Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

RIP Chris Cornell.

The death of Chris Cornell came as a shock to me, as I'm sure it did to most people who were fans of his music. It hit me really hard because at one point in the 90's, when I was going through a dark time of my own, songs from Soundgarden's "Superunknown" made me realize that I wasn't alone. The lyrics were all about exorcising personal demons that plague you and overcoming the dark thoughts that hold you back in life. The song, "The Day I Tried to Live" saved my life.

Aside from the lyrical content that I could relate to, Soundgarden was also the most musically accomplished band from that era. They were rhythmically and melodically complex. Cornell's voice had a four octave range that is hard to match. Having that versatility and range is one thing but being able to write such great songs that employ it perfectly is a gift that very few people have.

If you know his music, you'll know that Chris Cornell always laid his demons bare in his lyrics. There was a brutal honesty to it, like he had to bare his soul or he would die. It was always stark and direct, no metaphors or hidden meanings. He wasn't Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. There were no stream of consciousness or nonsensical ramblings of a junkie. All his lyrics were dead serious, intelligent and well thought out. Most of them dealt with mortality and trying to overcome demons. That's why I never thought he could ever kill himself no matter how dark it seemed. Purging demons through song is a healthy exercise. Many have adopted it, including myself.

I'll never judge anyone who goes through darkness and depression because they can't explain it themselves. You can have everything in life and still be suicidal. The chemical imbalance in the brain just won't let you lift yourself out of the doldrums. It's not the same as having family problems or monetary woes that drive you off the cliff. Unlike Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell was not a junkie. He was healthy and clean by all accounts and had young children and a loving family to live for. His band Soundgarden was in the middle of a successful sold out tour. That is what makes it all the more perplexing.

As well adjusted and happy as he seemed, the darkness was always there, as evident even from his latest music. Darkness will never completely leave you even in the best of times, if you are predisposed to it. You can only distract yourself from it by keeping busy and surrounding yourself with family and good people. Unfortunately, no one was there in that hotel room when his demons finally got the best of him.

Rest in peace Chris! Thanks for the music. It has saved lives and will live on forever. May your children be well loved and taken care of.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Generation Axe

The wife asked me if I'm ever going to grow out of being like a 14 year old who is still excited about playing the guitar and going to gigs. The short answer is no, it doesn't seem like it will happen in this lifetime. I'm reliving my childhood more these days, especially since I have a son to share it with. I still can't take him to most of the gigs I go to, usually due to it being a school day the following day and his mother ruling with an iron fist. The time will come when we can hang out like guitar buddies when he's a teenager.  

I got to meet some of my childhood heroes recently. It was a chance of a lifetime to see them all at once! They were all cool. Well, almost all of them anyway. Yngwie Malmsteen came into the Meet N' Greet complaining about his hotel room to the promoter/organizer and was in bad mood through most of it. I kind of feel sorry for the people who were there to see him and get something signed by him. The other guys Steve Vai, Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt and especially Zakk Wylde were all great to their fans. 

One of the ladies handling the Meet N Greet told us not to shake hands with them because they were going to be playing a 3 hour show, so they need to preserve their hands. I found it a bit laughable that shaking someone's hand was going to make a difference to their performance later but there were a lot of people in line to meet them. I wasn't going to argue. We were only guests so we had to follow their rules, no matter how peculiar it was. The cool part is that when Zakk Wylde saw that I was wearing a Zakk Sabbath T-shirt he instantly grabbed my hand and said, "nice to see you brother" and signed my copy of his book, "Bringing Metal to the Children". I told him his first solo album with Pride and Glory was still one of my favourites, apart from his work with Ozzy, of course. 

I finally got my personal guitar hero Nuno Bettencourt to sign my Washburn N4 guitar. I've been a huge fan of his guitar work since I was 14, so it was a major thrill for me. I met Nuno for the first time, a few years ago, when I caught Extreme on their tour to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Pornograffiti. He's always a cool and laid back guy to his fans. He never comes across as an entitled rock star like Yngwie does. The less said about Yngwie the better. I have to give him respect for being the best at what he does but he doesn't seem like a guy I would want to hang out with.  

Steve Vai was as professional and gracious as ever. I've met him once before about 16 years ago. He got a good laugh over the headline on my copy of Guitar World from 1991 with him on the cover. Nuno who was next to him at the time, got a kick out of the fact that he was also in the magazine, in a poll where he was voted "Best Newcomer". That was 26 years ago. He ain't no newcomer anymore.

The show itself was epic! They each brought their own virtuosity to it. The highlight was Nuno and Zakk's duet on a song called "Sideways". Zakk Wylde showmanship was second to none. During his set, he played most of his solos at the back of his head. It's an old Hendrix party trick that doesn't get old. None of them disappointed the crowd. The jam at the end of the show with all of them playing "Highway Star" was chaotic in a good way. I'm pretty sure everyone went home happy having seen their childhood idols in the flesh at last.