Monday, December 28, 2015

Rest In Peace Lemmy Kilmister

It has been a really tough year.

I just found out about the passing of Ian Fraser Kilmister (affectionately known as Lemmy) a half hour ago. I spent half of the day making arrangements to see my grandfather, who is also on his way out, only to cap off my day with this news. In a lot of ways the stories are the same. People with a profound impact on my life, people who got to lead great lives themselves, and whose ending is something that I've been expecting for a little bit. It hasn't been an easy day.

I know that anytime these high profile deaths happen, people say "what does it matter to you? You didn't actually know them. You never met them." What's the point of music then? What's the point of going to shows? What's the point of any of this? Lemmy wasn't a guy I got to share a cigarette with ever, but that doesn't mean his existence didn't impact countless lives. His charisma, his personality, his music, the way he dressed, the way his voice sounded are all things we gravitated toward and wanted to be. I used to joke that I was smoking a pack a day because I wanted my voice to sound like Lemmy's. His existence mattered to me and his death matters to me and to you and to everyone else because the impacts he made mattered. We talk a lot about things like 'influence', 'heroes', and 'legends'. In the subculture, that begins and ends with Motorhead and Lemmy. There is an alpha and omega and it's him. It was, it is, and it ever shall be. There are benchmarks for how to live in this subculture and he laid a lot of them out for us. He taught us how to carry ourselves like made men doing what we wanted on our terms. He was a larger than life personality. He lived sex, drugs, and rock and roll the way it should be. He wasn't the braggart that the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin were about it. Lemmy's world was his and his friends'. What went on in it belonged to them, never for the outsiders. Partying like there's no tomorrow is not G7 on the jukebox. It isn't something you parlay into a role in Pirates of the Caribbean. It is something that you use toward personal exorcism, only sharing it with a select group of people who understand why you do it. That was how Lemmy lived. That's what Motorhead was about. That is what punk music is about. It isn't for everyone and it is self-destructive. He got it. He made it. To the initiated ones, "Lemmy is God" isn't just a quote from the movie Airheads, it's the honest truth.

I really don't know what to say about Lemmy that hasn't already been said or won't be said in the coming days. I once heard someone say during a eulogy that "there aren't enough words worthy enough to measure the departed person's impact and value". As a writer I like to pride myself on being able to find the words for any situation and circumstance. How do you sum up Lemmy? You can't. There aren't enough words worthy enough to measure his impact and value. I've been writing this whole time and I haven't said anything that really measures what Lemmy meant to this whole subculture. He influenced countless bands. An entire galaxy of them. All of them wanted to be like him and Motorhead. Everyone from Metallica to Inepsy. Imagine a world without Motorhead and I'll show you a world without punk music. It doesn't happen without them. 

In September, Lemmy infamously and sadly declared "I can't do it" onstage during a performance because his body couldn't physically handle the strain from playing anymore. We knew the end was coming then. Studies have shown that when a man's wife dies, he typically doesn't last much longer after. A lot of factors are attributed to this, but the major one is simply the man just loses the will to go on. Lemmy's first love in life was music. While he didn't give it up exactly, it wasn't the same. His body had finally betrayed him and quit at 69 years old. Three months later, he was gone.

I'm sitting here and I'm struggling with the death of a 70 year old British man I never met. That sounds really stupid, doesn't it? For a lot of us, a lot of you who read this, and for a lot of you who know me, you understand that it's more than that. The small rooms we crowd into, the bad decisions we make, the friends we keep, the way we dress... it is all more than that. Lemmy Kilmister wasn't another rocker. He wasn't another musician. He's the guy who helped build all of this. He's the one that showed us the way. A lot of people say "Lemmy is God" because Steve Buscemi said it in a movie once. Most of them will never really understand what that truly means. Lemmy is gone, but he will never die because gods don't die.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merch: Weird Luke's Mutopia Toys

Weird Luke is a bit of a subculture treasure. If you've been to a New York City punk show in the last few years there's no doubt you've seen him around. Topped by a bright red mohawk, Weird Luke is dressed like a warlord from Mad Max. In addition to being a mainstay of the New York punk scene, Weird Luke has made a name for himself with his handcrafted resin figurines. His collection has quietly become one of the most unique and impressive things in today's subculture. Based out of the Brooklyn neighborhood Gowanus, Luke has built a brand (and a band, GMK AKA Gowanus Mutant Kommandos) out of the area's notoriety for potentially being radioactive.

Mutopia Toys has become something that some of the best bands in hardcore punk have worked with in recent years. Bands like Crazy Spirit, Perdition, Hoax, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Kromosom and many more have worked with Mutopia. In essence, Luke brings forth a creature representative of that band's aesthetic or vision. The results are always something that invokes intrigue. In addition to bands, Mutopia Toys has done collaborations with Pork Magazine, Death Traitors, and even a special drop with Mishka for the New York City Comic Convention. Lastly, Mutopia has their own Mutant Kommando / NukeTruppen series which are Weird Luke's personal creations of what happens when punks become radioactive mutants.

Because these are handmade (and if you've seen one of these in person, you'd understand how much detail is put into each one), not many are made. If you're not around New York or don't keep up with some circles, it is easy to overlook what Weird Luke / Mutopia is doing with his figures and miss out. It seems like now, more than ever, toys / figures are wildly popular. It is great to see someone within the punk scene putting out these kinds of figures by punks, for punks.

Something like Mutopia doesn't come along very often, if ever. This is especially true in a community like punk where certain limitations are not only expected, they're mandatory. To see Mutopia rise up and do what its doing on a front like toys is a marvel. When we think about the manufactured output of hardcore punk, we talk about music and records, merch and clothing, printed materials like zines, and all kinds of other things. Going into 2016, everything that can be made into merchandise likely is... except for toys. Weird Luke is holding it down for punk in an arena that rest of us have not really tried to lay claim to. That fact alone merits them mention. The fact that he excels at what he does is more reason for us to talk about it and for you to check them out.

Just some of the Gowanus Mutant Kommandos

An array of Luke's work including his pieces for Perdition and Crazy Spirit

Collaboration with Death Traitors

You can purchase some of these figures directly from Weird Luke at the link below. You can also find some of his figures available online at Katorga Works, Dripper World, and other locations.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I want to preface this with a few things. First of all, this is my first time writing anything in depth since I was still in school, about 15 years ago, and its terrifying. Secondly, there are people out there that could write an encyclopedia on X-Japan, and I am not one of them. There is so much information out there about them, and so much documentation of every little thing that they did, from every song at every gig ever played, to the exact guitar Hide or Pata used at each gig and so much more. Anything that I could write will not be as thorough as others could write, but I hope to touch on a few things that many of these X-fanatics tend to overlook. Not because of their lack of knowledge about the band, but because most of them don't come from a hardcore punk background. There are a few other punks in America that have been into this stuff way longer than me, have much more impressive collections, knowledge of bands, and general knowledge of the whole scene. I'm not claiming to be a pro on any of this. Just a fan wanting to share some of the reasons all this stuff became so interesting to me. I think its actually amazing music and would hope to turn a few people on to listening to X and some similar bands. People like Thomas, Caiazzo, Tommy and many more were jamming this stuff way before I ever took the time to look into it, and I just wanted to give respect where its due.

A quick biography of the band...Drummer and founder Yoshiki started playing music at a very young age. He was a classically trained piano player and began music theory lessons at the age of four. After discovering Kiss and other American hard rock bands, he decided to switch to drums. His father committed suicide, something that he witnessed, and he stated that event in his life lead him to want to play fast and aggressive music, which fueled many records to come. He started his first band, Dynamite, in 1977 alongside future X singer Toshi. Dynamite would eventually change its name to Noise, and finally break up in 1982. That same year, Yoshiki and Toshi started X. They released two singles, 1985's "I'll Kill You", and 1986's "Orgasm".The latter is considered by many as one of the best Japanese metal records ever. After many inconsistent lineups, with the only stable members being Toshi and Yoshiki, they finally solidified the full band in 1987 with Toshi on vocals, Yohsiki on drums, Pata on guitar, Hide on guitar, and Taiji on bass. This lineup would begin to play out regularly, selling out many of Japan's larger live houses. This "indies era" is considered the best X era by many fans. The gigs were raw, energetic and they quickly became one of the biggest bands in Japan's underground scene. In August of '87, at a gig at the Kyoto Sports Valley (my favorite X show ever, the whole thing is on YouTube, go watch it now), they released their first VHS, a format that the band would continue to use throughout their career, and something that helped their sales immensely between album releases. 

A year later, in 1988, they would self-release their first full length album, Vanishing Vision, on drummer Yoshiki's own label, Extasy Records. The first press of 10,000 sold out within a week, and over time they would sell close to a million copies. A year later they signed to CBS/Sony and released their second album, Blue Blood. With the release of this record, they became one of the biggest bands in Japan, selling out massive venues and becoming huge celebrities in their country. They would release three more studio albums, a handful of VHS, and many CD singles before their initial break-up in 1997. The band sold out the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome eighteen times, making them one of the few acts to ever sell it out, alongside the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. After their 1997 split, they would take a ten year hiatus and reform in 2008, with Pata, Toshi and Yoshiki being the only members from the early days. A world tour and several international gigs would follow. The band is now planning to release its first studio album since 1996's Dahlia on March 12 of 2016, along with a massive gig at London's Wembley Stadium.

Not being Japanese, I can never fully understand the love (or hate) that millions of people have for this band. They were the biggest rock band in Asia for over a decade, and continue to play giant international shows, including recently selling out Madison Square Garden, a show that I was fortunate enough to attend. It's insane to me that a band can become so big, and so famous somewhere in the world, and be virtually unknown elsewhere. Everyone in the world knows Green Day, but ask anyone in the USA who X-Japan is and 9.9 times out 10 they will have no idea who you're talking about. Their fame in Japan is like something you would see in a movie. I recently saw a video of Yoshiki talking about how much he likes living in LA part time, because when he's in Japan he can't go into public without being mobbed by people. In the same interview he said he was talking with his friend, David Bowie, about how he deals with this and how hard it is. When they were recording their fourth album, The Art of Life, Yoshiki really wanted to record in a studio called One on One in Hollywood. He was told that the studio had the best drum sound in the world. This other band called Metallica had the studio booked for almost a year straight to record The Black Album and Yoshiki was pretty much laughed at for wanting to record there, being an unknown foreign artist in America. So he turned around and bought the studio and they recorded The Art of Life there. They were that kind of famous.

I first heard them when I was in high school. A friend of mine had a DVD of theirs and all we could talk about while we watched it was how big their hair was. I don't even remember what the songs were, or if I even liked what I heard. It's kind of a blur. I remember there being a piano, lots of blood, roses, and I was just shocked by how they looked (fitting considering their slogan, "Crime of Visual Shock"). For a few years, I had the name burned into my head, but never really gave them a listening chance. It wasn't until I went to Japan for the first time that I really started paying attention. My first trip there I was surprised that so many people I met listened to this band. And it seemed like everyone's house I went to had stacks of VHS, books, CD's, etc. I began looking into them and realized that the music really clicked with me. It was completely different than anything I was into at the time, but as soon as Blue Blood kicked in on my first listen, I was hooked. Right around the time I got back from that first trip, Thomas had just released a new issue of Evil Minded Zine with the whole issue dedicated to visual kei and Japanese metal. This became my bible for a bit. The whole world was new to me, and having accessible information via his zine really opened up the door for me to find some of the music that has become my favorite ever. I owe him a big thanks for that.

Something that really caught my attention in his zine was the mention of a band called L.O.X., which stands for Lip Cream, Orange, X. This was a crazy collision of worlds for me, and suddenly everything started to make sense. L.O.X. (originally called Masami and LOX) was a project band featuring Naoki from Lip Cream/The Comes on guitar, Yoshiki from X-Japan on drums, Act from Orange/S.K.V.(Sakevi of GISM's side project) on bass, and originally Masami from Ghoul on vocals. After Masami ended up in a coma in '89, they released an album entitled Shake Hand with different vocalists on each track. Among these singers were Toshi from X-Japan, Ishiya from Death Side/Forward, Butaman from Tetsu Arrei, and even Naoki from Lip Cream sings a song. There's also a live video with Tokurow from Bastard on vocals! There were a few other vocalists, but we'll keep it at these for the sake of this article. The album was released on CD and LP format and put out on the infamous S.E.X./Sunshine Sherbert label that also gave us the first Tetsu Arrei LP. When I first read this, I knew that I had to start digging deeper. Here was this band, X, that I was becoming obsessed with, and their members shared a project with some of the most legendary Japanese hardcore personnel ever. L.O.X. is kind of surrounded in mystery though. On the album, Yoshiki goes under an alias instead of his real name. Many believe because this was shortly after X had signed with a major label, and he was under contract to not release any material with another label. His face is even blurred out on the band photo. This always confused me though because Toshi is listed on the CD, and his picture is on there as well. Maybe Yoshiki was just being mysterious, or maybe he had some deal with ownership to the X rights that we don't know about it. Either way, the album is a ripper, its pretty easy to find and there's a few YouTube videos out there. There is some video of them performing with Masami very early on, but its hard to find.

Shortly after discovering L.O.X., on a hunt for more information relating X to the punk scene, I noticed that X drummer and founder Yoshiki ran the famous Extasy Records. While most of their releases were of up and coming bands tied to the visual kei scene, looking at the catalog I saw that the second release on the label was Poison's 1986 Mystery Temptation EP. For those that don't know, Poison (later called Poison Arts) was Chelsea's first band before Death Side. If you haven't heard it you need to, and I'd suggest starting with the flexi, this EP on Extasy, or the Kick Rock 12". Also on Extasy Records, in 1990 was an awesome band called Virus. While their music was more thrash metal, their bass player Noboru was in another band called Ogreish Organism, who had a ripping CD in 1993 on the legendary Selfish Records. Chelsea also played guitar on about half the songs on this CD (while the other half of the guitar tracks were done by Zigyaku from Bastard/Gudon). Also in this band was Minoru, bassist of The Comes/Lip Cream and more recently Color Rice Men and Eiefits. As you can see, both the metal and hardcore scenes were very intertwined at times. It makes sense, as some of these original Burning Spirits bands had such amazing guitar work, and definitely had a metallic feel from time to time. Speaking of Chelsea, in January of 1989, he, alongside Ishiya, Butaman, Baki from Gastunk, and a handful of others entered CBS Sony Roppongi Studio in Tokyo to sing back up vocals on X's first major label release, Blue Blood. The album would sell more than 700,000 copies initially, be certified gold, and spend more than 100 weeks in the Japan Oricon Top 100 charts. A year later is when L.O.X. would record their only album. The connection and friendship seemed to last through all the years when X was growing in popularity. Even on their Dahlia LP, which was their final studio album before their initial break up and a complete removal from their thrash/speed metal roots, as well as being certified gold selling more than half a million copies and topping the Japan charts for 15 weeks, they still thank Tetsu Arrei and Death Side on the album.

When I initially started looking for X's connections to punk, it seemed to be mostly through Yoshiki and Extasy Records. Talking with members of some of the original Burning Spirits bands, I learned that he was an old friend of a lot of those guys, and was involved in the punk scene in one way or another. Which makes sense after learning about all the stuff I've mentioned so far. I heard a couple stories about him from some of these older guys. One of which that Yoshiki's infamous hair, half spiked up/half long flowing locks, was just a mere mistake. He was on his way to a punk gig in Tokyo, and he was doing his hair (either on the way or before he left) and didn't have time finish it. He only got halfway through, and that look just stuck with him and became iconic. Its even become the silhouette of his Hello Kitty character, Yoshikitty. But I wondered if he was the only member of X that had connection to the punk scene and if he just invited his friends to sing backups on Blue Blood or where else a connection was made. Then I learned of the origins of Hide.

Although not an original member, Hide quickly became X's biggest celebrity. He joined on second guitar before the recording of their first full length, Vanishing Vision, and ended up being a major force of the band until they initially split in 1997. He also enjoyed more success as a solo artist, both at the same time and after X's split, than any other member. His fame was cut short in 1998 after his death, a questionable suicide or autoerotic asphyxiation gone bad. His death was dubbed the end of Japanese teenage rebellion by the press, and his funeral procession, which can be seen on YouTube, is comparable to something you would've seen for a king or someone of that importance. There were approximately 50,000 people in attendance at his funeral, and nearly 60 were hospitalized and close to 200 were treated on scene for self-inflicted injuries. The scene at the funeral was crazy with young fans literally throwing themselves over the barriers and onto the street, bashing their faces into the pavement as his hearse passed by them. There were also a string of copycat suicides. It was a national phenomenon when he died. It shocked the country and changed the face of pop culture in Japan forever. I'm telling you all this to illustrate just how big his celebrity was. I don't know who to compare him to in American popular music, because I can't think of a single mega-celebrity in America who had that much influence on culture, but also played on records with legends on the same level as Ghoul, Lip Cream and City Indian. 

This band is called Saver Tiger (originally called Saber Tiger and later known as Yokosuka Saver Tiger). This was Hide's first band, formed in 1981. They played a fair amount of live gigs and released an 8" flexi in 1985 (#1 want list item). The next year they contributed two tracks to the Devil Must Be Driven Out By Devil compilation from Hold Up records. The guitar playing on the record, especially the song "Dead Angle", has some serious Burning Spirits feel to it. In my opinion, these are some of the best Hide riffs ever. In 1987, Saver Tiger would break up and Hide would think to stop playing music all together. Shortly after this, Yoshiki asked him to join X and the rest is history. Although he didn't contribute too much songwriting to X's catalog (Yoshiki wrote about 98% of their material, guitar parts, lyrics, composure of songs, etc), a Saver Tiger song he wrote called "Sadistic Emotion" was taken for X, changed to "Sadistic Desire", and became a staple song in their set for almost their entire existence. Not to mention, a fan favorite, and my favorite X song hands down. His solo stuff was more rock than anything. It was experimental and it was the 90's, so almost anything went. He collaborated with numerous famous American musicians, was friends with Marilyn Manson, and lived in LA for a while. There is a retrospect CD of the Saver Tiger stuff, called The Origin of Hide that you should be able to find online rather easily. Side note- (Two other members of Saver Tiger went on to join the band D'erlanger, who are worth a mention. Their demo tape, Birth of the Splendid Beast, is one of my top 3 Japanese metal demos, and their first EP, Girl, is an absolute ripping thrash metal release. They would later change their style to a more goth sound with the release of their first LP, La Vie En Rose and continue to make music through the 2000's.)

I haven't been able to find much on the other X members relating to the punk scene. It may be out there, or it may have just been Hide and Yoshiki. Pata, while an amazing guitarist, really lacked on the solo stuff. And his early bands were nothing of a great mention, at least on the relation to hardcore topic. Taiji was strictly metal, and after leaving X, joined the famous Japanese hair metal band Loudness, who had a bit of commercial success in America at the time. But regardless, X were more than a band. They created a cultural movement that shook the normality of Japanese society that can still be felt to this day. On my last trip to Japan I was able to visit Hide's grave in Yokosuka. It was an intense experience to say the least. Going there to pay homage to a guitar player that has influenced me greatly was powerful enough, and to go there with members of Disclose and Deceiving Society and see how much it meant to them was even more surreal. Something about X really clicked with a certain age group in Japan and those people, no matter what musical path they went down, still love them to this day. If you haven't heard them, take a minute to check out some of their stuff. The early demos and first two EP's are raw and awesome. Classic Japanese metal. The first 2 LP's are flawless in my eyes. The rest is open to conversation, I like it all, but many that I know do not. The first LP, Vanishing Vision, was self-released, and has sold roughly 800,000 copies since its release in 1988. Think about that next time your band is trying to push those 500 EP's you spent your summer working to pay for. We've all been there.

Included are the band's four full-length albums and a compilation of their singles.

- Jakke Sullivan

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rest In Peace Tim Butcher

Tim Butcher passed away this past weekend.

For a lot of you that name might not mean anything. However I promise you that all of you either knew Tim or know someone hurting from his passing. Tim was a big part of the Los Angeles hardcore punk scene for the last decade. To hold it down that long in a city as big as LA tells you how much he loved being a part of this. He loved playing music and was constantly finding a project to be involved in. He was in Pressvre, Minus, and Hell In The Cell to name a few. He played with Trash Talk a few times. Tim's love for music was unrivaled. More importantly, regardless what stage he was on or what the band was, he made it a point to always have fun. It was this philosophy that ultimately defined Tim. He was just positive energy.

On a personal level, the loss of Tim Butcher is a particularly difficult one. I started talking to Tim about eight years ago from the old Southern California message board where we struck a rapport over our shared love of hockey (since our favorite teams were rivals, we had plenty to discuss). From this we ended up becoming friends. It wasn't until I lived in Los Angeles last year that I really got to spend a lot of time with Tim. We would talk about our creative ideas (we were both working on trying to sell TV shows we developed), music, pro wrestling, and hockey (unsurprisingly the debates hadn't changed). I was really lucky to get to spend a lot of time with Tim then because I got to know one of the realest human beings I've ever met. He was the most straightforward and earnest person. He didn't pull punches and he didn't sugarcoat things. If you said something stupid (as I often would), he would tell you in a second. If you did something that was cool, he would tell you so. Isn't that what every friend should aspire to do? Call you on your mistakes and encourage you when you do well? For this reason, among many others, Tim knew what the word "friend" meant.

I have only been back to Los Angeles for one night since I left last year. In January, I was passing through and got to roll with Tim and a few of our friends to an Ajax show in Pomona. I was at a weird point in my own life. I just spent three months in Dallas sorting myself out and had taken a job to start in Connecticut in less than a week. Seeing all of them that night was weird for me because when I left LA almost half a year earlier I was in a dark place. Talking to Tim helped to snap me out a lot of the daze I had been in. One thing he used to do when he talked to me was he would outright ignore the stuff he thought was irrelevant or pointless and immediately ask about something worth discussing. I would talk about some column I wrote and he'd ask about the TV show's status. He had an attention for success. He knew what was good and how to further it while avoiding the bad because it wasn't worth the time. Spending time with him that night put things a lot of things into perspective. As he called it a night, he just told me to keep doing what I was doing. I needed that hang out with Tim that night. I'm thankful that I was able to go to LA for one night only and spend it with him. His perspective on everything is something few people have and now we no longer have it anymore and the world is poorer for it.

A lot of you probably don't watch professional wrestling and that's okay, so indulge me for one moment. Owen Hart died in 1999 as a result of a tragic accident. The next night on Monday Night Raw they ran a tribute for him. To this day I distinctly remember a lot of what the wrestlers said about Owen in their testimonials. "Consummate friend", "the best sense of humor", and "lived for his passions". I thought about all of the things people said about Owen and I realized "that's Tim". The last quote I think about is from Debra. "I still can't believe that you're gone... I keep looking for you." Los Angeles will never be the same without you in it, Tim. Whether we realize we're doing it or not, we're always going to look for you at shows and parties. The truth of it is because by looking for you, if even only for one second, we have an opportunity to remember you and wish you were here with us.

I love you, Tim.
I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Band Spotlight: Oaf

Oaf was brought to Justified Arrogance's attention after we grossly overlooked them on our Best of 2015 list. From the minute we heard "Cheat II", we knew we messed up.

The Pacific Northwest might be the most underrated mean scene in the country. While it is true that the area did briefly produce a number of melodic hardcore bands in the 2000s like Champion and Go It Alone as well as being home to the thinking man's hardcore band Trial, the Pacific Northwest has otherwise had a pretty proud history of spawning some of the meanest and most aggressive bands in hardcore punk. Bands like Brotherhood (who wrote one of the hardest straight edge songs ever) laid down a foundation for what PNW hardcore should be: a punch to the mouth, no bullshit, and to the point. Since then bands like Iron Lung, Cold Sweat, Walls, and countless others have followed this template, helping to fortify the region into a subculture stronghold.

Oaf is the newest product of the PNW. Hailing from Vancouver, BC and beginning in 2014, the band has grown exponentially from an idea to a sound in the last year. On their 2014 demo, the band played to what they wanted to sound like. They tried to capture all of the elements that their PNW predecessors had perfected before them. The demo itself is good and, by itself, is quite good. In September 2015, the band released their debut EP Consume. The time between releases gave the band time to put it all together. The production, the vocals, and most importantly, the control on the record shows the band finally understood where they came from. The vocals are dripping with vitriol, there is a ton of feedback promoting discomfort, the bass is overpowering at times, the guitar is piercing, and even the drums sound abrasive. Oaf plays a sound that makes it seem like they want you to hate them.

The PNW still hates the world. Check them out.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview: Riley Gale (Power Trip)

I met Riley Gale eleven years ago at a No Warning show when he spinkicked me in the ribs. We have been friends ever since.

In 2008, Riley Gale started Power Trip with a group of Dallas musicians. I was lucky enough to book their first show. The first intro they ever played was a cover of Leeway's "The Future (Ain't What It Used To Be)". They ended up playing it three times. The first time was because there was an equipment malfunction (which they laughed about). The second time they nailed it. The third time was because one of the group's best friends was late and missed it so they played it one more time. Those three performances of that intro told the story about Power Trip: nuanced, talented, had personality, and loyal to their friends. That's really why Power Trip have gotten as far as they have. Because when you listen to their music you can hear the music tell you "we scoured through all of the subculture, learned what was good, and are doing it better". It's honest and special. Gale's lyrics are the combination of his own life experiences along with his educational background in rhetoric. The result is a band that people will be talking about well into next generation.

The band recently finished recording their second album in Denton, Texas. I was able to get a little bit of Gale's time to ask about the last couple of years and the new album.

Tell me about the Ryan Adams saga. The whole story is pretty bizarre and worth telling.
Gale: I guess that started around August 2013, right after the album came out. He tweeted at our account about how much he liked the record and then Ryan came out to a show in LA and bought a couple shirts, maybe a record. He was pretty quiet, weird, didn’t really hang out just watched the set and left. He contacted us about recording with him and even though I was apprehensive, Blake wanted to pursue. Ryan was kind of a dick when we began asking about details, and he got really defensive when I brought up the fact we have a producer (Arthur). That left a sour taste in my mouth. I mean, I’ve heard of this guy before I knew he liked my band, and didn’t really dig his music. I didn’t like it when I checked it out again either. That was over a year ago. I’ve seen pictures of him wearing our shirt at shows and just didn’t really pay any mind. Then about a month ago, or whenever he dropped that Taylor Swift cover album, I tried listening to it and HATED it. Then like a day after I gave that a whirl a friend from high school sent me a dopey picture of Ryan playing live and was asking about him, because he didn’t know that he was a fan. That set me off. So I made a not so nice instragram post clowning him – I said he was a turd so big no toilet could flush. Turns out, we had a mutual friend, so that got back to Ryan in a couple hours. He sent me a private message and it actually made me feel kind of bad – He was definitely bummed, I could tell it hurt his feelings and he was actually a pretty damned big fan of the band. But I was also conflicted - why should I care what a multi-millionaire sad boy thinks? On the other hand, unless they’re some ignorant racist/homophobic piece of shit, which Ryan is not, then I should never just make fun of a fan. In my mind, punk taught me to accept anyone that was accepting of me. So I came to the conclusion that even if I wasn’t big on this dude’s vibe or his music, I shouldn’t clown a real supporter of our music. We talked on the phone and texted and squashed the whole thing. There were definitely some interesting exchanges, but at this point I’ll respect the dude’s right to privacy.

You guys might be one of the first bands to pick up a hardcore grand slam. You've played Chaos In Tejas, Not Dead Yet, This Is Hardcore, Black N Blue, Beserktown, and Fun Fun Fun Fest since Manifest Decimation has come out. How do you explain Power Trip being able to successfully play all of these festivals to so many different crowds?
Gale: Don’t say “No” if there’s a demand and if the offer even mildly piques and interest. We like to put ourselves out there and play line ups that interest us. We’ve never gone begging to be on a fest, we’re always approached about being added to these badass fests, and that’s an awesome feeling.

You guys are in the studio right now recording your second full-length album. With all the time that has passed since Manifest Decimation came out, what are you (and the rest of the band) being conscious of with this new album?
Gale: For Blake and Chris, who mostly handle the music, I think the idea was to take the riffs to the gym and do some serious cardio and heavy lifting. Songs are faster and shorter, and the heavier parts are heavier. It’s a good progression. For me, the thing at the front of my mind is how to make it catchier without losing substance or at least my own satisfaction with my output. There’s an opportunity to reach a wider audience on this one - a lot of great parts on the record where a quick catchy line could really take a song from good to great. The only obstacle for myself is that I still want to be satisfied with what I am actually saying – I refuse to shoehorn in a bunch of random words just because the syllables will sound good over the music. So, I’m mostly concentrating on finding that balance between substance and accessibility.

Manifest's lyrics were largely concerned with questioning the norms and constraints society imposes on everyone. From the lyrics of “Crossbreaker” (religion) to “Power Trip” (man's law), you resound a pretty powerful theme throughout the entire album. I'd even go so far as to say that lyrically Manifest is a concept album. Was this by design? Are there any specific topics or ideas you're aiming to drive home in your lyrics on the upcoming album?
Gale: I wouldn’t call it a concept album but it definitely had some broad themes that carried over into every song. If it had an overall theme I’d say it’s – why do you think and behave the way you do? Why do we let those in power think and behave the way THEY do? It’s about self-awareness and I think self-awareness can be very empowering. It’s very much an US vs. THEM standpoint, but it’s also about just being fucking educated, being able to back up your beliefs before you set your sights on an enemy. If I can help make a listener’s stances become more solid, or even crumble a previous notion, whatever helps them see their enemies a little bit clearer, than I’ve succeeded in my goal as a vocalist.

Changing gears for a second, how has the ride been the last couple years with the band? I'm talking about playing shows to thousands of people, having people whose music you idolized when you were younger tell you how much love Power Trip, etc. Is it still a trip or something that you've been able to get used to?
Gale: It’s been awesome and I’m absurdly lucky. Often times it’s just surreal, like getting a call from Ryan Adams because you talked shit about him. I’m important to somebody like that? Why? From my POV I don’t DO anything except jump around and yell, but some people find inspiration in that and I gotta roll with it. We HAVE to stay humble though, because ultimately punk/metal/hardcore/subculture is a tumultuous culture and it can turn on you at any moment. I always tell my friends, if my ego gets too big for my britches, then kick my fucking ass. My friends have permission to kick my fucking ass and knock me down a peg. Attempting to stay ever thankful and humbled is crucial to me.

Beyond what you've already been able to do, what are you looking toward for Power Trip's future?
Gale: I have no expectations. It could all blow up tomorrow. The goal is to keep trying and pushing ourselves until it stops being motivating or fun. If we could somehow just pull a Bolt Thrower and write a perfect album and just say, “That’s it’s, we did it. This is the epitome of Power Trip. This is the perfect ‘Power Trip’ album” I’d be happy and content with putting the band down…but we’re not anywhere close to that yet.

When can we expect the album and does it have a name yet?
Gale: Hopefully before summer really kicks off next year. With no delays, it takes about 3 months to get a record pressed from the moment of having everything ready. Music, artwork, lay out… all that. The title comes last. I have ideas, but I have to be able to look at everything in the big picture before I can commit to a title.

So now that the tour with Lamb of God has been announced, how are you feeling about it? What are you expecting (other than getting to see a wall of death every night)?
Gale: I’m thrilled. I was joking around about how fucked up it would be if I tried to call for the “Wall of death” as the openers every night… probably not the best idea. Anyway, this is our first real big opportunity to do something I would consider “mainstream”. Besides a band like, I don’t know, Hatebreed… I couldn’t ask for a better “big” metal band to take us out than Lamb of God. Obviously touring with the legends in motherfucking Anthrax is the highlight but Lamb of God is clearly going to be drawing out huge crowds. I’ve always said, put us in a room of people who like metal, and we’ll win them over. I feel like this is that moment – there will be plenty of people who will be aware of all 4 bands on the tour, but there will be plenty of clueless people I hope we can convert into PT fans. Full disclosure: I’ve never really listened to Lamb of God… but I know they’re huge, and I’m grateful as hell they’ve invited us. It was supposed to be Kylesa but they couldn’t do it so we’re extremely lucky. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me that the LoG dudes are still very much involved with the subculture which is always a plus for me. Also, having our friends in Deafheaven on the tour will help us have some established camaraderie. I’m not the type of dude to go pressing myself on Scott Ian or something. So having Deafheaven around… they’re great guys, having some friends already on the tour is huge relief for me.

Last question: what are you reading these days and how is it?

Gale: I’ve been on a heavy comic book kick. Right now I’m blazing through Jodorowsky’s entire The Incal saga and it’s been a lot of fun. I can’t really hang with the heavy big name super hero stuff, there’s not enough substance for me there, but I’ve found tons of material that is both deep and highly entertaining. I’ve read stuff that’s made me laugh, made me scared, and made me think. I’m just learning what an expressive medium that comics and graphic novels can be – they can tackle any complex subject by using the right words, tones, images, etc… and part of the pleasure of reading them is using your imagination to fill in some of the blanks that comics leave for the reader. It’s also just easier to read in the van, which is why I started reading them in the first place. I kept getting motion sickness from smaller text and I was also just burnt out on reading text heavy critical theory so I wanted something easier and more digestible but still rewarding. Comics are a perfect medium for all of that.

Power Trip will be on tour with Lamb of God, Anthrax, and Deafheaven through most of the winter season. Tour dates are below:

If you'd like to read more about Power Trip and download their discography, check out their entry from 2014:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

In Your Face

1988 was an important year for New York hardcore. A lot of important and classic bands dropped demos during this year. The most obvious and famous demo being Raw Deal's. Beside Raw Deal, there was Dmize, Biohazard, Beyond, and In Your Face to name a few. 1988 was important for NYHC for two reasons. First, it featured arguably some of the darkest and most interesting content to come out of the scene. Second, it was the scene's death throe crop of bands. In only a few years, many of the people in the scene would move on to crossover metal or post-hardcore bands. 1988 was the beginning of the end for NYHC's golden generation.

In Your Face hailed from Long Island. They were around from 1988 - 1993. They played a style of hardcore that featured a lot of crossover riffs and pacing in their music. This isn't surprising given that they were likely influenced by fellow Long Island residents the Crumbsuckers. Their first demo features an odd mix of style to it. There are elements of crossover, melodic punk, and straight NYHC. For this reason the In Your Face demo is worthy of attention. The lyrics are abrasive and often very immature (see below) but the riffs more than make up for it, adding a certain level of gravitas that the band would otherwise be lacking. The band's later catalogue could warrant comparison to Token Entry and Gorilla Biscuits.

That 1988 demo is something special however. You can tell they put everything into it. They didn't have a clear idea of how they wanted to sound or what they wanted to talk about, they just knew they had to put something out. That's the most beautiful part of it. There was a clear goal in what they were making; the goal was simply to make something. 99.99% of the time when something is made for its own sake, it usually doesn't come out well. The reason is because the band insulates itself and end up lacking consideration for outside influences. In the case of In Your Face; the band knew they were going to have crossover riffs like the Crumbsuckers, they knew they were going to have melodic parts / songs, and they knew they were going to speak their minds. The downside for In Your Face is that we ended up with lyrics like "because of you I might get AIDS".

What has followed In Your Face through the years is their infamous song "Faggot Stomp". Yes, on the band's demo there is a song that calls for gay people to be beaten. The band has since apologized for the writing of this song. A lot can be said about this song and it really is inexcusable. I will simply make two points. First, the music to this song is incredible. If any other band wrote the music to this song, bands would constantly be covering it to this day. What makes an intro special is if it can compel a crowd to start moving. It sets a pace. On this song, when the guitar kicks in followed by the rhythm section coming in, all hell breaks loose. The second point is about the lyrical content. There is no justifying a song called "Faggot Stomp". However it can be argued that in 80's NYHC it was a more acceptable opinion to hate gays (this was covered in our post on CAFAAM). To briefly summarize, in the 1980s gays were closely linked to AIDS. A great deal of the infections were in NYC and SF. Until 1985, AIDS was actually referred to as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). The gay community had been cast out as pariahs for a disease that society didn't fully understand. None of this justifies hating gay people. Perpetuating hatred by virtue of prejudices stemming from something people don't know about is wrong. It wasn't until heterosexuals began to get infected at a larger rate that the medical community renamed the disease AIDS (all of this is discussed at length in Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On). The point is the mindset of 1980s NYHC bought into the hysteria that gay people were bad. In Your Face are not an outlier in this scene.

Taken from CAFAAM #2 (available here on JA)

Attached is their entire discography

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Japanese Legends Invade The West (G.I.S.M. & Death Side)

What an insane day it has been for fans of Japanese hardcore punk. 

By now you've heard the news. G.I.S.M. are playing in Holland on April 15th at the Roadburn Festival. This is their first show in thirteen years. More importantly, it is their first show outside of Japan ever. In the place of the late Randy Uchida is Souichi Hisatake (Forward, Gudon, Insane Youth AD). There are only a few people on earth who could ever hope to play in Randy's stead, Souichi is one of them. G.I.S.M. are fortunate to have enlisted his services. While many people are hoping to see Sakevi do some of his antics (something this blog derides), it will be interesting to see how the set will go. There are a million questions going into it. Will they play all of Detestation? How will M.A.N. songs sound should they play them? Will they play cuts off SoniCRIME TheRapy? I hope that the people in the room in Holland are there for the right reasons and not because they hope to see a freak show.

Not long after 9 PM EST this evening, news broke that Death Side will be playing the United States for the first time ever. The show will take place April 16th in New York City. For you ambitious types, yes, this does mean that you can see G.I.S.M. in Europe and try to hop on a flight back to New York for Death Side. The band reunited last August in Tokyo at a show held in honor of their late guitarist Chelsea. Since then, the band has played other shows and look poised to finally make their Western Hemisphere debut. There is no other information on this show yet, but when the lineup and venue are released, we will post it.

The last question to wonder in the wake of all must be "Gauze can't be too far off now, right?"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Artist Profile: Matthew Adis

Art is an important aspect of the subculture. A lot of us who arrive here have done so because the world doesn't make sense for us. We come to the subculture where we find ourselves or learn more about who we already were. For a lot of us that means starting a band and playing music. For others it means starting a zine. For one group, it is art. Artists in the subculture pour themselves into their work in an environment that allows for them to explore the morbid, disturbing, and agitating. Few environments are as conducive to these creative elements as the subculture. Artists' work end up on flyers, shirts, record covers, and everywhere else in between. Too often, many of these artists will end up becoming overlooked. Justified Arrogance will be doing artist profiles to celebrate some of the subculture's best artists and their work.

Matthew Adis is an artist that was born and raised in Philadelphia. He began making art at the young age of 4 and has continued ever since. More recently, Adis has become a staple of the Philadelphia hardcore scene. He fronted the cult classic band Salvation while also being involved with Shirtless Thugs. More recently, Adis' sonic efforts have included Anxiety Hammer and Latisha's Skull Drawing. Adis' vocals almost have a Lovecraftian element to them. The sort of vocalization you'd expect to hear from Danforth after he's gone insane in At the Mountains of Madness. There's a sense of horror, hysterics, and, oddly enough, eloquence. Adis' vocals reflects a certain worldview that is also seen in his artwork. He cites tabloid headlines, Rod Serling programs, early 90s sitcoms, obituaries, and Philadelphia/SEPTA as his influences. Indeed it appears Adis often sees the peculiar, dreaded, and horrific in the most basic of objects like a human face. Already highly accomplished, Adis does not seem to slowing down any time soon and has even moved his artistic endeavors into jewelry as seen below.

-Noted Zines/Books (newest to oldest)-
'The Threshold of Atrocity'
'The Criminal Lipstick'
'The Earwig'
'The Life Unsaid'
'Cloud Removal'
'God On Drugs'

Zines, prints, shirts, and other items can be purchased below. Adis can be contacted through his store if you would like to inquire about commissions.

Merch: Reality Asylum Pins

Another feature of the new Justified Arrogance direction. We do not shill, so much as we share. We don't promote something we personally wouldn't buy. It is important to celebrate innovation and excellence at all levels of the subculture. This includes the production of merchandise. If you are working to create something that no one has seen before or just doing it better than most, Justified Arrogance will take the time to praise your products.

Reality Asylum Pins are a company that have been around for a little less than a year. In that time, they have worked to create pins representing some of the finest bands. From Japan they have selected G.I.S.M. (an incredible production, I just received mine today) and Gauze. Out of the UK they have chosen Discharge and Crass (one of the nicest productions of the band's iconic logo I've ever seen). They also work with great contemporary bands like G.L.O.S.S. and Kromosom.

Enamel pins have recently emerged as one of the hottest / trendy accessories. Reality Asylum shares the same sentiment Justified Arrogance does: why just do something when you can do something no one else is and do it better?

Keep up the good work, guys.

Image of Crucifix

Image of Kromosom

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New Band Spotlight: Smear

Middle America has become a hotbed for a barrage of up and coming bands in the last few years. Some of the strongholds in this new wave of Middle American hardcore punk are the stalwart city of Austin, Northwest Indiana, St. Louis, Chicago, and Dallas.

Dallas' scene in particular has seen a great deal of growth. From just Power Trip, Wiccans, and Tolar, the scene has come to also include great bands like Sin Motivo, The Sentenced, and Slimy Member. One band you may not have heard is Smear. The band has been around for about a year but had not really found their legs until the last few months. The band is made up of Austin Carroll and Austin Waymire and newcomer drummer Keaton Khonsari. It was the addition of Khonsari that pushed the band over the top. What's beautiful about a band like Smear is that they're clearly in that phase where they're figuring out their identity but are mature enough to understand that they need to be their own band. On Smear's latest release Smeared the band juxtaposes two music styles to make sure audiences don't corral and dismissed. Musically, the band's sound can be likened to a lot of the current Midwestern weirdo bands. The music does have a lot more bite to it and this is thanks in no small part to Khonsari's strong drumwork. The vocals are reminiscent of the first wave of Boston hardcore. There's a lot of grounded anger in it.

Smear are only just getting started. Too often young kids want to make a band for the sake of making a band. They're not concerned with being original or having ambition to tour and release music. Smear are the antithesis of that. They refuse to be written off and will work hard to make sure that they won't be. They will be touring the east coast in January. Do not miss them.

Below is a link for their bandcamp where you can download Smeared free of charge

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


This post in no way, shape, or form condones or apologizes for those who commit sexual assault. Sexual assault is a very serious crime and should be treated as such. Any commentary in this piece that could be construed as "positive" is exclusively in reference to the band as a singular entity and not personal praise for drummer Jeremy Villalobos.

People have a funny way of expunging things from history. When Chris Benoit was found to have murdered his wife, child, and ultimately himself, the WWE made it a point to erase him from history. Never mind the fact that before this happened, Chris Benoit was considered to be the most skilled North American born wrestler of all time. Now in many wrestling circles, the name Benoit is a dirty word. Forget his accolades, forget his abilities. In our worst moments, everything we were and everything we had ever accomplished become meaningless. It is a scary thought. That one decision can make society erase you from existence.

Drunkdriver is a band. They existed. They were from New York. They played for a few years and were beloved across multiple scenes. They broke up in the face of a scandal surrounding the drummer and accusations of sexual assault. These are the facts. We can denounce them and pretend they didn't exist, but does it change the band? People can point to the drummer's scandal, where others can just as easily point out that the vocalist Michael Berdan (now of Uniform) quickly decried the band's accused drummer. Furthermore, he made the statement upon his departure that he could not live with himself if he had continued on with the band. As people, we choose to only see one side of the coin.

What makes the case of Drunkdriver so tragic (beyond the obvious trauma suffered by the victims) is that they had it all. This was a band that was a rising star across the punk, indie, hardcore, and noise scenes. They were on the same career trajectory as No Age and were destined for bigger things. They released two LPs, Born Pregnant (on the eminent Parts Unknown Records) and a self-titled LP that was released posthumously as the scandal broke out in the build up to the band's record release show. Both of these LPs are perfect. Berdan's vocals have a hint of desperation to them that are unique (even in punk music where desperate sounding vocals are common). His vocals howl out as if he's looking for something (but doesn't know what) to missing something (and is unable to get it). Imagine that feeling you get when you feel like you've lost yourself. Now imagine if there was no way possible to reconcile that feeling. That you were lost but you kept trying to fix it because you're oblivious to the fact that you can't find yourself. Guitarist Kristy Greene creates a soundscape that envelops listeners. The minute you turn on a Drunkdriver song, you are in their world where the sky seems a little darker and the air a little harder to breathe. What you hear on those records is special. We don't know what would have happened with Drunkdriver. That's the band's legacy. They weren't a run of the mill band. They weren't figuring things out. They were quickly on the come up having made a reputation as masters of their sound. You can't help but come away from a Drunkdriver listening session without asking yourself "why?"

Here's a fact of life: punctuation matters. We can make a tragic misstep and stamp a period to it thus ending this part of it (or entirely). We can put a question mark on it, meaning what we were or where we're going is clouded in uncertainty. We can add an exclamation point to emphatically restate who we already were. Ultimately we write our own stories and we can determine how they're punctuated. The biggest tragedies in our lives are always our own doing. I'm not talking about 'if an iceberg hits your cruise liner' kind of tragedy. I'm talking about the kinds of things that get us written out of history and make people uncomfortable at the mention of our name. Life is something that becomes increasingly out of our control as we get older, but despite that we will always have the choice on whether or not we want to be a villain.

We shouldn't forgive Villalobos for what he did because it is unforgivable. What he did is one of the worst things a person can do to someone (and in his case it was to multiple women). At the same time, we shouldn't forget Drunkdriver. What happened at the end aside, the band's other members put their lives into it and it isn't fair that a highly accomplished section of their careers is now a taboo. When people look at Drunkdriver now, it is a discussion on the punctuation to their existence. Some people look at what happened and say it was a period. They're partially right. There are a great deal of people who used what happened as a reason to never talk about Drunkdriver ever again. Other people would look at what happened as a question mark. No one knows how far Drunkdriver would have gone. We will never know. They ended due to an extreme personal calamity. It wasn't because they lost it or they weren't going anywhere. They were the best they had ever been with the world in front of them. That's Drunkdriver's legacy. Question marks, incredible recordings, and an ending that people can never reconcile.

Mind Eraser

Previously did a blurb on them, giving them the full essay treatment

The human mind is an ugly thing. For every beautiful triumph it has produced, there are ten more atrocities to its credit. Inhumanity is all around us. Thomas Hobbes staked his reputation on the proposition that man's natural state was evil. Niccolo Machiavelli created an entire school of thought on how to manipulate man's evils to work for you. In truth, the driving force of humanity comes from our innate desire to destroy others. A great deal of our technological advances came from research done during wartime. We landed on the moon in a campaign to beat the Russians, not because man had long dreamed to walk on the moon. We were summoning the spirit of Napoleon, not Jules Verne. We are horrible creatures. Selfish, ambitious, and avaricious. There is a reason why so much of our contemporary existence is mired in things that serve to dull our minds. Drugs, prescribed medication, television, ESPN, all of it. Marx would tell you all of this adds up to part of the superstructure and it is a negative feature of society. If Hobbes saw today's superstructure, he would be relieved that there is something keeping all of this potential evil busy. The worst thing in this world is an idle mind. It doesn't wander so much as it does sink.

Boston's Mind Eraser focuses on man's shortcomings. Their themes coupled with their aesthetic could be argued as "evil" but in a much different vein than a great deal of their contemporaries. Unlike black metal acts who write about occult themes or d-beat bands who write about abstract wars, Mind Eraser asserts that the greatest evil of all is the organ inside your skull. What makes it all the more distressing is that this evil is real for everybody. Not all of us will ever be close to a war nor do all of us believe in ghastly spectres, but all of us have done something wrong to someone in our lives. We will likely do something wrong to someone again. That's the nature of the beast; the beast being us. The human brain fails us more in our lifetime than any other organ. If you believe everything you've read to this point, you'd agree that it is because our brains were built to fail.

On the band's debut album Cave, songs like "Internal Dialogue" and "Don't Find Me" highlight the horrors of the human psyche. The album offers commentary against people and the narrator himself (vocalist DFJ). The second album Glacial Reign, features more of the same themes from the first album. The artwork is a homage to Rudimentary Peni's Death Church which is most appropriate considering Nick Blinko, the band's vocalist, famously served time in a mental institution. The band furthered their work into a two song LP entitled Conscious Unconscious which explored the topic of psyche. The band also released an EP titled The Prodigal Son Brings Death touching on other topics with songs like "Insertion" and "Withdrawal Symptoms".

Musically, the band's lineup of Chris Corry, Brendan Radigan, and Craig Arms produce a sound that does well to sonically capture what goes on in the brain. Everything from the fast parts (mania) to the grating breakdowns (depression). The members' talents allows for a lot of interesting mid-tempo parts. This can be likened to something of an even keel state. Mind Eraser musically goes beyond simple powerviolence. It can be compared to a sonic representation of bipolar.

Mind Eraser's discography are documents to teach a psychology class. They don't mince words about what people are. There are no illusions about silver linings. A man can love a woman, but he can also kill his brother. A nation can join hands and sing merry tunes, but it will likely happen on the bodies of millions. There is no love. There is no happiness. Everything is transitory. Your mind is a weapon that will never be happy. It will consume and take until there's nothing left to take from. We are all backstabbers, junkies, liars, users, and abusers. All Mind Eraser's music does is eliminate any denial or illusion we may have had about that fact.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ten Best Hardcore Punk Guitarists Of All Time

Honorable Mentions:
- Kawakami (Disclose)
- Parris Mayhew (Cro-Mags)
- Matt Henderson (Madball)
- Gavin Van Vlack (Absolution, Burn)
- Greg Ginn (Black Flag)
- Porcell (Youth of Today, Judge, Project X)
- Tim Kerr (Big Boys)
- John Hagerty (Naked Raygun)
- Greg Sage (Wipers)
- Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface)
- Chris Rest (RKL)
- Frank "3Gun" Novinec (Ringworm, Integrity)
- Woody Weatherman (Corrosion of Conformity)
- Souichi (Forward, Gudon, Insane Youth AD)
- Todd Burdette (Tragedy, Severed Head of State, His Hero Is Gone, Warcry)
- Mike Dijan (Breakdown, Crown of Thornz, Show of Force)
- AJ Novello (Leeway)
- Rich McLoughlin (Breakdown, Raw Deal, Killing Time)

10. Zigyaku (Bastard, Judgement)

9. Randy Uchida (GISM, Randy Uchida Group)

8. Wade Allison (Iron Age)

7. Rob Echeverria (Straight Ahead, Rest In Pieces)

6. Vinnie Stigma (Agnostic Front)

5. Pig Champion (Poison Idea)

4. Anthony "Bones" Roberts (Discharge, Broken Bones)

3. Gary "Dr. Know" Miller (Bad Brains)

2. Aaron "A2" Melnick (Integrity, In Cold Blood, Inmates, One Life Crew, Cider)

1. Chelsea (Paintbox, Death Side, Poison Arts)


One of the more polarizing topics in the last couple of years is female vocalists in punk. You either love em or you hate em. I personally love them. I think there's a certain abrasive / snotty quality that the female voice's higher pitch offers a complement to the often frenetic paced punk tunes they're singing over. If I had a criticism for female vocals, it is that effects are used a lot that the aforementioned vocal quality I just talked about is lost in the mix. The other side of that coin is that reverb drenched vocals are great so it is another point to the argument that female vocals are cool. In the last few years, there has been a surge of great female-fronted bands in hardcore punk. However if you want to which band is queen of the female-fronted genre, look no further than Birmingham, England's Sacrilege.

A common conversation with detractors of female fronted hardcore punk bands might go something like this:
"I don't like female vocals"
"What about Sacrilege?"
"Well that's different, you can't hate Sacrilege."

When you discuss the best female-fronted subculture bands (punk, hardcore, metal), Sacrilege is always the first band brought up. The rest of the discussion is to determine who is second best.

The band came out of the early 80s UK crust scene. This is the same scene that gave the world Deviated Instinct, Hellbastard, Axegrinder, Napalm Death, and Bolt Thrower. Sacrilege is fronted by the Lynda "Tam" Simpson. Earlier I said a lot of female vocalists utilize heavy reverb, Tam was one of the first to do it. When we think of the best uses of reverb in hardcore punk vocals, Sacrilege's name is almost always at the top, gender notwithstanding.

The band's output includes two demos and three albums. Their first album Behind The Realms of Madness is an essential album both in the crust and thrash scenes. Its pacing is so methodical. The riffs are something that thrash bands in the USA were a few years away from arriving at themselves. The d-beat driven drums never fail to keep pace and, at times, dictate it. Lastly, Tam's vocals are almost paradoxical. When you hear them, it's clear they're a female's, but never once do you make the mistake of presupposing that she is some kind of dainty flower. She have been conscious of this fact when recording: that she needed to sounded menacing but also convincing. Too often when a woman wants to sound "mean" on record, it usually comes off as very forced and laughable. Tam's vocals bear a sense of anxiety, urgency, and anger to them that speaks to a lot of feelings women grapple with daily. It's almost as if Nora from Ibsen's A Doll's House was given time in a recording booth to air out her grievances with daily life. The record itself is perfect. Most thrash records usually have one overbearing element like the guitars or vocals. Behind The Realms of Madness is a perfect blend of biting guitar work, sublime vocals, and strong drum work. It is essential listening. "Shadow From Mordor" is also one of the hardest songs ever written.

Included is Sacrilege's complete discography (yes, even those metal records most people don't like).

Mission Statement and New Features

It's November 6th 2015.

I don't remember when I said I was moving to Justified Arrogance from the basic confines of the blogspot to a full site. It might have been January. As they say, life happens. I moved to a different part of the country. I got a new job. I saw friendships end. I made new ones. Things kept progressing and all the while I still thought about the proposed evolution of Justified Arrogance.

I pursued other writing opportunities in that time. I had hoped that I could parlay Justified Arrogance into bigger opportunities that could help me improve my life station. It didn't work and I ended up compromising myself in the process. It wasn't a great feeling. Sometime recently I gave up on this goal of trying to make a name under someone else's. Much like everything else in the subculture, the best way to make a name for yourself is by yourself. I forgot that this year.

So I'm back again. I gave up on the idea of a full site for now mostly because I was using it as an excuse to not pick this back up. In addition to essays, Justified Arrogance will be broadening its scope of coverage. The general idea of this is to cover more than just the past and to talk about more current topics. These topics will include:

New Band Spotlights - There are great new bands coming out all the time. Consider the fact that this year's Best Demo list had to be upped to 10 because there were too many great debuting bands this year. Justified Arrogance will work to highlight the best new bands year round.

Album Reviews - Covering more than the classics and essentials. Justified Arrogance stays current with the best music of the day as much as it does those of yesterday. One of the most common criticisms within the subculture is that "nothing good ever comes out anymore". This statement couldn't be more false and our album reviews will showcase the best music coming out.

Show Reviews - Bands cut their teeth with recordings but always make their bones with their live performances. Highlighting worthwhile shows and tours carry many latent effects. Most importantly, it relays the elements of a band that can't be captured on record.

Interviews - The art of interviewing is to uncover knowledge about the subject. The questions are the instrument of discovery. The line between asking stock questions and gossiping is so thin that it is easy to miss it. A good interview is something that transcends time and place. It is more than something about a new album or how a recent tour fared. Justified Arrogance will work to bring these kinds of interviews to you.

Book Reviews - The genre of subculture literature continues to grow exponentially every year. With more and more titles being released, it is important to highlight and celebrate the best ones. Justified Arrogance is committed to the knowledge of the subculture's history and written culture as much as it is to its sonic excellence.

Artist Profiles - One of the best things about the subculture is its neverending supply of talented artists. Being in the subculture typically means you have a fractured view of the world, life, and society. It is always refreshing and captivating to see the artwork by so many great artists. While the art will end up on record covers, merch, zines, and other ephemera, the artist is largely unheralded. Justified Arrogance is a place that celebrates great artists and their work.

I want this to be a place where people can come to learn more about the subculture they belong in. I also want it to be a place where people can just learn more in general. If you can come away from Justified Arrogance having learned one thing you didn't already know before, then we will have done our work right. This blog / idea started out over a year ago because I was losing my mind and needed an outlet. In the beginning, I was really just talking to myself about my favorite bands. I didn't think anyone was reading.

Justified Arrogance is the idea where you know you are great at what you do. Being in the subculture is a privilege. It is a badge you have to earn. In recent years, the subculture has become increasingly accessible for people who don't care about its history, culture, and ideas. It has become a place where kids are often stagnant upon entry with little desire for growth. They are happy to collect their attendance awards, believing that alone is enough. If you are not here seeking personal growth through a community whose very existence is predicated on the acrimony borne from its opposing views on society, culture and lifestyle, then why are you here? It isn't enough to be different anymore in 2015. Too often our society tells us that we are already different and we are already special. Being different is the new normal. Going forward, you have to be better. That's what Justified Arrogance is about.

- James Khubiar

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Aspects Of War

When I was nine years old, I visited Turkey. On the last night of my trip, the anxiety from waiting to leave for the airport kept me awake all night. As I sat on the balcony of my family's sixth floor flat, I suddenly heard a commotion about six blocks away. It started out as screaming in what I knew was Turkish and then in another language (what I'd later learn was Kurdish). That's when the shooting started. I can't tell you how long this went on for exactly. By my count it went on until the first explosion. From where I was sitting I don't know who started shooting explosives, but I knew they were mortars from the cupping sound made by the shots (the same noise you hear when fireworks are shot on the 4th of July). By morning, the fighting was over. On our walk to the bus to take us to the airport, my mom, brother, and I walked passed the block where the fighting was. Multiple storefronts were charred and blown out from the explosions. There were stains on the concrete where bodies had clearly been laying. The last sight I saw was a dog pile of human corpses that the Turkish soldiers were throwing bodies on.

All the things you've heard about from "Dis-" bands over the years were right there in front of me. Call it Visions of War or A Brutal Sight of War or any other reference point, there's something to be said for seeing it. This warzone is what d-beat bands have been trying to make you hear. To put it simply: their goal is to make music that properly articulate war. Those who have seen war don't score it to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

The feelings of watching that firefight at a young age left me wondering if it was going to continue to escalate. I was nervous but also excited to see something like that happening so close to me. I can't say I was afraid. I knew I was safe from my position. At the same time, to see the flashes and even feel the heat rise in the air was something I've failed to put into words for twenty years.

I tell you this story because the first time I saw Boston's Aspects of War, it immediately called me back to that night in Istanbul. From the moment they started playing in the Acheron with the strings section rolling noise out of the band's wall of amps like a minigun along with the drummer attacking his kit (immediately reminding me of Framtid's Shin) I got that same feeling of anxiety I did in Turkey. I felt the heat rising in the air. This doesn't sound like anything at a punk show but the amp wall coupled with the layout of the Acheron caused all dead air to just be pushed back to the venue. The only thing in the front of the room was noise and carbon dioxide. Between the instrumentalists creating a wall of noise to assail the audience, the vocalist did not want to be left out swinging on the audience members. So you had a live show where the noise was both choking you out and physically pressing you along with a vocalist who was liable to catch you with a right hand.

There's something ironic about a punk band sounding 'oppressive' but the sound of Aspects is so enveloping that it has the power to pin you down until the set is over (much like someone under fire or being shelled). Capturing the sounds of war was something Disfear, Discharge, and much of d-beat's first generation did. D-beat's second generation wanted to create war through their music. Bands like Disclose, Zyanose, D-Clone, and in the USA with Perdition, Zatuson, Nerveskade (which featured AOW guitarist Jakke Sullivan), and now Aspects of War. Noise Not Music has evolved from a mantra into a battlecry. Aspects of War is the closest thing the USA will ever have to the likes of a Disclose (a fact that band may be conscious of as they frequently pay homage to Kawakami in their sets). This is also a fact the Japanese may be conscious of as the band recently did a three week Japanese tour on the Toyota Punk Carnival with System Fucker and a slew of other bands while being the only gaijin band (a huge honor).

Aspects of War's New York's Alright set left me with a few takeaways: 1.) drummer Chris Peeples hits his kit harder than almost any other North American 2.) the band's imposing backline (emblazoned with Discharge's iconography) assembled into a wall formation is a piece of sonic artillery and you will see nothing else like it in North American punk right now 3.) I've been partially deaf in my left ear since. Since then it's become clear that they're part of a new crop of bands that are helping to evolve the sound. The Nightmare Continues became Dis Nightmare Still Continues became Dis Nightmare Forever Continues. Aspects of War is just as much about looking to the future as it is looking to the past.

Included is the band's split with Contrast Attitude, Hell Never Ceases EP, Total Disfuckers Demo, In Order To Satisfy... EP, The Presence of Death EP, and a New York's Alright 2015 set.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Best of 2015

James Khubiar
Justified Arrogance Boss

Top Hardcore and Punk LPs:
1. Total Abuse - Excluded
2. No Tolerance - You Walk Alone
3. L.O.T.I.O.N. - Digital Control And Man's Obsolescence
4. Anasazi - Nasty Witch Rock
5. Vaaska - Todos Contra Todos
6. Dawn Of Humans - Slurping At The Cosmos Spine
7. La Misma - Kanizadi
8. Sudor - Enamorado De La Muerte Juvenil
9. Violent Reaction - Marching On
10. Absolut - Hells Highest Power

(At the time of this writing I have not heard the Butcher, Video, Magic Circle albums but they are worth noting as they likely would have made this list)

Top Non-Hardcore Punk LPs:
1. Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material
2. Royal Headache - High
3. Destruction Unit - Negative Feedback Resistor
4. Pleasure Leftists - The Woods of Heaven
5. Young Guv - Ripe 4 Luv
6. Best Coast - California Nights
7. Title Fight - Hyperview
8. Wildhoney - Sleep Through It
9. John Carpenter - Lost Themes
10. Swervedriver - I Wasn't Born To Lose You

Top EPs / Singles:
1. Rixe - Coups Et Blessures
2. Blazing Eye - Ways To Die
3. Sadist - The Shadow of the Swastika
4. Ajax - Ajax
5. Barcelona - Extremo Nihilismo En Barcelona
6. Ivy - A Cat's Cause, No Dog's Problem
7. Anxiety Hammer - What Stands Between Us
8. Pure Disgust - Chained
9. Exit Order - Exit Order
10. Aggression Pact - Aggression Pact

(At the time of this writing, I have not heard the newest Aspects of War and Strutter and is worth noting as it would have likely made this list)

Top Demos (Usually this list is limited to 3-5 but 2015 was an incredible year for debuting bands):
1. Strutter
2. Concealed Blade
3. Latisha's Skull Drawing (LSD)
4. Mommy
5. Girls Living Outside Society's Shit (GLOSS)
6. Firewalker
7. Lock
8. Body Pressure
9. Blockhead
10. Smear

(I haven't heard the Indignation demo at the time of this writing, rest assured it would be on this list)

Top Rap Releases (in no order since 4 are from Future and 3 are from Young Thug):
- Young Thug - Slime Season
- Young Thug - Slime Season 2
- Young Thug - Barter 6
- Lil Durk - Remember My Name
- Lil Ugly Mane - Third Side of Tape
- Peewee Longway - Blue M&M Vol. II: King Size
- Future - Dirty Sprite 2
- Future - Beast Mode
- Future - 56 Nights
- Future x Drake - What A Time To Be Alive

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Power Trip - Intro / Manifest Decimation

At the This Is Hardcore Festival this past summer, Power Trip performed at the Kung Fu Necktie for an after show. The intro they opened with is a segment of a new song from their upcoming album. They followed it by breaking into the opening song off their transcendent opus Manifest Decimation. In the bridge, there is a shout out for us here at Justified Arrogance. Worth posting by sheer virtue of the fact that it is this outfit's first shout out on stage. Thanks, Power Trip. You were one of the first Justified Arrogance essays and we can't wait for the new album.

Total Abuse

Austin, Texas for about ten years has been one of the strongest fortresses for hardcore punk in the United States. It is a city that prides itself on being "weird". The fact that the city has become increasingly consumer driven in the past decade should be distressing to the city's subculture scene. In theory, if the locale is becoming safer and more normalized, the scene should suffer, right? Instead, the opposite is occurring: kids are becoming more aggressive, inspired to new heights, and the quality of the scene continues to be raised. The same has been happening in places like Portland and Brooklyn. Turns out the more normos your city gets, the better your punk scene becomes. Austin's has been blessed with a lot over the years. Things like Chaos In Tejas, a parade of incredible bands, venues, and personalities have helped to make Austin one of the premier scenes in the world.

One of the Austin scene's most remarkable products are Total Abuse. The band was formed in 2006 and featured members of older local band The Snobs. The thing that makes The Snobs such a noteworthy band in the annals of history were the members' ages. Everybody in the band's ages ranged from 12-14. They were literally kids when they were taking the stage at places like Posi Numbers Festival. Total Abuse was a completely different monster from The Snobs however. The band, named after a Peter Sotos book compilation, features a line up of Rusty Kelley (vocals), Ryan Foster (guitar), Duncan Knappen (guitar), Dustin Pilkington (bass), and Matt Lyons (drums).

There are a variety of factors that one can point to and say "Total Abuse is special". First, the band's personnel boasts experience and nuanced sensibility that few within the hardcore punk scene possess. Kelley's major interest is power electronics / harsh noise, a genre where the absolute worst of life is harnessed into sound. While Kelley is far from the first person to traverse into both subcultures, he is the first to grasp an understanding from harsh noise and translate it into hardcore punk. On record, Kelley's vocals are dripping with the nihilistic vantage point of life that friends, sex, drugs, and violence fail to remedy. Most hardcore punk vocals can be gauged on a scale of primary emotions like love and hate. Kelley's are gauged somewhere between 'kill you or kill myself, either way I don't care'. What's more, the band is able to recreate these attitudes on a sonic level. Anywhere from the blown out bass kicking in like a sledgehammer for segues to the guitars that alternate from grating to despondent. Total Abuse on an emotional level understand the music they're producing. This sounds corny, but consider it this way: if you're trying to articulate a message, an idea, or a feeling and you're trying to sound like Negative Approach to do it, you're not really expressing yourself, you're using their mouth to say your words. Not many bands playing understand this idea and the few that do are the ones who transcend the milieu of bands in the subculture. Negative Approach got it, so did Cold Sweat, and Total Abuse does now. What's insane is that all three of those bands are criminally underrated (yes, even Negative Approach when you consider how high people hold them among first wave USHC bands).

Part of why Total Abuse are so underrated is because a lot of kids in hardcore punk really can't handle what they're doing. I know I've criticized today's kids in the past so this point shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Total Abuse cultivate a sound that makes people uncomfortable (when you're named after Sotos, if you're not making people uncomfortable, you're doing something wrong). A lot of kids aren't really ready for the mental / emotional depths that Total Abuse drags listeners to. Most of the time the people who really appreciate it, have been there themselves or are fascinated by it. Hardcore punk kids will sit there and say that the scene is a place that is naturally uncomfortable, but the fact is that much of what is produced is often in the same vein or archetype. There's no danger in a record influenced by Breakdown. It's the same thing you've heard going all the way back to Breakdown. Hearing an album like Prison Sweat is something that serves to condition you to what they want you to hear. A lot of people can't handle that kind of idea. Records are meant to be played, not grappled with. Music is supposed to be fun, not a spiritual gauntlet. Total Abuse attacks basic convention on how we should approach music. They're not for everyone. It isn't because they're too esoteric, it's because most people are too weak.

I took Total Abuse for granted when I was younger for a lot of the reasons I just described. It does take a certain kind of person to really get them. They're one of the best bands of our generation and you don't even know it. Check them out. Listen to their records now. Listen again after you've gone through a personal tragedy or hardship. Listen to them again when you're at a low point. Total Abuse isn't about overcoming challenges and they're not about understanding yourself better. If you think you're a bad person, you're right. If you think life sucks, it does. If you wonder if things will ever get better, they're not. That's Total Abuse.

Included are their Mutt, Prison Sweat albums as well as their Sex Pig, Self-Titled, and Looking For Love EPs.