Monday, July 11, 2016

American Bang bring back gritty rock and roll

11-2-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

American Bang on stage at the Machine Shop 10-29-10

On Friday night American Bang brought their hard gritty southern rock to the Machine Shop in Flint for the first time along with local band The Hangers On and headliners The Gracious Few, who are a super group comprised of Candlebox and Live members.

American Bang is comprised of vocalist Jaren Johnson, guitarist Ben Brown, bassist Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason.

Before the show and after a intense day of driving, radio promos and a lengthy beer tasting event, the band sat down for a interview that was more like a casual give and take conversation:

Q: What time do you guys go on tonight?

Jaren: 8:30 or 9, I think. Where are you from?

Q: Just outside of Detroit. Takes about a hour to get out here.

Jaren: Nice. We drove like 7 hours to get out here. We were in Colombus last night but drove out to Saginaw for this radio thing and then came back for a beer tasting at 3. It's been a long day. We all ended up getting real drunk at the beer thing and now we're going out on stage! Did you want a beer?

Q: Leftovers from the beer tasting?

Ben: We tried but no.

Q: You had the album come out in August. How has that been going?

Jaren: Yes, it came out August 31. It's been great man. We spent a lot of time getting ready to put that out and tour and writing and all that stuff to get to that point. Finally having it out there is pretty exciting and kind of a milestone for this band I would say. It's been good. The response has been great. It's been neat to actually go to places and kids have the record and so they know all the words other than just to "Wild and Young" or whatever the current single is. It's exciting man; very cool.

Q: You did quite a bit of touring before you released the album.

Jaren: Yeah. We've been touring since we pretty much started I think. Our first tour was like in '05 at the beginning of that year and we've been touring ever since pretty strong.

Q: Legendary producer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica, Motley Crue) worked with you on the album. What was that like?

Jaren: It was great. This is actually the third time I've answered this today. He's kind of a magician when it comes to the whole producing thing and the guitar. He's a great guitar player. He helped us do a full record because we spent so much time writing and you know you have four and a half years with the songs and he kind of helped us groove them all together in a group that made sense. A new perspective. We had a blast with him. We spent two months in Nashville recording and then two months in Maui. It was awesome!

Q: Is there a song on the album that sticks out for you?

Jaren: I think "All We Know" is probably my favorite. I don't know, what do you guys think (looks at the rest of the band)?

Ben: That's really fun live. If we're talking live people have really been into "Rewind". They sing along to that one. It's cool live and people seem to enjoy it.

Jaren: They like that one because eveyryone is f*cked up!

Ben: Yeah but they're still singing it!

Jaren: I don't mean that they're drunk. I mean that everybody in their life at one point has f*cked up.

Ben: Right. I f*ck up all the time! I ain't done f*cking up.

Jaren: Both then: they f*cked up and they are f*cked up! The whole record really we're just excited about all of the songs on it. It's finally out there and it's been a long time coming for us.

Q: Have you performed all of the songs live now?

Jaren: Yeah there's only a couple we don't do. We don't do "Other Side of You" and "Wouldn't Want to Be You" and "A Man Change". We haven't learned those or relearned them since we recorded them. Yeah man that's our set. You haven't seen us before?

Q: First time...

Jaren: We're going to f*ck you guys up!

Q: Never seen Gracious Few either.

Jaren: They're good. This is our last night with them actually. Tomorrow night we go and do something else.

Q: You were touring with Cavo before this?

Jaren: Yeah we were with Cavo for a month and before that we were out with Saving Abel. We've been out since May so it's kind of been a long year so far but I think we're just doing pretty much all radio stuff the rest of the year. Then we'll start back up again in January.

Q: Are you working on new music?

Jaren: No, not really. Thought about it maybe but it's like we just put that sh*t out there so it's the last thing we want to do.

Q: So you don't have any official tour plans yet then?

Jaren: Well we're going out next year to tour with The Beatles. They're coming back to life and so we'll be doing that. I was so surprised when Ringo called. I was like listen get Paul on the phone and let's figure out what this money split is gonna be because I don't want to do it if it's not right.

Kelby: I was talking to John Lennon and that was just awkward all together. It's like you're a dead guy, you know?

Jaren: You're a dead guy man!

Ben: Are we really going out with The Beatles? (the rest of the band explodes into laughter)

Jaren: You can tell who's stoned!

Ben: Really. Nobody told me about that!

Jaren: No, we have tons of tour plans but we don't know exactly what, where or when but we'll be out there.

Q: You've gotten to tour with a lot of your idols.

Jaren: Yeah we got to tour with ZZ Top about two months ago and then we did the Pretenders. We did a lot of radio things with a lot of different bands; not necessarily our favorite bands but we made a lot of great friends. The Saving Abel guys are some of the funniest guys you could ever meet. Have you met them?

Q: Yeah I interviewed Blake (Dixon, drummer) over the Summer.

Ben: Great guy.

Jaren: (in a high pitched voice) I'm a grown ass man with braces! That's Blake right there! Nah, it's been cool man. The Pretenders tour was the sh*t. It's been a wild ride. It's pretty cool.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Jaren: We were all into Petty and all into the Zeppelin phase I'm sure. Guys like Neil Young and stuff like that. I'm more into anything by Dave Grohl or Jack White but we all kind of like that I guess. We grew up listening to a lot of old Hank Williams and Metallica. All the grunge stuff and then moved into the hippieland like Phish and all that stuff. So we're very out there and (pauses as his cell phone blares)...well hello!

Q: There is that southern feel to your music.

Jaren: Yeah I listened to a lot of country. Modern or I guess not modern but at the time stuff like Garth Brooks and Keith Whitley, a little bit of Waylon but more like Clint Black and that kind of stuff. That's kind of like where we get our southern sound from. I guess we all like Skynyrd a bit too.

Q: There isn't a whole lot of "true" country out there anymore.

Jaren: Yeah, there's just across the board not a whole lot of good sh*t out right now. It's pretty brutal.

Q: A lot of reviewers have called you country and then others rock. How would you describe it?

Jaren: Bad Mother F*cking Ass! We used to call it southern fried rock but I think now the record we made is more modern rock with a southern thing to it. I think we try to separate from everybody else by paying a lot of attention to the songs and spending a lot of time making sure that whether it was our choice or not all of them were really solid. Yeah, I don't know what we'd call it. It's just rock and roll. I like the bad mother f*cking ass. You can do that if you want.

Q: Do you have more singles coming off the album?

Jaren: Yeah. "Whiskey Walk" is on the charts right now. I'm not sure what the next one is going to be. It'll probably either be "Rewind" or "Angels". It'll definitely be one of the songs on the record. I have no idea. I know "Angels" is one of the videos that we've done so we'll see what happens.

Q: You've toured so much. Is there anywhere you like playing the most?

Jaren: Yeah we like the festivals. Lollapalooza in Chicago is a blast. We did Coachella which is b*tching. It's out in Palm Springs. Austin City Limits is a good town to play. You know what's kind of weird is that we all love New York City but we've only gone a few times. We played the Roseland Ballroom with the Pretenders. It was the second show of that tour. It was f*cking rad. It was like 3,000 people and taking it in your face!

Q: Do you prefer playing the larger venues?

Jaren: Yeah but you know I like those little sweaty ass everybody just slammed in there places too. It's just a lot of fun. We like it all man. We're just having a blast out there.

Q: Have you ever played here before?

Jaren: No, I don't think we have.

Ben: No, not Flint.

Jaren: The only thing I know about Flint is the Michael Moore movie. I guess he's from here.

Kelby: We've played in Ann Arbor, in Detroit.

Neil: Detroit a couple of times.

Jaren: Yeah Detroit. The Magic Stick or Bag or whatever. We played with that band J Roddy Walston and The Business. Straight up check that sh*t out! Also bad mother f*cking ass!

Q: Is there anyone you would like to tour with besides The Beatles of course?

Jaren: We'd like to go out with Petty. Definitely the Foo Fighters. That's our, you know, the one we want so bad but that's a hard one to get. I would love doing any one of Jack White's things.

Ben: Pearl Jam.

Jaren: Pearl Jam would be great. Stone Temple Pilots. We tried to get on some of their shows this year but haven't lucked out. I'd like to go out with the Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age; that type of stuff. The Eagles.

Q: You talked about going to Hawaii to record. How was that?

Jaren: How do you think it was? It was pretty rad. We had a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking, a lot of singing. There was this little surf house down by the beach. It was cool man. Bob's got a really cool like Asian style house up on this hill and you can see it from pretty much anywhere on the island. It's really laid back with a great view. Great studio and lots of great guitarists. We had a blast man. Learned how to surf.

Ben: Learned how to try to surf!

Jaren: Hey, I did alright! I rode that sumb*tch all the way in the first try! Didn't I?

Ben: I did not...I did not!

Jaren: Once you get over the shock of like oh I did it, I rode a surfboard. Once you're over that and you get to where it's getting shallower and shallower you're like do I get off now? What do I do?

Kelby: It's like when you're all the way out and then you turn around to try to get a wave and you stand up and you're going and you suddenly realize I'm in the middle of the ocean!

Ben: That's where I freaked out. I didn't freak out when I got closer to the beach. I freaked out the further out. It was like I should not be doing this!

Kelby: It's not like I'm that great of a swimmer.

Ben: I remember the guy who was teaching or whatever we were talking after we'd been out a couple of times that day and he was like "You gotta be careful out there because there are sharks out there." I'm like then why did you have us go out there?

Jaren: Yeah we go don't say that and he said well there are, it's just a part of life and I said it doesn't have to be! It was a rad trip though. It was fun.

Q: Do you have any Halloween plans?

Yeah we're playing tomorrow at Madison's Freak Fest so that'll be fun. We'll probably be driving all the rest of the day on Halloween. We're going home for a few days. Freak Fest we'll be playing with Ok Go and I don't even know who else.

Q: Are you a band who likes to get out and meet and greet the fans?

Jaren: Yeah we usually go out every night and have some drinks and hang out.

Q: This is a great venue for that!

Jaren: Yeah it's kind of funny because when we walked in here I kinda felt we were in a mix between a tattoo shop and a f*cking tire shop!

Kelby: Yeah. Now when you go in from the backstage area to the front they've got like a chain fence gate. Then there's everyone sitting quietly at the tables drinking!

Jaren: Have you seen the opening band The Hangers On?

Q: Yeah I believe they opened before Taddy Porter on one of their many shows here.

Jaren: Did Taddy headline last time they were in here?

Q: They opened for Finger Eleven.

Ben: I heard Taddy on the radio today. "Big Enough".

Jaren: I like that song.

Q: Flint loves Taddy. They're back here next week with Evans Blue. Maybe after you play here you'll start coming back every few weeks to the Machine Shop.

Jaren: Well damn it's pretty far from our house but if it's a good show we'll make it a frequent stop!

Q: What has been your strangest fan encounter?

Jaren: The other night in Cincinnatti we had a guy drive up from Atlanta for the show. He brought us two of these (holding up a couple of bottles of moonshine) and gave us a bunch of weed. He asked us if we wanted anything else and opened his car door and he had all this stuff like Vicodin, anything you could think of. We were like, it's cool man.

Ben: You didn't take any? I took some!

Jaren: Vicodin?

Ben: Yeah man!

Jaren: Want to split it? (the band dissolves into laughter again)

Kelby: We have a lot of great fans though. We had this one girl make us a thousand of these buttons with our band name on them. We've been giving them out ever since!

Q: Well guess it's time for you to get ready for the show.

Jaren: Time for some bad ass mother f*cking rock!

True to their words, American Bang went on to blow everyone's minds at the Machine Shop!

American Bang and The Gracious Few rock small crowd at Machine Shop

11-1-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

The Gracious Few on stage at the Machine Shop 10-29-10

Friday night, American Bang and The Gracious Few wound up their tour at the Machine Shop in Flint.

The crowd was a little light possibly due to the busy Halloween weekend but those that did make it out were treated to one of the better rock shows of the year.

The evening started with a performance by local band The Hangers On who unfortunately didn't draw much of a crowd during their set as those who were there stayed seated or wandered outside.

American Bang's set started out with only a few people in front of the stage but once they began playing and people got exposed to their appealing brand of bluesy rock and singer Jaren Johnston's enthusiasm, the rest of the crowd was on it's feet and joining the others at the stage.

American Bang's "Wild and Young" single has gotten a lot of airplay and the band is known for being one of only a handful of bands today who just stick to playing true rock and roll.

The "Wild and Young" performance was good but it was their performance of their song "Hurts Like Hell" that stood out as Jaren emphatically presented the chorus to the crowd.

Throughout the set, the band all moved from one end of the stage to the other with Johnston taking to the top of the percussion set and eventually out into the crowd.

Johnston ended up on the ground with his guitar and continued to play without missing a beat.

The only problem with American Bang's set was that at times Jaren's voice got overshadowed by the rest of the band's playing, which is unfortunately something that occasionally seems to happen at the Machine Shop when a band uses their own sound techs.

The venue has a set of loud capacity amplifiers and if they are not set up right that problem tends to happen.

The farther back in the venue you are, the better the sound for certain acts.

Fortunately, the Gracious Few's set was lacking that problem.

The band took to the stage and proceeded to run through all of their self titled debut album.

The supergroup features vocalist Kevin Martin and guitarist Sean Hennesy from Candlebox and guitarist Chad Taylor, bass guitarist Pat Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey from the band Live.

Together, the band forms their own unique sound that encompasses the rock sound that they were both known for with a larger bluesy sound that works well with Martin's voice.

Set highlights included soulful performances of "The Rest of You" and "Sing" but it was the performance of "Crying Time" that really stood out.

The song was opened with a introduction by Martin who spoke about combining the two bands and being inspired by a friend who passed on. Martin went on to dedicate the song to him.

The song breaks out into a amazing bridge that allowed Martin's passionate voice to shine and was backed up beautifully by Hennesy's guitar solo.

The Gracious Few set also featured Martin climbing across the rafters to hang above the crowd before he fell down into them.

It was clear to anyone at the show that the band is loving working together and truly inspired by the music they are producing and the crowds that they are drawing.

It was also clear that during the tour American Bang and The Gracious Few have bonded and various members from both bands kept taking the stage throughout the evening to share drinks and shots.

Both Johnston and Martin spent time praising the other one, which is probably due to their mutual love for the pureness of the rock genre and the energy that they both exude on and off the stage.

ABK explores the spiritual on Medicine Bag, plays Hallowicked

10-28-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

ABK performing at the 2004 Gathering of the Juggalos

ABK performing at the 2004 Gathering of the Juggalos

Local Detroit underground rapper James Lowery a.k.a. ABK recently released his fourth album on the Psychopathic Records label started by Insane Clown Posse (ICP).

Medicine Bag is a different turn for ABK as it moves away from the dark, moody music that is prevalent throughout the Psychopathic Records' roster and instead explores the lighter side of the spiritual world he is interested in and inspired by.

ABK is one of only a handful of Native American rappers and his heritage is prevalent throughout his music.

He began his musical career at a young age after being surrounded by music.

In 1995, he joined up with childhood friend Lavel to form Krazy Klan and released two independent albums before taking the name Native Funk and releasing a solo album that caught the attention of Psychopathic and friend Blaze Ya Dead Homie who was looking for a hypeman.

After touring with Blaze as a opening act for ICP and Twiztid, Psychopathic signed him as a solo artist and since then he has released the albums Hatchet Warrior, Dirty History and Mudface.

ABK is known for his unique lisp, lyrics and sound and Medicine Bag takes things to a new level.

To promote the new album, ABK is hitting the road beginning with a four date stand opening for ICP on their annual Halloween extravaganza Hallowicked.

On Tuesday, I got a chance to talk to ABK where he was at home staying out of the storm:

Q: How are you?

A: I'm doing very good. I'm inside.

Q: You have the new album Medicine Bag out. How has the reaction to it been so far?

A: It's been awesome. It's been getting a very good response. It's been the best one yet so I'm very excited to hit the road with it. To get out there and start promoting it and doing shows with it and everything. As much as I can do with this one.

Q: You have the Hallowicked dates with ICP coming up but do you have any other plans to tour?

A: Yeah after the four Hallowicked dates I have an East Coast tour and then I have a few dates in the Denver area and then the Buffalo area. Around the surrounding area until November when I'll be going on a West Coast tour.

Q: Are you still going to be opening on the makeup dates for the recently cancelled ICP Old Sh*t tour?

A: Yeah. I'm going to do the old school tour also. I'm going to try and stay out there as much as I can this year.

Q: Are you going to be doing a lot of the new stuff on the Hallowicked dates?

A: On the Hallowicked dates I'm going to be doing a couple of new tracks but mainly I'm just going to stick to my darker stuff for Halloween time.

Q: You usually put out a Halloween track every year. Are you doing that this year?

A: No. Insane Clown Posse I know made one this year but I haven't. I've been busy with the album.

Q: What makes this album different from your other ones?

A: It's more of a party feel instead of the darker side because you know I'm Native American so I usually have the darker Native drums and whatnot. This one's more of a party vibe. I brought out my inner teenager again I guess so it's a lot more party tracks. I'm having fun with it.

Q: It kind of has that eighties hip hop feel to it too.

A: Oh yeah, definitely.

Q: Is there a particular song on Medicine Bag that stands out for you?

A: Especially "Last Chance" mainly. That's the first single off the album. It's just a close personal type feeling song. It's more or less saying goodbye to loved ones. It's one of the deeper songs on the album. I love the personal, deep tracks so that's one of my personal favorites.

Q: Do you think that most of the album is pretty personal?

A: Well "Last Chance" is because of the feel of it. Both of my parents have passed on and I have a sister who passed away. I have two children that I don't really get to see that much because they're living with their mother so it really is a last chance type of vibe. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm speaking to them in the song.

Q: Do you find your own personal experiences add to your music?

A: Either my personal experiences or those of my fans because of being on the road and getting to talk to them. I like to meet and greet a lot so a lot of the stories come from them.

Q: On the track "Brace Yo Self" you say "paranormal music with a rhythm you can boogie to". I think that does a great job of getting at the heart of your music. Do you feel that sentence really describes it?

A: Yeah, definitely. I am very, very into the spiritual world, I guess you would say. It's kind of what I base my music around. Paranormal music, I guess; the native vibe with the spirits and the ancestry.

Q: You started playing music pretty young. Was there a particular reason for that? Were you surrounded by music within your family growing up?

A: Yeah well my father was a preacher so being in church a lot I was always around music and messing with the instruments a lot. What really showed me I could get out there and put out a tape was the first Esham tape. You know someone from the neighborhood doing it. I think that inspired a lot of people who wanted to do music but didn't really know how to get it out there. You just had someone to back them then and inspired a lot of people in the neighborhood.

Q: You mentioned Esham but was there anyone else who inspired you?

A: Yeah, you know just the old school hip hop like Run DMC and Fat Boys. Stuff like that. Prince and Michael Jackson, of course. Anything in that era.

Q: You came into Psychopathic as Blaze's hypeman right?

A: Yeah that's how I got into Psychopathic. I actually did a couple of albums prior to that with a guy called Lavel and we were called Krazy Klan. Then I did a solo album and that's how I hooked up with Blaze. He needed a hypeman and I was solo at the time and so I hooked up with him.

Q: You left Psychopathic for awhile. What made you come back?

A: More or less I just wanted to find myself. When I first got signed I was put into a situation where I was touring a lot and it just got to my head. I was just able to take a break and start up a side company called Native World that was a slower pace with artists and stuff like that. I just went back and did smaller shows and got back into the vibe of things and now I'm ready with the bigger shows. I just needed to take a little break I guess.

Q: Who is on Native World right now?

A: Well there's Strict 9. He's on and off. It's not really a label. It's just a platform for people that come on my shows. I like to have a lot of local acts open instead of you know paying the bigger names to come. I like to give the local acts a chance. It's a spot where they can come and order cds in a small amount or order stage clothes or t-shirts for their band.

Q: Psychopathic has done a great job as a underground label. Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?

A: Flyers!! The best way is flyers and samplers. Giving them away free. Most of my career was unpaid. Be prepared for that. Be prepared for giving away a lot of free stuff. That's the best way to get your name out there.

Q: Besides touring do you have any other future plans?

A: I'm getting ready to shoot the video for "Last Chance". Then I'm going to be starting up a Internet show. I don't really have a name for it right now but I'm just getting all of my ideas for it together. Pretty much that's it besides touring. I'm probably going to do a in-store tour also.

Q: The bonus tracks on the different versions of Medicine Bag were originally from the Possessed album you were working on. Do you still plan to release those as a EP collection?

A: Yeah I want that to be a tour-exclusive cd that you can get on Hatchet Gear but not in the regular stores everywhere. An underground cd for everyone. It's more or less the darker side. Me doing wicked sh*t I'd say.

Q: Earlier this year you were in ICP's comedic western Big Money Rustlas. Do you plan to do more acting?

A: I'd love to get into acting. I know they're filming the Detroit 187 here now so maybe I'll go down there and get some extra parts. I was an extra in the movie Hoffa when that was filming here. That was fun. I don't mind being on set and the hours.

Q: There's a lot of opportunity around here right now.

A: Yeah, right. It's good though, good for the city.

Q: Is there any current music that you are really into?

A: I like anyone that's really hustling. Anyone that's putting in their grind. To me it's really not just the music; it's the personality, the whole attitude of it I guess. If you're not afraid to get on the stage and put up your banner and sell your own merch and shake hands and sign autographs, I think that's awesome. A lot of artists don't really like to meet and greet. They hit the stage and then they just leave. I don't know you know anyone that likes to get personal I guess that would be music I can feel. Someone who can actually get up there and feel their fans.

Q: All of the guests on this album are from Psychopathic but is there anyone outside of that that you would like to work with?

A: Anyone really. I love a lot of different emcees. There's so many out there. I guess probably just old school emcees from the Run DMC era or the Ice-T's.

Q: You talked about going from the large to the small venues and back again. Do you prefer one to the other?

A: No, not really. I think they all have their own attitude.

Q: Psychopathic has gotten a lot of attention this year with the Gathering Tila Tequila incident and the ICP Nightline coverage. What do you want people to know about the label?

A: It's not what a lot of people make it out to be. The label helps out a lot of people in their neighborhood. It's a platform for people to come and learn things like video editing or wrestling. Psychopathic has interns that come and work at the office and that's a platform for them. It's really not what it's made out to be. They just help out a lot of people and the fans you know paint up and get in a ICP line and then turn around and hit up a Jay-Z show. There's really no difference. It's just the difference in how they're looked at I guess.

Q: And over the last couple of years the album sales have increased as well from ICP's Bang! Pow! Boom! to Boondox's South of Hell to Blaze's Gang Rags and most recently Twiztid's Heartbreak & Homicide. I think a lot of new people are being exposed to the music and enjoying it.

A: Yeah, that's awesome. If everyone could get a little taste of it I think the world would be a better place. At least in my opinion because it is a big giant family and everyone does try and help each other out and make sure everyone does have a good time.

Q: I think that sometimes people do take the lyrics too seriously too.

A: Oh yeah and it's no different from a horror movie or a comedy. I guess a lot of bands went through it.

Q: Do you think you'll ever be back in with Dark Lotus?

A: Probably eventually. It's tattered on my wrist until I'm dead and gone. I'm gonna keep saying it until then so eventually maybe. Who knows what the future holds!

Q: Do you still plan to release another Drive-By album with Blaze?

A: Yes. Me and Blaze, we're in talks about another Drive-By and possibly a tour. That's a project I would like to keep going. I love Drive-By stuff.

Q: You talked about working with artists through Native World. Is that something you want to continue with?

A: Yeah I love working with artists. I have ideas that just come into my head all the time and half of them I can't use so I'm sure there's someone out there who could. I'd love to work with artists giving them some type of advice and anything that can help.

Q: With the Internet and downloads I think it's harder to get noticed and like you said a lot of it is about being out there and driving your sales and getting your name out there.

A: Oh yeah. I mean the Internet does help get people get their music out there a lot more actually. There's a lot of dance moves that's out, you know the crazes and all that stuff, and the Internet helps those get noticed so that's good. For some people it kills their album sales but that is where you gotta love to tour and meet and greet.

Q: Is there one track that stands out over your career?

A: "To Whom This May Concern" because that will probably be a song that's played at my funeral. That's probably it right there!

Q: With Halloween approaching, what is the best costume you've ever had?

A: The best costume I ever had was I bought some saran wrap and went as a leftover. I just wrapped my legs and my arms up and wrote meatloaf. A piece of paper that said meatloaf on it. It was a leftover; easy and comfortable.

Q: What can people expect from Hallowicked this year?

A: Just craziness! At Halloween time Juggalos get extra crazy. They come from all out everywhere. It's kind of like a mini-Gathering. It's pandemonium everywhere!

Q: There's always so many out of town people there.

A: Oh yeah. It's awesome that so many people would rather not trick or treat or what not. That's cool. You know you don't really want to trick or treat, you'd rather go to a concert.

Q: I've seen people take their kids out early and then bring them to the show.

A: Oh yeah, yeah plenty of times. That's what I do actually. I take my kids trick or treating and then head down to the show.

Q: Will you be at the Hallowicked After Party?

A: Yes, yep. Gotta check out my homie Blaze! Hope to see you there.

ABK will be opening in Detroit for ICP with the Dayton Family, AMB and Boondox on Halloween night at the Fillmore Theater.

Doors for the show open at 6 p.m..

The Hallowicked Afterparty featuring JCW Wrestling and a performance by Blaze will be down the street at the Majestic Theater.

Doors for the party open at 10 p.m..

ABK will be back in Michigan on Thanksgiving night to open at his friends Critical Bill's annual free show at the Emerald Theater in Mt. Clemens.

The show will also feature performances by the Christina Criss band, Lithium and BWNN.

ABK takes a lighter look at the spiritual world

10-28-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

Detroit underground rapper Anybody Killa (ABK) recently released his fourth album Medicine Bag, which is his third album on the Psychopathic Records label led by horrorcore rappers Insane Clown Posse (ICP).

ABK's music stands out on the Psychopathic roster not only because of his unique delivery due to his distinctive lisp but also because of the fact that he is one of only a few Native American rappers.

ABK has brought his Native American heritage and influences into many of his past songs and on Medicine Bag, his tribal hip hop sound comes through loud and clear.

In the past, his music has been similar in style to most of the dark "wicked" music that all of the artists on Psychopathic Records are known for and he originally began work on a new album set in this style that he planned to call Possessed.

However, midway through the recording of the album he decided to switch directions after being inspired by his culture and people that he met while out on the road.

Medicine Bag began as a way to uplift spirits and a way to project a happier vibe that harkens back to the early hip hop sound.

In Native American culture a medicine bag is a satchel full of magical items to increase a person's skills and abilities.

The items are intended to aid someone during a "vision quest" where sacrifice like fasting, prayer and isolation occur for the purpose of making contact with spirits to guide a person to reach their full potential.

ABK's Medicine Bag album takes this central idea and runs with it creating a listening journey that brings together a mix of rock, rap and pop that leaves the listener craving more.

The album features a cover sporting a tribal painting courtesy of ABK himself.

The album comes in three different versions: red, green and blue. Each version has two different bonus tracks that were originally intended for the Possessed album plus each album insert fits together to make one big poster.

The album opens with a spoken track called "The Meaning". ABK uses the track as a way to explain what the album is all about, "The music on this cd is recognized as having various supernatural abilities."

The opener leads into the album's title track "Medicine Bag", which instantly lets the listener know that this is a party album and immediately brings forth the old school hip hop feel, "There's a song that you play when you ain't feeling right because it's bad to be stressed out and all uptight."

The next track "Get Down" is all about being at the top of your game and features a soundtrack straight out of a cowboy and Indian western complete with gun shots and horses, "Breathe. Tell me how you feel. You looking winded I suggest you chill."

"I'm Comin' Swingin'" is a head banging/low riding track that turns into a powerful track aimed at his Juggalo fans. At times the track moves seamlessly between rap, rock and dance, "Tell everybody you know. This time I'm comin' swingin'." The song also features a nice nod to ABK's old track "Stick and Move".

The album's first single is the ballad "Last Chance", which is a song dedicated to the loved ones he has had to say goodbye to and to those loved ones he is unable to see that often due to his lifestyle. The song should appeal to anyone who has found themselves with regrets and wishing they could let someone know what they are thinking, "If I had one last chance to say hey I would be alright."

Next up is a track with Axe Murder Boyz (AMB) who are signed to the Psychopathic Records' susidiary Hatchet House. The song "Brace Yo Self" features one of the best lyrics on the album delivered by ABK, "Paranormal music with a rhythm you can boogie too." The sentence is the perfect description of the entire album and ABK's discography in general. His own interest in the spiritual world combined with his love of old school MC's is on full display. Unfortunately, the song is taken down a bit with the appearance of AMB who are continuously a weak point on the label.

"Nervous" is a entirely different feel to the rest of the album as it is almost devoid of any background music and just features one continuous beat and some snapping. ABK's low delivery also helps set it's feel as he cooly talks about his emotions before going on stage and urges people to deal with their uneasiness and to just go out and get it done, "There's still no other place that I'd rather be."

"Lose Control" is probably the closest song to the "old" ABK sound as the song is built as a high speed chase and is delivered with a strong punch, "Now I'm mad at the world and I'm showing it."

"That Sh*t U On" features ABK's longtime friend, labelmate and collaborator Blaze Ya Dead Homie and is easily one of the highlight tracks of the album. The song is the most eighties sounding single on the album and puts forth the party vibe in a big way, "A little hip inside your hop...Back up man you're about to make the needle jump."

"Super Killa Fragilistic" is the most hilarious moment of the album as ABK sits everyone down to tell a story about his own attributes, "ABK the dopest...Everbody knows this." However, the song is also aimed at up and coming rappers as a way to get them to go out and work as hard as they can and not sit back and expect things to happen for them.

Next up is the track "Tired of Asking" which is a typical track about getting what you want, "Tired of searching for help. Don't want these cards I was dealt." The song features another reference as ABK refers to his song "Hated Me".

"That's Enough 4 Me" is all about appreciating what you have, "Mind over matter means a lot if you're part of the streets." The track is another heavy fast paced song.

"Keep It Wicked" features a appearance by ICP and changes the sound of the album up a bit. The track is similar in sound to most of ICP's music and features a soundtrack of carnival and "wicked" sounds that the band is known for. The song takes listeners on a ride that seems to be spinning out of control, "I keeps it wicked like a Hendrix guitar." ABK also pays homage to his hometown Detroit as he calls himself a "Motown rap star" and a "Detroit beast".

The album closes with the track "On My Way", which begins as a slow ballad and then explodes into a rock guitar driven track that becomes a Hatchet family anthem complete with the "Juggalos!" and "Family!" chants. The track is a beautiful layered song that sets out to inspire people to take a chance and follow their dreams, "Can't nobody change me or what I believe. So I make it a need to go out and achieve."

Pepper brings Like A Surgeon tour to the Crofoot

 Pepper on stage at the Crofoot 10-19-10

10-22-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

Tuesday night, Pontiac's Crofoot Ballroom was treated to Pepper's Like A Surgeon tour.

Pepper is touring behind their recently released EP Stitches which features popular single "Wake Up".

Tuesday, the show was opened by Californian punk rock band Pour Habit, whose wild antics and hard songs were a hit with the small but rambunctious college crowd.

Pour Habit frontman Chuck Green found his way out into the audience to mosh with the fans quite a few times and spent the rest of the time dancing wildly from one end of the stage to the other.

Randomly throughout the set the band would stop for a beer bong break before they would get back to their unique blend of metal, reggae and something that is indescribably their own sound.

Up next was Minneapolis hip hop artist Brother Ali and DJ Snuggles.

Brother Ali actually spent most of his childhood in Michigan and seemed to have quite a few fans who came out to the show just to see him.

The albino rapper is known for his early hip hop style and music that deals with things that are important to him including his view on the political system as well as his wish that the world would be a more open and accepting place.

Tuesday, he pulled out a number of songs off of his new album Us including the powerful title track and "The Preacher".

Set highlights included a beatboxing performance by DJ Snuggles that blew the audience away and a performance of Brother Ali's popular track "Truth Is".

Hawaiian rock band Pepper are known for their wild performances and they did not disappoint at the Crofoot.

In honor of their Stitches EP the band named their latest tour Like A Surgeon and before their set, the audience was treated to a soundtrack of hospital themed songs including Madonna's "Fever", TLC's "No Scrubs", Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood" and, of course, Weird Al's "Like A Surgeon".

The band's set for the tour is a hospital theme complete with a hospital background and props like a teaching skeleton and a wheelchair.

Pepper then came out to the sounds of someone being resuscitated and flashing red lights representing the heartbeat.

Pepper members lead vocalist/guitarist Kaleo Wassman, vocalist/bassist Bret Bollinger and drummer Yesod Williams came out sporting hospital masks and doctor scrubs.

The band then played a solid set full of songs spanning their thirteen year career.

Pepper's music is a great mix of hardcore reggae and rock reminiscent of Sublime or 311 but the band puts their own humorous spin on everything they sing.

New tracks like "Wake Up" and "Lonely" went hand in hand with older tracks like "Your Face" and "Nice Time".

At one point DJ Snuggles and Brother Ali joined the band on stage and during a performance of new song "Mirror" Pour Habit's Green took the stage in a wheelchair as a mental patient.

Green also made a memorable appearance during Pepper's first performance of popular new song "Drunk Girl" as he swayed, sang and jumped along on the edge of the stage.

However, it was the band's performances of "Freeze", "No Control" and closer "Ashes" that really stood out as they hand the crowd singing and swaying along.

Finger Eleven, Taddy Porter and Tripp N' Dixie rock out at the Machine Shop

Finger Eleven at the Machine Shop 10-16-10

10-20-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

On Saturday night, Finger Eleven, Taddy Porter and Tripp N' Dixie made a stop at Flint's Machine Shop.

The show was opened by Clarkston's own Tripp N' Dixie who got the crowd warmed up with a set full of soulful rock music.

The band has been gaining recognition after recently opening for Taddy Porter and Saving Abel.

Their southern rock tinged music fit in well on that tour and Saturday they were the perfect opener getting the crowd on their feet and moving along.

Taddy Porter was up next.

The Oklahoma rock band has been enjoying the success of their self titled debut album and have been getting their name out there through a number of high profile tours including most recently touring with Slash.

Saturday, despite front man Andy Brewer's cold, the band sounded great with a set list full of their heaviest songs including "Shake Me", "Big Enough" and "Mean Bitch".

Set highlights included opener "Whatever Haunts You" and the slower "In The Morning".

The members of Taddy Porter ooze chemistry on stage and their powerful guitar work make them some of rock's greatest rising stars.

The band mixes the blues, heavy metal and southern rock into a amazing mix that blasts listeners away and often ends up overshadowing the headliners.

For that very reason, the band has become a regular at the Machine Shop and will be returning there with Evans Blue on Wednesday, November 3.

Canadian rock band Finger Eleven are out on tour in support of their latest album Life Turns Electric, which is full of some of the best material they've ever done.

The album is a wonderful mix of strong rock songs and heartfelt ballads and on Saturday the band presented a number of these songs to the Flint crowd for the first time.

Songs like their opener "Pieces Fit" and "Any Moment Now" fit in well with older songs like "One Thing" and "Above".

Vocalist Scott Anderson has a powerful diverse voice and guitarist Rick Jackett kept the crowd entertained with his crazy antics.

Closing songs "Living In A Dream" and "Paralyzer", which included a section featuring covers of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall", stood out but it was their memorable performance of "I'll Keep Your Memory Vague" and new song "Whatever Doesn't Kill Me" that were the evening's highlight moments.

Taddy Porter make the Machine Shop their second home

Taddy Porter at the Machine Shop 10-16-10

10-19-10 Originally published on by Tracy Heck

It's always fun getting the chance to shadow a band but it was particularly exciting to get a chance to shadow Oklahoma rock band Taddy Porter on their latest visit to Flint's Machine Shop on Saturday.

Taddy Porter began to gain attention after being discovered by Overtone Music Group in 2009 and their subsequent two years as a opening act for Saving Abel.

The band consists of lead vocalist Andy Brewer, lead guitarist Joe Selby, drummer Doug Jones and bassist Kevin Jones.

The band met while they were in college when Andy randomly met Doug and then Andy introduced him to his guitar instructor Joe. The band rounded out with the addition of Doug's brother Kevin.

Earlier this year, Taddy Porter released their self-titled debut album and watched as the lead single “Shake Me” debuted as the #3 Most Added track at Active Rock radio.

After the release, the band had the honor of touring with famous guitarist Slash who was touring in support of his self-titled debut solo album.

After getting a short break back home after the Slash tour, Taddy Porter is back out on a tour with Finger Eleven who are promoting their latest album Life Turns Electric.

Saturday the Machine Shop was the site of the tour's opening date.

Taddy Porter has become such a regular act at the venue that they were even introduced on stage as the "house band".

The band actually began their trip to Michigan with a headlining stop at the Intersection in Grand Rapids on Thursday.

Saturday, after making their way to the venue, the band headed out to get gas leaving Kevin behind to greet my friend and I when we got there as Finger Eleven performed their sound check.

The band then made a quick trip across the street to Flint's Dort Mall, which is known for it's lack of business but entertaining decor filled with old memorabilia.

The band made the trip after a sick Andy decided to go in search of a pair of sunglasses.

The band then snuck out with a local photographer friend to find some key spots in Flint to take some pictures.

Due to the trip, they ended up missing their own sound check time so opener Tripp N' Dixie filled the spot until they returned.

They then ran through a quick sound check of their own before sitting down for a interview as Joe serenaded us on his guitar:

Q: So when I last spoke to you back in August you were just getting ready to head out on the Slash tour. How did that end up going?

Joe: It was awesome! Awesome!

Q: Did you get to hang out with Slash at all?

Doug: Yeah we did. We got to say hi and hung out a little bit. Myles [Kennedy, Slash's touring vocalist] was around a lot and he was really cool. Slash was pretty reserved.

Andy: He was pretty busy though. It was cool.

Kevin: It was amazing! He was super nice. So was Myles.

Q: How is this tour with Finger Eleven going?

Andy- This is actually our first night. We haven't even met them yet.

Doug- We're on tour with them for three weeks I think.

Andy- It's two I think.

Q: And then you're heading out with Evans Blue and playing the Machine Shop again in a couple of weeks on November 3?

Andy: Yeah that's two weeks also.

Q: Do you plan on doing a headlining tour anytime soon?

Kevin shakes his head yes as Andy indicates no.

Doug- We're waiting on that.

Kevin- Probably not!

Andy- If we did it would probably just be around back home.

Q: You got to go back home for a bit after the Slash tour.

Andy- Yeah I got to go back home and see all of my friends I hadn't seen in a long time so I didn't get any rest. I was out with them and there was no time to rest.

Q: Which is probably why you're sick now...

Andy- I think it is. That's exactly what it is!

Q: With all the different tours have you been changing up your set list?

Andy- We changed it up because we had some scattered shows where we headlined like the show in Grand Rapids the other night.

Doug- That was real cool.

Andy- Shows like here we only get 30 minutes.

Kevin and Doug chime in with 40 minutes.

Andy- 40 minutes. Is that what it is?

Q: Who else was on the Slash tour?

Andy: We played with a band called Tag The Band on a few dates.

Q: Do you find larger crowds back home when you play there? Does it usually sell out?

There is a chorus of sometimes by the entire band.

Doug- Sometimes in our hometown. There are definitely larger crowds there though.

Andy- We don't really sell out in Tulsa though.

Q: The Slash tour was in larger venues. How was that?

Andy- Yeah it was great.

Doug- Some of the crowds were unbelievable.

Kevin- A lot of them were selling out. It was pretty cool.

Q: The larger venues have a different feel to them...

Andy- It is. You get used to playing with a whole lot of people and there's a whole lot of enthusiasm in a big group of people. I like playing in both types of venues. We've been here at the Machine Shop like 20 times.

Doug and Joe say six or seven times.

Kevin- One thousand times and in two more weeks!

Andy- Six or seven times. We have people who come out and check us out now all the time. That's the business you know? You travel and come back and see your crowd grow and have more friends in the city. With this city that has happened quite a bit. That's a great feeling to know you can come and see a bunch of familiar faces and to know you've made more and more friends. That's really cool.

Q: It definitely seems like the crowds and the recognition is growing.

Andy- What was really great at the time was when we went out on tour with Saving Abel. But then we toured with them for two years so we didn't really get out of that crowd. We played in front of them for years. The tour with Slash and this tour and the next one are great because we get out and see more people. We had a date with Buckcherry in Atlanta and they're a great rock and roll band. We started meeting people and making new friends because of that. We made friends with Buckcherry and we're talking about possibly touring with them.

Kevin- Nothing official.

Andy- We'd love to tour with them though. Their crowds are good. They're a great band with a great show and they play in front of people who want to see a great rock show.

Q: Before this show after saying I was coming out to cover it I had tons of people leaving me messages saying, "Have them play this or that song". People are definitely listening to the album.

Andy- Yeah tonight they want us to play "Long Slow Drag".

Q: That was actually something I heard a lot!

Kevin- That'll be when we headline.

Andy- Yeah the next time we come through. Well not this next time with Evans Blue but sometime after that.

Kevin- In another two weeks.

There is a chorus of laughs.

Kevin- We'll come back and work that song up. We will.

Andy- Next time we go back home we'll get it together. We got a piano. That was the hardest thing. That was the whole reason we couldn't play it because we didn't have a piano. When we went into the studio in Tennesee there was a piano there so we recorded me playing that. As soon as we get some wiring on our own piano done we'll do it. It's gonna be fun. I'm excited to just play it on tour.

Q: Have you performed most of the album live now?

Doug- Oh yeah.

Andy- Yeah there's only a few songs left. We haven't played "Bringin' Me Down" and of course "Long Slow Drag". Yeah haven't played those live yet.

Joe bursts in to the riff from "Bringin' Me Down" and everyone laughs as Andy points and says yeah that one.

Andy- There's constantly new songs so that's good. Always working on new stuff.

Kevin- Yeah we'll probably start throwing those in there for the conversation. You know, previews.

Andy- That way you can get the rhythm set before the studio.

Kevin- That and you can test it out to see how people like it and respond to it.

Q: Will you be playing anything new tonight?

Andy- No. We're working on a new set though.

Q: What keeps you coming back to a place like the Machine Shop? Is it the fact that you have gotten to know the people?

Andy- That's why we play here more because we know Kevin [Zink, Machine Shop owner] and everyone here at the Machine Shop is the best.

Doug- We came last night for the Hank Williams III show. I sent Kevin a text message and was like hey can we get in and he was just like sure. We came up the street and George [Slater, Machine Shop sound technician] was out there waiting and guided us in to the bus parking and then took us in through the back way and gave us pizza. It was awesome! It's definitely cool to come to a venue where people like you and know you and you know them.

Q: You said you've been working on new music. Any idea on when a new album will be out?

Andy- That's a good question because I was thinking earlier rather than later but that is just what I think our band should do. After our cycle here in the U.S. we're gonna go to Europe and restart the album over there.

Kevin- Maybe even re-release it over here a second time too. Their music scene really seems to pick up things and increase your visibility.

Andy- I would imagine if that goes well we would probably stay over there for awhile.

Kevin- Do the whole Hendrix thing!

Andy- Exactly. Live there for a few years and then everyone will be going what happened to Taddy Porter? They used to play around so much. Then it's just gonna be like bam! We're gonna come back brand new with all new songs and they're gonna go oh my god!

Kevin- Taddy Porter....I love that band!

Q: We'll be seeing a Machine Shop poster spouting Back By Popular Demand!

Andy- Exactly. That's it right there.

Q: When do you plan out the night's set list?

Doug- 20 minutes beforehand.

Andy- Yeah usually it's off the top of our heads. We go back and forth. We usually have a set one or two songs that we always play. We like to usually play our most rocking songs so it's just getting them together in a order and then it's just here you go. You know you don't really get a chance if you play 30 or 20 minutes to naturally let your set unfold so it's pretty much just rock really hard and have the audience go oh that's great. So we play it that way but when we have a chance to make it longer that's when we'll be able to play "Long Slow Drag". It'll be great.

Kevin- The movement will be good.

Andy- Oh we should do that!

The rest of the band stares blankly at him.

Andy- It's a good idea. When we go to Europe we can record a EP and release it in the U.S. after our album is done here. We'll get people listening to our new stuff so when we come back they'll be ready for the second album.

Q: A career path is born!

Andy- Yeah. It changes everyday.

Doug- It changes all the time.

Kevin- That's hilarious.

Andy- Our lives are constantly scattered. We're not real grounded. I haven't been grounded for a long time. It's like okay you're going this way now. If you can imagine us like floating along aimlessly but with a goal. Whenever someone were to be in love or something and like they stop to take in something. You know floating along and then stopping to smell. That's kind of how I imagine us right now.

Kevin- But with our eyes closed.

Q: But drinking Taddy Porter beer?

Kevin- No we never do.

Doug- It's the best beer that we've never had.

A discussion ensues about the fact that Kevin turned 21 the week before.

Q: Happy Birthday! Must make things easier for you now.

Kevin- Actually it wasn't too bad. I was still able to go everywhere you know?

Q: Isn't it kind of crazy to jump from tour to tour?

Andy- I like playing with a lot of different bands. I found out that it's cool to play with a bunch of different bands because it's a different perspective on music. Like I said earlier touring with Saving Abel I'd be talking to somebody and someone would be on stage in the back and I would just start singing along because I knew exactly where he was at and knew exactly where they were going. I like to hear something new all the time. Change is good.

Kevin- Change it up!

Q: How was the Hank Williams show last night?

Kevin- It was ridiculous!

Doug- I'm glad we called because we've been here the night before a show in the past and not come to the Machine Shop and missed a great band. So I was like I'm calling tonight and seeing who it is and found out he was playing. He's sort of been around following us. You know we hear about him at venues we are playing and always seems to be the night before or after he is there. Everyone kept saying you have to see him.

Joe- It was pretty crazy watching him.

Kevin- Good time.

Doug- I downloaded some of their songs.

Q: Do you get a chance to get out and see many shows?

Doug- Not a lot.

Kevin- It's kind of weird like to be baseball player all day and to go see a game, you know? But on the other hand you still want to see your favorite teams play. It's the same thing with our favorite bands.

Doug- When we have a opportunity we do.

Kevin- Last night was something where we didn't even know any of his songs but it was like holy crap that was pretty cool. Something totally different that kind of mixes it up.

Andy- It is definitely fun to do.

Kevin- Yeah watching that slide guitar man!

Joe- The slide band was riveting. It was incredible with a double bass like metal riff and then the wailing.

Doug- It reminded me of White Zombie in a way but more crazy. Even more impressive.

Kevin- He had like turn tables. All of them were good.

Q: The Machine Shop is one of those great rock venues.

Andy- Yeah you can see anything here. It's funny because we used to hear about it and we see the shirts everywhere.

Everyone stops to listen as Joe begins playing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love".

Q: So now that you've had this new country experience will we be seeing that in your music?

There is a chorus of nos.

Kevin- There will be a new direction but not that far out. Not in that direction.

The interview ends as everyone takes off outside to get ready for the show.

The rest of the night the members of Taddy Porter spent a lot of time hanging out with their fans before their impressive set which included many of the crowd's favorite songs like "Shake Me", "Big Enough" and "In The Morning".

After the show some Machine Shop regulars presented Kevin with a birthday cake and the band spent some time posing for photos and signing autographs before Andy headed out to get some rest.

Taddy Porter will be back at the Machine Shop on Wednesday, November 3 with Rains and Evans Blue. Doors for the event open at 7 p.m.. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at, Paradise Express in the Dort Mall, Strange Daze Tattoos in Davison, High Octane in Fenton or at the club during business hours.