Level Up: I Got a Motorcycle

Figured I’d revive the ol’ blog for the first time all year. Better be something good, yeah?

Well, it is.

Let’s talk.

We’ll go back to when I was but a wee lad. Dickerson street in the Model City. My dad had some kind of Suzuki motorcycle — a cruiser. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it was black and had a seat that was peeling apart. It stayed parked outside, uncovered, and he would often take me for rides on it. I was small enough to sit in front of him and lay my head down on the gas tank — it was THAT long ago.

He had a couple of cousins who each had Kawasaki Ninjas. I’d later learn these were crotch rockets and the muse of energy-drink-chugging, tribal-tatted bros who apparently enjoy being uncomfortable while operating a motor vehicle. While I’d later go on to hate these bikes, I thought they were the shit when I was a kid. Dad and I got to ride one of them in a parade in Hawkins County but I don’t remember why. I just remember it was early in the morning and our motorcycle was turquoise.

It wasn’t long after that my dad got rid of his bike and it was never spoken of again. I always thought they were cool but never had much interest in ever having one. When my dad and I had our falling out, my interest in motorcycles lessened even more — if he had one, I sure as hell didn’t want one. Ever.

As I got a little older, my opinion on the motorcycle didn’t change (yet) but my rule of “if dad did it, I’m not doing it” was broken because other things my dad did include:

  • Growing a beard
  • Wearing tanktops in public
  • Sometimes craving pinto-bean-and-mayo sandwiches

Bet you didn’t know that last part about me but it’s true.

Anyway, when I turned 30 it’s like some weird switch flipped in my mind and suddenly things changed. I yearned for a different lifestyle, a new look and, you guessed it, a motorcycle.

But being an adult is hard so saving up for a motorcycle wasn’t easy and I didn’t exactly have all the support in the world at home at the time.

Oh, boo-hoo.

Fast-forward to age 34. Life looks a lot different now, for better or worse. Things I wasn’t allowed to do for a long time — like owning a drumset or getting skull tattoos — are suddenly possible. So long as I had a plan and was responsible about it, anything was possible.

Fortunately for me, I like following through with plans and I’m a pretty responsible guy.

So on May 22, 2019, I registered for the New Rider Course at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. The course wasn’t scheduled until a month later but that would give me plenty of time to buy the necessary gear, research motorcycles and go ahead and stress myself out real well beforehand.

I want to take this time to give a big shoutout to the folks at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. I’ve been to several Harley shops around the southeast and most of the time I walk in, look around and walk out without anyone saying a word to me. Not so at Smoky Mountain. They proudly tout how they’re the #1 dealership in the world and they back it up 100% of the time. My main contact, Justin, was patient with me the first day I walked in and he talked to me about bikes, life and life on bikes while I tried out various sporters and Dynas. For 45 minutes he hung out with me, never once made me feel pressured to buy anything and never once made me feel like an idiot for being such a n00b.

When I told him I also wanted to look at gear for my class, he personally walked me over to the retail area, introduced me to one of the specialists who then stood by my side while I considered different jackets and tried on a variety of helmets. She hung out with me, assuring proper fit and reminding me of important things to consider when purchasing it. My custom-ordred helmet was delivered two days later and the dealership promptly alerted me that it was ready for pickup.

On June 24 I arrived at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson where I was introduced to eight other people who had registered for our class as well as our head instructor, Maggie. Our first night was spent going over some basics, getting to know each other, doing some paperwork, getting a tour of the dealership and beginning our reading assignments. Over the next two days we saddled up on some Harley Street 500s to learn the basics of clutching, gear-shifting, braking, turning and all the other stuff that seems damn-near impossible if you have zero experience on a motorcycle.

By the end of the third day most of us had passed the riding test and written test. I say most because while 10 people had signed up, only nine showed, only eight made it through the riding exercises, only seven passed the riding test. It was like a weird Willy Wonka situation only no one got sucked into a chocolate river (that I’m aware of).

The survivors posed in front of the big fireplace at the dealership, exhausted from riding eight hours in the blazing summer sun but full of pride that we were on our way to becoming licensed motorcycle riders.

It took four attempts and an equal number of weeks at the DMV to get my motorcycle endorsement. By the time I got the endorsement, had my ID updated and had the new “Real ID” star put on my license, I had a collection of personal identification that included everything I’ve ever owned to identify myself save for my college photo IDs, though I’m surprised they didn’t require one of those.

Now a licensed rider, I needed to get a ride. Back to Smoky Mountain Harley!

With a little guidance from some friends and my HD bro Justin, I settled on this little beauty:

She’s a 2013 Harley Davidson XL 1200X Forty-Eight and she’s sexy. as. hell.

Possible names include Rhonda, Teeth Grinder and Adrian.

Shoutout to my Viking Queen Cara for the photos and for driving me to the dealership to pick it up … and for riding behind me to make sure I didn’t die on the way home :-)

Expect more posts this year that are mostly related to this little lady as well as a damn-near 100% Instagram takeover.

[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 3: Top Tracks

It’s that time of year again where I spend three days going over my favorite music from the last 365 days. Just like the many music blogs I follow, you probably won’t agree with this list and also just like those sites I’m not really qualified to recommend anything to anyone … Just like last year, I’m breaking this down into three posts: 6 favorite new releases of 2018, 6 favorite NOT new releases I rocked hard in 2018 and 6 songs I killed my eardrums with — both new and old — in 2018. Because there were a few close calls, I’ve chosen to provide 6 honorable mentions as well.

All three sets are in no particular order.

This is Part 3/3

TOP 6 TRACKS, NEW AND OLD, OF 2018

Mutoid ManBridgeburner
Album: Bleeder — Released: 2015

Everyone has at least one band, one album, one song that has gotten them through a rough time in their life. I’m sure I’ve had several over the last 34 years but in recent memory, none is more important to my well being as Bridgeburner by Mutoid Man. This opening track to the band’s 2015 album Bleeder has everything you want in a good rock song: it’s easy to sing along to, the guitar parts are fast and furious, the bass tone is dirty as SHIT, the drums are pure madness, the outro is both fast AND heavy and the message the song conveys is one that a passionate guy such as myself can easily identify with.

Time to wash our hands of you; time for naivete is through // time to wash your hands of us; bring on the fuss!

It’s heavy like metal, it’s simple like punk and it’s emotional just like you and me.

Power TripExecutioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)
Album: Nightmare Logic — Released: 2017

I learned about Power Trip a year or two ago from my boss, of all people. It was around this time their album Nightmare Logic was released with its accompanying single Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe). 2017 must’ve been a good year for thrash because that was also the year Gods of Violence was released by Kreator and was one of the best new thrash releases I’d heard. Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) fits that mold as well.

The dual guitars of Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart chug-chug-chug along with a heaviness I haven’t heard since middle-aged Anthrax (their song London comes to mind) and mustached lead singer Riley Gale has a voice that’s as unique to the genre as his stage presence (Ice-T even dubbed him Lil Jumpy Mane referring to his high-energy performance). This is definitely a jam you want to crank if you about to go deadlift. Or hit a guy. Two things I’m always ready to do!

RunnyI Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump
Album: Back on Gack — Released: Unreleased

Okay, so this song isn’t truly an original. And it hasn’t been given a proper release. Doesn’t mean it’s not DOPE. While early punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and more recent punkers like Anti-Flag have given us angry punk rock with deep, meaningful lyrics, punk at its core is just fast, hard and simple (the Ramones proved this by having countless hits with merely five or fewer lines per song).

Enter Runny. With album titles like We’ve Come for Your Women (And Some of Your Men) and California Uber Phallus, Runny shows they’re well aware of punk rock’s often tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and with this track they show they know how effective a simple, angry punk song can be. Nearly a direct cover of I Don’t Wanna Listen to YES by The Mighty High, I Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump says everything we’re all thinking. Is it the most well-versed or formal song? No. Is it the most mature or appropriate song? Not even close. Is it a song you’ll want to loop over and over again whilst singing along louder each time?

Hell yes it is.

TurbowolfThe Free Life
Album: The Free Life — Released: 2018

Just like with a lot of other bands I’m unfamiliar with, I learned about Turbowolf when they were linked on MetalSucks. On the day their third major release The Free Life, I checked out their lead single by the same name and immediately fell in love. The intro has so many changes, yet so much energy. The song, itself, has moments that are danceable, yet somehow still hang-banging. And their vocalist Chris Georgiadis provides a stark contrast to their psychedelic/electronic/heavy metal sound.

I would imagine fans of the Darkness and Foxy Shazam would dig these guys. And that’s a good thing because I love both of those bands. Just add Turbowolf to my ever-growing list of bands with annoyingly quirky compound-word names.

Zeal and ArdorBlood in the River
Album: Devil is Fine — Released: 2016

Oh, my god I love this band. And this is easily my favorite song by them. With elements of black metal and negro spirituals, the overall listening experience is already jarring enough. But then …

THE RIVERBED WILL RUN RED WITH THE BLOOD OF THE SAINTS AND THE BLOOD OF THE HOLY

Chanted. Over. And over again.

I’ve found myself cranking this song in my car and belting out the simplistic, yet evil lyrics with hopes of opening up some kind of portal. Hoping I’d be shown some kind of sign that either my nihilistic attitude is correct or that god is actually real. Unfortunately, neither have happened but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

Frank Carter and the RattlesnakesDevil Inside Me
Album: Blossom — Released: 2015

With a few exceptions, England has always done rock and roll better than us here in the states. They maybe didn’t create metal, but they took it to a higher, heavier level. They maybe didn’t create punk but they made it snottier. They maybe didn’t create ska but they did it the best. And does anyone remember a band called the Beatles?

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes are a hardcore punk act from Hertfordshire, England, and their song Devil Inside Me encompasses everything I love about the genre: strong vocals, loud guitars playing simple riffs and the devil. Killer workout song, killer driving home on a Monday song — just a killer hardcore punk song all around.

Honorable Mentions:

[6-6-6] of 2018 Part 2: Old Releases

It’s that time of year again where I spend three days going over my favorite music from the last 365 days. Just like the many music blogs I follow, you probably won’t agree with this list and also just like those sites I’m not really qualified to recommend anything to anyone … Just like last year, I’m breaking this down into three posts: 6 favorite new releases of 2018, 6 favorite NOT new releases I rocked hard in 2018 and 6 songs I killed my eardrums with — both new and old — in 2018. Because there were a few close calls, I’ve chosen to provide 6 honorable mentions as well.

All three sets are in no particular order.

This is Part 2/3

TOP 6 OLD RELEASES OF 2018

David BowieZiggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Release Date: (October 1, 1983)
My Favorite Tracks: Moonage Daydream; The Width of a Circle; Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide

I’ve been particularly fascinated with David Bowie for the last year or two. I’ve done a few deep dives into his early discography, watched interviews, read articles, etc. One particularly interesting story I dug up was when there was an initiative to capture this, the final concert ever performed by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Technical issues proved to be quite a headache during the shoot and post production had so many hold-ups it would be a full decade later before the film and accompanying soundtrack were released.

And though the Ziggy Stardust character had long-since given way to Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and the Let’s Dance-era Bowie … Mr. Stardust was revived for motion picture and home audio with this release and a magical moment in music history was thus shared with the world. One can’t get the full grasp of how rocking Bowie was until you hear live recordings such as this one. Tunes like All The Young Dudes and Changes are given an energy the studio recordings just couldn’t capture. My Death is as haunting as you could ever imagine and the closer Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide is the kind of song that could go on forever and you’d never mind it. Throw in a few classic “big” hits like Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and Suffragette City and you have a damn-near perfect setlist from a damn-near perfect artist and his band. Extra-extra points if you add Oh! You Pretty Things, Moonage Daydream, The Width of a Circle and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat — those are all on there, too.

The MisfitsStatic Age
Release Date: (July 15, 1997 — Recorded in 1978)
My Favorite Tracks: Hybrid Moments; Bullet; She

I think I said last year that this is going to make it on the list every year. And here it is again. My favorite album by my favorite band. There’s not a run you can’t run, a weight you can’t lift or a shitty day you can’t get through when you have the likes of Last Caress, Hybrid Moments, Teenagers from Mars or Bullet in your headphones. There’s not another punk band that did it like the Misfits and there won’t ever be another one like them.

Lo-fi, dirty, fast, mean and campy, this Misfits album is everything you want in horror-punk and is a perfect 101 for anyone wanting to get into the genre. Songs like Angelfuck, Last Caress and Bullet can satisfy someone looking for exploitative shock value but then you have songs like Hollywood Babylon and Return of the Fly that are big-time dancers. Are we evil? Are we having fun? Is this okay?

Yes. Yes it is. Yes to all of it.

The Lees of MemoryThe Blinding White of Nothing at All
Release Date: (November 24, 2017)
My Favorite Tracks: It’s Too Late to Change; There is Love Everywhere; All You Really Want is Love

The only thing that really tops this album is getting to see the guys play a lot of it live in Birmingham earlier this year. 2018 has been such a turbulent year for me and while bandmates Brandon Fisher and John Davis didn’t know it, they sang about everything I was feeling. And had been feeling. And would feel:

  • Please don’t bother breaking down, it’s so overrated, all you really want is love (All You Really Want is Love)
  • Don’t mistake your dreams for the real thing; don’t waste everything for a feeling (Hypothetical Shows)
  • But you played yourself with traps that you laid yourself; you should’ve made yourself invisible (It’s Too Late to Change)
  • Pictures of ordinary dreams; not one among them is all that they seem; once in a while let them be purified; pain in my side (Pictures of Ordinary Things)
  • I’ve got something wrong with me; something’s wrong – I once felt so strong; I wanna go home but I’m not sure where it is (Rain Rain)
  • I’m going out on a limb; what else can I do? If I ain’t got you, I’ve got nothing; I’m staying out of the way; without much to say; It’s nothing I feel like discussing (There is Love Everywhere)

Thank you so much, guys. Y’all kept me alive on more than one occasion this year and I love you for it.

The StoogesRaw Power
Release Date: (February 17, 1973)
My Favorite Tracks: Search and Destroy; Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell; Shake Appeal

Earlier in the year I went on an Iggy Pop binge at my local used record shop. I picked up 1969, Raw Power and Lust for Life and listened to them all over and over and over. Hell, they’re all three still in my car just in case of emergency. There’s no better way to describe the sound on this record than the album title, itself. It’s so pure, so punk, so fucking raw. Iggy is an icon in my eyes — one of the Holy Trinity that is Iggy, David Bowie and Lou Reed — and despite his questionable actions, substance abuse, etc. is still a role model in my eyes.

Each time I put on the microphone at the gym, I channel Iggy. I mean, I keep my shirt on and nobody gets smeared with peanut butter, but that charisma and that pure energy that throws caution to the wind — THAT’S what I’m going for. If I’m having a rough day — Search and Destroy. If I’m feeling angry — Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell. If I just need a boost — Shake Appeal. I love this album so much I’m going to get Raw Power tattooed on my right wrist when the time is right. Though I must admit that I made this much-smarter decision after deciding to NOT get a tattoo of a cheetah wearing prostitute lipstick (inspired by the opening line from Search and DestroyI’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm).

Electric WizardWizard Bloody Wizard
Release Date: (November 17, 2017)
My Favorite Tracks: See You In Hell; Necromania; Hear the Sirens Scream

I didn’t get to listen to this properly until 2018 so earlier in the year I was way excited to get to include it on my “new” list but … I was a little late to the party. I was already a fan of Electric Wizard and their brand of doom with a little drop of acid but nothing had really grabbed me the way the tracks on this album have. The strangest part of this six-track record for me is that a LOT of metal websites gave it either shitty or “par for the course” reviews. It’s easily one of my favorite records that I’ve rocked this year, though.

When album opener See You In Hell fades in, the listener is baited by a monotonous, two-note riff that would drive one to insanity if listened to long enough before the band comes in and turns the song into one of the heaviest sounds I’ve heard in a very long time. I mean — it’s HEAVY. So heavy, each time the bass rumbles across your speakers, the ground around you begins to dig itself up. Before song’s end, you’re actually in Hell and this album only continues. Is it as innovative as previous Electric Wizard releases? Maybe not, but that doesn’t change the fact that heavy album is heavy and I have a major hard-on for it.

Church of the Cosmic SkullIs Satan Real?
Release Date: (September 16, 2016)
My Favorite Tracks: Mountain Heart; Is Satan Real?; Evil in Your Eye

I accidentally found out about these guys while going down a wild-ass rabbit hole on YouTube early this year. The song I found was Evil in Your Eye — a 9-minute rocker whose intro prominently features an organ that’s just as hypnotic as it is unexpected. When the opening lyric comes in — I wanna take you … I wanna take you to the ocean — something in your soul will be overtaken. The cult-like vibe of Church of the Cosmic Skull is real and I’m following hard.

They’re not metal in the way common metal bands are, yet there are influences of doom, 70’s prog rock, arena anthems, psychedelia and choir-like backing vocals. The combination of these elements creates a truly unique listening experience. Hard-hitting and heavy highs meet droning and heartfelt lows on this record, leaving the listener engaged for the length of all seven songs. Related: There are seven members in this band. And you can hear all seven of them.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Zeal and Ardor Devil is Fine
  • Sharptooth Clever Girl
  • Church of Misery Thy Kingdom Scum
  • Mutoid Man War Moans
  • Kvelertak Kvelertak