First Posted: 7/7/2013
Metal and punk may both originate from the same rock ‘n’ roll roots, but in a matter of days, both will climb Montage Mountain in a figurative battle for superiority.
While they’re not directly competing, the tours are scheduled just days apart in Scranton this year, so not every alternative music fan will make it to both shows. So which is more worthy of your entertainment buck? Warped Tour has more bands, but the Mayhem Festival allows longer sets. Mayhem offers a bigger show at night, but Warped lets you get closer to the action for less cash.
Rather than decide which is better, The Weekender let the bands speak for themselves, interviewing Rob Zombie and Job for a Cowboy from Mayhem and Hawthorne Heights and Motion City Soundtrack from Warped. Who do you want to see? The answer may be within these pages.
Editor’s note: We’d like to extend a special thanks to Nick Necro of The Curse of Sorrow and Karyn Montigney of Badtown Rude for representing metalheads and punks so faithfully on our cover. Both belong to great local bands that you may see on major tours like these one day, so check them out while they’re still in Northeast Pennsylvania!
The last time Rob Zombie visited Scranton, he couldn’t help but notice what big fans of “The Office” its citizens are.
As it turns out, he’s a fan as well.
“I remember last time going to the mall and seeing Dunder Mifflin t-shirts,” Zombie told The Weekender.
“The show’s incredible. My friend, who was in my first movie, Rainn Wilson, plays Dwight Schrute, so yeah, I think the show is incredible. I only went down to the set once and I was watching them film, and it was just amazing to watch because every take, Steve Carell would do it different. He’s so funny.”
The heavy metal rocker and horror film writer/director, born Robert Cummings, may seem like an unlikely fan of the NBC comedy, but he has never adapted his tastes – or his work – to fit other’s expectations, especially his latest film, “The Lords of Salem.”
“Even way before it came out when I was just making it, I knew it was going to be very polarizing. It’s that type of movie where I knew it was going to break into two camps – people that just think it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen or people that are just like, ‘I don’t get it. I hate this movie,’ which is pretty much, for the most part, with the type of stuff that I like; that’s the way it breaks down,” he explained.
“I’m not a big fan of just sort of mass marketed stuff. Whenever there’s a movie that’s grossed a billion dollars and everyone’s like, ‘This is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen,’ and I go see it, I go, ‘This sucks. I hate this.’ I’ve always liked more off-kilter things that weren’t what the mainstream was, but the funny thing with that movie is that out of all my movies as far as just reviews, it’s the best reviewed movie I ever had. It’s the only movie I’ve ever had that got good reviews in the New York Times and Chicago Times and LA Times. I was like, ‘Jeez,’ so I don’t know.”
He also wrote a novelization of the film that became a New York Times Bestseller, a rare feat for a first-time author.
“The script came first and the book came after the script. I never did that before. I may do it again. I’ve actually gotten offers to do that again, but yeah, I never even thought about doing that before. The reason I really did it was just to try and get more money to fund back into the movie because the budget of the movie was so small,” he noted.
“The next film I’m doing is a movie called ‘The Broad Street Bullies,’ and it’s a true life story of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s winning the Stanley Cup, but right now, while I’m on tour, we’re just putting together the financing and structure of the film so that when we get to the preproduction, we can start going. It takes so much to get movies made. It’s so hard to get them made; it doesn’t matter what the budget is. Every year you think it’s going to be easier because you’ve got more under your belt, and I swear every year it gets harder and harder.
“Getting a record made? Easy. Getting a movie made? Almost impossible.”
He still continues to balance both passions, however, and sometimes combines them. Releasing his new record, “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” in April, he also directed the music video for the first single, “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown.”
“When you finish a record, you sort of just poll the audience – and by the audience I mean whoever’s around you – and that seemed to be the one song that everybody could agree on that made sense. Picking a single for a record is always tricky because it never seems like it represents the rest of the record very well. You’re always giving the wrong impression, but we went with that one. It seemed to work good. It was our biggest song on the radio in a long, long time, so it was great,” Zombie said of the track.
His spontaneous inspiration and writing process has obviously served him well over the years, from White Zombie to his solo career.
“The first thing is the music comes first. I don’t sit down; it’s not like I keep books of lyrics or poetry or something like that because when there’s no sound, I just don’t even think about it. But as soon as we start making and working on a record and little riffs and different things start materializing, then phrases and things will come into my mind and I’ll just kind of keep a running list of them and eventually, somehow it all becomes a song. And then it becomes an album, but in the early stages, boy, it really seems like it’s never going to work,” he described.
“I’m always in a different space. Sometimes if I hear an old record, I literally will think, ‘Boy, I wonder what I was thinking about then,’ like I don’t even remember. You change so much; that’s why I think it’s funny when fans want things to stay the same because how could it, you know? You can’t write the same things for 30 straight years.
“In some ways, I will at times go back and rediscover music I used to really love or still do love but just haven’t listened to in a long time, and sometimes that’ll be inspirational. It kind of comes from anywhere.”
For those who saw him perform last year at the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, he promises an even more elaborate concert this time around.
“We try to make the show different always. This show is much bigger; this is by far the biggest production I’ve ever taken out on the road – the biggest production with the most pyro, the most video, the most giant robots and effects. The set list is different. Pretty much everything is different. There’s old favorite moments that we keep in the show because you sort of have to as time goes on, but different,” Zombie said.
“The (Mayhem shows) are great. They’ve been fantastic. They are brutal because we’re in Phoenix right now and last night, at midnight, it was still 101 degrees outside. They’re brutal for me, but I also feel bad for the crowd because they’ve been standing in deadly temperatures for 10 hours by the time we hit the stage, but other than that, it’s pretty awesome.”
As his performances continue to evolve, so does his presentation. For 15 nights in October through November, Zombie is launching the Great American Nightmare, a festival combining live music with undead entertainment.
“Great American Nightmare is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” he emphasized. “It’s a two-week Halloween event where every night is different. There’s three giant haunted houses, there’s wrestling going on, there’s car shows – it’s kind of like this giant Halloween pavilion. And every night there’s different bands playing. I’m going to close the night on November 2nd, but one night is all punk rock bands, one night is all electronic dance bands, one night is something else. It’s always different, so it’s not like you have to be a fan of me particularly to go. It’s sort of like a giant Halloween extravaganza.”
With all this added to his résumé, what’s left for him to tackle?
“I haven’t really being doing a lot of TV stuff, so we have some things in the works developing some TV shows that are too early to talk about, but that’s probably one of the main things brewing in the background,” he shared.
Something along the lines of “The Office?”
“No, even though that would be great,” he responded with a laugh.
A new Job
Job for a Cowboy may have played the Mayhem Festival in 2009, but death metal fans will be seeing a much different group this time around.
As bassist Nick Schendzielos’ other band, grindcore act Cephalic Carnage, started winding down its touring schedule, he worked as a session musician, eventually meeting Job for a Cowboy drummer Jon Rice and hitting it off, joining the band when its bassist “walked off in the middle of a tour.” Guitarist Tony Sannicandro also joined around the same time, both adding fresh musical perspective to the group.
“Right off the bat, that’s kind of what we wanted to do with the (2011) EP (“Gloom”), was just to see how all the musicians gelled together. Tony has got a real old school death metal feel, even though he was 21 at the time…so him and (guitarist) Al (Glassman) just kind of fleshed out the riffs and we went into the studio. They were really cool with me. They were like, ‘Hey, play whatever you want. Play whatever bass lines you want,’ so I kind of got freedom to do whatever I wanted, and it seemed to gel pretty well,” Schendzielos explained.
“It was actually some of the more challenging stuff because Cephalic Carnage is mixed up quite a bit to the point where we will have blues riffs, Black Sabbath-style riffs or even jazz parts… (Job for a Cowboy) is really fast a lot of the time, so it was a little bit of a challenge actually picking that stuff up, but pretty natural, pretty seamless. Death metal is kind of the umbrella that all this stuff lives under, so I think after you pick up the general concept of how fast some of these riffs go by, then you can kind of adapt yourself to other people’s stylings.”
With Sannicandro and Glassman living in Boston and the rest of the band spread out across several states, the pair laid the groundwork for Cowboy’s next full-length and shared the results digitally, allowing the other members to send back their input.
“It worked out really well. I think all the styles work together pretty fluently between all of us. It’s definitely a different Job for a Cowboy then the (debut) “Doom” EP, I’ll say that,” Schendzielos noted.
“We knew we wanted to do stuff that’s a little more technical… Once you decide the general direction you want to go, then you start to kind of write riffs towards that. Then after everything’s kind of compiled together and we have the songs and we go into the studio and flesh them out, that’s when (vocalist) Jonny (Davy) will take the concepts that he’s had (and apply them).”
The result was 2012’s “Demonocracy,” a record that reflects the chaotic world it was created in.
“(Davy is) very influenced by current events in the media, world events, conspiracy-type stuff, shadow government stuff – the WikiLeaks thing was one of the songs. There’s a guy named Sheriff Joe Arpaio down in Arizona that inspired him to write a song called ‘The Deity Misconception.’ ‘Tarnished Gluttony’ is about the monopoly Big Oil has over energy, which pretty much controls the world. ‘Tongueless and Bound’ is about police brutality, where this guy was handcuffed and begging for mercy and they essentially shot him anyway. That type of stuff,” Schendzielos described.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a concept record, although the title of ‘Demonocracy’ kind of does give an umbrella for all of the topics to live under, so to speak… There’s one person holding the strings and a very small group of financial elite making the decisions that control our everyday lives.”
While brutal in its delivery, it’s also not as directly political as one might expect, and certainly not typical to the genre.
“It’s not like it’s as in your face as Rage Against the Machine, so there’s still parts in his lyrics with a little bit of opacity. It’s not 100 percent transparent what the songs are about,” he said.
“But I don’t think there would be any fear of doing that either. I guess death metal has got this kind of stigma attached to it that everything’s got to be about blood and guts or zombies or mummies or Satan or any of the typical cliché stuff that you would think when you hear that style of music. I’ve always admired bands like Napalm Death and Misery Index and old Dying Fetus where you’re not afraid to talk about the real evils that do exist. There really is messed up s—t going on in the world that you don’t have to make up fake stuff.”
While musically different, the reaction from the fans, overall, has been “very positive.”
“We do get some backlash from the fans of the very old material who want us to just recreate that old material over and over and over again,” he acknowledged. “We’re super happy. We’re glad people like it. It’s not that it’s one style – it’s very diverse. There’s super slow stuff on the record, there’s gloomy stuff, there’s very technical stuff, there’s moody parts, so I think there’s kind of something for everybody. We’re very pleased with the response that we’ve gotten.”
It’s a reaction that Job for a Cowboy may not have received years ago, but Schendzielos, who also runs his own bass/comedy YouTube channel (youtube.com/bassfordays), believes that death metal has come a long way worldwide.
“If you look at the Billboard charts, if they are still an indicator of anything, you have bands like Between the Buried and Me and Meshuggah breaking Top 20… It’s pretty cool. I think it’s finally made its way into acceptance. At least from a technical standpoint, people can at least listen to it and appreciate the level of musicianship it takes to play it,” he pointed out.
“I can easily say this is the coolest and most prestigious tour I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of – just huge crowds every day and a massive level of organization going into it. It’s really cool to watch it all go up. They’ve got the Metal Mulisha guys over there doing back flip can-cans on their motorcycles. I’ve always loved motocross stuff, too, and I’m touring with bands I grew up listening to, hearing songs that I used to sing when I was 13 years old. It’s really, really, really cool. I’m very, very grateful.”
Hawthorne Heights recently took home the Vans Warped Tour/T.J. Martell Foundation Bowling Tournament championship trophy, but drummer Eron Bucciarelli was quick to acknowledge that the post-hardcore group isn’t made up of avid bowlers.
“Not at all,” Bucciarelli insisted with a laugh.
“I think we just happened to be better than everybody else that night. My theory is that none of us drank that night, and therefore, we were a little bit more accurate with all of our throws.”
They’re also a bit too busy to practice their hook throws, returning to Warped Tour for their third year in 2013.
“On a tour like Warped Tour, all your off-days are spent driving pretty much. You don’t get a lot of real downtime. We actually had two days off between Dayton and Indianapolis, and since Dayton, Ohio is about two hours from Indianapolis, we just drove all the way through the night after our Denver show and got home and saw our families, which was much needed,” Bucciarelli noted.
“We just like to relax on our days off. We’re not all-night partiers or anything. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the best interview.”
It’s this type of honesty, however, that fans have come to appreciate in Hawthorne Heights’ music, and if they want to dig, Bucciarelli says there’s plenty to find.
“We’re trying to create music that sort of moves you on a deeper level. We’ve got something about it that’s infectious. We all like a variety of different music styles, and ultimately, everything we like and gravitate to has some kind of hook in it, so we’re just attempting to create some kind of hook that draws the listener in, be it a musical or lyrical hook.”
On their latest album, “Zero,” the quintet have crafted a storyline involving a dystopian future desolated by war, inspired by current events.
“We were attempting to create something that was a little bit bigger and more grandiose than we had done in the past. Before, it’s always been, ‘All right, here’s a bunch of songs that were the best group of songs that we were able to write during that given period of time, so let’s record them and throw them out there.’ This time around, we obviously went for the concept album and tried to connect things both musically and lyrically. We were just at a point in our career that we wanted to do something more than we had done in the past. It seemed like doing the same old thing would have been creatively boring to us,” he emphasized.
“I hope people really enjoy the songs, and if they want to dig deeper into the concept and get into that, great. I think there’re a lot of parallels in the concept to what’s sort of going on around us nowadays – we see it in the news every single day. And maybe it’s sort of a warning for people.
“Be mindful of government, and not necessarily fear it outright – I’m not saying, ‘Everybody, let’s go hole up in some cave in Wyoming,’ or anything. I think there needs to be this checks and balances between government in order for it to be effective, and I think we’ve seen over the last two presidencies a lot of those checks and balances be stripped away, unfortunately.”
These fresh but not too “overly political” tunes will be mixed in with old favorites in their current Warped Tour set, which, at least for Bucciarelli, may not top their first in 2005.
“2005 was really exciting because we were sort of peaking at that moment – starting to peak, I should say – as were several other bands on the tour. It was sort of exciting. There was definitely a real excitement in the air backstage with all the other bands that were going through the same explosion of popularity, and as a result, I think that year was the most widely attended Warped Tour ever; it even still stands now, I think. That was a blast to finally be a part of something that we had gone to see as kids. It was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of a dream come true moment,’ where we walk out onto the main stage of Warped Tour,” he remembered vividly.
“The first day happened to be in Columbus, Ohio, so it was essentially a hometown show for us. All of a sudden, we’re actually the ones performing at Warped Tour.
“I don’t think we’ll ever experience that kind of thrill or excitement in a tour ever again.”
Keeping the momentum from their new album going, Hawthorne Heights will tour the country again after Warped before going overseas, though spending the better part of two years on the road takes on a different meaning for the drummer these days, who still dreams of playing on Saturday Night Live and headlining arena tours.
“It’s tougher now. I have a daughter and she’s three and a half, and she understands that I’m gone and she doesn’t like it. That’s heart-wrenching to me. Right now, I guess I’m justifying it by saying, ‘Well, if I do this and if it works out, then maybe I’ll be able to provide a better life for her eventually,’ on top of the more selfish reason that I actually really like playing music and I don’t know that I could see myself not being involved in music in some capacity,” he related.
“So it is tough, but hopefully it’s worth it in the end.”
Both Matt Taylor’s father and grandfather played guitar, so maybe it was inevitable that the Motion City Soundtrack bassist would get a taste for performing live music when he first saw his grandfather’s country band.
“I remember going to see them when I was a kid. That’s like my first memory of live music, was witnessing my grandfather and his band play and then just seeing how the crowd responded to live music. That was the first time I ever experienced that type of energy from a crowd, so I think that had a huge impact on me at an early age,” Taylor recalled.
From Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to glam rock, his tastes shifted from pop to rock as a teen before playing in the “quirky” post-punk band Submerge. Taylor and drummer Tony Thaxton then joined Minneapolis, Minn., pop punkers Motion City Soundtrack, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“It came up that they were losing their bass player, so I basically was like, ‘You know, I am at a point in my life where I would literally go in tomorrow and tell my boss I’m out and join the band,’ and that’s what I did! The opportunity was there and I just had to do it because I love the music that much. I was a huge fan before I joined, which is funny. I was always friends with the guys, but I really, really backed what they were doing, so I had to jump on it,” Taylor explained.
After their music was placed on a friend’s website for undiscovered bands, Epitaph Records owner Brett Gurewitz e-mailed the group and asked to meet them, singing them soon after and releasing three albums, including their breakout debut “I Am the Movie.” After falling out with Columbia Records, they recorded their latest record, “Go,” without a budget or time constraints.
“We were paying for it ourselves at the time, but we didn’t let that freak us out, and I feel like that actually somehow made us work faster and more efficiently and we were actually able to just spend a lot of time together writing. We stayed in Minneapolis, where most of the guys live, in the dead of winter, so it kind of just forced us to be inside and work really hard,” Taylor said.
“I think it’s got some softer moments. It’s kind of a darker record thematically overall; we definitely have little bits here and there on every record that are pretty dark, but they’re always disguised by this really major key, poppy kind of sound. But on this record, I think we weren’t scared to just say, ‘This is where we are in our lives. We’ve been doing this a while. We’re not getting any younger. We’re not going to lie. We’ve been thinking about this stuff, you know?’ Life is not infinite, and I think just some of us started to think that, and the interesting thing is that it came out through our music.”
After it was completed, they returned to Epitaph, who welcomed the quintet back with open arms.
“We kind of ventured out and it didn’t quite work out, and we always felt really good and at home on Epitaph before we left them, and…they were willing to just pick up right where we left off,” he acknowledged.
“We thought that was really, really nice, and in a business where not everybody’s always so nice. It’s a competitive business; some people can have a chip on their shoulder, but the fact that Brett specifically was like, ‘Well, if you guys ever want to come back, you know you’re welcome’ – that meant so much to us.”
Even though they’re longtime veterans of Warped Tour, Taylor sees little difference between their first 2002 performances on the small Drive-Thru Records stage and their main stage appearances now.
“It’s not super different. Obviously the crowds are bigger and actually know the music now, but overall, it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s the outdoor crazy traveling circus festival. I don’t remember it being much different than it is now besides our fans actually knowing who we are,” he insisted.
The lineups may change, but his love for discovering new music hasn’t.
“It’s a lot of heavier bands and we don’t necessarily fit in with a lot of them, but there’re bands like The Wonder Years and Silverstein and Hawthorne Heights and The Swellers – slightly poppier bands that we kind of fit right in with,” he said.
“There’re a lot of bands I hadn’t heard of coming onto the tour, but once I got out there, I’m starting to find some really cool stuff that I’ve never heard of. I feel like they do a really good job of bringing in fresh, new bands and keeping some older, more veteran bands. It’s a good mix.”
As they work on new material they hope to record by the end of 2013 or in early 2014, Taylor is eager to improve and build upon Motion City’s legacy.
“I’ve pretty much surpassed everything I ever thought I would when I joined the band, but at this point, it’s an investment. I’ve been out here for 11-plus years doing this, and I think there’s always something in your head that thinks, ‘Well, we can do a little better. We can do a little better. We can do a little better.’ So that’s all I want – I just want a steady increase in scope. I want more people to hear us and hopefully like us,” he emphasized.
“It’s kind of an addictive thing, I don’t know if it’s something that will ever go away. I don’t know if any of us will be ready for that.”
And maybe his work will inspire another young kid to pick up a bass and pursue his own career.
“We’ll see,” Taylor said with a laugh. “We’ll see.”