Saturday, February 28, 2015

Unbroken: An Interview With Rene Thomsen

Several months ago I discovered the band Thomsen through their October 2014 released Unbroken CD. Not being familiar with them before I was pleasantly surprised upon spinning the CD when the lead track, "Draw The Curtain", drew me in right away with its meaty power metal ingredients. You can read my full album review here: A Power Metal Delight: A Review Of Thomsen's Unbroken. Fast forward to February 2015, when the opportunity arose for me to have a brief Skype chat with Rene Thomsen himself, I jumped at the chance to talk with this multi-talented musician.

Seated at the helm of the good ship Meister (also known as my computer desk) I made the Skype call and after we rectified and disposed of a minor technical difficulty we were off.  The minute we said hello to each other Rene was excited to let me know right away that just before we started our Skype chat he had released a new video for "Break That Spell". Literally posted live just before I placed the call, "Break That Spell" is the fourth track on the Unbroken album and the third to receive the video treatment. I could tell through his voice even though I'd never spoken to the fabulously talented German musician previously that he was on the edge of his seat and brimming with excitement about the new video. "It's been released just since three minutes ago" he exclaimed. "New guitars, new bass, new drums, new vocals. It's out of the rehearsal room with the current line-up."  Rene went on to say that it was shot one day in November when drummer Andre Hilgers (Rage/Silent Force) had the time to meet with them. Rene, who recorded and mixed the song himself, says "It's much more aggressive than on the CD" and "for a video directly out of the rehearsal room it's OK, but it has HiFi sound so you can listen to it no problem". I disagree Mr. Thomsen! I watched the video after our little talk and I'd say it's more than just OK! The video for "Break That Spell" appears below so you take a look and a listen and judge for yourselves.
The compositions of Unbroken have been crafted musically by Thomsen himself with the lyric portions being supplied by writing partner Helge Engelke. "I can't write lyrics," Thomsen laughs "even though I did for the first album." For the lyrics of the album's title track, "Unbroken", Helge Engelke took inspiration from the trials and tribulations that Rene Thomsen went through in making this album, Thomsen says.

Rene has assembled a band of hard working and talented musicians for the live show that include himself as the guitarist, Andre Hilgers behind the drum kit, bassist Ingo Luhring, guitarist Michael Pesin and Russian vocalist Denis Brosowski (pronounced Dennis even though there's only one "n" and Brozoffski). In fact, Rene says: "When Denis was cast as the singer for Thomsen during his auditions at The Hannover Musikzentrum in his very first appearance with the band I decided to record it right away". That recording, "Tears Of The Sun", serves as the last song featured on the 2014 Thomsen Unbroken album. The accented, but well-spoken German guitarist also had nothing but good words to say about the musicians that went into the making of the Unbroken album. He spoke very highly of each of the drummers that contributed, Andres Hilgers, Bobby Jarzombek (Halford/Riot/Sebastian Bach) and Vinny Appice (Dio/Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell) and the different styles that each one brought to the recording. Also held in high regard were other guest musicians including guitarist Mathias Dieth (Sinner/U.D.O.) and guest vocalist the German legend himself, Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O./Accept)! Udo's gravelly vocals appear on the track "We Made It" which Rene wrote musically about the late great Ronnie James Dio the night after the legend's death.

Throughout our conversation, Rene Thomsen is extremely good humored, laughing and joking during the whole chat. At one stage, he was quite comical when discussing his temporary fake tattoos, "I need to make money with customers, so I can't have my name on my lower arm. People will go: What's wrong with this guy?" After explaining where he has them made he continued with (voicing both himself and the imagined person he's talking to), "You make it two or three days before you want to show it and then people go: Oh Rene is it a fresh tattoo? And then: Why do you put your own name on your arm, what's wrong with you? Well, it's my band name, I'm a rocker! Umm hmm OK....wanna have a beer?" He laughs as we agree that not everyone understands being a rocker. "My parents go like: Rene? Ya? What have you done to your arm? Well, I put my name on it in case I get old like you people. And if they're in a good mood they laugh and if not they hang up." he jokes. A complete pleasure to talk with and a professional dedicated to his craft.

Rene himself is a hard worker, a perfectionist, wanting to deliver the best that he can to his fans as evidenced by phrases he said such as "technically the album was done correctly, but it wasn't metal enough for me, so it's been mixed twice." Rene also spoke of how hard it was for a small band like his to get found or discovered, "It's a local thing here". Determined to give only a "safe, clear" performance, it's hard for Rene and his band to play gigs unless they are nearby his hometown of Hannover, Germany, with the expenses of travel, gear and the personnel required to give the best show that he can to the audience. "I don't want to gain any money playing live," he says, "but I need to cover my costs." There will be some shows in promotion for the album, "March 20th we make a kick off for live here in Hannover and it's good sold already. People remember my last show because I bring extra lights. I bring extra staging so I make the stage deeper so we can set up the full nine yards." This is good news for The Meister as I hope to catch a live Thomsen event during my three week Europe vacation in June 2015.

We also spent a moment on the evils and positives of the age of the internet. "I-Tunes is cool for me 'cause I have all the rights on digital and it worked well. The I-Tunes sales are great, and the people buy the full album," he informed me. And with those high I-Tunes sales I was surprised when he let me know that people are buying the full album, something that I didn't think was taking place in today's marketplace.

As a former guitar tech Rene Thomsen has "been handed through from one major guitar player to the next one". Working as a guitar tech for Mathias Dieth, the former guitarist for U.D.O., Rene has been on tour with bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, U.D.O., Helloween, and Guns 'n' Roses. "Mathias and I we got to know Zakk Wylde and then I did the sound checks for U.D.O. and Ozzy when he wasn't there. I played every afternoon on tour and then I did the sound checks for the guitar players, I always learned one song to be able to do a guitar song that was of the band so that if they had a promo or an in-store I was prepared well if they weren't there." Rene admits that "Zakk 
Wylde is my absolute guitar hero" and you can tell that he's beaming as the words roll off his tongue. Rene had the opportunity to meet and learn from Maestro Wylde during that tour. "Zakk, I only have one question: Ya, what is it? What's the correct official riff, how do you play it for "I Don't Know"? And he teach me. It needed a week 'cause it's not so easy as people say. I have very small fingers and then I have my fingers on the fretboard and he say: no, no, no Rene, a bit more, a bit more and then he took my fingers and spread them over the fretboard and I say ahh, ahh. Yeah well, you have longer fingers you have no ahh, so now you have ahh. So this was very, very funny. A very fine guy, it was very nice getting to know him these days and we had a good time."

A third record is planned with a mixture of live recordings, re-recordings with Denis on vocals and two or three new songs. Rene hopes that it may even be featuring Zakk Wylde as a guest guitarist! "Zakk Wylde is the next musician I do my record with. He can only say no! I ask him and I try to convince him. I'm a riff player same as he is, so maybe I have something he likes." I'm hopeful for ya Rene!

When asked if there's anything else he wanted to mention he paused for a fair length and responded amidst a raucous bout of laughter with "Buy my fuckin' record!" a sentiment that The Meister agrees with all the way. Support the artists and keep the music coming. I highly recommend Thomsen's Unbroken for metal fans across the world!

Both Rene Thomsen and Decibel Geek would like to extend special thanks to Dustin Hardman of Hardman Press Promotions or the opportunity for this interview.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Interview With a Storyteller!

The Lionsheart teamed up with founding member, lead vocalist and former bass player L-G Persson to get some insight into the new album "Sacred fire" as well as some info on the bands history and why they are back stronger than ever.  

For a start, tell us a little about the band's humble beginnings and how The Storyteller came to be.

~ The Storyteller was founded in 1995 by myself and Fredrik Groth. we knew each other since many years and shared the same taste in music. I had an idea for a concept to a metal band. It would be Power metal combined with medieval melodies and with Fantasy lyrics. I had written the foundations for a couple of songs and I introduced them to Fredrik who thought it sounded great, and it was in that moment that I believe The Storyteller was born. Why we chose the name The Storyteller was also no coincidence. The whole arrangement was that we would take on the role of a storyteller who sat by the campfire and told our stories to anyone who would listen. Even the music was written with the intention that they would be able to perform the songs both acoustic and as Power Metal style, and on the debut album, we followed that concept 100%.
L-G Persson in action.
Picture courtesy of Storyteller Facebook page.

And after four records the band came to a stop. Tell us a little about why the band was put on a hiatus in the fall of 2006?

There were several reasons why we chose to take a break, but some members of the band became parents recently and had a little difficulty to combine family life, work, and the band. Then we had made some bad choices in terms of partners and to get loose from these partnerships we chose to freeze the band indefinitely. It took so much unnecessary energy trying to get everything to work and music became afflicted and I think that the decision to take a break was justified.

What made the band start up again in spring of 2011?

In the years that the band was at rest so we got quite a lot of offers to do a gig together. It came from different clubs who had been asked if they could try to book us, but we refused every time. But then came a time when a club in our hometown asked if we didn't thought it was time to do a reunion gig if not permanently then just for one night, so I talked to Jake first and he was interested and it turned out that everyone else was interested, too, and therefore said yes to a gig. Even during the time that we practiced before the gig we all felt that it was fun again and we could play the songs as if we had never had a break, and the reception we received when we got up on stage was enormous. A full venue with fans who gave their all - that was the turning point! After the gig, all agreed that we would continue.

Founding member and guitarist Fredrik Groth left after just one gig in 2012. Tell us a little about why Fredrik is no longer with the band?

When Frederick decided it was time to move on, it did not come as a surprise, but it became a very dark moment in the band's history. We noticed more and more that Frederik was not his old self, and that he contributed less and less with ideas for song material and did not practice with the band that he liked before. Then came the day when we all got an email from him in which he explained that he had taken a decision that was really tough and he hesitated many times before he pressed the send button. He felt he was not as "hungry" as we were and that he did not share the future as the rest wanted and that's why he took the decision that it was time to move on and leave his place in the band. It took very hard on me and it took some time before I could reconcile myself to the fact that Frederik that I started the band with was no longer in the band, but Fredrik and I have very good contact still and have talked a lot about his decision. Main reason was that he felt that the music had changed from the concept we decided from the start, and he felt that the direction the band was developed for was not something he wanted to do, and in retrospect I understand his position completely.
Picture courtesy of The Storyteller Facebook page.

When talking about ex-members, why did bass player Johan Sohlberg not take part in the reunion?

I do not really know how to explain it but we all felt that John did not have the same interest in the musical style of The Storyteller and that's why we chose to bring in a replacement that would be able to step into the role in an honest way. But he is a nice guy and a talented musician and we all wish him well in what he chose to do.

What's the funniest thing you´ve ever seen on tour?

I remember one occasion when we were out with another band that I do not mention for their own sake :) but there was so little room for the drum kit and no wall behind so at one point the second band's drummer actually fell behind the scene and disappeared behind the backdrop. Thankfully it was not a long way down and he quickly came up again without the audience noticed anything.

What is the best concert you´ve ever been to?

~ The best concert I've been to was without a doubt when I went and saw Iron Maiden when Bruce Dickinson came back to the band. They played fantastically well and they had this energy on stage and really looked to thrive together again. It was an incredible experience.

Ok, on to the new album called "Sacred Fire". Can you tell us a little about the lyrical side of the new album. Some lyrics were inspired by Greek mythology I guess?

~ Yes, I actually chose to take a lot of inspiration from Greek mythology. The basic idea was that the album would be about Gods and battles and then I found that very exciting legends existed from the Greek mythology so I read a lot of their legends trying to get as much input as possible. But we have some songs that deviate from the Greek mythology tales but still focus on battles and heroic deeds.
Picture courtesy of The Storyteller Facebook page

Was it an easy record to write and record?

The album was completed written long before we would enter the real studio. We recorded all the songs demo in Steeltown Studio (Marcus home studio) so we knew the songs were good class and would be really good when we recorded them for the album. But the time in the real studio was not quite as we had planned. Once again, it shows that all need to do their "homework" before going into the studio, so there was some lost time due to downright carelessness. But finally it became done and the result is amazing. I see this production as the strongest since the debut album (The Storyteller) and the sequel (Crossroad)

So, what are your plans now when the new album has been released?

We have no plans right now, but we will wait and see what response we get on the album, but the reviews we have received so far is very good so right now it looks promising. If the album picks up and sells well so maybe we begin to plan for a possible tour.

Picture courtesy of The Storyteller
Facebook page.
Where can your North American fans find the new album "Sacred Fire"? Is it being released outside of Europe?

I have been told that the album will be distributed to buy in the US, but I do not know through which distributors. If you are interested in ordering Sacred Fire, you can do so via our distribution company Sound Pollution Distribution:

Finally - Is there any plans for releasing the demo you recorded with Crystal Light officially?

~ Crystal Light album Dreams Never Die, was released on digital platforms such as Spotify and iTunes, but will unfortunately not be pressed up in physical edition

I would like to thank L-G Persson for taking his time to answer my questions and updating us on the status of The Storyteller. Personally I think "Sacred Fire" is a really strong effort and would like to wish the guys luck in the future. Read also my review of "Sacred Fire" by clicking the link below. The CD will be released on 27th of February and will be available at on March the 3rd both as hard copy CD and digital download. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Prowler's Stallions Of Steel

The German state of Saxony provides the heavy metal band Prowler. The band from Leipzig gained some attention with their 2012 self-released EP Hard Pounding Heart and now have returned
poised to issue their debut full length, Stallions Of Steel. The nine tracks contained on the album (some of which also appeared on the aforementioned EP) boast "straight heavy metal, catchy song structures, twin guitar leads, simple but effective refrains: "Tradition instead of innovation is the main inspiration" of their sound." Prowler consists of Ronny Dietrich's vocals, Marvin Mehrlander's bass lines, Michael Czernik's drum beats and David Junold and Clemens Richter's guitar prowess.

As for the album itself we begin with "Motorcycle Of Love" that starts off with the sounds of a motorcycle firing up and riding off into the sunset before the guitar riffs kick in. The catchy riffs are straight forward, simple and not over produced, definitely Prowler are influenced by the NWOBHM movement and I can't help but bring Saxon to mind. "Freedom" follows the same formula, simple yet catchy and it's easy to imagine Prowler setting the stage for bands like Saxon back in the early days. "Mind & Might" seems a little off the mark and serves as my least favorite. The album's title track of "Stallions Of Steel" offers a great opening riff, again not overly complicated but easy to identify with and the song is loaded with interesting tempo changes. The album's second longest running composition at just over six and a half minutes surfaces next in "Mexican Story". "Out Of The Night" is probably the standout cut of Stallions Of Steel for me with just a little more "punch" over it's predecessors. The heavy breathing and woman's scream that lead off the excellent "Paranoia" are well placed, a track competing with "Out Of The Night" as best of the lot. "Prowler" (presumably the band's theme song...think Iron Maiden's "Iron Maiden") charges along before the Iron Maiden-esque eight and a half minute opus of "A Maiden's Funeral".

Throughout Stallions Of Steel, the lyrics may seem a little juvenile and simple at times, but undeniably infectious. Prowler are not re-inventing the wheel here, nothing experimental or new, but dammit it's pretty good and I'm interested to see what else they can come up with as they mature. Definitely want to see this band live, but until then here's the official video for "Motorcycle Of Love". New Wave Of German Heavy Metal (NWOGHM) anyone?

The Meister

(The Meister on Facebook) (Meister on Twitter)

PHOTO CREDIT: Pure Steel Records Press Kit

(Prowler Facebook)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Corabi's Motley Crue 94 Experience...


Well the rumors of my disappearance are now put to rest. It's been quite a while since I have contributed anything to the Decibel Geek Army, today breaks the silence "Don't tell me to turn it down!".

When I first got wind that John Corabi was bringing his "Motley 94 Experience" Tour to Toronto's Rockpile, I vowed that NOTHING would keep me from seeing this show. As soon as they announced the date, I called my Hoser Heavy Metal brother Rich "The Meister" Dillon and told him I was in! I haven't been this excited to see a concert in ages.

Many of you know that Motley Crue was my first concert back in 1984. From that moment I became an unabashed Cruehead being sure to catch every tour that came my way. Over the years, every tour that touched Toronto, I even made pilgrimages to Hamilton and Buffalo when Toronto wasn't enough. The only tour missing from my list was Motley's 94 ill fated tour that never came close enough for me to see. Within months, Vince was back in the fold and the self titled 94 album would be virtually erased from the bands history book. Well NOT MY history book! This was and still is far and away the best album of Motley's career.

Now I am sure I just ruffled a few feathers with that last statement but I stand by it. Musically it was miles ahead of anything they have ever done and vocally? C'mon, Corabi's vocal delivery on this album was pure, raw power that gives me goosebumps 20 years later. I am not slagging on Vince, he's an amazing frontman but looking at pure vocal ability, Corabi is the MAN! He is the Ronnie James Dio to Motley Crue, and there isn't anybody ever going to convince me that Ozzy is a better singer than Dio. Unfortunately many of the Crueheads just weren't ready to let go of the "good time party rock" that Crue had built their career on and the grunge movement rolling in wasn't going to accept an 80's "dinosaur" band like Motley. It's a bloody shame as this album delivers more angst, snarl and attitude than anything Cobain and his ilk ever released.

It was always a thorn in my side that I would probably never get to hear the majority of these songs live but the infinite wisdom of Mr. Corabi was going to change all of that. The Corabi Motley 94 Experience Tour was going to celebrate this excellent album that the Crue refuse to acknowledge. "Who said the music's dead in the streets? Don't know what they talk about".

As I mentioned earlier there wasn't anything going to stop me from seeing this show and I meant it. Lovely negative double digit temperatures, boatloads of snow and a badly sprained right knee all tried to damper this glorious night of rock but to no avail. We got there early, set up shop with a great vantage point to take in all the action and enjoyed a frosty beverachie or twelve as the opening bands got under way.

First up a new band for my ears. "Hollywood Sins". Great name and a solid set of melodic hard rock. Songs like "Dirty Girl", "Snake Eyes" and "Sick and Twisted" got the evening off to a great start. Catchy hooks with great sing along chorus's, these guys have everything I like about hard rock music. Be sure to check them out, I am looking forward to seeing these guys rock again very soon.

On second was the aptly named "Second Pass", a band I had not yet seen before. Meister informed me "wait till you hear this girl sing". Halfway through the first song, vocalist "Vee" (Veronica McNamee) let loose and my jaw hit the floor. Musically this band is pure dark heavy rock with groove, a lot of Sabbath, a little Goth and Vee glues it all together with vocals of a true metal maiden. I would love to see her onstage trading licks with Doro Pesch.

Third on the bill was "Crisis Cntrl Club" a young band from Toronto some might think didn't belong on bill. I couldn't disagree more, these guys played a high energy set of original music that was hook filled and very catchy, reminding me very much of Fall Out Boy. Keep in mind that Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy) is a huge fan of Nikki Sixx and Motley Crue. Solid musicianship and radio friendly rock/pop songs will serve this band very well and I will be sure to check them out again. Certainly not cut from the metal genre but great songs are great songs and "Next Time" and "Crime" are both great songs and now sit in my ipod.

Last up before the main event was one of the Rockpile favorites and rightfully so. Three Quarter Stone brought out the big guns with an absolutely outstanding set that got the place jumping. Meister and I have seen these guys probably a dozen or so times over the last couple years. First time we saw them I loved it but they are light years from that show. With three great Cd's of music out now these guys are so tight and so totally comfortable on that stage they could easily headline this venue and I will be up front rocking along with them. For those of you feeling adventurous, go check out some Three Quarter Stone music, you wont regret it and be sure to check out their reworking of the Judas Priest classic "You've Got Another Thing Coming".

Canadians are made of rugged stock so the inclement weather did little to deter the crowd. By the time Corabi and his band made their entrance the Rockpile was pretty full of familiar faces ready to witness a piece of history. A few important friends of the Decibel Geek Podcast were in attendance to take it all in. Red Dragon Cartel's Darren James Smith and Darrell and Johnny from the Killer Dwarfs were enjoying the festivities, horns up and rocking out. Proving once again the Rockpile is Toronto's destination for live rock and metal.

When the intro to "Power to the Music" was kicked in, it was on! Confined to my chair did nothing to slow down the head banging, fist pumping and air guitarring that would continue for the next 80 minutes of so. The setlist was as expected, Motley's 94 album, track by track in order and it was absolutely spot on 100% lethal.

Meister posted to Facebook that he thought he was listening to the CD but he wasn't. Corabi and his band completely reconstructed this album note for note. Guitarists Josh "the Meistro" Dutoit and Jeremy Asbrock, bassist Topher Nolen and John's son Ian Corabi certainly put in some long hours of rehearsal putting together that show. John's vocals are every bit as strong, rich and paint peeling powerful as they were when he recorded these tunes some twenty years previous.

Back in December of 2013 I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing John here at the Rockpile before an acoustic performance. During that interview he told me of his upcoming plans to put this Motley 94 Experience Tour together and that his son was scheduled to fill the drum spot within his band. I remember him telling the story, that his son was going to be put through the test as Tommy Lee played some bad ass drums on that album and that Ian would have his work cut out for him. Boy did Ian step up, every hit was as fierce as the album and he totally nailed it out of the park.


Every moment of this show was killer but I will point out three personal highlights that rocked my world. "Uncle Jack" my personal favorite from the album was almost more intense live. Such a dark and tragic song that just kicks total ass. "Poison Apples" was a surprise moment that totally blew the roof of but watching Topher (sporting a very nice Kiss Destroyer shirt btw) dig into the bassline and John's maniac vocal for "Smoke the Sky" took me to another dimension.

Covering all 12 songs from the album, they saved "Babykills" one of the albums bonus tracks for a very tasty encore capping off one of the best concert moments of my life. There is absolutely nothing in the world like the feeling live music gives you and to finally hear these songs that I have loved for years with such passion and precision was truly amazing. Thank you to John for putting this tour together and thanks to your band for absolutely delivering the goods. The goosebumps are still there three days later! "I want my music waking up the dead!"

Thanks to Decibel Geek Photographer extraordinaire Mr. Brian Ronald for capturing the live photos.

Be sure to check out the links and keep supporting live music...

Hollywood Sins
Second Pass
Three Quarter Stone
and of course....
John Corabi

Sunday, February 22, 2015

KISS Road Stories with Hot Sam - Ep177

There's been a lot of talk in the KISS fan world about the original road crew. This week, we have one of them on to talk about the good old days.

Jay "Hot Sam" Barth guests this week to discuss his time working for KISS during their rise to stardom. As front-of-house sound mixer, Hot Sam had a great seat to watch Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter slay audiences on a nightly basis. In this discussion, Hot Sam discusses his time working with the band on the Dressed to Kill tour, the recording of KISS Alive!, the popularity of the band in his hometown of Detroit, and the changes that he witnessed during the Destroyer tour in 1976.

Other members of the original KISS crew have released a book documenting the era entitled, 'Out on the Streets.' It can be purchased HERE

The Decibel Geek podcast thanks Jay "Hot Sam" Barth for coming on the show and sharing his memories of working with KISS.

Geeks of the Week:
Brent Walter, Nikos Tevelis, David Alpizar, Devin Fox, Todd Cunningham, Justin Hayes, Jeff Hogland, Warren Money, Andrew Jacobs, Trevor McDougall, Mike Blount, James Brendon Dunn, Wayne Cross, Marc Alden Taylor, Ian Wadley (Rock & Metal Combat Podcast), Shane Hebert, Darren Parkin, Sit & Spin with Joe, Brian Knapp, Chad Pollock, Tom Cullen, Vic Rector, Bill, Jack Russell, Mojo Dave, hoops, DC, Derik Novak, Daniel Lee, Armando Serna, Stealth, MusicMagsAndWax, RAW Magazine, Hot Metal Magazine, Loudmouth, Faces Rocks Magazine

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Bitchin' with Dean Delray and Christian Spicer


Many of you are probably already familiar with Los Angeles standup comic & former hard rock vocalist/musician Dean Delray and his long running Let There Be Talk podcast.  This past January, Dean and fellow comic Christian Spicer decided to team up and the result is Bitchin', a weekly talk show podcast and videocast on the All Things Comedy network.  Bitchin' basically consists of Dean and Christian just shooting the shit (hence the podcast name) about their respective comedy careers and their personal lives.  They also tell stories from their pasts and needless to say, having been a hard rock vocalist/musician for 25+ years prior to becoming a comic, Dean has quite a few insane hard rock and heavy metal stories.  The show also consists of phone calls from listeners (some of whom are musicians that Dean has interviewed on Let There Be Talk) which are quite entertaining in their own right.  I'll be interviewing Dean for Decibel Geek shortly.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Inappropriate Earl


Inappropriate Earl is a fairly new (late 2013/early 2014) talk show podcast hosted by Los Angeles standup comic and sometimes actor Earl Skakel.  Earl is a native of Los Angeles and grew up in the rock and metal scenes of L.A./Hollywood in the 1980s.  His podcast includes interviews with rock stars (Stephen Pearcy, Joey Allen of Warrant, Fred Coury of Cinderella), rock star wives (Tawny Kitaen, Bobbie Brown), comics (Rob Schneider, Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley impressionist Craig Gass) and actors (David Arquette, Jordan Lee).  Each podcast episode includes hilarious, entertaining and insightful stories from Earl's life growing up in L.A./Hollywood and trying to make it in the entertainment industry.  If you're at all interested in a real no-holds barred behind the scenes look at show business, this podcast is a must listen.  Interviews with Earl and actor/musician/Musicians Institute graduate (and frequent Inappropriate Earl guest) Jordan Lee coming soon.

Fizz Button Radio Show


Hello, my name is Andrew Jacobs and I was a writer/interviewer for Decibel Geek from 2012 until 2013.  I stopped writing/interviewing for DBG for, among other reasons, the death of my father in October of 2012.  I have decided to resume writing/interviewing for DBG for, among other reasons, my separation from my wife in 2014.  All throughout 2014, I came in contact with a number of people who helped me get through that absolutely awful time (by far the worst in my entire 44 years of life), many of whom have varying degrees of connections to the worlds of hard rock and heavy metal.  I will be doing both interviews with those people and articles on their respective projects, starting with the one below.

A little over two months after my wife and I first separated in March of 2014, an Australian gentleman named Danny Pinn asked me to be a guest DJ on his excellent Fizz Button Radio Show where people get to select 10 songs from 10 bands/artists that have had a significant impact on them.  These 10 songs and bands/artists would then each be played & discussed by Pinn and the guest DJ on the show.  Not only was this a very big deal for me as a longtime passionate music lover but it was also my first time on a radio show as well. I have included a list of the 10 songs that I selected below as well as the reasons why I selected those particular bands/artists.

10. Frank Zappa - "Titties & Beer" from Zappa In New York

Zappa is one of my two favorite recording artists of all time (the other will be revealed later) and "Titties & Beer" has the distinction of being the very first song that I ever became a fan of when I was around 9 years old in 1980 or 1981.

9. Done Dying - "Anthem" from Shelf Life

This is the only song from the current decade (2013 to be exact) to make it onto my playlist. And the reason why it's on here is because Dan O'Mahony, my favorite hardcore music frontman of all time (starting in early 1990 when I was 19 years old), is the frontman for Done Dying.

8. KISS - "Shout It Out Loud" from Destroyer

KISS is my favorite hard rock band of all time (though another hard rock band that is a very close second for me is also on this playlist) and has been since October 18, 1993. One of the main reasons why I chose "Shout It Out Loud" is because both Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons take lead vocals on it. It also has the distinction of being the very first KISS song that I can recall hearing when I was around 6 years old in 1977 or 1978.

7. Bill Cosby - "The Dentist" from Himself

Bill Cosby is my favorite comedian of all time and has been since I first saw his Himself stand up comedy performance film when I was 13 years old in 1983 or 1984. I used to mimic many of Cosby's bits from Himself at my junior high school and at my summer camp as a way of attempting to overcome my intense feelings of awkwardness that have plagued me my entire life.

6. Sex Pistols - "I Wanna Be Me" from The Best Of Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols were the very first band to become my favorite band when I was 15 years old during the summer of 1986. They are and always will be my favorite punk band of all time.

5. Beastie Boys - "3 The Hard Way" from To The 5 Boroughs

6 months or so after I became a Sex Pistols fan, I became a Beastie Boys fan (and a rap/hip hop fan in general) when I was 16 years old in early 1987. They are and always will be my favorite rap/hip hop band of all time. One of the main reasons why I chose "3 The Hard Way" is because LL Cool J, my favorite rap/hip hop solo artist of all time, is prominently featured in the sample in the chorus of the song. Additionally, this LL Cool J sample was also used in the Eazy-E song "Boyz N The Hood", which has the distinction of being the very first gangsta rap song that I both heard and purchased the 12" vinyl maxi single of a few months after I became a Beastie Boys fan in 1987.

4. Bratmobile - "And I Live In A Town Where The Boys Amputate Their Hearts" from The Real Janelle

Bratmobile is my favorite Riot Grrrl band of all time and their Pottymouth album from 1993 is my favorite Riot Grrrl album of all time. Bratmobile drummer Molly Neuman was also the drummer for The Frumpies, who are my second favorite Riot Grrrl band of all time.

3. Van Halen - "Sinner's Swing!" from Fair Warning

David Lee Roth-era Van Halen is my very close second favorite hard rock band of all time that I mentioned previously. Their 1981 album Fair Warning that "Sinner's Swing!" comes off of is also my favorite Van Halen album.

2. The Evens - "If It's Water" from The Evens

The Evens is a band from the 2000s featuring Amy Farina on vocals & drums and Ian MacKaye, one of my heroes from my teen years in the mid 1980s, on vocals & guitar. Their self-titled debut album from 2005 has the distinction of being my favorite album released in the 2000s and "If It's Water" is my favorite song off of that album.

1. The Beatles - "A Day In The Life" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles is my other favorite recording artist of all time that I mentioned previously. I've been listening to The Beatles since I was literally a baby in the very early 1970s (my parents were huge fans), so they've been a part of my life for all 44 years of it. One of the main reasons why I chose "A Day In The Life" is because both John Lennon and Paul McCartney take lead vocals on it.

Sarasin: Metal From The Hammer

What's this? A plain kraft paper envelope in my mailbox addressed to "The Meister"!  I slid the CD and the accompanying promo package out of the envelope.  The cover art was rather uninspiring, let me re-phrase that.  The drawing was quite intriguing, a serpent of sorts swallowing itself so that it's encircled in a ring, but what makes the cover unappealing is the for lack of a better description mustard brown hue that everything is tinted with, not a favorite colour of The Meister.  The back cover displayed a faded version of the serpent with the eight track titles imposed over it and the whole package came with a "Promotional Copy" sticker
affixed to the outside.  The included biography of Sarasin offered much more interesting fare to the Ole Meister.  It included phrases such as the opening paragraph: "If you are a classic heavy metal listener and have Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in your record collection (CHECK), it makes sense to give the new Sarasin CD a listen (OK, I WILL).  We haven't tried to re-invent the wheel (HONESTY AND HUMILITY), but we take great pride in paying homage to our heavy metal Gods with 9 songs (THE BACK OF THE CD SHOWS 8) that fit right into that genre without sounding plagiaristic." And a little farther down: "Sarasin has been around longer than we care to admit (LOL), and this has afforded us the luxury of playing every shithole in North America (OK YOU GOT A CHUCKLE OUT OF ME)."  "With the decline of everything good in life (AHHH....THE ONSET OF GRUNGE AND SEATTLE SCENE) it was clear that by the mid 90's, even if you had a record deal you were running out of places to play (SAD, BUT TRUE).  We've always had a loyal fan following based out of Hamilton, Ontario (NICKNAMED AS "THE HAMMER"), but if you're looking for an extensive Facebook following or super polished website, we apologize (MORE HONESTY).  Somehow putting a guitar down to jump on a computer or cell phone never had much appeal for any of us (MORE ON THIS POINT IN A SECOND)."  I really liked the underlying humility, honesty and sense of humor running through the bio and right away I was intrigued to check out Sarasin.  I loaded the CD into my computer as I do with every disc to add it to my digital library and then transfer to my MP3 player or cell phone for listening on the go.  What's this?  There's actually nine tracks, must be a misprint on the back of the CD.  A quick message via Facebook to Roger Banks (drummer and sender of the promo package) results in the correct track listing, but also in him offering me the job of manager since I'm the only one to proofread and catch the track listing error.....or was it a test of some sort?

Let's get to the tunes.  The band from Hamilton, Ontario open their self-titled Sarasin CD with "The Hammer".  This track captures my attention quickly and surprisingly it does not appear to be lyrically concerning their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario nicknamed "The Hammer".  Watch the interview video at the bottom of this review to find out what "The Hammer" is about lyrically. The track has a good, energetic pace with a delicious little solo and some strong vocals. The production seems to be a little dull and muddy, but that's just fine with me as I prefer a little character to my tunes.  Next up is "The Enemy Within" featuring a haunting beginning added to by the thunder & lightening in the background.  Before long the track opens up into a pounding grind for a song that has quickly become my favorite of the collection and has made its way onto my daily gym workout playlist along with "The Hammer".  "In Our Image" has a catchy bridge and chorus in this pace-changing composition for another solid track.  "Now" charges out of the gates and keeps things moving along nicely, with another memorable chorus adding to an already strong CD outing from Sarasin. Throughout the CD you can easily hear the band's previously stated influences of Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath while "Soul Invain" opens up another avenue displaying a little Alice In Chains style or feel to it.  The slower, chugging  pace of "SinkHole" appears next and was the track that was missing from the roster on the back of the disc. The moody and again slower paced track of "Live To See The Glory" follows.   The pace and energy ramp up again with the catchiness of "Forevermore" that seems to stay with you days after listening and things close well with "Wake Up" although it's another slower paced affair.

Not being a particular fan of the slower paced fare, I lost a little interest during "SinkHole" and "Live To See The Glory" or maybe I just have a short attention span. In either case, this is a great CD, with no real weak spots, just a few that outshine the rest. The compositions are strong and the musicianship solid throughout. A high recommendation from The Meister!

Sarasin drummer Roger Banks was kind enough to chat with me a little about the band and the latest Sarasin album. Listen to the highlights from our chat to find out what the song "The Hammer" is all about in the interview video below and check out the song.

(Sarasin Website) (Sarasin Facebook)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jack Russell Storyteller Live Acoustic Show at St. Croix Casino. February 19th. 2015


Jack Russell came to Saint Croix Casino in Turtle Lake, WI Thursday night bringing only his guitar player Robby Lochner and forgetting his tambourine.  A few hours after I received the what's, where's and when's about my sit down with Jack I got another call from Jack’s manager.  Apparently Jack’s tambourine didn’t make the flight.  And since ya probably don’t know, Turtle Lake, WI isn’t exactly close to a Guitar Center.  Catching me before I left I was more than happy to bring one.  I mean of course I had one right?


I'm Never Washing This Again
After a brief exchange at the hotel and the tambourine passing Jack’s inspection I headed for the Casino.  Once I entered the haze of the casino lobby I managed to make it to the concert hall without contracting emphysema.  The last time I’d seen Jack Russell perform was in the mid 90’s with his band Great White in support of their Sail Away record.  Much has been documented about Jack’s health and what the years of drug abuse has done to almost every aspect of his physical being.  I knew very little about his current band or these sort of one off acoustic shows.   I will say that Great White’s music and Jack’s voice definitely work well with the unplugged setting so if there was any trepidation on my part it was of whether Jack could pull it off after all these years and all that abuse.  From the few minutes I spent with Jack before the show I can tell you he was in a great mood and seemed pretty pumped. 


Jack approaches these shows like an episode of VH1 Storytellers.  Taking breaks before and after each song to share stories of the time or the song.  Telling a story and making it interesting or funny isn’t a given.  But Jack has either done this so much or is just a natural or both as he seamlessly talked his way between songs to tell us about Mark Kendall wiping his ass with Jack’s socks when they were out of toilet paper.  Those of you familiar with his interview with Chris and Aaron would know the story of shaking Gene Simmons' hand with a rubber foot.  And my favorite he talked about how for a band to survive, you may need to eat a band member once in a while to avoid starving.  He suggested eating the bass player first as they aren’t really musicians. 


He kept everything loose throughout the night.  Maybe just a little too loose as occasionally someone in the audience would interrupt him to tell him a jem like “I saw you open for KISS in 92’.” (No it wasn’t me.)  And another local told Jack a story that took so long other’s in the audience started heckling him.  At first I was surprised how drunk everyone was getting for such a laid back performance but then I remembered I was in Wisconsin and it was a weekday.  (That one’s for you Aaron Camaro.  Go Vikes!)  But Jack didn’t seem to mind why should I.  He spent more than a fair amount of time talking with the audience.  And even that dude who seemed to be giving Jack driving directions to his house in the country ended up getting us a treat as Jack and Robby played All Over Now on a whim.  A song Jack said they had never included in any of these acoustic sets.


The set list (see below) for the night covered every era of Great White.  The only thing I felt was left out was the song Sail Away.  But there were enough unexpected surprises to offset any disappointment I may have had.  Jacks voice was in top form.  Any moments that may have seemed off could be chalked up to performing live as he sounded stronger at the end of the night than at the beginning.  While he joked about it being “Fucking cold” outside he talked about how happy he was to be performing and it’s clear there’s nothing else he’d rather do. 


Playing just a bit over two hours, when I was speaking with Jack afterward, I was amazed at how up he still was.  (Maybe it was the four Red Bulls he drank but still!)  We talked a little about the new song Hard Habit which sadly isn’t a sign that an album is on the way.  With all the changes in the music industry Jack feels releasing songs one at a time makes more sense than investing emotionally, physically and financially into a full album. 


The show I had just seen was pretty polished musically.  Robby brilliantly finessed the line between adapting the songs to an acoustic setting while maintaining their original integrity and feel.  When I asked how the unplugged show came together Robby told me there were several songs he had to convince Jack he could arrange for the acoustic.  Most notably Rock Me.  Which even I was surprised at how well it was presented and was a highlight of the night.   


We talked a little about his former band.  But being I was interviewing him for part of my review of the show I focused mostly on what he’s doing now and nothing we did talk about hasn’t been covered before.  Other than that we talked about his current band.  He’s happy to be playing with people who don’t bring 30 years of history with them.  He didn’t mean that as a dig at his former band but as something he appreciates about his current situation.  And while they couldn’t confirm the rumored summer tour with Quiet Riot, Enuff Z Nuff and Tracii Guns they could confirm it’s being discussed.  I also found out he’s never been ice fishing and I didn’t get the vibe he was going to while in Sconny. 


On a final note.  During the show Jack dedicated the song Save All Your Love to his wife Heather as he emotionally explained that she is sick and things aren't looking too good.  It doesn’t sound like they know for sure what’s wrong but he did ask that we keep her in our prayers.  While I’m not much for prayer plenty are.  And as gracious as Jack was to me I feel I’d be remised if I didn’t pass along Jack’s request here.  All the best to Jack, his Wife and Jack Russell’s Great White.  I look forward to seeing the whole band and if you get a chance to see Jack and Robby in one of these acoustic shows you’d be an idiot to miss it.  



February 19th, 2015 Turtle Lake, WI. Set List

Call It Rock N Roll
Rolling Stoned
Down On Your Knees
Face The Day
Save All Your Love
Who’ll Stop The Rain (Credence cover)
In The Tradition
Hard Habit (New song)
Sister Mary
Old Man (Neil Young cover)
Rock Me
Going To California
All Over Now
Robbie Solo
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Jumpin Jack Flash

Jack and the Author

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