29 September 2010

WATCH: DJ AC Slater - "Take You" feat. Ninjasonik

In the summer of 1999, many of my friends in Bridgeport were listening techno and going to raves. At the time our friend Aaron Clevenger was getting into DJing and one of his first gigs was a small party in a friend's basement in Bridgeport. Ten years later, Aaron - now known as AC Slater - is a Brooklyn-based dj/producer/remixer, member of Trouble & Bass, and founder of Party Like Us Records who tours the world bringing his hip-hop-influenced brand of electro to packed clubs from Mexico to Australia.

During his still short career behind the decks, AC's hard work has paid massive dividends. He has been touted as the "finest producer in the world" by MixMag.net and in 2009 Beatportal.com named him one of Six Artists to Watch. Even for those who aren't a fan of electronic music, AC's original tracks and remixes are worth checking out. On his website are half a dozen DJ mixes available for free download. He has collaborated with South By South West favorite Little Boots for a remix of "Meddle" and recently produced the original track "Take You" featuring Brooklyn hip-hop trio Ninjasonik, for which you can watch the video below.

An international success in the electronic music scene, it's about time I give space to a hometown native and incredibly talented friend. More to come.

17 September 2010

DOWNLOAD: Malicious Intent - Death Pop

At some point in the two years after the release of The Sound of Diesel in 1996, things began to change for Bridgeport's Malicious Intent. It is apparent on the band's first CD release - 1998's Death Pop.

Produced by long-time collaborator Scott Robinson of Charleston's Cave Records, Death Pop takes a leap in sound quality from previous on-tape recordings. Featuring re-recordings of 5/6 of The Sound of Diesel, the improved production quality takes away from the appeal of the original versions. "Pitchfork Eye," the Death Pop's first track following the infamous "Homosexuality" sample, just sound too clean - lacking the organic crunch and crash of the original version. Part of that may have to do with the unavoidable maturing of J.D. Smallridge's vocals. Where on Diesel, his voice is a deep growl from the stomach, on Death Pop, it comes more from the throat. While it's still J.D.'s signature voice, it lacks the power it once had. Musically, the still-de-tuned guitar tones are just as heavy as on Diesel, but feel a bit more fuzzy. Brian Pauley, who drums on this album, plays with more of a snare-and-high hat style from his days in Dirt Bear and Shindig that very much departs from John Stutler's double-bass-heavy death metal sound. And as Stutler's drumming always provided the backbone for the direction of MI's music, so does Pauley's giving the band a more fresh, contemporary attitude.

Where Death Pop comes up short is not in the production or performance of old songs, but the writing of its new ones. In the review of The Sound of Diesel I referred to the ill-conceived comparisons to the likes of Korn due to the tuned-down gravy-like guitar riffs. On Death Pop, MI show they had likely been listening to records produced by Ross Robinson - elements of their music drawing comparison to Sepultura or Deftones. There is no more obvious example of this than on "Don't Worry," which starts out with a grooving bass line and cymbal tap, and then in comes the rap-sung vocals. Even the mosh-friendly chorus with the anthemic lyrics "I got your back, boy!" can't salvage this song when it's taken out of the context of when it was written. On "Clone A," it's more of the same. Long bass lead in, rap-like vocals, and a cheesy simulated record-scratching on the guitar, which is unforgivable. The album hits rock bottom when the band goes completely rap-metal in its cover of the New Kids on the Block's "Hanging Tough" with more string-scratching and a half-hearted "Woah oh oh" chorus. I know it is ironic. I know that it was funny - hence the chorus laughing at the end of the track. I know it probably didn't seem like such a bad in 1998, but it's there and it's not good. (And I think I remember giving the band the idea to cover the song while we were at a Dairy Queen in Flatwoods. Why did they listen to me? I was 16. Sigh.)

Good news is, those three tracks are the worst and only difficult-t0-bear moments. The bad news is none of the new tracks live up the old tracks that they are pitted side-by-side against. With the exception of "Martyr," which the exception of the song's unnecessary beginning riffs and whispered chanting, is a decent track of bludgeoning riffs and drums and time changes that resemble the band's earlier recorded work. In the end, the the subtle sense of humor that made this otherwise merciless metal band more than simply that, cost them in the end. The cover of the album pictures a cheerful group of sailors in a congo line. The actual disc looks of of a disco ball. The disc tray showed a billboard for a trucker's strip club. The album being (appropriately) titled Death Pop. These were all successful attempts at being clever and ironic, but unfortunately it only showed that the band's members just weren't taking it seriously anymore. This eventually lead to the demise of one of West Virginia most interesting heavy bands.

Eventually, threats of law suit over the name Malicious Intent from a guy named Roland lead to the group being re-named All For Nothing, which just never quite felt the same. Around the same time, friend and former Down To None frontman Dana White joined All For Nothing as a second singer. Soon after, the band's seemingly home venue the Common Grounds in Charleston closed. AFN played one of the venue's final shows to a packed room of more than 300 people with plenty of sing-a-longs, stage dives and squirt guns. After the Common Grounds closed, it took Charleston a couple years before an all-ages scene re-emerged. Malicious Intent/All For Nothing never played an official last show, but instead just faded away, but its mark had been left on the state's music scene. They were a band that not only I but hundreds of people who were going to shows at the time will never forget.

Artist: Malicious Intent
Album: Death Pop
Year: 1998
For Fans Of: Hatebreed, Sepultura, Vision of Disorder

16 September 2010

LOOK: Malicious Intent's J.D. Smallridge's envelope to Dana White

One of the amazing things about Malicious Intent was their role closing the gap that existed between north central West Virginia and the music scene in the Charleston area. Producing a brand of metal-sludge-punk, Malicious Intent better fit on bills with bands from down south such as Dirt Bear, Chum and Flood than those in the Clarksburg-Morgantown scene. MI found a home-away-from-home at the venues in Charleston area like the Common Grounds, and regularly graced the pages of Corn 'Zine - a paper documentation of the scene by Dana White. Through this, MI singer J.D. Smallridge and Dana became close friends.

Dana's and J.D.'s friendship helped strengthen the bridge between southern and north central West Virginia, and soon convoys of dozens of teenage and 20-something punk-metal-hardcore-alt kids were traveling both directions on I-79. Shows at the Common Grounds in Charleston, Milton VFW, Drop Shop in Huntington, Lost Creek Ladies' Auxiliary Building, Salem Barn and Bridgeport Civic Center were not just attended by local residents but by people coming in from more than two hours away - not always to play but to hang out. The result was a larger, more inclusive, diverse all-ages music scene.

Though the envelope/letter pictured above has no significance other than a humorous read, what it does is represent the bridge of friendship and positive personalities that existed in the state at the time. In West Virginia, where the state's landscape can easily isolate one region from another, this was happening before it was effortless to keep in touch with out-of-town friends via Facebook or social networks. Because of that, I'm impressed and proud to have been part of it and made so many great friends. That is why I will always have so much respect for Dana White, J.D. Smallridge and countless others like Brian Pauley (Dirt Bear, Shindig) who worked their asses off at making an all-ages scene in West Virginia flourish.

Text of the pictured envelope:
This envelope contains absolutely NO plans to undermine the government or manufacture chemical weapons. Nor does it include any intentions to feed starving 3rd world countries. Any attempt to manipulate the contents of this package could, however result in a catastrophic world-ending event. Oh, yes friend the end is soon and I fear that the fragile handling of this package is important for the preservation of mankind and I for one do not want any responsibility of accelerating the end of myself, you, the guy down the street, and everything else in the world. So please, take caution in the handling of this envelope. Thank you and have a very happy, happy day.
That shit wouldn't fly post-9/11. (The terrorists truly have one.)

15 September 2010

DOWNLOAD: Malicious Intent - The Sound of Diesel

It's strange to say, but this band and album changed my life. It was released in 1996, and I was as friends with the younger brothers of Malicious Intent vocalist J.D. Smallridge. Our tight-knit group spent most of our time in the Smallridges' basement (still do upon visits home), but also attended a lot of local shows with MI on the bill. Once I had my license, I was driving to Charleston and Huntington for shows. Inspired by photographers Glen E. Friedman and Jim Marshall, I was always using my father's point-and-shoot camera to take photos of the bands and my friends at every show. To cut a long story short, years later I have a Master's Degree in photojournalism, and it all started with MI shows. I would also buy copies of The Sound of Diesel from J.D., and market and sell them on the Internet to people all across the country and even in Europe - which is still sort of what I'm doing with this blog a decade and a half later. It was MI and local music that helped me tap into a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, and for that I am grateful. Pardon the anecdote, I digress.

Released more than a year after Malicious Intent's debut 10-song self-titled demo (aka Creation Denied), Diesel builds upon previous song-writing efforts but the result is more rambunctious, confrontational and on the surface more angry than earlier material. The songs on this album are simply ferocious with each tempo change dictated by the beautifully barbaric drumming of John Stutler. Tension builds around every turn released like a fire axe crashing into the door of a house engulfed in flames. The tone of the guitars is even more tuned-down, gloomy and fractured than before. Though the guitar tone may unfortunately invite ill-conceived comparisons to Korn, it creates a sound that blends evenly with Smallridge's sore-throat-inducing guttural roars. While J.D.'s opaque vocal style makes his lyrics almost indecipherable, it adds to the enigmatic appeal of the band. But when the words do become clear for short moments like on "Pitchfork Eye" when Smallridge drones "Never again your whipping boy," one of West Virginia's most-memorable sing-along anthems is born.

While many death metal, hardcore or punk bands can sound like pure chaos, there is an element to the noise Malicious Intent created that was pure poetry. It was abrasive but comfy - a product of the of the personalities of its members. In the cassette's liner notes is a drawing of an ambiguous flower with heart-adorned petals with its tongue sticking out. J.D. thanks his family dogs; Dave thanks "people who are nice to me;" and John gives credit to Skoal and John Deere. Though the music sounds angst-ridden, at heart of this band were fun-loving guys playing loud, heavy music inspired by horror movies and homoeroticism. Ahead of its time in many ways.

Artist: Malicious Intent
Album: The Sound of Diesel
Year: 1996
For Fans Of: Neurosis, Crowbar, Hatebreed

07 September 2010

DOWNLOAD: Malicious Intent - Malicious Intent

There is a reason that the first post on this blog was about Malicious Intent. MI is a particularly important important band to the author of this blog and to the state of West Virginia. I could write a mini-memoir on MI's effect on my life personally and musically, but I'll save the anecdotes.

Having formed in the early '90s by four teenagers in Bridgeport, West Virginia, Malicious Intent released their first tape - an ambitious 10-track demo - in 1995. With one tuned-down guitar, Barney Greenway-esque vocals and a lot of double bass as the ingredients, the demo is part-Napalm Death, part-Crowbar, part-Suicidal Tendencies - some times all in the same song. While most of these riff-heavy songs seem custom made for headbanging (mind that it was 1995), there are punk-influenced tracks like "Morbid 9" and "Society" that should inspire circle pits; and breakdowns in "Monday" and "Questito Quid Juris" are the kind that too many bands today contrive to include in their songs. These are the same elements that years after MI did it, brought a lot of success to bands such as Hatebreed.

Over the past five years, heavy music has lost its appeal to me. I don't listen to much hardcore or metal unless I'm feeling nostalgic. Then there are the rare times scrolling through my iPod that this album catches my interest. Thirty minutes later I've listened to the entire recording - not because of sentimentality but because fifteen years later these ten songs are simply still good. Never mind the fact that Malicious Intent is part of the reason I got into heavy music in the first place. Never mind that they are responsible for many of the friends I met throughout West Virginia and keep to this day. Never mind that they inspired my involvement in the state's music scene. Never mind all else, Malicious Intent was a good band, and this record proves it. I will follow-up this week by posting more by MI.

Artist: Malicious Intent
Album: Malicious Intent (aka Creation Denied)
Year: 1995
For fans of: Napalm Death, Crowbar, Hatebreed