“In 1970…people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal.” Talking Heavy Metal with Sam Dunn of Banger Films

Heavy metal music has the most passionate, dedicated, and loyal fans of any genre in the history of modern music. As a lifelong metalhead I can make this bold statement because I’ve spent time with musicians and fans of other types of music, and although they may love it, they don’t live the lifestyle like the heavy metal folks. Fans of the genre have gotten tattoos of their favorite bands, been buried to heavy metal music, and based their lives on a band’s tour schedule. Sure, fans of One Direction may turn out in the hundreds of thousands for a few years, but fans of Iron Maiden have been doing it for a few decades.

Within the realm of heavy metal, certain people function as ambassadors. Two that I’ve interviewed further the same cause in different ways. Bill Peters is the godfather of classic metal in Northeast Ohio and Don Jamieson waves the banner nationally on That Metal Show. My guest this week has helped to dignify the heavy metal culture and protect it from those that like to claim it’s primal and aggressive. It is. But it is also sophisticated and complex and nobody illustrates that better than Sam Dunn. Dunn broke onto the scene in 2005 with Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and has continued to produce professional, educational films about the often misunderstood genre.

Along with Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn runs Banger Films. Over the past seven years they have created Global Metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, Metal Evolution, and Rush: Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland. Dunn also has a documentary in production aptly titled, Satan. Sam is a Canadian and a musician as well as a film director. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, including Bruce Dickinson, Geddy Lee, and the late Ronnie James Dio.

The widely-successful series that aired on VH1 Classic, Metal Evolution, chronicled the history of heavy metal through the decades but did not include the most recent strand, extreme metal. With an IndieGoGo campaign running through October 8th, Dunn hopes to raise enough money to finish the episode on his own. Sam is an intelligent, articulate, metalhead and I enjoyed talking to him about the moms of Slayer, Norwegian church burnings, and Satan. Not necessarily in that order.


I feel like I have somewhat of a personal connection with you because you chose to film Rush: Time Machine 2011 in Cleveland. Tell me about your experience doing that project.

Cleveland is an extremely important city, not only for a band like Rush, but for rock and metal. Generally, it was those northern American towns that were the bread basket for bands like Rush touring in the 70s where they found an audience for their music. So Rush wanted to give a little love back to Cleveland because it was the city that broke the band in the U.S. and they knew it was going to be an amazing crowd. It all worked out really well.

Why the Midwest? What does the Rust Belt mean to Rush?

I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact people in that part of the U.S. feel a really personal connection to the band because they toured early on in the small towns of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, all through the Midwest. So they’re going back and playing where they played in 1973, 1974, 1975 to people who saw them when they were in their early teens. And at that age, those are your formative years. You’re starting to cement your musical tastes. So going back to those places, you see a lot of people who saw them back at that time. In that part of the world, there’s a little bit deeper or personal connection to the band because they have such a long history together.

I couldn’t believe that it’s been eight years since Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey was released. I’m wondering what your thoughts are looking back on that? How do you feel about it these days?

It’s a film we’re still really proud of. It premiered at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] in 2005 and really opened a lot of doors for us. It was really the first documentary that took metal seriously as a style of music and as a culture, and really tackled the question of why it polarizes people. The film really resonated with a lot of people and did really well around the world. We were obviously pleased. I think that there was this whole world of metal and rock that hadn’t really been paid attention to in documentary or film form with a few small exceptions like Spinal Tap. So it helped us establish a lot of relationships with artists like Geddy Lee and Bruce Dickinson—two good examples of musicians who we went on to make movies about. It really helped us and is still doing something for us now.

I think one thing that sets it apart is that it’s a real cultural study. It’s an anthropological study of not only the music but also of the subculture. Was that something that you had in mind at the outset or did that evolve as you worked on the film?

It was always our goal to make a film about metal that wasn’t just for metalheads, that would connect to a broader audience. One way to do that was not to talk only about the intricacies of the music or do a super-detailed account of the history of metal, but rather look at it as a culture. I wanted to look at it as something that was born in the 70s and is still going strong today. I wanted to ask, “What is the appeal of this music and why does it cause so much controversy with things like the PMRC?” We looked at the church burnings that happened in Norway in the 1990s and bands like Cannibal Corpse getting their records banned around the world. It was about much more than just the music. It was about the culture and the impact. We felt that it was that part of the film that could interest even Kerry King’s mom.

Well, when you can get the moms of Slayer to watch, you must be doing something right. [laughing]

We know a few moms of metal guys that understand their sons a little bit better after our movie, so I think that’s a good thing.

Definitely. It seems like it also planted the seed for Metal Evolution, which to no surprise, did so well because it’s such a comprehensive look at all of the branches of the metal tree. I was wondering if you had a particular episode or sub-genre that you found particularly engaging as the creator of that show?

Metal Evolution was born out of the heavy metal family tree that we created back when we did Headbanger’s Journey because we knew that film wasn’t going to be a detailed history of metal. We thought that maybe somewhere down the line there’d be an opportunity to do something more in depth and that’s what Metal Evolution became—eleven episodes on the history of the music.  When it comes to specific episodes, I’m a big fan of the thrash episode because that’s the one sub-genre in the series that is really close to me and includes a lot of bands that I love. But I think from a storytelling perspective, the shock rock episode was fascinating to make because it allowed us to take a step back before Alice Cooper, who many people attribute to being the godfather of shock rock. We looked at people like Arthur Brown, and even PT Barnum who wasn’t a musician but was an entertainer, that used shock to entertain the public. So it was a lot of fun because it allowed us to do something that touched on things just beyond the metal realm.

It seemed as though you went into the 80s metal episode a bit skeptical but you came out the other side with a new appreciation. That time in metal often gets a bad rap. People call it hair metal or glam metal with a derogatory tone. Would that be a fair assessment? Did you come out of that episode with a different perspective on the 80s metal scene?

Glam metal in the 80s when I was a teenager was not my cup of tea. I was more into the heavier styles. Granted, my first cassette was Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry and Ratt’s Out of the Cellar. But I quickly got into the heavier stuff. When it came to the episode on glam metal, from a documentary perspective, it was great because it’s always more interesting when you have two sides represented. There’s a debate still about whether this should be called metal or not. I am still not a fan of those bands. [laughing] When I come into the office in the morning, I don’t put on Poison to get me going. [laughing] However, I always had the preconception that these bands were manufactured, that they were the products of record executives in skyscrapers. But I learned that’s not the case. In fact, it’s not the case with bands that did quite well. I’m talking about bands like Poison or Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, etc. They were doing exactly what they wanted to do and not solely because they thought it was going to be commercially viable but because it was a bit of a “fuck you.” I learned a lot from Rikki Rockett who said, “People wanted to fuck us or fight us and that’s exactly what we wanted.” So there was a weird twist. They almost had a punk kind of attitude with what they were doing and that’s not what I expected at all. I didn’t come away a bigger fan of Poison’s music but I certainly came away a bigger fan of Rikki Rockett and his attitude. I thought, “That’s fair—I don’t have to love your music but I respect your attitude.”

I think in a way the industry came to them as opposed to the industry creating them, and that’s an important distinction to make whether you like the music or not.

Don’t get me wrong; the hair is ridiculous. [laughing]

It was even so back in the day, wasn’t it? The great thing about Metal Evolution is that the series isn’t quite done. I was wondering if you could talk a little about the Indiegogo campaign you have going on? Me and my band [Threefold Law] have already contributed. Tell us about the campaign.

Well, we did the main series—eleven episodes—and it was always our hope that we could do an episode on extreme metal but the broadcasters thought it was a little too heavy, a little too niche for their market. And that’s fair. I understand that. We were happy that we got to do this massive series on metal and it made a big contribution. Of course, the one glaring omission was extreme metal so we decided to get an Indiegogo campaign started and fund it that way. We know its music that is underground but that has a really passionate fan base. The people who like extreme metal, love extreme metal. They live and breathe it. Once you find a stronger cup of coffee you can’t go back to Folgers and I totally understand that because a lot of the music that I listen to is at the extreme end of the spectrum. We had one campaign and raised almost $40,000 which was amazing and that helped us pay for the first phase of the project. That involved a lot of travel, a lot of equipment, vehicle rentals, a crew, and travelling around the world. We went to New York and Florida. We filmed in Toronto and we went to Norway, Switzerland, France, and the U.K. And so here we are. We’ve got all of this great footage, we’ve got an episode mapped out, we’ve got it planned and ready to go, and now we’re in the second phase fund raising campaign because we’ve got to turn that footage into something. We pay our editors because our editors are some of the best in the business and that’s what’s allowed us to create the good work that we’ve done so far. That’s one part of the cost. The other part of the cost is paying for all of the photos, footage, and music that we use in the episode. That can get quite costly especially if you’re dealing with major labels. So there are still costs. We’re right smack dab in the middle of the second campaign and we’re pushing. We’re releasing little snippets of interviews every week. I’m writing a blog on Revolver on the top five metal albums of all time. We’re keeping the campaign really active, so we hope we can get to the finish line and make it.

And every couple of bucks helps. So I would encourage all the readers out there to go the Indiegogo page and contribute—let’s get that episode made.

In your travels documenting extreme metal, I’m assuming you had an interview with Satan and then you signed him on to do a documentary. Is that how that worked out? [laughing]

If you’ve met Satan, you should be part of our team because I’m still looking. [laughing] Satan [the documentary in production] is something separate, obviously, but it does have a connection to the extreme metal episode. In Headbanger’s Journey we looked at all the church burnings that happened in Norway and covered that part of the story. But it revealed that no one had really looked at the musicality of Norwegian black metal. I think because of all the controversy and the theatricality of the music, people have lost sight of the fact that what happened in Norway musically in the early 90s was pretty important. Extreme metal was getting pretty glossy at that point and the Norwegian scene was reclaiming a more primitive or raw sound that had been lost in metal and then added their own little twist to it. It was kind of like a bit of punk rock meets a bit of KISS with a dash of anti-Christianity in there. I think that’s an important story to tell because I think people have forgotten that this was also music and some really great bands came out of that era. Bands like Emperor, Enslaved, and Immortal who struck this balance between being raw but also epic. Before that you could be one or the other. You were either epic like Iron Maiden is epic or like Dio is epic. Or you had to be raw like Napalm Death or Bolt Thrower is raw. I think what the Norwegians did is they found a way to combine those two things. So from an historical perspective I think it made a pretty big contribution.

So the Satan documentary might hint at some of these misconceptions? I remember back in the day when AC/DC was satanic and KISS was satanic. Was that a label thrown around by conservatives to undermine the music?

The Satan documentary has a longer backstory. It did come out of our conversations with the Norwegian black metal-ers. We were fascinated by their perspective. What we’ve embarked upon for the Satan film is a much broader story. It’s not just about Satanic music. It’s also about Satan in film, literature, media, and pop culture. We’re taking a broader look at why the Devil has made such a big impact in the creative and entertainment world over the past several decades. Satan is a big topic, so it’s hard to wrestle Satan to the ground.

I wish you luck with that. [laughing] Whenever I interview people in the heavy metal realm, I like to ask their opinion on the future of heavy metal. Some of our pioneers are aging and in declining health and it always begs the question. What do you think?

I think the future of heavy metal is bright. It’s never going to go away. I’m going to make the argument in the extreme metal episode that it’s actually the extreme bands that can be credited with really pushing the music forward. It is by far the most adventurous, risk-taking, sub-genre of metal and because of that it’s always carving out new directions for the music to go. It’s like an art. Often it’s the underground, avant-garde artists who are the ones that push it to the next place and then everyone follows. In 1970, if the term had existed, people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal, right? I think that’s where it’s going. We’ve got the grandfathers of the genre that are still going pretty strong— Maiden, Rush, Sabbath. And in my personal opinion, Sabbath put out a pretty damned good record. At that same time, you have to remember that metal is a breed of the underground and that’s never gonna change and that’s where the real vitality is going to continue to come from. So that’s part of the story we’re telling…

Contact:

Official – http://www.bangerfilms.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BangerFilms
Twitter – https://twitter.com/bangerfilmsinc
Indiegogo – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/metal-evolution-extreme-metal-the-final-round

“I want the audience to feel like punching me but they can’t because they’re laughing too hard.” My conversation with Chad Zumock.

Chad Zumock invited me to The Funnystop in Cuyahoga Falls to watch the show prior to our interview. Mike Polk and Chad always draw well at their old stomping ground and this night would be no different. The Funnystop is the perfect venue for live comedy even though it’s sandwiched inside a strip mall and near a strip joint. Part of the reason it’s such a fantastic place is because of Peter, the owner. Pete is of Lebanese descent and although he mangles his English with a twinkle in his eye, the twinkle in his tweets are even better. When the owner of the comedy club is tweeting this:

And this:

You know you’re in for a good time. Both Chad and Mike killed it and the laughter in the crowd was proof. Many people in Cleveland know Chad Zumock as one of the original members of The Alan Cox Show on 100.7 WMMS before he was publicly fired by Clear Channel after being charged (but acquitted) of a DUI. For the past nine months Zumock has been busy picking up the pieces and he’s coming back as strong as ever. Chad has his own podcast and has clearly moved on with his life. Zumock’s stand-up is raw, edgy, and unapologetic. Chad does not shy away from sensitive subjects, even his own. He does a bit on his mugshot (and his mother’s mugshot) that would disarm any would-be hecklers from taking advantage of his past misfortune. Zumock’s material is refined and road-tested and he has a rapport with the audience that is exceptional.

On top of a great night of laughter, I thoroughly enjoyed my talk with Chad. He is engaging and genuine. Our conversation felt more like one I’d have with old friends than one with someone I’d had just met. After stripping off his trademark sweater vest and snapping pictures with adoring fans, Chad and I sat down in the back office of The Funnystop to talk about comedy, mistakes, and even a bit of heavy metal.


You have a strong connection with the audience, and as a performer, that’s the tough part. You can have the greatest material in the world but if you don’t make that connection…

Sure. That was always tough for me, because my whole persona—what I’ve always wanted—was for my comedy to be challenging. I wanted the audience to feel like punching me but they can’t because they’re laughing too hard. That’s a fine balance.

But I’m sure that sometimes that approach doesn’t go over so well.

Yeah, like this past Wednesday I had a bad heckler. I did a dumb joke where I was like, “I’m really immature. My new thing is going to Chuck E. Cheese’s and making a reservation under the name Sandusky and asking for a table for one.” This guy was like, “Not funny. That’s not funny, dude!”

So he was riding you all night because of that?

Yeah, and I’m just like, “Whatever?”

I guess you have to get used to dealing with those types of situations.

As a young guy you spent time in L.A., right? Didn’t you begin your stand-up career there?

Yes. Mike Polk and I were college roommates and we did a public access TV show that was really popular. This is before the internet blew up. Then we moved to Cleveland and we did public access here for a while and then we did a sketch group called Last Call Cleveland. It was at the old Second City. Mike would dabble in stand-up here and there. He never really did it. I tried it once in about 2002 or 2003, and I hated it. It sucked. Then I moved to L.A. for a girl. She broke up with me two weeks after I moved there and I was so depressed. I’d go to the Melrose Improv all the time and I’d just sit in the back drinking. I saw comics like Chris Rock, Chappelle—all those guys—and I was just like, “I wanna do that!” So I went to the open mic the next day and I never stopped. I just kept going. I was all over it.

I only had seven minutes of material but I was opening for Daniel Tosh and Sarah Silverman. They gave me gigs because I was in the mix. I had a good seven minutes but after seven I stunk. I had a real weird persona back then, too, and I was afraid I was going to get exposed so I moved home to work on my stand-up.

Did you learn from those comedians in L.A.? Were you analyzing their craft and taking mental notes on their delivery, material, etc.?

Absolutely. But I quit watching comedians and now I’m starting to watch them again. Comedians are sort of like magicians—you get to know their tricks and where they’re going. And some comics just don’t impress me but there are some really funny comedians like David Attell, and Sam Tripoli is a good friend of mine. I love him. Nick Swardson is awesome. I love Nick. So I’d watch those guys and take a little from them. It’s like you’re a sponge when you’re a comic. You constantly absorb. An exercise in trial and error.

It seems like the entire entertainment industry is changing in this day and age. You have Joe Rogan with his show on SciFi and Don Jamieson is on That Metal Show. Do you need multiple creative outlets these days or can you focus just on stand-up?

I was just in Dayton with Ryan Dalton and we were talking about it. We were on The Bob and Tom Show and we were talking about how radio used to be so powerful and now it doesn’t have the impact that it used to because there’s so many ways to get your entertainment. You can get podcasts on the Internet which I love. I listen to Rogan’s podcast the Nerdist, Mark Maron’s WTF and you get all kinds of music. There are no record labels well, there are, but they’re not as powerful as they used to be. So you almost have to have something to compliment what you’re doing with stand-up. Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine have That Metal Show which is great. It’s been on like ten seasons, twelve seasons, and what keeps it on is they go out on the road and keep constantly promoting. And another group—Sullivan and guys like Steve Burns on WTBS—they’re all comics and as soon as they’re done taping, they go on the road.  It’s grass roots promoting—shaking hands, kissing babies, kissing hands, shaking babies…[laughing]

I was talking with Jamieson last time he came through town and he said the same thing. He said most of his promotion is through social media. He’s going to every city and he’s shaking people’s hands, talking to them.

Grassroots, man.

At the bar over a beer.

They’re good friends of ours. Jim’s been like my comedy dad. He’s helped me out in so many ways. His podcast is blowing up and it’s just him at the grassroots level. He’s a road warrior. The guy has been very successful with stand-up and he still goes out and he does The Funnystop here in Cuyahoga Falls. You should come out in November when Florentine comes back through town.

I will.

And he loves this club, too. He likes that Midwest audience. It’s dirty. He can do what he does. It’s honest. That’s why I like Pete [owner of The Funnystop]. He lets you be honest.

What a character. [laughing]

He’s hilarious. [see aforementioned tweets at top of post]

How would you describe the impact Kent, Ohio had on you? You grew up in the area. So what’s that about for someone who’s not in Northeast Ohio?

I grew up there and I went to college there. In high school we had a group of guys and we called ourselves the Phat Phive. We were like a sketch group and we used to do videos. We were really bad but we thought we were funnier than we were. We did an independent film called APB. It was a seventies cop film, basically a Sabotage rip-off of the Beastie Boys. We had a big premier in downtown Kent and sold out the movie theater. Chuck Klosterman was writing for the Akron-Beacon Journal and he came and reviewed it. It was before he was THE Chuck Klosterman. We had a mutual friend, Mike Polk, and I. This was about ’98 and a girl named Lindsey says, “You’ve gotta meet my friend Mike. You guys are so much alike, you guys will love each other, blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “whatever.” He came to my show and I asked him to be in my movie. He had this public access show and he asked me to be on his show and we’ve been friends ever since. So if it wasn’t for Kent, I would never have met Mike. Ryan Dalton, who’s a comedian friend of mine, we went to high school together. Our group of friends from college still hangs out. Like Mike, Dalton, our immediate crew. So Kent’s everything. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Kent. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. If I didn’t come from Kent maybe I’d be more focused, more adjusted, and I’d be financially stable. So….

I think musicians and comics have a similar approach to their art.

What’s your band?

I’m the lead singer and guitarist for Threefold Law, a heavy original band.

Nice, dude. [making heavy metal face]

Our approach in the band is the same. You’ve gotta build those relationships from the start, create fans one person at a time. But inside the band, in the practice room, it’s all ball-bustin’. We love to take shots at each other. I’d imagine it’d be the same for a group of comedians hanging out together.

Absolutely! Mike and I have been fucking with each other the entire week. I got off stage and I went up to him and I’m like, “Good luck following that.” I’m just being a dick. Yesterday at the show, he said, “Yeah, how about a hand for Chad? Twenty minutes of that was my material.” We’re fucking with each other all the time.

Mike does a bit about dating a 21 year old girl. But guys like us—late thirties, early forties—we’re already performing for another generation coming up. How do you relate to the people that are hanging out in the bar that are 21, 22 years old?

I kind of live in Narnia, in my own world. I’m 38 but my age doesn’t represent my mind. My mind and my age are at war. I have the mind of a 12 year old. The other day I was walking and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I found, like, a thousand dollars?” And I’m looking all around for a thousand dollars that doesn’t exist. That’s how retarded I am. No offense.

None taken.

Then one day, it’s like 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and I’m just like, “Oh, man, I want some cookie dough.” So I went to Giant Eagle and I bought some cookie dough. Like a 12 year old.

I can relate.

I’m sitting there by myself, in my studio apartment, eating cookie dough. So depressing.

Let’s talk about your podcast. What are your doing with that? What are your plans for it?

My podcast idea came from Jim Florentine. When I got fired from the radio I was devastated because not only did I get fired, I got charged with a DUI, and I lost my license.

Not convicted. Charged but acquitted. I want to make sure I make that point.

Thanks. It’s been a weird couple of months. When I got fired it didn’t help the reputation much and the media was hesitant. I was seen as really wild and crazy. There’s a bit of an exaggeration when you’re on the air. It’s a performance. You’re not lying—there’s honesty to it—but you’re performing a little bit. I guess I was the “obnoxious heel” of the show [The Alan Cox Show on 100.7 WMMS] and I guess what you put out there, people kind of assume. The media was real cautious because of that and it wasn’t real professional. Then Clear Channel forced the non-compete, so I was in a bad spot. Jim would call me every day like he was trying to save my life. He’s the nicest guy.

A comic intervention?

It really was. He said, “Chad, you need to go, get out of here.” I was like, “I can’t. I have these pending things.” He gave me a ton of writing work. I wrote for the Dee Snider roast for him. He gave me a ton of stand-up work. He was a constant. He was like, “You’ve gotta start a podcast. I’m telling you, start a podcast. That’s where everything is going.”

You’ve got the Florentine voice down, man!

“It’s terrible. What are you doing? Stop. What’s wrong with you? Start a podcast.” [Zumock doing his best Florentine impression] He said, “You gotta start that podcast. It builds your following. You’ve got a nice following from the radio. Keep it going. Keep your name out there.” And I did. And I’m glad I did because now I have close to 15,000 subscribers. After the show the other night I had a couple of guys come up to me and tell me that they listened to the podcast and that’s why they were there. I was like, “Sweet!” It was my way of connecting with the people that did like me from the show.

Do you do the podcast from your apartment or in a studio?

I’m working with a group called Frisson Media [Frissonmedia.com]. When I wanted to do the podcast I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want to do a shitty one. They’re a production company in a similar situation. They got fired from their job. We kind of gravitated to one another and we built it together. So they help me out and I’m promoting their business. It’s a good situation.

Do you have any plans for expanding to television or visual media?

There’s a video component to it.

Like an in-studio camera?

Yes. But unfortunately it’s not paying the bills right now because it is a new technology. A lot of the businesses I talk to want to meet with me. They’re all curious but they’re still stuck on radio, TV, newspaper. But Mark Maron is making a ton of money off his podcast now. Seems like the West Coast is embracing it more than the East Coast.

With an audience of 15,000, you would think somebody would jump on that.

I’ve got two sponsors. I do get some advertising revenue.

But you need to get listeners to generate ad revenue. Is it that sort of game?

Yes. I’m doing some stuff with Tweetaudio.com where there kind of pay me a little bit, enough to sustain it, keep it going, and maybe pay for the electric bill.

Anything else you’d like share with someone who might be discovering you? Any websites they should visit besides your main page?

What’s your website?

My website is jthorn.net.

Cool. They should check out that website.

Thanks, man. I appreciate that. I’m trying to promote the local talent. I think there is a lot of great stuff happening in Northeast Ohio.

That’s awesome, man. I mean there is a really good comedy scene here. You talk to out-of-town comics like Jim Florentine and they say that Cleveland has a solid scene. It’s really good. It’s starting to get a little recognition on the map and I mean these guys like Mike Polk—any headliner in the world would see that guy and say, “Why is he living in Cleveland? He’s so funny.” I think much like the music scene, it’s something that one should really embrace. Think outside the box a little bit. Go out to a show. Go see a metal band or whatever.

Do you think it’s hard to get people off the couch?

Oh, yeah.

It’s hard to compete with the handheld electronics, isn’t it?

It really is. That’s the thing in this economy—everybody’s trying to save a buck and I get it. I’m the same way. In the past month I haven’t gone anywhere just to save money. But when you do, you always have fun. You go out and have a good time. Like I’d want to see a band and I’ll say, “Ah, I don’t want to go.” Then I go and I’m glad I did.

Right on.

You’re a metal guy…we saw Queensrÿche the other night.

Yeah! Which one? The version with the original singer?

Yeah, Jeff Tate. The guy is awesome. When we were hanging with Jim I got to meet Rudy Sarzo, the bass player who was with Quiet Riot. I got to interview him for my podcast.

Ahhh! Sweet!

And he was the nicest dude ever. So cool. And I wasn’t gonna go and I did and I had the best time and became friends with Rudy. I didn’t really know who he was until that night. He was so fascinated with comedy and they put on a hell of a show. So, yeah, go out. Definitely embrace this stuff. It’s…

It’s the live element.

Exactly.

You can’t get it any other way, right?

Absolutely. We were talking about comedians the other day, and there’s this comedian named Sebastian Maniscalco. My buddy says, “I don’t like that guy,” and I said, “You gotta see him live.” When we saw him live, he got it.

That was Mitch Hedberg for me.

Mitch was the same way.

I saw him on a couple of TV specials and then I went to see him live before he died [duh] and I was like, “Wow.” It’s a whole different experience.

But then there are some comics who TV makes a lot better. And then when you see them live, you’re disappointed. I’m not gonna name names.

Maybe they have good writers.

I’ve burned enough bridges. [laughing]

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

No problem, man.

Contact:

Official – http://www.chadzumock.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chad-Zumock/24316859013
Twitter – https://twitter.com/chadzumock
Podcast – http://sitdownzumock.com/


I’m trying out a few new tools on the blog. This week I’m using Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because talk is cheap and stealing conversation is even cheaper. Don’t be a cheap-ass.

This interview is the first of three consecutive ones I have lined up. As the holidays approach and folks get busy, I may not conduct as many so enjoy the shit out of these now.

“I’m not sure if Lemmy will ever die.” – Tim “Ripper” Owens Still “Delivering the Goods” for Local Heavy Metal.

As I passed through the swinging door following Tim “Ripper” Owens and Don Jamieson through the kitchen and to the upstairs office of Ripper’s Rock House I couldn’t help but have a Spinal Tap moment. Halfway up the stairs Ripper thought the office might be locked. I shrugged and looked at Don thinking it was almost time to put my arms up and shout, “Hello Cleveland!” After shuffling back and forth a few times on the steps, Ripper remembered that the door was not locked and we settled into the new club’s office to talk about Lemmy, Ohio, and the future of heavy metal. The club had only been open for a few weeks and Ripper’s good friend and fellow metalhead Don Jamieson [my interview with Don here] was on hand to do his stand-up routine inbetween sets by local bands Sunless Sky and Wretch. I sat across the desk from Ripper. Jamieson sat in the corner writing dick jokes on his phone while waiting for his pizza and the midget prostitute he ordered [joking].

Tim “Ripper” Owens first “…made headlines in 1996 when he went from being a fan of the British metal act Judas Priest to being their lead singer, filling the shoes of Rob Halford (and, by doing so, inspiring the movie Rock Star, which was later disavowed by the band). Despite numerous rumors that Halford would reunite with Priest, Owens recorded two studio albums with his childhood heroes, as well as two live albums and a 2002 DVD release…” as stated by Wikipedia. Since the early 2000s, Ripper has fronted or been involved with several heavy metal projects such as Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, and Charred Walls of the Damned. He has done a solo record and is currently a vocalist for Dio Disciples, an all-star tribute band managed by Wendy Dio, the wife of the late Ronnie James Dio. And as if that wouldn’t keep him busy enough, Owens recently opened Ripper’s Rock House near Akron, Ohio after his first club, Ripper’s Tap House could not renegotiate the lease.

Tim is an approachable and likeable guy. He spent the entire night on the floor of the club, walking from table to table and conversing with fans. He is clearly a “homer” as he told me in our interview and he wears his love for Akron (and Ohio) on his sleeve. Owens spent time with a little girl in a wheelchair (with what appeared to be a significant handicap, not a sprained ankle) and auctioned off a signed guitar in order help raise funds to send a local metal band on tour overseas. Ripper is promoting the local scene as well as the local music scene and I plan on bringing Threefold Law (my band) down I-77 to play to an enthusiastic and grateful audience.

Please allow me to introduce to you one heavy metal’s most powerful voices and an advocate for Ohio, local music, and fine dining. Ladies and gentlemen, Tim “Ripper” Owens.


What was it like growing up in Akron?

It was great. I’m always a homer on everything I do. Friends and family; I stick with them forever especially with this restaurant near Kenmore where I grew up. I travel a lot and I never had to move away when I made it in music. I got a lucky break and I was too ugly in the 80s to go to L.A. with that whole scene. I’m a homer. All my friends and family are here and that’s nice. I like everything about Akron; from the mayor to the growth downtown. Everything is great.

It’s nice to have cheerleaders for Ohio. We don’t always get the national recognition that other cities get.

Yes, that’s true.

What’s it like playing in Dio Disciples?

It’s an honor. It’s emotional every night. I feel it every time I step on the stage. There’s something special about playing with Ronnie’s band mates and I was his friend. Wendy is such a great person and Ronnie was a great person so it feels even more special. It’s really an honor to be able to do it.

Are you working on new material with Chris Caffery?

Chris and I have been friends for a long time. We met when he was in Savatage and I was in Berlin doing a promo trip with Judas Priest. We went to a bar with the band, me and Glen and K.K., and there were the guys from Savatage in this little hole-in-the-wall bar in Berlin. From that day on, Chris and I struck up a friendship; he’s played in my solo band with Simon Wright on drums, Chris on guitar, Dave [Ellefson] on bass, and John Comprix on guitar so we’ve written some things together, here and there. We co-wrote “The Shadows are Alive” on my solo record. Right now I’ve got so many things going on that I have a hard time working with myself.

You’re a busy guy. I can attest to that.

I don’t have a hard time playing with myself. [laughing]

News from Wacken and whispers in the heavy metal world indicate that Lemmy is in rapidly declining health. The bands that came from the 70s like Motörhead and Judas Priest are getting older. In your opinion, what’s the future of heavy metal? Where’s it headed?

Metal is in good hands. It’s a shame now, but guys like Lemmy have laid the groundwork. People will always dislike change but it’s still metal. There weren’t a lot of bands like Priest before Priest and when they started people probably didn’t like them, didn’t like that style of music. Bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath–they’ve laid the groundwork for newer bands. Bands like Disturbed–which I like because I think they have a lot of old-school influences and they’re at the top of the charts when they release a record, and it’s nice to see that. But I’m not sure if Lemmy will ever die. He’s been in “declining health” for about 20 years, right? Lemmy is a machine…But that’ll be a sad day. Seems like Iommi came back from his cancer scare. I think we’ll be alright. These guys have laid the groundwork and every band you see is influenced in some way by Lemmy or these other guys so we’ll be okay.

Do you think we’ll end up with “heavy metal franchising” like Gene Simmons used to talk about? Imagine each city having their own KISS franchise with the KISS seal of approval, playing all the songs people love so that the “band” lives beyond the original members. Is that viable?

I don’t know if we’re very far from that now. Foreigner was out not too long ago without one original member in the band. But it’s hard to say. Bands like Motörhead can’t continue without Lemmy. Some bands can’t continue. With Priest, I was able to come in but it still really didn’t go on without Rob Halford. It was a different situation. If anybody were to try a “heavy metal franchise” it would definitely be KISS. Nobody would like it but they would try it because they just need to put the musicians in make-up and maybe get away with it. I’d go watch it. You already got mini-KISS out there.

Tell us about the brand new Ripper’s Rock House.

We couldn’t sign a lease at the old Tap House which was the main reason we had to relocate. I had Micah come in and he was buying my other partner out and we were going to stay there but we couldn’t re-negotiate the lease so we decided to move. It’s a great opportunity because my partner Micah is really smart, he has a couple of business degrees, owns a 40-truck landscaping company, and I wanted to surround myself with good people. For the new Rock House I wanted to improve on everything. I like the location, the size, it’s more spacious, the food is better, the staff is better, and the sound system is premiere. It’s a Jeff Hair sound system. He was out with Manowar for years and they’re known for having a loud system. So we improved everything. First and foremost, we’re a restaurant; a restaurant that likes to rock out on the weekends. It’s been great getting Don Jamieson here and if you look at the upcoming schedule we’re getting some great people here.

Who? [Don Jamieson piping up from the corner]

Some dirt bag. [laughing]

He did something. Maybe worked at the last place? No, he was on the road with me. He drove the van.

I did drive the van. [Don Jamieson also laughing]

We can’t bring in the bigger bands because I don’t want to charge a $20 cover. Dio Disciples is $15. A lot of these bands are asking for $5000 to play and to get them here we’d have to charge a cover and people don’t understand that. We’re a small club. Other larger venues in the area can afford to do that. But we’re going to have some special guests. I’ve talked to some friends like Nicko McBrain, Mike Mangini, and Chris Caffery about coming in. We’ve got some old school acts in the works like Vicious Rumors and Seven Witches.

You have Rhino Bucket on the schedule too, right?

Yes, Rhino Bucket is booked. We have some younger acts too like Losing September and a bunch of other stuff in the works. I want to really try and promote the local original and cover bands. We want to treat’em well, give them a couple of pizzas, a case of beer, and a private green room. So far, we’ve been slammed every weekend.

Any other projects you have going on you’d like to mention?

Well, I have a lot of projects going on. The best way to keep up with me is to go to my Facebook page or my website [links at bottom of post]. Nowadays, Facebook or Twitter is the best way to get the word out. Search my name. A lot will come up but you’ll figure out which one is mine. I’m the white guy [search for “Tim Owens” on Facebook and then you’ll get the joke]. I have a lot of stuff going on, a solo tour coming up along with a number of Dio Disciple’s shows. I’m here at the restaurant a lot, Micah is here a lot. Micah’s band Fracture will be playing here. Micah’s pretty famous because he broke both of his legs on stage at the old place. I was at NAMM when my partner called and said, “Micah broke both of his legs.” His band is called Fracture, get it?

Not your typical stage stunt.

You can’t ask for better publicity than that. He jumped about four inches into the air during the first song and when he landed both of his shins broke in half. They took him away in ambulance. So I’m still waiting for him to break both of his arms to open this place.

He’s got to up the ante.

Just to open the club he’s giving away his kidney. Seriously, he’s in a great band. Fracture is a great band.

Thanks for your time, Ripper. I really appreciate it.

No problem, man.

A special thanks to Cleveland’s own Heavy Metal Godfather, Bill Peters, for putting me in touch with Ripper Owens.

Contact:

Official – http://www.timripperowens.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TimRipperowens
Twitter – https://twitter.com/TimRipperOwens
Ripper’s Rock House – http://www.rippersrockhouse.com/

Heavy Metal: A conversation with Don Jamieson of “That Metal Show”

Being a fan of heavy metal means being part of the heavy metal family. As a Metalhead for more than 30 years, I’ve heard this from many people in many different cities. We may not know each other personally, but we share a similar set of values. Heavy metal fans tend to be extremely loyal, dedicated, and passionate people. They’re not concerned about what’s popular or trendy. In fact, long hair and black t-shirts have been the uniform of heavy metal since it first appeared sometime in the 1970s (exactly when and by whom is of some debate). Metal fans are authentic, and their interest in the music transcends time and shuns fads. And we know bullshit when we see it. That’s not to say we always agree. No family ever agrees on everything. “Metal” comes in many varieties, including but not limited to classic metal, hair metal, doom metal, progressive metal, European metal, speed metal, black metal, and death metal. Even some of those sub-genres have blurred and morphed over the years. But at its core, metal is about power, vitality, and an uncompromising attitude. Metal doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it.

I recently spoke with one of heavy metal’s most prominent ambassadors, Don Jamieson. It only took a few minutes for me to appreciate his love of heavy metal. Don’s childhood in New Jersey was all about the three M’s: malls, mullets, and metal. Many of us who grew up with metal in the 1980s and 1990s—even outside of the Garden State—can relate to that sentiment. Don is an incredibly humble individual, the salt of the earth. He loves what he does and he makes no apologies for it. Jamieson has a soft spot for 80s hair metal (he’s practically neighbors with Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of Skid Row from 1987 to 1996) but his tastes in metal go far beyond that. He loves the early heavy bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest as well as the titans of thrash like Metallica and Megadeth. Don is as comfortable talking about 1980s Ratt as he is the 1990s stoner rock scene of Red Bank, New Jersey, which spawned bands like Monster Magnet and the Atomic Bitchwax.

From his website:

“Don started his career as one of the young and talented comedy minds at MTV helping to launch the careers of comics like Jon Stewart, Kevin James, Pauly Shore (sorry) and Tom Green, but unbeknownst to many, Don was spending his nights on the local comedy scene developing his own comic style…Amongst his many accomplishments, comedian Don Jamieson’s proudest moment is becoming an Emmy Award-Winner for his work on HBO’s Inside the NFL. Don and long-time comedy partner, Jim Florentine, lent their brand of humor to the popular sports show; writing, producing and performing sports-themed comedy sketches.”

Today, Don Jamieson is the co-host of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show along with Eddie Trunk and Jim Florentine. The website says that, “…the program is a round-table talk show where legends of rock hang out and discuss their past and current projects in front of a live studio audience full of metal maniacs.” In addition, “…Rolling Stone Magazine just dubbed That Metal Show one of the 50 Best Reasons to Watch TV!” Don also tours the country doing his honest style of stand-up, and has become the first comedian signed to Metal Blade Records for his debut comedy album, Live and Hilarious.

For those living in northeast Ohio, you can see Don’s live act this week. He will be performing at Vosh in Lakewood on Wednesday, June 26th, and at the Cleveland Improv Thursday, June 27th through June 30th.

Now it’s time dig out your Tawny Kitaen poster, crack a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, and rewind side one of that Shout at the Devil cassette as I talk metal with Don Jamieson.


Let’s talk New Jersey. Were you around the stoner rock/Red Bank scene at the time bands like Monster Magnet and The Atomic Bitchwax were playing?

Yeah, and they’re still around which is really cool, just in different versions now. The current drummer for Monster Magnet and Bitchwax, Bob Pantella, lives a few blocks from me in my little town here in New Jersey. So he and I hang out often and have a few adult beverages now and again.

Very cool. Those bands were a big influence on me [J. is the lead singer of Cleveland’s Threefold Law] and it’s really cool you’re still in touch with those guys.

Absolutely. Dave Wyndorf lives in New Jersey. I’ve seen him at the grocery store before. So we got a small metal world here in the central part of Jersey.

My buddy, JJ, a bit further north, runs a blog called The Obelisk. He does a great job of promoting the New Jersey music scene.

Yeah, it’s still a good music scene here in Jersey. I lived in Manhattan for 15 years and obviously the New York scene, for the longest time, was incredible. But they started to shut down all the rock clubs the last few years I lived there. It was really disconcerting because it was like, if we can’t rock in New York City, where can we rock? So it’s funny, but at this point New Jersey has a better music scene.

I definitely believe it because I lived there through most of the 1990s. What was it like to be on the same stage as Metallica at the Orion Festival?

This whole journey—with everything that’s going on with That Metal Show, around every corner—I’m just amazed. It’s like, I’m just a kid from New Jersey, I like to tell dirty jokes, have a few laughs, and hang out with my friends, and here I am standing on the side of the stage watching Metallica play. I never would have dreamt of this when I was driving around New Jersey with my mullet, trying to pick up girls in the mall, and buying Metallica albums. It’s incredible that all these years later I’m part of their lives and they’re part of mine.

If heavy metal didn’t exist, what flag would you be flying? If it were not heavy metal, what type of music would you have been driving around listening to?

Growing up in New Jersey was all about the 3 M’s: malls, mullets, and metal. So you basically had to listen to metal, have a mullet, and hang out at the mall, which I did all the time. Now people think of Jersey as TTL. But back then when I grew up it, was MMM, and so I lived by that code strictly and still do to this day.

Can we do a quick version of “Put it on the Table”?

Yeah, let’s do it. I like that you’re pulling out a new segment. Very good.

If you weren’t on That Metal Show, what other talk show would you be on?

I’d be on my other television show, Beer Money, on SNY here in the New York/New Jersey area. I do a sports trivia show here because I’m a big sports fan. So that’s where you’d find me. Where you still will find me.

You’re in Cleveland, right?

Yes. That’s where I live now.

They have their own version of Beer Money out there and I do the one in New York on the Mets Channel, SNY, out here. You guys have a chick with really big boobs and they have a silly man with sideburns. So I think you guys win on that one, but I got nothing but love.

Right. Boobs trump sideburns. Sorry, man.

Always.

What’s your one vice?

Beer. That’s about it. I’m not a real extreme guy except for my taste in music. That’s my one vice, beer. It’s getting close. As soon as we’re done, it’s going to be about that time.

What’s something you did that neither Trunk nor Florentine know about?

We’re like three best buddies. We tell each other everything. Something I did…boy, I don’t know. I’d have to really think about that one. Probably something crazy in L.A. that I didn’t tell them. The first couple years we did the show in L.A. I was getting around a bit. It wouldn’t be so much what I did, but who I did.

Fair enough. I’m not going to push any further on that.

That’s alright. I’m settled down with my girlfriend. So that stuff’s all good. I’m a domesticated Metalhead now.

Let’s talk about mullets and hair. I was watching That Metal Show with my wife and she was like, “What happened to all the hair? I thought metal was about black shirts and long hair? I don’t see much.” I was like, “You know what? I’m going to ask Don that question.” What happened to the heavy metal uniformthe long hair, the black shirts?

If you hang out in Jersey, if you go to the Stone Pony or Dingbatz up in Clifton, you’re still going to see guys that are living in 1986. My buddy from college still has long hair, not quite as mulletty as it used to be but he still has the same look. I think he still wears the same jeans he had in college. They’re still around. If you go to the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, you’re still going to see those people. I love stuff like that. Bobby Blotzer from Ratt came and did our show, I mean that guy is still in 1987. I love it. That’s commitment. He’s still saying “Ratt-n-Roll”. He’s got the young girlfriend. He shows up in the stretch limo. He’s wasted at eleven in the morning and he’s still living the rock star life. And God bless him, man. That’s a great way to live.

And that attitude is really different than another 80s guy like Vince Neil. I’m not passing judgment, but Vince Neil seems to be in a very different place than some of those other guys from the 80s. He’s much more businesslike in his ventures, seems to have taken more lumps.

Well, Vince, he’s lived a rock star life. Obviously he’s gone through lots of tragedy. There are some guys who have had it better and hopefully they’ve calmed down over the years. That’s the thing, man, when you love these artists—and I’ve been a Mötley Crüe fan since 1983—you want them to stick around.

Look at Rob Halford. He has said for a long time how messed up he was in the early 80s. He’s a mellow guy now and we all think of him as basically our leader in heavy metal. And he’s real smart and well put together. Yet, who knew all the troubles he went through? And he’s been sober 25 years at this point. You either make that jump and start taking things seriously or you die. That’s the bottom line. I’m thrilled to death that Priest is still making music today.

We forget that these rock stars are people like everybody else.

Yeah, exactly. For all the excesses and all that rock ‘n’ roll stuff, that’s why you love your rock stars. But at some point, too, it becomes about the music, and when you’re a fan of that band and that music, you want it to keep going. Especially if that band is still putting out good music after 35 or 40 years.

You’re coming up to our neck of the woods, to Cleveland, Ohio, this week, beginning on the 26th of June. I was wondering if you could tell us a little about Live and Hilarious?

I did a comedy album on Metal Blade Records a couple years ago. Metal Blade is home of Slayer and King Diamond and lots of great metal like that. So obviously I’m very proud that I had a comedy album out on a metal label that I’ve loved since the very beginning. They’re celebrating 30 years. They didn’t crumble like all these major record companies. You know why? Because they weren’t greedy. They said, “Hey! We’re going to change with the times. If downloading is the way to go, then we’re going to make sure our fans can get physical copies and they can download them, too.” The big, old, dinosaur companies were just greedy. They still wanted $20 for a CD. Metal Blade never operated that way. They changed with the times. But most importantly, they put my album out. I was the first comedian ever signed to the label and we did great with the record. Thanks to the power of social media, my album hit the top 20 on iTunes, on the comedy iTunes chart, and the Top 10 on the comedy Billboard charts, which I do want to qualify: I’m very proud that I went to the Top 10 on Billboard’s chart, but at the same time Louis C.K. had an album out called Hilarious and I suspect a lot of people downloaded my album, Live and Hilarious, thinking it was Louis’. And that’s probably what got me in the Top 10. So for anybody who did that and thought they were getting Louis’ album, I apologize. But thank you for giving me some time on the charts. I appreciate it.

What a fortunate alignment of the planets, the way that worked out for you?

And thank you to Louis also. Probably without his release I would not have cracked the Top 10.

Here in Cleveland, we have our own version of Metal BladeAuburn Recordsrun by long-time DJ and Metalhead, Bill Peters. It’s got the same feel as Metal Blade. It’s a family operation.

I know Bill!

Excellent guy. And he didn’t get greedy either. He was all about the metal and about promoting the bands he loves, and he still does to this day. So thankful for those kinds of guys…

Yeah, that’s the thing. We’re a very close, tight-knit community. I think that’s what’s appealing about our fan base—everyone feels very connected. There’s a lot of music you’re going to tune through your radio while you’re driving around during the day. You’re not going to come across the type of songs we listen to. You’re not going to tune into whatever the popular afternoon show is in Cleveland and hear Slayer, Raining Blood. That’s just not going to happen. You know us Metalheads have to find our ways to listen to music and commune together—that’s what we do.

Absolutely! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk and I don’t want to cut in to your beer time tonight. Anything else you want to say before we finish up?

Well, I’d like to let people know the new season of That Metal Show is currently on the air and we’re really proud of the new version of the show. The hook is still talking to the artists, but there are a lot of changes to the show, a lot of new segments. We hope to give the show new life. This Saturday is Rex Brown/Sebastian Bach. It’s our 100th episode to date, so we’re real proud to hit that milestone and hopefully we’ll continue to do it [aired June 15th]. If you want to come out and see my stand-up, you can check out donjamieson.com—that’s my website, and it’s minutes of fun. You can also check me out on Twitter @realdonjamison. There you go.

I appreciate it, Don. Have a good one.

Thanks for the support, man.

Contact:

Official – http://www.donjamieson.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/donjamiesonofficial
Twitter – http://twitter.com/realdonjamieson
That Metal Show – http://www.vh1.com/shows/that_metal_show/series.jhtml