Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm planning on writing a more in depth story about this later, but I wanted to put something out now just to (hopefully) get a few people excited. Despite the fact that Backlash is "officially" broken up, the band is releasing a final album of original material (and by original, I mean manifestly different from anything you've heard from them before - if you're a Backlash fan you will be surprised by this album, to say the least, and if you're not a Backlash fan you probably will be if you buy this album) titled Circling the Drain which will be out in a few weeks. Singer/guitarist Shawn Ames says that the band is done after this and that they almost definitely will not play this album live, which is unfortunate because, well, of every local band I've seen/talked to or whatever in the last year, Backlash seems to be doing the most interesting stuff.

Backlash, of course, has always been known for being a straight ahead rock and roll band. While they have dabbled with piano based balladry in the past, the bread and butter of the band has been balls to the wall rockers like "Bad Monster" - songs about drinking beer and rockin' out - songs that they thought their fan base wanted to hear. But the new album sees the band branching out and finally resorting to exploring their own interests. In my conversations with Ames, both for this story and personally, there was a strange sparkle in his eye as he talked about the album coming together. He continually mentioned The Beatles as a major influence on the album and Ames later said that the vocal harmonies on the new album are "pretty reminiscent" of Abbey Road. Ultimately he likens Circling the Drain to Backlash's version Sgt Peppers. As a result, though Ames says that the band has maintained their standard influences like The Who and Alice Cooper, the band has begun to explore other areas of influence that are not usually associated with your common bar band.

"We've completely gone over the edge with this stuff," says Ames. "The new album starts out as straight up the middle Backlash. Then it gets into stuff that sounds like we went into Pakistan or we went down to New Orleans. It's insane!"

Also, this is the first Backlash album to be created with only current material.

"This is the first record that Brian and I didn't cull from old material," says Ames. "We didn't go to something that I wrote five or six years ago. All of this is from October 2010 to literally this last Saturday (note: this interview was done on March 3, 2011). There's a lot that I did just this last Saturday that creeped the hell out of me. I don't know where it came from but it's creepy."

About the recording of the album, Ames insists "it's just like a regular band". Songs were written and presented to the other band members and no one said "that sucks" so Ames went with them. The songs are a mix of straight ahead Backlash style rockers with titles like "My Old School (Wants to Kick Your New School in the Ass)", to "Shake It" an infectious acoustic rocker done "completely on the fly" with a riff that "came out of nowhere", according to Ames. "Circling the Drain" is a fucked up Willy Wonka boat ride sort of experiment that will make your skin crawl, and the five layers of vocal harmonies that backbone "The Quiet Life" will make you realize why rock and roll was once important.

But it is the twists and turns in this new album that will make it worthwhile listening. "Cheap Thirlls" is an epic song that breaks from a straight ahead rock and roll song into a miasma of psychedelic exploration reminiscent of Pink Floyd. And the masterpiece of the album, "A Deeper Understanding", which Ames describes as "his baby" will blow your mind. It's full of backwards guitars, sitars and shit like that, and the breakdown of the song is like the sun bursting over the trees at dawn.

"It's about as un-Backlash as you can get," says Ames. "There's just too much stuff on here that separates us from every other band in this town."

Check it out, when it comes out, April 29th, 2011. Here is their Myspace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rumors, Facts, Opinions, Whatever

Haven't done one of these in a while and instead of talking about why I'll just talk about important stuff. Here are a list of rumors and facts about craft beer in Kansas that I've stumbled across in the last few weeks/months that I thought I might pass on...

1) If you're a fan of Boulder Beer Company, and particularly if you like Hazed and Infused, please check the dates on anything you buy, especially 22oz bombers. The date printed on the bottle is a "pull date" - meaning that the beer should not be sold after that date. That means that the brewery does not want the beer to be on any shelf after that date. I have a personal story related to this but don't feel that I should relate it here. However, if you see some outdated Boulder on the shelf of your favorite store please email the brewery and let them know:

2) In fact, you need to make a habit of checking all dates on all beer that you buy. Of course, you should be doing that anyway, but I know for a fact that there are some shady products lurking on shelves out there and you should remember that if a brewery takes the time to put a "Best Before" date on their beer they do so for a reason. And that reason is that they do not want you to buy it after that date. Distributors and retailers don't always understand (or lets be honest, don't care about that) and most of them think that you are too stupid or ignorant to check. If you find outdated beer tell the store you bought it from. If they don't care email the brewery. If you have any questions, here is a great reference point for figuring out the dates on your bottle.

3) Lagunitas, Green Flash, Magic Hat, and Firestone Walker should start appearing in Kansas coolers soon.

4) That Boulevard Chocolate Ale bank rush was fun, wasn't it? Did any one notice the $75 price on ebay in the aftermath? It's down to $50 now that it has hit other states.

5) Stone Brewing Company will be in Missouri sometime this spring. Minnesota too, from what I've read. This is interesting because a few years ago all the talk from Stone was that they were considering pulling their distributors and focusing more on their base area in California. Regardless, it's great news, though I'm sure a Kansas license isn't in the works. But, hey, Arrogant Bastard is now only a several minute drive away!

6) Regarding Widmer Brothers Brewing Company. The more Drifter Pale Ale you can send this way the better. It's a great beer. One of the best beers available in Kansas in my opinion.

7) Avery in cans. Soon. White Rascal, Ellie's Brown, IPA. By summer, or so I've heard.

8) PBR sucks from a bottle. How's that for the idea that good beer doesn't come from a can?

9) Code: Supposedly witty 19th century writers love light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440-490nm. They also supposedly love Kansas sometime in the coming months or year, as per a fairly unreliable source.

10) Best beer I've had lately: Annie's Amber from High Noon out of Leavenworth. Very tasty amber, robust and a bit hoppy. Nothing like a typical amber, which probably accounts for the negative reviews on Beer Advocate. Also, keep an eye out for the Halcyon Wheat from Tallgrass, an unfiltered wheat in a 12 oz can - their new summer seasonal. Can't find a link for this yet but it is good!


Monday, March 7, 2011


There is a large contingent of people who would count Rhys Fulber as one of the more important figures in electronic music in the last twenty years. He is certainly one of the most prolific. At the age of sixteen he began collaborating with ex-Skinny Puppy contributor Bill Leeb in Front Line Assembly, contributing the song "Black Fluid" to FLA's second demo Total Terror, released in 1986. Here is that track:

Fulber became a full-time member of FLA in 1989 and with his help the band would go on to release some of the most influential industrial music of the early 1990s, with Tactical Neural Implant (1992) becoming a benchmark of the genre. In addition, Fulber collaborated with Leeb on the ambient pop project Delerium, and he has done production work for bands like Fear Factory and Paradise Lost, among others. His resume behind the boards is substantial and includes references from artists as diverse as Yes, Motley Crue, Josh Groban, Megadeth, and Mindless Self Indulgence. He has worked with vocalists like Sarah Mclachlan and Sinead O'Connor. And, interestingly enough, he played keyboards on the live recording of that Nailbomb show, Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide, at the Dynamo Open Air Festival in 1995. Really, it seems like the guy can do almost anything and work with anyone, but he is most remembered for his work with FLA.
Here is a hilarious clip from the Canadian Music Video Awards in which FLA are awarded the "Best Alternative Video" award for 1992. Leeb and Fulber don't appear until the 3:07 mark, but it is still worth watching.

In 1997 Fulber developed Conjure One while on a break from Front Line Assembly and has since released three albums of what Fulber has called classical and eastern influenced atmospheric pop structured music. His latest release is Exilarch. Here's a track from that album:

A friend of mine brought to my attention the fact that Mr Fulber is currently touring with Conjure One and coming to my area so I decided to bother him and see if he would be nice enough to answer a few of my jackass questions, and I thought that a few of you might have some sort of interest in hearing what he's up to nowadays. Of course, he was willing to answer my jackass questions, because he's a very nice guy, but he was very busy, so it's a very abbreviated "interview".

The Point: How is the music of Conjure One different from that of Front Line Assembly?

Rhys Fulber: "I think Front Line dealt more in a science fiction type reality where as I feel Conjure One is based more on earthly emotions and the ancient rather than the future. Also Front Line was much more testosterone based where as Conjure One incorporates the female element and a balance of the two sensibilities."

How influential was Kraftwerk in your, for lack of a better term, musical evolution?

"I assume it was pretty large as it shaped my taste at a very early age - I saw them in concert when i was age 6 as my parents took me with them in lieu of a babysitter. That whole period of electronic music from the 1970s is one of my main influences."

Your bio says that your latest release Exilarch "rediscovers the roots that initially inspired you to create music". Can you elaborate on that statement?

"That is referring to the above statement about 1970s electronic music. I feel I channeled a lot of my original influences into this new record."

Your work in Conjure One seems to be be concerned with synthesizing Eastern music with Western music. Where do you see those two styles of music intersecting?

"Eastern music has always been something I've gravitated towards, maybe because of the emotional and introspective quality a lot of it has, but its also simply sounds and a style I like. Its also a region of mystery and fascination to me outside of just the music, especially central Asia, where you get the added bonus of Soviet Bloc surrealism colliding with ancient silk road tribalism. There's two songs on the new record, "Places That Don't Exist and "Nargis" where you can hear this combination."

What can people expect from a Conjure One show?

"We try to be as live as possible within the parameters of live electronic music and not having a 5 piece band, and what we perform live is not exactly like the recordings. It also evolves from show to show. We try to incorporate some improvisation as well, and we have some imagery projected behind us from the artist who designed the Exilarch cover."

Conjure One will be performing at the Riot Room in Kansas City with The God Project, NZEKT, and The Resistance on March 15th.