Author Archives: Toi Brownstone

The day he quit, the rocket took off.

There are some bands you create such a bond with that, no matter that they almost copy one set to the previous one, every time they come to your city on tour, you’ll attend their performance regardless. For 10 years I’ve never failed to my appointment with Jonny Kaplan since the first time I saw him in Lleida, and last Thursday was not to be an exception. It’s not a problem either that his last albums are not as brilliant as earlier ones, because he never fails, singing and playing with such groove everything is good vibes, and songs such as ‘Damaged’, ‘Seasons’ and ‘Ride Free’, will always be played for us.

There was a remarkable addition to the band, which was quite appealing for many, and that was the presence of Dave Krusen on drums. You might wonder, who the fuck is Krusen? Well, he’s a guy who happened to record all the drum parts of the debut album of Pearl Jam, as he was in the band.

pearl jam early days

The handover of drummers, from Krusen to Abbruzzese (from Dave to David) in the band was something which remained unknown for some time, and it was something weird in the day. Krusen had played the first shows and had recorded the album. He appears on the cover picture, and there were few promo pictures with him as member of the band. In fact the video of their first single, ‘Alive’, features him on the drums. Apparently what happened was that Krusen, right after the Ten recording, checking into rehab, due to personal issues and alcohol abuse.

How could he deal with the success of Pearl Jam as one of the bands able to be on top for more than 25 years knowing he stepped outside right before they rose like a rocket? What would have happened if he hadn’t quit? Perhaps his life would be sorted out by now, not worrying about which band to play with next, financially secure (even though I’m sure he get royalties for Ten, being properly credited). Or he could have been fired after the second album, considering the main problem of Pearl Jam has to do with the drummers all the time.

I try to figure out how is to wake up every day having this constant ‘What if’ in your head. Probably he overcame this issue time ago, but it must be really hard to cope with a past decision which was so meaningful and decisive for the rest of your life.

He’s been playing all the time since then, being involved in several projects as Candlebox or Unified Theory and playing with established artists, but it was really weird to see him in front of 100 people at a tiny club as Rocksound is, with Jonny Kaplan, who’s a terrific artist, but very low profile in the rock scene.

krusen

So right after the show I went to greet him, not to ask him to sign any stuff nor praise him just for being a member of Pearl Jam, but to thank him for his work in one album that really made such a marking point in my life, being a teenager and so, as to be what I am nowadays: a rock freak. Very humble and polite, Krusen received the compliment in the best manner, and thank me back for expressing such feelings to him.

I understand you cannot harass every musician who has made an impact in your life, and we create this respectful and elevated halo around the musicians up to such point we forget they’re also human beings, and have feelings. But I think if approaching the artist in the right way, not bothering nor interrupting or being impatient, and with politeness, is not a bad thing, but the opposite. Musicians appreciate receiving a feedback on their work, not only in terms of charts and record sales, but also in a more personal and emotional field, and probably this side of the recognition is still the most rewarding.  At least I will keep on doing it the same way. Wish I was able to make an emotional impact on people the way that some have made and still are making on me up to day.

krusen toi

 

The first time I listened to Black Sabbath

What a shitty week, ugh! Since my last post I’ve been embraced by a huge attack of flu which has finished off all my energy, forcing me to spend the week sleeping and vegetating basically, not being able to focus nor getting concentrated for long periods of time on reading, listening to music or watching TV. Really I haven’t been so fucked up in years. As if I’ve wasted my life and time this week, being non productive at all. Moreover because this fuckin’ virus was so tough and contagious, you can imagine I haven’t seen anyone these days. All the time on my fuckin’ own. What a horrible penitence. I NEED BEER ASAP!

Seems that I’m feeling better today, Friday 13th (UUUH), and leaving aside the birthday of a legend, Jason Voorhees, there’s something more relevant to celebrate: the 45th anniversary of the debut album of Black Sabbath.

black sabbath vinyl

Just few months ago I recovered this album to talk about the bells in rock, remembering the intro of ‘Black Sabbath’, with the storm and the bells, as one of the most sinister and overwhelming record openings in the history of rock/metal. Those bells make me think of the end of the hippie era, together with Vietnam (Nixon era) and the Manson family crimes. As if all related, all these facts created the portrait of a dark future ahead.

45 years after its release, this album is still mindblowing, with the same intensity as back in the day. I cannot recall of those days, but at least I have fresh in my memory the first time I listened to this album, followed by Paranoid, 20 ½ years ago.

I remember the year and the month, end of June 1994. Any given summer night, sitting in the copilot seat of my boyfriend’s car, actually his parents’, parked anywhere. You could go to a park or wherever, but the car has the stereo and we could listen to tapes. He asked me if I had ever listened to Black Sabbath, and I felt very ashamed when admitting I hadn’t yet, even though I knew it was one of these classic 70’s band I HAD TO listen. You know how things work when you are a teenager. It’s a constant struggle trying to show the world you know things, you’re an adult already, and you’re worthy of respect.  Thus, at this point someone asks you about a band or something you don’t really know, you can cheat assuring you know, putting your status into risk, or you can admit you don’t know, swallowing the shame and trying to recover your status the soonest. I chose the second option, as I knew he could catch me in a lie, especially related to music, very easily.

So more or less, the conversation was as follows:

-Hey Toi! Which band you prefer, Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath? (this is the equivalent question to “are you studying or working?”, huh?)

-Eeeer! I love Led Zeppelin, but I can’t really say about Black Sabbath. Never got the chance to listen to them, and I don’t know anyone who can tape me any stuff. (shit! I’ve fucked it up!)

-Oh, wow! So you haven’t ever listened to BLACK SABBATH!!! (Dude, don’t stare at me as if I was a fuckin’ freak)

-No, man, I haven’t yet. (Toi sinking in shame. SHEEEEEIT!)

-You want to listen to them RIGHT NOW? I got a tape here!

-I’d love to if you feel like, sure. (feeling better?)

- I really feel VERY JEALOUS OF YOU RIGHT NOW. You’re about to listen to BLACK SABBATH!!! for the first time in your life! That is AWESOME!

-Yeah, man. Seem so. (Uuuf! He’s not gonna dump me…yet! Great!)

 

After searching for a tape, the moment of truth arrived. Not only I was to discover Black Sabbath, but also at the same time I was being tested by a guy I liked a lot, and I couldn’t disappoint him. Not that I had to be a yes girl saying the band was absolutely incredible, and blahblahblah, which in some way I had to pretend in case I didn’t like the tape, but the real trick was managing to sound convincing.

The tape started rolling, but no music sounded. He told me to “wait”, so I was staring at nothing focusing all my senses to something it was about to start. And then rain pouring, thunder, a church bell tolling coming closer, to introduce the scariest and most wicked intro I’ve ever listened  to up to date. Fuuuuuck! What the hell was THAT? First lines of the lyrics could perfectly define what I was thinking at that very moment “What is this that stands before me / figure in black which points at me”. Holy shit! I had listened to Megadeth, Iron Maiden or Slayer, but that, that was a way on top different league. Guitar riffs were terrific and threatening, drums and bass super heavy, Ozzy’s voice was that of an evil wizard…I was overwhelmed.

At some point I realized I wasn’t alone inside that car and tried to pull myself together, noticing I had been observed all those 6minutes and something, so when I lifted my head and turn my face to the left to him, my mouth was open in amazement, half smiling, and the only word I could articulate was, of course “FUCK!”. No need to say I passed the test, and brought the cassette home to copy it, with Paranoid on the other side, and a couple of songs of Masters of Reality.

sabbath 1970

This old story works for explaining what this album means to me at all levels. It’s not my favorite Black Sabbath album even though I’d include it in a top 5 list of the band, however I reckon it’s one of the most influential records in my life. I’m not a musician, so I won’t tell you stories about how much it inspired me to write lyrics, and I don’t consider myself a metalhead either, being this album probably the milestone of heavy metal. But listening to those 7 songs, one after the other, ‘The Wizard’, ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’ (oh man, the drum break at the end, I could listen to it nostop for hours!), ‘N.I.B’, ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Sleeping Village’ and ‘Warning’ blew my mind completely, and opened the gates to another musical dimension, heavier, darker and more powerful, and the word riff came to my life to stay for good. How awesome is that, huh?

45 years since Black Sabbath shocked world, and 20 ½ years since it overwhelmed me, and I reckon there will be lots of other teenagers who will hear this album for the first time in their lives and will get crazy about it in the same way I did, because the power of this masterpiece remains intact, thanks to the timeless magic it was created with.

Satan bless Black Sabbath!

RockZone 10th anniversary party

aniversario

The 10th anniversary of Rockzone Magazine started with a party held at Rocksound last Thursday. Last year I also played some music when celebrating the #100 issue, which also meant the change to digital and free publishing, which has been a huge success, thus it was a huge pleasure to be invited to share stage dj’n with Turbolovers DJs and Danko Jones.

Lots of friends, collaborators, familiar faces and other remarkable personalities in the rock and press scene came to celebrate these 10 years of existence of the magazine, which, considering the difficult times press is going through lately, especially since the internet era, is a great achievement. My contribution to the mag hasn’t been for too long time, but I’m thrilled for being part of it, and I really hope it lasts, and I can improve my input.

rockzone team

It’s hard to open for a party, but I tried my best to get people warmed up for Danko Jones’ session anyway. I took record of all my first session, but when I joined the Turbolovers DJs there was too much fun and booze, so this time the playlist is a bit short, but believe me, it got wild in the end.

Congratulations to Jordi and Richard for their amazing work!

Black Hole

Comics. What wonderful universe I’m so ignorant about!

I’ve always loved this way of telling stories making such a visual impact, however I’ve never been a great follower nor expert. Used to buy a magazine when I was 8 one of these  weekly girly magazines named Jana, following all the stories, but I found really frustrating to spend most of the time waiting for the next issue while it was taking me so few to devour it, so I wasn’t good at collecting at all. Never been a good collector at anything, to be honest, so after that I was buying spare issues of comics just for fun, and Spiderman and Batman stories.

I consume volumes. Not that I buy many, but I’ve been getting acquainted with great works such as The Killing Joke, From Hell, Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns or Sin City, The Preacher recently, and the last weird discovery, thanks to my friend Mich, Charles Burns’ Black Hole.

black hole

I got so hooked I read it in just a couple of nights. Sick, twisted and totally uncomfortable. It’s so weird it’s really difficult to define what Black Hole is, and I reckon a second read is absolutely necessary, to get more meaning. For this reason I immediately related it to any of the early Cronenberg’s films. They were so shocking I had to watch them several times to really enjoy them. In this sense Black Hole could be equal to Videodrome. You feel irresistibly attracted to it at first, but you don’t really know what’s going on nor why, and have to dig deeper and deeper to make sense.

The plot is set in Seattle, in the 1970s. it mainly deals with a couple of teenage characters, Keith and Chris, who barely know each other from highschool but they somehow empathize. There’s a bug, a sexual transmitted disease which causes mutations among youngsters even though the origin is not explained. Some of them suffer really awful mutations which immediately turn them into outcasts, and they tend to isolate from society, in order to avoid rejection, torture and punishment, and some others manage to deal with it. Chris, the girl, gets infected when hanging out with Rob Fancincani, due to a misunderstanding, and from that moment she feels compelled to get away. Keith gets hooked with Eliza, who’s grown up a tail, but, unlike Chris, he can handle the situation in a better way. And then, there’s Dave, who’s a total freak, in love with Chris, whose actions will make a huge impact on these people.

keith chris

There are lots of drugs and sex, both subjects I find totally appealing, there are lots of interesting music references, and plenty of dreamy stuff. The imagery is absolutely great, even though I was so stuck to the story man things passed by without me noticing them. Visually it’s overwhelming, with this thick and heavy black ink, which makes the cartoons so powerful.

All the constant references to this spreading decease made me think of AIDS. First, for being sexually transmitted, and also because of all this social barrier created around. I remember the first days of AIDS, when it was officially recognized, and we all felt threatened (well, perhaps not me, I was a little girl after all), not so sure of the ways to be infected, and even though we were all told to be close and supportive to the people suffering from it, how society was giving its back to the illness. I also remember the first time I heard some acquaintance who had passed away was infected, and this panic around me increasing, with thousands of questions involved. “Was I to close to him?” “why didn’t he tell us?” Have I been too exposed?”, “What if anyone knows I am friend f this person?”It was really awkward, and scary, and I remember it freshly.

eliza

It also made me think of Larry Clark’s Kids movie, which also dealt with a crazy and out of control teenage society, and AIDS, and the way youngsters were jeopardizing their lives for the sake of having a sexual encounter, without pounding the consequences. All very fucked up.

Again, what is Black Hole? Is it the story of mutants, a portrait of a disease, the troubles of a teenager to fit or to get away, the reflection of social confusion, or just a weird and heavy acid trip?

Perhaps I didn’t understand anything or different readings can be pulled out of it, but the only thing I’m sure of is that Black Hole is perturbing and fascinating all the same.

Album of week 4: …And Out Come the Wolves

This week’s been a rough one. Plus it’s been the first one I’ve worked full, and after a terrific weekend in Bibao, it’s been like a punishment. Emotionally weird too.

rancid

To face such low mood I needed some upper and recovering …And Out Come the Wolves has been the perfect choice. And it’s been thanks to my friend Jon who gave me one of his 3 original copies last Saturday. I had lost it during my “divorce” and I had completely forgotten about this masterpiece.

Never been a huge fan of Rancid but I’ve always liked them, and relate them to very good times thanks to a couple of shows I attended at Festimad festival in 1996 introducing this album, and then in 2012. Both of them equally funny and crazy. Rad shows!

When …And Out Come the Wolves Rancid turned our world upside down. It’s impossible to imagine such impact of a punk rock band on teenagers nowadays, but the 1990s were something different, and their style fitted in the bosses interests. Most of us were digging Seattle bands, darker, deeper and inward, but at the same time there was still some room for consuming explosive bands, without being related to any proper scene or style. Thus we had RATM, Biohazard and Body Count, and then we had Greenday and Rancid, which were totally punk orientated, to name few examples. I always preferred Rancid. Hey were wild and nasty, and I used to love dancing with them.

The Festimad show was insane. It was open air, at the main stage, and all I could see was people dancing around, pouring beer on people (yep, I got myself my first proper beer shower), singing and yelling, and overall having a great time. So was I. And then I felt hungry and thought it was the perfect time to have an omelet sandwich. Not very intelligent, I know. At some point of the show I thought my arm had shrunk because I couldn’t give a bite to the sandwich, and the reason was that there were two guys whose arms were woven to mine. Oh, man! I couldn’t stop laughing! And of course I couldn’t finish it because it ended up smashed. What a laugh!

Rancid 1995

…And Out Come the Wolves is a perfect record, a fuckin’ timeless masterpiece. One hit after another. It’s impossible to choose a favorite: ‘Ruby Soho’, ‘Time Bomb’, ‘Lock, Step & Gone’, ‘Roots Radical’ ‘She’s Automatic’, ‘Junkie Man’…These songs are anthems. It’s one of those albums you cannot listen motionless. You end up dancing or headbanging, but you never stop. Good vibes and energy are absolutely contagious.  And that’s exactly what I was looking for this week.

Recently a new Rancid album, named Honor Is All We Know, has been released, and it’s not as great as their third one, but still keeps the essence and the vibe, which is great news, because that means they’re still in shape for more writing, and most important, more touring. If they can play as they did a couple of years ago, that will mean to get another beer shower, sweat like a pig, and leave my guts on the pit, because as much as possible, I’ll be attending their shows without hesitation.

Good things come for those who wait.

I recover this sentence a good pal told me long time ago because it fits perfect.

Oh, yeah! I’ve been waiting patiently and eventually I’ve got my reward. L7 have been confirmed to be part of the lineup for Azkena Rock Festival in June and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this news.

L7 girls

I told you a couple of years the band not only was starting reactivating their Facebook account but also that that they were compiling stuff from fans in order to work on a documentary. I was pretty excited dreaming on a comeback which was never announced.

Less than a couple of months ago L7 created their own army to push promoters to hire them for this possible comeback. Are they doing it for the money? Fuck! I don’t care! First and last time I saw them was in 1999 and I remember their show was awesome. I need more!

Immediately I started thinking of the possibility of L7 playing at Azkena Rock Festival, which has managed to reunite several bands in the past, but at first I thought it was too soon for them to arrange everything. Dreaming awake is a tempting activity I practice much too often though and this time it was not an exception, so I started dealing with the possibility of seeing them alive at this festival. At the end of the day I had nothing to lose.

Therefore you can imagine the rush when I heard this morning their presence was confirmed at the festival. Oh shit! It’s been awesome! My day was basically a piece of chunk but as soon as I’ve read this I’ve started yelling “YES, YES, YES!” at the office and all my colleagues have started laughing because they knew it was a confirmation of a band I love for the festival, no matter they don’t know who the fuck L7 are.

6 months of wait start from now. This is the kind of motivation I need to keep on moving. Hell yeah!

Will I see you in Mendizabala?

Six degrees of separation. Today: Elvis and Toi.

Kind of frustrated because I didn’t post anything related to Elvis’ birthday on Thursday. I still paid my tribute watching the great documentary Elvis: That’s the way it is, which I strongly recommend you, including lots of footage of the rehearsals previous to Vegas residency in 1970, and the actual shows, which were awesome.

I know it’s a bit late but I want to talk to you about Elvis, Toi and the Six degrees of separation theory anyway, and that’s what I’m gonna do right now.

Back in 1929 there was this Hungarian writer, Frigyes Karinthy who wrote a book of short stories titled ‘Everything is Different’. In one of these, he was telling about how the world was shrinking so to speak, as the human being was moving, emigrating, and establishing more connections and ties to other people than we used to do in the past. Somehow he was anticipating something which is completely fashionable nowadays, which are the social networks. But it wouldn’t be until 1967, when the researcher Stanley Milgram published the compilation of experiments related to the extension of social networks under a theory named “The Small World problem” through The Psychology Today, when it was demonstrated that the world was becoming increasingly connected. At some point in the 2000s, the concept of “Six Degrees of Separation” was born, to explain you’d be related to anyone in no more than six connections.

Well, this is a vague summary of what the unproven theory is about, but I guess you already knew about it.

I’m not sure if it would apply to deceased people, but in this case I like to think is valid too, especially considering Elvis and me coexisted on earth for less than 11 months.

So here is the thing.

Elvis, the king of rock n’ roll, who only left the States for the military service in Germany and few shows in Canada, and Toi, an average(a bit freak too) girl from Zaragoza, Spain, have only two degrees of separation.

How can it be possible?

Ha! A couple of years ago I discovered this picture by chance: Elvis and Torrebruno.

torrebruno and elvis

Many of you are wondering now how the fuck was Torrebruno. Rocco Walter Torrebruno was a little Italian showman, who settled in Spain, doing comedy, singing, working as hosts in many TV programs, and during a long period of time, he used to work for a circus and oriented his career as a child’s entertainer.

Apparently the picture was taken in Paris in 1959, at the Moulin Rouge, when Elvis went to salute the singer Nina Holloway, to her dressing-room, after a show, and Torrebruno happened to be there with his guitar.

I met Torrebruno in 1981 when he took me to stage to sing his hit “Rocky Carambola”, who was actually a chimpanzee. Si I sang with him and this little man gave me the single as a present.

toi carambola

Thus, I met Torrebruno, who had met the King 22 years earlier. Only 2 degrees, friends. So now I’ve just proved myself that the world is ridiculously small. How cool is that?