Into Another, Mike Dillon Band, Mike Westcott
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Forget whatever you thought about Clutch. Earth Rocker crumples up the bad categories that have miscast them for years — stoner rock, post-hardcore, metal, grunge — and leaves no question about what they are: a damn good rock and roll band.
Earth Rocker is a solid, straight-up rock and roll album, exactly what the band had in mind for their tenth studio album, now that their Weathermaker Records label is fully up and running. “It might be the best Clutch album that has ever existed,” says guitarist Tim Sult.
It's a concise, efficient album. That was the point, says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “We really tried to reign in the jam aspect of the band. We like to improvise a lot, but this album, we really wanted stuff mapped out. We wanted to go into the studio fully armed to make a really powerful record.”
“I'm excited about its succinctness, and how balls-to-the-wall it is,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “The length of an LP is optimal for enjoying a body of new music, approximately 40-45 minutes. There's something to be said about Side A and Side B. It's more cinematic, and that was the approach.”
The album began taking shape when Clutch toured with Mötorhead, then Thin Lizzy. Revisiting those two favorite bands, they were able to apply their own experience as musicians to better understand the dynamics of their heroes. “The songwriting process happened around the time of those tours, so that really sank into our writing,” Sult recalls. “Maybe people expected us to go more acoustic or bluesy, but this album definitely showcases a riffs-in-your-face kind of style.
These songs ended up being faster and a bit more rocking.”
“Overall, we wanted the album to pick up the pace a little bit,” bassist Dan Maines explains. “Songs developing at a faster tempo led to a very straightforward songwriting approach.”
That songwriting simplicity is also indirectly a result of the Basket Of Eggs EP issued two years ago with the Weathermaker re-release of Blast Tyrant. “That acoustic stuff represents a new style of writing for us,” Maines says. “It kind of forces you to strip down what you're playing. We had almost two years to spend on the writing process, and we had a lot of ideas. Having two years allowed us to trim the fat.”
Clutch are passionate students of rock and roll, and music in general. Gaster's love of a good shuffle brought that rhythmic approach to nearly half the album. Professor Longhair's “Bald Head” — notably the loping style of Earl Palmer's swinging eight notes — was a direct influence on Earth Rocker. So was Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey, also a shuffle monster.
“When you hear a light shuffle, or the brushwork on 'Gone Cold,' at first it can be a head-scratcher,” says Fallon. “But when you join in, you will be taken to a place you wouldn't have gone by yourself.”
Fallon's reputation as a clever lyricist will likely grow once people hear Earth Rocker. His approach is similar to writing fiction. “You've got to do it convincingly. There's a bit of theater to it, in a way. The four minutes a song is being recorded or performed, I can convince myself that I'm an expert on whatever subject I'm singing about, even if I don't know exactly what it is.”
“There are some tips of the hat to rock and roll history in the lyrics that I enjoy singing because they reference the album in a bigger picture. 'Rocket 88' is considered the first rock and roll song that used distortion. That lyrical reference on 'Crucial Velocity' kind of fuels Earth Rocker as a whole with that back story. It's American myth, even though it really happened.”
Not everything on Earth Rocker is strictly vintage rock and roll. Maines made sure his love of the aggression and minimalism of Bad Brains and Fugazi was applied to these tracks. “The simpler the better, and I really tried to keep it streamlined and a little more focused. Whatever came to mind first was pretty much what I stuck with throughout the whole recording process. I didn't feel the need to try to overcomplicate the parts.”
The influence of their favorite bands might have inspired Earth Rocker, but continuous growth as players also affected the album. “You wouldn't have a song like 'Earth Rocker' five years ago,” Gaster insists. “We've continued to grow on our instruments, finding our own voices. Hopefully, you hear that on the new songs.”
Behind the scenes, Earth Rocker is also a result of an inordinate amount of preparation for Clutch. The album was entirely plotted out before recording even started at The Machine Shop in Belleville, NJ, with veteran producer Machine. “In the past, we would go into the studio and write,” says Fallon. “That never worked out to anyone's satisfaction. It was really important to do a lot of pre-production, knowing exactly what we would be doing when we went into the studio. It was crucial that we did all that prior to hitting record.”
“It was so mapped out that we weren't even in the studio together. You had to take a lot on faith. But once you know a part inside and out, you can move on to worrying about performance. If you're trying to remember it, then you're not playing from the heart — you're playing from the brain. That always sounds stale on playback.”
The Earth Rocker sessions were largely based on faith for Sult, a guitarist more attuned to riffs than solos. “I would have never expected to be playing as many solos,” he says. “On this album, they definitely had more of a direction than they usually do. It definitely took a lot more concentration, but I walked away from this album liking them more than I have on any other album.”
“I just decided to trust the producer this time and not try to second guess too much. Having Machine there really helped. He's very opinionated on what it should be, as far as performance goes. He definitely pushed us in a direction we normally wouldn't go.”
It was Machine's idea to replicate the flow of their live set with the running order of Earth Rocker. “He kind of made a set list of songs we do live at festivals,” Fallon explains. “He wanted to reproduce that energy in an album. He pointed things out to us, bringing us back to listening to ourselves as a fan would, to make an album that could be played beginning to end at a show, and everyone would dig it.”
“There's a certain energy to our shows that we've had difficulty capturing on tape,” Maines admits. “I think this record comes closer to really capturing that energy of Clutch live. It's a very balanced album. There's no B-side material. It's an album of A-sides. That sounds pretty bold and confident, but that's the way we feel about Earth Rocker.”
“Hauntingly ethereal melodies, intricate but memorable hooks, dynamic moods, crunchy riffs and the banshee wail of a metaphor-master lead singer collide within the groundbreaking and steadfastly unique outfit known as INTO ANOTHER, whose skilled musicianship and genre-bending musical wizardry knows no boundaries.
Almost disturbingly defiant of categorization, Into Another’s catalog dabbles in hard rock, alt-rock, grunge, electro-pop and post-hardcore without sounding disjointed or disorganized. Into Another fashioned a sound distinctly their own with one foot deeply planted in the community of friends that comprises the New York Hardcore scene and the other fishing through the creek of Classic Rock.
Across a handful of albums on Revelation Records and a solitary major label outing, the world of subculture came to know Into Another as an intriguingly soulful artistic vehicle capable of transporting listeners through adventurous soundscapes and the band’s nuanced, other-worldly approach to guitar-based rock & roll.
Into Another came together in 1990. Richie Birkenhead, one-time guitar player for seminal straightedge flag bearers Youth of Today and vocalist for the reggae-tinged hardcore band Underdog hooked up with drummer Drew Thomas, himself a veteran of old-school youth crew bands Crippled Youth and Bold. Both men shared a desire to abandon the restrictive musical and cosmetic limitations of the scene without sacrificing its sense of community or spirit.
The pair found exactly what they were looking for in Lower East Side musician Peter Moses, a longhaired guitar player who had never performed in a band before. His virtuosic and uninhibited playing style greatly impressed Thomas and Birkenhead, who next recruited incredibly fluid bassist Tony Bono. Bono had done a tour of duty in proto-speed metal act Whiplash, who once lent a member to Slayer.
Into Another performed their first show at New York’s Pyramid, sharing the stage with a budding White Zombie. They were soon after offered a recording contract by Revelation. The following year, they released their debut, a self-titled album displaying Into Another’s sharp musical chops and tripped-out spiritual vision, encapsulated by the band’s multi-pointed star logo which adorned the album’s cover artwork. “Underlord” quickly became a fan favorite. Birkenhead brought zero macho pretension with him from punk as he began to document his troubled childhood on record.
In 1992, Into Another released the playfully titled Creepy Eepy – four songs that reflected their increasing range. One of them was a mournful ballad for a fallen friend laced with beautiful acoustic guitars and heart wrenchingly honest and poetic lyrical prose.
Into Another grew in popularity as the press, fans and major labels took an interest in this odd band comprised of a shorthaired hardcore singer with a high-pitched range, a mod-looking drummer and two longhaired guys in bell-bottom pants. 1994 saw the release of what many consider to be their masterstroke – the epic Ignaurus album, filled to the brim with spectacular songs that venture into deep, dark, and progressive rock territory while still being firmly anchored in melody, groove, and abrasive angst. This album catapulted Into Another into the ranks of much-heralded “buzz” bands. Many proclaimed them to be the proverbial “next big thing” to arise out of the hardcore scene alongside one-time label mates Quicksand, Orange 9mm and Civ – all of whom had gone on to sign major label deals and tour the world with bands like No Doubt.
Into Another signed a major label deal of their own in 1995 with the Disney-owned label Hollywood Records, at the time best known for releasing the gargantuan alt-rock filled soundtrack to “The Crow.” The mix of vegetarians and vegans gave an EP to Revelation, which included the track “Herbivore” (some proceeds went to PeTA).
Into Another entered Seattle’s London Bridge Studios with Rick Parashar, who had produced Pearl Jam’s cultural mile marker, Ten, as well as the Temple of the Dog album and Alice In Chain’s Sap EP. The band emerged with Seemless, which reigned in some of their excesses in favor of shorter compositions and straightforward lyrics without sacrificing Into Another’s well-established musical identity.
The band set off on tour with groups like L7 and Seaweed. The video for “Mutate Me” received some airplay and “T.A.I.L.,” which spawned an EP of the same name, was a Top 40 rock radio track.
Even as Into Another’s relationship with Hollywood (and with one another) began to unravel, they managed to record another album’s worth of material: meditative, trippy songs steeped in electronica and drenched in effects that strayed far away from the band’s barn-storming guitar rock. The record was never released and the band parted ways with their record label and eventually with one another.
During the decade-and-a-half that followed, Thomas enjoyed a short stint with the band New Rising Sons (together with the singer / guitarist from Texas Is The Reason) whose studio work for Virgin Records never quite materialized in the shape of a finished album. He later played with Walking Concert. Birkenhead reformed Underdog for a series of reunion shows, occasionally playing solo.
Any hope of a reunion seemed to disappear with the tragic death of Tony Bono in 2002. The remaining members drifted further apart as the years rolled on. Peter vanished into rural upstate New York, withholding his otherworldly gift from the world’s ears.
Then, in 2012, as plans came together for a series of shows to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Revelation Records, one of the guys from a later generation of Rev bands reached out. Longtime Into Another fan and supporter Brian Balchack (Ignite) and his good friend Reid Black (Innaway) videotaped themselves playing guitar and bass on several Into Another songs, which inspired Richie and Drew to get back onstage for the Rev shows. Once Peter got wind of the developing plans he was happy to come onboard, as well.
Now a quintet united by the alchemy of the past and the chemistry of the present, Into Another’s eleven-pointed star rises again.
- Ryan J. Downey
Mike Dillon Band
Mike Dillon (b. 1965, American) is one of the most dynamic and multifaceted percussionists in the country, best known for his unforgettable live performances, unorthodox percussion rig and distinct original sound. After emerging in late 1980’s as the first to lead a rock/funk band as a vocalist and vibraphone player, contributing to its evolution by his use of effects, Dillon has become well-known for producing genre-bending music that transcends categorization. Over the last 27 years, his creative song-writing and the repertoire of artists he has worked with - - on tour, stage or in the studio - - reveal his eclectic musical inspiration and skillful versatility. Artists such as: Les Claypool, Ani DiFranco, Polyphonic Spree, Brave Combo, Sex Mob, Galactic, Secret Chief’s 3, Karl Denson, Steven Bernstein, Charlie Hunter, James Singleton, George Porter Jr., Johnny Vidocavich and Bob Schneider. His individual projects include: Critter’s Buggin’, Garage A Trois, Billy Goat, Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle, Hairy Apes BMX, Malachy Papers, the Dead Kenny G’s, who regularly open for Primus, and his latest, The Mike Dillon Band.
As a touring musician and prolific song-writer, Mike Dillon has continuously pushed his distinct sound in new and inventive directions. On stage, Dillon is a powerful force, with boundless energy that hails a punk rock/hardcore edge and the seamless ability to play multiple percussive instruments at once. For nearly three decades, fans have been draw to Dillon’s organic style, creative musicianship and the way his music never fails to stir the crowd into a big dance party from start to finish. After taking a brief hiatus from solo projects, Dillon is back at the helm with his latest quartet, The Mike Dillon Band, which delivers a cache of his new songs, infuses fresh life into his classics, and features Mike Dillon (vibraphone, percussion, lead vocals), Adam Gertner (drums), Patrick McDevitt (bass), and Carly Meyers (trombone, vocals), whose raw talent, enthusiasm and infectious dance moves have created quite a stir among music goers in the past year.
Mike's childhood, adolescence and young adulthood was spent entirely on a backdrop of music in Rockville, MD. The child of working musician parents, his muse and voice began with their passion for music. He spent countless hours spinning 45s and LPs from his parents record collection; listening to Rock, Soul, Country and Jazz and everything in between. Filled with music, he began collecting skills like bottlecaps; playing drums, piano, saxophone, bass and guitar, performing in jazz band, marching band, concert band, and orchestra simultaneously. His mother continued to encourage him and see that he had the instruments he needed to keep progressing, but it was the guitar that stole his heart with it's dynamic and expressive voice; from soft and sweet to nasty and raw. Thoroughly steeped in the sounds of the 60's & 70's guitar royalty, Mike learned to spin great guitar chops into fresh, solidly written songs.
His new 2012 CD release "Justice Road" will be going out to press this winter as the band's performance schedule continues to ramp up. The songs on "Justice Road" are, for the most part, deeply personal and confessional, coming to terms with major disappointments experienced in the first half of his life. Mike's voice is rough and golden, ageless and vulnerable. His guitar playing is wonderfully dynamic and truly expressive; forging troughs of anger and resentment and then lifting sweetly, soulfully and tenderly. Both are the perfect vehicle to carry the emotional weight of "Justice Road".
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