jamilah Plays The Hits Pt. II: Cross-Cultural Mashups

This post is a major contradiction- after saying numerous times how i feel about pop music (in general), what you are about to see are some of the most poppiest of songs. This led me to want to be clear on my relationship to pop music: if a pop song can convey great storytelling; if it can channel anything outside of the superficial; if it goes beyond lower vibrational energy… it’s most likely something i would enjoy listening to.

A great pop song can make me happy… or it can make me cry. There are a few, like ‘Home’ by Stephanie Mills (my favorite song in the whole entire world), ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ by Jennifer Holliday, ‘Love takes Time’ by Mariah Carey, and ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’ by Whitney Houston, that automatically bring tears the moment you hear those notes. i guess you can say, even though i’m not particularly a fan of anthemic songs, i do love big, dramatic ones. Not only are songs like these full of drama; you can also hear the tears, sadness or anguish in their vocals.

i am also a major fan of unrequited love longs… you know, when you have feelings for someone and those feelings are not returned. ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ is a perfect unrequited love song.

i spent a bit of time over the past few months searching for covers of the song, and it has been hard to find any versions that capture the heartbreak of the original. Most people stick to vocal acrobatics, taking away from the actual meaning of the song. While i definitely love a good run or two, i just don’t think they’re fitting for a song like this.

The only one who honestly does the song any justice is the original artist.

Laura Branigan sings the song very plainly, and at some points, deadpan. Michael Bolton (who co-wrote the song (with Doug James, under his birth name, Michael Bilotin)) comes fairly close, but his pleading is no comparison. Laura Branigan’s reading is one of desperation and urgency. You can hear how in the first verse, all the stuff they talk about is small talk; she wants to get all of that out of the way to ask the major questions. This person was her lifeline- all without them even knowing it.

The crux of the story is in this one line: “I don’t wanna know the price I’m gonna pay for dreaming, now that your dream has come true.” i don’t care what anyone says. This performance will always make me cry. To me, it is up there with (one of the greatest vocalists ever in the whole world) Phyllis Hyman’s performance of ‘Old Friend’.

For the post here, the bed of the song was Branigan’s version, but i combined her vocals with Michael Bolton’s, then played some drums. Like much of what we’ll see in this post, i had to do a bit of doctoring. Because the the final part of Bolton’s version has a higher key, i had to lower it to match Branigan’s original key. Also, i combined the full vinyl and CD versions of Bolton’s version. The CD version is shorter for some reason. This is the only Michael Bolton song i’ve dissected, so i can’t speak to the other ones. But i really do like this song. i’ve liked it since i’ve heard the OG back in ’83.

Speaking of…. i have no shame in saying i absolutely love what is now in this day and age, lovingly called ‘Yacht Rock’. Player, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Gino Vannelli… No one should be too punk to love some well-crafted tunes. i came up in an era where a lot of that stuff crossed over into the hood.

‘Biggest Part Of Me’ by Ambrosia was another one of those jams, so when Take 6 covered it years later we all just knew they would do it right. Given that they largely do gospel, they switched up the lyrics in order to stay on that path. Even if someone’s not Christian, that should not stop them from enjoying a great song. Good music is good music. There have been plenty of gospel songs that traveled over into the pop charts. Both versions of the song did fairly well, but i’m not sure of how many people know both.

i did lower the key to Ambrosia’s version to match Take 6’s. i also played the drums.

This next song, i know for sure that there has been no general cross-cultural (or generational) exchange. When you think of ‘Float On’, you are most likely either thinking of the Floaters or Modest Mouse. Not both.

Until now.

This is something i absolutely had been thinking about doing for a while, but i didn’t know if it was gonna work out. i can’t possibly have been the only person to think of this combination. i’d be surprised if that was the case. i did keep the drums, but played the bass- almost, but not note for note. This was honestly one of my favorite things i’ve made since the start of this blog.

The following song might have you going, ‘there was another version of this song??!!’

Yes. As a matter of fact, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ was presented to Bucks Fizz before it was presented to Tina Tuner; they were told the song needed male vocals, which is how they ended up recording it. Of course we all know what ended up happening after Tina Turner sang it.

i did use the Bucks Fizz version as a base. i also used the background vocals, and put Tina Turner as the lead. The Bucks Fizz version is in a lower key, so i made it higher to match the other.

We end this post how we started… kind of. With two versions of the same song, one possibly more obscure than the other.

‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ is an incredibly sad song. i’m not sure how (or why) it became popular in some circles of the pop pantheon. The lyrics are full of hopelessness and dread. This song is a companion to ‘Fade To Black’… except if you’ve only heard the version released on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, you might not notice it.

The Danny Hutton Hitters version (the one on the soundtrack) is the first version i ever heard, so i didn’t recognize how sad the song was until i heard Nik Kershaw’s original some years later. Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night)’s reading of the lyrics sound a bit more hopeful that he will get over to the other side, after some struggle. Nik Kershaw sounds like it’s pointless to even try. With that, i opted to wage a conversation between the two. In between the conversation are scenes from Pretty In Pink– one of the the few John Hughes movies i actually remember liking. Though i hated the end (because i hate scenarios wrapped up in a neat little bow), the movie did take a dip into a discussion on class. i know some of his other movies did as well, but Pretty In Pink is the one i watched the most of as a kid.

i played the bass on this one, while the Danny Hutton version was the bed for the vocals.

Metallica Fridays (no. 18): Better Drumming… Undenied!

i can’t say anything more than what Lars Ulrich (and other musicians) has said: A good song writes itself. Perhaps i will be able to write that great song some day. Until then i will appreciate those who do write them.

Whether it’s their covering and honoring (more obscure- especially at the time) NWOBHM and punk bands over the years (actually taking up most of their live sets in the early days), doing doodles (recognizing local artist from whatever city or country they’re performing in), just taking outright cues for inspiration, or advocating for vinyl; Metallica have always been a band that loves music, regardless of where it comes from. From what i can see, the greatest artists have a diverse interest in music, and will be inspired by sounds they do not primarily perform. Johnny Marr was inspired by Nile Rogers, John Legend’s second album was inspired by Pet Sounds… and even though many took inspiration from James Brown (including Mick Jagger), Mr. Brown himself arguably straight up jacked David Bowie. That said, Carlos Alomar DID play the riff on both songs, and it was said that the riff was constructed during his time with the JB’s (prior to his work with Bowie). So was it a straight jack? This is a debate that will probably go on until the end of time.

Metallica have not only sent clear nods to Sabbath, Budgie, Queen and Motorhead; they also were inspired by bands and artists such as Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Tom Waits. Sonically they’ve also collectively looked to country, Motown (if you can call that a genre), blues, jazz and punk.

One band they haven’t seem to look to was the Kinks.

The Kinks are one of my favorite groups of all time. As major as they are, they still have fallen under the radar of the pantheon of great bands, in comparison to how many mention, in particular, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The lyrics were a combination of stream of consciousness, self-awareness, straight-ahead cultural musings, class analysis, satire and biting sociopolitical commentary, giving them a bit more relatability than other pop contemporaries at the time.

James Hetfield (before introducing Ray Davies to the stage at Madison Square Garden in 2009) acknowledged that the band “got completely schooled… on early, early riff rock.” He called the Kinks “one of the original punks.” Interestingly… despite being a punk kid, my favorite stuff from the Kinks is the post-‘riff rock/punk’ stuff. They have great albums like Muswell Hillbillies, Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of the British Empire), Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, and more.

(Side note: i actually met Ray Davies back in 1998 when he was making appearances for his album The Storyteller. i approached him, and he said, “Hi Sweetheart, how are you?” A lot of people had so much to say to him, asking about specific shows, songs or riffs. i was very shy, and there was a limited amount of time we could talk, so i just wrote down a few questions on a paper and handed it to him, then left. i have no idea if he ever read the questions, or if he thought the questions were any good. He may have just laughed at them.)

In 2010 Davies released See My Friends (obviously titled after a Kinks song), a collaborative effort covering his music. It featured Alex Chilton, Lucinda Williams, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and more… including a collaboration with Metallica- ‘You Really Got Me’.

Which is what i do here. It’s very clear Metallica took more of the Van Halen approach when they covered the song. However, despite knowing that version and hearing it a whole bunch of times over the years i am much more familiar with the OG…. so i did make the drums less ‘metal’ than Lars.

i have been vegan for over half my life (28 years) and i absolutely love ‘Of Wolf And Man’. It’s probably as simple as being a song about a dude who turns into a werewolf; on a deeper level (because that’s just what i do) i do think it’s a continuation that was had on the Justice album (if not directly) in regards to how humans mess things up, and how we should regard the ‘natural world’ as being part of ourselves. The Earth is a gift (as is mentioned in the song); let’s stop disrespecting her.

My favorite part of the song though: NOSE TO THE WIND. i don’t even care. It always makes me think of nose boops.

i did my attempt at honoring Lars by doing some take on the great ‘Wolf And Man’ fill he does. it’s one of my favorite fills on The Black Album. i still don’t understand the Lars hate, man.

And finally, we have what is one of my favorite Metallica songs of all time, ‘Lords Of Summer’. It’s one of a handful of songs where they reference themselves (‘King Nothing’, ‘Unforgiven II’ and ‘St. Anger’ being three top ones); it’s also a song, like ‘Death Is Not The End’ or ‘Vulturous’, where they’ve worked on in various incarnations. However, unlike those two it actually got an official release. As much as it would have been an excellent addition to the (also excellent) Hardwired… To Self-Destruct; i think it would have taken away from the somber theme of the album. Having this be an extra track on the CD edition (and side E on the vinyl edition) was to me, a wise choice.

Imagine hearing this song for the first time- which is what happened in Bogotá, Colombia on March 16, 2014. It was the unfinished version, but it was no less powerful.

While i’m still my own biggest critic (and while i make a few obvious mistakes here) i KNOW i’m getting better at drumming, because i actually got through this song. i tried this song a few months ago, and couldn’t even get through the first verse. Also, i know the song would sound better with double kick, but you already know…

There are a lot of songs that make me think of animals. A lot of Metallica songs make me think of cats (which is probably why i love the band so much). This song though, makes me think of seals. i’m not sure why, but it’s definitely okay with me. i absolutely love seals.

(Also, if you don’t know what e-drums sound like to people not playing them, you can see at the beginning. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…)


If you’ve read anything on this site (hopefully you do read the posts!) you already know i’m not a huge fan of pop music in general. i’m not referring to music that is popular- that would make little sense, since my favorite artist is Michael Jackson. i also make Metallica-related posts every week. i could be wrong; it just seems to me that the genre of ‘pop’ tends to not particularly take risks. A particular artist could be quite good. However, if said artist is deemed ‘the one’, the industry attempts to oversell that particular sound.

There was a time though, when ‘pop music’ took more risks with their catchy hooks, thereby making radio more diverse than it certainly is today. Australia-based INXS was one of those bands.

Initially, their influences stylistically appeared to be ska, post punk and ‘pub punk’ bands and artists like XTC, Ian Dury and Lena Lovich (and other bands on Stiff Records); and so-called ‘new wave’. They were also coming of age artistically with (the also located in Australia) Nick Cave. Like many bands, they shifted musically into a more ‘pop’ territory. While for all intents and purposes they were still a rock band; and while you in some ways heard some of their original inspirations pop in once in a while, they began to pick up more cues from classic soul and R&B.

While songs like ‘Need You Tonight’ crossed over into the hood, the first INXS song i ever heard was two years earlier: ‘This Time’ (from 1985’s Listen Like Thieves). i remember liking the song, but it wasn’t until a few years later as an early teenager when i became totally obsessed with them.

Yup. i was a burgeoning punk kid, and i was absolutely in love with INXS.

Despite being ‘rock stars’ they didn’t seem that way to me… even with Michael Hutchence as the front man. Yeah, he totally played up the ‘sex symbol’ thing… but they all just seemed like awkward, regular dudes to me. They were huge, but they weren’t bombastic. They played anthems, but they weren’t anthemic.

And they crafted some massively good songs, but didn’t take themselves too seriously.

My favorite INXS song of all time is ‘Horizons’; it became my favorite song of theirs from the moment i heard it years ago on cassette. It’s the first time i recognized a song being written in the way that was written. You could randomly pick a song out of their catalog, and chances are you will like it: ‘Don’t Change’, ‘Communications’, ‘Shine Like it Does’, ‘In Vain’, ‘The Stairs’, ‘Johnson’s Aeroplane’… It was really difficult to choose which songs to do for this post. While their ‘hits are just as great i definitely wanted to focus on their lesser-known songs for the most part.

Like (Minneapolis’) Mint Condition, INXS were a pretty self-contained band. Consisting of Garry Gary Beers (one of the greatest bass players- ever. Both he and Graham Maby are severely underrated), Andrew Farriss (primary songwriter/composer and keys/guitar), Kirk Pengilly (guitar and saxophone), Michael Hutchence (vocals and lyrics- and fan of Anthrax!), Jon Farriss (drums) and Tim Farriss (guitar); for 20 years (until the physical departure of Hutchence), all original founding members were together, since their birth in 1977- originally called the Farriss Brothers.

To begin this musical trip through INXS world, we’ll begin with their first single, released in 1980: ‘Simple Simon’/’We Are the Vegetables’. The clear punk influences are there. Anyone familiar with their later material might find this to be surprising. Of course, the burgeoning punk kid in me was VERRRRY pleased to hear this.

‘Guns In The Sky’ (from 1987’s Kick) is to me, one of the greatest album openers of all time. A response to the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the music video (which exists despite it not being a single) flashed ‘SDI’ randomly on the screen. The song is a rightful critique of the u.s. government’s allocation of resources to everything but what it should be going to- which is, assuring the masses’ basic material needs are met.

The drum in the original song is built around a Roland 707; i used the Alessis (and not the Octapad) for this one, so (obviously) the drums are not as booming. i did keep Hutchence’s vocals (because i can’t sing like that!), and played guitar and bass, in addition to the drums. It sounded more like a garage version than the (again) booming anthem it is (smiles).

‘What Would You Do’ (from Underneath The Colours) is another one of my absolute top favorites from the band. In the pocket for the most part, it’s got one of my favorite bass lines in an INXS song. i also love the nod to ‘Stay Young’ (also on the album) as well.

We will take a detour back to the band’s first (self-titled) album, with ‘Jumping’, another one of my favorites. This song is perfect- the bouncy bass, the horn accents (why don’t pop bands have horns anymore??!!), the touch of two tone ska, the guitar being utilized in the verse as a melody with Hutchence’s vocals, the spacey keys, the half-time drums… i love this era of music, with its the post punk disco and ska influences.

Finally, we have a song which is perhaps one of their most beloved- ‘Mystify’. i woke up with this song in my head, so after i got up i started singing it- i wanted to do it just a capella, but it didn’t feel right. i started messing around on the piano, and that didn’t feel right either. Something else was going on in my head. i started messing around on the bass, and i started hearing a beat in my head. It ended up being a sludge rock-influenced half time ditty (with a tiny, tiny bit of tiny tiny discordance (smiles)), as opposed to the bounciness of the original.

i know i’m not that great of a singer- but i do it anyway. i like to sing. Not being that great at singing is a nice feeling, when you’ve survived being hit by a truck.

Metallica Fridays (no. 17): Throw Ice Into The Fire, And Watch It Damage Your Fears

So… wow. i have a lot of feelings around James Hetfield’s recent comments in Brazil. Every week on these ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts i talk about ‘getting out of my head’ and learning to embrace my mistakes as a way of further understanding the journey… and here he is at the age of 58, openly discussing his anxieties and insecurities around no longer being able to play in the same ways he once did. i wrote my feelings on his speech here; one thing i did not say though, is that if his concerns are around not being able to play well, many would absolutely disagree. There are many who have had harsh critiques for the band for years, who are coming out and saying they’ve been playing better than ever. While none of us could ever know the full extent of what James Hetfield is going through, one thing we can all say is that, unless something happens to really affect his motor skills (God willing that does not happen), he is in no danger of putting on no less of a great performance.

As private a person as he is, being open in where he’s at mentally is significant in that his words may have saved someone’s life- including his own. As a person who lives with depression, his words around mental health (as well as the Load, ReLoad and St. Anger albums specifically) always resonate with me.

i’ve said this elsewhere, and i’ll say it again here: i think 58-year old James Hetfield is cool. And i’m sure at 59, 60 and beyond he will be just as cool.

Don’t let the demons take hold of the Heaven in your head…

Doing the posts for this site- and the Metallica posts specifically- have been helping me pull through the struggle in many ways: the struggles of this ‘new’ life as an amputee; the struggle of learning not to be as frustrated with my mistakes; of learning to let go. The struggle of actually taking in new ways of listening to music. The music experience is very different as a person having to learn how to play the songs, versus simply listening to it. And sometimes that is frustrating, because it seems like you can never get it ‘right’. The point SHOULD be though, that you are playing it in your own way, versus copying what you hear. Given that i am physically limited in how i, for instance, play drums, i have begun to find that i do have a particular style… and that is interesting to see. i just aim to be as respectful as possible to all artists. Even if it’s just me seeing these posts, i know that it’s helping. If others see these posts and it helps them, it’s even better.

…And since i mentioned the album earlier, i think we will start with ‘Attitude’, from ReLoad. It makes me laugh that people always get on Lars for that scene in Some Kind Of Monster (including Kirk and James), when he’s trying to counter the ‘stock’ (according to him) riff with a particular drum pattern… when dude is a MASSIVE fan of rhythmic illusions. As am i. All their albums have them. i’m not sure if it’s because of the few (in comparison to others) lessons he’s had over the years, so he has little technical knowledge, and sees these patterns in his head. Lars adding an extra beat (or coming in a half step beforehand) is very common, and learning how to play to Metallica songs throws off many a more ‘traditional’ drummer.

i will always love Lars for this. There is no one like him.

To me, ‘Attitude’ is an example of this. When i first heard the song i was like, ‘Whut? Wait. i…’ The difference between this song and some others is, Lars counts off on the 2, so you get a little help in knowing where to start. Some of the other songs just blast off, and you’re like, ‘Wait- is he starting on the 2 or the 3??!!’ i’m not that good at counting beats and measures (as y’all probably see with some of the glaring mistakes i’ve made in these posts- HA!), so i do it all by just listening to the song, and going there.

So i think the kick started (a little early) on the 1, and the snare/crash combination started at 2. Then when the song kicks in, it starts on 2. Is my count correct?

i mean, i play music but i’m not a musician. That’s probably safe to say.

All i know is that i’m glad Load and ReLoad exist. To me, those albums encompassed the ‘bigness’ of the Black Album sound, but in terms of subject matter and arrangement it was an evolution.

Here we return to what was my favorite Metallica album for 30 years- until Load knocked it out of that spot… Master Of Puppets! It amazes me that people so young can make such complex music. i highly doubt you would have had an album like Load, if Lars and James never approached Cliff Burton. He was a major inspiration for the evolution in their sound. Would they have remained strictly a thrash or NWOBHM-inspired band, had they not met him? Would there have been just straight shredding for every single song? Perhaps. We will never know though. What we DO know (again) is that Cliff brought to the band some invaluable elements.

…Including the classic intros. Whether it’s ‘Damage Inc.’ (which i play to here), ‘Blackened’, ‘To Live Is To Die’, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’, ‘That Was Just Your Life’, ‘Fixxxer’ or other favorites… all of those are clear nods to Cliff Burton’s influence. So of course Cliff deserved the intro. After all, it’s him playing the intro.

Metallica definitely are one of the best in knowing how to sequence and bookend albums.

Aaaaaaaaand… even though ‘Blackened’ is my favorite Metallica song of all time, my current favorite song (because there is a difference) is ‘Trapped Under Ice’. ‘Trapped’ was one of my wishes for the 40th shows- AND THEY DID IT. i lost my voice as a result, screaming so loud as those opening chords played, then singing along.

This song involves one of my least favorite things in the whole world- being cold, and one of my greatest fears- being trapped. Snow is one of my top ten favorite things in the whole world, but i absolutely hate being cold. i have also been trapped before. One of my top 3 greatest fears in the whole world was also being hit by a truck, and i actually survived that. Can i survive being trapped under ice? i doubt it.

The bass (unsurprisingly) was recorded so low so i had to figure out for myself how to play it, without any cues from Mr. Burton. i played a bunch of root notes (of course!), and added a bit of harmony. i did end up seeing a few bass covers of the song- most covers of this song are on guitar- but every single person played it their own way, playing mostly with the guitar. My guess is that it’s because you can hardly hear the original, unless you remixed it to make the bass louder (which is what i actually did with ‘Damage Inc.’).

A block of ice made a guest appearance here… They never left their name though.

This One’s For The Grrrls…

i was sitting around thinking one day (when does that NOT happen, right?) about the numbers of women who inspired me- the multi-instrumentalists, the composers, arrangers… The women who rejected the notions of what they should do, and how to be. The ones who laid the foundation for not only me, but all the kids who today and yesterday who have been marginalized (by gender, class or culture).

i wanted to make a post honoring these women, but it was difficult to know where to start. Do i start with Betty Davis? Phyllis Hyman? Teena Marie? Alice Coltrane? LaBelle? Chaka Khan? Marlena Shaw? Randy Crawford? Angela Bofill? Rachelle Ferrell? Memphis Minnie? Do i go with Mother’s Finest? Silverfish? DQE? ESG? Skunk Anansie? To make it a little easier i narrowed it down to all-women bands. And still, that’s not easy… because you have everything from Girlschool to Fanny to The Runaways to Big Joanie to Cub to the 5,6,7,8s to L7 to the Bangles to The Go-Gos to Luscious Jackson to The Raincoats to The Slits to (two of my favorite current bands, Voice Of Baceprot and The Warning)… you get the picture.

So i narrowed it down a bit more… and it ended up developing into creating a longer post then usual.

i think i’ll start with ‘Catnip Dream’ by Shonen Knife, because cats are the GREATEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They have other cat songs as well, ‘I Am A Cat’ and ‘Like A Cat’. If you make a number of songs about cats, i automatically like you.

(And of course, my hat is actually applicable here.)

Slant 6 was one of my favorite bands from the ’90s. They were only around for three or four years. In those years i saw them live about 2 or 3 times, and even interviewed them for a fanzine i was doing at the time.

To me, ‘Don’t You Ever’ (from Soda Pop * Rip Off) is one of the greatest album openers. i am just playing drums here. ‘Semi-Blue Tile’ was the b-side of the ‘What Kind Of Monster Are You’ 7″. For this song, Christina Billotte’s vocals remain, but i play bass, drums and guitar.

The Lunachicks was one of the funnest shows i have ever seen… and they made a love song to Mabel King. Perhaps the ONLY love song to Mabel King!

It was interesting to edit and look back on this series of videos, because i tend to forget about being covered neck to foot in tattoos (despite seeing them every day). i don’t wear shorts a lot (outside of the time i’m practicing with the prosthetic), so it was funny to see my leg bouncing up and down with the kick drum, with all the visual tattoos and scars. i also forgot the shirt i was wearing has a hole, so you can see a peek of my rib piece (if you look close enough- of course, that rib piece has to do with cats). Outside of forgetting my own canvas, i absolutely love and am obsessed with people who are covered- especially women. So seeing the Lunachicks makes me very happy.

i’m playing drums to the title track to the album Jerk Of All Trades. This song goes after my heart, because i’ve had to punch a few dudes for touching me without my consent.

Speaking of never underestimating a woman… Klymaxx wants to inform you to never underestimate our power.

Before they gained popularity with songs like ‘The Men All Pause’, ‘Meeting In The Ladies Room’, ‘I Miss You’ and ‘Divas Need Love Too’, they were more of funk band. Solar Records had some gems, for sure. Before i was a burgeoning punk kid, Klymaxx was the first all-women band i recall being familiar with, by name. Maybe even before the Bangles and the Go-Gos.

i am playing to the title track of the album, Never Underestimate The Power Of A Woman. i know my drumming isn’t as funky or in the pocket as Bernadette Cooper (who co-wrote the song), but i obviously aim to be respectful.

Another band i have seen live (and if you’ve ever seen them you will not forget it) is Tribe 8. A few of the members currently identify as trans; however i still am posting one of their songs because during the existence of Tribe 8 they all did identify as women (and if i am wrong about that, i apologize). Tribe 8 had no qualms about pointing out the intersections of oppression (i think having band members comprise of Indigenous, African and Asian folks helps), and they were unapologetic in their queerness. Also, they are incredibly cool people. At least they were when i met them.

The song i am playing to here, ‘Republican Lullaby’, speaks to the pro-militarism, jingoism, xenophobia, disinformation campaigns and racism/white supremacy permeating the republican party (in the u.s.); i would argue though, that these lyrics should extend to democrats as well. If you pay attention close enough to the policies (and not these low hanging fruit issues they want you to focus on) you will find little difference between the two.

One of the most well-known groups coming out of the Riot Grrrl movement was Bratmobile. They were a band who used humor to relay messages around sexual violence, racism, and more. i ended up forming a pen pal/friendly relationship with guitarist Erin Smith (who was living in Maryland, if i’m not mistaken). Whenever they came to town i would see her, and hang out a bit.

Bratmobile remind me a bit of the Misfits- tonally, not visually. They actually did cover ‘Where Eagles Dare’, so i may not be too far off. Here, i play to ‘Brat Girl’, which was probably an anthem for many a punk girl (or boy, or agender person) who got groped at a show, or taken advantage of in other ways. There’s no bassist in the most well-known incarnation of the band, so i decided to experiment with what that would sound like here (as well as (obviously) play drums).

And finally, i decided to play one of my own songs- a song i haven’t played since i was about 17 or 18 years old. In fact, it’s a song you can hear in the very first post i made for this site.

As mentioned in that post, i was in a band called The Girlymen. It was the first band i was ever in, with Mayumi (drums), and Abby (bass). i honestly have no idea what most of the lyrics are to this song (save for the title: ‘Chock Full Of Crap’), so i kept Abby’s original vocals, and just played guitar, bass and drums. i need to see if SHE remembers!

And yeah, i am using a China cymbal. Oh no… i really AM turning into Lars!

It always comes back to that, don’t it? Hee hee…

Metallica Fridays (no. 16): How i am learning to stop worrying, and just love Metallica

Every time i do these posts i get a weekly reminder to get out of my own head. i make a ton of mistakes, but that is what happens when you are learning. i have to remember that i am also getting better. That goes for my experience in using the prosthetic, as well as playing music.

i love watching better players than me cover Metallica. As professionals (or at least people with some level of expertise) they are able to capture the nuances, way more than i can. They can properly do the double kick of ‘One’, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ or ‘Hero Of The Day’. They understand the mechanics of a b-bender, or they effortlessly play the perfect trills on a precision bass. While i am not there yet, i know the music enough to play with a particular feeling, as opposed to the exact technical ability.

As i keep saying, the fact that i even took that next step to even attempt to play their music is a huge personal deal.

In playing drums, i also clearly understand one ting more and more: the relationship Lars has with James, as players. It becomes so clear how much Lars follows the rhythm guitar, and vice versa. It’s pretty hard to focus (especially during the live performances) when the lead is playing, so i have to focus extra hard on what the rhythm and bass are doing.

One of the bigger examples of this is ‘Battery’. When Kirk plays the solo i had to focus on James. i also love the dynamic between the band in that, when one of them is behind or out front, they easily catch up through particular cues. People tend to take issues with Kirk’s improvisation during shows (‘Why does he never play the solo like the album’ and so forth); and while it seems as if he’s in his own world (and sometimes makes mistakes) the man catches up, and is on time.

i remember being 15 years old and wanting nothing more than to see ‘Battery’. On the encore of the December 3, 1991 show in Buffalo, NY i got my wish. i really hope that it is something i see again, before i leave this earth. They are playing it more album speed these days, but the song is no less powerful. As with many of the older songs, i love the mature readings of them. The band has long since (except for Lars) left the Bay Area, but the spirit of Battery Street lives on forever.

The Seattle ’89 show is beloved, and is usually at the pinnacle of favorite shows in the Metallica fan community. However, this show is not in my top 3. The May 31, 2015 show in Munich (Germany), The 40th Anniversary shows, and the Metal Hammer show in 1985 are. The screams James gives out during ‘Battery’ though (from the Seattle show, which i am playing to here) makes the song one of my favorite live ones of all time.

Just like with ‘Blackened’ i wanted to challenge myself in terms of speed. This song is not easy to play, especially with the the time shifts. Playing that live? Whoo boy.

i came in a bit late after the break and rushed a bit, but got caught up. The thing i am most happy with is that i got the fill (without the double kick, obviously) before the final chorus. That fill is my favorite fill of Lars’ of all time. i also (subconsciously) added in another Lars’ type fill. Guess where that one is!

Many many posts ago i played to the OG ‘Green Hell’ (one of my two favorite Misfits songs). This time i’m playing to Metallica’s cover, which is slightly faster, as well as having different lyrics. My other wish before i leave this earth is that they SERIOUSLY play ‘Run To The Hills’ in full, instead of always messing around and playing the wrong notes on purpose (like they do at the end of Garage Days, as well as during live performances). The opening riff to that song is my favorite metal riff of all time; i don’t care how overplayed it is. Also, they have only played ‘Green Hell’ 11 times. i also hope, before i leave this earth, they play it alone, without Last Caress’- a song i’m not really that fond of.

Like Issac Hayes or Luther Vandross, Metallica takes a cover and makes it their own.

The St. Anger fanboi returns… It seems like more and more people are beginning to understand the greatness that is St. Anger, as the band is beginning to play other songs from it than ‘Frantic’ or the title track. They seem to be giving ‘Dirty Window’ some love, after the positive reception it received after the 40th anniversary show…. because they played it as well on this recent Sudamérica tour (in BRAZIL no less, where someone gave birth during ‘Enter Sandman’. Papa Het ended up calling the parents). They have played the song a total of 33 times. Obviously this gives me great joy, and hope that they will bring some more out.

‘Purify’ anyone?

The more i play to this music (mistakes and all), the more i appreciate this band.

Metallica Fridays (no. 15): Letter To Lars?

So much has happened since the last post: i finally received a vinyl copy of Kirk’s excellent Portals EP, as well as restringing Jerome with some new Hetfield strings. They are some heavy gauged strings (11, 14, 18p, 28, 38 and 50)!!! The average gauges on the lightest strings are 9s or 10s, and the heaviest ones on average tend to be 46s. I did some restringing and a bit of playing before i went to rehab, and they didn’t seem that bad; perhaps it’s because i play a lot of bass? When i play around a bit more, i may be telling a different story… One thing i can say is that they sounded nice and crisp. i love that new string sound. Also being used to lighter strings, when i went to tune Jerome, i found out i ended up initially tuning way too sharp. These strings are hardcore.

But alas, we are here again with another ‘Metallica Fridays’ post. And there is always a song (or two or three) that speak to me enough for me to highlight it.

And as usual, i gotta pay respects to Lars. You can find me talking about him all throughout these posts, so i won’t go too far into it here. i will keep saying though: For anyone to sit and listen… i mean actually sit and listen, and say that Lars is a bad drummer, i will never understand. i am learning these songs in a whole different way as a player, versus the act of passively listening. If this band were to have ever, in any point in time, gotten a more technical drummer, it would be a whole different band. This actually happened in 2004 (at the Download Festival (aka Donnington), when Lars was briefly hospitalized. In his place were Dave Lombardo (one of the greatest drummers of all time), Joey Jordinson (who i was not that familiar with, but the little i saw of him, i saw that he was an excellent drummer), and Lars’ drum tech, Flemming Larsen. It was amazing to hear them play with Metallica at extremely short notice. They knew their stuff- and i love that Lombardo was about to play the bridge (album version) of ‘Battery’! However, the vibe was entirely different. it wasn’t bad… it was just missing… Lars.

i keep thinking about how Lars sees different rhythms in his brain, from whatever riffs Rob, Kirk and James present. People ask how he’s credited with writing songs, despite him not writing the riffs. The dude has a major hand in arranging where those riffs go, so a songwriting credit is absolutely proper. i wonder how many of his fills are experimentation during the recording process, versus actual construction. i always wonder why he chooses to hit the crash at a specific place you would never think to put it.

For example, the opening cymbal hits in ‘Hell And Back’ (from the great Beyond Magnetic). The opening hits seem so counterintuitive in a way. But they work. They totally work.

i absolutely love this song. They only played it 16 times, during May, June and August of 2012. While (again) it’s always stated that Metallica lyrics can be interpreted in various ways (with very clear exceptions), ‘Hell And Back’ to me is a very clear reading of someone experiencing addiction. You understand the negative implications of the addiction (or dependency); however, the familiarity is comforting, and… dependable. Be it food, sex, alcohol, narcotics… the struggle is real.

i will say though, when i first heard the song i thought James was singing “she’s rachet but she comforts me…” as opposed to wretched. i was like, ‘whatchoo know about rachet, Papa Het??!!’

If they pulled this one out at the 40th i would have screamed. Interestingly (and sadly), they did NO songs from Beyond Magnetic at the 40th.

…And we return to the source. The first Metallica song i ever learned/played on the drums.

‘Blackened’. Why would this be the FIRST song to learn… one of the most difficult in terms of timing, for a person who hadn’t regularly played the drums in over 20 years, and never previously played a Metallica song? Because it’s my favorite song of theirs.

This time though, it’s a live version… the infamous ‘Seattle ’89’ version. i would always try to play it and could never get it (because it was so much faster than the album version, and of course there’s no click track so the timing isn’t straight). It’s also a song i haven’t played in a couple of months i think, so i always want to return to it, because it’s ultimately a barometer for how i am doing in terms of my progress. i still mess up in a spot or two, but it’s WAY better than it was even a couple of months ago. So there’s that.

And now…

i will continue to admit i was wrong, when it comes to Some Kind Of Monster, the 2004 documentary charting not only the recording process of St. Anger, but the band’s struggle to just hold it together. i had no idea what to expect when i saw it in the theater back then, but i absolutely hated it. Like many (who loved and/or appreciated the band at the time) i couldn’t understand why a bunch of dudes in a band would sit and film themselves arguing. i was 27 or 28 years old then. Of course, 18 years later (and having lived a much more eventful life) i understood exactly why they did it, and i’ve come to appreciate the film for the brilliance it is. it’s become one of my favorite films of all time.

i was going back, listening to older episodes of Metal Up Your Podcast (the great podcast that extensively discusses Metallica), and they were discussing the root of the experiences had in the film- (bassist) Jason Newsted’s departure. i then felt inspired to recreate one of my favorite scenes in the film. i know that people tend to look at it as a meme; however, i see it as an examination of a mental downward spiral. Music (and being in a band) was such a crutch for these individuals that they seemingly never really built a relationship outside of that.

The film showed how important therapy actually is.

People were saying that Lars was pretending to be upset by Jason’s departure. i saw it as disbelief. He seemed on the verge of tears- which is how i kind played the scene. To me, Lars’ face was saying one thing, but his voice was saying another.

i acted out the scene, sent it to a few people then realized it needed some music. i kept listening to the words, and played drums around that. Then played guitar and bass around the drums. i wanted the music to capture some level of that downward spiral. After that was done i wanted to see what it was like if the words were said in anger, as opposed to shock or disbelief. With that, i ended up filming another scene, then made a side by side video. It’s interesting to see the two emotions together.

Jason was the bird who could not be caged, and he was ultimately right in leaving. i consider him to be a major teacher for the band, because he was a catalyst for them to do some major self-criticism. That said, i really did want to give Lars a hug in that scene. Jason was correct in leaving, but you could see that Lars was truly hurt by it.

i love that they are all on amicable terms now.

(This song is dedicated to Clint and Ethan, the hosts of Metal Up Your Podcast.)

And herein lies my 50th letter of appreciation to Lars. Thanks for so many classic moments, duder.