Friday, March 21, 2014

Heavy Metal Anthem Interview: 
New Wave Hits the New Millennium

Conducted by Anthony Servante




While listening to KPFK, the show Headroom Hour, where experimental and independent music can be heard each weekend, I first heard the band Heavy Metal Anthem. The sound was Retro New Wave, 80s music updated for the New Millennium. It struck me as a cross between Strange Advance and Men Without Hats, both from Canada. Only HMA, as they refer to themselves, was from the Eastside of Los Angeles, where you are more likely to hear Chicano Rock bands such as MALO, El Chicano, or Los Lobos. But HMA was nothing like that. Their sound is not regional; it is international. 

So, I hunted them down on Google. What a bummer. There was more than one band called Heavy Metal Anthem. Then I tried YouTube and found their videos and a link to a Facebook page. Just like that, I messaged Rich Michalowski, one of the founders of the band, and invited him and co-founder Adam Merrinto to talk to my readers about HMA. They accepted and here we are. I'm anxious to introduce the band to the Servante of Darkness music followers, so let's get started.



The 88


Anthony: Let’s start at the beginning. Where do your stories begin prior to HMA?

Rich: "Adam is a founding member of the band The 88 as well as a backing musician for Ray Davies and I believe (occasionally) The 3 O' Clock. I was the lead singer and principle songwriter for a band called Mighty Six Ninety who released music from 2003 to 2008 on various record labels in the US, UK & Japan. I also compose music for Film and HMA is my first jump back into having a full time band."

Adam: I am not a bum, I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things. My friends and... uh... my thermos.







Anthony: How did HMA begin? What musical goals did you have in mind?

Rich: "Adam & I ran into eachother at a record store in Eagle Rock, but had been introduced previously. I had been a fan of The 88 for years and always thought highly of Adam's playing. It began with one song that I had demo'd and progressed into the two of us recording 8 tracks, 6 of which made the EP. While I can't speak for Adam, my goal was to record music that was personal to me without concern for how it might be received. Well, that's kind of a half truth. I still care."

Adam: Heavy Metal Anthem started in the beginning when it began and it will go on till we come to the end: then we will stop.






Anthony: I hear a lot of 80s New Wave influence in your music, especially in the song, “Say Tonight”. If there is New Wave influence, which bands did you follow? If no, what music or bands did influence your sound?

Rich: Morrissey, New Order, The English Beat & FUN (the band) are my influences and can be heard throughout the recording. As you can see from his answer below Adam has odd taste in music.

Adam: Menudo.


Anthony: Can you tell us about “Say Tonight”? That’s the song that caught my attention when it was played on KPFK’s Head Room Hour.

Rich: "Say Tonight" was the first song I had completed (at least demo'd in Pro Tools prior to meeting Adam) that I was happy with since Mighty Six Ninety dissolved in 2008. It was really Adam's urging to finish the track and record more material that lead us in the direction of HMA.

Adam: It’s about a girl.


Anthony: Do you share songwriting duties? How do divide up the duties for the band?

Rich: Adam is the producer, but that is an understament. He also plays multiple instruments on the record and we key in finding musicians to play with us as well; trumpet, sax, trombone players, percussionists, etc. most of the tracks were roughly demo'd in pro tools before sharing with Adam. Adam brought the songs to life.

Adam: I cook and Rich cleans.


Anthony: What are you working on now? I’m anxious to hear more of your sound?






Rich: The new material we're working on is much more uptempo than the Say Tonight EP and very minimal in production. A lot less happening in terms of instrumention.

Adam: More anthems!


Anthony: I call your sound Retro Wave? What name do you prefer?

Rich: That's a good description. I'd have to say Retro Wave Vs. Ska - Ska is a big influence on the new material.

Adam: Infant Contemporary


Anthony: Do you plan any type of tour, local or national? International? If not, how do you plan to get the word out on your music? I’ll help in any way I can.



Contact Rich about the CD



Rich: Anthony, thanks for your help and the write up. We've been supported locally by KPFK, KCRW & KCSN as well as local venues offering us shows. We're booking west coast dates for end of April and would love to play nationally as internationally. To take you up on your offer to help, we're actually looking for a drummer to join the band. If you know of anyone who might be interested and available please do let me know. Contact: They can be contacted at https://www.facebook.com/HeavyMetalAnthem.

Adam: Yes, Heavy Metal Anthem plans to set a record for the number of shows played in a year. The goal is to play two a night, every night for a year.


Anthony: What do you see for yourselves a year from now?

Rich: Touring consistently and putting out more material (whether independently or through a label).

Adam: Taking a break from touring, and recording more songs.


Anthony : Can you give us a Top Ten List of Songs that you've written or from other bands that have been important for you growing as serious musicians?

Rich's Top Ten List (plus a few bonus picks):


1. Morrissey - The Last Of The Famous International Playboys





2. New Order - Regret





3. Morrissey - Ouija Board





4. The English Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You (cover)






5. Andy Williams Can't Get Used To Losing You






6. Richard Hawley "Born Under A Bad Sign"





7. The Smiths "Work Is A Four Letter Word" (cover)





8. New Order "Procession"




9. Ritchie Valens "Donna"




10. Roy Orbison "The Crowd"





11. Leave This World - Mighty Six Ninety released on 7" - CITY ROCKERS/UK


Click HERE to watch Video.


12. Have You Ever Asked Yourself - Mighty Six Ninety - released 2008 Invisible DJ Records/ Sony *A track I wrote in 2003 that our UK label never released and was later released in 2008 on our re-release of Cheers, To The Bitter End with bonus tracks - my favorite song I've ever written.


Click HERE to hear a sample


Adam's Top Ten List:

1. 123456789101112





2. Greatest American Hero 





3. Pussy Pussy Pussy 




4. Go Potty Go 




5. You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile




6. Let’s Go Mets Go 




7. Night Songs 





8. Disneyland’s Main St Electrical Parade




9. Pac-Man Fever 


Click HERE to watch video.


10. Heartlight (www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0TfR9mgOiU)



**********

And there we have it. Heavy Metal Anthem's Rich and Adam taking opposite approaches to addressing you, the readers. Rich gave us some background and insight into HMA, while Adam had fun with his answers. Rich gave us an impressive list of songs that reflect the sound of HMA and reveals the influences behind their music, while Adam supplied us with a mish-mosh of inane selections that some readers may find nostalgic, but others will simply be puzzled how a band with such great music would dilute the music of the band with such a crass selection. But for every great Ray Garton interview, there's got to be a John Shirley interview to remind us that we must suffer for our art. 

Thank you Rich for maintaining the dignity that the band deserves. I hope your music finds its target market and soars from there. I do hope you found it entertaining and enlightening on both Rich and Adam's parts. Perhaps they'll return when their next CD is out with a new outlook on how the band would be best presented to the Servante of Darkness readers.

I'll end here with the final words from Rich:

Thanks again Anthony.

Cheers,

Rich Michalowski


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Religion and Horror: Between Heaven, Hell, and Earth, 
Part Two: An Expansion on the Definition of Evil

By Anthony Servante
Research by William Cook




Asmodeus



In Religion and Horror, Part One, we tried to gauge a commonality in the definition of Evil in essays written by authors in the Horror genre. In some cases, they spoke from personal experience; in others, they spoke through their stories. Evil came down to choice. Because we have free will, we can decide to commit unholy acts of horror, just as we can choose to benefit our brethren with benevolent acts of selflessness. While I maintain that God’s Providence is already in motion, the beginning, middle, and end already predetermined, so it doesn’t matter what we choose; our choices have already been determined. What seems like free will is a stacked deck of decision-making.



The Problem with Free Will:
Serial Killers



In Part Two, we will expand on the definition of Evil with three essays: First, we have RESIDENT EVIL by Paul Teusner, NUMINOSITIES: ‘Things That Should Not Be — The Uncanny Convergence of Religion and Horror by Matt Cardin, and The Genre of Horror by Mgr. Viktória Prohászková.



Resident Evil Creature



Paul Teusner, in his work, RESIDENT EVIL, says, “Mythic stories point to the origins of life and offer a world-order that gives importance and function to human life.” For Teusner, Evil is the errors of our becoming civilized. We learn by trial and mistake, and adjust our individual life in conjunction with the lives of our community to make rules so these mistakes are not repeated. Before there were rules, there were stories passed from one generation to the next. Teusner further states,

          “The act of religion is the act of constructing and maintaining a set of beliefs and material practices which provide meaning to one’s life amidst the universe of known experience. This set of beliefs offers more than a way of answering the question, “Why
am I here?”. It provides a framework by which one sets oneself among others, identifies a purpose in life, hope for the future: a pathway along which to course the rest of one’s life.”
                                                              From Resident Evil

The rules and stories become our culture, our religion, and our obedience to the law of experience. But as Teusner shows in his discussion of “horror”, the law does not extend beyond this experience. So, how do we deal with that which exceeds our rules? We create monsters. Or “myths”, as Teusner prefers: “Myths endeavour to frame the reality beyond known human experience in language of symbols known in human experience.”

Let’s keep in mind that there are the monsters of the supernatural, those beyond our experience, and there are human monsters, those who choose to ignore the rules and repeat the errors of the past, that time of savagery.



The Rising of the Leviathan:
When Evil and Good Will Meet Again



In Matt Cardin’s NUMINOSITIES: ‘Things That Should Not Be — The Uncanny Convergence of Religion and Horror’, he states right off: “…horror and religion have always been bound together in the most intimate of entanglements.” He turns to the stories of the “Ancient Sumerians”, “Ancient Greeks”, and “Hebrew scripture”, to name a few, to illustrate the connection. This binding of horror and religion, Cardin discusses in the stories of old, as Teusner alluded to earlier. Furthermore, Cardin notes that the horror and religion connection reached the colonies of the New World via the witch trials and life under the constant fear of demon possession or becoming spellbound by the wiccans’ sorcery. 

So, as religion began making the rules of the new civilizations, and began telling its stories (e.g., the Bible), it included a punishment for breaking the rules. The crime of witches, for instance, is cavorting with the Devil, and their sentence for such unholy behavior was in itself pretty horrific: drowning, hanging, stoning, and in Europe, burning and torture (think Iron Maiden—the device, not the band). So, not only did the religious fear the Devil, they feared God’s wrath as well, perhaps more so: Cardin explains,

          “…perhaps it has to do with an unconscious recognition that only a few have ever named aloud, a recognition that is simultaneously implicit and explicit in all of those great biblical images of a wrathful God whose transcendent nature is categorically other than the natural world, so that, even though this nature is technically termed “holiness,” it emerges in human experience more as a tremendous, awe-and-dread-inspiring eruption of supernatural nightmarishness that is fundamentally corrosive both to the world at large and to the human sensibility in particular.”
                                                                   (From NUMINOSITIES).

Thus, the horrors in the stories of the Bible attest to God’s Predetermined outcome for man being both a blessing (The Rapture, for instance) and a curse (Think Left Behind—with the Antichrist, the Leviathan, and so on). 

Cardin sums it up, “In other words, perhaps it has to do with a psychologically subterranean sense of unsettlement at the notion that the divine itself, not just in its conventionally demonic aspects but in its intrinsic essence, may be fundamentally menacing.” Religion deems man doomed unless he meets certain criteria, obeys certain laws, but the multitude of interpretations of God’s Providence has man wondering if he has chosen the path to Heaven or Hell. The uncertainty is its own form of horror, the “psychologically subterranean sense of unsettlement”, as Cardin explains.



Cults: The Way to Heaven or Hell?



The Genre of Horror by Mgr. Viktória Prohászková expands on this “unsettlement”, or “fear”, instilled in us by the stories of old and the religious rules that will determine our fate. She writes,

“The oldest and strongest human emotion is fear. It is embedded in people since time began. It was fear that initiated the establishment of faith and religion. It was the fear of unknown and mysterious phenomena, which people could not explain otherwise than via impersonating a high power, which decides their fates. To every unexplainable phenomenon they attributed a character, human or inhuman, which they associated with supernatural skills and invincible power. And since the human imagination knows no limits, a wide scale of archetypal characters have been created, such as gods, demons, ghosts, spirits, freaks, monsters or villains. Stories and legends describing their insurmountable power started to spread about them.”
                                                      (From The Genre of Horror)

And here we reach the monsters that connect Religion and Horror: “demons, ghosts, spirits [think poltergeists], freaks…” Because we cannot fathom a God that is Evil, we create monsters; our fear manifests itself as the creatures responsible for our uncertain fates. But we must not forget the concept of free will and predetermination. We must simply add the “fear” of God to the discussion.

And now we can turn to the works by our authors for this piece. We shall examine them for the three conditions for Evil to exist: man’s choice to disobey the rules, God’s cruel punishments, and unnatural monsters. The authors and the works at hand include: John Milton, Paradise Lost; William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist;  Billie Sue Mosiman, Banished; Lisa Lane, Myths of Gods; Hank Schwaeble, Diabolical; Kat Yares, Vengeance is Mine, and Elizabeth Massie, Sineater.

We begin with Paradise Lost by John Milton in Part Three.

See you there.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When Horror Speaks, the Darkness Listens…
Audiobooks Reviewed by Anthony Servante





Shifting Fears (Audible Audio Edition)
Written by Eric A. Shelman
Narrated by Craig Jessen


To Purchase Click Here


Summary:

Some believe time is a curve. The days behind us fall from view as we move forward, rounding the bend to discover what lies in store for us next. Nothing is gone … it’s merely back there, accessible again if we only knew how to reverse course. Others believe that time is a straight line that is obliterated as our present is created, existing only in our memories … gone forever, never to be seen or heard from again. Luke McCabe wishes the latter were true. He really does. He never wanted to be a serial killer. He never wanted to be The Cowboy. Take a ride in Luke’s restored, 1958 Cadillac Sixty Special Fleetwood. Buckle in and feel the desert ground beneath your wheels. Only then will you be fully equipped with the knowledge to decide how time really unfolds. One recommendation: The Cadillac named Adeline holds dark secrets ... stay clear of her trunk.


Eric A. Shelman


Author Biography:

Eric A. Shelman is also the author of an earlier serial killer novel called "A Reason To Kill," as well as a bit of witch fare entitled "Generation Evil." If you love reading zombie tales, then you are going to EAT UP Eric's "Dead Hunger" zombie chronicles, which will ultimately encompass six books. As of April 2013, it's at four. As a little side note, MOST of the fans of Eric's zombie novels have never read zombie books before - but NOW they're hooked. Pick it up and you'll see. Eric has a fan page on Facebook, Eric A Shelman, Author. Also his website, www.ericshelman.com, where you can keep up on his latest releases and get on his mailing list!



Craig Jessen


Narrator Biography: 

Craig Jessen is an American playwright. He spent his childhood slowly migrating west, from New Jersey to Minnesota to Oregon. As an adult he has worked in small stages on both coasts. In addition to writing, Craig directs plays and narrates audiobooks. You can learn more at his website, www.craigjessen.com.



Review:

How does one review an audiobook? Is it an audio version of the source book, much like a movie based on a book? That's the dilemma for this critic, for I feel that I have not read Shifting Fears. I have experienced someone else's reading of the book. Here are some of the problems I had. When we read a novel, we imagine a series of pictures, sights, and sounds unfolding in our mind's eye, like a three-hundred page flip-book. We interpret the words and establish a mental song, for instance, the storyline, the guitar, the plotline, the bass, the dialog, the drums, the narrator, the lead vocalist. In the case of the audiobook, someone else is interpreting the same song in a different way. Imagine Stairway to Heaven by Nirvana. Which is not to say it is a bad interpretation--just not the version our minds captured and created.

In stage play terms, Craig Jessen, the vocalist of Shifting Fears, acts as director, performers, and stage manager. We are not reading Eric A. Shelman, but Jessen's interpretation of Shelman. We, as readers used to being our own interpreter, enjoy the performance as much, if not more, than the fiction, for we never see the words. We hear our own voice echoed back to us as if we were reading the book; we imagine that that is what our mental interpretation would sound like if someone were to record our thoughts as we read the book. So, in some cases, the interpretation may in fact be superior to our own, or in other cases, weaker. Thus, using our music metaphor, it may be the case that Nirvana may in fact play a better version of Stairway to Heaven than Led Zeppelin, or, at least, a comparable one.

So, that is what we are looking for when we approach the audiobook critiques and reviews: Is it better than our own interpretation of the book and does it adequately interpret the book? To answer these questions, however, one must read the book before listening to the audiobook, which seems the redundancy. Therefore, I should deconstruct the interpretation in those cases where I have not read the source fiction. (In my next review, Nightworld by F. Paul Wilson, I have read the book more than once, so that should prove interesting). Here, does the interpretation work on its own as fiction, approximating or surpassing the source? That will be our question.

Let's begin with Craig Jessen's characterizations from Shifting Fears. To capture The Cowboy, our narrator uses a husky Clint Eastwood voice. It is difficult to imagine The Man With No Name killing innocent people, so that voice choice may not have been the wisest. A simple Texas accent would have sufficed and may have made the killer more scary. Eastwood is not scary. To capture Luke, our hero caught in supernatural circumstances, Jessen uses a confident voice when he converses with other characters and shifts to a doubtful voice when he introspectively considers his ghostly predicament. Jessen's Luke is the backbone of the story; his confusion, fear, and desperation are well-developed. We may not have heard Clint's voice in our reading of Shelman's book, but we could only wish to hear Luke's voice should we choose to read it. In this case, Craig Jessen makes the fiction his own.

Next, let's consider Jessen's detached narrator, the third person of the fiction. He is a chameleon matching the story's backgrounds, whether it is describing a desert killing or detailing the restoration of a 1958 Cadillac. He is both observer and participant, thus allowing us to hear our own thoughts following the fiction. He never gets in the way of the story. He is invisible, as he should be, as he would be if we read the source fiction ourselves. So, here, Jessen succeeds in elevating our experience beyond our own expectations of an adequate interpretation of the book. 

Now, how about the story itself? Eric A. Shelman has fashioned a cross between science fiction and the supernatural. In the novel's description, time is a curve. If you go fast enough, you can catch up to yourself. The Cadillac is the time machine, per se, that makes Luke go fast enough to catch up to the killer inside himself, The Cowboy, but, so too, does The Cowboy catch up to Luke. We have two characters struggling for control of the body. The novel might work as psychological horror, but Shelman takes a chance with the time travel angle and makes it click. 

I suppose I should say now that I want to read the book, but I don't think I need another interpretation of Shifting Fears, for Craig Jessen's version left me with an experience that I can live with without the need for the words.