Thursday, April 30, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine
Album: Death by Sexy
Random thoughts: This was a really fun interview. And that Vader story? Talk about an exclusive!
Gabbing with “The Devil”

By Jason Schreurs

Heralded as the “greatest rock and roll album ever,” at least by the band members, Peace Love Death Metal, from the hilariously named Eagles of Death Metal, is defined perfectly by one word: Rock! Combining dual fuzz guitars, trashcan sounding drums (courtesy of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who also produced the CD), and a bona fide crooner and swooner up front in Jesse “The Devil” Hughes, the Eagles definitely have that boogie woogie thing down pat. As they relentlessly tour a frantic live show with a swinging door of musicians from bands like the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age, Ween, and earthlings?, Eagles of Death Metal are planning to unleash a sophomore album (tentatively titled Death by Sexy) of what they believe to be unfathomably epic proportions. Sure guys, just keep rocking, okay?

I recently nabbed Eagles frontman Hughes (a.k.a. “The Devil,” a.k.a. J Devil Huge, a.k.a. Mr. Boogie Man) in the middle of a busy US tour. We had a quick chat via his cell phone before a show at The Empty Bottle in Chicago, IL.

I got a kick out of that guy who posted to your website that the news section should just read: "Our super gay lead singer is just going to get gayer and gayer..." I thought that was really funny.
Ya, we found that and we posted it. We look for anything that’s really negative to kind of contrast how amazingly positive my moustache truly is.

But Eagles of Death Metal are obviously a very homoerotic band, right?
Well, sometimes the confusion lies in the fact that we… I love the ladies, man, that’s all there is to it, baby.

And the ladies love you back, don’t they?
I haven’t been having trouble with the ladies, I will not lie (laughs). I’m getting action. After all of these years, I’m finally getting laid.

Nice. I was at one of your shows recently and women were dancing up on the stage riser. Does that happen a lot?
It’s a phenomenon. It happens everywhere we go now.

Why do think that is?
Because we’re an unholy behemoth of sexual ferocity.

Do you ever get sick of people talking about the line-up of the band? Every time I hear about Eagles of Death Metal, it always seems to focus on [Queens of the Stone Age leader] Josh Homme playing drums.
Hell no, those are the coziest coattails a boy could ever ride.

Is your line-up going to continue to be a revolving door of musicians, or are you looking at getting a permanent line-up?
It’s a permanent line-up right now [for recording]. Um, the touring Eagles, it looks like are going to be [drummer] Claude Coleman Jr. from Ween and [guitarist] David Catching from earthlings? [also a contributor to QotSA]. It’s basically evolved into a super-group, you know what I mean? Which I’m all completely fine with. I’m more than happy to be involved in a rock band that involves the word “super.”

You do some pretty rippin' classic rock covers in your set and on your recordings too. Is that the kinda music you grew up on?
Ya, I love those bands, man. Actually, I steal from some of the greatest classic rock tunes of all time. But technically, Peace Love Death Metal is the greatest rock album ever written because I’ve taken every song from the greatest classic rock tunes ever. It’s an unholy cavalcade of sex rock.

Who's the best rock and roll band ever, well, besides you, I guess? And why?
Well, let’s see… Queens of the Stone Age are one of the best rock and roll bands ever because… they are. Um, The Stooges, which is a cliché, but it’s easy to say because it’s true. I love The Jacksons, I love James Brown, P-Funk… I kinda wanna be the white Morris Day [The Time leader] of rock and roll, so obviously the whole Minneapolis trip is a big rocker for me.

What would be your ideal band to tour with?
Any band I could tour with? Holy cow… I would tour with Prince because he’s rock. He’s the sexiest motherfucker next to my moustache.

Tell me the story of how you got your name again. That's a funny one.
Well, there’s the myth and then there’s the truth. The truth is that God came down from on high… no, I’m just kidding. What happened was Josh and I were in the backseat of our VW van getting stoned and our friend Cole Lou… this is an alternate version. I’m telling you something top secret now. So Cole Lou, who was Lou Balls from The Desert Sessions, was trying to convince us that each death metal band he played for us was really tough. He put on one band, I think it was Vader, and we were, like, “Dude, this is lame! This isn’t death metal, this is the fucking Eagles of death metal.”

Okay, so that’s a variation on the story I heard about some dude in a bar saying Poison was metal, and then you saying, “No, this is the Eagles of metal.”
That was earlier in the evening, and he did say that, and I did say that to him. But it wasn’t until we were stoned in the van and I said, “Dude, this is like the Eagles of death metal” about Vader, and it was a funny reference to just two hours previous. The reason I don’t tell that is I just never wanted Vader fans to think that they were on par with Poison’s.

What about your nickname, Jesse? “The Devil…” What does that mean?
It’s because I’m such a sweetheart. It’s ironic (laughs).

What's next for Eagles of Death Metal?
Just getting ready to record a new record at Sound City [Studios], as soon as we get back from tour. And then we’re going to take over the world.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

GREEN DAY - October 2004

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: American Idiot (Warner)

Random thoughts: Talking to Mike from Green Day was a blast. Totally down to earth dude, furthering my theory that the biggest rock stars are always so, um, normal, or something. I really enjoyed writing this one. Oh, and my predictions about this album were right, one of the biggest selling albums of all time.


On the making of a masterpiece

By Jason Schreurs

Months before its release, when an advance copy of Green Day’s American Idiot landed on my desk, I began ranting and raving about it. This is a landmark album, I told anyone who would listen. It’s a true masterpiece that will go down in history alongside the musical greats, I screamed from the rooftops. As their new record continues to consume me, the first thing I wanted to do when I got bassist Mike Dirnt on the horn at their studio was thank him for some life-affirming music.
“Whoo, let me take all of that in,” he says modestly with a chuckle, as the hustle-bustle of Green Day tour preparation swirls around him in the background. “It’s really a genuine honor that people are identifying with this record. I feel like it’s a sign of the times also. It’s nice to… I don’t want to say climb out from the shadow of Dookie, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your work.”
Obviously, Dookie was a record that helped a lot of us through some angsty times, but with American Idiot the band has created something far more poignant in an exceedingly uncertain political climate.
“Dookie was a huge thing and we could never hope to hit that homerun again, and we’ve always been proud of every record we’ve done, but with this one we truly left no stone unturned and we scraped every fucking idea we could get off of every wall,” says Dirnt.
“We just created such an awesome environment to make this record that we obviously know deep down that we could never repeat it. I wouldn’t want to.”
When it came time to begin recording what would become their masterpiece, Dirnt and his two partners in Green Day (singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and kit-man Tre Cool) realized they had a lot of internal struggles that had been building for years and needed sorting out. In a nutshell, bad habits were bringing the band down.
“We got to a point where we said, ‘What are we doing? Let’s work on each other as individuals. Without a fucking counselor, this isn’t some fucking AA meeting,’” says Dirnt. “We decided just to tell each other, ‘You know what? I don’t like it when you say that. And you know what? You! You fucking drink too much.’ Let’s fucking call ourselves out on our bullshit.”
Luckily, for the sake of a career-defining batch of songs, the band was able to move forward, and the option of packing it in after almost 20 years of punk rock never came to the forefront. But it came close.
“Billy at one point asked me, ‘Are you even having fun with this anymore?’ I said, ‘Well lately it’s been a lot of stress, let’s get back to having fun.’ And we got back to it serendipitously, really. We finally said, ‘Alright, you guys are the most important people in my life, let’s get to work.’ And we just started recording,” enthuses Dirnt.
And record they did, compiling dozens upon dozens of song ideas and skeletons for what was supposed be the new album. One day when the band came into the studio, they went to pull ideas from their batch of unfinished songs and their computer files were gone. In what seemed like a meant-to-be moment, Armstrong had just finished writing a song called ‘American Idiot,’ so they decided to plow forward in that direction.
“Billy wrote ‘American Idiot’ and it raised the bar so high lyrically over the rest of the stuff that we had been doing, and it was just so much more meaningful for where we’re at right now. So we thought, ‘Fuck, this is where we should be going.’”
But what about the songs that went missing? Were they any good? And without their mysterious disappearance, would we still have something as formidable as American Idiot on our hands?
“Those songs were good, but they were what you would expect Green Day to come out with next,” assures Dirnt. “And where we ended up going was exciting and had this energy, maybe the same energy that Nimrod or Dookie had, that you couldn’t put a finger on it. It made you want to play air drums and air guitar.”
As Dirnt says himself, the band will have trouble matching American Idiot, but something tells me Green Day have a lot of gas left in the tank, especially now that they are riding on such a high.
“The bands I love have great careers. And the ones I truly look up to had these monumental albums and moments in their careers that we really want to emulate.”
“When I was a kid, I felt like with Dookie we created a monster. I feel like now we are the monsters, that’s the difference. And I think people won’t say. ‘This album’s a monster,’ they’re gonna say, ‘You know what? Green Day’s a fucking monster, because they did it again.’”
Hey, see this smile on my face? It’s there because American Idiot will definitely not be Green Day’s swan song.

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Friday, April 10, 2009


Originally published in: Monday Magazine
Random thoughts: Okay, alright, this was bound to happen sooner or later... My love for classic rock and old school "heavy metal" was bound to creep onto this blog at some point. Here's my recent piece on Nazareth, musical auteurs of quite frankly one of the most kick-ass hard rock tunes of all time, "Hair of the Dog."

After nearly four decades, Nazareth put the ‘class’ back in classic rock
By Jason Schreurs

Forty years. That’s a long time to be doing anything, never mind playing in a famous rock and roll band. As Scotland hard rockers Nazareth gear up to celebrate their 40th anniversary next year, they are happy to reveal some of the secrets to rock and roll longevity.
“You have to like what you’re doing first,” obliges gravel-voiced lead singer Dan McCafferty. “There’s lots of traveling, and hotels, and tour buses, but you do get to play every night, and that’s the price you have to pay.”
Reaching their commercial pinnacle in the early ‘70s with songs like “Razamanaz,” “Holy Roller,” and “Love Hurts” (once the wedding song for a failed Axl Rose marriage), Nazareth have kept their bluesy brand of hard rock alive through decades of relative obscurity. With two original members still in the band—bassist Pete Agnew’s son, Lee, replaced deceased original drummer Darrell Sweet in 1999—they’ve remained great friends over the years.
“To get on with the other guys in the band is pretty handy,” advises McCafferty. “Give each other space. Don’t go around thinking you must be buddies 24 hours a day. That doesn’t work in a marriage and it certainly isn’t going to work in a band.”
A new album will coincide with Nazareth’s big anniversary next year, but it’s coming along slowly due to their busy tour schedule, including a cross-Canada festival run which lands them in Victoria for a one-off gig on Thursday. Not content to rest on their past hits, the band has always insisted on moving forward with every album.
“I can’t imagine we’ll ever change that, because we didn’t want to do ‘Son of Razamanaz’ or ‘Great Grandson of Razamanaz.’ It becomes…,” McCafferty pauses, then chuckles, “you become Kiss. No offense to the boys in Kiss, you know.”
But classic rock fans can be a tough bunch as the quest for nostalgia often overshadows their need to hear new material. “Obviously we have a half a dozen favorites that we have to play every night out, and that’s fine, but we can do other stuff in there as well. It only becomes ‘classic’ when you play it for long enough,” jokes McCafferty. “And some bands stop believing, of course, so that doesn’t help. We have no shame in playing the old stuff because it still stands up and we’re still enjoying it.”
Every hard rock fan remembers the first time they heard the infamous “Hair of the Dog,” Nazareth’s most memorable (and banned) slab of rock. After all these years, McCafferty’s “now you’re messing with a son of a bitch” chorus scream still makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. “We didn’t think it was a bad thing to say…” he remembers, “we weren’t trying to offend anyone; we just thought it was kind of funny.”
Of course, 40 years later, the lyrics are pretty tame by today’s standards. “Yeah,” agrees McCafferty with a hearty chuckle, “now it’s just kind of wussy, actually.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: Virulence (Fat Wreck Chords)

Random thoughts: For some reason, it's always a thrill to talk to the pop-punk legends. I remember being somewhat giddy before interviewing Russ Rankin, mostly due to my youthful days listening to his other band, Good Riddance.

Punk rock on their own terms

By Jason Schreurs

How many punk bands can afford themselves the luxury of making music exactly how they want to? Groups of teenagers looking for a spot on the Warped Tour don’t stand a chance, but veterans of the punk scene like the members of Only Crime have paid their dues. Now’s it time to do things their own way.
“We wanted to create something that’s different and at least we feel it’s important, even if no one else does,” says lead singer Russ Rankin, “and, at the end of the day, we can sleep at night. And we won’t need to compromise anything.”
Rankin, best known for his longtime vocal duties in Good Riddance, has elected to do interviews while the rest of Only Crime—drummer Bill Stevenson (Descendents/All), Aaron Dalbec (ex-Bane/Converge), and brothers Zach and Doni Blair (both ex-Hagfish)—take in a movie before a touring gig. That’s just the kind of guy Rankin is; completely amped about the band’s second record, Virulence, and progression made towards the band’s musical goal.
“A lot of first album [To the Nines, 2004], even though it’s a really good record, has parts that are a little bit derivative of our other bands,” explains Rankin. “Virulence sounds very much like Only Crime and that’s really a result of us getting to know each other musically and setting our sights on something that is much different than all of the separate things that we bring in.”
The band’s goal, it seems, is to combine the fury of Black Flag with the melodic tendencies of early ‘80s melodic punk like The Adolescents and The Descendents. Splice in some Black Sabbath and jazz worship and the result is darker, groove-oriented punk, “but with no metal,” stresses Rankin.
With the members’ other bands on temporary or permanent hiatus, it was time for Only Crime to hit the studio and then the road again. In Rankin’s case, his other band, Good Riddance, just isn’t a priority anymore. It’s a combo of the other members not having as much time for the band and the climate of punk rock shifting to younger and trendier bands.
“Musical styles have changed and kids are listening to something much different now, so kids aren’t interested in Good Riddance anymore,” explains Rankin.
Sure, punk rock doesn’t mean what it meant before. What’s being called punk these days would probably send the ‘80s hardcore bands into a violent rage. But, just as kids have lost interest in melodic hardcore, they’re not exactly interested in the obtuse, ambitious hardcore Only Crime is cranking out either, are they?
“No,” agrees Rankin, “but we don’t care. It’s definitely an interesting time to be around punk. It really makes me check my motives for what I’m doing and be realistic. With Only Crime everyone just builds what they want out of the band experience because all of us have done this for so long. We’ve made every mistake you could make. It’s a chance to have a band to create music organically in an environment that fits all of our various ideals.”
This included taking some time to preconceive the band’s motives and create an environment that would foster the goals they had in mind. Most importantly, making music for themselves and no one else.
“With Good Riddance, we got thrown into a huge meat-grinder for 10 years where we never really had time to stop and think. With Only Crime it was a matter of stopping to decide what we wanted to do,” says Rankin. “We spent a lot of time talking about how to get along and avoiding all of the pitfalls that all of us have had in previous bands. Making sure at our age, and what’s going on in the industry, if we’re gonna take the time to do this, let’s make it a really good experience.”
One of the most obvious things about Only Crime is their likeness to Black Flag. The fact that Stevenson drummed for the LA hardcore legends for many years is only one reason for the similarities. On Virulence, the band actually scoured old tapes for riffs Stevenson made in the mid-‘80s when he was in Black Flag. The result is authentic hardcore, with a modern, kinda fucked up twist.
“I’ve never written anything like that before. It was really challenging for me writing lyrics and melody over music that complicated. The stuff on Virulence is head and shoulders for ambitious than the stuff on To the Nines.”
The Black Flag comparisons have also been the band’s biggest criticism, but it’s something they’ve embraced from the outset.
“We’ve never been shy about it, but at the same time we don’t want to be just a Black Flag knock-off,” says Rankin. “We take some of what Black Flag was doing into another place, and we take what a lot of bands were doing to another place.”
He also cites many punk bands from the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as The Germs, X, and the vastly underrated Boston band, Articles of Faith. Throw in jazz legends Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, and then heaps of Black Sabbath (“Big time!” enthuses Rankin) and the formula ain’t so simple.
“To just narrow it down to Black Flag is really short-changing what we are trying to do, although it’s a popular critique of our band,” admits Rankin.
Ultimately the band hopes to appeal to older punk fans who may be tired of the same clichés, as well as younger fans who are looking for something a little different.
“With our music, as heavy and groove-oriented and dark and crazy as the arrangements are, the oblong phrasings, the discordant guitars… every song has a vocal hook where someone can leave the show and say, ‘I don’t know what the fuck that band was going, but that chorus was pretty good.’”

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