Friday, May 30, 2014

The Meister's 2014 Sweden Invasion Begins!


Please visit us on our new website for Decibel Geek's coverage of the Sweden Rock Festival 2015 

After last year's adventures at Sweden Rock Festival, from all the good (the whole damn thing) and the bad (almost losing my job over going), I couldn't help but return for another engagement ("A Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden").  The Sweden Rock Festival began in 1992, marking the 22nd Anniversary for 2014's event and takes place in the less than 10,000 populated, small town of Solvesborg.  Solvesborg is located in the southern portion of the Scandinavian country and boasts historical significance and beautiful beaches alongside one of Europe's largest and most important festivals.
In just a few days I will be heading to Toronto's Pearson Airport for my flight, (stopover at London's Heathrow), to Copenhagen, Denmark.  I learned from last year's experience, as one hopefully does with anything that one does multiple times and this year will be flying in and out of Copenhagen as it's the closest airport to the grounds (about half the train ride than it was from Stockholm).  I have been able to eke out two more days than last year, giving me a total of eight for this adventure. 
I will land in Copenhagen around 1pm on Tuesday June 2nd, having flown through the night and will be heading straight for the train.  The plan is that I will arrive on the grounds early enough to check in and obtain my press/VIP wrist band along with a souvenir "Sweden Rock 2014 4  Day" wristband which was out of stock by the time I arrived on the Wednesday in 2013.  After constructing my domicile (my tent, last year affectionately dubbed DBG HQ), I should even have some time to head into Solvesborg to explore the town.  I want to investigate the ruined castle that one reader commented about on one of last year's articles ("A Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden-Days #1 & 2").  From there on in it's 4 days jam packed with great rock and roll, meeting new friends and probably some beer drinking ;).

Overall, I much preferred the line up for last year's event as it contained many of my all time favorite bands on the roster, a lot of whose logos even appear in my full sleeve tattoo.  The line up for this year's event still has tons of great bands, but leaves some room for discovery of new music as well.

Some old favorites that I'll be sure to investigate are: Y&T, Tesla, Queensryche and Red Dragon Cartel (all of whom I've just seen on 2014's Monsters of Rock Cruise or at 2014's M3 Festival or even both).  Other targets include TNT (with Tony Harnell), Heaven's Basement and "Rock Icon" Alice Cooper.  Also in the mix is Danger Danger and while I've never seen the full band live, I have caught Ted Poley solo many times through the cruise.  It's a similar situation with Ted Nugent who I've only seen as a member of Damn Yankees back in the 90's.

Having seen those bands before, I know that I'm in for some great rock and roll performances from them but there's also tons and tons of new bands to discover at Sweden Rock Festival, the beauty of having a total of over 80 bands!  Through some listening samples via "You-Tube" and the Sweden Rock Festival website, I've been able to identify the following bands to line up in the crosshairs of my 2014 Sweden experience.

Vdelli (a blues/hard rock band from Australia), Norway's Backstreet Girls (who are in fact all men and bear no relation to Backstreet Boys) and Roxie77 (Ryan Roxie's band imported for the festival from the US).  Sweden's Black Trip is on the bill and their recent release Going Under is a great addition to my collection.  Ammotrack, also hailing from Sweden, has impressed me with the two albums I found for purchase and both these bands slam home the belief that Sweden's rock outputs should have more attention paid to them!  UK speed/thrash metallers Jaguar, Italian shock rock/industrial metal group Death SS and prog rockers from USA, Q5 were all bands that I'd not heard of until I started my Sweden experience planning.

Some other targets for me that I've never seen before, but were at least a little familiar with the music are the US's Black Stone Cherry (who I'm liking more and more), Germany's Masterplan (featuring Roland Grapow from Helloween fame), Australia's Kings of the Sun (who's hard rock sounds of their 1990 Full Frontal Attack album was popular in my first car) and America's Madam X (featuring rock sisters Maxine and Roxy Petrucci).

Bands like Denmark's Pretty Maids, whose Louder Than Ever album I reviewed recently and named their 2013 Motherland effort one of the best of the year, will finally be checked off of my list.  The same goes for some elusive groups whose performances I always seem to succeed in missing their during stops in Toronto like Rob Zombie, Alter Bridge, Black Sabbath, Flotsam & Jetsam and W.A.S.P. (who appears in my tattoo as well, yet I've never seen live!).

 There have been a couple of cancellations this year leaving the organizers scrambling to find suitable replacements.  Lynch Mob just recently announced that they would not be participating in the festival, leaving room for Sweden's Electric Boys to step in and fill the void.  German power metaller, U.D.O., takes up the spot rendered vacant by Megadeth as one of the band members there has suffered a death in the family keeping Megadeth on my bucket list of bands to see, a situation that seems difficult to rectify!

As you can see by the band list promo poster above this only scratches the surface of the total rock and roll overload I'm about to endure and I expect to come away being fans of groups I'd never heard of before this!

The festival's last show ends in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning, so after a few hours zzzz's in DBG HQ it's another train back to Copenhagen for Sunday and Monday nights before departing to Toronto Tuesday afternoon.  The Tivoli Gardens (staying very close by) is one of the oldest theme parks in the world and Stroget, the world's longest pedestrian shopping street are earmarked to fill my time in Copenhagen, along with perhaps bike rental and maybe even a walking tour of the city to amuse myself.  I'm sure along the way, probably in the hostel bar, I'll make some new friends to enjoy evening drinks with and share the adventures, an avenue to build the Decibel Geek audience perhaps?  With plans already to hook up with some MOR Cruise friends while at the festival, including "Eh" Team member and vocalist for Red Dragon Cartel Darren James Smith, if there's anyone who would like to meet for a beverage at Sweden Rock or in Copenhagen before the Meister heads back home to Canada, just shoot me a mail here through my FB page (The Meister on Facebook)!
Sweden or bust!
The Meister

(Sweden Rock Website) (Sweden Rock Facebook) (Sweden Rock Twitter)

(The Meister on Facebook) (Meister on Twitter)

Links to 2013's "A Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden" series.
(Prelude to Departure) (Days #1 & 2) (Day #3) (Day #4) (The Final Day)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Now Hear This: D.A.D. - Riskin' It All


     Disneyland After Dark formed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1982. They were originally basically a cowpunk band, a rock band but heavily influenced by American country music, or rather the soundtracks to Hollywood westerns. After a threatened lawsuit from the Disney conglomerate the band decided to switch to an acronym for a name, D-A-D. I might have suggested a name change but I suppose they were being stubborn. I have to think that the strange name might have hindered their success because they were quite close to breaking in the states at one point, but what teenager wants to buy a record put out by his/her DAD? The band's first two albums, Call of the Wild and Draws a Circle were only released in Denmark and barely resemble heavy metal at all, incorporating much more of an Ennio Morricone influence. They moved closer to hard rock/heavy metal in time for their third album and first international release, 1989's No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims. The album's opening number and almost hit single, "Sleeping My Day Away," got a lot of airplay on MTV and retains the Morricone vibe in the killer guitar tone exhibited on the song's lead breaks.

     The album was a big hit in Denmark and almost a hit in the U.S. but not quite. Was it the name? Who knows. MTV played the shit out of the band's "Girl Nation" video as well, to no avail. Unfortunately it took the band more than two years to release a follow-up album, entitled Riskin' It All, and it would be their last album released in the U.S. As good as No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims was I would argue that Riskin' It All is possibly even better.The album opens strong with a fast-paced AC/DCish rocker called "Bad Craziness." Awesome song!

"You won't believe what I believe when I'm alone."

     Next up is the band's ominous ode to itself, a very cool song called "D Law," or Disneyland Law.

     And now we've arrived at my favorite song on the album and perhaps my favorite tune from the band's entire storied career, a groove-driven rocker mildly reminiscent of "Sleeping My Day Away" called "Day of Wrong Moves." I love the vibe and attitude of the song and the chorus is killer.

     Another upbeat virtual AC/DC tribute called "Rock n' Rock Radar" comes next. This is a really fun tune and continues the album's winning streak.

     At this point the album stalls a bit with the boring "Down That Dusty 3rd World Road" and another AC/DC rehash called "Makin' Fun of Money" but the record kicks into high gear again with a really cool song called "Grow Or Pay" that would have fit nicely on No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims. I keep bringing up AC/DC but when you get to a song like "Grow Or Pay" you realize that this band is capable of a very individual and unique sound, they can create quite the atmosphere and on a song like this the band has a style all its own.

      Yet another AC/DC tribute with a great bridge called "Smart Boy Can't Tell Ya" is followed by the aggressive title track, which is the heaviest song on the record.

      The album closes with a very effective acoustic number called "Laugh n' a 1/2." Not your typical early nineties rock ballad the song reminds me quite a bit of the kind of song Dogs D'Amour were known for, brooding and dark but brimming with emotion and purpose.


      Verdict: Riskin' It All by D.A.D. is a great early nineties rock record, the kind of album that you can just put on and let it play, the songs fit very well together and the record flows, you will not want to turn it off. What more can you ask for? Give it a try.

      D-A-D are still together and have released eight more albums since Riskin' It All, but none of those records have been released in the US and they saw the band exploring a variety of genres and styles, unfortunately never coming close, in my opinion, to achieving the greatness achieved by No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims and Riskin' It All.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Radio Sucks Radio Show volume 17 - Ep138

This week we bring you volume 17 of our Radio Sucks Radio Show series. If you're new to the show, it's basically us spinning some tracks, old and new, that we think you'll enjoy. Don't expect to hear the same singles that have been run into the ground by classic rock radio. Expect to hear deep cuts from great veteran bands as well as awesome new tracks that the radio guys in suits and ties continue to ignore.

This volume's selection includes classics from UFO, Sea Hags, D.A.D. and Legs Diamond along with brand new tracks from Rubicon Cross, California Breed and Rival Sons. Also featured are killer cuts from Kyng, Mutha's Day Out and Rearview Ghost.

Buy Music! 
(click artist name to purchase via Amazon!)

Legs Diamond
Sea Hags
California Breed
Rubicon Cross
Rival Sons
Rearview Ghost
Mutha's Day Out

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Facebook: Robert De Pasqua, Matt Syverson, Vic Baric, Spencer Wetmore, Wally Norton, Rodney Dickson, Brent Walter, Andrew Jacobs, Kal Hinz, Brad Kalmanson, Lee Maslin (Audio Junkies podcast), Derik Novak, Jason Thomas Broadrick, Darrell Millar, Billy Hardaway, Rob Strabley, Sit and Spin with Joe, Rich Dillon, Dori Evans, Kate Campbell, Hair Metal Mansion, Jodie Block, Metal Newz, Pitriff, Killer Dwarfs 

Twitter: paddymackcomedy, HMMOfficial, Mitch Lafon, djnovak, JeffLudban, SupaDupaPoopaScoopa, musicmagsandwax, billyhalehardaway, tom, DonNitschke, Killer Dwarfs, Ryan McKay, Andrew Jacobs, Rainbow in the Dark, Russ Dwarf, Darrel Dwarf Millar, Pat McGuire, Mr. Gee, Sandy Willis, Nashville Metal Bands, Claire D.

Direct Download

Friday, May 23, 2014

Staring Down a Gun Barrel


German heavy rock band, Gun Barrel, has unleashed Damage Dancer officially on May 13, 2014 in North America and it's something that you should check out if you're a fan of straight ahead hard rock.

Gun Barrel came together around 1998 in Cologne, Germany and issued an EP, Back to Suicide, in 2000 which garnered some attention and led them to a record deal.  Since then they have created a five album back catalog consisting of Power-Dive (2001), Battle-Tested (2003), Bombard Your Soul (2005), Outlaw Invasion (2008) and Live at the Kabuna (2010, a live album celebrating their 10 year anniversary).  And yes, you can place some sure bets that I'll be questing to add these releases to my already extensive music library after hearing Damage Dancer!  Plagued by lineup adjustments, guitarist Rolf Tanzius is the only original member from the Back to Suicide days and is joined by vocalist Patrick Suhl (who also lent his talents to Brace for Impact), bassist Tomcat Kintgen (who has been around since Bombard Your Soul) and drummer Toni Pinciroli has been a stalwart hidden behind the kit from Power-Dive to the present.

The album opens out with a short, less than a minute long, introduction simply listed as "Intro" on my MP3 promo copy, but appears to be officially titled "Unleashing the Hounds" according to the band's website.  The title track, "Damage Dancer" is up next and gets the ball rolling quickly with a high energy in the fast paced rocker.  "Bashing Thru" has such a familiarity to it, but I can't quite place the comparative song.  Definitely one of those songs that sticks with you after the listen is over and is probably my top choice here.  The rest of Damage Dancer moves along quite well in the same vein as the first two tracks with Patrick Suhl's vocals having just the right amount of grit to them throughout the release which is peppered with groovy rhythms and short, uplifting solos containing enough riffage to satisfy.  Standout cuts for me are the aforementioned "Bashing Thru", the peppy "Building a Monster" and the fantasy based "Ride the Dragon".  The over six minute in length epic, "Vultures are Waiting", is another gem not to be missed near the end of the album.

Check out some Gun Barrel with this record company promo for the song "Damage Dancer".

The Meister

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Conversation with Killer Dwarfs - Ep 137

Last week Aaron Camaro went solo with his one on one talk with Mike Tramp. This week Chris decides to strike out on his own with an in-person hangout with some legends of the Great White North.

The Killer Dwarfs were spending a day in Nashville at Sirius Hair Nation deejay Luc Carl’s “metal farm” and Chris took the opportunity to hang out and pester the guys with a microphone between beers. What you’ll hear in the first half of this episode is Chris (and writer Billy Hardaway) hanging out on a patio with the Dwarfs and Luc Carl while chatting about an assortment of stuff including their mutual love for Alice Cooper, touring with Saxon in the 80’s, and what happened to that can of Cuddly Cola from the ‘We Stand Alone’ video.

The second half of the show features a one on one talk that Chris has with Darrell about his time with the band Laidlaw, his other band Automan, getting back together with the Dwarfs, sharing a studio with KISS in 1992 and what Dwarfs fans can expect on their current tour in support of their Start @ One album.

Geeks of the Week:

DJ Novak, Jaime Tigertailz, Jay Arnold, Stuart Brown

Joe Lascon, Todd Cunningham, Lee Maslin (Audio Junkies), Robert De Pasqua, Andy Lafon, Billy Hardaway, Derik Novak, Dave Shirt, Brent Walter, Scott Yeager, JTB’s Groovy Record Room, Shane Hebert, Rodney Dickson

Become a Geek of the Week by sharing this link on Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter!

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Hey Steve Lynch, Can I Get Your Autograph? (A Conversation with Steve Lynch of Autograph)


It seems not that long ago that the metal scene here in Toronto was quite weak.  It was few and far between when bands would come through town and when they did the venues were not packed to capacity as many fans were unaware of the event, not being in tune with the scene.  Now, largely thanks to the folks at The Rockpile, there are many more bands and rock events visiting Toronto
Event poster (erroneously listing Keni Richards)
Canada.  The trouble with that now that the scene has expanded is that there are so many shows and events that often occur on the same day and I've seen some less than full venues.  This was I suspect, the case on Saturday May 10, 2014 as the attendance for one of the best bands that I've had the pleasure to witness in years stormed the Rockpile West in Etobicoke.  The crowd may not have had to be worked in with a shoehorn, but the fans that were there were rabid Autograph'ers, one I spoke to toting LP covers for the three album releases of the 80's.

The stage was set with entertaining sets by two familiar local bands with Three Quarter Stone and Twitch before the headliners from Los Angeles California took over.  Having had seen Autograph recently, twice on the cruise, at M3 and now here (that's 4 times in about a month span), I was front and just off to the side ready to watch guitarist Steve Lynch wail.  The band members, originals Randy Rand (bass), and Steve Lynch (guitar), along with newcomers Marc Weiland (drums) and Simon Daniels (Vocals/Guitar) spread out on the dim (darkened) stage when Simon quickly grabbed the mike and said "Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to Kate."  With the spotlight directly on her, Decibel Geek's Kate Campbell had the pleasure of introducing the band captured in this video.  Great job Kate, but you should have had a Decibel Geek shirt on for the!

The 2014 Autograph ripped through a setlist covering a steady balance of material from all three of the 80's released albums, Sign In Please, That's The Stuff and Loud & Clear.  The rabid fans that were crowding the front of the stage hung on every word Simon Daniels delivered and many, like me were singing along at the top of their lungs with every lyric.  Marc Weiland was a beast behind the kit pounding his drums, while bassist Randy Rand, obviously happy to be up on stage again was nothing but smiles all around.  Steve Lynch is a very under rated guitar player evidenced by the skills he displayed that night and with Simon Daniels also playing guitar the Autograph sound is decidedly thicker.  All four get along well and enjoy playing together as they laughed, joked and even threw towels at each other at different points throughout the set, something that resonates through the spectators at a concert.  Claiming it was time to get warmed up Simon asked who was going to buy them a shot as he polled the band on what they wanted.  Several shots made their way to the stage and were downed quickly with Steve Lynch even inviting the audience to hang around and have some drinks with the band after the show.

Steve Lynch and Randy Rand at The Rockpile-photo by Meister
After allowing the fans to get photos and autographs and while enjoying those drinks after the show I was able to get a few moments to chat with Steve Lynch on the 2014 Autograph.

The Meister:  "What brought Autograph back?"

Steve Lynch:  "Well, Randy and I got together at the NAMM Show down in L.A. in January 2011 and we talked about the possibility.  We weren't sure how far it was going to go, so we decided let's start toying around with this idea.  We just decided let's try this and we got together with Keni (Richards), you know the original drummer and we talked to the original singer (Steve Plunkett), the original keyboard player, he died about six years ago, Steve Isham."

The Meister:  "I had heard that, but am not familiar with the circumstances"

Steve: "Cancer, yeah.  I'd known him from Seattle from 1976, long time.  And so he was playing in a group called Bighorn in Seattle and I was playing in another group in Seattle.  Then when I moved to L.A. after I graduated from the guitar institute, I was looking for a place to live and he was moving out of the apartment I was moving into in Glendale.  And we're going whoa, out of a city of 16 million how can we run into each other again!  Then we ended up playing in the same band together which ended up being Autograph.  When we got together this time we decided, you know, Steve's gone so why don't we try it without keyboards.  Steve Plunkett, the original singer, he didn't want to do it."

The Meister:  "No interest at all?"

Steve:  "The last time he was interested in doing something was about 11 years ago and that was different players because I wasn't interested in doing it at that point.  I had too much stuff going on, I was doing some solo stuff and I owned a music store and I just......wasn't the right time.  But when Randy and I started talking, we decided let's try this again maybe with a new lead singer (since Steve wasn't into it) you know and so what happened is through different circumstances that me and Randy, right here.....(as Randy joins our chat).

Autograph's bassist Randy Rand-by Meister
The Meister:  "Speak of the devil"

Steve:  "....then so after we started talking, we decided we're gonna try it again and then Simon came into the picture and that worked out great.

The Meister:  "How had you guys known Simon?"

Steve:  "It was actually through a mutual friend of our management and stuff and we decided, hey, let's try it again.

Randy:  "We were best friends (gesturing towards Steve).

Steve:  "We were roomates for like six years with Autograph."

The Meister:  "And you guys stayed in contact?"

Randy:  "Well no we didn't stay in contact, but when I found out he (jerks thumb towards Steve) was going to the NAMM show. I said dude let's meet up."

The Meister: "And that's what sparked everything.  So what happened with Keni then?"

Steve:  "Well with Keni......"

Randy:  "Health problems."

Steve:  "Yeah, he had health problems.  The first rehearsal went good and then the second he had problems with his legs and stuff and the the third rehearsal, he couldn't even make it to rehearsal because he had respiratory problems.  And we thought.....well, you saw Marc play tonight, he's 40 and he has a hard time keeping up with the set!  We've got 14 songs that we do, he comes off stage and he's fuckin' exhausted so....."

Randy:  "So we got a 57 year old guy who doesn't have passports or driver's licenses or ..... and so we just decided to move forward.  We wish him......."

Steve:  "Of course we wish the best for him......" (Randy and Steve talking over each other in their wishes for original drummer Keni Richards)So there's no negativity on our parts towards Keni whatsoever and so like I said we wish him all the best and everything, but in order for us to really make this thing work we had to move on."

The Meister:  "With the new crew now are you guys looking at recording some new music at all?"

Steve:  "Absolutely!"

Randy:  "There's four song writers in the band, three singers so you know....."

Steve:  "We've already started, a couple of ideas......and this is only our tenth gig!  We started at Penn's Peak which is north of Philedelphia, great venue and we played there with KIX.  So that was great and then we did Pittsburg and Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis after that and then we did the Monsters of Rock Cruise, which was really cool.........and that's Simon our new singer right there (points to nearby Simon).  So that's how that whole thing came into place.  So, Simon (calling to Simon), you want to chip in anything here?  We're doing an interview here."

Autograph's Simon Daniels-photo by Meister
Simon:  "Oh, do I want to chip in?  That depends on how much you're asking for? (laughing)"

The Meister:  "What ever you got my friend, whatever you got! (laughing)"

Steve:  "Trouble is I only have American though (laughing)"

Simon:  (pulling some bills out of his pocket) "I only have two (dollars)."

The Meister:  "That's good, it's worth like four up here (laughing)....actually it's about a dollar thirteen for one dollar US right now I think."

Simon:  "We don't want people to get mad at us, they didn't look happy at a gas station already when we tried to pay!"  (Simon's attention is captured by some fans)

The Meister:  "So how was the experience on the cruise?  It really did look like you guys were having fun up there."

Steve:  "It was great!  We did the pre-party at the casino, which was alot of fun.  We have fun everywhere we're playing, we are a fun band, it's not Steel Panther but...."

The Meister:  "I've seen you guys four times now in about a month and you seem to get better and better every time, like M3 was awesome.  It seemed that you brought it just a little harder for that one!"

Steve:  "We did!  I was just up there rocking out and I'm going this is fucking cool, you know.  But it seems to get that way with every show we play, you know as we get more comfortable with each other."

The Meister:  "So you guys are working on some new music, the cruise was a good experience, M3 was a good experience, where does Autograph go after this?"

Steve:  "We do a Harley Davidson Convention and this really cool casino in Connecticut with Slaughter and then we play in New Jersey, then Maryland again.  Then we go to Moondance Jam, Minnesota to play with Styx and Foreigner.  And then some other gigs filled in and Firefest in England."

Steve Lynch & Simon Daniels-by Meister
The Meister:  "Are you guys on Firefest as well (surprised)?  (As Steve nods yes) Fuck, I'll see you there!  I looked at it so long ago that I've forgotten who's all on the bill!  We'll have some drinks there for sure!"

Steve:  "Cool! (laughing)  You're everywhere!  There's supposed to be England's oldest pub there in Nottingham, so we gotta go there!"

The Meister:  "Deal!  Well, I have one other question that I wanted to ask you, actually it might be like a three part question.........for someone that doesn't play guitar, what's a "hammer on"?"

Steve:  "A "hammer on" is when you, well there's two ways to look at it, you can look at it like when you hammer on with your left hand, which is usually on the neck.  In my case is with your right hand hammering out the notes with your right hand.  What I would do, actually it's in my first, second and third book and instructional video is how to play with two hands on the finger board, so you're playing two different parts of a scale at the same time.  So I got the idea from Emmett Chapman and the Stick......"

The Meister:  So, if that's what a "hammer on" is, what happened when you guys were opening for Van Halen?  Did he tell you that you couldn't do that?"

Steve:  "Yeah.  Their tour manager came up to me and said "Are you Steve Lynch?" and I said "Yeah" and he goes "You're the guy that wrote the book on the two handed technique?", so...."

The Meister:  "So you wrote a book on it?"

Steve:  "Yes, back in 1978!"

The Meister:  "That was before Van Halen really broke it big?"

Steve:  "I didn't even know who Van Halen was!  And so my technique was a little different, I was going off kinda what I'd learned from that Emmett Chapman clinic that he did at the guitar institute and I took everything that I was learning at the institute and was writing everything out two handed rather than one handed and that's where the whole thing came from.  And so I didn't really think anything about it, this is kind of a different way to play and so what happened was the tour manager came up to me and asked me those questions and said "Well you can't do this on this tour".  He said "That's Eddie's thing." and I go, "Oh, well can I use a fucking pick?".  He had these two big bodyguards with him and they weren't laughing about it like we are now and I said "Fuck you guys, I'll do whatever I want.", you know."

The Meister:  "So you played like that anyway?"

Steve:  "No, he goes "Look, I'll break your fucking hands", oh they were serious and I knew where it came from.  It came from Eddie, so obviously we didn't talk much on the tour."

The Meister:  "No, I guess not.  Do you think that he learned his technique from you?"

Autograph guitarist Steve Lynch-by Meister
Steve:  "I'm a week older than him, so it just happened to be that we came into a similar technique around the same time.  There was a guy in Seattle named Steve Buffington that was doing it and I used to watch him, so I kinda got some stuff from him.  There was also a guy, Harvey Mandel, who played with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, he was doing some of that stuff and then I saw some old clips of Johnny Smith who was a jazz player back in the 40's.  He was doing different, like, quartet stuff with both hands and then I saw this clip from 1965 of this Italian guy who's actually a doctor, who was playing all this crazy stuff on a classical guitar and so all these guitar players have done it before in the past."

The Meister:  "So you just amalgamated some different elements of each one into your own style?"

Steve:  "Right, but the main guy that I got the idea from was Emmett Chapman and Stick."

The Meister:  "Well thanks for taking this time Steve, great show again tonight.  I'm just sorry that it wasn't sold out for you guys."

Steve:  "It's not a big deal.  We look at it like, we love the fans that come out and hang out, just like we're doing right now until the place closes, we love doing it.  This is our tenth show so we look at it like this is great, we're reestablishing ourselves, we're getting people out there to know that we're back.  We haven't been around for 25 years, so now we got a new singer, a new drummer and a new sound.  We're tuned down a whole step, just lower and it's thicker and I had to learn how to sing because we wanted to do three part harmonies as that's a big part of the Autograph sound.  So I had to learn how to sing because I'd never sang before.  Simon, since he was a vocal teacher, he helped me out a lot.  I actually love singing!"

The Meister:  I'm just happy that you guys are back and I look forward to some new music from Autograph down the road.  Sign in Please was one of the first albums I ever bought and I never thought that I'd be hearing the tunes live."

Steve:  "Well RCA wouldn't pay for us to go to a lot of places, so this is the first time we're going to be playing England....."

Steve Lynch-photo by The Meister
The Meister:  "Seriously?  With a song as huge as "Turn Up the Radio" and this is the first time you're playing England?"

Steve:  "Well what happened was Bob Summers, the original CEO of RCA died of aids.  Bob Buziak came in and fired like 50% of the staff in New York at the main offices.  So then what happened was, it wasn't really us that suffered but Mr. Mister, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers The Eurythmics.  All of them tanked because RCA didn't do anything with them.  All of us were so mad and I ran into Steve Farris, the guitar player from Mr. Mister and I told him what had happened because he didn't know the inside story.  He was really disappointed because they put a lot of work into their second album and it went nowhere because of the backing."

The Meister:  "Well, thanks again Steve.  I look forward to some new Autograph music down the road.  I keep making the jokes about it being called "Turn Up the I-pod" (laughing)."

Steve:  "(laughing) Well maybe "Turn up the Cardio", we are getting older (laughing)."

Autograph @ The Rockpile, Toronto Setlist:
Deep End
Dance All Night
Loud and Clear
Bad Boy
Blondes in Black Cars
When the Sun Goes Down
All I'm Gonna Take
Send Her to Me
Cloud Ten
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me
She Never Looked That Good For Me
Crazy World
That's The Stuff
Turn Up the Radio

The Meister

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Friday, May 16, 2014

M3 Festival 2014 (Part #2)....A Full Schedule on Saturday!

Day two started off bright and sunny and had me feeling great after the dull, damp coolness and rain of yesterday, but the morning was not without a downside.  I had learned that tragedy had struck during last night's events while the rest of us were partying away.  I do not have the full details but it seems that a patron (possibly intoxicated) had lain down behind a vehicle in the parking lot and an unsuspecting, reportedly sober driver had unknowingly backed over him.  I offer my deepest sympathies and my heart goes out to both families.

When the details of M3 had been originally announced one thing that they had said was and I quote "two non-overlapping stages", so of course right away two of the four bands that I wanted to see most had overlapping sets to start the day.  Liars (shakes fist at M3 organizers)!  As you can see by the schedule above Heaven's Edge was to be the first live performance of the day on the "Festival Stage" while a mere 20 minutes into their set Keel would be opening the "Pavilion Stage"!

I had only learned of Heaven's Edge when a friend (Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald) gave me the album to listen to a few weeks before as he knew that I would be seeing them here at M3.  He said only, "you have to hear this album" and he was right!  I was loving this 1990 debut Heaven's 
with friends waiting for Heaven's Edge
Edge, was excited when it was revealed aboard 2014's Monsters of Rock Cruise a few weeks ago that they would be joining the ship's registry for 2015 and eager to see them at M3.  I trudged over the hill with my friend Olivier from Sleezeroxx magazine and worked through the milling concert goers fairly close to the stage, preparing for Heaven's Edge.  As coincidences happen we were right next to my friend from Brasil, Newton Santos Junior who owns a cool rock clothing/record store in Curitiba, Brasil (Let's Rock Website).  One day I will visit Let's Rock in person!  We all were treated to a little of Heaven's Edge sound check after which Lorraine Lewis and Janis Tanaka of Femme Fatale surveyed the stage set up and took some photos of the audience building for showtime.

Heaven's Edge opening the "Festival Stage at 2014's M3-photo by The Meister
Opening up with "Play Dirty", they were obviously set to thrill their audience and make an impression, perhaps trying to grasp once again what had essentially eluded them on the first go
Mark Evans-photo by Meister
around.  Reflecting a moment as I watched them on stage, I pondered why and how these guys had not become a household name such as Poison, Def Leppard or others and I quickly put it down to the album's release in 1990, the cusp of the grunge era.  Aside from sounding tight and much like I recalled from my few listens to that awesome debut album, the synchronized and choreographed stage moves of rocking back and forth, swinging arms and unison jumping around had my attention.  The set was filled with energy as they used the full stage space, making fans quickly as I heard the buzz through those around us.  My first thought on seeing drummer David Rath was that he resembled Steve Carrell a little, but these guys were all quite obviously having fun up there, happy to be playing again.  "Skin to Skin" followed the opener and then "Rock Steady Rock", but unfortunately this would be the end of my Heaven's Edge viewing experience, although it was harder than I first imagined to tear myself away for my beloved Keel.
Keel performing at 2014's M3 Festival=photo by The Meister
Ron Keel-by The Meister
Keel were one of the main reasons that I was here, having missed their presence on the Monsters of Rock Cruise a few weeks ago.  Ron Keel had sailed solo, but it is with the full electric Keel show that my heart lies.  If you would like to read about my experiences with the guys from Keel, here's a link to my story (Meister's Right to Rock).  The only thing disappointing about Keel's M3 gig was the shitty time slot and therefore the less than jammed attendance.  I know that someone has to open but it just sucks that it was my  As the guys ripped through their chosen opener of "Hell or High Water" succeeded by "Somebody's Waiting", it was easy to pick out the "Keelaholics" (aside from my friends standing next to me, the Koehler family of Michelle, Zack and the other guy (inside joke) that is) as they were singing right along, fists raised in the air and dancing away.  The sound was clear and the band tight with Ron's impeccable vocal chords, still strong at this 30 year anniversary of the band, leading the way.  "Speed Demon" literally assaulted the "steadily filling up now that Heaven's Edge
Ron Keel-by The Meister
was ending" Pavilion before the more gentle Patti Smith cover "Because the Night".  Rose Tattoo's "Rock N' Roll Outlaw" took us into my least favorite, but always played Keel track "Tears of Fire" before they shut it down with the smash "The Right to Rock".  Ron noticed the Koehler family and I in the stands and pointed out to us as young Zack hoisted the poster sign he'd crafted for Ron and the band high over his head.  Another awesome, but way too short set from one of my all time favorite bands, can't wait to see you guys on MORC the meantime, ever hear of a little rock club in Toronto called The Rockpile?  One can dream can't  Out of the 2014 M3 line we've had John Corabi, LA Guns, Slaughter, Red Dragon Cartel, Jack Russell, Stryper, Queensryche and Autograph all play at the Rockpile.....could Keel be next?

John Corabi-by The Meister
Back over to the general admission area of the "Festival Stage" now to check out some of Corabi's set.  John Corabi has been a staple on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, considered "The Mayor" of the ship and has also appeared for two nights in Toronto, so I've had ample opportunity to catch both his acoustic and electric sets.  Having always enjoyed his performances I knew what to expect here and I was not wrong, but not particularly being a rabid Corabi fan I was late in my arrival after ensuring to refuel on the way over.  I was able to catch "Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)" from his days in Union, Mountain's "Never In My Life", The Scream's "Man In The Moon" which came complete with a cake and the crowd singing happy birthday to John for today was his birthday.  A double shot from his one and only Motley Crue album with "Uncle Jack" and "Hooligan's Holiday" was also included.

After meeting some Canadians at the end of Corabi's set and needing to dispose of the remnants of the refueling process that took place on the way to Corabi, I listened to Jack Russell's Great White's
Jack Russell-by The Meister
opener of "All Over Now" from out side of the "Pavilion Stage".  Jack and company, which seemed to have had some replacements since his appearance last summer at the Rockpile in Toronto, sounded great and I much prefer this version to the Terry Illous fronted version.  No disrespect to Illous and the other members, I just choose the harder edged, less keyboardy, less commercial sounding and more soulful vocals of Jack's version.  Jack does not appear to be in good health after his previous substance addiction and health battles and hobbled around the stage hunched over.  He does however sound, perhaps, stronger than ever vocally and his soulful, bluesy tones carried around the open air amphitheater bringing with it a kind of magic that can't be explained.  "Desert Moon", "Mista Bone", "Save Your Love" (dedicated to the wives of the band), "Lady Red Light", "Rock Me" and "Once Bitten Twice Shy" were all selections that they treated the audience to, but sadly for me there was no inclusion of "On Your Knees" or "Shot In The Dark" two of my top Great White compositions.

Femme Fatale's Lorraine Lewis on the "Festival Stage" at M3-photo by The Meister
Back over the hill to "Festival Stage", I'm beginning to feel "over the hill" with all this traipsing back and forth, but come on you lazy bastard, you could use the exercise after your ingestion's of the
Nita Strauss-by The Meister
past few weeks!  Femme Fatale was due on there next and were the third of four acts I was really looking forward to here at 2014's M3.  Femme Fatale was a female fronted group issuing only one self-titled album in 1988 and while the album spawned a couple of MTV Video hits, the band would fade away afterwards never releasing the sophomore effort, which had actually been recorded.  Front woman, Lorraine Lewis has resurrected Femme Fatale, this time with an all female band including bassist Janis Tanaka (L7), keyboardist Katt Scarlett, guitarists Nita Strauss and Courtney Cox (both of The Iron Maidens) and drummer Athena Lee (Tommy's sister).  Shortly before the Monsters of Rock Cruise this year Athena seriously injured her shoulder and Linda McDonald (also of The Iron Maidens) sat in and was present behind the kit here as well.  Their performances are energy and fun filled, party sets,
Courtney Cox-by Meister
often including some audience participation ala being invited on stage to sing (I had this experience on 2014's MORC Meister's Final Day of 2014's MORC).  It was exciting news when during the set that usually encompasses the debut album and maybe a cover song, Lorraine Lewis proudly announced that the second Femme Fatale record would finally see the light of day via Nashville's F'n'A Records this summer.  The song following that declaration was "Lady in Waiting", a track from the forthcoming release that sounded much heavier than the selections from the previous offering.  Lewis also shouted out to many of her friends and fans that she saw in the crowd.  The altogether too short (literally at a half hour time limit) drew to a close but not before cans of silly string were emptied into the audience!  Femme Fatale setlist: "Falling In And Out Of Love", "My Baby's Gun", "Back in Your Arms Again", "If", "Rebel", "Lady in Waiting" and "Waiting For The Big One".

Arguably the most commercially successful Christian Rock band, Stryper, commanded the "Pavilion Stage" next starting off with "To Hell With The Devil".  Being a big fan of their latest  
Michael Sweet-by Meister
offering, the No More Hell To Pay album which I put up as their best ever, I was hoping to hear more from it than they played.  Understandable that they focused on the hits in this arena of shortened sets, so we only got "Legacy" and "No More Hell to Pay" from that album.  Stryper are very tight live and I was never really a fan in the past, finding vocalist Michael Sweet's registers too high for my taste, but I've certainly grown accustomed to them, either that or they've mellowed with age.  It disappoints me when I realize that I won't be able to catch their back to back sets at The Rockpile, but then I remember that I'll miss it because I'll be at Sweden Rock Festival and I feel better!  "The Rock That Makes Me Roll", "Calling On You", "Free", "More Than a Man", "Shout It Out Loud" (KISS cover), "The Way" and "Soldiers Under Command" (complete with Bibles tossed into the crowd) all filled out the roster.  When at a metal concert it is common (and an immediate reaction to a song you like) to thrust your hand in the air making the "horns", but I always try to remember not to do that at a Stryper show, it just seems
disrespectful given the messages in their music.

In the stands a few rows behind me I noticed a young lady with a lizard of some kind nestled on her shoulder. Turns out the little metal loving lizard made the trip from London, Ontario for the festival!

Back over the hill for Red Dragon Cartel, arriving a little late after meeting the lizard and coming in for "Deceived", the lead
Jake E. Lee-photo by Meister
track from the self titled album.  The awesome "War Machine" from the same album followed before they paid tribute to the late, great Ray Gillen with the Badlands cover "High Wire".  Two more from the RDC album with "Shout It Out" and "Feeder" closed out the set and I realized that I must have missed the Ozzy cover at the start of the show.  I once again reflected how great it was to have guitar virtuoso Jake E. Lee back on the musical landscape.  The whole band really seemed to bring it today, ramping up the efforts somehow and outdoing the three awesome shows (two on MORC and one in Toronto) that I'd already seen them play.  There was a moment of comedy and "head shaking" during "Feeder" as a gentleman who had quite obviously over indulged already and was be ejected with the assistance of security......Geez dude slow down, it's only 4pm!!

I couldn't help wondering why and how my friend and fellow Decibel Geek writer Kate Campbell was not in attendance at M3 as the next band filled the stands of the Pavilion.  I speak of none other than her "ultimate" favorite, Queensryche.  This is the Todd LaTorre fronted version of the band and
Queensryche-by Meister
they kept their setlist confined to the first five Queensryche releases, which are really the only ones worth having in my opinion, and their latest album with LaTorre on vocals.  Opening with "Nightrider" they quickly moved into "Breaking the Silence" followed by "Walk in the Shadows" and "Warning".  From that self titled album with LaTorre on vocals we received "Where Dreams Go To Die" ahead of "Eyes of a Stranger".  The album that got me into Queensryche, Empire, was represented next by the title track and I noticed my friend Dwain Miller, Keel's drummer, down on the floor area.  I was able to sneak down to say hi and show him the almost completed Keel logo in my tattoo during "Queen of the Reich".  Knowing who was up next on the "Festival Stage" I took my leave early to empty and refuel beverages and pay an outrageous price for a crappy little burger as I listened to "Jet City Woman" and most of "Take Hold of the Flame" before making my way over the hill yet again.

Autograph at M3 Festival-photo by The Meister
The fourth of the top four bands that coerced me into my first M3 festival, Autograph, was next on the "Festival Stage".  Having seen Autograph at the MORC Pre-party and again aboard ship,
Steve Lynch-by Meister
something I'd been waiting all my life to see, I was not disappointed and had an even higher bar of expectation here at M3.  After a few sound check issues they were ready to go about five minutes late, blasting into "Deep End".  For this 2014 reincarnation of Autograph, Simon Daniels (Jailhouse) steps in to shoes left vacant by Steve Plunkett and handles the material with ease.  The omission of the keyboards and the addition of Simon's guitar results in a heavier, thicker sound on these tunes I've waited a long time to hear in a live setting.  Aside from Daniels the 2014 Autograph consists of Marc Wieland on drums and original members Steve Lynch on guitar and Randy Rand on bass.  "Dance All Night" followed and I had to ask (to myself) "is there anyone cooler than Randy Rand" as he danced around the stage decked out in black with dark sunglasses and a bright ear to ear smile.  "Loud and Clear" was delivered before "Bad Boy" which became dedicated to a few members of the band "who got sent to the back of the plane last night".  For the third time straight I was mesmerized by Lynch's playing prowess, while Autograph is not necessarily known for guitar shredding, Steve Lynch is drastically and criminally underrated.  During "Blondes in Black Cars", Femme Fatale bassist Janis Tanaka, who I saw at every show on MORC and even joked that she was stalking me,
Randy Rand-by Meister
 wormed her way through the crowd right past me, recognizing me and saying "hi".  After "Send Her to Me" it was time for the two songs that vocalist Simon Daniels claims are about the same guy, a loser, with "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me" and "She Never Looked That Good For Me""Crazy World" and of course the hit and best known song, "Turn Up The Radio", brought the curtain down on another awe inspiring although, once again too short, Autograph set.  I chuckled to myself as I reflected back to the Rockerz Gone Wild Pool Party II in Miami a few days before the Monsters of Rock Cruise where I witnessed a group of people (mostly ladies) clamoring for a photo with Simon Daniels while Steve Lynch stood right next to him!  As I proclaimed this to my friend at the time Steve quickly brought a finger up to his lips in the universal sign for "shhhh" as he enjoyed his drink and watched the spectacle.

While it is extremely rare that I say anything overly negative about a band's performance or recording, I have to be completely honest with my comments on the next band.  I was looking forward to the Sebastian Bach live set as it's something I'd not yet experienced.  I'll never make that mistake again!  Arriving during "Slave to the Grind" I was surprised to hear that the volume for this
Sebastian Bach-by Meister
performance was at a very minimum at least twice as loud as the other sets previous to them.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the loud volume and (perhaps stupidly) do not even use earplugs, but this just did not sound good to me at all.  I was unfamiliar with the second song played, probably from his latest offering that I have yet to pick up and am certainly not in a rush to do so after this set.  The arrogance that he displayed through every action and word was a disgusting display and a real turn off which included, but not limited to berating the audience during the start of Skid Row's "Big Guns" for being asleep.  The whole escapade was delivered against a backdrop to Sebastian Bach's Angel Down album cover....wait a minute didn't that get released in like 2007?  You would think he'd have something a little more current given that there was at least one other album after Angel Down as well as the new offering.  "18 and Life", "American Metalhead", "Monkey Business" and "All My Friends Are Dead" helped to fill the setlist.  After "I Remember You" I could no longer take the attitude from Bach and took my leave to head to L.A. Guns, hearing "Youth Gone Wild" as I made my escape.  Needless to say I much preferred the Johnny Solinger fronted version of Skid Row that I saw at Sweden Rock last year to this fiasco.  You should be happy that we're out there buying your music....oh that's right I recall your recent rant on the lacklustre first day sales of Give 'Em Hell....wonder why that is Sebastian?  Maybe we don't like being abused, it sure didn't entice me to ever give you a cent of my hard earned money!!

I had had the chance to see Phil Lewis and L.A. Guns on a few occasions through the Monsters of Rock Cruises and thought them to be an excellent live band.  Unfortunately on the 2013 Cruise guitarist Michael Grant had forgotten his passport and was denied embarkation, but the band
Phil Lewis-photo by Meister
soldiered on without him.  For 2014 he had his passport and was aboard, so I knew what to expect with the full band here a few weeks later at M3.  Wasting no time they fired off with "No Mercy" followed by "Sex Action" and "Never Enough""I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Over the Edge" came next as did the beginnings of raindrops.  Instantly recalling my ridiculous soaking from yesterday I was weary of the rain, but held my ground.  "Revolution", "Kiss My Love Goodbye" and the awesome "Eel Pie" from the latest release, Hollywood Forever, were all delivered flawlessly as the rain thickened.  Thinking the end was near (as every other set had been about 7-10 songs) I listened to "One More Reason" and "Electric Gypsy" during my retreat back over the hill in search of more over-priced and not very satisfying food and shelter from the rain.  I later found out that the Guns had squeezed twelve tracks into their set and I had missed "The Ballad of Jayne" and "Rip & Tear".

Seeing Night Ranger on the initial MOR Cruise is what made me take notice of them, previously not taking to their more poppy and commercial sounds (albeit I'd only heard a couple of radio hits).
Brad Gillis-photo by Meister
Brad Gillis seriously impressed me with his playing there and I was surprised to learn of his time in Ozzy's band in the past.  During that show, aside from "Crazy Train", they had also broken out some Damn Yankees material given that Jack Blades had been an integral component of that "supergroup".  "Touch of Madness" began the M3 show with "Sing Me Away" close behind.  I was not familiar with much of the set, but Night Ranger certainly displayed their ability to wield the instruments and much of the crowd was right along with them.  They Included "Coming of Age" and "High Enough" from the Damn Yankees catalog in the set as well as debuting a new track, "High Road", from an album to be issued on June 10, 2014.  Their best known work with "Sister Christian" and "(You Can Still) Rock in America" wrapped things up on a show that I'll be looking out for once again on MORC 2015.

I took this time to finally check out the VIP bar area that I had only briefly made my way into for beverage purchase until now.  By doing this I was missing Slaughter, which did not upset me in the least after their shows in Toronto in early April.  It is common knowledge that Mark Slaughter's voice is not what it used to be but that is not even my issue if he sings in a lower register.  At a $40 ticket price tag they played only an hour long set of 6 songs all of which were drawn out with lengthy instrument solos in the middle that in most cases did not even fit with the songs, creating a horrible snoozefest!

Jeff Keith-photo by Meister
Tesla was the final event of the 2014 M3, introduced by Eddie Trunk who declared that they would indeed be back for a fourth consecutive voyage on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2015.  In keeping with what seemed to be an M3 trend with many artists doing just this Tesla also debuted a new track from their forthcoming album.  On the cruise they had debuted "Ricochet", but here for the M3 crowd it was "MP3 (Too Much Technology)", another song that doesn't seem to deviate from their trademark formula, but that's not a bad thing by any means.  Tesla is somewhat of a miracle to see live, sounding bang on to the recordings in every time I've experienced the phenomenon.  The rest of the set filled around this new track included "I Wanna Live", "Hang Tough", "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)", "Mama's Fool", "Into the Now", "The Way It Is", "What You Give", "Love Song", "Signs", "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Little Suzi".

And there we have my first (but definitely not last) M3 Festival of events with great friends from around the world and the music that we love.  Out of all 19 bands appearing at the festival I only missed two sets completely (Bad Seed Rising/Slaughter) and only one I didn't enjoy (Sebastian Bach).  For me as I had expected and looked forward to Keel, Heaven's Edge, Femme Fatale and Autograph were the stand out faves for me, but every band seemed to just have that little more kick in their step at this event......and now it's off to Sweden Rock in June, stay tuned!

The Meister

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