(All photos by Jon Paul Douglass)
Oktoberfest In OKC
After the fateful travels from Raleigh to Hamburg to London to Kansas City to OKC - we found ourselves having another day off before the USA release-date show of In Waves. It was Little Nicky’s birthday and I felt like it was high time to celebrate. After a little researching online, I found a German place in Oklahoma City that sounded really promising - I tried to round up who I could (only could wrangle JP and Nick and myself) and we headed to Ingrid’s Kitchen at dinner-time.
Although not German, but at least in a German glass, I ordered everyone a round of 1L Hoegaardens. There really is something special about a beer glass the size of a newborn. Nick by this point had been in Trivium for around a year and a half - and I imagine being in a band that has been around for 10 plus years before becoming a member is odd… maybe a little difficult when you’re in a band with someone as regimented, borderline-OCD, timely, and hungry as myself - so I do try to ease ol’ Nicky-poo into the band. Sometimes I may be a little hard to deal with having only known me for a few years… but I do mean well - so I figured a shit-ton of beer would be another one of those nice bonding moments.
(all photos again, thankfully, by Jon Paul Douglass)
In our group dinners, our business dinners, date-nights, and anything involving food - I handle the ordering. I feel I have a good sense on what people will like, how much of it we will need, and how to host and do all that fun stuff. I also am the resident food-uber-fanatic, so it’s only natural that I take the duties of table-hosting.
We started with the Blood and tongue served open face on a brotchen (hand-crusted French roll), dry with tomato slices. I knew this would get some faces - but I selfishly needed some of the “good stuff.” It was more like a lunch meat than anything, prepared similar to a head cheese - it was sliced from a giant lump of the offal-mixture. The mustard and the intense salami-tasting meat went great - I found myself eating more of it than my cohorts.
Our mains included: Jagerschnitzel, Weiner Schnitzel (pork loin cutlet, hand breaded and grilled with sauerkraut, red cabbage, German potato salad and bread), The Grobe bratwurst (coarsely ground pork and veal), The Knackwurst (lightly smoked fine pork and veal), Smoked bratwurst (lightly smoked pork and beef).
All the mains were delicious. Having just been in Germany and having just eaten so much pork-product incased-into-tube-form, going off memory - Ingrid’s is a real solid representation of German food. I certainly would describe the food as German-American though - but hey, that’s what it is - that’s where we are. So yeah - really German-American in the sense that Italian food in the USA isn’t really like the Italian food in Italy - but more so certainly Italian, but Italian-American - if you get what I’m saying.
There’s no better way to hang with your male buddies than mowing down on sausage and beer and meat - it was the best birthday I could have put together for Nick in that short time.
The birthday cake came in the form of a house-made Napoleon - a concentrated hunk of cake so sweet, so injected with super-charged-sugar-goodness that I think I had a mild diabetic coma afterwards. Amazing, but holy-sweetness…. just a few bites for me.
Good times with meat and beer.
(all photos by Jon Paul Douglass)
You Get What You Pay For
(Hamburg Airport, Newark Airport, Kansas City)
On Mayhem, we pulled off an impossibility. We played 3 of our In Waves-release dates simultaneously world-wide (well - semi-simultaneously). We knew it’d be hard (and goddamn, lemme tell ya it was), but it had to be done: finishing the Raleigh, NC show, we piled into the bus and flew to Hamburg, De to play an 80,000 person festival (the most metal festival in the world to boot: Wacken Open Air) on our German release date, then to London to open for Iron Maiden in front of 20-plus thousand on our UK-release date, then to what was supposed to be Oklahoma City.
After the hellaciously long lack of sleep and flight back into the US of A, our tour manager Brian Griffin softly mutters “Fuck” (He is typically a reserved dude; all emotions are usually around the same volume-range (even for being a sound guy)). We find out that our moronic driver of our discount-bus company in the US (let’s call them Hoe Jal with the driver Fid) left a simple voice-mail, then turned his phone off: “The bus is broke down. I ain’t gun’ be gitten ya’ll at the aeroport.”
A week before this (and one before that) the bus started leaking from the outside-in, to which - Brian calls the company, receiving the response: “Drive it off a cliff fer all I care! I’m loosin’ my ass on this comp’nee anywho!” and hangs up. Another classic was something along the lines of: “Light it on fire fer all I cayer!” Customer is always right my ass.
So basically, it had been a downward spiral for the whole scorching summer-tour. We had days where the A.C. stopped working, a bus so unsanitary I found myself cleaning it twice a day just to keep the body fluid and Jaeger-spills at bay (and off my shoes). Drivers typically get a daily cleaning fee too - so Fid was getting paid for my nasty-house-keeping-work.
Back to the airport.
So I call Fid myself (I knew he wouldn’t recognize my number) and said “Dude. What the fuck is going on? Why are you evading Brian’s calls? Here’s Brian.” I put Brian on - we sort it out (sort of) and piled into the plane.
For some odd reason, Fid, instead of driving from Raleigh to the airport he was supposed to get us from - he hung out in Nashville or something - then must have driven a lot, then the bus “gitted dun messed up” somehow.
So now we had a bonus day off in Kansas City, and hopefully the new bus (yes, with Fid) would come get us the next day to drive us to OKC for the USA In Waves-release show. Once checking in, I jumped on my computer - researching the best local restaurant to drink and eat my troubles and worries away… and what’d I find? The Westside Local. Amazing reviews on yelp, online, etc.
My good friend, Jon Paul Douglass (quoted by me as being my “plutonic muse” as far as In Waves inspiration goes, also a man so damned talented at photography it’ll make your knees and heart buckle) was with us and was down to get out and eat. Everyone else in the band and crew stayed at the hotel that night due to “tiredness” (justifiably so due to the 4-6 hours of combined sleep from the last 3-4 days).
JP and I grabbed a cab and headed to Westside.
(All photography (thankfully) by JPD)
Westside was tucked away in a city/neighborhood. Away from the noise of the busier downtown, bordering suburban neighborhoods. The outside was beautiful - obviously an old building, purchased and renovated and rebuilt into the idea of what WsL wanted to make; something visually sound - humble, yet modern and artistic. When you enter, to the right is the dining area, the left - the bar. Large windows allowed the days-ends’ sunlight to flood in at the perfect level; a tattoo-ed and bearded bar-tender greeted us at our high-top for two.
Super friendly and knowledgable in all things Westside Local, the bar-tender gets me a Pimm’s Cup with Pimm’s gin, cucumber, lime, mint; JP gets the 17th St. Mojito with Cane rum, garden mint and fresh lime juice. Our bar-tender’s mixology skills are at artisan level - a doctor if you will. We mention a few key words of what we’re looking for, and he crafts it all just so to know exactly what’ll cure our jet-lag and whiplash. Without a doubt in my mind, My Pimm’s was the best Cup I’ve had to date. Something so simple can be destroyed by the wrong ratios - mine was exactly as it should have been. JP’s mojito? It was liquid crack. Anything in cocktail form with basil or mint, lime or lemon - I am sold. This elixir instantly drowned away all sorrows and tribulations of recent… then gave a nice buzz after that.
Our beautiful starter (the specific picks were assisted by our new best pal, our bar tender) were the Westside Localties, featuring: peaches, gruyere, braunschweiger, Spanish chorizo, prosciutto, castellavetrano olives, deviled eggs (orange vinaigrette, basil aioli, local microgreens). My thing with eating - is to be able to try as many things as possible; to be able to share the same tastes and experiences with the ones I am eating with. This was it. This was a celebration of all things good, of all things local KC - each little bite of each separate starter was as exciting as a meal in itself. Everything was just as fantastic as the last - i seem to remember the deviled eggs as being some of the best damn deviled eggs I’ve ever consumed. This starter was something special - something you talk about life over with loved ones, where you truly enjoy where you are at that moment in life.
I moved (or maybe it was JP… we were pretty buzzed by this point off euphoria, lack of sleep, and alcohol) to the Blanton’s Manhattan: Blanton’s bourbon, carpano vermouth, bitters, Westside local brandied-cherry. Ah wait - it was me - picture reference.
We ordered two mains - and hilariously, in my notes it says to “(look on site)” for the description… unfortunately. I am currently in a train from Edinburgh to Newcastle with no internet - good job, Me.
We had the Westside Local Burger and the Tenderloin. The burger was juicy, meaty - not comically large - it was gastro-pub sized and done right. All local ingredients, crispy fries, perfect pickle. Outstanding burger. The tenderloin was another magical cut of meat - when you’re in an area like KC, you know that the meat will be good. It it’s a place that prides itself on being totally local and sustainable - it’ll top even that. The mac and cheese and greens were a perfect compliment to the meat - mac and cheese and fries definitely kept WsL into the familiar, but gourmet gastro-territory.
Meat is always a good choice, and a place that does meat right - that really takes the time to consider the cut, the breed, the treatment of the animal - you see it in the cut, you taste it in the bite. Perfection.
I asked the mixologist for a beer recommendation - to which I received the Sixth glass quadruple ale. Strong, delicious ale. Our desert was the French toast bread pudding. Bread pudding is a beautiful thing, French toast is a beautiful thing. In both separately, the most fatteningly-delicious of suspects are crammed together into a sweet - but what happens at the combination of the two? This thing. This delectably devious hunk of compressed bread topped with (most likely) house-made ice cream was the closer to a perfect meal.
My final note from Westside Local was “Some kind of port (drunk!)”. The bar-tender, having obviously been pretty stoked on our genuine interest and excited-ness over everything we were collectively experiencing, brought us some amazing port. I wish I got the name of it - but it was a delightful closer to a long travel into a perfect meal. I find that when you truly show some appreciation and politeness to the people helping bring you your food and drink - sometimes they show their gratitude in you not being a complete wanker with something fantastic. Let’s all always be kind to the people we meet at all points in our lives (especially the people involved in your food and drinks.)
Westside Local goes down in history with Parlor Market in Jackson as one of the best food experiences in the USA on tour for me.
My band mates and myself typically prefer to opt out of “top tens.” The “top ten albums list” is usually a subject of heavy criticism (justifiably so) from all angles. One argument of the creation of “a list” is that all contents contained will be objectified to intense scrutiny from multiple parties from multiple stances who will be reading the top ten list.
Colorful, classic reactions from the punters will include commentary like: “This list isn’t metal enough! I fuckin’ hate this dude and his band and his stupid-guts now! Their next album is going to be (insert current year’s most-hated-genre) bull-shit!” Or the ever popular, “This dude doesn’t deserve to like (insert culty-illegible-obscure band name here)! That’s my favorite band.”
On the other hand, with the authors - it can be all about who can “out-weird” everyone else’s list in an almost ill-spirited, elitism-off of who can reference bands that will earn brownie-points from the most jaded of magazine and webzine journalists.
I say, when it comes to things in life: music, art, movies, fashion, food - don’t succumb to being stuck into one thing, one mindset, one genre; don’t be afraid to admit to liking things that you’re “not supposed to” like due to what kind of band you’re in. Instead, be open of the fact that… hey - maybe you are in a Satanic black metal band, but maybe you really dug Bieber’s Christmas album - I think that would show some color in your character. (Alright - maybe that was a terrible example, but you get the point).
So I guess there are some things that “have to be done,” like a list containing 10 albums of a year - when you’re in a band. So for me - these are not in any specific order, these aren’t using numerals (instead, 10 lower-case letters), these aren’t subscribing to what I need to list in the adherence of genre or consistency, nor does this tiny list encapsulate all the amazing music that has come out this year. Nowadays, with tools like Spotify, I feel people have music incredible music spanning all genres at their finger tips. Dare to try something random and new - get outside of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be immersed in all the great musical-goo that is out there.
Here it is. My random selection of my preferred “a-h’s of this year” that I feel were worth jamming out to.
c. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Deluxe Edition)
Although The Suburbs was released in 2010, the Deluxe came out this year. The Suburbs (and Mumford And Sons’ Sigh No More) were the albums I listened to each day on the drive to the studio while tracking In Waves. The song writing is impeccable, the lyrics are heartfelt and gripping. I didn’t “get” this band until I saw an international live performance of theirs - to put it in the terms I described it exactly to a friend after seeing it: “It was like the energy of Slipknot… and the amount of people (roughly)… but of a completely different musical universe.” The band members are all multi-instrumentalists, trading off on specific-instrumental duties, but utilize instrumentation differently than the typical musical sense. They’ll use violin “noise” as textures - it feels like they just do what they feel like doing, when they feel like it. It doesn’t stick to rules or genres or anything - it’s uniquely a sound of their own.
h. Machine Head - Unto The Locust
The world was definitely anxiously holding their breaths in anticipation for what would follow The Blackening. I’ve had a long musical-listening history with Machine Head (and a long-time friendship): MH was the first Metal band I ever saw live; the third band I’ve ever toured with; a band, with whom we toured together - drawing upwards of 6-8,000 people in the U.K. The Burning Red and Through The Ashes Of Empires are without a doubt, two albums that helped make me the musician I am today, and with Unto The Locust - Machine Head has again changed the game.
With the new album, MH does things that I didn’t expect would happen: a whole new melodic sensibility and level of catchiness I haven’t heard yet, utilizing different playing approaches (like Black Metal/tremolo-picking), and the song “Darkness Within” in general. The first time Robb played that song for me, my jaw actually dropped. Locust still feels incredibly Machine Head, but delves into uncharted territory previously unheard in their music.
a. Times Of Grace - The Hymn Of A Broken Man
f. Rise To Remain - City Of Vultures
It is still hard to grasp the fact that there are bands out there that are influenced by the band I am in. I’ve known the Rise guys for years - and have had the honor to be able to watch them grow as people, musicians, a band - they’re truly coming into their own. Austin’s voice live gives me chills - his vocals have come such a long way since his early demo days that it’s an insane rate of growth. Their new album isn’t quite out yet in the USA (it is in Europe), but let me tell you - it is an amazing preview as to what this band will become in the years to come.
The musicality is fantastic, Ben should of existed in an 80’s-shred band like Racer X (Hell - he can keep up with those dudes easy, I’m sure), Pat is a drummer capable of anything technically - but hearing him lay back into simplicity when it calls for it, really creates an impact. The songs are really something special - heavy, catchy; very now.
These guys are the future of metal - and City is a fantastic promise of great things to come.
g. Rammstein - Made In Germany (Special Edition)
Rammstein is one of my top favorite bands in the world. This band is the entire package. Their creativity does not stop at music; it delves into heavy visual art: intense, performance-art style live shows; music videos that break all boundaries of what a music video is supposed to look like; the only massively internationally popular band that sings almost completely in German. Rammstein does it the way they want. They are creativity defined.
I feel bad using a greatest hits… but hey - if you haven’t gotten into this masterpiece of a band, this may be the perfect start. Their songs and style are uniquely their own; unmistakably - when you hear a Rammstein track - you know it’s them. Just get into ‘em.
b. Mercenary - Metamorphosis
f. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
If I had to describe this album in one word, it would be: beautiful. Musically, its it’s own thing. Instruments are used musically and texturally alike; at times, the song structure is its own style of structure - not traditional at all; I judge a good album on whether or not it makes me see a visual setting while listening to it - this is like an auditory soundtrack to a nature-scene. A mixture of all sorts of genres and instruments and textures - this album is breath-taking. It feels heavy, sad and uplifting all at once. It can feel hopeful and woeful simultaneously. Truly beautiful.
d. In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading
In Flames is a band, without whom - I would not exist in Trivium. In Flames has always been an impossibly vital band to the inspiration to be creative for me. Throughout their existence, they have created different sounds and genres within themselves - with Sounds, they’ve again paved way for something new for them. The catchiness of the songs, the feeling you get from the lyrics, the utilization of a mixture of their old Gothenburg roots and their layered-electronic-dimensional soundscapes really make something unique on this album. Watching 8,000-plus people in Gothenburg, Sweden singing their hearts out to every song from this album gave me goosebumps.
e. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Dream Theater is the only band in the world like itself. They’ve created their legacy by consisting of some of the greatest musicians in the world, who all can actually write incredible songs. When one strives to hit the level of playing that DT is capable of, typically - song-writing takes a distant back-seat. Dream Theater does not settle for this fate: from their inception, they’ve been not only capable of some of the most mind-blowing musical ability seen in an actual band, but they do it tastefully and within some really amazing songs.
With their new album, Dream Theater has captured (and topped) the magic of Images, with a spin of what they’ve been doing in the later albums. I spent my school years coming home and watching Metropolis Pt.2 daily; I have John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline memorized and use it every single show as my warm up before performing with Trivium. I was privileged enough to be able to tour with the band, and I learned more musically on that tour than any tour I’ve done in my almost 13 years of being in Trivium.
The new album has everything anyone who has ever loved Dream Theater could ever want. It is one of their finest works with some of the greatest songs they’ve ever composed (and the musicality… well - it’s so damn good, it makes you wanna quit guitar/keys/singing/drums/bass).
h. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes has opened my brain and heart up to a new love for a new sound of music. Before Fleet Foxes, I never really knew this style of music (I’ll spare them from me trying to “label” the style), but lemme tell you - it’s something really uniquely their own. It pulls from things of the past, present and future. The song are incredible, the music really puts you somewhere nature-y.
Every album by this band is fantastic - their musicality and ability in their instruments is intense. This style of playing isn’t easy - this level of harmonic-intelligence of how to blend so many vocals, so many instruments into the fantastic arrangements that they do is something special.
This album makes me feel good, it’s an album worth living and loving during.