Hair Today?ro;”the Metal Revival

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:19

    So why's he going on about metal like it's salvation? Sheer disgust with indie rock and so-called alternative music, he says. "The whole snooty indie-rock Matador Records thing is so 90s. We have to move on."

    Lashing out at what he calls "rock critic-driven music," he points out, "People try to get into it and convince themselves that it's good, but usually they only convince themselves that it's 'cool.'" His favorite example is Sonic Youth?Seconds has been trashing them since the mag was founded in 1986. "I would bet that most people think they're cool. I don't think anybody really loves them. In fact, I dare anybody to name three Sonic Youth songs."

    Over the years, Blush's continued barbs have obviously gotten under the revered hipsters' skins, and what started out as esthetic dislike has turned personal on both sides?to the extent that Lee Ranaldo pointedly deserted a long movie line rather than have to stand in front of the Seconds publisher. Blush says he later repaid the compliment when he spied Thurston Moore in a subway car full of adolescent girls and called out, "Look over there, it's Beck!"

    Blush says that despite such hijinks he actually harbors some sympathy for aging art-rockers whose time has come and gone. "It's easy to rag bag on dinosaurs. I am not really trying to do that, because that's what happened to heavy metal, too. By the time Nirvana came around, metal should have died. It was an old dinosaur and it had to go."

    So why bring it back?

    "You know that line at the end of Spinal Tap, 'Have a good time, all the time'? I feel that is the essence of rock. Everything got way too serious with the alternative-rock smug collegiate scenesters. So I think maybe this stupid fucking music and the people who got laughed out of the music business when Nirvana came around weren't so bad after all. They were partying. At least everybody was getting laid. Just look at those geeky indie-rock guys?you know not a hell of a lot of that's going on."

    Despite his respect for sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll, Blush does confess that it has distinct esthetic limitations, and it's not like he was the world's biggest Warrant fan back in 1986. If anything, his use of glib hyperbole is the result of a guilty conscience. "Way back in the mid-80s, when I came out of hardcore, I wanted to see it fuse with hiphop and have angry and aggressive music come to the fore. But by the time the stuff hit, I didn't want to have anything to do with it. And now that we've gone through all that with the Korns and Limp Bizkits, it's my worst nightmare."

    Blush's fervor for the old-time rock religion, which continues to keep many a rehab in the black today, also probably dates back to those early days in the mosh pit. He has nothing but contempt for second-generation hardcore like Youth of Today, or straight-edge with its dogmatic emphasis on sobriety and celibacy.

    "That's when I got into Slayer, early Metallica and Armored Saint," Blush recalls. "To me, they had the essential vibe that was being cast forth from hardcore, and that became the dividing line?you either went into indie rock or metal. Metal was probably the wrong career move, but I stand by my decision. Maybe some day I will be justified."

    Unlike most of his peers, who'd be content to write revisionist histories from the editor's chair, Blush is taking a more active role in undermining the present cultural order. These days he's booking a weekly spectacle, every Wednesday, at Don Hill's that he has dubbed "Röck Candy." It features the types of bands he hopes will administer that much-needed high colonic to the music industry. Clearly no act that features toys or kittens in its CD art need apply. Like all great historical movements, "Röck Candy" began as something of a goof, when Blush decided to throw a party to help promote Monster Ballads (Razor and Tie), a compilation of bands like Poison and Whitesnake that's advertised on late-night television and directed at a demographic too baked to get up and turn off the set. "Razor and Tie were floored because they couldn't believe that anybody would call them about that record." He personally spun records at the event and, in keeping with the spirit of the product he was promoting, booked the Unband to play acoustic covers of power ballads. Blush estimates that the show, held at Swim last June, attracted 300 people, including Don Hill.

    Hill, who's obviously privy to the same character deformations that bedevil Blush, was inspired by what he saw and requested that Blush begin booking similar events at his venue. It was not the first time the pair had worked together. In the mid 80s Blush had booked shows for Hill when he ran the Cat Club. (Blush lost that privilege when he brought in GG Allin for an evening of entertainment and Allin proceeded, not unexpectedly, to foul the room and audience with his excrement.)

    "Röck Candy" has been a weekly fixture at Hill's club since August. After a slow start it has been picking up, with appearances by the ubiquitous Unband, Bebe Buell, the Trash Brats and Jeff Dahl. What do the crossdressing, punky Trash Brats or garage-rocking Dahl have to do with heavy metal? Blush explains, "At a certain point you have to redefine everything. The new metal has the punk and hardcore influence. It is modern primitive, not about bullet belts. People can call it whatever they want. I call it the pulse beat of rock 'n' roll."

    Even with these broad parameters, he says he's been having a difficult time finding bands that touch that visceral mainline. "Rock 'n' roll is so underground now," he laments. "There are a lot of bands you can point to in individual spots, but as a cohesive scene it's hard to find, especially for the poodlehead stuff. Right now I have been booking what I consider pretty credible rock shows, but I would like it to be more over the top. I really would like to be finding the next Warrants and Poisons."

    Deep underground or not, the bands do exist. Stoner rock inspired by the likes of Kyuss and Monster Magnet is gathering into a coherent scene behind Fu Manchu, Queens of the Stone Age, Atomic Bitchwax and Nebula, to name a few. Blush also mentions Baltimore's Spirit Caravan, L.A.'s Goatsnake and the Scandinavian Roachpowder. Small labels like Tee Pee, Man's Ruin and Music Cartel are releasing discs filled with power chords and psychedelia. It's a good time for any kid with antisocial personality disorder and an ear for heavy riffs to jump in.

    And young people seeking new sounds to accompany the bonghits aren't the only ones taking notice. Major labels are beginning to hedge their bets after the complete failure of electronica to become the next big thing. Who could fail to notice the success of Aerosmith clones like Buckcherry?

    "There was no huge push behind that band," Blush notes, yet "I have not heard people talk about a rock song more than 'Lit Up' in five years." He points to Slash's signing of Billionaire and Atlantic's picking up rock bands again, like the "awesome" New American Shame and even the surprisingly still-ambulatory Sebastian Bach, Queensrÿche and Judas Priest. And Columbia has the Portrait Records subsidiary, whose roster includes Great White and Ratt. Blush is particularly proud that "Röck Candy" will be hosting record release parties for Bach, the rerelease of the Twisted Sister catalog and Cinderella.

    Will this latest rock revival prove commercially viable? Not in the immediate future, Blush concedes. Instead, he predicts that we will have to endure years of bands that sound like the "abysmal" Orgy.

    "I take all this stuff with a smirk," he says. "But after listening to years of Jello Biafra act like Zach de la Rocha, please?give me Poison."

    Future shows will feature Honky Toast, Enuf z'Nuff, and The Upper Crust.