by John M. Ellison IV
November 1st, 2009…it’s the day after Halloween; Catholics recognize it as All Saints Day but it’s also they day that the Afro-Punk Tour blew the roof off of “The Black Cat” in Washington, D.C. This tour is one of those events that will change your perspective on music. For those who aren’t aware of Afro-Punk, this is the time to explain. Afro-Punk originally started out as a documentary directed by James Spooner. The focus of the film was on the experiences of black people in punk and alternative rock bands and of people who are black and apart of the scene. The film gained rave reviews. This film also has a website that in some ways surpassed the success of the film. I’ve been a part of the website since 2003. In fact, it’s where I met who I affectionately call the missus and my partner in crime. Music lovers of the D.C. area flooded the notable venue!
The line curled around the block. With guerrilla marketing tactics promotion was by Afro-Punk members including myself. Thanks to these DIY marketing skills, true music lovers came out to support the likes of bands such as American Fangs, The Smyrk, CX Kidtronix/Krak Attak, Living Colour and Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust.
Since our long tenure with the site, the missus and I were offered tickets for the Washington, D.C. stop on the Afro-Punk tour. I ran into some of the D.C. members of Afro-Punk, such as fellow musician “PolariVibez”, photographer “W.M. Dekooning”, “C” and many others who although weren’t on the board, did fit the spirit of the site. It was a fun evening that included bands such as…
Well, the missus and I got to The Black Cat late so we missed American Fangs. But, we got there in time for The Smyrk. Regarding The Smyrk, they’re a strong live band, the lead singer’s voice was reminiscent of Patrick Stump of Fallout Boy (that’s not a jab; I really think Stump has a decent voice). The songs had an interesting theme. The songs made reference from various subjects, such when The Joker from Batman killed Jason Todd (the second Robin) to Jim Carey’s lead character from Liar, Liar. Also, they worked in “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G.
After the brief intermission, CX Kidtronix started his set. CX Kidtronix reminded me of Afrika Bambaataa if he evolved from electro to gabber. When CX is with Tchaka, they form the hip-hop electro-punk rap duo Krak Attak. The duo exuded great energy, after a 15 minute set.
In the midst of the intermission, I was interviewed by a young woman by the name of Whitney who was with Afro-Punk. We spoke and then I realized that she was interviewing me. Oddly enough I noticed she didn’t have a tape recorded or any kind of recording device…man, I hope she doesn’t take some of the stuff that I said out of context or not remember it accurately.
After the “conversation” between Polarivibez and I spoke briefly. The sound of guitar, drums and bass tuning up alerted us that Living Colour was getting ready to rock out. To get it out of the way, Living Colour started out with Cult of Personality and material from “Vivid”, “Time’s Up” Living Colour’s set was pretty good, even though there were a few tech errors. What seemed odd to me was the fact that Living Colour wasn’t the closing act. Go figure.
Well, the closer was Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust. I’m not going to lie, I see the playfulness of the name, but I’m not really feeling it. Aside from the name, three words describe the band live…GREAT FUCKING BAND. Niggy Tardust’s set was a mix of spoken word, industrial, glam, electronic and punk fury, Niggy Tardust featuring DJ CX Kidtronix on sampler and turntable, Davin on guitar, Kwame on keyboards and Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust on vocals.
The maniacal energy of this ensemble was something to experience. CX’s industrial samples work and Kwame’s low bass was reminiscent of “Gothic Crunk.” I didn’t know whether to brood or throw them ‘bows as they would say. Imagine, Ministry backing up Funkadelic, Sun Ra working with Nine Inch Nails…you get the idea. Aside from their original, the band also has covers in their repertoire, Tr(n)igger, a reworking of Welcome to the Terrordome by Public Enemy and their cover of Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2. I’m still speechless about this performance. Seriously, the album is amazing. BUY IT! If they’re coming to town, GET TICKETS!
by John M. Ellison IV
As I was flipping through the topics on my favorite site http://www.afropunk.com , A member from Richmond, VA posted up pictures of a very hairy, sweaty, handle bar mustached, vintage high school gym short clad rock band that shook The Plaza Bowl in Richmond, VA.
The band in question is Tel Aviv, Israel’s own Monotonix. According to their Myspace, Monotonix features the talents of Levi “Ha haziz”, Elvis on Vocals, Moshe Vegas on guitar and Bonanaza The Cat on drums. This mix of distorted, gritty and sludgy toned guitar, basic, get to the point drums, earnest vocals and playfully sleazy lyrics combined into something that I find infectious. Honestly, when I saw the pictures that were posted from the gig at The Plaza Bowl, I was thinking
“…wow, too much body hair and not enough gym shorts…no thanks!” But the energy that the band exuded in the pictures that were taken was something that I couldn’t ignore. I’m glad that I ignored my prior hesitation. On their Myspace page, Monotonix has five raw, 70’s matzo balls to the wall raw ,stoner rock/proto-punk material that can also be found on their albums “Body Language” EP and “Where Were You When It Happened?” LP. Here are a few songs that caught my interest.
Kind of a funky drum and guitar pattern that is reminscent of a funkier Black Sabbath kind of jam. Makes me want to learn the guitar parts.
As the drums kick in a march pattern and the guitar feedback compliments the kick, the formulatic riff and drum work. For DJs who want to throw something on that has a rock and roll feel but you can dance to. I’d recommend this.
“Summers and Autumns”
Kick ass riff with vocals that ooze attitude. Enough said
All and all, I see this band as a great riff-oriented hard rock band for whoever is feeling reminiscent of those heavy psychedelic hard rock jams of The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, some Rolling Stones and Kyuss.
If Monotonix is in town, be sure to check them out.
I’ve been listening to reggae on and off since I was five years old. I remember waiting around at the neighborhood barbershop and seeing the dreaded out guy with a guitar with this amazing voice. I asked my mom who it was. She told me it was Bob Marley. That seed was planted. I had a chance to see Third World when I was seven, but due to circumstances I wasn’t able to. Years later, I guess around 14 when I was getting focused on guitar and I saw an advertisement for the Bob Marley compilation “Legend.” When I saw that commercial, it was like being introduced to an old friend. It was “Hey Sketch! Remember your friend from Jamaica, Reggae? Well, he’s back in town and wants you to show him around.” Well, during my musical awakening. I was rummaging through my dad’s CD collection and I found a copy of Bob Marley’s Legend. Total coincidence.
Now to explain to the ignorant McNugget that doesn’t understand why I’m doing something on reggae/ska on a blog that’s main focus is punk rock. Okay, 4 piece, here’s the deal. In 1977, there were a lot of British punk bands who saw reggae as an influence on there music and/or found a musical kinship with the genre.
For example, Aswad played the British punk scene, the English Beat came from friends who noticed Ska and punk being played at a party and fused together to create “The Beat.” But, for legal reasons they toured under “The English Beat” in some countries, The Clash did a cover of the Junior Murvin classic “Police and Thieves.” I can go on about this, but, the main focus is my recommendation on albums and compilations you should pick up.
Legend is a greatest hits compilation of Bob Marley & the Wailers songs. A mix of songs that expressed love, political uprising, the struggles of people affected by African diaspora and many other topics that molded reggae into what it is now. It is the best selling reggae album of all time. In fact, it went diamond in the U.S.
Dub Reggae Essentials
When I was delving more into reggae and learning more about recording techniques. It was inevitable that I would discover dub reggae. So, I found a compilation called Dub Reggae Essentials. When I put it on my CD player, it was like looking into a parallel galaxy. But, with this galaxy, there were different planets called “dubs.”
These dubs were stripped down remixes that focused on the drum and bass of the original song. In some cases, it included a DJ toasting (toasting is like the Caribbean cousin of rapping) but was mainly instrumental. But, with the drum and bass, there were echoed remnants of guitar and keyboard chords, snare hits and whatever instrument that was prominent on the original song. This is a great primer for people that are interested in Dub. This includes mixes by Scientist, Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Mikey Dread and many more producers who are pioneers in remixing, electronica and recording techniques.
A basic primer that has the main artists of the reggae genre. It’s an equivalent to a cheap “how to draw cartoons” book that you would give to your niece or nephew to see if they like it in comparison to the more expensive book on cartooning that you would give them if they show interest and promise as an artist. Either way, an okay primer on pop-reggae, roots reggae, rocksteady and dancehall that contains cuts but Jimmy Cliff, Chaka Demus and Pliers (Pliers not Plies), Lord Creator and Dawn Penn.
Okay, this was what got me into Dancehall/Ragga. I was introduced to Red Rat, Wayne Wonder, Spragga Benz and the concept of riddims. Riddims (or as we would call ‘em “beats” stateside) are the drum and bass tracks that fuel ragga. Many DJs (or as we would call MC’s in the U.S.) toast or sing-jay over a riddim. There can be thousands of versions of one riddim. Sleng Teng, Diwali, Playground are only a few riddims that have hundreds of versions of them.
A Compilation of mostly mid-west Ska/Punk and third wave ska revival bands with cover artwork by my buddy Evan Dorkin. On this compilation, you have a buch of great stuff from bands like Mustard Plug, The Toasters, Johnny Socko and Gangster Fun to name a few. I loved this compilation.
by John M. Ellison IV
*Cue up the “24″ theme* Around 9:30 pm Friday night sept. 11th 2009. My dad’s longtime friend and co-hort Ernie mentioned that legendary rock band Living Colour was going to be in the area doing a gig. Since the Missus was at the computer, I asked her to look up Living Colour in Maryland. She found their Myspace page and it mentioned that they were going to be at Ram’s Head Tavern in Annapolis, MD. Being the “anti-social” recluse I can be at times, I don’t go to shows that often. But, for Living Colour, I had to put my neurosis aside and see if I could get to this show. This was a situation that I wouldn’t regret. The show was nearly sold out; there were only 6 tickets left after the Missus and I got ours.
We arrived at Ram’s Head Tavern around 7:30 PM. For those who haven’t been to Ram’s Head Tavern, Ram’s Head has an intimate, assigned seating, dinner and a show format setup. Which, is quite different from the more contemporary standing room, “prepare to mosh and skank” atmosphere a la CBGBs and most other venues. We found our table and ordered dinner. While checking out our surrounding, I noticed a lot of Curtis Mayfield playing throughout the P.A. system. There was a diverse crowd of people which included old school Black rockers wearing Jimi Hendrix tees, a lot of folks looking to be “yuppies” and guys wearing “Harley Davidson” T-shirts, but who didn’t exactly scream biker. My first thought was “…Are these guys regulars here?” and “Do they know what’s in store for them?” But, listening closer, I heard one of the “yuppies” praising the fusion of genres by bands such as Fishbone and Living Colour. Another couple sat down at the table next to the Missus and I. I asked them, “Excuse me, are you two here often?” however, like us, it was their first time at Ram’s Head as well. Also, later on during one of the interludes, Also, Corey made a reference to the “dinner and a show” format by jokingly referring to the performance as “Dinner Metal”
I didn’t get there name’s so we’ll just call them “Brad” and “Lisa.” “Brad” was this dude that looked like he was about business…but, when it came to kickin’ out the jams, he knew how to kick back when needed. In fact, during the night, the more he drank he talked of business deals to “Lisa.” But we spoke and I was impressed by his knowledge of Living Colour and even liked Corey’s R&B album. I then realized that those “yuppies” that surrounded me were here for the band. They weren’t in the wrong place getting “shit faced.”
I committed one of the cardinal sins in music, I judged on looks instead of character. Something that we have to quit doing.
At 8:28, The band walked onto the stage, the crowd cheered until it was a distorted mass. Corey does a quick rap to the audience and to add to the “fusion” theme, an animated psychedelic image was projected throughout the show. The band opened with “Desperate People”, which blasted from the gate thrash, and went into a heavy groove that’s made for moshing or for the dance floor. Along with Vernon’s virtuoso guitar playing, and Will and Doug’s sporadic blasts of fusion drum and bass virtuosity throughout the song, made this live version mind blowing.
The band seamlessly segued into “Type”, which transformed from a rocker into a psychedelic dub/fusion jam with Corey Glover sounding like Eddy Grant.
It was a heavy swinging rendition of “Ignorance is Bliss” with a blast of Thrash and old school Gospel.
Corey then started a call and response chant with him saying “Everybody!” The audience replied “Everybody!” and when the crowd was enough into the groove, they went into there “Bi.” For those who don’t know, “Bi” is a funky ode to bi sexuality, but the coolest part of this performance was when the crowd popped in applause and cheering for this awesome guitar soloing. At further notice, I realized this soloing wasn’t the six string fret work of Vernon Reid, but it was Doug Wimbush shredding on bass and walking through the audience exhibiting his skill!
As the rest of the band took five, Will Calhoun got to do a set that exhibited his furious drum chops that were reminiscent of Billy Cobham. Throughout the set, Vernon set up some “four to the floor” techno drum loops off his laptop. So, you had Will just blasting away these splinter inducing poly rhythms that sounded like a machine gun and was just as intense as said weapon.
The set up kind of reminded me of The Black Page No. 2 off of “Zappa in New York.” Along with the techno drum loop, Doug’s drum sticks had these neon flashing lights in them that gave him the, as I call it, “Funky Raver” look. At the rate of speed of Calhoun’s drumming, all you could see was a neon blur and the sound of Doug beating the drums like it owed him money!
Then, the drumming was complimented by synth pads, and it segued into the touching “Letter to the Landlord.” While Corey was doing this long sentimental “takin’ it to chuch” vocal dexterity, Corey’s vocals were almost unearthly. In the breakdown, the audience was singing, and we felt like we were sharing one consciousness and better off for it.
After playing the classics of there repertoire, Corey was talking about the new album “Chair In The Doorway.” As a treat, instead of playing a few cuts off of it, they played the album entirety for us. For those who haven’t heard it, the album has a grimier texture, a bit darker, but still melodic. It sounded like a mash up of 70’s Black Sabbath and Funkadelic, produced by Trent Reznor.
Behind the Sun
Out of Mind
After the album, there’s a clip of a politician was making a speech being played. By the time the audience realized what it was, the band breaks into the classic “Cult of Personality.” To describe how the audience reacted, saying “they went crazy” would be an understatement. The audience went batshit psycho! Everyone got out of there chairs and started jamming out. They ended the show with the appropriate cover of The Clash‘s classic “Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?” The guys jammed on it, in an A/B pattern of Funky, Thrashing, Funky, Thrashing and a nu-metal-ish breakdown. Afterwards, they announced that you could buy the album at the merchandise table and they were signing autographs as well.
Without hesitating, the missus and I made it to the line. While waiting to get an autograph, a few attendees and people that worked with the band noticed and complimented me on my Afro-Punk shirt that I was proudly wearing for this event. For those who don’t know, Afro-Punk is a documentary that was released in 2003 that interviewed Afro-Americans in the punk scene. Afro-Punk also has a website, that really has grown into a phenomenon of it’s own. Some of those who noticed my shirt had seen the movie and after many compliments I mentioned that I was a prominent member of the board. There were those who didn’t know exactly what Afro-Punk was about, so I answered some questions about the site.
Then, I had the chance to get a photo and an autograph with the band. Totally moment of truth. After the traditional exchange of “hellos” Vernon proceeded to sign my notebook. As Vernon was signing my notebook, I mentioned to Vernon that we have a few mutual friends, such as my dad was really good friends Greg Tate co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition (which Vernon is also the co-founder of), My dad and Greg were in high school together and saw Miles Davis live. I also mentioned, I’m close with Boston Fielder of Muthawit and the popular UrbAlt festival.
There was so much I wanted to say to everyone. But, out of consideration to the other fans that were waiting in line, I kept it brief. I said what I wanted to say and the missus and I headed back home. Bottom line, Living Colour restored my faith in music.
With an awesome rhythm section featuring “Bilal” on Bass, “Craig” on Drums, “Lenwood” on Guitar “Vito” on Drums/Vocals and Zoser on lead vocals. When together as AMUL9, these five virtuosos are a forced to be reckoned with.
AMUL9 is a band from Atlanta,GA that’s fuses social, political, racial issues with thrashing guitars, echo-y vocals, thick bass lines and drums that knock the paint off of walls. All of this is a style AMUL9 calls Nuwb Rock.
With a starting at the line gate guitar work, the band kicks in with a drum, bass and guitar hit that knocks you with a mosh ready riff. You have Zoser’s spoken word vocals dropping knowledge with a voice tone that’s reminiscent of Chuck D and George Clinton (on Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” check out P.E. Squad for what I mean.)
Execution of a Coward
Some more great guitar work by Lenwood. A great thrash number.
A Funk-Metal track done right. A song that talks about what everyone grew up listening to. A good balance of “Bilal” and “Craig” on bass and drums respectively.
To re-iterate, AMUL9 truly are a melding of there influences. AMUL9 is a great mixture of smart lyrics, guttural growls, hard and heavy riffs, slightly echoed vocals and great drum and bass work. Well? What are you waiting for? Check out there music!
Eddie Hazel, A Primer on How to Blow the Roof Off
What can said be about Eddie Hazel that hasn’t been already said before? This man was a living legend, a man to carry the torch that Jimi Hendrix lit, pioneer of the Funk-Metal fusion sound that laid the ground that many were influenced by and not even realized it. Many Funkateers and guitar players who know the real deal, know about Eddie Hazel, but, there are a good amount who should know. Like Spacey T said in the black rock documentary “Electric Purgatory: The Fate of the Black Rocker”, “Nobody talks about my man Eddie Hazel.“ For those who are familiar but not aware of the genius of Eddie Hazel this is the article for you.
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1950 as Edward Earl Hazel, Eddie grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey because his mother, Grace Cook, didn’t want her son growing up in an environment without the drugs and crime that she felt was prominent in New York City. Hazel was given a guitar as a Christmas gift by his older brother. At 12, Eddie became friends with the person to be known as Billy “Bass” Nelson. Both Eddie and Billy sung and played guitar and soon added drummer Harvey McGee to the mix.
In 1967, The Parliaments, a Plainfield-based doo wop group headed by George Clinton, had a hit record with “(I Wanna) Testify.” On this tour, Clinton recruited a backing band, hiring Billy “Bass” Nelson on bass. Billy recommended Hazel for the guitar position. But, due to Hazel working with George Blackwell in Newark, New Jersey. After Nelson returned from touring, he tried to recruit Hazel. Naturally, Eddie Hazel’s mother vetoed the idea of Eddie playing since Hazel was only seventeen at the time. But, Clinton and Nelson changed her mind and let Eddie join the band.
In late ‘67, The Parliaments went on tour with both Nelson and Hazel. In Philadelphia, Pa, Hazel met and befriended Tiki Fullwood, who replaced the Parliaments drummer. With this, Nelson, Hazel and Fullwood evolved from the backing band of the Parliaments to the backbone of Funkadelic. The familiar Doo-Wop sound of the Parliaments quickly began developing into the soul-inflicted hard rock of Funkadelic, Funkadelic was influenced as much by Frankie Lymon as much as Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of Tawl Ross on rhythm guitar and Bernie Worrell on keys, Funkadelic was born.
Now that you’re aware of the basic origins of Eddie Hazel and Funkadelic, I’m going to start off with the first three Funkadelic albums. Remember, this isn’t the definitive Eddie Hazel discography by any means whatsoever. But with these three albums, this should give you a glimpse on the underrated guitar genius of Eddie Hazel.
A phenomenal album recorded in Detroit with contributions from the Motown house band “The Funk Bros.” This album needs a review of all of it’s own. but, in this case we’re going to focus on Eddie Hazel‘s best moments on this phenomenal album.
“I Bet You”
This track asserts itself as a soulful jam that begins with a drum break from Tiki Fulwood and a funky opening riff by Eddie. But as the songs develops, some keyboards and spacey synthesizer action and at 2:07 Eddie’s guitar solo “hits the scene” and brings it on home. The tracks breaks down into a juxtaposition of a science fiction soundtrack, Eddie’s fuzzed out guitar but anchored by the earthy sounds.
“Music For My Mother”
“Music For My Mother” gives you a down home southern feel that they refer to as “way back yonder funk.” A track that builds into a call and response with driving drums by Brad Innis and some tasteful licks from Eddie. In this case, Music For My Mother has a grounded feel in the midst of the afro-science fiction funk that’s common throughout the album.
“Good Old Music”
Good Old Music lives up to it‘s name. Eddie Hazel is playing a fuzzed out guitar solo that throughout the song, sews the rhythm section together. In the grand scheme of things, Eddie’s sharp fuzzed out tone is reminiscent of audio embroidery. With Eddie’s soloing he created an audio equivalent of needlepoint that sewed together an already great rhythm section.
“Qualify and Satisfy”
“Qualify and Satisfy” is a down and dirty blues number with suggestive lyrics sung by Calvin Simon. What first starts off as a “gut bucket” blues number develops into a spacey funk jam. Eddie Hazel’s greasy blues licks that develops from a satisfying greasy blues guitar solo into an echoed, fuzzed out call to the cosmos.
Thanks to the contributions of Dennis Coffey, Earl Van Dyke and other members of the Motown records house band The Funk Bros., this self titled debut was a juxtaposition of screeching Post-Hendrix, Proto-Heavy Metal guitar licks and the “Motown” sound.
“Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow”
The way this album was mixed, the output of the album has this primal crunchy distorted sound that gives you the feeling of pandemonium but still controlled. There have been various legends of George Clinton’s intention regarding this album. One legend is, George Clinton wanted to see if you can record an album on acid and the other legend is that George Clinton wanted to emulate the feeling of an acid trip on a record.
“Free Your Mind…”
The title song kicks off with a mix of fuzzed out guitars, weird chants, synthesizer madness that urges you to elevate your mind from the shackles of yourself to a higher conscious. In this song, Eddie rips a heavy fuzzed out guitar solo that just weaves through out the song like the intricate needlework on a “coat of arms“.
A loud, kick to the face to an all around crunchy track with drums by Tiki Fulwood, bass by Billy Nelson, organ by Bernie Worrell and rhythm guitar by Tawl Ross and lead work by Eddie Hazel. Like Good Old Music, Friday Night is a loud jam with proto-metal lead work by Eddie Hazel that sounds like a contemporary to Black Sabbath guitarist, Tony Iommi. Amidst the chaos of this free for all, the song ends on a jazzy outro.
“Funky Dollar Bill”
With the band getting across the message of the potential evil that money can buy. A shining moment for not just Eddie Hazel but the band as an entity.
“I Wanna know if it’s Good To You”
“I Wanna Know…“ is a great example of controlled chaos, this is a psychedelic gut bucket R&B tune, the best way to describe it is, soul food fried in LSD. Although as humans, the band are separate entities but, it sounds as if they’re fused together sharing one spiritual entity playing as one. The complimentary licks of Eddie Hazel’s guitar amidst the band sound like racing thoughts that make you break out in a sweat. This song is taken home by a mammoth solo by Eddie Hazel that gives you the feeling of going through time and space.
This album is full of amazing guitar work by Eddie, but, I’m going to focus on the title track and “Super Stupid” due to there cultural significance.
What can you say about this 10 minute epic that hasn’t been said before? I remember, getting into a disagreement with a friend of mine once because they felt this song was a rip off of “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. Trouble is “The Wall” was released in 1979, meanwhile Maggot Brain was released in 1971. So unless, Eddie traveled in time to get that “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” vibe, I think it’s safe to say after listening to “Maggot Brain“, time travel is possible.
If anyone tells you that black people don’t play rock, get that guy and crank this jam to the highest volume until there hair stands on end like an anime character and there eyes pop out like a cartoon! Eddie rips this track like cheese to a grater! With a quick guitar sketching that is merely a call to the gates, the song breaks into the no nonsense opening riff that’s the audio equivalent to a punch to the face! Words can’t describe this classic head banger, do yourself a favor and listen for yourself.
To reiterate, these three albums are just phenomenal examples of an underrated guitar genius and troubled soul but also the bricks on the road me know as modern rock. If you’re looking to get into the origins of “Funk-Rock”, “Groove Metal“, “Nu-Metal” “Rap-Metal” etc. Funkadelic is one of those definitive bands along with Mother’s Finest, Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and countless others to pioneer the sound. Remember this, you can’t known where you’ve been if you don’t know how far you’ve gone.
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