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BELLYTIMBER agency: serious&ly cd: gabriel ricioppo illustration: will godwin CAFE DIEM agency: major major designer: r. anthony harris photo: joe opyt CAMEL agency: major major designer: r. anthony harris photo: ian graham CHA CHA CANTINA / LUCKY BUDDHA agency: major major GHOSTPRINT GALLERY cd: thea duskin photo: ian graham

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WRIR 97.3 FM designer: micheal harl | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 9



14 Dave Nada 18 John Sebastian Vitale 22 Luggage 28 Anthony Hall 32 Canary Oh Canary 36 Sterling Hundley 44 Balaclava 48 Black Liquid 52 Monument Snowboards 58 Megadeth 60 Record Reviews RVA MAGAZINE ARTICLES ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT RVAMAG.COM. Cover art by John Sebastian Vitale | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 11 | RVA Magazine | 12

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PHOTO: RICHARD PERKINS 14 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

n the summer of 1998, the hardcore band I was singing for played a show in a friend’s basement on Cary St, opening for two touring bands from DC. After we played and loaded out our equipment, we headed back down into the basement to see the first of the two touring bands, a group called De Nada. As soon as they started, all of our jaws dropped. They were loud, fast, and heavy, with powerful breakdowns and an intense, energetic stage presence. The guitarist was particularly impressive, throwing himself around the tiny basement room so frantically that the entire audience was backed up to the walls. After the set, though, he was friendly and outgoing--a total change from his onstage behavior. I ended up talking to him for a while after the show. That was how I got to know Dave Nada. Of course, Nada isn’t his real last name--it says Villegas on his birth certificate. But the punk rock tendency to rename people after their bands, and the fact that Dave Nada rhymed with De Nada, made the nickname impossible to resist. It stuck even after De Nada broke up in 2001 and Dave moved on to play in several other DC-area bands (Super Chinchilla Rescue Mission, Medic, and Bison, among others). Our bands played together several more times during the late 90s and early 2000s, but the last time one of my bands played with Medic, in early 2006, Dave wasn’t in the band anymore. When I asked what had happened, the other members of Medic told me that he’d quit to become a full-time DJ. I figured that was the last I’d hear of him. Imagine my surprise when, a few years later, I started to encounter all sorts of references to a DJ named Dave Nada. Not only had he established a career as an electronic music artist, he’d invented an entire new genre called moombahton. This genre, created by slowing down European house music and setting it to a reggaeton beat, was taking dance clubs by storm and propelling Dave Nada into the upper echelons of the electronic music world. I had to

find out what had happened over the past five years to transform him from hardcore guitarist to electronic music innovator. We reconnected over email, and I conducted this interview not long after his triumphant RVAlution gig at the Hat Factory this past summer. We met when you were playing in De Nada. Was that your first band? Yeah, De Nada was my first band that ever had releases and toured outside of DC. How old were you when you started playing guitar? I was probably about 16, in my junior

the bugged-out ambient stuff. Around that same time, I started working at the [University Of Maryland] radio station, WMUC. I used to do a punk rock radio show. We would always kick it [at the station], me and Tem, and we started meeting people who did different radio shows. Basically, going to Maryland kind of opened it up for me. There was already electronic music [around me], with my family and my brothers listening to that stuff, but it wasn’t really until I started going to college and hanging out with Tem. Were you doing electronic music at the same time you were playing in hardcore and metal bands in the late 90s and early 2000s, or was that something that came later?

Yeah. I just came to a point where I had to make a decision. I played in so many bands and did so many tours, and know, I always say it now: “I miss playing in a band, but I don’t miss doing a band.” [laughs] You’re dealing with so many personalities, and a lot of times everyone [wasn’t] on the same page. Sometimes things wouldn’t pan out, or big fights would break out at the end of a tour, and then things would kinda go sour. I had graduated from Maryland, and I was working full-time as a cancer research center manager. I was doing two bands, and then I was DJing every weekend. I was just wearing myself thin. I had started making decent money from DJing, and I felt comfortable quitting my day job. The bands wanted to tour, they wanted to practice every night and play on the weekends, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided that that’s where my head and my heart were at--I wanted to become a really good DJ and start learning how to produce music. So I made the jump. I quit Bison, I quit Medic, and then I quit my job and moved to Baltimore. Were you worn out with playing rock music in general?

year in high school. Then in my senior year, I started doing pre-De Nada bands with some of the same members. Once I graduated, that’s when we started playing shows and doing some tours. Now, were you listening to electronic music at the time? Yeah, actually, around that time I had just started going to the University Of Maryland, and Tem, who [ended up joining] De Nada, became one of my closest friends. He was from Yonkers, NY, and he put me onto all kinds of music that was outside of the usual hardcore/punk stuff. Besides that, my older brothers were really big into dance and electronic music. But Tem was pretty key, he got me into all kinds of hip-hop stuff, and electronic music in general. Stuff like Aphex Twin, more of

It was definitely something that I got into during Super Chinchilla Rescue Mission, and then going more towards Medic and Bison. I got really really big into classic funk, Fela [Kuti], afrobeat, and acid house, like late 80s Trax Records stuff. Around that time, my radio show started turning from a punk rock show into a freeform mix show. I would just bring in all kinds of records. But yeah, when I was doing Bison and Medic, I really started getting into electronic dance music. And then slowly but surely I started to gig out [as a DJ], and it came to a point where I was doing both Medic and Bison and I was DJing regularly on the weekends as well. Did the DJing interfere with your ability to play in bands? Because I remember you quit Medic.

Oh, not at all. It was such a good time, for Medic at least; Bison was a little bit tougher of an act to sell. But [Medic] were doing shows with Mastodon, Converge, Baroness, Darkest Hour--bands we looked up to and that we loved. I loved the music and it was great, but really, at the end of the day, my head was so deep into electronic music. I was listening to Danny Krivit records while waiting to finish doing merch at the show, and wanting to get back into the van and go through tunes. I found myself gravitating more towards club music. It wasn’t like I was tired of [heavy music], but I was just like, “I’ve gotta follow my heart.” It was tough, though, because we were writing tons of new music. But I was like, “This is what I want to do, | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 15

and this is the direction I want to go. I want to see how far I can take it.” The guys in the bands were some of my best friends, and they still are. They totally understood, and they kinda saw it coming. I did and still do miss playing, and miss the music. I didn’t get soured on the music at all. It was a really tough decision. I know that electronic music is more driven by remixes and things like that than original tracks. Do you see a big difference in the amount of original composition you do as an electronic artist versus when you were playing punk rock, and pretty much writing all of your own songs? As far as remixes go, I feel like there’s definitely a big difference, but I’m finding [that] working on original tracks with my buddy Matt Nordstrom, who I do Nadastrom with, totally reminds me of certain band practices. You’re in a room with your bandmates, and someone has an idea. And then you build off of that. When I work on production now, it totally reminds me of that. I really

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love to create drum patterns and drum loops, and Matt’s an engineer whiz, so he’s the king of building synth melodies and arrangements, and mixing in general. So a lot of times he’ll be like “I have this cool melody,” and [it] sounds like it would go over this cool drum pattern that I built from scratch, or that I cut out from samples to give it either a raw edge or a more electronic sound or whatever. But it reminds me of that same [sort of thing], you know, “Oh, I’ve got this beat,” and then, “Oh cool, well I’ve got this crazy riff.” It’s very similar because you’re adding effects to things and you’re automating stuff, and at the same time you’re recording the session so you don’t forget these ideas. I’m speaking as far as original productions. For remixes and remix culture, it’s a little different. It’s not a huge difference, but depending on what the people you’re remixing want--they might have a lot of demands, or they might just be like, “Do your thing.” But when it comes to original track work, it does remind me of writing music in bands. It’s really similar.

Do you think you bring a lot of influence from your days playing heavy music into making electronic music? Yeah, totally. I haven’t picked up my guitar in ages, but like I said, I really enjoy creating drum patterns and drum loops, and beats and whatnot. When I make drum patterns, I definitely pull from a lot of my punk years, and my years playing in bands. I mean, man, if you heard any of my old Baltimore club records, they were really, really aggressive. They were really dirty and raw, but that was just because I didn’t really know how to produce [laughs]. I would sample really shitty mp3s, and not know how to mix things, but at the same time I wanted everything to sound big, I wanted everything to sound heavy, I wanted to have that really really raw, heavy energy in the club. When I would go hear DJs play Baltimore club in Baltimore, through a huge system, it was just the most powerful sound. So I was like, “I wanna make tracks like that.” And of course, in DJing as well, you want to bring it just as much as you would play-

ing a live show. So having that pretty aggressive punk background, and playing in bands, and all that shit, I just put it all into production. This is interesting, though, because you’re talking about Baltimore club music and the thing that really made you famous is moombahton, which I feel like is very different from Baltimore club. Once moombahton became the big thing you were doing, do you feel like your style changed dramatically? How has that affected what you’ve done since? I don’t really think it has changed that much. My thing is this: I know moombahton doesn’t translate as well [on record] as it does in the club. I just did a big festival with Bassnectar and he gave me a really flattering compliment, saying like, “It was cool how you play that music at such a slow tempo, but there’s so much energy.” The music just pumps way harder live than it does on record, I think, because of the production. People get misled, because they think, “Oh, it’s at 110 BPM, it’s not as fast-paced


as your average club music,” which is around 130 BPM. But the energy is definitely there. For me, that’s been what’s really appealing about moombahton. It can get really deep, it can be really aggressive--especially now, with a lot of dubstep influences. You have dubstep cats like Skrillex, Porter Robinson, Datsik, Dillon Francis, all these guys who are making really hard-edged moombahton stuff at 110 BPM. You go out to the club and hear it live, and it just cuts right through you. Moombahton for me really is an amalgamation of all the music that I’ve been making over the years. It isn’t predetermined; it’s

just like, I’m gonna sound how I’m gonna sound, no matter what I’m making. So I’m not gonna beat myself up trying to worry about my sound. I’m always gonna sound like myself. Moombahton is just kind of a big-ass mix of all that, and also the music I grew up on, which is Latin music. It’s almost full-circle. It’s all of this music that was in my household growing up, and in my background. So it’s been pretty crazy how well it’s panned out. Have you heard any of the commercialcrossover moombahton records that have been coming out lately, like pop singles that are using it?

I’ve heard a couple. I’ve only heard some of the bootleg ones that people are making online. Some of them are really bad, and some of them are really good. It boils down to the producer and their take on it. But I’ve heard tons of moombahton versions of mainstream songs that I’m not really into. [laughs]

when Baltimore club got really popular at one point and then everyone would just slap a “Think” break over “Since U Been Gone” or whatever the fuck, and do a “Baltimore club edit.” And that would be people’s impression of [the genre], and they’d just write it off, like “Baltimore club sucks.” Meanwhile, there’s a catalog of Rod Lee and DJ Technics and KW Griff records that a lot of people will just miss. And that’s the real shit. So people can get the wrong impression, and whenever someone approaches me, and they just write it off, I’m like, “What you should really do is go to the club and see someone play it.” Because there are plenty of great DJs now that are pushing it, and doing it justice. It’s fun, man. [laughs] It’s just pure, unapologetic fun music.

Well, I was thinking of, for example, Nadia Oh’s “Taking Over The Dancefloor.” She’s saying “moombahton” in that song, but it’s totally a cheesy UK pop single. [laughs] Yeah, well, there’s always going to be a flooding of the market. It’s like | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 17

Untitled collage, archival digital print, 7.25x7.25''



he first time I met John Sebastian Vitale was about a year ago. There was a gallery doing a big exhibit that I was supposed to be in, called Love Looks Better In The Morning. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to show. Luckily, the inspiration for the exhibit entered my apartment along with Vitale. He intrigued me, and slightly frightened me. This man looked like Jerry Hsu mixed with Al Pacino circa 1974; he was really quiet and just looked all around at my art and my photos. After that, I got his number, hit him up, and nothing’s been the same since. That Love Looks Better In The Morning show was one of the best presentations I have ever done--and it was because of him. He worked with me, trained me, and sort of fathered me in a way with his stories, myths and wit. Once you find out who this man is, he will change the way you look at art forever, and will get you inspired to go out and make some. Ladies and Gentlemen… John Sebastian Vitale.

RVA Magazine Magazine No. No. 77 || 18 28 || RVA

Where are you from originally? I was born in Union City, New Jersey. When did you come to VA? My dad was a navy guy so we moved from there to Charleston, SC, then to Virginia Beach. That was in fourth grade, so I consider myself from VB. Was VA a stepping stone at all for NY? I’d say yes, since it’s where I grew up, and I ended up in NY eventually. The area had a big effect on me during my teens--being responsible for carving what you want out of a low density area, being around an overly competitive beach scene, a DIY music scene, being able to skate with certain people... The sort of stock answers for an artist my age, but I think those things gave me a sense of independence and self reliance. So to answer your question, yes. Is there any torturous process that goes into making your collages? Not really. I can’t really draw as well as I’d like, so they start as sketches for potential projects. They develop in a pretty intuitive way after that. If you set out to find twenty-eight different images of airplanes, you’re gonna come across a lot of images on the way, you know. So as long as I don’t get too obsessive about it, it’s pretty pleasurable.

Installation for the Tommy Hilfiger flagship store NYC.

“I love magazines, and it pains me to cut them up sometimes. Do you do the old style of cut out collage? Do you use photoshop? I guess I could one-up the I get this question a lot. Collage is recontextualizing existing images [through] their relanaysayers and reconfigure tion to other images and composition, right? So in that sense, it’s traditional. But yeah, I use modern tools to do it. You can tell some dinosaurs have given me flak for it, right? I some cave paintings with a love magazines, and it pains me to cut them up sometimes. I guess I could one-up the naysayers and reconfigure some cave paintings with a hammer and chisel. hammer and chisel.” || RVA RVA Magazine Magazine No. No. 77 || 19 29

Still from “On It. (American Voodoo Wish Machine)” documentation video.

Pages from Psychic Sacrifyx, a collaborative zine with Richard Perkins

Still from “I is Something (Free Band T-Shirts)” video.

Pages from Psychic Sacrifyx, a collaborative zine with Richard Perkins

When it comes to art in VA, focusing on cities like VA Beach, Norfolk and of course Richmond, do you think there are enough starving artists and heavy hitters here to really push, and make something last? If so, who are some of your favorite local artists and who do you think is on the come up? I definitely think there are enough people making great shit in the area to have a lasting art community. I personally think lower density cities are pockets where great things will definitely come from in the near future. It has its advantages--lower overhead, space to get weird without having to look over your shoulder at a gigantic cultural infrastructure--and there’s a bunch of locals taking advantage of that. Obviously I dig what you’ve been up to, Hampton Boyer is pretty great, too many musicians to name... There are a ton of good musicians, almost all of the local artists that have been showing at V MOCA [Virginia Museum of Contemporary Arts] recently... Let’s put it this way--if I had a gallery, I would have no problem programming it with great shows and performances from area artists for a year, easy. You have worked with Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, and Belvedere Vodka--what did working with these powerhouses do to your ego when you were away, and what made you slow down your reign? I worked with those brands as an art director for a design company. While I employed large amounts of creativity in projects for these clients, I was just doing my job well, like any other person who takes pride in what they do. It affected my ego in that I learned that I’m comfortable with large amounts of responsibility, and feel like I can come up with creative solutions pretty regularly. But there’s a ton of creative professionals in the world, and I don’t feel extra special that that happens to be my particular skill set. 20 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

“IF I HAD A GALLERY, I WOULD HAVE NO PROBLEM PROGRAMMING IT WITH GREAT SHOWS AND PERFORMANCES FROM AREA ARTISTS FOR A YEAR EASY.” As far as “slowing down my reign”, after I left that company and was freelance for a while, I decided to head back home for a bit and take a break. I’d been in NY for ten years at that point. I came back and just ended up staying. You just had a show at the V MOCA. What did you think of the turnout? Do you wanna talk about the Psychic Sacrifyx zine we premiered there? Yeah, I got a lot of really great feedback from that show. It was a pretty good turnout. Psychic Sacrifyx [is] an illumination of the suburban psyche. What can I say? It’s around us down there. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s without a doubt something. It’s visual representation of that weird psychic space. Since you’ve been back in VA Beach, everything has been better down there; the scene, the art, the culture. Do you think in a matter of time you will permanently change things for the good? BROMANTIC! Thanks man. I’m certainly dedicated to helping make shit happen. I feel like things will continue to get more exciting, definitely. Any big plans for the future? Any collaborations or big work? You and I have a few exciting things on the horizon. I’m just finishing up another collaboration with an architect in Norfolk. There are a lot of things in the oven, and I feel like I’ll jinx them if I talk about them. Let’s just say I’m excited to move forward. Opposite page: Untitled collage, archival digital print, 30x40” | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 21

E V I S U L C X E THE SEX, THE DRUGS, THE RAP THE SHOCKING TRUTH Interview By Dan Anderson Photos By Thomas Fields


The 21st century brought with it many technological advances, including affordable consumer grade recording gear and exponential access to a global audience via the internet, all of which have led to sweeping changes within the hip-hop game. Luggage is among the names to emerge victorious from the chaos, and rightfully so. After almost three silent years, Kevin

‘Oxen’ Johnson and Ben ‘BenFM’ Bateman have returned with a seasoned sound and a hedonistic philosophy, quickly establishing themselves as the willing representatives for loud music, good times, and chemical consumption within the streets of RVA. Luggage is about to unleash both their most mature and most irresponsible record to date, appropriately titled Sex, Drugs and Rap.


With production credits from notable producers such as Chadrach (Divine Profitz), Bobby LaBeat (Audio Ammo), and Loop Merchant, the rhythms are what ultimately set this record apart from the competition. Second only to the instrumentals are the themes. With standout lyrics like “We don’t have to do nothing but die, make rap, get high,” and song titles like “Listen To The



RVA Magazine Magazine No. No. 77 || 48 || RVA 22

Chemicals,” their “party like a rock star” attitude is obvious and consistent throughout the project. Inspired by psychedelic hangovers, wanton women and Daniel Quinn novels, they also attempt to reach beyond traditional hip-hop borders. Remaining true to their roots, Luggage keeps it simple, with choruses that bring their energy from the stage to the studio. I ran into Kevin several months ago at an RVA Magazine release party out in the front of Belly Timber Tavern. When I asked if he still rapped, his reply was a downcast “yeah.” He told me he felt like the scene


“ YOU GET TO THROW TVs IN THE SWIMMING POOLS AT HOTELS.” times, was horrible at it. I was surrounded by so many people that could do so much cool shit artistically. I had to pick out one thing that I could do, stand out, and be better than anyone else who tries to do it. The whole thing we’re doing now... the music is there, its almost second nature at this point. We know we can make dope music. That’s something that we don’t have to think about as much anymore. If it was just about music Ben and I wouldn’t be friends. Ben: [Laughs] You don’t think you could have that kind of chemistry in something else, like a business venture that doesn’t have hip-hop or art? Ben: It could be anything, We know how to deal with each other’s bullshit. So at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of that to deal with.

Ben: Probably less than a thousand people don’t have a day job because they rap. But how many people don’t have a day job because they create art? Thousands upon thousands. I think that makes it way harder to be a rapper than an artist.

M&M’s with the brown ones removed-ed.] What would be on your rider?

Kevin: But I guarantee it’s more fun being a rapper.

Kevin: ...but it’s not, you know.


Ben: You gotta do the brown M&M’s. I always heard that story as being a example of weird crazy kooky OCD rockstars…



“SEX, DRUGS, RAP” Is the secret to Luggage

Ben, you’re an artist. If you had to choose between drawing and rapping, what would you do?

THE BOHEMIAN RAP MC was getting too young for him. While most people run from the possibility of ever having to face failure, it’s refreshing to find a thirty-year-old rapper willing to go against the odds for one last hurrah, in hopes of making all dreams into reality. However, as the rap game grows older, so do the legends, and lets not forget that Jay-Z was nearly thirty before his career began to take off. Sex, Drugs and Rap is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is convoluted. On the surface, it’s exactly what it claims to be. At its core, though, beneath the dope beats, clever ad-libs, and witty punchlines, there lives a testament to acquiring wisdom while never letting go of that reckless youthfulness we all have festering within us. It’s a voyage through the crowded streets, sold-out shows, and VIP sections that inhabit the minds of two madmen. The message is simple: live, love, laugh, and let go of those things that inhibit most of us from enjoying life day-to-day. Kevin: Let’s take it to the beginning. In high school, this guy K-Boogie was one year above me, and he gave me a tape he had recorded, I guess on a boombox, with a beat playing. They were all jacked beats, but he put a little insert in the tape. It was like Hieroglyphics and Black Moon beats from back in the day. I remember thinking: this is the coolest shit. The only person in the school making rap music gave me a tape. From there, I was always rapping. Thought I was good at it. Tried graffiti a couple

Ben: Damn, that’s like would you rather be blind or deaf? Do you believe that between art versus rhyme, one could be more lucrative than the other?


IS HE CRAZY? MAYBE. Ben: There’s definitely equal opportunity in both of those worlds. You have people making millions of dollars on either [side]. Certain people who are good enough at what they do. Who wouldn’t want to be one of those people? Which of the two do you feel is more saturated with people? Which could you be more successful in? Ben: I guess with art, there is more of a market. If you want to make your living as a rapper--I mean, how many people do that? Kevin: We don’t even know how to do that.

Ben: You get to throw TVs in the swimming pools at hotels. Kevin: Led Zeppelin style. Every time we get a hotel, Zeppelin is mentioned. So speaking of that, you guys know about Van Halen and the brown M&M’s? [On their concert rider, Van Halen would always request a bowl of

Ben: Because if you see brown M&M’s, then maybe my flamethrowers are pointed in the wrong direction too. It’s a test of how closely they can follow [directions], because you don’t know these people. You can just go into town and be like, “You better have all this shit done,” because some of it’s important. What kind of stuff do you throw in there? || RVA RVA Magazine Magazine No. No. 77 || 23 49

Ben: Packs of socks. New socks. So the whole time you were on tour, you just throw your dirty socks out. Kevin: My idea of a rider as a joke is the Dave Chappelle show, when he’s doing the Puffy, Making The Band skit, and he’s like, “Go get me some Cambodian breast milk.” It’s like, why make people do that? People are human beings, so I

drop was Sign-Us Pressure. It’s a thirteen song album. But I’m so fucking glad we didn’t drop it. The music we made when we were doing Speak Easy Luggage was inspired by this new sound that we were getting into. We had Casey Tomlin from VCR making our beats, but Sign-Us Pressure was just me and Ben being frustrated about not getting the immediate success from the Speak


Kevin: Day By Day had a huge influence during that [time]. They did a whole lot for us. We definitely wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for Dave Stewart and Will Carsola. Sign-Us Pressure was coming off of the success from the Day by Day Teenagers from Marz video, and I think we wanted to continue the buzz. It just took too long. Right now it’s the complete opposite. We have everything, we’re shooting videos, we’re making all this gear, doing mad shows, parties. We’re doing what’s called a monthly shuffle, at the Nile once a month. We play with a punk rock band, or rock ‘n’ roll band. Ben: Something that would contrast with us. Do you think a crossover show with two different genres would have worked back in 2004? Kevin: It did. It’s how we came up. Ben: The Strike Anywhere show we played back in the day was a great show. At the time that was the most people we had ever performed in front of. It was fun, because it wasn’t something they’d normally [see]. I love it. Genres are getting mixed up more. Remember when “Hey Ya” came out, and Nelly was making country music? [Music is] going more and more in that direction, which I love, and which I think is very important to our survival as a species. How does technology influence your music now?

wouldn’t ask for anything, I don’t think, but who knows? The more money I give to the rider, the more drugs I start doing. And the more famous I think I am, the more crazy I get. I think me and Ben are on that path.

Easy album, so we just put it together. [We were] so uninspired. It was kind of rushed, the lyrics weren’t as good, we were just pissed. And we never dropped it.

Obviously you feel that the market in Richmond is ready for Luggage. How do you feel about the market outside of Richmond?

Do you think it was almost Freudian, that you created this album that you feel was contrived, that was basically calling out the record labels, and you didn’t drop it?

Kevin: Even better. I think the midAtlantic and Northeast are definitely the market for Luggage. Ben: That’s the thing about Richmond. There are so many haters in Richmond. If you can make it work here, and stay afloat in Richmond, anywhere else you go, you’ll be straight. Because it won’t be as bad as there. Kevin: The only thing holding us back is us, and now we’re realizing its time to take this shit seriously. The other night I had a good friend over, and I let him hear the whole album. He just looked at me and was like, “Dude, what the fuck, why aren’t you guys already signed?” The name of the album that we didn’t 24 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

Ben: My new iPhone just gives me so much access to music. I can lay in my bed and be like, “I want to listen to flamenco today.” I don’t need to have a friend who knows all the best flamenco artists to put me onto. I can just type it in. The more music that gets into me, the better music comes out of me.

Kevin: We never really talked about it before. I just realized right now that it’s kind of funny that it never really came out. Ben: I feel like in retrospect, looking back and listening to those songs now, I’d do things differently. I could do things better. But at the time we were doing all that shit, we loved it.

“There are so many haters in Richmond. If you can make it work here, and stay afloat in Richmond, anywhere else you go, you’ll be straight.”

“LEGEND RE-UNITED LUGGAGE” What are you guys listening to most? What do you feel most influenced Sex, Drugs, and Rap? Ben: Something I don’t know all the words to. I want to listen to new music. I want to listen to new things. I want to spread out more. If I’m at the bar and Liquid Swords comes on, of course I’m the first dude wilding out, probably spilling drinks on people. But on my time, I want to listen to new things. Kevin: If I listen to a rapper that I like a lot, the next time I’m in the studio I find myself somewhat mimicking [them]. I seriously don’t fucking listen to other rappers anymore. It’s hard for me to do it. The shit I listen to will blow your mind. I woke up this morning and put T-Rex in for awhile, then the Best Of The Smiths album. Or if I have my Hank III CD sitting around, I’ll listen to that shit. Guaranteed, it won’t be rap music unless it was classic, or something so dumbed down--I would listen to some Gucci Mane, or some shit like that. Kevin, you spent some time in Oakland. How was that? Kevin: Well, this was when Ben and I were estranged for a couple years. We had just been through too much. We’d see each other out and be like like what’s up, but we had other shit going on. So I made the Brains For Breakfast album with Chadrach. It was a whole concept album that I had made. I was so happy and proud of it. I got a wooden stamp made, and stamped all the CDs on the outside. I went out [to Oakland]

and just lived for nine months; went to the bars with CDs and met people. People would buy me a drink for a CD. It was like passing out flyers. I just didn’t really know how to push it. I was out in Cali just having fun. You know, girls, sex, drugs, and rap. But rap was just a CD I was giving out to people. And now, it’s like I’m trying. This shit is going to happen. When it comes to rapping, it takes time.

Kevin: If our meals, hotel rooms, and party supplies get paid for, you can have the rest.

Ben: Getting organized and on top of things on a day to day basis is just not in our skill set. Let’s put this out there: if you make Luggage money, and if you

Ben: Legend reunited Luggage.

You guys worked on a compilation album with a bunch of people in Central Virginia called When Does A Story Become... Legend. Tell us about that. Kevin: That album has the first song Ben and I made together in four years.

Kevin: It was all for charity. All for Chadrach and his family. He made every single beat on it. Ben: That kind of compilation of Virginia artists--there are people from Roanoke, Lynchburg--that’s needed to happen for so long. The shit is so good. Every song, everyone on there. There’s such a range of different styles that all sound at perfectly at home on these beats. It’s a good fucking album. Obviously you guys rely on other people at times. So who are those people?

LUGGAGE GIVES BACK. sell our music on the internet, we’ll give you some of it. We are irresponsible dudes. If you want to manage our iTunes... You guys are hiring a babysitter. Ben: We’re not looking for a babysitter. We’re a little more high class than that.

Ben: Number one: Swerve 360. This dude is our DJ at shows. He’s hosting a show, getting everyone riled up, he’s our hype man, he records us at his house, he’s an engineer. Kevin: He does all the cuts on our albums. Ben: If you are having a party and you want to have a good time, give him a fucking microphone.

He’s kind of like the hip hop landmark of Richmond. Ben: Put that motherfucker in a square dance. Give him a microphone, they’ll be loving his ass. One man party, and produces beats too. And raps. That’s why we don’t want him on the album, because he’ll outshine us. Sum up Sex, Drugs and Rap. What can the readers expect? Kevin: They can expect to take a journey with us. We’re not trying to change your mind or anything. We’re not preaching to you. We’re just telling you what we see in our mind’s eye. We’re going to

“ We’re going to explain to people what it’s like to be on certain levels of psychosis, of psychedelics, any kind of benders or vices you have.”

explain to people what it’s like to be on certain levels of psychosis, of psychedelics, any kind of benders or vices you have. Basically if you are straight edge and you’re thinking about selling out, I will give you a Luggage album and you can [decide] if you want to turn out like us. A lot of sex, a lot of drugs, and a whole lot of rap music. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last fucking ten years. So it gives the listener the ability to live vicariously through you guys over the last ten years?

Ben: And it’s an invitation to come join in our reckless bohemian rapper lifestyle. The biggest thing about the title is that’s what they would say in the sixties: it’s all sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. And I’m a hippie, dude. I love everybody. My world peace motherfuckers movement is getting hashtag #worldpeacemotherfuckers on my tweet tweet. And that’s part of it too, man. At the end of the day we’re all alive and we’re all here now, and we have to party together. search: luggagerichmond

Kevin: Absolutely. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 25 7 | 26 | RVA Magazine |No. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 27

Anthony Hall Shoots Rad Shit

Words By Jaime Turko

28 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

“ Anthony Hall is the kind of guy who has the audacity to embark on promotional campaigns that claim, quite simply, ‘I shoot rad shit’; yet for some inexplicable reason he attempted to pen a wordy academic statement to accompany his ‘Value’ series and present it as some sort of critical observation of cultural values and commodityfetishism, which just made him sound like a pretentious douche. It’s bad enough he’s speaking of himself in the third person now…maybe he just took photos of naked chicks rockin’ baller fashion accessories, okay?” –Artist commentary for “Value” series

Anthony Hall: I have a hard time thinking of myself as an artist. When I got into photography as a career, I totally knew I wanted to do commercial work—make money with a camera. I never had that ‘true artist’ struggle [about] not selling out, or not doing commercial work. Instead, I knew that I could do something I enjoy and shoot great stuff, [while] shooting stuff that I didn’t care so much about, but still made money. So that’s sort of one of the issues I had when I went to VCU. Their photo department is very fine-arts based, which is great, but it made me feel like wanting to do anything commercial was looked down upon. That’s when I started to lose interest in some of my classes. I would come up with some idea that I wanted to do as an independent project, but there wasn’t a lot of time to squeeze it in between school projects.


hen I heard that Anthony Hall’s photographic work of “really interesting” nudes was going to be shown in Spur Gallery this past October, my curiosity led me to his website,, for a little pre-exhibit research. I was immediately drawn to his well-composed, gritty imagery that combined the beautiful with the uncomfortable. Divine figures clothed in a secret sort of smirk and the raw sexiness of trash culture imagery. This guy knew what he was trying to say, and he had no qualms about blasting the volume of his message within each of his photographs. Curious about what he was really all about, I clicked on the “About” hyperlink and found myself staring at a fashion shot: a t-shirt stating “Polite as Fuck” being stretched across the delicate frame of a blonde model. Anthony’s bio was pretty simple: “I Shoot Rad Shit.” “Great. This guy’s a fucking prick,” I thought to myself. “But his work is incredible.” Clicking on the “Contact” link took me to the artist himself sitting in a field, dressed sharply in a black

suit, wearing aviator sunglasses, and talking on a cell phone. I smiled. I got it. Nice persona. After seeing his installation at Spur, “Value,” a bold discussion of materialism using racy nudes as his podium, I was sold. I needed to know who was really behind the camera, and learn a little about how he chooses to focus his lens. When I visited him in his studio at Plant Zero, I wasn’t faced with the “pretentious douche” photographer persona that he described in his artist statement, but instead found a down-to-earth guy who took some time to step from behind his camera and share with me some background on himself as an artist and as an all-around swell guy:

I took a lot of time off after high school and got into VCU a couple years ago. Because of some weird family stuff, I got my first apartment my senior year in high school. Extracurricular stuff went to the side, because I had to work full time and still go to high school for the year. So I just sort of forgot about photography, and tried to just pick my camera up now and again to just shoot stuff. Finally a few years ago, I picked up the camera and was like, “Oh yeah, hey, this is what I wanted to do.” At that time, I was back in school for other stuff, so I applied to the photo department at VCU. I should technically still be there. Within the last year, I took a bunch of time off for family reasons. I started again last spring semester full-time, but I was starting to work a lot and getting a lot of photo jobs, so halfway through the semester, I dropped almost all of my classes. When I signed up again, I realized how expensive it was to go part-time, and I didn’t want to keep taking loans out and accumulate more debt. I wanted to take a few classes so I didn’t have to pay my loans back yet. I know that’s not the best motivation for school, but, that’s how it was at the time. College is kind of

"I never had that ‘true artist’ struggle [about] not selling out, or not doing commercial work." | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 29

a scam. So yeah, I did go to VCU, but I don’t know when I will go back, or if I ever will. When I started going to school when I was younger, it wasn’t for art school or anything like that; it was just to go to school. And now I have a bunch of debt that I’m facing and I’ve decided I’m just not doing it anymore. The one thing that I like about being in school is seeing other people doing work around you. That’s a great benefit, but my mindset comes from being a slightly older student. I’m married, and we have a house, and we’re doing our thing. It’s not like I’m fresh out of high school and looking for the college experience. Being in school forces you to develop a body of work, but it really comes more in waves for me. I come up with ideas, and write them down, and then don’t get around to doing them. “Value” is the biggest cohesive body of work that I’ve done. My other stuff is single images and smaller projects. But right now, after doing this piece, my work is starting to develop into larger projects.

"Everything that I have seen in art photography lately has been pushed to This is the second time that I’ve had a body of be so concept-based that sometimes it’s work up in a space. I had an entirely different show up in Sprout last summer, mostly black and white overly anti-aesthetic." darkroom work. I was thinking about death a lot, and was having a shitty year, so none of it had any commercial or fashion influence--[it was] more just out-of-focus silhouetted figures. I was working on “Value” with the intent of doing a show with it, but I didn’t know if it would be necessarily right for Richmond. When I had the chance to do it [at Spur], I decided to go for it and see how it would be received in Richmond.

I guess the piece is more of an LA thing. People [in LA] are more accepting as fashion as art, even though the work is sort of making fun of it, too.

I think it would make more sense in New York or LA. Richmond’s sort of a weird place; it’s hard for people to sell art in Richmond. Aesthetically,

I’ve done photography in so many areas, and have interests in so many areas. My interest is in commercial and fashion work, but I’ve shot more

30 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

I went into this knowing that it would be a very special sort of person [that] would buy this sort of stuff. I guess the whole thing could have been a series of items on an ass. Just tons of photos of things sitting on asses. Asses can be distracting.

modern pin-ups and nudes. Then I started seeing connections--it’s not all that different. Everything is so sexualized in fashion. It’s fetishizing products, and people as products. “Value” is a critical work, but of something that I’m also interested in; self-critical, I guess. I love to do fashion work. Fashion work has such a human element, dealing with people, and fashion photography is allowed to be superficial. Everything that I have seen in art photography lately has been pushed to be so concept-based that sometimes it’s overly anti-

aesthetic. I can listen to [them] talk all day about [their] work, but I don’t want to look at [their] photos. Sometimes I just like looking at a pretty photo— what’s wrong with that? Obviously, I like women. Fashion work can just be superficial, and it’s expected to be that way, so you can just have fun and do whatever. Even in my serious work, there’s humor. It has always been my intent to use the Internet as a way to be whoever I want to be. The idea of playing with an artist persona... I took that jump to be the cocky “I’m the shit” asshole, and used the “I Shoot Rad Shit” [slogan] in my promo work to ad agencies. I took that risk figuring that people would be either like, “Yeah, fuck this guy,” and hate it, or they’d get that it’s a joke. Those are the people that I want to work with. This is my awesome photographer character. I’m going to wear my nice suit and be on my cell phone in a middle of a field somewhere. There are going to be

people who think I’m a super-cocky asshole, or just a skeezy photographer, and not like me based on that. I still get a little nervous, because I want people to like me. If finding work is considered my next project, then yeah, I’m working on another project. As far as more art-based stuff, I’m not working on anything at the moment. I have a year’s worth of ideas that will be good photographic projects, but right now, I’m working on self-promotion and “work-work.” Being a photographer in Richmond, you have to be willing to do a little bit of everything. Maybe my new artist persona should be me sitting at a table with a steaming hot cappuccino wearing a cableknit sweater and big round eyeglasses. That way people would trust me to photograph their daughters. None of the images from the Value Series appear in this article due to their explicit nature. To see them visit | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 31

CANARY OH CANARY C INTERVIEW BY SHANNON CLEARY / PHOTOS BY PJ SYKES anary Oh Canary have patiently and deliberately crafted a sound that has been described in several ways. One description that has been applied to them is the term “shoewave,” a hybrid genre which combines the genres of new wave and shoegaze. They have certainly taken elements from these genres during their natural evolution as a band. Yet it all started rather simply, with two individuals finding a kindred approach to music by slowing down a Zombies track. The first step in Canary Oh Canary’s evolution occurred during a Spring 2010 attempt to revive Rock Lotto, 32 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

a Richmond tradition in which bands would be assembled by drawing names out of a hat. Said bands would then have one week to write and rehearse a set in preparation for a show at which all of them would perform. One of the bands assembled for this particular Rock Lotto included Michael Harl and Josie Davis. The two quickly discovered their similar musical inclinations. “We were doing this song by The Zombies, ‘This Old Heart Of Mine,’ which they took from The Isley Brothers,” Harl relates. “Josie and I were on the same wavelength when we both thought to slow down the song. We kept slowing it down to the point of ridiculousness,

and I don’t think the other guys really got it.” “Yeah, I think some of the guys actually flat out refused to play it that way,” Davis chimes in. “So I thought we should totally deconstruct the song, and then bring it back and make it something entirely different,” Harl continues. “That kind of stuck with me and in my brain--that if [Davis] really wanted to do something like that, then I should try to reconnect with her, and create our own songs [from] this idea [of] the sparseness and the space between.” Harl christened the band based on a story he’d heard on the radio while preparing to go to the Rock Lotto drawing. “There was

a story on WRIR, during Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature, that was talking about how our children were our canaries,” Harl recalls. “Basically, it took the idea of canaries detecting poisons so that they could evacuate mines, and how our children have taken on this role [in modern society]. That’s where the name came from.” At the time of the Rock Lotto, Harl was still participating in local outfit Splork, in which he played bass. “With Splork, it was like, ‘Let’s fill it up with notes, folks,’” Harl explains. “Splork had a lot to do with following [Splork lead guitarist] Phil [Ford]’s lead and anchoring down a rhythm that could fit into what we wanted to do for that band.” Also during this time, Davis was playing guitar in The Blackout Twins. It was a transitional time in her life, as she

explains: “When I started playing in The Blackout Twins, it was at a point where I was trying out sobriety. It was tough to play some of the songs, just because they were about breakups and drinking too much. It was difficult to relate to for me, and I think that in itself initiated a distance in the band.” Unfortunately, the spring 2010 Rock Lotto didn’t end up happening. However, the Rock Lotto version of Canary Oh Canary decided to play a set at Sprout. The group could easily have ended afterwards, but in light of Harl and Davis’s similar thought processes about what to do next, the two decided to carry on. Drummer Noell Alexander, who had joined Splork shortly before they dissolved in August 2010, became the group’s final component. “Noell joined Splork, and then we broke up,” jokes Harl. Soon after Splork’s breakup, Harl

asked him to join Canary Oh Canary, and the trio began working together in October 2010. At first, they were moving away from the original thought behind the band. The songs were becoming faster, and the deconstruction they’d initially sought was fading. “This was a point where we decided to start over,” Harl explains. “We weren’t against going for faster songs, but we wanted to keep the original thought of slowing down in mind. We didn’t want to just bash out a few power chords.” “It has a lot do with intention and intensity,” Davis remarks. “Intensity without volume was the thing,” Harl responds. “We have even caught ourselves being too loud. We don’t need to be loud, we just need to be intense.” “Being loud is easy and we are smarter than that,” replies

“ We have even caught ourselves being too loud. We don’t need to be loud, we just need to be intense.” Alexander. “There is driving, and there is speed for the sake of speed, and I think that’s kind of a cop out. There are times where we catch ourselves being fast, and it’s fun to play, but I think there are so many bands that are having fun doing that, and its not the most interesting thing to listen to. I think that’s our biggest challenge. It’s more of us backing off and slowing down. We avoid taking the easy route--being loud just because we can, or being fast just because we can.” “I’ll turn it up

louder if the room demands it, but I try to keep my amp at five,” jokes Harl. Before they played a show, they spent the greater part of four months engaging in frequent, marathon rehearsals. “Even when we were preparing for the Rock Lotto, we ended up practicing every day for about two weeks,” Davis recalls. “I don’t know if the rest of the band knew at first, but I guess they can see it now that I’m a bit of a control freak,” says Harl. “So we would | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 33

“ It’s really important to me to play music, but this band satisfies me more than anything else I’ve done.” [practice] for hours on end. We practice twice a week. We even meet up at 10:30 on Saturday mornings.” It’s this type of work ethic that helped provide ample space for the group to engage in the pivotal properties of their sound. During these sessions, they let Davis steer the songs by playing a bass-line repeatedly for long periods of time. This allowed Harl and Alexander to figure out which sequences worked better for the song. The first song they completed was “Embrace,” a ten-minute jam that Harl has declared their “rock opera.” The song begins with Davis strumming and 34 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

the harmonics of Harl’s guitar humming. Harl’s vocals come in with an elongated wail, and the first words uttered are “Baile, baile” (which translates to “Dance, dance”). At first, the command to dance is amusing, given the tempo of the song, but at the same time, it makes sense. The dance that Canary Oh Canary evokes is a patient waltz that flourishes with contemplative bursts. When discussing the song, Harl mentions that it was initially inspired by crackling noises and pops, but he soon found an additional source of inspiration in Egon Schiele’s painting, Embrace. The work of art involves two lovers clinging to one another in a way that

indicates intertwined lust, desire, and companionship. The sparse textures of “Embrace” cause Harl’s words take on further impact, and the climactic crescendo reaches towards expanding heights. In this song, Canary Oh Canary both declare a mission and provide a testament to their ability to achieve it. After months of preparation, the day finally arrived for Canary Oh Canary to unveil their work to an audience. They played their first show at Sprout in February 2011. “I think the easiest way to explain why I waited so long for us to play our first show was that I just didn’t want for it to suck,” explains Harl. “I think the reason bands are waiting

longer to play their first shows is more a testament to the caliber of bands performing,” Alexander observes. “There is a time and a place to just play for the sake of playing, but you really have to bring your professional game these days. When you have [local] bands like The Diamond Center, The Trillions and so on, it creates more of a desire to really nail it.” The show left a lingering impact, and a buzz began to spread across Richmond. Almost immediately, there was overwhelming demand for the band to release a recording. “I remember playing those first shows and having people demand an EP,” Harl recalls. “My immediate reaction was that it was only our third or fourth show, and that we wanted to take our time.” However, the group eventually reached out to local musician and musical archivist JK Kassalow to record a four-song EP.

Davis accidentally sliced a part of her finger off just before the recording session. “I always have to mention that we recorded this release after I had a slip-up with a knife at work,” she says. On the EP that resulted, entitled Last Night in Sunway Knolls, Kassalow was able to capture the outfit’s unique dynamic. Tunes like “Embrace” and the title track demonstrate their talent for long-form songs. On the title track, Harl relates a tale of childhood adventure, making something as simple as hopping fences to a shady part of the world seem like a risk that could change everything. The song never requires the music to intensify, because the lyrics do so on their own. When Harl wails “And we’ll run!” overtop of gentle guitars, Canary Oh Canary accomplish what they set out to do--creating intensity without a corresponding increase in volume.

“Face In The Magazine” and “In The Panelled Basement” are a bit steadier tempo-wise. “Face” assesses celebrity to a beat reminiscent of Devo and other new wave brethren of the eighties. This particular track allows Davis and Alexander to shine in their respective departments. Expanding on a simple bass line, they lay a strong groundwork for Harl to gracefully slide through a jangly melody. “Basement” is based around Harl’s memories of spending time in his uncle’s basement, which closely resembled the practice space where the group spent their early days together, on the day that Elvis Presley passed away. As a lastminute inclusion to the EP, the group added a four-track demo version of a new track entitled “Hypomanic Punctuation,” followed by the beginning of their practice session with “Basement.” The demo was captured on the anniversary of Presley’s death,

which indicates that everything may in fact come full circle, and that the momentum behind any of our creative developments is truly out of our hands.

we bring our own ideas to the table. It’s really rewarding in the end, and it’s something that feels fresh to me in relation to other bands I’ve played in.”

When considering their future, the band reflects on the reason they started in the first place. “I just don’t want to be in bands for the sake of being in bands any longer,” notes Alexander. “It’s really important to me to play music, but this band satisfies me more than anything else I’ve done.” Harl also considers the early success of the group as a triumph on its own. “If the band were to end tomorrow, Canary would be the furthest I’ve gone with any project,” he says. “We have played DC twice, released an EP, played close to a few dozen shows, and nothing has begun dulling out yet.” “With this band, we are all type-A personalities,” Davis explains. “Yet, when we write a song, we all write our own parts, and

Canary Oh Canary has been steadily writing new material for a forthcoming full-length. One song that stands out is entitled “Integrity Among Men.” This tune often acts as a set closer for the band. During the final drumbeats, Harl stretches past the microphone, repeatedly screaming “you have lost control.” While instances on the EP indicate the band’s proclivity for letting the songs evolve on their own, a lack of control is one thing Canary Oh Canary doesn’t have to worry about. Their first year of existence has been full and eventful, and they won’t be slowing down anytime soon. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 35

36 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

Not A Businessman But A Business, Man. An Interview with Sterling Hundley by R. Anthony Harris


terling Hundley is an accomplished illustrator, a well respected professor at VCU, and one of the main people behind the professional illustrator factory, The Art Department. AdHouse Books has recently released a retrospective monograph of his work, entitled Blue Collar, White Collar. So I got straight to the point: When did you become a businessman? [laughs] It’s a hard business, man. I think that’s the future of artists--being your own brand. You take the online tools of social media and connecting with people, and it becomes a numbers game. I can get my own exposure. All I have to do is make a distinct product. [I can] say I wanna write a graphic novel, and get someone interested. Then I can release the “making of,” and that’s another product. You don’t have to cold call anymore--people are asking for information. You’ve got the book to produce; maybe print on demand, so you don’t have the overhead of publishing costs. And you sell directly to people that are interested. It’s all there. It’s really pretty exciting. How’s the business side with you? I know you do the teaching part, and finding the talent, but how do you train the modern illustrator and designer to run their own business? Do you guys have classes for that? Oh yeah. All this stuff I’m saying has come from personal experience. I’ve actually retired from illustration. I’m a painter now, and I’m pursuing galleries. In a lot of ways, I’ve started from scratch, but not completely. The biggest frustration I had with illustration was that I wasn’t the master of that content. I couldn’t license [my illustrations]. I couldn’t do much with them, because they were so specific to that product. I want to be the author from the start. I have about fourteen different stories, graphic novels and things I wanna write. I’m trying to just pursue different things and move laterally, instead of trying to figure everything out completely. If you can be exceptional at one thing, then you’re well beyond the people that are successful out there. Very few people are exceptional. You can build on that one thing, and be exceptional, then become exceptional at another thing and keep building on that. Then you’re going to be a star. That’s how I’m teaching the Senior Studio at VCU. It’s not just getting a portfolio together and sending out postcards--you have to have that connectivity. You basically put yourself in the center of the hub with all the things that you are doing. I kind of reorganized everything [recently]. My website is essentially a gateway. I point [people] towards the hub. All these things have multiple revenue streams, if you think about it. You’ve got t-shirts, tennis shoes, and cases for iPhones. Anything that you can print on can be potential for creative output. You’ve got the physical artifacts themselves--the paintings, the drawings. Those can be monetized. The educational aspect can be monetized. Limited edition prints and books. That can all be monetized, and you don’t have to charge as much because [production] is not as expensive these days. [At The Art Department,] we’ve got a group of people that are highly visible. The more visibility we can get, the more we are drawing in people. The more the art critics, collectors, and buyers might come down to the school: “We’re checking this person out, but look at this, this is cool too.” The more that happens, the better. Ultimately, I find ways for other people to make livings. If they are making a living, they are much less likely to leave. They have the community they want, the financial means to stay here-[Richmond] has a cost of living that is well below other cities that have this much stuff going on. There’s a lot of stuff to offer people. I think you made a great point there. The more people you can keep in town, the stronger the Richmond brand is. Once the city brand gets to a certain tipping point, people will start feeling like Richmond is where you’ve gotta be. We are making strides in that sense; we’re probably a few years off. Things will cascade, and we’ll be in that conversation with Austin, Seattle, where people will help you, and you can be around jobs to make a living. Its a low cost of living area right now, and everything is growing.

We’re a Tier 3 city right now. When people talk about cities, when we’re on the radar, it’s way down on the radar. But when you start to look into specific things, we are in the discussion. We have emerging artists here; the problem is we always lose them. They always go somewhere else--they have to follow money. So tell me about this book you have out. Is it a compilation of older work, or newer stuff? The title is Blue Collar, White Collar. It’s this notion of blue collar work ethic, white collar aesthetic. Illustration is the blue collar worker of the art world, who has to work for a living. You don’t work, you don’t eat. It’s tough, but its cool too. It’s definitely treated me well, and in turn I’ve treated it well. I do it for the practice, but I have ambitions of seeing what’s next. I’ve gotten to the point [with] illustration [where] I’ve done what I wanted to do with it, and I’m ready for more control. I keep talking about having ideas and things I want to enact. I certainly talk with other people about things they should do, and how they can apply their intellectual property and pursue their ambitions. I’ve never been one to teach out of theory, I want to teach out of practice. I’m going for it, I’m kind of all in. I’ve more or less retired from illustration. I’ve been making paths to pare down and walk away from it. ...and now you can pick the jobs that you want, right? I’m trying not to. I’m trying not to do any of it. Afraid that it will suck you back in? Yeah. It’s an all or nothing kind of thing. I’m at a place in my life where I cannot completely walk away from it today, but I’m hoping [I can] tomorrow, you know? The book encapsulates that career. It’s got some of the first steps of my painting career that I’ve tinkered with, that I don’t think will be my ultimate direction for my personal work. It’s been my first steps of getting to a local gallery and producing work. Ghostprint Gallery has been great. They treat me like gold, and I want to support them. This next show in November is going to be the real statement of what I’ve figured out. I’ve gone to where I want in my illustration career, I’ve pursued these baby steps with my painting career, I’ve played with these lines between abstraction and representational art. And now these things are converging. I’m more excited to paint now than I have been in eight or ten years, because it’s mine. It’s my work and I don’t have any excuses or anyone to blame anymore. It’s all me, and I love that. So how did the book happen? Did a publisher approach you about this? Did you send some work in and they were interested? I approached Chris Pitzer, who owns AdHouse Books and operates everything himself. I’ve been a big fan of what he’s been putting out for years, and I’ve seen the effect his books have had. I love the quality of stuff that he does, and was looking for that type of platform and audience. I was at a place in my career that it warranted a monograph. Well, I hope so. Are there stories in there? Yeah, there are stories, notes, sketchbook pages. It’s broken down into three sections. One is illustration, and my hopefully unique way of approaching problem solving. I love taking accepted notions of what illustration is or storytelling is, and [questioning] why it has to be that way. The second section is confusion--certain types of stories [where] you are dealing with violence and aggression or situations that people find confusing. How can I bring the notion to the images that actually enhance the storytelling and tell more of the story? That’s where that train of thought came from, and playing with perspective and overlapping. A lot of that came [from] experimentation with abstraction. I’m searching for the line between abstract and representational that lives in people. I introduced little notes of representation in there, and let people solve the abstraction. So I brought that thinking back into my illustration work, and was able to let paintings and illustrations reveal themselves in layers. When you first read it, you can’t make it out. It’s a deconstruction of everything you had been programmed to do as an illustrator. That’s what I thought of when looking at your paintings. You had taken it so far and were thinking, “How can I unlearn?” To not so much be given an assignment and figure out how to do it--now you could just do whatever you want. It seems like a real challenge. There’s not much room for interpretation in modern illustration. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 37

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There was a shift, too, in the business model of illustration. Art directors lost the power. All of a sudden, editors in all the New York publications were taking the authority away from the art directors. I think a lot of it had to do with [the fact that] a lot of the art directors were young, and the editors seemed to have been there forever. So you get someone who is a very linear thinker, who is very good at what they do with words, but they don’t connect that with images. An editor tells an illustrator, “You need to paint what’s in the story,” and that just dismisses about 95% of what interests me about illustration in the first place. I want to show what’s in my head. Its very insightful what you observed about my paintings in the first show--I was searching. And I’m not saying that I was at an end, by any means. I wasn’t terribly concerned with people walking away with, “Wow, this is beautiful,” or, “This is well done.” I wanted people to walk out and say, “That’s interesting.” Because if something is interesting, it means people are thinking.

just taught people. I want it to be the things that I made, the things I did. The real motivator for me has always been fear. I don’t want to regret the things I didn’t do. I want to regret things that I did. I can live with those consequences. I have morals, I have things that guide me, but I don’t want to look back and say, “God, I wish I had...” My first thoughts of the day are getting rid of the darker things, and trying to go out and have a positive impact. I think I’ve had an impact, but you never know. I mean, fashion is a weird thing. I’ve never physically worried about fashion with my paintings. I just try never to be on the coattails of anybody. To quote Jackie Chan, “I never want to be the next Bruce Lee. I want to be Jackie Chan.” Life has a funny way knocking off hard edges. When you are young, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder with something to prove. You met me when I was teaching a little bit, when I had kind of been through some things. I was confident, arrogant, however people wanted to define me.

What was the name of that first show?

I caught you towards the middle of your career. You had established yourself. You started getting into the Society of Illustrators shows, started getting some good assignments. Very driven, little bit of a hard ass. A little bit of a hermit too, you know?

It was Emergent, a reference to scientific structures in which the whole is greater than the parts. The process was compiling completely. I wanted to paint a certain event involving horses that all died in the playing field. I wanted to paint it in a way that someone might actually put it on their wall and it reveals itself in days, weeks, years. “Oh, is that a horse head? Are those horses in pain or conflict?” Before you realize it, it’s telling a story to you, and every time you look at it, you discover something new. I would say illustration is a statement. The paintings I want to make are questions, [with] room for dialogue between the viewer and the surface.

[laughs] I think that comes with teaching at a young age, too. I was offered a one year apprenticeship at VCU, and I had never done anything. I hadn’t figured out the distinction between information and knowledge. I had a lot of information, but I was just regurgitating what I had been taught. You go out there and find out a lot of things were different from what you were taught. That often comes from people who had been told something themselves. I wanted to learn from people who had figured it out on their own.

Having gone to illustration school, I felt illustration was very restrictive. It’s something that I couldn’t handle in the long term. I think in painting, the thing that interests me [is that] you have time with

“ I was told to do certain things that were just handed down. They may have been truth at one point, but truth changes. I can tell you something today, and the world is changing; if I tell you that same thing in five years, that’s no longer the truth.” the viewer, you aren’t just spoon feeding the viewer. Everything is like--here is enough information to figure it out, so figure it out. What I get frustrated with in painting is [when] there are no dots, no connections to be made, but people present it in a way like there is, and you waste your time. This is trying to appear intellectual here, like something is going on, but it’s just bullshit. It gets frustrating. What’s exciting to me within painting is what I can do in a body of work. Not just a singular statement, a theme. That’s exciting. I’m compelled, I’m engaged and I’m interested. I want to write a lot more. I’ve got to get smart with my business model to do that. Teaching is offering me a nice transition right now, but I want to be at the point again where I was for ten years, when I was just making art. Oh, absolutely. A lot people teach to get re-energized, and rethink themselves. Its good to be around young impressionable minds that have no rules yet. They just bring new ideas, and they are excited abouat everything, and they are scared of everything. I want to always have that connection to being naive and raw. As you get older it gets harder to stay fresh and not take yourself so seriously. The cynicism starts to sneak in, and that’s a bitter pill for me to swallow, but you become more aware. You have more knowledge, and there is an inherent weight to knowledge. You start to see things, and that’s all good, but its also restrictive in a lot of ways. You start to second guess. When I was young, I didn’t think twice. I just did what I felt I needed to do. I think getting older, you have more responsibilities. I’ve got a daughter, a wife, a mortgage, a car payment.

Do you feel like you are passing that on to your students now? Like, “I’ve been put through the grinder, here’s some nuggets of how you can be a professional” versus just learning the technical aspects of learning to draw well? I think that’s the very distinction. Unfortunately its my knowledge now, its not theirs. But at least it’s not information being masqueraded as knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times in school I was told to do certain things that were just handed down. They may have been truth at one point, but truth changes. I can tell you something today, and the world is changing; if I tell you that same thing in five years, that’s no longer the truth. It’s antiquated. That’s the danger of knowing the truth: you get comfortable, and you stop working. I’m being considered for tenure right now, and I’ve quit my illustration career. Its not the smartest thing, but I have to make a change. I don’t have a choice. I’m ready, I’m moving on, I just need to do it. I’m going to have more information [about] what’s current, because I’m out there doing it now, versus teaching what I was doing five years ago. I had to completely readdress my senior studio class, because things have changed so much in the past two years. So I’m building my website again. I’m building my identity, my brand, my body of work. Fortunately, I’ve done it before. I know what to expect to a certain degree. But my business is starting over, and it’s scary. Every moment of contentment in my life has come on the heels of fear. [I was] terrified of moving to New York, so I moved to New York. Terrified of heights, so I found a radio tower and climbed it. You go do it and you have this feeling that you’ve achieved something.

I feel time is short. I don’t know when I’m going to be gone. Do you ever think of legacy? What would you want your daughter to think of you when she gets older?

And you grow quickly in those moments.

Well, I want to have things left behind, to have people come to her and say, “Wow, your father was a good man. He helped a lot of people. He was inspiring.” But I don’t want that to be my only legacy. I don’t want it to be that I

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he first time I saw Balaclava was at Nara Sushi. I was there to see someone else, and didn’t know Balaclava at all. I distinctly remember my first impression of them: “Holy balls, these guys listen to a lot of Isis!” That was probably 5 years ago. In the intervening years they have gotten tighter, more brutal, and all-around better, and now, all of a sudden, their latest record (and very first official full-length) has been released as a CD on Southern Lord Records, as well as on vinyl from Forcefield/Cosmic Debris. Southern Lord is a very well-known label from Los Angeles, responsible for releases from The Accused, Black Breath, Weedeater and Wolves in the Throne Room, among many others. I’ll come right out and say it: a lot of other local bands are jealous. Richmond is teeming with tight, brutal, amazing metal and hardcore bands. Most of them enjoy a few blistering years of house shows and a few self-released CDs before dashing themselves to bits on the shoals of chronic alcoholism, graduating and moving away, or getting married and settling down. So far, Balaclava haven’t succumbed to any of that, but still--why them? There is no larger-than-life Tony Foresta/Dave Brockielike frontman anywhere in sight. They’re not strongly connected with the rest of RVA’s so-called rock “royalty.” They don’t tour much, and there’s not an ounce of relentless self-promotion in the band. I had to get to the bottom of this seeming Cinderella story. Thanks to allergies (don’t ask; long story), my video

of the interview has mysteriously disappeared, so since I only have the audio recording, I no longer know who said what. But the story goes like this. The four members (Pete Rozsa on bass and vocals, Dan Finn on guitar and vocals, Dan Sanchez on guitar and vocals, all from NOVA, and Joe Dillon from Florida on drums) have been together in one way or another since 2005, after basically growing up together, “if not in the same band, then playing next to each other at shows and such, since we were all like 13, 14.” “We decided to record a full-length, having only played a handful of shows at that point,” they told me. “We put it out as a CD, and then took a couple songs from that and put them on a tape, and that all came out around [2006].” The Shame EP came out in 2009 on Forcefield. That was their last release until their brand new album, which was recorded by Tim Gault, of Hampton Roads band Moutheater, at Double-0 studio in Hampton. The whole studio is built inside of a storage unit, outside of town and away from prying neighbors and cops. “We actually recorded the album in two different parts; the first half of it we recorded about a year ago,” they explained. “And then when we finished writing some other things that made sense to go along with it, we went back and recorded the other half of it.” “[Tim] did a lot of work to make them sound similar.” “You guys have matured quite a lot,” I tell them, harking back to the first time I saw them. “And then lately you are really developing a whole new brutality. Is this

a deliberate thing? Is there a 5-year plan, musically?” “No, I think we just have a mishmash of influences that have taken a different shape and form as we’ve gone along. All of us kind of share in the songwriting, so we never really know what we’re gonna get, but at the end of the day every song we write still sounds like a Balaclava song. I really like the songs that are on this record, and I think it’s more of our own take on whatever it is that’s influencing us, so it’s probably a little less transparent.” In my role as WRIR spokesperson I have to ask about the radio-friendliness of the new material, and everyone with small children will be relieved to know there is only one instance of the word “shit” on the album. “Not that I think anybody would be able to understand it anyway [laughs].” Seriously, though, when you are writing songs, do you ever consider whether it can get played on the radio? “That has never even occurred to us,” they unanimously agree. “Usually when I’m writing, the most I’m thinking about is ‘Oh, god, I have to get this done in a week, because we’re recording.” So just what is the story behind them getting signed to this very respected label? It sounds like the metal version of being “discovered” by a Hollywood talent scout while pulling sodas at the local malt shoppe! “Um, yeah, we just got an e-mail from Greg [Anderson, Southern Lord owner and guitarist in Sunn O))) and Goatsnake, among others] saying he’d listened to ‘This City’ on MySpace. Apparently, he was buying records | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 45

from Robotic Empire [formerly RVA-based label, now relocated to New Zealand] and the page had the little ‘If you like this’ bar with a link to [the Shame EP]. He asked, ‘Is [‘This City’] on your 7 inch?’ And I said no, that we were putting it out [on vinyl only] on Cosmic Debris/Forcefield in a couple of months. ‘Here’s the [mp3], though, and the rest of them because I think it’s awesome that you found us.’ Two nights later he emailed us and said, ‘The songs you sent are fucking awesome, do you want to get on the phone?’”

REALLY elaborate!” [laughter] “It’s just bizarre... you’re able to pre-order the CD on Amazon and stuff.”

The CD is out now in a limited release of one thousand. “What [Anderson] wanted to do was branch out a little bit, put out some stuff from lesser-known bands and catering more to punk and hardcore. He’s been putting out limited runs of CDs from several bands recently. We kind of fit into that role. He was saying he’s personally more excited about music now than he has been since he was 17 or 18 and trading tapes. He’s gotten really into how the internet is facilitating music. We were one of the beneficiaries of that.”

In spite of not having played millions of shows, they do have a handful of fun gig stories, such as the All-Star show at the [now-defunct house show venue] Bone Zone. “JK [Kassalow, local soundman/Caves Caverns guitarist] ended up recording that, and I remember at the time thinking ‘Aw, man, this is so awesome,’ but then going back to listen to the recording, as the set went on we got more and more out of tune.” [laughter] “It was so hot,” says Pete. “I couldn’t see ANYthing and I was getting electrocuted the whole time. There was sweat burning my eyes, and by the end of it we were all half-naked, soaking wet. Somebody had a cooler with beers and had ice in it--we were dunking our heads in just to stay alive.” That night they got some guitars stolen. From the Bone Zone?! “Well, we got drunk and left them on top of a car. My bad.”

Did you know who Southern Lord was before you heard from Greg? “Yeah, I had just woken up and was reading the email. Then I scrolled down, and it said Greg Anderson of Southern Lord Recordings, and I was like ‘What the fuck! [laughs] Is that REAL?!’ I was pretty confident it was [Human Smoke bassist] Will Glavin pulling a prank. I kept making him send me more and more evidence.” But here it is, the CD really exists, and so obviously this is legit! “Unless Will got 46 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

How does their original label boss, Tim Harwich, feel about it? “He’s excited about it!” “He’s super-stoked.” Tim Harwich, by the way, is just the most awesome dude. Purely dedicated to his label, he works his crappy day jobs at pizza and burger places around town. “Yeah, I got a free burger from him the other day.” “That’s the definition of success!” [laughter]

“I think the most fun shows we ever do are in some weird city where we didn’t think it was going to be very good at all and all of a sudden a bunch of kids

that I was proud of, and say that we had some fun times, met some interesting people and played some cool shows, that’s enough for me,” says Dan. Wise beyond their years, these kids are.

came out.” “Chicago was probably my favorite show. There’s this kind of Hispanic punk house where I think it was rare that, us not being native Spanish-speakers, our band got to play, but we got a show set up.” “It’s because [Dan’s] last name is Sanchez,” I said jokingly. “That’s exactly what it was! We got out of the van, and they said ‘Which one of you is Sanchez?’ We got there and they told us we were going to play last, which, coming from Richmond we thought was a terrible idea. Here, if you have the out-of-town guys play last, everybody’s gone. But they said, ‘No, don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine.’ It turned out to be that house’s last show and it was great. We don’t usually get kids moshing and slamdancing and stuff, but they were going nuts. It was packed and people were crowdsurfing. I broke my amp that night. I was headbanging and I bashed the back of my head on my input jack. Luckily it was the last 30 seconds of our last song.” As far as touring, though, Balaclava aren’t all that seasoned yet. “That was last summer, and it was our first legitimate tour. We were out for about 3 weeks. In comparison to a lot of bands, we probably don’t spend that much time on the road. We purchased a van a year and a half ago, finally. We tend to do just little trips here and there. We’d like to make it to the West Coast.” So how do they define success? “I’ve tried to keep my expectations modest from the beginning. As long as I could look back and say we had a good body of music

Before the interview, I asked on Facebook if anyone had any questions for Balaclava. Someone jokingly suggested that I ask about the Southeast Asian futures market, and, amusingly, that’s the one question that gets a response out of the previously silent drummer. “Well, we need to figure out what China’s going to do with the Yuan before we assess how the market’s going to be. Also the dollar needs to stabilize,” Joe says, prompting uproarious laughter from everyone. Somebody mutters “universal currency.” They tried that with the Euro; it’s not working out so well. “That’s because Greece and Spain don’t wanna be responsible. They refuse to enforce their own tax laws. Either tax or [don’t] tax, but you need to enforce it, because your budget [is] based on expected tax revenue. They can’t do that, because they don’t collect them!” Anecdotally, I can confirm this--I was in Greece on tour and everybody hated the government. Nobody wanted to pay taxes. When you went to get a sandwich or whatever, they would tell you verbally how much that sandwich was going to cost--say $5. Then they would make out a ticket for $2: the amount they told the government they were getting from you. Simple, but effective, and it went on everywhere. But back to Richmond. Here I am, a (transplanted) Richmonder, writing at the behest of a magazine named RVA, about a Richmond band who....frankly, are not very enamoured of their home town! Pete muses, “First of all, we get received a lot better outside of Richmond than we do in Richmond, and secondly, outside of the United States we get received a lot better than inside the United States. Maybe the fact is that we’ve just played Richmond too much. We don’t

really write new material that often.” “And we wanna play Richmond, so we just keep doing it. Maybe we’ve run our course here.” This last statement is doubtful; a week or so after this interview I went to see Balaclava with Cough at Strange Matter. Cough had just returned from Australia, and Balaclava had just finished a mini-tour of the Northeast. The first thing I noticed, having not seen the band in a while, is that Dan Finn’s rig is way taller than he is; so far so good. The second thing I noticed was how insanely loud they were, and the third thing I noticed was that nobody left. In fact, they had a respectable cadre of headbangers right up front. Overall, it was a tour-de-force of chops, power and volume. Afterwards, I overheard a couple of people talking about how much they liked Balaclava’s set (and how insanely loud it was). In light of people recently agitating for change, with Occupy Richmond and the Folk Festival and First Friday and whatnot, do Balaclava have any thoughts about local government, or how things could get better? “I think you need to somehow connect the things you were just saying. If you could somehow merge the art scene that does seem to be subsidized by the city, that they deem a cultural thing that attracts people from outside, with the more underground, I don’t wanna say DIY culture, but the type of music scene that C.A.P.S. is going after right now. If we could find some way to make those two things make sense together, the city [could] see that as an asset rather then a detriment.” To wrap it up, what would you like the RVA readers to know about your band? “Come out and party with us! We’re into loud, heavy shit, and if you are too, we wanna have fun.” | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 47

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t’s 3:00 AM and Strange Matter is finally at peace. One hour earlier, the venue was crowded with fans of RVA underground hip-hop attending the final Face Melt Friday of 2011. While most people left more than content with the event, the night’s co-creator and host, Black Liquid, is not satisfied. “I’m upset! Not everyone got on stage tonight and that upsets me,” he explains. “What I’m trying to do is give people an opportunity, and I understand that it doesn’t always work out the way we planned, but I promise that I will straighten out anybody who didn’t get on tonight tomorrow at the radio station.” There is no doubt that Black Liquid works hard--in addition to his work on Face Melt Friday, he hosts two weekly radio shows (one each on WRIR & WDCE), has released 15 albums since 2008, performs live constantly, and seems to be omnipresent on social media. But what really sets Black Liquid, born Rob Fields, apart is his passion to give opportunities to others, and to reach people with his message. He keeps a schedule more like a political candidate than a hip-hop artist: I’ve seen him shaking hands at First Fridays, taking pictures at The Camel, handing out his album in front of Strange Matter, and delivering his energetic message in support of RVA hip-hop to anyone that will listen. His enthusiastic campaign led me to wonder: what if Black Liquid was elected President of the RVA Hip-hop scene? He is already one of the scene’s most vocal advocates and visible ambassadors. What if we created this magical position and gave Black Liquid free rein? What would be his report on the State of Richmond’s Hip-Hop Union? Though we’d previously agreed to start the interview following the Face Melt show, I quickly realized that a 4:00 AM interview with Liquid after one of his most successful and frustrating nights would not make for the appropriate level of detail required for this subject matter. Instead, we met up 21 hours later at the WRIR radio studio. Is Richmond Hip-Hop more style or more substance? Neither/nor, for the situation is hostile. The problem with Richmond hip-hop is the negative way in which people perceive it. Professionalism is what’s lacking, in that many of us don’t take what we do seriously beyond the actual performance. We need cats to step their games up. When we do that, it will not be about style or substance; it will be that our style is substantial and our substance is quite stylistic. Let’s say that you won an election last night and today you are the President of the Richmond Hip-Hop scene. As President, what is your first order of business? I would draft a constitution and rule number 1 would be: No [prerecorded] vocal tracks during your live performance. The one thing that separates a 2 point shot from a 3 point shot is the vocal track. I mean, do you really believe in yourself? Do you have the power that you’ve been blessed with when you stand on that stage for a live performance? Did you record that track with the idea that you can spit it in front of people? Or did you just do it for the studio, so your mans and them can nod their heads to it? See, that’s where the line has to be drawn. So I would be like, ‘Yo, no vocal tracks.’ And you’ll see real quick that a lot of the Richmond scene

would disappear for a while, because all these people have talent, but they refused to challenge themselves on stage. I don’t use a vocal track. I go out there buck naked, and I know everyone can do it. I was in the same position, where I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to represent what I did in the studio properly onstage, until I realized that the experience needs to lead. Do not stress yourself over perfection. Be imperfect, for that is perfection. If you were going to change something in regards to the Richmond hip-hop climate what would you like to see changed? I would like to see the collective work together to change the perception of RVA hip-hop. The perception when it comes to underground hip-hop for venue owners is that hip-hop means no money, no profit. Like it or not, these venue owners are all a part of what we are doing. I would like to see us artists take responsibility to raise the bar, and operate with a high level of professionalism. I would like to see the venue owners drop the fear and give us an opportunity beyond just booking one night to do a showcase. We need more outreach, more support, more promotion from within the infrastructure of the venue. I want to see standards broken, not set. What needs to happen in order for artists to come together and venue owners to drop their fear? Do people not talk enough to each other? People talk about themselves to each other, but they don’t talk about the situation. People don’t realize that they are just a picture within the mosaic of this scene.They want to be entitled, they want to have expectations, instead of seeing that success is a mentality, and effort is what yields results. So what needs to change? People need to get over themselves. Get over the next man’s business plan, and see that we are in a position to pioneer. There is nothing like the scene here anywhere else in the world, because we have built this from the start. There are a lot of people sleeping on it, but at the end of the day, the logs that we saw today are going to be the ones that allow us to pave the road and move forward. So, what is the State of the Union in RVA hip-hop? The state of the union is fear. The venues, the people out there who have access to opportunities, are afraid of us because we are not a profitable business. As artists, we do our best to screw each other instead of trying to find a way to make the most out of every situation. If we can create a business model that serves all of us, we can create opportunities that would give us so much more leverage in this city. So the State of RVA hip-hop is also a state of disarray. We work together in the sense that we are all in the same cafeteria eating the same tater tots, but we don’t join up and put the tables together. How do you put the tables together? The only way to put the tables together is through a form of submission. People have to submit to the greater will to put things together. There is a blue leg and there is a yellow leg on the Voltron joint. You have to be willing to be part of a team. You have to be a solider before you can be a leader. Everybody has to play a part. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 49

As an artist and I would say an ambassador for this current Richmond hip-hop scene, do you feel more pressure in 2011? Do you feel like you are under the spotlight to represent for RVA hip-hop? The weirdest thing for me is being perceived differently than I was a year ago. At this time a year ago, I had done a few things, sure, but this year has been very educational for me. The pressure that I’m under is not the pressure to do the things I do. When people come up to me and say, I respect what you do so much, that is when I feel pressure, because I want to convey to them that what I’m doing is no different that the greatness that lies within them. I want people to get better, because when they get better, I can be better myself. That is the only way we will continue to grow, if we inspire each other. So, I’m under constant self-pressure to inspire others. I feel it more than ever. Are you the hardest working man in RVA hip-hop? No. No matter how hard you work, no matter how good you are, there is always someone out there doing better. I’m just a man who works hard at working hard. Is that important to you? Not really the title but the effort? It’s essential. There is no time to waste. I can’t sit around and say I don’t want to do this or that, because I know that we have something special here, and we have to keep pushing for it. I don’t really care about results. I could die now. I have fifteen albums out and over 150 tracks. I dropped 9 albums in 2010. And I’ve worked heavily on some other projects--Slugg Tapes, etc. I’ve made impressions on people that I never thought could happen. I have inspired people. So to me it’s already a job well done. Now my forward motivation is really to continue to inspire others. The single from you that has caught the most buzz this year is “Can I Get a Deal?” Do you really want a record deal? I want an opportunity to create a sustainable business model. A deal would give me the opportunity to invest in what we are already doing in Richmond, and to expand to new territory outside of the city. Back in the day, 10 years ago, VA had a lot of biting. Either you were acting like a dude from up north, or down south. Now I see a lot of individuals in Richmond, and despite that fact that they do emulate certain creative practices of major well known artists, there is way more individuality. Why do you think everyone is starting to pay attention to Richmond’s hip-hop scene? It’s because the internet grants us so much access to the music industry. Everyone can now see that there are local artists doing the same things as artist on major labels. So the old standard of celebrity is dead. What makes a person a celebrity these days is how many people you can touch with your work, and the internet allows anyone to touch anyone with their work. While we have progress, we are not where we need to be yet. We are just like Atlanta, just like New York, just like Cali or Cleveland. We are all out here pursing the same goal. And now, with the capital game really gone because of the internet and free downloads, the true currency is people’s attention. With 15 albums on the street right now and being heavy in the Richmond hip-hop scene since 2009, what have you learned through this current journey about you, as an artist and a professional?

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What I’ve learned as an artist is that you have to touch the people. You have to inspire them and really make an impression. When I first started, I was really raw, I was crass, I was an asshole. I’ve learned so much about respecting the rules and respecting the infrastructure. Make things work, but never act as if you are bigger than the situation. I respect your studio work, but your studio albums have nothing on your live show. Have you thought about doing a live album? I’m addressing this in my new music. I’ve already recorded a new iTunes single. We recorded in one take for the live feel. What I want to do is transcend everything I’ve done in the studio. Everything I’m doing now is about taking the intensity and the energy of a live show. Everything I’m doing is off the top. I’ll do a track in an hour, or 40 minutes, or 20 minutes. It’s all about capturing that live energy. What I’m working towards is the fusion of the studio content with the live energy that was missing. Tell me about the New Juice Crew and your role in the group. The New Juice Crew is based upon the idea of in productivity and work and the old school hip-hop ethics of Big Daddy Kane and etc. who laid it down back in the day. A lot of people think that it’s based on the idea that we drink 40s, we get it in, we get drunk, blah blah blah, but it’s all about productivity. For example: 40 day, the Juice Crew holiday. You hear about 40 day and you just think that these guys are just drinking 40s all day. The reason why we drink 40s is because we spent a whole year on the discipline path, ya know, and now we all take one day to celebrate. The Juice Crew is about more than hip-hop, because hip-hop itself is about more than hip-hop. What advice would you give to an independent artist in Richmond that sees what you’re doing and wants to get on a similar grind? If you want to be at the top, start at the bottom. Be everything that you don’t want to be, because nine times out of ten, people are doing all they can not to be those things. Be everything that is uncomfortable, that is unforeseen, irrational; not what people want, but what people need. That is a form of integrity. Give yourself to the people and you will get so much more back. These days, if you want to view hiphop as a monetary thing, if you want to view this thing as a fame thing, if you want to view it as something that serves you, you will lose. So tell me what motivates you. I feel like I have died so many times, and this is something that I’m living. What I’m doing now may be a conduit to what I do later. But for me the time is now. If I wake up in the morning that means I have today. I don’t have time to think about tomorrow. If I don’t do this now, how the fuck will I know what later brings? If you had one message to give to people, what would it be? The thing that I want people to understand most about me is that I am just like you. If you like what I’m doing, know that you can be better. So help me get to another level, so that you can get to another level. Once we get there, we can get somewhere else. And we just do that over and over again: progression. / /

“ || RVA RVA Magazine Magazine No. No. 77 ||57 51



Interview WITH DAVE TRAN by rob morgan


irginia might be the last place you would expect to find a successful snowboard company, but Monument Snowboards is trying to redefine what it takes to be a successful snowboard brand. Based in Woodbridge, Monument has grown over the past ten years from a basement operation into a brand with distribution throughout the US, Canada, Japan, and Korea, and has worked with some of the more popular and accomplished artists of today. So what is the story behind starting Monument Snowboards? The main premise for starting a snowboard company back in 2001 was because a lot of the companies I liked were dropping like flies. The core brands were getting swallowed up by the bigger companies, or they sold out and survived for another few years before they were run into the ground. I wanted to get behind a brand that I believed in, and there were none at the time.

'' The snowboard industry is like the fashion industry; you could be big one year and then the next year you could be yesterday's news.'' Ten years in, how has being a snowboard company based out of Virginia worked out? It’s been tough. I came in as an outsider. I wasn’t in the industry, and [the reaction was] “here is this guy from the DC metropolitan area that wants to start a snowboard company?” I’ve definitely learned a lot of things. Not a lot of people know this, but I have a day job. I do Monument at night. So trying to run a snowboard company after hours after working all day is not that easy. What’s harder is making sure you don’t run the brand into the ground. The snowboard industry is like the fashion industry; you could be big one year and then the next year you could be yesterday’s news. But it’s been a rewarding experience, and I have a nice extended family thanks to the snow sports industry. Board details, Cody Hudson, 11/12 FVK Opposite page: Board detail, Cleon Peterson, 10/11 Black Black 52 | RVA Magazine No. 7 | | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 53

Monument Pro, Jeremy Cline, VA Photo: Nate Harrington

''Chris's vision was solely on the art; to have a snow-

board that can be hung up on the wall as a piece of art, and not have it bastardized by a logo or branding.'' One of the things Monument is best known for is working with well-known artists. What inspired that approach to board graphics? It was an accident. We used a collective of artists from the Chesapeake area at the beginning for a few years, and then started to do it ourselves. We had some good graphics, but also some really bad ones. I ran out of time one year, and we needed graphics ASAP. A friend who was helping us with some graphics was dating [creative director] Christopher Glancy. He mentioned curating some boards, and I took him up on his offer.

in this industry. Chris’s vision was solely on the art; to have a snowboard that can be hung up on the wall as a piece of art, and not have it bastardized by a logo or branding. Artists loved the concept, where no branding was our branding. We are lucky enough to have worked with the caliber of artists we have so far; and a lot of it was based on Chris’s vision. Not using logos is a pretty wild approach. Did that make it difficult to build a recognizable brand?

As such a small company in the snowboard industry, how have you been able to work with the artists you have?

From a marketing standpoint it was a nightmare to brand our decks, but I went with it. Believe me, there were a few times where we butted heads to find a middle ground, but Chris stuck to his guns. And I stuck with him on it, because I knew it was something different that no one else was doing in the industry.

One of the hardest things to do is to give full creative control to someone curating a collection, especially

I heard one of the artists you worked with was into witchcraft?

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Owleyes said he cast a spell on the board he designed. I showed the graphic to one of my riders at the time, and we were like “Holy Shit, he really did cast a spell on this board,” and laughed for like five minutes straight on the phone. Damn, that’s kind of crazy. Of all the artists you worked with, do you have a favorite design or favorite artist? There are so many rad decks. My favorites include Maya Hayuk, Daniel Jackson (Surface2Air), Kelsey Brookes, Rammellzee, Cleon Peterson, Richard Colman, Dalek, Thom Lessner... I’ve nearly listed everyone. Along with your impressive artist lineup, you guys have brought in some pretty good riders over the years. How have you managed to keep such a stacked team? We’ve been lucky enough to have Connor Stohlgren, out of Breckenridge, CO, as team manager. He’s brought guys on board that we’ve been really stoked on. Jeremy Cline, from Massanutten, has helped tremendously over the years as well. We’re a small

Board graphic detail, Surface to Air, 10/11 Surface to Air Limited Series

company. We don’t have a big budget like the big companies do. If we can be a stepping-stone for riders somehow, we’re happy for the guys that do move on. The guys that we do have on board are stoked on us as a brand, as a family, and they love the product. Entering your second decade, whats in Monument’s future? Any big plans or goals? Big plans or goals? Not to mess up. That’s our biggest goal. We’re expanding our product line each year; we want to grow organically and expand at our own pace. We don’t want to go to the dinner table with our mouths bigger than our stomachs. We have to be realistic with the industry trends and economic situation, and be able to manage our business the right way. Board detail, Surface to Air, 10/11 Surface to Air Limited Series

Jeremy Cline, VA Photo: Nate Harrington | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 55

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o dRInKs selL, BuT wHo’s BuYing? nstage, the band Trivium were enacting some imagined tragedy filtered through Disneyland thrashcore while kids on summer break and the otherwise unemployed milled about a semi-full amphitheater. Perfect day out with the family at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Most of us were sunburned and half drunk. I was bored and already in deep shit with the event publicists. The well-cultivated, tightly secured, phony rebellion of the whole scene, combined with 95-degree heat, had enabled a general restlessness to seep through the canopy. Few, if any, seemed aware that they were not getting what they paid for. But did Mayhem Fest even know what they were selling? In a somewhat misguided attempt to inform the publicists of this issue, I sent a text message to the press coordinator. It read: “Trivium sucks. So do Godsmack and Disturbed.”

horse, the only one that had actually done something for metal, and not dry humped its coattails like a cash-starved miniature show poodle. First mistake: I suggested as much to the press coordinator as she led me to a backstage trailer. Immediately there was an icy freeze on our relationship, despite the heat. Inside, seated at catering tables, were various people watching golf on a hi-def flat-screen. The poor bastards outside did not know what they were missing--rock decadence at it’s finest. Both Ellefson and Mustaine had quit the drink and drugs years ago, straightened out, found religion even, but all this seems insignificant next to a discography that was a constant in the weed-smokeclouded/warm-beer-drenched back seats of my awkward teenage years. Smoking a joint, Rust in Peace in the deck; longhairs, grits, we were called. Scouring the wastelands of suburbia on a neverending quest for girls who somehow never materialized. Anyway, these memories in mind on the way to the show, I took extreme care to be prepared by thinking up at least three questions for Ellefson. He

Minneapolis. Also another guy out of New York called Percy Jones. A fretless bass player who was really cool. Does he play regularly in New York?

Probably not anymore. He was in a band called Brand X back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. They were very progressive, kind of Mahavishnu [Orchestra] style band. A really great player. Were you ever a very big Thin Lizzy fan? Oh yeah, sure. [Megadeth drummer] Shawn Drover just gave me a copy of the video of the Live and Dangerous album. I’ve never seen that. I actually have to sit and watch it. Why did you leave Megadeth? Well Megadeth broke up in 2002. Dave called everybody and said, “I’m done. I don’t wanna do this anymore.” So that was it. At that point, everyone went on to different things. Dave and I talked about me coming back, but I think, ideally, he wanted to do a solo album. It eventually morphed back into Megadeth, and for me, coming back at the time that I did was really a suitable time. Because it came full

" There’s a lot of excitement doing rock ‘n’ roll on this big of a level; a lot of distractions and a lot of things always coming your way." I am told, by at least three people, that this was a very naughty thing to do, especially in the world of corporate rock PR. Dollars are on the line, energy drink money. Journalistic opinions are only meant to appear later, in writing, when people can read them in their bathrooms. I was there to interview Dave Ellefson from Megadeth, and the problem was not with him, but with the festival itself. More to the point, the problem was with headlining bands Godsmack and Disturbed. These are bands sold as “modern metal,” a clever repackaging of what was once “nu-metal” (now with 95% less rapping!), whose very existence is annoying at a level on par with the invention of disco. So all bets were placed on the Mustaine

seemed to anticipate every one. Hey, after doing 50 million interviews, he’s a pro. Still, he was gracious and did nothing to disprove the “nice guy” reputation I’d heard about. It went something like this: Do we really only have fifteen minutes? Yep. Ok. Who are your favorite bass players ever? Everybody from Ian Hill of Judas Priest, who just lays a real simple groove down, to a guy like Cliff Williams of AC/DC, the same style. All the way up to Geddy Lee and a guy who played with Maynard Ferguson, who I saw as a kid. A jazz bass player named Gordon Johnson from

circle to be full-on Megadeth again. I say that because I didn’t come back to launch an album, I came back for the spirit, the celebration of the Rust in Peace album. So now of course we’ve got the new album, Thirteen, that’s coming out this fall. And so I think the way we did it turned out to be the right way. Not through any planning of our own, it just kind of played out like that. We were able to come back and, after a year, were able to work on a brand new album. So you see this going into the future, long term. Yeah. Our attitude is, you take it a day at a time. You don’t get too far down | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 57 9

” there’s a real sprit about what we do. And

I think that’s what comes through all of our records and live performances. ” the road. Of course you make plans, for weeks, months, even years at a time. But you execute the plan a day at a time. And that keeps you focused right here, right now. In this interview. Not 5:00 or 7:00 tonight, or two weeks from now. I think that’s an important thing. There’s a lot of excitement doing rock ‘n’ roll on this big of a level; a lot of distractions and a lot of things always coming your way. And it’s cool because we’re able to say yes to a lot of the things that are coming our way. The offers are good, the touring. Things like Mayhem [Fest]. It came to us months ago and it was perfect…

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Yeah, but you guys should be headlining this.

Well we are headlining. Disturbed, Godsmack, Megadeth are the three headliners. Yeah, but you guys should play last. Well, thank you but it’s not always based on fans… I’ve never even really listened to those other bands. Ah, well, they’ve sold a lot of records and done very well. So they’ve earned their position on the bill, and they’ve earned their position in the metal and

hard rock community. And just as important as what happens over here on the main stage is that over on the second stages there’s a lot of really cool new music coming up the ranks. It’s nice that at Mayhem you’re not hearing the same song for ten hours in a row. There’s variety. What’s more important in music: technicality or emotional resonance? Emotion. I’d rather hear a hack with emotion than a virtuoso with no soul. Megadeth is a technical band, but there is also the melody.

Well, there’s a real sprit about what we do. And I think that’s what comes through all of our records and live performances. It makes no two records the same; it makes no two performances the same. We play it as good as we possibly can, because we practice and we put in the time that it takes to be musically qualified. Yeah, I’ve seen your [instructional] videos. It’s pretty nice of you to do that. Thank you. I love doing that. I do two different types of videos. One is taking the fans on the road as if it were the Travel Channel, because most fans aren’t gonna get to see the stuff we get to see. But, honestly, we get see it because of the fans. They’re the ones that put us here and allow us to go and do this. The other ones I do are David Ellefson’s Rock Shop, which are more instructional, or I’ll talk about the music

Holy shit. Was he fucked up? Oh, we were all fucked up. He hits a road sign, it shears off, goes flying. All I see is glass. We’re tumbling around. I thought, “This is it. We’re dead. This is how we die.” Eerily similar to the Metallica accident.

”he hits a road sign, it shears off, goes flying. All I see is glass. We’re tumbling around. I thought, “This is it. We’re dead. This is how we die.” Like over money? Things that for whatever reason don’t get resolved because you’re so busy working on the band. And that’s a shame. I think what happened in our case is that not being in a band together gave us a chance to resolve some of those things, let some of those wounds heal, become friends again. Put friendship before music. Because if you’re in a room or on a stage with people you don’t like, trust me, it’s no fun. Doesn’t seem like it would work.

business as it is today. A lot of that is a follow up to my book that I wrote, called Making Music Your Business. A lot of what I do on the YouTube stuff is a more immediate way to answer fan questions and talk about new things that are developing in the wide world of rock n’ roll and music. It’s a lot quicker than trying to write and publish a book. How did it happen that you came back to the band? Was it that you and Dave…? He and I had run into each other a couple of times. We’d gone out to dinner. We still phoned, emailed, we’d been in touch for several years. That really started the mending process of our disagreements from a few years prior. You know, when you’re in a band for as many years as we are, you’re bound to have misunderstandings.

Right. A lot of bands get to that point where it’s like there’s no communication, they don’t hang, they’re not friends, they don’t do anything together anymore. And once you lose that, you’ve lost the core of what should ultimately pull everybody together and allow the, as you would say, emotional resonance. What are some differences in touring compared with the early days when you guys were partying and now? Well, now, because we’re clear headed, first of all you remember what you just did yesterday. Which allows you to improve upon yesterday. Or to remember something we did in the show and go “Man, that was awesome.” A show, on this tour it’s 50 minutes, it isn’t the 50 minutes that people remember. It’s the little moments that they remember. The highlights, right? When they go home and say, “Dude, remember when they played this or Dave said that, or when Ellefson got up on the drum riser?” Our show, not having a bunch of pyrotechnics and flashy expensive theatrical stuff, is four guys playing music. And it’s the impact

of the emotion that comes off the stage that’s the Megadeth show. You can’t buy that. You can’t stack that up. You can’t build ramps or dressings around that. It either is or it isn’t. Even back in the early days, when we were runnin’ and gunnin’, rippin’ and tearin’, there was always a spirit and energy about it. The truth of it is you just can’t go on like that. Well, I know there are a lot of people around right now, but maybe you could tell me some fucked up drug story. Ha ha. I mean, look, there are a gazillion of ‘em. But probably the one that’s the funniest, because we lived to tell about it, was from our very first tour with Killing Is My Business… The first show was up the road in Baltimore. We went up and did a record signing, and then were heading across Pennsylvania on our way to Cleveland. The van broke down; second night of the tour. And the exit where we broke down at was called Promised Land. In Pennsylvania. So me and the tour manager hitchhiked to go rent a different car. It’s the middle of the night. A car happens to come by; drives us down to the next exit. And there’s this light right out in the middle of nowhere, and right under this light happens to be a National Car rental. So me and this guy, Brian, we rent a Chevy Caprice. Come back to the van, we load all our stuff and drive through the middle of the night. Early the next morning, Gar, our drummer at the time, [was driving]. Real kinda lackadaisical kinda guy. There’s a kick drum pedal down by me and I’m trying to move it. So he reached around while he’s driving 80 miles an hour. Takes his eye off the wheel and drives off the road into a ditch.

Bizarre. We come screeching to a halt. I get out of the car; go out to the road, an eighteen-wheeler stops. He goes, “Man you guys all right?” and we’re all fucked up. I’m thinking, “Shit, he’s gonna turn us in.” I go, “Yeah, this deer ran out in front of us!” and he was lookin at me like, “Yeah. Sure it did.” But he helped pull us out of the ditch and we drive on into Cleveland with weeds and stuff hanging out everywhere. Here comes Megadeth on their debut tour. Do you ever miss playing in smaller clubs? Once in a while they’re fun to do. I mean, we’ve done a lot of that, where we’ll ping pong off of a big show like Mayhem and into a club. We actually just did one recently when we were in Europe on the Big Four tour. We had an off day... Do you get along with Kerry King? Yeah, I get along with him well. We had an off day between Sweden and Italy. So we stopped in Hamburg, Germany and played this notorious club there called The Docks. It was like 1000 people. It was awesome. End of interview. We shook hands; nice to meet you. I turned around and noticed that Mustaine had been sitting behind me. But for how long? He seemed engaged in some very serious conversation with three women. It would’ve been cool to say hello but I was already being shoved out the door by the press lady. Only V.I.P.s get to speak to Dave M. Then came the aforementioned waiting around period, the heat, the fateful text message. Megadeth were good. Even the new song was surprisingly un-boring and included ripping dual guitar line tradeoffs between Mustaine and other guitarist Chris Broderick. As the set ended, the final notes of “Holy Wars” ringing out, the sun waned and I wandered toward the exit. Something Ellefson had said earlier echoed in my head. Perhaps Megadeth were scheduled before the lame-core bands because, by not over-relying on pyrotechnics (unlike the headliners), they could put on a quality show in daylight. Smoke and mirrors work better in the dark. I was later told that the promotion company had called out their apes and were looking to kick my ass out the venue. But they were too late. I was already in the parking lot, Thin Lizzy on the stereo, stars tilting overhead, gone. Temporarily unaware of the shitstorm of threats and incredulity soon on their way from energy drink headquarters towards RVA offices, and the still sleeping inboxes of tomorrow.||RVA RVAMagazine MagazineNo. No.77||59 11

reCord reviews by andrew neCCi

avey tare


Bridge and tunnel

Crooked fingers



eddy Current suppression ring

five finger death punCh

gringo star

jolie holland


lloyd vines

Down There (Paw Tracks) This solo album from Animal Collective’s Tare would sound a lot different were it instrumental. The electronic sounds are reminiscent of Aphex Twin’s later work, but the warmth in his voice brings a human element to these songs, changing them dramatically in the process. Strangely pleasant, or pleasantly strange.

Carbon Based Anatomy EP (Season Of Mist) After enduring a 15 year wait between this progressive metal band’s first and second albums, anything new, even a mere 6-song EP, is a blessing. Mixing darkly melodic post-metal with Middle Eastern-sounding interludes, this record is far more epic than its 23-minute running time would indicate. Hunt it down.

Count Yer Lucky Stars (Gigantic) The sound Gringo Star are working with on this album--sixties garage-pop fed through chillwave echo effects--is becoming more common of late, but their songwriting skills are sufficient to make trendy production techniques irrelevant. Catchy tunes are what really matters, and they’ve got plenty. 60 | RVA Magazine No. 7 |

Crimes Of Faith (Southern Lord) This local group’s debut full-length mixes the dark, angry hardcore of bands like His Hero Is Gone with the sludgy, punishing brutality of early Isis. Some of these songs are quite long, but Balaclava’s frequently changing riffs and tempos keep things interesting and intense throughout.

Motherfucker Rising ( These ex-members of 80s hardcore bands Unseen Force and Hated Youth have slowed things down quite a bit in their new band, but they’re still playing angry, heavy music. Dirty, overdriven guitars, crushing slow tempos, and harsh vocals bring to mind sludge titans Grief and Eyehategod. Brutal, downbeat, and awesome.

Pint Of Blood (Anti) There’s a little bit more rock n’ roll to Ms. Holland’s indie-folk/alt-country hybrid sound on this her fifth album than there was on her earlier work, but these songs are still reliable melancholy-mood music for those who dig the work of Lucinda Williams, Jason Molina, or even Des Ark’s acoustic stuff.

Rebuilding year (No Idea) This New Jersey group comes from the pop-punk scene, but don’t play that style themselves, instead going for a slower, more melodic style that they inject with emotion through their passionate delivery. Their latest album might be their best yet, full of intensely beautiful tunes that you won’t soon forget.

So Many Things (Goner) This lengthy singles compilation makes a great introduction to this excellent Australian quartet. Imagine The Fall’s Mark E. Smith at his most churlish fronting a sloppy garage-punk group. Iconoclastic postpunk intellect meets rock n’ roll piss n’ vinegar. This bracing, off-kilter energy blast is essential listening.

Reports From The Threshold of Death (Prosthetic) Beginning with a dark, progressive hybrid of emo and postpunk/goth, Junius have taken a turn towards prog/post-metal on their third album. Melodies are still at the forefront, but the guitars here are the heaviest yet, and their pacing is leaden, almost doomlike. Their most interesting work yet.

Breaks In The Armor (Merge) Former Archers Of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann leads this group, who originally played weary, mournful ballads reminiscent of early Tom Waits. Archers got together again recently, though, which might be why this new CF album has a decidedly more animated, borderline-pop sound. It’s an obvious improvement.

American Capitalist (Prospect Park) This day-ruiner of an album was created by mixing the most mediocre elements of tough guy hardcore, metalcore, and nu-metal together into a monotonous midtempo sludge. If Hatebreed, Korn, and Papa Roach were pureed in a blender, the result would be called Five Finger Death Punch. And it’d taste like crap.

Rose & Vines ( People tend to run screaming from music that mixes rap and rock, but sometimes they shouldn’t. This is one of those times. The rhymes are well-written and delivered passionately, and the melodic yet forceful alt-rock backing tracks are catchy and interesting. Fans of Atmosphere and POS (not POD) need to check this.

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Lorem Ipsum EP ( A three-song 7 inch vinyl single is the debut release from these local scene vets, who feature former members of More Fire For Burning People, Lazy Cain, Askance, and others. They’ve still got the rockin’ post-hardcore sound on lock, and prove it with the 9 minutes of music here. Hopefully there’s more coming soon.


The Hunter (Reprise) Mastodon’s fifth album is their most straightforward in a while--they’ve stepped back from their recent prog-rock songwriting tendencies, integrating the lessons they’ve learned about melody and epic riffing into shorter, more accessible songs. Not too heavy, not too proggy--perhaps this band have found their sweet spot.

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(Bridge Nine) The third PBC album is very similar to their first two, but it’s hard to fault the band for sticking with what works. Driving, uptempo melodic alternative rock with passionate vocals; people might call it emo, but these days emo bands are way wimpier than this. Thank god someone still knows how to rock. v


Proverbial (Self-released) These local guys are doing that vaguely funky Southern-rock fratboy headnod thing people call “jam band” music. They have polished production and are clearly skilled at their instruments, with touches of prog-rock and even hip-hop adding variety to their sound. Not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s someone’s.

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Forever Abomination (Prosthetic) This band isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but they are cranking out some fast, thrashy metal with enough power and energy to run you over. They mix 80s speed metal and 90s Euro-style thrash in a manner that’s been done a good many times before, but if you’re in the mood for metal, this will definitely hit the spot.

1977 ( The-Dream drops the pseudonym and gets uncomfortably real on this downtempo bad trip. When he croons gangsta-ish vulgarities during mournful heartbreak songs, it’s incongruous, but unlike when R. Kelly does it, Nash doesn’t seem insane--just depressed. The perfect soundtrack to the 4 AM aftermath of a horrible night out.

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He Thinks He’s People (Temporary Residence) Pinback leader’s solo album continues his musical journey. If Crow was playing post-hardcore in the early 90s, is his current work post-post-hardcore? Regardless of what you call it, Crow’s undistorted guitars and pleasantly erudite songcraft combine to create an enjoyable listen for both new and veteran fans.

Rusted Screws & Machinery Of Man ( Three songs each by these local groups. Scene vets TTIW deliver some passionate metalcore, with a melodic tendency that makes their songs stand out. Relative newcomers Fixtures mix emotional intensity, reverbed-out prog, and chugging hardcore for an unusual hybrid of heavy sounds. A solid split.

Big Kiss Goodnight (Good Fight) This is the sort of midtempo moshcore that saturated the hardcore scene fifteen years ago, and as such should be eminently dismissable. I can’t entirely hate it, though--the melodic guitar leads that show up occasionally introduce a hint of talent and originality. Just a hint, though. Mostly, this is bad.

Singles 2007-2010

(Goner) A sprawling collection from this talented garage rocker. The first few tracks, from his one-man band era, are forbiddingly primitive. Things pick up with the addition of a backing band, and by halfway through the album, we’ve hit a deep vein of garage-pop classics. 80% of this album is a total blast. Good enough for me.

Carrion Crawler/The Dream (In The Red) Why did it take me so long to check out this band? These energetic garage-psych troubadors crank out some extended jams on this album, but never tax your attention span with noodly bullshit. Instead they keep things rocking with a healthy dose of guitar noise and motorik drone. This rules. I’m gonna buy their other 12 albums now.

Life Sux EP (Ghost Ramp) Six catchy uptempo punk-pop jams from this critically (over?)hyped group, who finally realized that their lo-fi production style wasn’t doing them any favors. The use of a real studio, plus guest stars Fucked Up, Best Coast, and Dave Grohl, results in the first thing I’ve liked by them. Keep it up, guys. | RVA Magazine No. 7 | 61

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RVA #7 Winter 2011  

RVA #7 is crammed full of great articles designed to get you hyped on the diverse, thriving artistic underground here in Richmond. From inte...