7 Questions with Keith Bergman

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by Ryan Meehan

Keith Bergman has spent four decades of life wanting to do ridiculous things. He’s been an actor, a music critic, an author, a reviewer of dirty movies for an adult film industry trade magazine, a drummer in rock and roll bands, and somewhere in there, a would-be comedian. Several years ago, his realization that carrying drums around sucked led him to pursue standup above all else. His material is R-rated but smart, clever and absurd, or as he likes to call it, “highbrow stupid.” He has shared the stage with The Amazing Johnathan, April Macie, Dean Edwards, Dave Landau, Vince Morris, BT, Brooks Wheelan, and many others, and has performed from the upper peninsula of Michigan all the way down to the deep South. He has just released his debut CD, “Disheveled,” 55 minutes of material recorded at The Blarney in downtown Toledo, Ohio, in March 2014 and we are delighted to have him as our guest today in 7 questions. Continue reading

NFL Week Seven Preview

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by Ryan Meehan

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost two months into the NFL season. One minute we’re sweating our asses off in the summer sun, and the next minute we’re freezing our asses off in the middle of Winter which now starts in late October.  Such is life in the Midwest, but at least we have football to on those cold Sundays that used to be something called “autumn”.  So let’s take a look at some of the things I expect to go down in week seven. Continue reading

7 Questions with Scott Hedrick of Skeletonwitch

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by Ryan Meehan

In 2003, when American teenagers were raiding the makeup sections of their local Halloween shops to paint up like their favorite black metal bands… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2005, when every burnout who sold enough weed bought an Orange amp and tuned their guitar down to “C”… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2007, when kids with pricey haircuts and freshly inked full-sleeves learned two At The Gates riffs and simplified them with breakdowns… there was Skeletonwitch. In 2010, when sweep-picking Guitar Center employees decided to eschew songwriting and showcase their “chops” in soulless robotic fashion… there was Skeletonwitch. Today, in a landscape that finds them surrounded by a) bands begging their own fans for money, b) vest-wearing, by-the-numbers “retro” rock nostalgia and c) heavy labels blindly signing bands based on breast implants… there, still, is Skeletonwitch, a band that has successfully carved its own left-hand path with an unwavering quality of metal and old-fashioned hard work. This organic approach has garnered legions of fans and an undeniable level of respect in the worldwide metal community from both sides of the stage.

Since signing with Prosthetic seven years ago, a new SKELETONWITCH album has materialized like clockwork every other October. First, there was the group’s sophomore breakthrough, “Beyond The Permafrost.” Produced by late GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot and featuring iconic artwork by John Baizley (Baroness, Kylesa, Kvelertak), the album – and subsequent tours with the likes of Danzig, Dimmu Borgir and Amon Amarth – told the world what the rest of Ohio already knew: that SKELETONWITCH was a metal force to be reckoned with. That album’s “Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery”would eventually be featured in the video game “Brutal Legend,”placing the band in excellent company with digitized versions of Rob Halford, Ozzy and Lemmy. Then came 2009’s “Breathing The Fire,” produced by the legendary Jack Endino (Nirvana, High On Fire, 3 Inches of Blood). Supported by tours with Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom and Ozzfest, the album – the band’s first featuring bassist Evan Linger, and also their first to crack the Billboard Top 200 – caught the attention of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, who invited the group to film a zombie-themed video for the song “Bringers of Death” that the band members still haven’t stopped hearing about. In 2011, “Forever Abomination” –produced by Grammy-winner Matt Hyde (Slayer, Deftones) – saw the arrival of drummer Dustin Boltjes (ex-Demiricous), as well as a return visit to the Billboard Top 200. On the road, the group toured alongside Arch Enemy, Kvelertak, The Black Dahlia Murder and Nile before embarking on their most ambitious trek to date: a 63-shows-in-65-days test of endurance that they passed with flying colors. 2013 brought us to “Serpents Unleashed,” the group’s fifth and latest release. Recorded with Kurt Ballou (Converge, High On Fire, Isis) in Salem, Mass. (insert bad “witch” joke here), the album is another blistering helping of two-and-a-half minute blasts of blackened metal amalgamation. This time around, the band also shows off a few new tricks – note the Scandinavian doom-vibe in the opening of “Unending, Everliving” and the devil’s swing of “This Evil Embrace” – but does so without compromising the frosty/fiery/abominable metal spirit or blue-collar humility that has endeared them to so many over the past decade. Ultimately, it’s both a fitting testament to what they’ve accomplished to date, and an exciting nod toward what the future has in store. As for that future, in 2020, when pedal-steel rasta-metal will be all the rage, there will beSKELETONWITCH, still doing what they – and, most importantly, their fans – love, trends be damned. Guitarist Scott Hedrick is part of this metal assault, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions. Continue reading

NFL Week Six Wrapup

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My apologies if you are eating and reading this…

by Ryan Meehan

This week some very disturbing news broke that pop singer and poor taste in men expert Katy Perry will be this year’s Super Bowl halftime entertainment.  This news was met with high praise from young deaf males all across this great country of ours, and confusion from the rest of us.  Actually, as much as I completely hate this – I do understand it.  The Super Bowl halftime show is primarily directed towards individuals who might not be the biggest fans of the game itself, and are desperately looking for something to make them look interested at the party they’re attending.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t hate everything that Katy Perry does.  I actually don’t mind that “Supernatural” song she did a few years back, but the problem with that is if she decided to perform it at the Super Bowl Kanye West would have to show up and do his part.  Of course, that opens the door for a myriad of things that could go wrong and would probably cause a situation where from that point forward the NFL would have to conduct extensive psychological background checks on every single potential performer.  But all truth be told, Katy Perry has created a lot of jobs for young women who would otherwise be on the street having sex for money.  If you look like Katy Perry and you want to make a name for yourself in the adult film industry, there are millions of dollars waiting for you in Van Nuys as long as you can hum the chorus to “California Girls” with a mouthful of man sausage.  So thanks to her instead of these girls being picked up by old men on the streets of LA, they are instead being filmed doing essentially the same thing but at least they are doing it in a comfortable environment as opposed to the back seat of a station wagon.  Isn’t this country great sometimes?  But enough of all that nonsense, let’s take a look at what actually happened on the field in week six of the 2014 NFL season.    Continue reading

Remembering Bert

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by Ryan Meehan

Monday morning brought sad news to the Quad Cities music community. Long time friend and local sound engineer Rob Cimmarusti (1959-2014) finally passed away from a long battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a battle that he fought as only Rob could, never giving up until the moment where his body simply could not match the fight his mind and soul had worked so hard to put forth. Rob was one of a kind, and touched the lives of all he came in contact with. I shared a story on Facebook Monday about how when I was in high school, Rob had attempted to fix what at the time was a very expensive digital tape machine of mine. I had an old Alesis ADAT that was having some issues and even though Rob wasn’t sure that he could fix it, he ended up doing a ton of research on the error code it was getting. Two months later, it was in perfect working condition and that moment always stuck with me because it showed that Rob was never one to back down from a challenge.

In the ten years that followed, I had the privilege of working on several recordings with Rob behind the board. During that time period, it reinforced my belief that Rob was indeed worthy of the many words you’ve likely heard used to describe him throughout his life and over the past twenty-four hours. Caring, generous, smart, funny, kind, helpful, knowledgeable, heartwarming, strong, disciplined, dedicated, loving, fun, thorough…It seems like I could go on for days using adjectives to convey how much we valued Rob’s spirit, all the while reiterating the fact that we know it will live on in all of us.

When it came time to put material to tape, Rob was all business when it counted the most. Yet he simultaneously used his incredibly quick sense of humor to put everybody at ease. There was a moment when From The Wreckage was recording the album “That’s What I’m Talking About” where for whatever reason I was spacing out during a warm-up session and staring into the control room. Rob noticed that I wasn’t paying total attention to the rest of the band, and stopped everybody and said “If you’re not focused on what’s going on out there, I’m going to be riding your ass all night long and I’m never going to let you hear the end of it”. I realized he was right, and as we started to lay tracks down within minutes he was cracking jokes again like nothing had ever happened. It was that type of dedication Rob brought to his work which sadly a lot of other people in America today never fully come to realize. His ability to maximize potential was contagious, inspiring the artists he worked for to dig deep and bring out the very best in themselves at all times. Even when he was working on a project that consisted of music that was not to his own personal preferences, he still made sure that when it was done it sounded amazing. The energy that he brought to every single track showed that he was genuinely concerned with being the best that he could be every time he tweaked the knobs.

There was a benefit show for Rob at RIBCO where Tripmaster Monkey reunited, and at that time if I remember correctly he was given just a few short months to live. This would have put his passing at April of 2013, a full year and a half before the sad circumstance that finds me writing this column. In true Rob form, he continued to work and share his knowledge of music production with bands of all ages and genres. That was another thing we loved about Rob – No matter what type of art they created and regardless of how young they were, he always treated everyone equally and with respect.

No matter what the afterlife has in store for us, we can only hope that somewhere Rob is on a journey through space taking in all of the sights and sounds around him. We know if that’s the case, there might be a spaceship full of a glowing Bert enjoying the ride but at the same time wondering if the trip would sound better would sound better if it had a little bit of reverb on it. But perhaps in this instance, maybe he’s taking a break from all that just for once. Maybe he’s trying to find that peace in which we all wish him to rest…Laying back in his chair with his headphones on, cranking Del Amitri, and truly experiencing the enlightenment he sought during his time here on earth.