would still consider it to be Bible of all heavy metal. Gar was the guy that really made me think a little bit outside of the box because he was not a typical metal player at the time. There was obviously Lars [Ulrich] and Louie [Clemente] from Testament, great double bass chops, Dave Lombardo, really fast double bass stuff, but Gar was the guy shifting it up a little bit. I just really liked the idea that even though he was taking a backseat to the guitar players, you couldn’t replace him. He had a very unique sound within the band and so that’s what I’ve always tried to go for myself.”

I have always argued with others that Dave Mustaine’s influence on thrash metal and Metallica in general is unrecognised. He brought a technicality to Metallica that wasn’t there before. He explored that technicality to great success with Megadeth, which culminated in the “Rust In Peace” masterpiece. Metallica on the other hand, pushed those technical boundaries to the extremes on the Justice album. And since Metallica are the “winners” at this point in time, history will show a version of truth written by the winners.

At number 7, Adler has Metallica’s 1988 “And Justice For All” album. His views about the drum production are spot on.

“This changed a lot of things for a lot of people. The drum production was unlike anything that had been heard up until that point and the clarity was unrivalled. There were people certainly playing faster and more intricately but most of the time you couldn’t actually hear what the heck they were doing; this was the first time where everything was crystal clear. I wanted to mimic that, I would tune my drum heads down as low as they would go, I started taping quarters and fifty cent coins onto bass drums and using plastic beaters to try to get that sound. His playing on that album was fantastic.”

I really liked the Justice album. As a guitarist, it was progressive and technical. The album was definitely pushing the limits of the Metallica guys abilities in relation to technicality, much like how “2112” was pushing the abilities of the Rush guys. Production wise, yeah, the bass guitar is low and the guitars sound like they have scooped the mids and treble, however the drumming is made to sound awesome. The snap of the snare, the clarity of the double kick and the rumble of the toms made Lars Ulrich sound like the best drummer in town. Plus there was the definitive “One” on it.

At number 8, Adler has “South Of Heaven” from Slayer, released in 1988.

“We spoke about Gar earlier with Megadeth, but Dave was much faster than Gar was. Gar was more purposeful, Dave was more of an animal, incredibly fast double bass.”

I watched Slayer with Lombardo on drums. Live the songs were sped up. After the gig finished, I said to my mate Jimbo that I kneel at the altar of Lombardo. He was brilliant and precise.

At number 9, is “Too Fast For Love” from Motley Crue, released in 1981.

“Too Fast For Love, their first record, was this sleazy, early punk/metal record that obviously set them apart from a lot of the hair metal stuff that was going on in LA. They had the make-up and all that stuff but they were also flirting with these occult references, everything that you want to put out there as far as an image goes to sell to teenage boys. With Lamb Of God and Megadeth, you realise that’s who is coming to see us”

I grew up with the Crue and Tommy Lee is one of the best rock drummers out there.

Finally at Number 10, there is “Far Beyond Driven” by Pantera released in 1994. The drummer of course is Vinnie Paul Abbott.

“Cowboys From Hell was their weird experiment between this redneck metal and hair metal but it was still really heavy. Vulgar Display was just absolutely devastating, you could tell they were pushing to just be the heaviest thing they could, and then Far Beyond Driven was somewhere in the middle. They took a step back, took a deep breath and said, ‘Out of the first two records, let’s pick out the things we did best and let’s do ten of those on this record.”

The trilogy was complete.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Era Of The Song

The whole “we know how our favourite artists look” era is over. Blame MTV for making it happen in the first place.

Music television made the musicians mega stars. They took them from the magazines and the concert stages and put them into our TV rooms. It made an act that would maybe move 100,000 units in the pre-MTV era and turned them into Platinum superstars during the MTV era.

But the MTV era is history.

The era of recognising an artist and mobbing them is history. No one even cares how artists look these days. The song is back at the forefront as it should be.

It’s all about the song. Without it, you have nothing.

Pop Music might be in the press and reality TV shows might get the ink, the good thing (from a metal/rock head perspective) about those products is that their lifespans are limited. Their whole deal is the look. The song is irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the real good rock and metal artists are just working away and crafting their art, year after year. Music is a game of survival.

I remember I had a VIP pass for Coheed and Cambria’s Sydney show a few years ago. At that point in time we (my cousin and I) were not sure if it was going to be a meet and greet or an acoustic show. I was going up to the concert with my cousin and we were talking about the other band members. Apart from the distinctive look of Claude Sanchez, the other band members look like computer programmers.

If we saw the other band members in a line up we wouldn’t be able to make them out.

Which was a far contrast to the month before and the larger than life personas of Motley Crue and Kiss.

So we started talking about other current bands that we like. We both agreed that Robb Flynn and Adam Dutkiewicz are unique enough to be recognisable.

Yesterday’s hero is forgotten today. The internet machine makes them and spits them out. The only thing that survives is the song and that song needs to be great. It’s an artists greatest weapon in the battle for people to pay attention to you and to hang on your every world.

That is why I find Top 10 album lists interesting, because while they place the album high on a list, the ink attached to the album is all about the song on the album that connects with them. On occasions a few songs hit the mark. Very rarely do all of the songs on an album hit the mark.

For example, I am a pretty hard-core Zakk Wylde fan. The first reason was that he paid a true homage to Randy Rhoads (whom I am even a bigger fan off) when he joined Ozzy. While Jake E Lee and Brad Gillis tweaked and changed Randy’s solos, Zakk Wylde played them note for note. I remember a quote he made in “Guitar World” years ago when the magazine interviewer asked what is the thing that he likes the most about being with Ozzy. He said it was like being in a glorified cover band where you get to play your own shit along with songs from Black Sabbath, Randy Rhoads and Jake E.Lee in front of thousands of people each night.

Last year, Black Label Society released “Catacombs Of The Black Vatican”. The song “Angel Of Mercy” stood out right away. It is a constant on my playlist. If I had to do a Top Ten album list, then the album would be in that list purely because of that one song.

I dare anyone to name the full track list of their top ten albums for 2014 without having to refer to a visual aid to remember. It’s because we can’t. I would love too, like times of old, but I guess things change.

A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Time Is Working Against The Artist

It’s 1992. The labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre while at the same time they are dropping hard rock and heavy metal bands left, right and centre. That is the power the record label had. Not only could they make an artist famous, they could also destroy an artist. You see when you control all the points in the distribution and marketing chain, you more or less control everything.

With the massive power that the major labels had, we always saw artist/s as famous. We always thought that once an artist was signed to a label deal, they had it made. It was a big misconception.

Fame for an artist in most cases meant a large advance that had to be recouped by withholding royalty payments. That is why record label accounting gets messy and it cannot be trusted.

So in 2013, things have changed dramatically. With this change, the power is still with the major record labels. They gathered enough power during the Eighties and Nineties to be a force to be reckoned. Then in the Two Thousands the massive mergers and takeovers happened, further enhancing the power of the record labels. Then in order to allow digital start-ups, the record labels did one of three things; charge high licensing fees or litigate the start-up to bankruptcy or negotiate a large ownership stake in the start-up.

So even though the internet has lowered the barriers of entry, without the money and power of the label behind the artists, there is a pretty good chance, the artist would probably go unnoticed. Remember 4 million songs haven’t even been listened too on Spotify.

So when certain artists are complaining about a low royalty payment, maybe that is the royalty payment that is relevant to the niche the artist is in. Maybe it is a royalty payment that they have earned. You don’t see a current household name complaining. It’s because they worked hard at obtaining a certain thing called leverage.

Digital distribution offers an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital provided that the artist gets noticed.

So is piracy that bad for an artist who is trying to get traction?

The majors and the mainstream journalists attached to news outlets operated by media moguls have done a great job selling the “one pirated item equals one lost sale” statistic and the “illegal downloading (piracy) is theft” argument. It is a statistic that rights holders, lobby groups and misguided artists exaggerate and it is a statistic they use to either kill off innovation or to stifle innovation.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) is basically one person (A) copying something of value that another person (B) owns. This leads to a situation that has both people (A and B) having a copy of the same item.

So it is safe to say that one pirated item is not theft. Theft is basically one person (A) taken something of value that another person (B) owns, which means that Person (B) no longer has the item.

So let’s assume that piracy spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who download the music might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. There are a lot of could’s in the above theory. However the music business is all based on could’s.

For example, in the heyday of the record labels, this is how the above would have panned out.
Let’s assume that a record deal spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who hear the music on radio or MTV might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. As you can see, the heyday theory also holds a lot of could’s.

Of course the difference is the money. The labels once upon a time threw money at artists and provided tour support. Today, the labels only go for the sure bet and 360 deals.

From a fan perspective, the main thing working against the artist today is time. Why would a music lover want to invest their time in an artist? I recently invested a lot of time in the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” because knowledge of the show was being shared at work and I wanted to be part of the conversation. I invested a lot of time in the show because fans of the show shared their thoughts with me. They convinced me that I needed to watch it.

One thing is certain in 2013. We move on fast. Look at the Top 10 lists of pirated movies that TorrentFreak publish each week. It’s always changing and very rare for the same movie to be at number one for two weeks in a row. Look at the Top 10 of the Charts published by each country. The artists in the list are always changing.