Chris Jericho wrestles for literary gold in Undisputed
Left: Chris Jericho’s new rock and wrestling memoir, “Undisputed.” Right: Jericho launches himself off the top rope during a match with The Rock. (Images: Grand Central Publishing.)
Pro wrestler/rocker/game show host Chris Jericho ends his first wrestling memoir, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex” (2007, Grand Central Publishing), only moments before his 1999 debut in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. After spending the bulk of the 1990s toiling in ramshackle Canadian wrestling schools, Japanese hardcore matches, Mexican lucha-libre, crazed Hillbilly leagues and ineptly run cable TV operations, Jericho finally makes it to the top of sports entertainment. But if you think that getting signed by the WWE puts Y2J on easy street, his inevitable follow-up, “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps,” has arrived to dispel such foolish notions.
Fortunately for Chris Jericho the best selling author, he’s never more endearing or hilarious than when he has a ladder to climb. “Undisputed” not only has him climbing that ladder, but this time around he’s getting knocked off of it over and over again like a competitor in a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. Only days after his pyro-laden intro on “Monday Night RAW,” sympathetic wrestlers tell Jericho that he has “a target on his back” and that he doesn’t know how to work the WWE’s style. When Jericho first signs with the WWE, McMahon says he’ll let him know if he’s doing anything wrong, but such instructions never come, leaving the wrestler to fritter away his newly signed $450,000 contract by bombing on national television. When McMahon finally gives him some feedback, the grappling impresario calls Jericho “the drizzling shits.” Now that’s a performance evaluation.
But verbal drubbings from McMahon and having “scorching heat” in the locker room aren’t enough to keep the Lion Heart down, and Jericho uses his ups and downs with the WWE to forge a compelling page-turner. As committed as he is to living his big time wrestling dreams, he still recognizes the absurdities of working for a company where calling the boss’s daughter a “filthy, dirty, disgusting, brutal, bottom-feeding, trash-bag ho” on national cable TV is a good career move. Reading “Undisputed” quickly becomes like watching an old “Naked Gun” movie with Leslie Nielsen, where if you only laugh at a third of the gags and tales of the just-plain wrong, you still won’t stop chuckling. This makes Jericho the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker of wrestling memoirists, a cultural reference that I’m sure he’ll appreciate—and Jericho loves cultural references.
In the prose of Jericho and collaborator Peter Thomas Fontinale, the minutiae of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies and an intimate knowledge of the track list of Dio’s “Holy Diver” album are co-mingled with dense recollections of the early 2000s wrestling scene. The Godfather; the Ho-train; Chyna; X-Pac; Road Dogg; Mr. Ass; D’Lo Brown; Jindrak & O’Haire; Tajiri spewing green mist; Steveweisers; the Peoples’ Elbow; Stephanie McMahon’s breast implants—they all come flooding back along with an entire Ozzfest’s worth of metal references. However, the frequent name-checking of just about everything that Jericho holds dear only helps to maintain his everyman vibe even after he becomes the WWE’s only undisputed champ (hence the book’s title) and holds his own in a very real backroom brawl with Bill Goldberg. Jericho knows his audience and he is us.
Even after his greatest triumphs in the WWE, Jericho never feels that his position is quite secure. Almost as a reaction to his uncertainty, he doubles down on the trash culture crazy train by launching his power metal band Fozzy at the same time that he’s darting around the country in rental cars to make weekly installments of “Smackdown.” With the concurrent careers, not only does he get chewed out by McMahon, but he’s also called a “wanker” by Sharon Osbourne for playing a game of fastball with Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde in the parking lot during an Ozzfest show. Jericho also recounts being kissed on the lips by Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, making me ponder what beautiful children they would have had.
Aside from the kind of hair-metal gossip that could’ve kept the website Metal-Sludge.com going for another year, the best aspect of the Fozzy tour diary material is the contrast between wrestling in packed arenas one night and playing to nearly empty dive bars attached to homeless shelters the next. Rock and roll is a hard business, but just like his early years of working makeshift matches in Winnepeg sports bars, Jericho is undeterred. Last year, I saw him put on a rockin’ set with Fozzy in a Tempe, Ariz. strip mall rock club a little more than a day before he was slammed through a table at WrestleMania. When I interviewed him over the phone last May, he was in between a record signing at an FYE in Austin, Tex. and a match with R Truth on “Monday Night Raw.” Like any other musician, Jericho can’t quite quit his day job.
But Jericho does walk away from the squared circle during the last third of this volume, and it’s here that “Undisputed” takes a dark turn. His mother passes away, his longtime friend and former tag team partner Eddie Guerrero also dies, he’s arrested for drunk driving, and then there’s Chris Benoit. Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself in his weight room in late June 2007. He was also Jericho’s friend. Jericho could have easily written Benoit out of “Undisputed,” the same way that the WWE no longer references the man who once held their world title (and it’s hard to blame them). But to Jericho’s credit, he stands by the Benoit he once knew if not the murderer he became. “I’ll always love the kind, funny, excitable, supportive, levelheaded, polite and humble man whom I’ve trusted more than anyone I’ve ever met in this business,” Jericho writes, “But I’ll always despise the man who murdered his family and ruined his entire legacy in the last days of his life.”
“Undisputed” only covers Jericho’s initial run with the WWE and the months directly after it where he goes to Hollywood to become a true multimedia star with work in improv comedy and a brief stint on a reality show. Like “A Lion’s Tale” before it, “Undisputed” sets up another follow-up that will likely cover his WWE comeback, the continuing saga of Fozzy, and his short season of hurtling prizes off of a building as the host of a primetime ABC game show. If this future memoir to be written in airports and all-night diners in between band gigs and pay-per-views is anything like the first two, I can hardly wait for it.
Chris Jericho’s “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps” will be hitting the shelves on Wednesday, February 16th.
Break the Walls Down: Chris Jericho Speaks
Chris Jericho earns audience ire by giving them a stern talking to (photo courtesy of World Wrestling Entertainment).
On Thursday May 13, pro wrestling bad guy Chris Jericho played a packed nightclub in Glasgow, Scotland with his power metal band Fozzy in support of their new album “Chasing the Grail.” The following day he fronted a show in Nottingham, England and then did two shows in London the day after that. On Sunday he rested (or likely traveled), but was in Toronto on Monday getting clotheslined out of the ring during the weekly broadcast of the WWE’s flagship program “Monday Night RAW". Only five days later he was at it again, playing a rocker dive in Chesterfield, Michigan followed by a pay-per-view tag team match in Detroit the next afternoon. Just like any other rocker, Jericho can’t quit his day job to pursue his dreams of rock n’ roll glory, but in Jericho’s case, that day job involves body slams, spandex and pyro.
As if Jericho doesn’t have enough on his plate, he’s found himself in the middle of a literary blogosphere controversy, albeit indirectly. In a recent Huffington Post blog titled “Why Men Don’t Read: How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population,” book editor-turned-thriller-writer Jason Pinter details the difficulties in getting his mostly female former higher ups at Grand Central Publishing to take a chance on Jericho’s memoirs despite the wrestler’s obvious media profile. In the end, the fate of Jericho’s book hinged on the opinion of the fifteen-year-old nephew of one of the company’s senior editors. Luckily for all involved, the kid was a Jericho fan. The resulting book, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex", cracked the New York Times bestseller list and has spawned a sequel titled “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps", which is scheduled to hit the shelves in February 2011. Not surprisingly, Jericho has composed much of the new volume while on airplanes.
As Pinter’s assertions of an estrogen-dominated publishing industry sparked off a firestorm of controversy in web outlets both large and small (with Salon’s own Lara Miller weighing in), I had to get Jericho’s take on this whole thing. After a Memorial Day promotional appearance at an FYE in Austin, Texas, Jericho granted me the following interview. Of course we discussed Pinter and the upcoming book, but we also found the time to talk about heavy metal, the psychology of getting wrestling fans to hate you, and Jericho’s hand in coining Tony Stark’s favorite put-down from “Iron Man 2″. In fact there was so much to go over, we didn’t even mention Jericho’s appearance in the summer comedy movie “MacGruber” or his upcoming gig as the host of the ABC reality show “Downfall", which wasn’t announced at the time of our conversation. Jericho did have time for both Monty Python and Woody Allen references, however.
BOB CALHOUN: You’re the first person that I ever heard call someone an ass clown. How did you feel when you heard that in “Iron Man 2″?
CHRIS JERICHO: I was laughing because I thought I should get a royalty for that or something. I came up with that on the spot. We were in Bakersfield, California, just doing dueling insults with Kurt Angle. He was like, “you’re this,” and I’m that. And I’m like, “You’re just an ass… clown.” People kind of laughed at it so I said it on TV a week later, and then the next week after that there were signs in the crowd that said “ass clown.” That’s how you can always see if people like something. If you say something on TV and the next week there’s signs in the crowd with that phrase on it. Right off the bat, I knew that I had stumbled onto something.
BC: That’s the kind of audience feedback that you have in pro wrestling that you don’t get as a rock band or in any other kind theater or performance.
CJ: Because it’s a weekly serial almost like the 1940s, you see the instant gratification of what happened the week before. Playing a show with Fozzy, I’ll get the gratification that night, but it’s not like you’re going back to Glasgow the next week to see if people enjoyed a certain song or whatever. It’s the same thing when you’re acting. You don’t get any gratification for that for six months or eight months afterwards until you go to the theaters or see your work on TV. But with wrestling, because it’s live theater, because it’s televised around the world, because you show up every week to do it, you get the feedback right away.
BC: With your most recent heel incarnation where you’re lecturing the audience on how they need to grow up, were you surprised at the kind of reaction that you got in this post-modern era? The kind of ire and hatred that you got for doing that?
CJ: It’s not the line that you say, it’s how you deliver it, and nobody likes being talked down to. Nobody likes it either if you’re telling them something that’s the truth. If you were walking across the street and you were about to get hit by a bus and I saved you, but every single day I went, “Hey, remember when I saved you from getting hit by a bus. You should’ve looked both ways.” At first, you’d be like, “Well, yeah, you’re right.” After awhile you’d say, “Shut up. I understand. Enough already. I wish you’d let me get fucking hit by the bus.” And that’s kind of how it works with what I’m doing in the WWE with calling people hypocrites. It all stems from something that really happened, and people don’t like being told the same thing over and over and over again. It becomes quite sickening. That’s the reason the character has drawn such ire for such a long time, it’s that I’m a know-it-all who’s basically telling the truth with what’s going on in society, but people don’t like being told that.
BC: If Robert Downey Jr. calls anybody a gelatinous tapeworm in “Iron Man 3″ are you going to challenge him to cage match?
CJ: I’ll jump through the screen like Woody Allen’s “Purple Rose of Cairo” and attack him right then and there.
BC: You could get a good movie out of that.
CJ: You could.
BC: Tell me about Fozzy’s “Chasing the Grail” album. What is the grail, how fast is it moving and why are you chasing it?
CJ: The grail could be anything. I wrote a song called “Grail” and our guitar player Rich (Ward) came up with the idea of “Chasing the Grail” for the record title. You’re not exactly chasing an old cup that Jesus drank wine out of. The grail is something that could be a job, a girl that you’re looking to catch – whatever it may be. So it stands for anything that’s a goal in your life or a dream that you set out to capture. For me, it’s an African Side Flying Swallow and it moves about 36 miles per hour on land and I’m going to catch that son of a bitch one of these days.
BC: Now the lyrics on the record are a mix of The Bible, Stephen King and Viking disembowelment.
CJ: Well yeah, it’s a heavy metal record so those are the three food groups that you go to: Stephen King, Bible and Viking disembowelment. Any metal band worth their weight in rock will hit those subjects over and over again.
BC: You’re a Christian and you’re way into metal. Do you ever feel that you get if from both sides? That you have Christians who don’t understand how you can be into heavy metal, and you have pagan or atheist metalheads who don’t understand your faith?
CJ: Back in the 1980s, you used get that when metal was first coming into prominence. You know the picketing. You’d go to an Iron Maiden concert and there’d be signs. I think now the whole world has calmed down a bit. If you really want to get technical about it, God created everything anyway so God created Iron Maiden believe it or not. Heavy metal’s a release, a great way to work out your aggressions. It was when I was 15 and it is now that I’m 39.
BC: Tell me about Jason Pinter. Were you aware of the hoops that he had to jump through to get “A Lion’s Tale” published?
CJ: No, I wasn’t aware of it at all and it was actually really interesting to hear that story. Especially now that the people at Grand Central (Publishing) signed Bret Hart’s book, they signed Mick Foley’s book, so these other books are signed because of “A Lion’s Tale". And hat’s off to Jason for seeing that. Am I a wrestler? Yes, but it’s so much more than that. I didn’t write “A Lion’s Tale” for wrestling fans. I wrote it for people who might not know anything about wrestlers, (as) more of a follow your dreams type of book than “then I gave him a body slam.” I think that it paid off in spades. I wasn’t aware of the lengths that Jason had to go through to get the book signed so when I read about it, I was kind of laughing because he hadn’t told me that story. Soon after he signed the book, he left the company to go and write on his own. So he started as my editor for about two weeks, but then I never saw him again until hearing this story on his blog.
BC: How would you compare the publishing industry to pro wrestling?
CJ: I don’t know. There’s not a lot of similarities I don’t think except that they’re both entertainment involved businesses. I think writing any kind of a book whether you’re a wrestler, a musician, or an actor; it’s such an art form. It’s such an arduous process. It takes such a long time. I’ve never been the guy that would pawn off my story to somebody else to write. I’ve written every world of both of my books including the one that I’m just going to ship right now. I work with a collaborator to give me some thoughts and advice as I write it myself. I think that that’s one of the reasons why “A Lion’s Tale” was so successful because I was very hands on with it – the same way I’ve been with my wrestling career from the moment I started.
BC: Now you’re writing the new book on planes, at least from reading your Twitter feed.
CJ: Yeah, that’s the way for me to do it: planes, trains and automobiles, man. You do so much traveling that it really makes the time go by faster, especially when you’re writing and you get really into it. Hours go by as if in minutes. It’s funny too because I’m a big fan of watching movies and DVDs and I haven’t watched anything in the last couple of months because all I’ve been doing is writing every single chance that I get. So now that I’m almost done, I have these huge piles of DVDs in my house that I have to start watching because I haven’t had any time to do it. All my spare time, even when I’m not on a plane is devoted to writing this book, rewriting it and editing it. There’s a lot of work to it. I’m up for it, but I couldn’t churn out a book a year like Stephen King. I don’t know how in the hell he does it, but I’m sure he probably wonders how I could wrestle 210 times a year.
BC: I take it the new book is about your experiences in WWE?
CJ: That and Fozzy. It’s as much of a rock and roll book as it is a wrestling book. It’s kind of half and half. Actually, my experiences in LA acting as well – it’s kind of an all encapsulating show business memoir.
BC: Your previous book, “A Lions Tale,” is about promotions that you had worked in in the past and a lot of them aren’t even in existence any more. Is there a different feeling going into writing a book about that includes your current employer and co-workers?
CJ: Not really. I don’t have any reasons to be angry about anything. I’ve had a big career and have done everything anyone can ever do. Obviously there are some stories where there are disagreements or conflict and that’s what makes the stories interesting. At the end of the day, everyone I write about I have the utmost respect for. You have watch what you say in certain points but I watched what I said in the first book too because I wasn’t coming up to settle any scores or be bitter. There’s a couple of villains in the first book and there’s a couple of villains in the second book. There’s some great stories about some of my clashes with Vince (McMahon), but that’s bound to happen when you’ve worked with somebody for almost ten years.
BC: In your experience with your first book, do men read?
CJ: Absolutely. Absolutely. This book was read by every demographic and every segment of society that I could imagine: men, women, hermaphrodites, everybody. Now that I’ve been doing in-store signings for Fozzy and “Chasing the Grail", I sign at least 20 or 30 books at every signing from people that have just bought it. It’s still selling, which to me is amazing.
10:44:28 pm, by bobcalhoun
, 538 words, 5600 views
Headbanger Life Expectancy
For the Black Sabbath album “Heaven and Hell” (1980), Ronnie James Dio penned a fast-paced metal anthem titled “Die Young.” As guitarist Tony Iommi’s monster riffage builds to the tune’s climax, Dio hammers home the song’s refrain by repeating its title (7x according to Lyrics007.com). Dio went on to live another 30 years after writing this song, and was 67 years old when he died from stomach cancer last Sunday.
Despite the exploding drummers of Spinal Tap, it’s amazing how many heavy metal musicians are making it to their golden years. The original four-man lineup of Black Sabbath, pretty much the first heavy metal band, is still with us. And remember, this line-up includes Ozzy Osbourne, a man known for biting the heads off of bats and other potential carriers of rabies as well as for his comparatively mundane battles with substance abuse and depression. Ozzy turns 62 later this year. Although Sabbath fans across the Internet are shocked that the Ozzman outlived Dio (just search Twitter for Ozzy and Dio even now), Ozzy still has slightly over five years to truly outlive his Sabbath replacement. He only has three and half years until he can collect full social security benefits however.
Eighteen people have been in Black Sabbath since the band’s self-titled debut album four decades ago. Only two of them have died: Dio and Ray Gillen. Gillen (not to be confused with the 64 year old Ian Gillan who sang with Sabbath in 1982) replaced vocalist Glenn Hughes (age 57) during the Sabs’ 1986 tour but never released any albums with the band. Gillen, a singer best known for his work with the band Badlands, was 41 when he died in 1993 – too young to die, but still middle aged by any definition. Of the 16 surviving members of Sabbath, only drummer Mike Bordin (best known for Faith No More) is under 50, and he’s just two years shy of the half-century mark. Like Gillen, Bordin filled in on a tour but never released any material with the band.
After Bon Scott’s untimely passing in 1980, no other member of AC/DC has died and the complete lineup of their most popular album, “Back in Black” (1980) is still touring. Cliff Burton of Metallica, Randy Rhodes, Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley of Hanoi Rocks, Steve Clark of Def Lepard, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, Paul Baloff of Exodus, and Eric Carr of KISS have all passed on, but I had to really strain to come up with this list. When Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot died of a cocaine overdose, he was already 52 years old and proto-metaler Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer was 63 when he died last year. Both DuBrow and Peterson qualified for AARP membership.
On the other hand, the complete rosters of Iron Maiden, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses (Axl and all), Motley Crue, and Deep Purple (another founding metal band) are all still walking this Earth, plotting farewell or reunion tours or suing their former managers. Hell, Lemmy AND Ace Frehley are still alive and both men aren’t exactly models of clean living. I’m not going to hazard to do the math but it looks doubtful that metal musicians are any more likely to die from violence or accidental causes than any other population group or profession.
04:16:47 pm, by bobcalhoun
, 490 words, 5365 views
It Goes On and On, It's Heaven and Hell
Ronnie James Dio flashing the devil horns, the heavy metal hand symbol that he popularized.
There were a few moments of false hope this morning that reports of Ronnie James Dio’s death were just a vicious Internet rumor. A UPI article hit the web around 9:30am PST telling us that the golden voiced metal singer was battling stomach cancer at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Hospital, but hadn’t succumbed just yet. The source of the good news was Dio’s wife, Wendy. I went to the Hotel Utah on Bryant Street in San Francisco for brunch and drink or two. Brandi, my longtime friend and bartender, was spinning “The Sign of the Southern Cross” from Sabbath’s “Mob Rules” album. She hadn’t heard that the official word that Dio was still with us, at least according to official reports. Brandi often wears an upside down cross. She was happy for the optimistic update.
However, it was only a couple of hours before the Associated Press and the LA Times made news of Dio’s passing official. The quashing of all hope was delivered via smartphone to me on a barstool. “Brandi, Dio really is dead now,” I said while settling up my tab. “His wife issued a statement.” Dio had actually been gone since 7:45am. He was 67 years old.
“Aw fuck it,” Brandi said, “I’m playing ‘We Rock’ right now.’”
The opening guitar riff to the opening track off the “Last in Line” album thundered through the bar’s aging sound system. “You watch their faces/You’ll see the traces/Of the things they want to be/But only we can see,” Dio’s recorded voice sang. Lyrics that always bore a certain kind of mock profundity to me became more genuine with the finality of the situation.
By the time the song reached its third verse, it was hard not to choke back a tear for the poet of my ninth grade imagination: “We pray to someone/But when it’s said and done/It’s really all the same/With just a different name.”
But then there were those choruses to remind us of the ethos that Dio had devoted his life to: ” But sail on, sing a song, carry on/’Cause We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock.”
Yes, because of Ronnie James Dio, the man who fronted Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, fronted Sabbath after Ozzy, and then went solo for the platinum selling “Holy Diver” and “Last in Line” albums, we did in fact rock. Maybe not as often, or as hard, or as purely as Ronnie James himself did, but for a few moments at Konocti Harbor in Mendocino County, or a cramped nightclub on Fourth Street in San Francisco, or driving down the 101 blasting Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” on the cassette deck, or cutting class in the Menlo Atherton High School parking lot, we rocked. And we owe all of this rocking to Ronnie James Dio.
Rag-Na-Rocking My Way to Fitness with Thor
I set up a 75-lb. TKO brand heavy bag in my garage and started sparring again. I’m feeling the effects already – my hands hurt.
My band, Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society, is backing up Thor, the Rock Warrior, bender of steel bars, destroyer of hot water bottles and singer of such metal anthems as Let the Blood Run Red and Thunder on the Tundra at Slim’s (333 11th St., SF, CA) again this coming Wednesday May 27th at 8pm. Roughly translated this means that me, Jim and The General are going to be Thor’s band for the night. We did this about a year ago and many headbangers and even lowly hipsters came away from Slim’s that night exclaiming that it was the show of the year. We’re also playing an opening set so there’s going to be a whole lotta Count Dante and the Black Dragon Society at Slim’s next Wednesday. If the appearance of the Thunder God who lives to rock wasn’t enough to draw you out on a school night, ArnoCorps is headlining. They headlined last years’ dose of Thor/Dante merged Rag-Na-Rocking and the results were historic if not truly epic.
But back to boxing: since I have to relearn an entire set’s worth of Thor’s music in a little less than two months, I’ve had to listen to a mega dose of Thor. Call it total emersion into the art of the man who brought us the classic film Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. Last week I started boxing to the same Thor CD that I use to pick up bass riffs from and, thus, found the perfect use for Thor’s straight ahead metal. Songs such as Thunder Hawk drive me to plunge my heavy fits ever deeper into the bag’s canvas and sand mass. When I am wavering, Thor’s lyrics offer affirmation, urging me to keep my arms up and throw leather as the bag sways back in forth in a futile effort to avoid my blows. “Thunder Hawk/I am the Thunder Hawk,” Thor’s voice tells me from the CD boombox on top of my washing machine. Yes, at that moment as I double the right hook into the side of the bag as if I am sinking those blows into an opponent’s ribcage, I am the Thunder Hawk! “In the sewers and the stench/Feeling sweaty, feeling drenched.” Thor, o ancient predator, you truly understand. Thunder Hawk ends. I take a break for a minute and lift my arms above my head and take deep breaths. Knock Them Down starts with its grinding power riff. Another round begins.
“I was born a fighter/Survivor of the street/Only Rage and Fists/Kept me on my feet.” Again Jon Mikl Thor understands the pugilistic urge better than even Jack London or Norman Mailer. “Knock them Down/Oh Yeah Knock Them Down/Rub all their dirty faces into the ground.” No one says it better than Thor.
It only stands to reason that Thor’s muscle rock would be the perfect soundtrack to manly physical pursuits such as boxing, judo or weight lifting. He is the first man to hold both the Mr. USA and Mr. Canada bodybuilding titles. The question now becomes, why doesn’t Thor open a chain of Thor’s Gyms across the US and Canada? With his godlike powers, he has revived a long dead Vancouver hockey team. He has done, and continues to do, feats of strength most of us schleps can only dream of. He has a new record label, Vulcan Sky, which has singed ArnoCorps. Your average Thor’s Gym can pump the music of Thor and other Vulcan Sky artists 24/7 and deliver us from the techo and disco usually played at your average 24 Hour Fitness. I’ll have to ask him about this at practice on Tuesday. Maybe I should write a business proposal.
You can buy tickets for next Wednesday’s show by clicking here.
Wed. May 27, 2009, 8pm
Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society
Freddie Flex & the Heavy Eric Si-Fi Show
333 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Here’s a video of last year’s mayhem:
Roctober Keeps on Rollin'
Roctober #46 features in-depth coverage of Soul Train’s Chicago roots, trucker music, and my days of having tortillas thrown at me while I wrestled women + plenty of comics!
JAKE AUSTEN DON’T TAKE NO MESS. While such zines as Psychotronic and Punk Planet have folded in their tents due to the corporate rape of their distribution system, Austen still grinds out hard copy of his Chicago based music and pop culture zine Roctober, has them printed on pulpy newsprint that deposits a healthy amount of ink on your hands, stuffs them into envelopes and mails the mags to subscribers. He’s not giving up and becoming a blogger. The sheer volume of info on psychedelic freak outs, proto metal bands, Midwest soul and blues musicians, forgotten garage rockers and strange yet fascinating pop cultural phenomena lovingly packed into each ish of the Roctober cannot be broken down into one line bullet points on Twitter or lost to the flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere. It was relatively recently (this century) that Austen embraced the scanner and computer as a means of delivering his pages to the printer. For him the medium is truly the message and that medium is the ‘zine.
Austen called me “the dynamic wrestling, seminar conducting, kung fu fighting, rock and roll genius” in his review of the last Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society CD Fat Power in Roctober #43. While that was flattering as all getout, what was even more awesome was that review of my most recent trash rock opus was in the same mag as an in depth interview with Paul Williams about the ghoulish rock musical, Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Not only is Brian DePalma’s Phantom one of my favorite films but, watching it recently, I realized that the glam numbers in it informed me of what a rock band should be at a tender young age. It didn’t help that they showed clips of it in the intro to Creature Features every week on KTVU Channel 2, reinforcing the message that rock bands should play distorted pentatonic riffs, wear outrageous costumes and be electrocuted on stage. Un-characteristically, the interview with Williams is available online by clicking here.
The newest ish of Roctober (#46) has a flip cover. One side is cartoon of a trucker barreling down a highway with his trusty ape (pictured). The flipside has a photograph of Don Cornelius wearing what can only be described as a low cut blouse and an accessory that closely resembles a dog collar interviewing a very well dressed B. B. King. In the corresponding article, Austen delves into the locally produced, almost DIY Chicago Soul Train that ran parallel to its LA based nationally syndicated show.
But amidst the pages and pages of record, book and DVD reviews is a rollicking four-page interview by Dan Kelly with yours truly where I not only discuss Beer, Blood and Cornmeal but also get to spout off about my band like we really did something. I even start quoting The General’s lyrics to the still unreleased Sgt. Rock and talk about Steve Leialoha (the Fat Power cover artist), comic scribe Doug Moench, Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu and those really weird DC Shadow comics from the late 1980s. In all, it’s the kind of Filmfax or Psychotronic interview that I’ve always dreamed of doing. Reading it made me feel a little bit closer to H.G. Lewis or the late Ray Dennis Steckler talking to Fangoria or V. Vale. Thank you Roctober.
And if that wasn’t enough to inflate my already dangerously enlarged ego, the magazine also sports what may be the last interview with country picking legend and Smokey and the Bandit co-star Jerry Reed, an essay on Sam Pekinpah’s movie version of the hit C.W. McCall tune Convoy and a crazy comic spoof of 70s cosmic Kirby comics called The Internals.
It’s Roctober. There isn’t an online version. You have to buy it. It’s worth it even if you don’t want to read about me. You can click here to order a copy. In fact, get a three issue subscription. You’ll be glad you did when those 100+ pages of glorious newsprint arrive in your mailbox every now and then. You really will.
Tidal Wave of Blood
Hirax was the highlight of the 11th Tidal Wave outdoor metal festival. Photo: Brandi666
McLaren Park is the forgotten public park in San Francisco. It’s just off of Mission Street, wedged in between the Visitacion Valley and Excelsior neighborhoods on the city’s southern edge. It’s a pretty big park too but you have to be an especially hearty breed of yuppie dog owner to go jogging with your pooch through this cold and bitter piece of hillside. The place is freezing even by San Francisco standards and is usually enshrouded by the same thick fog that bubbles up from Pacifica and covers all of Daly City and Colma (the world’s only necropolis where the dead outnumber the living by about 2.5 mil to just over 2,000). But the fog uncharacteristically burned off on July 5th and the sun shone brightly for the 11th annual Tidal Wave free heavy metal festival. On top of that, it was thrash metal day.
The Oakland hardcore punk outfit Attitude Adjustment played and harkened fans back to the days of crossover thrash metal/thrash punk shows at The Farm in SF and Ruthie’s Inn in Oakland. They were masters of clichés. Attitude Adjustment had a song called “Born to Lose” and another one called “Actions Speak Louder than Words.” I can only hope that at the same time on the East Coast, a band called Actions Speak Louder than Words was playing a song called “Attitude Adjustment.” Still, I like shredding as much as the next guy but Attitude Adjustment’s lack of soloing and emphasis on speedy and crunchy riffage was a welcome respite from the wailing leads that were the bread and butter of the other performers that day.
Besides the sun shining, this year’s Tidal Wave festival also defied the odds and every act ran relatively on time. Did Tonus, the KUSF DJ and event organizer hire a bunch of Benito Mussolini’s black shirted fascists to make sure that the metal arrived on time?
Tyroc meet Hirax, Hirax meet Tyroc (The Legion of Speed Metal Singers).
Southern Californian speed metal pioneers Hirax were up next and pretty much stole the show that day. Their lead singer looks like Tyroc from the 70s Legion of Super Heroes comics. Tyroc was evidently “The Hero Who Hated the Legion” but Hirax’s Katon W. DePena doesn’t seem to hate anybody despite the aggressive, balls out metal he presides over and so many songs about war and carnage. DePena not only gave props to San Francisco but also to faraway and foreign Mexico City. He even got the traditionally xenophobic metal audience to call out a chorus in Spanish (El Diablo Negro) during this political season where immigration is such a divisive issue. Hirax, with its multiracial makeup, conjured the elusive unity sought by Barrack Obama supporters.
However, any calls for unity were undone by the headlining Exodus whose Tank Abbott looking lead singer called for more violence. “I wanna see more fucking mayhem,” he said as he stomped around the concrete stage in cargo shorts. “I wanna see more fucking violence!!!” He got it too. Scuffles started but were quickly diffused by Tidal Wave’s expert security before they could be upgraded to out-and-out brawls. The vast bulk of the crowd’s aggression was channeled through rough-and-tumble but completely voluntary frenzy of the pit. After Exodus had finished their set and I made my way out of the amphitheatre, I noticed that the pavement in front of the stage was covered with drying blood. A blond stoner dude was mounted and drunkenly and deliberately pounding on some poor sod beneath him. People stood around and watched as fists slowly crashed into swollen cheeks. A gray-haired but muscular cop emerged out of nowhere. He grabbed the blond dude by his upper arm and flung him into a railing as if he were (as Gorilla Monsoon would have put it) yesterday’s garbage. It’s amazing what not being drunk and a little bit of training can do for you.
Near the show’s end, I was talking to John Gossard from the Oakland doom metal band Asunder. “You live so close to Colma you should just buy a crypt,” he told me while struggling to stay upright on the grassy knoll of the outdoor amphitheater and under the influence of about a 12-pack of Bud. “Look it’s expensive on the way in. You have to lay out the cash for the crypt and maybe wiring it for electricity and shit but then you could live there. You could even occasionally burst out of the thing and scare mourners when they come to put flowers on your grave.”
I told John that I’d consider it.
When Gods Collide
The Count and THOR backstage in Seattle.
IT WAS TEN AM. I was nursing an overpriced ($8.63) Jack and Coke at a San Jose airport bar when Thor called. This wasn’t just any generic Scandinavian dude named Thor mind you. This was the Rock God, the metal avenger. This Thor bends steel bars in his teeth and blows up hot water bottles in between belting out such metal epics as “Let the Blood Run Red” and “When Gods Collide.”
“Hey Count, This is Thor,” he said with a hint of a Canadian accent. Thor is Canadian. In fact, before becoming a heavy metal warrior, he won the Mister Canada bodybuilding competition in the early 70s. “We need you to be a tick tonight. The bassist for the opening band got really sick before we hit the road and I was wondering if you fill in for the Blue Ticks.”
“Blue Ticks?” I said scratching my head. My band, Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society backed up Thor at a sold out Slim’s in March. I could chug my way through the Thor set with some authority but I’d never even heard of the Blue Ticks.
“Yeah, the Blue Ticks,” Thor explained, “We do covers of songs like ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ but heavy metal versions. Do you know ‘A Hard Day’s Night?’”
“Um, no,” I replied. Those early 60s Beatles songs all sound real easy when you just listen to them but they’re not. They have crazy jazz chords and modulate all over the place. That’s their genius. They make the complicated sound easy.
“Well, how hard can it be you know? We’re only gonna’ do like five songs.” Thor shot back, trying to be encouraging. At least one of those songs he mentioned was “Wild Thing.” That helped.
“Hey Thor, I’ll see what I can do. We can just bury me in the mix and hope for the best.” Thor seemed encouraged by this. It’s what he wanted to hear and honestly, I have a hard time turning down Thunder Gods.
My new girlfriend Rosie and I had planned this trip to Seattle around Thor’s show up there. He was playing this new club called King Cobra’s last Thursday. After the aforementioned Slim’s show, we kind of missed the big guy and his shred-master guitarist Steve Price. Our flight was on time. We got to the hotel and then got to the venue a bit early in the hopes that I could pick up the Blue Ticks songs during an extended sound check. The sound check never happened. The Ticks’ guitarist did show me how to play “A Hard Day’s Night” and some Paul Revere and the Raiders song but I forgot what sequence the chords went in as soon as we had stopped playing them. The seemingly endless supply of Pabst didn’t help.
The opening band, a Seattle outfit transplanted from San Diego called Skelator played this very Maiden-esque set of power metal. They had long, straight hair too. A lot of people there seemed to be there to see them. There was no way that this crowd of metal maniacs wanted to see me and the Blue Ticks murder Beatles songs. They were probably okay with the murdering part but not the listening part. Thor decided to cut to the chase and just go on since the guys from the Ticks were the same guys in his band.
Thor did ask me to wear the creature costume and duel with him in the middle of the set. The Phantom of the Winds of Time performed this duty at Slim’s. I was honored but was somewhat worried that the suit wouldn’t fit. Luckily it had plenty of stretch. They had a skull mask for me to wear with it, making me a very well fed skeleton. Following Steve Price’s solo “Berzerker,” I donned the costume and went out and menaced the audience. Most of them were properly menaced, backing away from me as I grabbed for them. A drunken little punk rock girl wasn’t afraid, however. She ran up on me. I couldn’t retreat from a 5’3” girl. I was the monster, the creature, the undead come to do battle with Thor! I scooped up her small frame as if I were to body slam her, held her for a while and then put her down. Excited by the moment, she spent the rest of the night trying to make out with dudes.
Thor effortlessly bends a micstand around my skull-like cranium to the delight of Northwesterners!
Thor was onstage while the song “Intercessor” was playing. “I sense a presence,” he said. “There is one among you who is not human!” Thor shined a skull light on the audience members to determine that they were in fact human. I climbed up onto the stage. Thor saw me and mimed shooting bolts of energy out of his hands at me. I staggered back and fell to one knee. I got back up and shot invisible energy blasts at Thor. Thor sold them just as I had. We did this for a while. I mugged to the audience while Thor was down to make them hate me. Thor ran over and we locked up. He hit me with some mighty blows finally driving me down to the floor. He picked me back up as if I were a small sack of potatoes and then effortlessly bent a mic stand around my neck to the delight of the audience. Defeated, I crawled off the stage while Thor continued rocking.
This was the first bit of pro wrestling I’ve done since my last ISW match on the 2001 Warped Tour. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt great to get out there and work a crowd that way again. Canada is very good to me. My publisher, ECW Press, is Canadian, Thor is Canadian and I just got a very good review in the Ottawa Xpress, Canada’s largest newsweekly. Click here to check it out. Thank you Thor and thank you Canada.
09:47:57 am, by bobcalhoun
, 321 words, 9401 views
Birthday Cards from the God of Thunder
It was mid-February, about a month and a half before my band, Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society were to rock the stage at Slim’s in San Francisco as THOR’S backup band. You might remember Thor and if you don’t, you should. He’s a deity and demigod of metal who bends steel bars in his teeth during guitar solos. We had a lot of songs to learn and only one practice with Thor himself the night before the show. The Nordic God lagged a little in getting me some CDs of his songs for us to plod through and pick up power riffs by ear. When the discs finally arrived, they were alarmingly shipped with sappy birthday cards…
Birthday cards from the Metal Avenger.
Now there’s something more than a little unsettling about a man who calls himself The Metal Avenger sending me the same kind of birthday cards that my dad would. “For a terrific son,” one read, “A loving wish for a special day filled with all the things you enjoy most in life.” What’s Thor trying to tell me here? Now I am adopted. Is THOR my father? I searched my feelings but still wasn’t sure if it was true or not.
Then it dawned on me. My publisher is in Canada and I ended up having to smuggle a DVD of pics for “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal” in one of those weird Gene LeBell Lou Thesz magazines to avoid paying 70 bucks to Canuck customs. See, despite NAFTA, both sides of the border zealously protect their film and recording industries from pesky CDs and DVDs for the fear that somebody might be trying to have their video edited somewhere else by non-nationals. Thor later called and confirmed my customs busting theories.
After all, what government official would question the Norse God of Thunder sending a couple of CDs to his son Magni as a birthday gift?
Beer, Blood and Piecemeal.
The rock and reading odyssey of a 300-pound hulk.