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Silversun Pickups: Yay or Nay?

Silversun Pickups' single "Panic Switch" has been getting a lot of airplay on The Edge.

I've always sort of thought of the band as non-mainstream pop, but clearly that characterization is being eroded. I still like Silversun, but I mentioned my fond feelings to some of my musically educated friends and they berated me for a half-hour. Soooo.... What do you think? Are these guys killer or filler?

Online Exclusive: The Metal Shakespeare Company

I knew Lord Simms before he became a pedlar of Shakespearean metal.

Back in the day, Simms was in an Albuquerque hardcore punk band called Question The Answers, or QTA as the kids called it. He has since moved to Portland (with the rest of Albuquerque) and is now charged with versification and axemanship for The Metal Shakespeare Company. The good Lord was kind enough to send me a letter with answers to my queries. The Metal Shakespeare Company plays Atomic Cantina on Friday, July 31 with Flood The Sun, Dead on Point 5 and Made in Bangladesh.

Where did the idea for The Metal Shakespeare Company sprout from?

'Twas a tiny metal seed, which when planted in a tavern and watered with ale, didst mature into a comely shrubbery. A companion of mine--a sculptor--didst offer the concept when while imbibing spirits I didst impart my desire to imitate the musick of Iron Maiden, though I feared it wouldst draw the mockery of mine cultured village if 'twere done not with a wink and a smile. So with this in mind, I didst one afternoon pass through the campus of Lewis & Clark College, whereupon mine ears were serenaded from a high dormitory window by an axeman most skilled. I didst follow the sound, and rap upon the door and meet a tall man with a beard and a Slayer headpiece, that selfsame Viceroy Matthew. Knowing him not, I was yet do so bold as to ask, "Sir, I intend to found a metal Shakespeare Company and couldst use an axeman as skilled as thee. What say you?" Whereupon a bond of bardcore was formed.

Do you think if Shakespeare had rocked-out a little more he could have broadened his audience?

Methinks had Shakespeare rocked the English language any harder, he might have transmogrified unto a purely steel form for so metal was his handling of our tongue.

What does your songwriting process look like?

Picture, if you will, a wizard riding a unicorn ejaculating rainbows. When first we began, 'twas not yet so glorious. Matthew didst forge our compositions whereupon I consulted the muses as to which scene woulst be the superior match and set the words thusly. Now, the musick is composed alongside the text. Thou shall see in our interpretation of the battle betwixt Tybalt, Romeo and Mercutio--in which the deaths of two of these are most heavily accentuated, the workings of our unicorn-mounted wizard.

Which Shakespearean works do you draw the most inspiration from?

Selections of three of the Scottish Play we perform. Methinks the "dagger of the mind" speech perhaps the most metal in all of Shakespeare (in fact, our full name is Lord Simms and H.R.M. Dagger of the Mind Metal Shakespeare Company). To be haunted by specters of weapons following a secret slaughter? Couldst easily have come from the mind of Sir Ronnie James Dio as from the bard's. We also perform the scene of the drunken porter, Shakespeare's love letter to alcohol.

I've known since your days in QTA that you were a big punk fan, but I never knew you were into metal. Has that always been the case?

Indeed, sir, in my youth, I was nourished by that simple frenzy, that base pleasure of punk. When I didst arrive for mine schooling at Lewis & Clark College, I was quickly acquainted with a man from the far off kingdom Bulgaria. In this kingdom, all musick was banned for many years by a tyrannical king. When his throne was seized, 'twas the late 1980s and the sounds of metal didst flood the Bulgarian plain it its celebration of liberty. This young man imparted unto me some of that spirit which the musick of Helloween, Merciful Fate, and of course that oft revered Priest and Maiden hold for him and his people. Thus, my palate shifted from that brass and bold punk to the shining steel of power metal most glorious.

How much play does the Metal Shakespeare Company get on any given night?

We are most fortunate when at a Shakespeare festival we perform, for then we may see an entire play following our performance. Otherwise, that play we see is that but we produce, typically some five or seven scenes.

Which of Shakespeare's characters do you identify most with?

What a fine question, sir! 'Tis one I've not pondered directly, for from moment to moment one may any of the bard's characters be. Methinks myself most oft King Lear's fool, one with a simple wisdom though powerless, led by madmen, and more want to entertain and by influence aid than to counsel directly.

When you were filming your music video, did you attract any curious onlookers?

Strangely, no. 'Twas a dark and ominous day. Thou canst see it little, but verily, the day on which we filmed Hamlet III.i, was, and this is fact, the wettest day in our village this year! 'Twas not by choice--it was the singular date that all the players could attend. Methinks this dark weather didst drive all from the campus of Lewis & Clark College but us. That, or the frequent falsetto screams.

What doesn't the video tell people about the band that you think they should know?

Much as the "to be or not to be" speech is Shakespeare's number one hit, our video doth put forth our most palatable personae. Other selections may be darker, heavier, more glorious and altogether more amazing, though less apt to remain with thee once thou hast them heard. And, of course, the video doth demonstrate our admiration of the bard but since in it we do not speak, it doth not us reveal as true bardolators.

Would you say Elizabethan-period garb is less gay, more gay or the same amount of gay as more traditional metal garb like spandex, makeup, women's clothing, etc.?

Methinks theater costumes always gay--since my youth I have found joy in dressing a part. And though we be a merry band indeed, perhaps the garb of the greats of the '80s is gayer than that which we wear, for 'tis brighter in colour, and for that, methinks it lifts the spirits more. We are mostly confined to the shades of the earth, though recently I have procured silver tights, but they are a magic item bestowed unto me and quite unusual.

Have you guys worked on learning much Elizabethan English?

Does not a theologian read Greek? Do not leaches cure disease? Do not all pupils know Latin? Does not the sun revolve around the Earth? Gracious, yes! From our lips pours the Queen's English, and by Queen, we mean not Freddie Mercury nor Hilary Clinton, but that luminous and golden-crowned Queen Elizabeth.

Why should people come to your show at Atomic Cantina?

Much like Shakespeare didst compete with bear baiting for audiences, so shall we do whatever is required to draw in our audience, away from the baser alternatives, even if those alternatives we must to a degree imitate. In short, I will wrestle thee if required to steal thee from the WWE or kiss thee, be thee man or woman, if it is romantic pursuits that confound thy evening plans. Whatever thou needst, we shall be it.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Yes! If Sir Frances Lord Bacon or the myriad others who attempt to rob the Bard of his rightful authorshippe read this, may they know their time is short. We shall come for them with the swiftness and ferocity of all the murders of Titus Andronicus combined!

Vast Exhaustion

I checked out the Vast show Wednesday at Launchpad.

After two songs, lead singer, founding member and reason Vast exists, Jon Crosby, stumbled off stage. His bandmates did their best to give the fans a show. They played an all-cover set that included couple Creedence Clearwater Revival songs and a Johnny Cash tune. They also continually gave the crowd updates on Crosby's condition, which never improved to the point where he could return.

Vast's merch people gave out free CDs to everyone who stayed to hear the headless version of the band. It wasn't a good show, but everyone who wasn't Crosby (including the band's roadies) tried their damnedest to entertain the paying audience. To be fair, Crosby probably tried pretty hard to give it a go, but his "illness" prevented him from giving fans what they came to see.

Yesterday, I got an email from Vast's PR person saying Crosby couldn't perform because of "exhaustion."

Last evening VAST lead singer Jon Crosby suffered exhaustion during the band's set at the Launch Pad in Albuquerque, NM. Dealing with extreme heat conditions and playing 36 shows in the last 39 days has taken its toll on the lead singer and founder of VAST. No information is available at this time regarding a re-scheduled appearance in NM.

Now, I'm not a doctor, but it seems strange that none of the other members of Vast were feeling the effects of a grueling tour schedule and intense heat. Also, the high temperature in Albuquerque on Wednesday was a scorching 83 degrees! You could fry an egg on the sidewalk, provided you fried it on a sidewalk that was somewhere much hotter than 83 degrees.

Hopefully Vast will reschedule and the bad taste in fans' mouths can be washed out.

sxsw: Blitzen Trapper

Slog My Flog Blog

Eric Earley of psychedelic indie rising star Blitzen Trapper answers a few questions while I drool on him.

SXSW: The Union Trade

Slog My Flog Blog

Don Joslin (darker, longer locks) and Nate Munger of space-rock outfit The Union Trade talk about being fans and performers at SXSW. Both members seemed amenable to coming to Albuquerque, so let's hope The Union Trade ends up at an Alibi-sponsored music event soon.

Jay Rock Interview

M.C. Jay Rock rode his silky smooth voice to the top. His machete-sharpened flows are littered with references to his experiences growing up in Watts, California’s Nickerson Gardens Projects which were embroiled in gang culture. Once The Game helped bring California back into the forefront of mainstream rap, Jay Rock stepped through the door the Compton M.C. opened. The rapper from humble beginnings is now signed to Warner Bros. Records and is in the midst of a nationwide tour supporting The Game. Before his show at the Convention Center last Saturday, March 7, Jay Rock called us up for an interview.

Your bio mentions that you plan to keep going until you reach the top. What does the top look like to you?

The top means success. It means I won’t have to worry about nothing and neither will my family and friends. That’s the top. I came from nothing growing up in the projects and it’s about making a way out. That’s why I always speak about it.

Can you talk about how The Game helped put California rap back on the map?

Shout out to him. He opened up the doors. It was always like you had Snoop and [Ice] Cube and the old cats. But with The Game, it was like here’s something new. He was one of the first people to take me on one of his tours.

What do you think kept California out of the spotlight?

We've always been there, we've just been overlooked. Ever since Pac passed it’s like the West has been overlooked. But now the West is coming man.

Can you talk about how your mom's preference for Soul music affected you?

I grew up on the oldies. As soon as I woke up, that's what I heard. Then when I step outside, I'm hearing the older cats like Pac, Scarface and Ice Cube.

In the same way The Game aided your success, do you feel your accomplishments will help others?

Yeah, definitely. Once a person gets up there, you don’t ever turn your back on the people that are behind you.

What’s your take on the hip-hop tendency to call women bitches?

Basically, a woman is how she carries herself. That's how I see it. You've got women that are independent and some women that are straight trifling. So it's really how you carry yourself.

Meet and Greet Atmosphere

Come get Atmosphere to shake your hand and kiss your baby. MC Slug and DJ Ant will be at L.A. Underground (2000 Central SE) at 5 p.m. before the group's show at the Convention Center at 7 p.m. The meet-and-greet is free, and tickets to the concert are $25 through Ticketmaster.


The Boy’s a Time Bomb

Two nights ago, a fire storm of punk rock mayhem rumbled through Albuquerque. At their concert on Tuesday at the Sunshine Theater, Rancid proved that even if punk isn't in the forefront of our musical consciousness, it can still leave an impression. The band played all its hits, from "Ruby Soho" and "Time Bomb," to "Radio" and "Roots Radical." I'm not a tremendous Rancid fan, but you have to admire a band that, after a decade, is still performing with so much intensity, it feels like their first gig ever.

The crowd yelled along to nearly all the songs, and any selection from Out Come the Wolves or Let's Go triggered a full-crowd mosh pit. Lead-singer Tim Armstrong, bass player Matt Freeman and guitarist Lars Frederiksen sound like they've smoked 14 million cigarettes between the three of them, but it doesn't mean they can't belt it out. Freeman is one of the best bass players I've ever seen, Frederiksen is the most underrated Rancid member, and Tim Armstrong is a pure rock star, with an unassuming swagger that oozes cool. It was a ton of fun, and I hope Rancid returns to promote its new album which comes out in September.

Strung Out

Strung Out

As reported in last week's Alibi, Simi Valley punk-metalers Strung Out played the Sunshine Theater last Tuesday in support of Pennywise. I've seen the band the last three times it's come to Albuquerque (always at the Launchpad), and going in I wondered if I'd walk away disappointed. What if the band is sick of playing its old songs? I thought. What if age has finally caught up to it after nearly two decades in the biz? Would coming as a supporting act instead of the headliner make the group attack the stage with less ferocity?

My doubts were squashed with the first spiraling riff of "Too Close to See" which opened the show. The band was as impassioned as ever. Strung out played more songs from their 1998 flagship release Twisted By Design than any other album, and it fought for the crowd's approval, rather than passively expecting it. Strung Out may not be a kid anymore, but its members still have the same juvenile enthusiasm that punk and metal have always thrived on.