Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Magnaphone Memories: Pale Divine, April 2005

As you may or may not know from 2004-2010 I ran a fairly successful website concentrating on music and media entitled Magnaphone. Its limits were only my imagination and it offered me the opportunity to talk to some of my heroes, write about some of my influences and basically pontificate on some of my favorite obscure things and share them with the universe.

I am going to be sharing some of the finest features I ran during that time here at the Troutchives. Today I offer you one of my favorite interviews. I became friends with Darin McCloskey sometime in the late 90's when I discovered his band Pale Divine and contacted him. Over the years he and I have hung out every now and again and kept each other on top of what's happening in the heavy realm.

The following interview is from April 2005 Please enjoy:

The most important thing when it comes to music is truth. Even the casual listener can weed out phoniness. A band or musician can be churning out the most mindless pap, but if their heart is in it, we know.

What antiquarians refer to as “heavy metal” has past been lumped in with churned out pap. Whether it be looked down upon as bad-boy posturing to score groupies, the sounds of the basic musical talents of avid Dungeons and Dragons fans, or mere caterwauling of Neanderthals, metal has rarely gotten the respect it richly deserves.

Metal can be a reaction, it can be a statement. It can be the last stab at being heard for a disenchanted misfit, a vehicle for progressive thought or education, or merely - like all music - great art.

Pale Divine fall squarely into the aforementioned categories of heavy metal that cover progression of thought and art. Since their inception, Pale Divine have been near-crusaders when it comes to truth and their revulsion in the face of hypocrisy, specifically, organized religion.  Questioning the crusading pretense of certain faiths and using possession and the inferno as metaphors for the great wrong place in which we live is the norm for Pale Divine.

True, railing against religion, which we are raised to fear and respect, doesn’t seem to be the ideal listen for a late night outdoor kegger per se. But more and more, people are starting to notice that Pale Divine is the real deal and keeping the spirit of ‘73 alive.

After a legendary-in-the-underground cassette demo, Pale Divine released Thunder Perfect Mind in 2000. It heralded the arrival of a major power trio on the heavy rock scene, with one foot placed squarely in the Uriah Heep and Deep Purple past and the other looking towards a past informed future, with serious nods (and cameos) to the Pentagram-influenced underground in Maryland. Their new release Eternity Revealed is even stronger. The killer riffs and tighter than tight playing is there, but there is a furious undercurrent, a din, and a maelstrom that is exactly what they have been looking for.

I recently spoke with drummer and lyricist for Pale Divine, Darrin McCloskey. He has a lot to say. Some of his thoughts are almost as heavy as his music.

MP: What does metal mean to you?

In a word, honesty. Mind you, it’s not that every form of metal music you find is completely honest…but for the most part it is a very sincere and unabashed form of music. It simply is what it is. Love it or hate it, it's always been here and it always will be.

Honesty also enters into my mind when I think about contemporary music as it relates to heavy metal. A lot of musicians don't like to admit they play metal - at least that’s been my experience. The misconception is that playing metal music somehow limits your ability or intellect, and I suppose to the uninitiated that could be the case. Personally I can’t think of too many styles of music that are as challenging to play as metal. I suppose when it comes to performing "difficult" music the obvious suspect would be jazz. Rightfully so, but the beauty of metal is that there’s so many emotions and styles involved in playing it; at least playing it right. Not to mention the skill or dexterity. Some might consider it more honorable to say they play "modern rock" or the dreaded "alternative" but realistically when it’s metal you know it - there’s no disguising it.

MP: When did it start speaking to you?

As far back as I can remember. I believe it was those first strains of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin that did it for me. Later, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath closed the deal.

MP: Why is metal the music you choose to be so close to your heart?

It’s the music I’ve always enjoyed the most. I’ve been listening to it for so many years now I can actually mark events in my life by what band or record I was listening to at the time. When I began playing music it wasn’t like the first song I wanted to learn was "Daniel" by Elton john (laughter) it was "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin or "Symptom of the Universe" by Black Sabbath. I guess it wasn’t so much a "choice" as it was just a natural course.

MP: Where does it fit into your life? Personally?

It’s been a part of my life for so many years now it is basically who I am. I suppose in many ways my personality has developed around it. I mean, it wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided that now I have to "grow up" and stop playing or listening to heavy metal music like people do so often in order to fit into society.

MP: Metal, especially doom metal can come from a dark place. Where does this come from with your music?

There’s a lot of darkness in the world, there always has been and you can bet there always will be. It isn’t something you can really ignore. If you do you’re really not being very fair to yourself, or the world around you. There’s definitely a lot of darkness associated with Pale Divine’s music, most of which comes from what goes on around us as it relates to human spirituality. Most of what we’ve written thus far has been really calling into question the purpose of religion in our society. Not that all religion is bad. Religion as a philosophical concept is fine; it helps us cope with the unexplained. Ironically though, there is a lot of darkness that comes from religion, specifically its misuse. That’s primarily where we’ve been coming from up to this point; these topics of "misuse."

MP: How long have you been playing drums?

Since I was in grade school. That’s when I began taking lessons. I didn’t get my first drum set until I was in my late teens.

MP: What or who inspired you to pick up the sticks?

Early on it was Peter Criss from KISS. Bear in mind I’m a child of the 70’s. There was no other musical influence stronger than KISS at that time. Later on John Bonham, Neil Peart, Bill Ward, Brian Downey, Ian Paice, the list can go on and on. Pretty much anyone one I was listening to at the time, they’ve all made an impression in one way or another. There aren’t too many contemporary drummers that really influence me. Plenty that I admire, but as far as influence it still goes back to those classic players. I still listen to all that stuff and they still impress me every time I listen to their work.

MP: You have named Candlemass, Trouble, the Obsessed, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Uriah Heep as influences. Talk about any or all of these bands and the recordings that are most important to you.

Those bands formed the foundation; we’re simply expanding on it. Those bands are really what led us to pursue this style of music. They are all the originators and the primary influence of Pale Divine’s music. I would have to say they are all about equally important to us in that they each put a different brush stroke on the tapestry of heavy metal music, or “doom” if you prefer. Personally I would cite the early works of all those bands as being the most important to us.

MP: You recently got back from a tour with Place of Skulls. Do you get any writing done on the road? When you tour with a band, does it inspire any collaboration? Tell me about some of the bands you have run into along the way.

We were actually only on the road for a little over a week. For as short a time we went out, there really wasn’t the desire or inspiration to try to write anything new. We just mainly tried to stay focused on the material we were performing. In the case of being on the road with Place of Skulls, it really influenced us as to how a band should perform night after night. They were so tight and professional it was a good experience for us to witness them and to hopefully take some of what we learned and apply it to us in the future. It’s great to be able to play with a band that you respect and admire so much; kind of like getting off on the right foot if you know what I mean. Had we had our first touring experience with someone who wasn’t as professional or together as they were it could’ve been a disaster.

MP: What was the last CD you bought?

Last CD I purchased was Big Elf’s "Hex" when I saw them perform about a week ago. They’re a really interesting band in that they have such an authentic vintage sound it was incredible to watch them perform. It almost felt like we were all in some kind of 70’s time warp!

MP: What was the last book you read?

Sound of the Beast, The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe. That should be mandatory reading for anyone into metal. Very well thought out and informative. I think a lot of kids today could use a lesson in "Heavy Metal 101."

MP: What media inspires you?

Usually film it can lend itself to lyrical inspiration. A film called “The Mark of the Devil” inspired the song “Devil’s Mark” from our last CD “Thunder Perfect Mind.” Literature, certainly the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe had a large part to play in many of the lyrics to early material such as "Crimson Tears" and "Rites of Passage." It all depends really on how receptive we are to what we come in contact with. Lately we’ve tried to keep our lyrics more reality based, so the media influence has become increasingly less.

MP: Spiritual themes are a common thread in your music and in doom metal in general. Pale Divine is possibly one of the most spiritual bands out there; not exactly religious but definitely inquisitive when it comes to divine thought. Please comment.

Yeah, well it’s a wellspring of inspiration as far as I’m concerned. It’s such a tremendous force in our society and our world...really. There are so many angles to choose from but basically without really getting into religion too much we wanted to explore the spiritual side of man’s existence and how it manifests itself naturally as opposed to what’s been indoctrinated into us by society. There really does seem to be a conflict of interest there and I wanted to explore that a little on "Eternity Revealed."

MP: Anything else on your mind?

I must say that I’m more than a little disappointed lately as to what’s being passed off as heavy metal. Linkin Park, Korn and the rest of the so-called Nu Metal gang really is a far cry from what I consider to be heavy metal. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the recent work of Metallica and their obvious pandering to that "style." Kirk Hammett is a brilliant guitar player and now he isn’t playing guitar solos on any of the material on the latest album? Why...because It isn’t cool anymore? Since when are Metallica concerned with what’s cool? Isn’t this the same band that blew all the hair bands away in the early 80’s? What happened?
I can only sincerely hope that there will soon be a change in the weather and true heavy metal will rise again. Maybe this year's Ozzfest headliners are an indication (i.e. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slayer) that change is on the horizon...I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Something's gotta give!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Four Radios

In my room (well one is in my bathroom) I have four radios that have been with me for over 30 years. 

These two belonged to my beloved grandfather. The blue one was his mobile radio and transmitted countless Phillies games while he puttered around the house and worked in the yard. The black one sat on his dressing table and broadcast KYW every night as he readied for bed. Now it joins me in the powder room every morning while I listen to Sam Clover also on KYW. All news. All the time. 

This sleek model sat in the middle room upstairs at my Grandparents house on Cherry Street. On sundays after dinner I would sneak upstairs to listen to the Psychedelic Psunday Psupper with Michael Tierson on WMMR. It was on this very machine I first heard two of the great music loves of my life. The Velvet Underground (Song: I Can't Stand It) and The Mothers of Invention (Song: Hungry Freaks, Daddy). Now it sits on my bookshelf. It no longer works. I need to find someone to fix it.

This one was all mine. I think I got it when I was 8. I would take it outside with me to listen to WMMR while I did chores in the yard. Later I would listen to the Phillies, the Flyers (who beat the Nashville Predators tonight) and old radio shows on nights when they were off. I heard the Grateful Dead at the Spectrum on it in 1984 and never missed Metal Shop on WYSP at midnight every saturday. Now I listen to crackpots call in to AM radio in the middle of the night and espouse conspiracy theories.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Can't Hardly Wait for Thursday at the Tower, 1987

It was the kind of night that 80's films are all about. The whole Pottstown crew had waited a week, and also their whole teenage lives to see their scruffy kindred spirits.

We spent the whole summer listening to Pleased to Meet Me. It was a breath of fresh air. We had worn all of their other records down to nubs. We woke up to Stink, we spent the day with Hootenanny and had great nights with Tim

What did Pleased to Meet Me mean to a bunch of indie punkers in Pottstown? 

When you are a teenager you can be sure of one thing. High emotions, kind of like an exposed wire near water. 'The Ledge' perfectly in its concise four minutes encapsulated our head right out of the water trying to figure out these feelings about girls, the fact that we had lives that might extend past high school and our new need to blow off steam. 

The Replacements were our voice. Sure, we loved Black Flag, The Misfits, Husker Du and Minutemen and they all had their great place.

But the Replacements were basically our Kinks or Ramones. They were the guys who weren't from the mean streets, they came from our safe place but still understood that we also were bucking the system.

Almost all of us came from good homes and cozy lives and from space, seemed pretty well set. At the end of the day the Replacements gave us what Elvis and the Stones did for our parents. A place to rock out and be ourselves.

So on that night, November 19th, 1987, the whole Pottstown crew lit out to see them. 

Me, John, Heather, Mare, Jason (RIP), Tim, George, Tom lit out to Upper Darby. The whole Pottstown crew, before the blue route.

My memory is fuzzy but I know we got there in plenty of time and parked in a garage.

The flyer states that Guadacanal Diary played. But they didn't. The opening band before the opening band was the Brandos. 

I remember digging them because they name checked the movie 'Blue Velvet' when they came on but my buddy Jason, whom I sat next to, was annoyed that they seemed 'Dressed for church'.

After a while the Dead Milkmen came on, it was right after they had released 'Eat Your Paisley' and they did quite a few things from that. My buddy Jason was very excited to see them.

There was a lot of time between the Milkmen and the Replacements and we had squirred in a weeks worth of stolen beer and had to hit the head.

In the bathroom I had my first ever, at 17, geek out moment with a fellow music lover. A fellow had a Fall t-shirt on and we spent 5 minutes crowing about how great the fall were and our favorite records. At the time I said goodbye. I wonder if am facebook friends with him now.

We got back to our seat and the Replacements appeared. They opened with 'Never Mind', they were wearing matching mechanic jumpsuits. They were hammered. Paul and Tommy nearly gave each other a concussion during 'I Don't Know'. All of us went nuts when they did 'Color Me Impressed'. I think John got up and slow danced with Heather to 'Waitress in the Sky' and they closed the show with 'Can't Hardly Wait'.

We left the Tower beaming. We had just seen our heroes. Not our parents heroes, but our own goddamn, dyed in the wool, guys who spoke our language. I grabbed this on the way out. It was tough to go to school the next day. We had just learned that we had a little bit of freedom. We had just stood at the alter of Rock and Roll.

RIP Jason Garnett. You will always be one of the spokes in my cassette deck. #JasonGarnettneverforgotten.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Ghost on Saturday Night

I bought ‘The Ghost on Saturday Night’ at a book fair in 1978. I can pinpoint the germ of many of my obsessions to the moment I finished this book. My fascination with post civil war America, séances and spiritualism, hucksters and snake-oil salesman all began here, a fact that never occurred to me until I pulled this book off my shelf today.

Published in 1974 by the prolific and quirky Sid Fleischman, who was part of A great late 60s and early 70s renaissance of innovative kids book writers. If you dig Fleischman, check out the work of Daniel Pinkwater, Tomi Ungerer, and Barbara Emberly.

The Ghost on Saturday Night is the tale of young Opie who lives with his curmudgeonly Aunt Etta. Opie has his heart set on saving up for a saddle for a horse his aunt will provide once he has the dough. Opie has carved out quite a niche for himself in Golden Hill, California. Seems his elevated olfactory and aural skills come in quite handy in a town plagued by sight reducing fog. One night a Professor Pepper comes to town bringing his ghost-raising act for one night only. In exchange for leading him to his hotel after a haircut Professor Pepper gives him and Aunt Etta free tickets to see him raise the ghost of the nefarious Crookneck John from the nether world.

I am not going to spoil the ending for those of you who want to seek out this spooky classic.

Read it for yourself, or turn on the 7 to 12 year old in your life to a great ghostly tale.

Through the Creaking Door into the Inner Sanctum

Somewhere around 1982 I was turned on to the magic of old time radio by my Grandfather and WCAU-AM. On nights the station wasn’t broadcasting Phillies games they would fill the 8-10 slot with rebroadcasts of shows from radio’s golden age. 

Upon first listen I was hooked. Every night the great 80s fightins’ weren’t playing I was glued to the radio. This carried through to the fall and the winter and over the course of the next 5 or 6 years.

The program list was quite eclectic. They played comedies (‘The Aldrich Family’, ‘Fibber McGee & Molly’), costumed crime-fighters (‘Superman’, ‘The Shadow’), detectives (‘Dragnet’, ‘Sam Spade’, ‘Nightbeat’) and Variety shows (‘The Jack Benny Show’, ‘The First Nighter’).

But the ones that really captured my imagination were the horror series.  The standard template for a horror series is much like the horror movie host template on Television, which followed a short time later in pop-culture history. A colorful host with a great big personality would introduce the tale, sometimes with a few bad puns, or deadly serious and then show up at the end to remind (or threaten) you to tune in next week.

Some shows were monsters and vampires and werewolves (‘TheHermit’s Cave’, ‘The Witch’s Tale’, ‘Dark Fantasy’) some were jet-black noirs (‘The Whistler’, ‘The Mysterious Traveller’). But my favorite contained elements of both style shows and the best host (‘Raymond’).

From 1941 to 1952, over the course of 500 episodes, Inner Sanctum escorted us through the creaking door to all manner of terror and chills. Serial Killers, demons, reincarnated animals, murderous spouses, just plain hard luck Joes and many many more poured out of the speaker and into your unsuspecting living room. Scary guys like Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Claude Rains regularly stopped by.

It was also a series of films in the 40's for Universal starring Lon Chaney, Jr. All six of which are great fun and well worth your time. 

Although 500 episodes were broadcast, only 200 survive, all of which I now have on file. Contact me if you’d like to hear more.

My favorite episode of them all was ‘Only the Dead Die Twice’. It tells the story of Johnny Brice, a hapless hearse driver whose longing for a better life and the sexy Vera Craig lead him through a downward spiral that ends in a midnight graveyard.

Enjoy and pleasant dreams….hmmm?

What's All This Then?

Hi Everybody, I'm Greg Trout

For over 40 years I have been trolling yard and garage sales, rooting around at flea markets, whistling past the graveyard, and aimlessly roaming cities on both coasts.

During that time I have collected some artifacts and arcana. Some of it tangible, some merely ideas.

It's high time I share the 44 years in the attic and basement with you. 

Enjoy and feel free to email with questions, stories or ideas.