Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Harley Flangan is My Actual Favorite Cro-Mag

I didn't expect to begin February 2016 with 2 people independently suggesting I check out a new Harley Flanagan record but brother (or sister), that's exactly how it shook out. Here's 5 reasons why, after listening to Cro-Mags 10 times in a row, Harley is my actual favorite Cro-Mag.

1. Cro-Mags is essentially a diss record.  No, not a "Dis" record, but we'll get to that in a minute. Harley's beefs are the stuff of legend, hilarity and an occasional headline news story and frankly that's what makes this record so interesting. Sure, it's petty and a little childish, and regardless of where you stand on his antics, you've got to admit the dude's been through a lot in the past 5 (10?) years. Great music rarely comes from a place of serenity and in this case, Harley's demons helped him make a kick-ass solo joint on some surprisingly contemporary source material.  

2. It's also Dis Record. Kinda. OK, like not full on Motö-Charge here, but close enough for my taste. Discharge comparisons aplenty, 12 songs in 24 minutes. Whatever it is, it's punk AF. Kinda makes you remember that amidst all the Myspace buffoonery and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the dude has been sniffin' around since punk's year zero. (or at least since you been swimmin in your Daddy's to speak). Plus, I've read that the record is kind of a tribute to Lemmy, so there's that. 

3. Age of Quarrel. Yes, it's the consummate 'Mags record and the measuring stick by which all NYHC would be measured to come. If we're lumping in the entire Cro-Mags discog, side projects and all, Cro-Mags comes the closest to replicating that original sound. Aggressive punk metal blasts intercut with some guitar work I can only describe as "explosive." Like, you'd think Alpha and Omega or Near Death Experience might be a better pairing for a late-era Harley solo project, but it's not. Trust me. 

4. Beef (is for Pussies). If we're actually keeping a Cro-Mags tally, we'd likely surmise that the last decade has been way harder on Harley than it has on John Joseph. The latter has branded himself as the "sane" one, schilling vegan cookbooks, workouts and a biography that seems more than a little exaggerated (like all NYHC history). And while Harley certainly hasn't made things any easier on himself, he's not the one leading a semi-scab 'Mags lineup only playing songs off the first record...but writing new music. 

5. The Vocals. OK, so we all know that JJ's vocals are an inextricable topping on the Cro-Mags pizza. I also know that JJ has clowned on Harley's vocal performances in his book (how many times does Harley need to say "Oh yeahhh" on a record kinda stuff). I think Flangan sounds perfect here. Brutish. Angry. Bitter. The voice of a guy who's been battered senseless and keeps trundling forward despite the odds, and though it's never rivaled JJ's in terms of supremacy, I think it suits a 2016 record about 20 year old disputes just fine. 
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Friday, January 29, 2016

I Can Draw That: WWF's Scratch Logo and the Doodler's Mind

In November of 1997, The World Wrestling Federation changed their corporate logo to reflect the new "attitude" branding. They unveiled the new logo as part of their "try lacing my boots" campaign, reflecting the 90's obsession with "extremity," shock TV and a desperate attempt to secure a silver-bullet creative campaign to whoop their Atlanta-based rivals in the Monday Night ratings war.

Perhaps unknowingly, the company followed the oldest art-punk mantra: the best logos are those which can be reproduced with in any medium and with relative ease (i.e. a stick n' poke tattoo or spray painted beneath a freeway overpass.) Wrestling lore dictates that in one of those fabled writer's meetings between Vincent K. Mcmahon, Pat Patterson, and whichever creative cronies were on good terms with the Fed, someone hastily drew the logo on the side of a frosted beer mug with their finger. The rest is, as they say, history (or...fodder for a 10-part, marginally accurate docu-series on the WWE Network).

I shan't warble on the 90's wrestling boom or the famed Attitude Era. There's many before who've done it better. What I will say is the profound impact that scratch logo had on me as a 5th grader in suburban Kentucky. It was the first WWF logo I could accurate copy without a protractor and a knowledge of color theory and as much as I love that classic chrome logo, I just wasn't in possession of the artistic chops to make it a hand-drawn reality. Like punk, the proletariat genre that brought electrified rock n' roll to the disaffected masses of Thatcherite England and Reaganite America, so too did the Fed's new user-friendly insignia appeal to the lurid fancies of a budding adolescent hesher. "I can draw that," I thought. 

So I did. I drew that shit everywhere. On my desks and notebooks. On the bottom of my skateboard. In the dewey condensation of the family's Dodge Caravan. It was like a brand I could incorporate into myself. See "Attitude" was a concept I could get behind, even in the leafy expanses of a middle class existence, and this colorful world of pro wrestling promised a wealth of intellectual and creative fodder for my torrid mind. 

This scratch logo (and the programming behind it) promised a reckless abandonment of a stodgy, traditionalist past, rattling old-schoolers and conservative journalists to their gooey foundations. This "attitude" campaign leaped forward with the gleeful and irreverent spirit of one-upping the competition and car-crash entertainment and for all that negative press it got regarding its mysogyny and redneck all finally had a damn logo I could draw.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

(Not Very) New Lows

In 2009 I had this plan to do a blog where I just interviewed artists about hardcore shirts they'd illustrated. I did like 3 entries and then stopped keeping up with it, but anyway. Here's one of the interviews I did with Chris Morgado about the best New Lows shirts. Remember, this is from 2009 so some elements might not be accurate anymore. 

The Wrong Side is one of my favorite hardcore bands, and I was even more stoked to find out that the singer, Chris Morgado was into drawing so I hunted him down. He's the artist behind a number of cool hardcore shirts, many of them I had before I even knew that he'd done them. I've done a sweet interview with him that'll definitely appear in a future issue of Drug Dogs. Anyway, the following is a discussion on the New Lows shirt above in Morgado's own words.

"I kind of hate to do shirt designs. It's sort of awkward, like layout wise I find it awkward. I never know just how big I can go or anything, and so I end up feeling like I'm doing the same big image with band name over/under it thing over and over. I vastly prefer doing fliers and record art…fliers especially, fliers are my absolute favorite to do…it's just less stressful knowing "ok, this is the space I've got, this is what I can work with, now fill it". And most of the time people don't really know exactly what they want, like I get told "we want something like what you did for Mental so just come up with something like what you did for them", which isn't the worst thing to get told by any stretch of the imagination, but it's kind of more stressful because even though I can do that kind of thing standing on my head, I have to worry about copying what I already did without actually repeating what I already did."

"A skinhead with a chain by me is going to look like a skinhead with a chain by me…well, more like it'll look like a poor copy of a skin by Sean Taggart (laughs)… no matter how I draw it; it's pretty much just asking me to swap out the band name. If that's really want someone wants, great, I'll do it, but it's cooler if someone has an idea that I can work with, or if it's a band 
with a name or a vibe that I can latch on to."

"Like War Hungry, yeah those shirts look like they could just as easily be Mental shirts, but they're actually very specific to that band, I came up with those by just doodling around with the name “WAR HUNGRY” and the images that put in my head. I never would have come up with those designs for Mental, those designs just wouldn't exist."

"With New Lows, I've done four shirts, and it's been 50/50 as to P-boy knowing what he wants and me just coming up with something on my own. The Shining shirt was his idea, and the Minor Threat  rip off. He left the details pretty much up to me so far as how to execute them, but those were both his idea. The Albert Packer shirt and the octopus sex shirt were mine. It was kind of a last minute deal, they needed some shirts for Sound and Fury and P wanted something new but didn't have any ideas on tap. So I kind of just brainstormed, just like... inserting random California and ocean related words into Google, and eventually I ended up googling octopus and just started thinking, "hardcore design concepts have gotten pretty tame, hardcore in general is pretty tame now, I wonder if an octopus porn shirt would get any reaction". So I started googling Japanese octopus porn and printing out pics that I thought would make good reference. This was all done at work, naturally. So I had all these print outs and I just started sketching shit out and seeing what I could combine with what, and one of the pics was by this artist Toshio Saeki, in fact if you look at my actual drawing, it says "with a nod to Saeki" under my signature, that's how much of his idea I felt like I actually took. It was a guy fucking a girl who was an octopus below the waist. I thought it would make a good shirt if you stripped it down to just the guy and the girl, maybe not as nuts as doing one of the ones where the octopus is tentacle fucking a girl but probably easier to make work on the front of a shirt. But I didn't want to just have it be a tracing or an exact copy. I had just done a drawing of Death smoking a bong for this band that never paid me or used the design, so I had that on my desk. So I redrew it with Death in the place of the guy, and a few drafts later I was satisfied enough to do a nice little bit of old school cut and paste…I do pretty much everything old school cut and paste…I only use Photoshop for minor touch ups like removing a line here or there to get the band name on there."

"What I was thinking of with the layout was this Fugazi bootleg shirt a kid I knew in high school had that just had the band name over a black and white photo, though when I was doing the shirt I was remembering it as being underneath."

Check out Morgado's art and NEW LOWS.
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Thursday, December 24, 2015


"Knights in Satan's Service," is an Urban Legend lovingly acknowledged in the film Detroit Rock City, and also by a few prominent religious leaders (for a discussion of mormonism and 70's rock, check my old blog). Most anyone with a few braincells to mash together knows this legend to be false, that Paul Stanley named the band KISS in tribute to the New York Dolls and though they used the para-military Schutzstaffel to get some heat (Jewish rock boys from NYC) methinks this was really all just an aesthetic decision. I'm of the mind that 4 letter/one syllable is the perfect aesthetic for a band name (RUSH, CROM, etc) which is why I'm so jazzed my friends have a band called "CRUD" right now. Anyway, don't get me wrong: a bunch of weirdos in kabuki makeup singing about, you know...rockin, probably freaked out some 70's parents, but no way was this band really in league with satan.

Dylan Chadwick is a rock writer who tweets and Instagrams at @drugdogs. He snuck out with a friend in 2001 to see KISS and Ted Nugent at the Kentucky State Fair where he saw the Nuge shoot his guitar with a bow and arrow. 
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

E-town's Finest (Personal KISS-tories)

Like most of you, I grew up in boring suburban town. The only distinction is that Cameron Crowe has made a shitty movie about my boring suburban town (Elizabethtown) and he probably hasn't made one about yours. Me and my goofball friends used to struggle with stuff to do and so we'd get on the Elizabethtown Wikipedia page and invent "famous" celebrities from there, back in the era when you could do such things...only our celebrities weren't so famous. We tried to get a running joke that Eric Carr, 2nd KISS drummer was an OG E-towner but it never took. I don't know how in the blue hell we thought this would be a good or funny idea, but we did and here I am talking about it. We hadn't discovered drugs or vandalism?
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's Still Real to Me (Personal KISS-tories)

For those of your normies who didn't watch wrestling in the 90s (how did you avoid it?) The Monday Night Wars were essentially a ratings battle between the two pre-eminent wrestling promotions of the time, WWF and WCW, all trying to outdo each other's Monday Night programming with outlandish stunts and story lines. I shan't retread all of the gory details, as the WWE network has done a 750 part series charting the specifics, but basically, in an effort to thwart the competition, Eric Bischoff (WCW) tried to develop an entire stable of KISS-inspired wrestlers which would in turn, help establish both the brand and the band. The effort began with KISS playing a horribly lip-synced version of "God of Thunder" on what would turn out to be one of the keystone lowest rated episodes of Nitro, and debuted the "KISS Demon" character, played by Dale Torborg and later, Brian "Crash" Adams. (Side note: They didn't play anything from Psycho Circus which was still a semi recent release). Shame we never got a full KNIGHTS IN SATAN'S SERVICE wrestling stable. The fans would have LOVED that....Oh, spoiler alert: WCW went out of business.
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Konosha Rock City (Personal KISS-tories)

No band from my "era" jumped the shark more deftly than Weezer. Two phenomenal albums, followed by one decent one, followed by 60 garbage ones that my little sister has probably heard more than me. Perhaps "nerd rock" tag is a bit staid now, but I have a whole mess of great memories playing A Link to the Past whilst listening to that Blue album over and over and over and over, my favorite tracks being "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" and of course the introvert's anthem "In the Garage."

I've got posters on my wall
my favorite rock group KISS
I've got Ace Frehley, I've got Peter Criss
Waiting there for me, yes I do.

I Love the fact that Cuomo's fav rock band is/was KISS and that he doesn't reference Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons. Straight up, Frehley is the man, and Gene Simmons and Donald Trump appear to be the same person.
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