With Down, haarp and Warbeast coming to the Crofoot in Pontiac, MI, Sunday evening, it’s like part of my books will be coming to life. As I toured on Ozzfest in 2002 with Down, I got to know the guys in the band, so over time, each of the band members have made appearances in some of my books. Whether it’s a straight interview or as a character, such as Pepper Keenan being my Cheshire cat, the band members have made multiple appearances in my writing, including my Johns Hopkins thesis.
The guys from haarp were also included in Underneath the Glamor, my thesis, only they were mentioned from their previous bands, as a bulk of my thesis includes the New Orleans metal scene. I actually met Grant Tom of haarp at a Superjoint Ritual show in New Orleans. We soon moved in together, and our apartment was a former witch’s den; according to the landlord, she had pulled out a number of brooms with animal skulls affixed to them, along with a number of other strange items.
Our place was first a bar called Fatso’s, and from what I understand, it was a speakeasy during the days of prohibition, so it has a lot of history to it. It definitely had a strange aura, which is why Grant really liked it. I was a little reluctant at first, but it was a very influential place to write at, to say the least.
There were a number of odd occurrences there. To get into it is a story in and of itself. Freaky stuff.
What I remember most is that Grant allowed me to write. He literally got a job digging ditches in the middle of the hot, blistering summer in New Orleans, just so I could stay home and focus on writing. I had been at a point where I was ready to give up, as my last apartment had been broken into, and all my equipment was stolen, but Grant encouraged me not only to do journalism but focus on my books, too.
Grant knew I was into music, and he taught me the basics of a hardcore growl. At the time, I couldn’t quite get my throat to get deep and raspy enough. He handed me a pack of Pal Mall cigarettes, and said, “smoke this pack, then try to growl, and you’ll get it, for sure.”
It worked. I would sing, while he practiced drums or strummed the guitar. He even had a violin that he handed to me and said, “just play around with it until you do something that sounds cool.”
He challenged me to write lyrics. They might not have been amazing, but just the encouragement was enough to get the ball rolling. I’ll always appreciate his artistic influence in my life.
Though haarp is an up and coming band, the members have been around the music scene a while. I remember barbequing with the guys from Rat In A Bucket in Chalmette, LA, and I was so scared for all of them when Hurricane Katrina hit. The stories I know are more than heart-wrenching.
I had talked to Phil Anselmo about his experiences when I ran into him in Washington DC. Frey, who plays with Kirk Windstein in Valume Knob, had quite the ordeal, as did so many others. Very few in the New Orleans area were spared from the wrath of Mother Nature during Hurricane Katrina.
After such horrific events, all you can do is pick up the pieces and move on, which is what the guys in haarp did. Local bands found themselves ripped apart by these unforeseen circumstances, and those that remained huddled together to try to become something bigger and better. Haarp is one band that emerged from the aftermath of Katrina, and the combination of guys proves to be a strong force.
I’d gotten to know each of the guys from their previous projects, as Grant and I would often go to shows, and each of them had standout talent. Though how the band formed may not be unfortunate, the results are stellar. Keeping the hardcore sludge sound, the band harkens back to an older rock style, without the poppy influence that so many bands nowadays get sucked into; they are true to their style, their sound is phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see how Detroit moves in a big mosh pit to their sound.
The fact that haarp is playing with not only Down, but Warbeast – the new project from Bruce Corbitt, formerly of Rigor Mortus – only guarantees a great moshing venture. Get ready to release some anger. If you’ve been looking for a great metal show, I promise you that this one will not disappoint.
Besides the music, just going to the show can be an adventure. You never know what could happen. Sometimes, it’s something random, like having Pepper Keenan air Mike Gordon’s bass video, but other times, it can be simply something hilarious, such as when Pepper, Rex, Norris and I went out in Detroit.
Pepper has the look of a rock star, but not everyone knows who he is off the bat, so he went around insisting that he was in all these 80’s rock bands, like Ratt, Warrant and Dokken, naming off a different hair band each time he’s asked what band he’s in; meanwhile, he nods over to Rex, “that’s my roadie.” Rex could barely be heard grumbling into his drink, less than amused by his title from Pepper. This was the night that I watched the band record an acoustic version of “Stone the Crow” in a hotel room.
Then again, expect the unexpected. When I went to catch Corrosion of Conformity in Cleveland, to hand Pepper a copy of my book that he’s in, I got pulled backstage by Motorhead. Next thing I know, we’re being whisked from the Agora Ballroom to Peabody’s to go hang out with the guys from White Lion and E’Nuff Z’Nuff, so there’s no telling just who might be lurking in the background unexpectedly.
One thing’s for sure, there will be some awesome metal to be had. Pepper and Grant have one thing in common: they can both play guitar amazingly while not even looking, holding a conversation with one person, watching television or something at the same time, yet still not missing a beat or chord. This show with haarp, Warbeast and Down is not to be missed, as the names might have changed, but these musicians have long since been in the metal scene, have spent the time, paid their dues and have talent.
Of course, Down consists of Phil from Pantera, along with Pepper of Corrosion of Conformity, Kirk Windstein of Valume Knob and Crowbar, Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod, and instead of Rex of Pantera, they called in Pat Bruders of Crowbar, a guy who was nice enough to hold my hair when I was puking outside of the Dixie Tavern after drinking whiskey shots on top of vanilla kamikaze (this is why I’m not a whiskey drinker). Like I said, Warbeast includes the former frontman for Rigor Mortus, a staple in the metal community. Plus, haarp consists of guys formerly of Cancer Patient, Rat In A Bucket and other NOLA metal bands.
You might not have had the opportunity to play backstage at the House of Blues with Kirk, Frey and Marshall of Valume Knob – getting rowdy with the guys of Black Label Society, doing things I’ve been sworn to secrecy about – or to watch the Murder Junkies with Jimmy Bowers in New Orleans, but you still have the chance to check out three amazing metal bands. Let’s show these guys why they call us Detroit Rock City, and smash around in a monster mosh pit like they don’t get to see in most places. Having lived all over the country, I know first-hand that Detroit can be the crown jewel for metal shows, and I know metal fans are going to love these guys from the South; it’ll be a rockin’ good time.
Marisa Williams is the author of 100 books; her 100th book release party will be held Friday, September 28th at Mickey Finns, 602 Lagrange, Toledo, OH. Tune into 98.3 fm if you are in the Toledo/Monroe/Bowling Green/Detroit listening area on Sunday at 6 a.m. for an interview with Marisa. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.wix.com/thorisaz/photography.