Boom Chicka Wah-Wah

March 30th, 2011

Figment player shaveblog sent me this great documentary on the Wah Wah effects pedal.  “Cry Baby:  The Pedal That Rocks The World” is the story of the wah wah effects pedal and is packed with appearances from famous guitarists who have used it over the years.  So take a minute and get a dose of boom chicka wah-wah!

I was looking forward to reading this book for 2 reasons;  one, because I’m an unabashed fan of Guns N’ Roses, and two because I thought it might shed some light on Steven Adler’s ouster from the band at the height of their fame.  It did, but it lost me along the way.

First of all, if you’re a fan of stories about the debauched life of a rock star and that’s all you care about, this is the book for you.  Mr. Adler clearly enjoyed all of the perks of his rock star status, indulging in copious amounts of groupies, booze and drugs.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I get a vicarious thrill in reading about rock stars indulgent lifestyles, but even I have a limit.  I mean, do I really need a blow-by-blow (pun intended) retelling of the bukkake party Adler and Nikki Six had with some groupies one night?  I’m no prude, but c’mon dude have you ever heard of the maxim, less is more?  Adler’s contention is that he’s telling you all of this in an effort to come clean, and that to do so he needs to be completely honest no matter the cost, but after a while it simply comes off as boasting and you realize that there is a fine line between titilllating and skeevy.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking, but isn’t that what Guns N’ Roses were all about?  Excess?  And you’d be right.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the primary reasons I was initially drawn to GNR was that their bad boy image didn’t seem manufactured, it was real, and clearly I wasn’t duped.  The guys in GNR are NOT up-standing citizens, and Adler does give us an unvarnished look at some of the machinations that go on when you’re part of a band as big as GNR.   Unlike the Rolling Stones, who Keith Richards in his book “Life” described as being slavish to their music in their early days, GNR seemed propelled more by attitude and a shared disdain for hard work.  These guys didn’t care to fit in or play the game, and that’s what Adler points out was their greatest strength.  They were real, and scumbags or not, fans gravitated to it.

While their fans adulation may have grown with every hit, it’s pretty clear that success did not breed mutual admiration and respect within the band.  Adler clearly has a love/hate relationship with Axl Rose, and felt betrayed by his boyhood friend Slash when he was kicked out of the band.  While I don’t doubt that money destroyed this band like it has many others, what the book does make me doubt is that the members of GNR were ever really that close, excluding of course Adler and Slash.  Izzy is described as aloof and a loner, Axl is painted as a megomaniacal tyrant, Slash is best friend and traitor, and Duff…well he just seems to be drunk most of the time.  It’s sad actually, but not entirely surprising.  What is it they always say, familiarity breeds contempt?  GNR clearly came together because they jammed and partied in the same circles, and unlike a lot of bands on the strip back in the 80’s realized that they didn’t have to put on a show, they were the show.  My memories of the two times I saw them are still tinged with the overriding feeling of anarchy and violence.  I was a suburban kid and to me this was as exhilarating as it was foreign.  Hell, it really was the circus coming to town.

What’s sad is when the circus ends, and above all, “My Appetite for Destruction” is the story of Adler’s descent into drugs and alcohol following his ouster from the band in 1990.  He regularly refers to the natural high he received from playing live with GNR and writes about how he filled that void with drugs as soon as the tours ended.  His drug abuse is legendary, and despite seizures, strokes, open abscesses, and OD’s too numerous to count, he continued to “party” (his words not mine).

It’s clear that Adler recognizes the destruction he wreaked not only on himself, but also on his friends and loved ones.  What’s not clear is how remorseful he is for it.  In the beginning of the book he writes,

“But people love train wrecks.  They just can’t look away from the ODs, lawsuits, prison terms, rehabs, reality shows, meltdowns, and more ODs.  So before one or all of the above happens again, I want to set the record straight.  And I’m finally sober enough and angry enough to do it right.”

Angry enough?  Angry about what?  Didn’t you do everyone of those things you just described?  So doesn’t that make you a walking cliche?  If you’re going to be part of a band that espouses excess, and then you’re going to personally prescribe to an excessive lifestyle, and then write a book to capitalize on it, can you really be angry at anyone for watching the whole debacle unfold?

And what about his fans?  Adler professes love for them every chance he gets, but it often seems he craves their adulation like he does drugs.  Does he really appreciate them or just their unconditional love?  In the end, I susppect the latter, after all they don’t expect an apology, they like him to be a train wreck.

But what really bothered me was what he wrote at the end of the book,

“Keeping it real means admitting, at the beginning and end of my story, that I’ve been a selfish asshole.  No apologies.  And although I’ve learned to be less selfish, I realize you’ve got to please yourself in life.  I hate people who go around figuring out how to sacrifice and please others.  They usually just end up pissing off the ones they want to please.  I say please yourself, and you’ll please others.”

While I agree that you have to like yourself to be truly happy, I don’t agree that self comes before all else.  After all, Adler’s own friends and loved ones sacrificed their own happiness on many occasions to care for him and make sure he didn’t die.  They did it because they cared about him, and while I don’t think anyone should spend the rest of their lives apologizing for their past deeds, I do think that to be forgiven one has to do more than just ask for it, they have to earn it.  I hope Adler takes the time to do both.  Sadly this book didn’t leave me confident he will.

2011 Figgie Winners!

March 18th, 2011

Well it’s the day you’ve all been waiting for.  The 3rd Annual Figgie Awards are about to be announced!  Can you feel the excitement?  Are you wondering why there is no podcast to accompany the announcement?  Well, we’re sorry to say that we’re a bit crazed over here at Figment central of late and we simply couldn’t pull one together.  So our apologies, but enough about that, let’s announce the winners!!!

The voting for this year’s awards was quite competitive and several awards were decided by just a few votes, so since we couldn’t build suspense with a podcast we thought we’d allow you to unveil the winners for yourself!  So click on each award to find out who won.

Best Band Name

Best Tagline

Best Tour/Festival 2011

Best Developed Band 2011

Best Single 2011

Album Cover of the Year 2011

Album of the Year 2011

So congratulations to all of the nominees, and of course all the winners!  We’ll be putting one of these shiny new Figgie icons on your band pages and depositing 250 pieces of lucre in your accounts very soon!

Thanks to everyone who voted.  Until next year…

LBR’s March Metal Madness!

March 16th, 2011

With all due respect to the NCAA, calling their annual college basketball tournament “March Madness” has always seemed a tad overstated…Madness?  Really?  If you want real madness you’ve got to check out Long Bong Records’ (LBR) March Metal Madness.  That is TRUE MADNESS!

LBR, purveyors of the finest stoner metal since March 2009, are celebrating their 2nd anniversary by releasing a new album every week in the month of March by some of their top artists as well as “met*al*lur*gy II:  Z to A”, a compilation of all of the artists on the label.

Better yet, Mr. Styx, the label’s VP of Public Relations and chief Spokesperson, contacted Figment News to let us know that any Figment player who purchases a copy of “met*al*lur*gy II” between the dates of March 19 – 26, 2011 may also pick up a copy of any album by an LBR artist without LBR receiving any lucre for the sale.  What does this mean?  Buy “met*al*lur*gy II” that week and you’ll get one album from any LBR artist for free!  According to Mr. Styx, it’s the label’s way of saying thanks, “We are grateful to the fans for their support of the bands, and the label, and this is our way of showing our thanks. This will be an ideal time to dig through the back catalogs of Zeroth or Crimson Eye, or finally pick up something from one of our lesser-known bands.”

Already March Metal Madness has featured the release on March 1st of Blackened Skull Ensemble’s latest self-titled LP, Kemia’s “The Ecstasy of Eternal Night” on March 8th, and this week’s release of Prog Metal giant Zeroth’s latest “Concentric Horizons”.  Upcoming weeks will see the release of the long awaited new album from doom/thrash titans Crimson Eye, and a live recording from the recent “Cacophony Tour” that featured Zeroth, Serpentinuum, Kemia, and The Great God Conspiracy.

With LBR home to such a diverse roster of metal acts, you’re sure to find a great release that will induce your own form of METAL MADNESS!  So go get your crazy on!

Happy Birthday LBR!

Your Final Hours To Vote!

March 14th, 2011

Today is the final day to get your votes in for the 2011 Figgie Awards.  If you haven’t filled out your official ballot, check your email now and get your votes in!  We’ll even give you 50 pieces of lucre if you fill out your official ballot and cast your votes.  There are a lot of great bands and albums nominated this year, so don’t let them down.

If you’d like to get your friends and family involved please direct them to the ballot we have open to the general public.

The voting deadline is midnight tonight ET, so don’t delay!  We’ll be announcing all of the winners on Friday here on the blog, so be on the lookout for that.

Good luck to all of our nominees, and if you haven’t cast your ballot – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  VOTE!!!!!

Music Lit 101 is a new feature here on the Figment News blog.  We’ll be writing about some of our favorite books on music and giving you some quick insights into why we thought each were a good read.  We welcome your reviews, so if you’ve read one of the books we’re highlighting please leave a comment below.  Likewise, we’d love to hear about any of the music-related books that you’ve read of late, so drop us a line or leave a comment below if you’ve got a good one to share.

“Life” by Keith Richards with James Fox (Little, Brown and Company 2010), is a fascinating read.  We all know about “Keef’s” excesses over the years, but what really shows in this book is his incredible love of music.  To Richards, music is what fuels him, and when he talks about it his prose changes from esoteric “Keefisms” to clear insightful explanations of his craft.  Whether he’s talking about his guitar style or his songwriting process it’s those moments that make “Life” shine.

Unfortunately, a lot of the advanced press on the book focused on his jabs at Mick Jagger, and while there are definitely jabs (he claims Jagger suffers from LVS.  Lead Vocalist Syndrome”), he also describes Jagger as his brother and is quick to point out his talents as a front man, songwriter and business man.   Where the two seem to differ though is over how important it is to remain loyal to the basic blues-based rock n’ roll that is the foundation of the Stones’ sound.  Richards clearly feels Jagger’s solo forays into pop and dance music were not a a sound move (pun intended), and an even worse betrayal was Jagger’s need to distance himself from the Rolling Stones while doing it.  Why distance yourself from the Rolling Stones when the Stones were and are as relevant as ever.   Sure Richard’s tunnel vision (or narcissism) doesn’t take into account whether his years as a junkie may have distanced Jagger from the Stones at the time, but whether you agree with him or not, you can’t help but marvel at how passionate this man is about a band he’s been a part of for almost 50 years.

To Keith Richards, the Stones and their music are his “life”, and what a life it is.