Filtering by Tag: The Grave Machine

My band Yellow #1's album "Thanks for the Nostalgia" turns 3

Waaaaay back in 1995, I started my first band, Yellow #1. We released one album in 1996 called Bottle of Rain. We played about three years worth of live shows all over New England; we even opened for Godsmack and had a song from the album ("Broken Eyes") played on Boston radio station WAAF. Oh, and a few music magazines reviewed the album. I approached the songwriting as a Mr. Bungle meets Nine Inch Nails. Then, in 1998, we played our last live show and broke up. I went on to front the bands Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose … never ever thinking Yellow #1 would ever see the light of day again.

Then, in 2014, while we were living in Japan (and Transpose had just come off its last tour), I decided it might be time to resurrect the band and see if we had another album of tunes in us after 19 years. Work on the second album began in 2014 with producer and hip-hop artist Darius Malloy (RedStryke). The difference from Bottle of Rain that I was most adamant about this album, was I did not want a single real instrument on the album. The first album, along with all the programming, synthesizers, and drum machines, still had live drums, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, harmonica, and tambourine. I knew I wanted this album to completely exist inside computer programs.

Darius worked with me on four songs, supplying beats and bass lines. I got to work on the other songs and filled in the gaps of what he left for me on his songs. In 2015, I had twelve songs completely written for the new album. All I had left was to write the lyrics.

Bottle of Rain had been built lyrically from the strife and angst of Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Quicksand. I was 20 years older and didn't quite carry the same frustrations with life or my inner demons anymore. BUT, I knew in order to assign the Yellow #1 moniker to the album, it still needed to FEEL like a Yellow #1 album. This was the first album of ANY of my bands' albums (this is the 7th album I have released throughout my 4 bands) where the lyrics were less introspective and more worldly. I put my own personal journal in the backseat and focused more on universal topics that still create a rise in me. I also hadn't written lyrics for an album since 2011, when Transpose had released our second album, Retribution, so there was some rust to shake off.

I entered the recording studio in Jacksonville, NC in June, 2016 and spent 6 weeks recording the 12 songs' vocals. In typical Yellow #1 style, we used a multitude of vocoders and layers of vocal effects to help make my voice sound different in every song. Just like we had done 20 years ago on Bottle of Rain. It was like wearing an old hat. All the old Yellow #1 atmosphere in the studio came back so effortlessly once I stepped into that vocal booth.

We named the album Thanks for the Nostalgia and used a beautiful picture of Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji, since the album was started there and the song "Kenritsudiagaku" is about what it was like to live in Japan as an American family. It was a very cathartic journey, making a second Yellow #1 album after two decades of silence. I can't even try to project when there might be a third Yellow #1 release, but I had so much fun making this album, I can promise it won't be another 20 years before there is new music from the Yellow #1 camp. 

The Grave Machine album turns 14 ...

*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003, we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three piece (something I had never done before). This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies and industrial / progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu,  Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit & The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.

I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had penned for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.

The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for ten weeks ... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt like an emotionless robot. Sure, I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.

That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album as a concept album, but the album takes the listener through a journey of those terrible ten weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics and vocal melodies that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style I had never written before. Both in Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus, all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "Because I hate you!" in one of the songs ... it literally meant, "Because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience without actually telling them about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.

After two years of writing, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded fourteen years ago this month, and even after more than a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified, so maybe, just maybe, The Grave Machine might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band and writing those songs and having that album as a part of my personal discography as a musician.

And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife ... so there's always that.

(My band) Drop Kick Jesus' "Depress the Heart" album turns 18

Eighteen years ago this month, my second band, Drop Kick Jesus, released our second album, Depress The Heart. Grammy Award Winning Producer Neil Kernon recorded it in Haverhill, MA, and then mixed it in Tornillo, TX. We moved into both studios during the recording, and it was one of the best times in my musical career.

I was in a weird place during the writing of this album. I was very angry at a lot of things: myself, religion, the state of the world … and I think of the 6 albums I have been the lyricist for throughout my life, this album is the #1 album that shows that level of anger and frustration through my lyrics toward things I couldn’t control. This is also the last album I wrote where the lyrics weren’t cryptic or in story form. The 4 albums I wrote after this (the Grave Machine album, the 2 Transpose albums, and the latest Yellow #1 album) all were conceptual and thematic. Depress the Heart was the last album where I was writing individual songs, and the words I chose were very specific about what I was angry about. No reading between the lines.

The album is harsh, aggressive, in-your-face, and even after 18 years, it still sounds current and relative. I’m glad I was the front man for a band and an album that seems to have stood the test of time. Too bad this was our last album before we broke up. I think if there wasn’t so much in-band fighting after we got off tour for this album, we could have written a 3rd and even better album.

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