School Days: Billy Gives It A Grade, Again

Billy says:

Earlier this year, I rambled on about some musician books I've read so here's part two. I'm definitely open to more suggestions too.

Justice for All: The Truth about Metallica: Author Joel McIver wrote this comprehensive account of metal band Metallica. I liked how he covered the band members' history before they all joined Metallica and how he portrayed Metallica's up rise with how the music landscape was changing and evolving throughout the 80s and 90s. The book is incredibly detailed yet the book is structured where there's no direct dialogue between the band and the author; all of the facts are recounted through established interviews with other media outlets and secondhand accounts to people close to the band. Lastly, the author gives his own opinions on the band's albums. He hated Load/ReLoad and spends numerous chapters crushing those albums. Now, I'm all about opinions, but devoting that large of a portion of the book to that subject wasn't warranted.

Grade: C+

Watch You Bleed: The Sage of Guns N' Roses: The first 300+ pages of the book are devoted to the band's history from the early 80s to its demise around 1994. It's very detailed but the last 25 pages cover the band and its former members from after 1994 to around 2009. Granted GNR wasn't as prevalent during those years as it was from the 80s and early 90s, but dedicating those few pages to that large amount of years was kind of disheartening. Much like many other band biographies, there are no direct interviews with band members in this book. While the author had 13 people interviewed for the book for details, they asked to remain anonymous, thus the book doesn't have that direct appeal or personality.

Grade: C

Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction: This book is unique in a way where it solely focuses on the time before and during the band making their debut album Appetite for Destruction. There are tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes photos of the band during that time and it gives the book that personal feeling. Marc Canter, personal friend of the band during the early days, compiled the book together and framed the book by detailing all of the gigs and venues the band did leading up to making their debut album. Canter even listed all of the set lists the band did and you can clearly see when and where the band debut all of the songs that would eventually land on Appetite. Details like that made this book very interesting to read.

Grade: B+

An Oral/Visual History by The Red Hot Chili Peppers: The band collaborated with author Brendan Mullen by giving their own accounts of the band's 20+ year history. There were even interviews from past members of the band which provided that extra little detail to the topics. In addition, there are tons of photos throughout the book that give a different outlook that other books tend to be missing. The structure of the book is a little confusing since it just jumps around from subject to subject. The titles of each "chapter" are taken from a song by RHCP so it’s unclear on what's about to be presented. Nonetheless, the book is very informative and expressed new facts that I previously didn't know.

Grade: B

Let's See Who Passed My Test...

Billy says:

Some quick reviews of musician books I've read over the years. I'm always on the lookout for suggestions too!

Slash (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, and solo career): Very detailed orientated account of the guitarist's life and career. He talked about the formation of Guns N' Roses, his reasons on why GNR broke up, his various solo projects during and after GNR's demise, his marriage, his drug addictions and recovery and the formation of Velvet Revolver. I really enjoyed the immense detail behind his song writing and other tidbits, like what guitars he used for which songs. Other than some grammar errors, the book is highly recommended.

Grade: A-

Scar Tissue (Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers): The book talked about Kiedis' life starting from his birth all the way to around 2004. The book delves heavily into Kiedis' various battles of drug addiction and is very detailed about his thinking and opinions during those times. I did enjoy his explanations behind many of the lyrics for various RHCP songs but like his lyrics, his explanations and phrasing of words could be confusing. 

Grade: B

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Dave Mustaine of Megadeth): As the first lead guitarist for Metallica to his entire career with Megadeth, Mustaine doesn't miss a beat with this book offering. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed because I felt it focused too much on his personal life and his new found outlook on religion. Being the front man of a massive metal band, I thought Mustaine would go into way more detail of his music career but he only offered a few details regarding each of the band's albums; so much for the subtitle of "Heavy Metal Memoir".

Grade: C

It's So Easy: and other Lies (Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, Loaded, and Velvet Revolver): McKagan is one of the bassists that had a huge influence on my bass playing so this book was very high on my anticipation list. Fortunately, the book delivered and is highly recommended. He goes into heavy detail of the bands he's been in over the years, the background of his musical upbringings and his recovery from alcohol addiction. The last half of the book explained his new outlook of living a healthy lifestyle along with pursuing business ventures and martial arts. Articulate guy and the book content are very comprehensive.

Grade: A

I Am Ozzy (Ozzy Osbourne): It's a gigantic narrative of the singer's career and it does take a little while to get used to his rambling and "distinct" manner of speaking. But after that, his stories are hilarious, enlightening, interesting, weird, and bizarre. The book has its charm but the subject matter can twist and turn at a drop of a hat. 

Grade: B

Lifting Shadows: The Authorized Biography of Dream Theater: The book is a very large and thorough account of Dream Theater's 25+ year lifespan starting from its humble beginnings of three guys from Berklee's College of Music. Its layout is told through mostly quotes from the band members extracted from interviews and statements so it's not a firsthand experience. I really enjoyed the chronicles of the band's career and the book presented many previously unknown facts about the band to me. The only detraction is the author inserts his own personal opinions on other bands and Dream Theater's catalog and his perspective is a little ridiculous.

Grade: A-

My Life with Deth (David Ellefson of Megadeth): When you think of Megadeth, one could think of just front man Dave Mustaine but there has been another person in the band since the beginning and that's bassist Ellefson. I liked the book because he doesn't mention Mustaine a lot and instead talks about the band from his own point of view. He delves into his lows of addiction but also highs of his success, staying sober and finding religion. Like Mustaine's book, he does talk a lot about religion and I respect that but sometimes that subject is not for everyone. Still, it's very recommended.

Grade: B

A (Much Overdue) Rant: In the Key of Rock

*AUDRA* says:

"Does nobody like rock n roll now? Well I don’t really think so."

Above is a quote from one of our newest songs. At first glance, when I was told to sing it, I thought, "How untrue is this?! People love rock music!"

Well over the course of my (extremely awesome and fast-moving) career with Chaser Eight I've learned a couple truths about the music scene. Allow me to enumerate:

1. Rock is dead. I didn't want to believe it, but it is. True rock that is and especially if you're a woman. The days of Janis Joplin, No Doubt, Garbage, Hole, etc., are over. And that's much to my dismay and sadness. Mostly because girl rockers rule. Seriously.

2. Covering other artists songs makes you way more popular than playing original tunes. This goes for making YouTube videos and performing in a live cover band. I honestly had no idea this had become a career path.

3. If you're a hot guy lead singer you have a better shot of making fans than a hot girl lead singer. Unless you are in the cover band and wear midriff bearing clothes on stage.

Sidebar: Sorry, I'm not dressing up half naked to parade around stage with a wireless mic and dance like I'm earning dollars. I play a white Gibson SG through a Orange Dual Terror and a Roman Custom Cab. And when I'm not playing my microphone game is that of Freddie Mercury: a commanding staff yielding rock power.

4. Pop music has taken over. People would much rather see the hot guy lead singer and/or midriff bearing woman sing upbeat, sappy love songs than hearing the cry of an electric guitar. Pop AND new wave hip indie music. There are a lot of those "indie" bands these days and, yes, it pisses me off. You're so contradictory, clever, ironic, and hip. Get an amp that goes above 1 and rock your ass off for a change. Oh and eat something.

5. If you say you support us, than come out and support us. Live gigs are only as successful as the fans that walk through the door. Get off the couch and listen to good music.

So, put down your iPhone and step away from the crappy pop tunes and support rock music again! There was a revolution in the 60s and 70s. Music was being created that you could hear and feel. Can we get back to that? Or at least get back to the point where people support that?

Note: I'm not hating on the hot guy lead singer or midriff bearing woman and the poppy cover songs they perform. Nor am I hating on the new wave hip indie band. There is room for all of us and everyone has their own path to follow. Just because I think it's soulless work doesn't mean that people don't enjoy it. Actually, it's quite the contrary. I know people love it. Do you. We'll do us. And maybe our paths will cross.

Another note: There several acts in this area that I respect and appreciate for their talent and dedication to their craft. I'll name a few: Seth Adam, Chris Grillo, The Smyrk, When Particles Collide, Atrina (Andre Roman),Goodnight Blue Moon (Nick D'Errico), Echo & Drake, Broadcast Hearts, Moving Brooklyn, Porcelain Clocks, Deception Fades, Danny Henry, and Kevin Reed (I see those videos you're posting on Facebook. Fantastic. Keep it up, kid. Help bring rock back).

So, now, I ask, "Does nobody like rock n roll now?"

End rant. 

A Song a Day Will Keep the Therapist Away

Billy says:

For the past seven months, I've been steadily improving my life, both mind and body. A large part of the change was thanks due to the band and their overwhelming and excellent support. In addition, I use music for support; these are three songs which have proved to be very encouraging and supportive.

Dream Theater - The Answer Lies Within

My first pick is taken from Dream Theater's eighth album Octavarium. The song's title "The Answer Lies Within" is pretty self-explanatory on what the song is about: wanting to change yourself begins within and if your mindset isn't ready for change, then you're not ready. Written by founder/guitarist/chief lyricist John Petrucci, the second verse is very powerful and clearly spells out the song's message.

"Life is short, so learn from your mistakes

And stand behind, the choices that you made

Face each day with both eyes open wide

And try to give, don't keep it all inside"

The song itself is very melodic and written as a potential single. Flourished by lush orchestra, the song rings true as my main pick because the message is 100% what I strived to change myself. The chorus reflects this as well:

"Don't let the day go by

Don't let it end

Don't let a day go by, in doubt,

The answer lies within"

Bad Religion - Changing Tide

As the last song on Bad Religion's 16th album True North, "Changing Tide" is a great send-off track and grand finale. Written by lead vocalist and founder Greg Graffin, the song talks about how someone can get stuck in the drudgery of everyday life and eventually commits to a lifetime of the same stagnant routine. Instead, you should recognize one's need to change. It's one idea to just wait for that day to come when change occurs and it's another thing to act and actually change oneself.

"Every day's the same routine of endless chores and boring details.

And you know you're waiting for the perfect condition for your ship to set sail.

But of course, the climate's always changing.

Clinging to the past has got you straining.

Comes the recognition now you're on a mission that is born to fail,

Leave it!"

Graffin's lyrics throughout the band's catalog usually reflect social issues and the idea for positive change in your life. In this song, "Clinging to the past has got you straining," is a strong statement on how one can just always yearn to what has happened in the past without committing to a new endeavor.

Iron Maiden - Wildest Dreams

Featured as the lead single from Iron Maiden's 13th album, "Wildest Dreams" describes the idea of not letting your past troubles drag you down and to pursue your goals (or so called) dreams. Written by founder/bassist Steve Harris and longtime guitarist Adrian Smith, the opening lyrics, "I'm gonna to organize some changes in my life, I'm gonna exorcise the demons of my past, I'm gonna take the car and hit the open road, I'm feeling ready to just open up and go" talks about how one should always strive to do what they want and not be hindered throughout their lives.

The upbeat tempo, distinct guitar solo by Smith and catchy chorus reflects the positive message and attitude exhibited by the lyrics. Guitarist Smith rejoined Iron Maiden in 2001 after close to ten years away from the band and songs like this portray his newfound vision and excitement that he previously shown when he was with the band during its 1980's run.

"When I'm feeling down and low

I vow I'll never be the same again

I just remember what I am

And visualize just what I'm gonna be"