Sunday, 29 October 2006

Non-conformity in my inner self, only I guide my inner self!*

When I was but a wee lad, I always wanted to be like James Hetfield of Metallica. I copied the way he held his superb black ESP Explorer, stood the way he stood and tried to sound like how he sounded. I was about 15 and was steadily losing interest in all the Green Day clones and dreary rock bands (read: Creed). I was slowly being indoctrinated into a new music faith and I wanted to look the part, to be uber cool. So I had three-quarter pants and a chain that was actually a combination of a short wallet chain and one from my police cadet uniform which gave it a one of a kind look. It was ridiculous and radical. You could have chained a pit-bull with it. It screamed poseur but I didn’t care. I just wanted to look like my then idols.

I fell for the whole “wanting to fit in” stage of my teen life. I remember vividly that what I wanted whenever I saw anything on TV my dad would shoot me down with a resounding “No.” It echoed in my head, the No bouncing off the walls of my sanity. Thankfully I was shot down so frequently I just gave up in the end. Otherwise I think I would have turned out a depressed child wanting a strawberry lollipop and have an imaginary friend named Bob who likes kittens. Preferably dead.

It’s a common occurrence for parents to send their young children to one tuition centre to another, one music class to another and having them play sports whenever their little feet can. Parents are in a way, trying to compete with each other to see who can go all the way to outdo each other. Whatever happened to friendly competition?

For awhile when I was in college I used to envy my friends who had the latest things. You name it, they had it. I just couldn’t figure out where the heck they got so much money. One would have the latest mobile phone, another would be wearing a pair Dockers I always wanted (the best trousers ever), or the newest whatever. They were so cool and I was so bland that I got envious. Try as I might I couldn’t be like them. Yet again, thankfully I got so downtrodden, and so sick of all the bullshit media feeding me images of what is cool, that at last I said, fuck this, I’m going to get people to try and fit with my style.

So what does conform mean anyway? According to the dictionary, it means “to comply with accepted standards, rules or customs.” By that definition then a good percentage of the planet’s population is a conformist of some form or another. Conforming to the norm while everyone wants to go against it is like going against the tide, you’ll tire yourself quicker and you’ll eventually drown. It is an inevitable part of life. We are all guilty of conforming. By not conforming to the norm we are in reality conforming to another norm. Think about, if you’re against guys who wear pink and you choose to wear black, then I’m afraid to say that you’re part of the anti-conformity conformists of the Black Brigade. You’re either a part of the bandwagon of commonness or you’re a pedestrian that goes against traffic just to see if the cars would swerve to avoid you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I would like to buy that pair of Nike shoes. People look cool wearing it.

* = refers to Brazilian thrash metal legends, Sepultura with their classic Inner Self.

Gute Nacht und Gutes Gl├╝ck.

PS: I feel the need to apologise. I feel that I didn’t make myself as clear as I had hoped. Some parts in this post I feel that I’m slightly off tangent with regards to the topic and for that I apologise.

PPS: Since we’re on the subject of conformity, I’ve decided to *GASP!* convert Whacker Inc into *GASP!* Blogger Beta!

PPPS: And since I felt like doing it, here's my new blog where I give my 2.666 cents worth of reviews from books to music to even toiletry products.

Whacker Inc's Reviews and Ughs

Thursday, 26 October 2006

S L A Y E R – Live in Singapore

When I first heard that Slayer was going to play in Singapore, I thought no fucking way. Last year when Malaysia hosted German legends Kreator I just couldn’t believe it either. It was only when I entered the hall did I finally believe that I was going to witness a real metal concert! But with Slayer it was totally different. I was alone for the best part of the 2 hours I waited. I didn’t mind really. And something happened which doesn’t happen often, I felt short and small. Some of the guys there were huge. There were the ubiquitous fans screaming and clamouring.

The hall was divided into three sections: those who paid $65, $85 and $125. Since I had the $125 ticket I was let in first. As I was walking into the hall my heart started to pound rapidly and I had to calm myself down lest I start to headbang even before anything started. I had actually positioned myself at a very strategic spot; it enabled me to see all the members but at a price. Being smack in the middle means you’re in primo moshpit territory. I valued my well-being so I decided to move back. I came to see Slayer perform and not be crushed by rabid fans. It was almost 8 p.m. and my friend, Brandy, was running late. Thankfully he arrived in time.

The atmosphere in the Max Pavilion was electric. The crowd were chanting “Slayer!” at every opportunity they got. The hall all of a sudden became dark. Then it was bathed in blood red light, and the opening riff of South of Heaven started resonating. A sense of eerie danger and intrinsic madness was building up and when Dave Lombardo blasted the cymbals, Slayer signalled their arrival. I remember clearly that I didn’t intend to sing the words but I did. Everyone sang at the top of their lungs. As the song ended it segued into Silent Scream, arguably one of Slayer’s most brutal songs. When Lombardo did his double bass run I could feel a rumble in my um, family jewels, so I shook the feeling off and started headbanging wildly with my short hair. When Tom Araya asked us if we were ready for war, I was sent straight into metal heaven. War Ensemble is probably my favourite Slayer song of all-time and they delivered a blistering rendition. I told Brandy that my metal soul is now complete. I could die now a happy boy.

I swore to myself that I would never enter the moshpit. I’ve always maintained that the pit was for reckless and stupid kids. I became a reckless and stupid kid when Dead Skin Mask was played. By the time Raining Blood arrived, I took off my glasses, and got ready to get into the pit. Brandy even lost his mind then as we started to mosh together with his friends. I could feel my neck started to ache, my legs slightly heavy from the stomping, my throat a parched landscape yet I was empowered with a primal urge that scared me even. I was running purely on adrenaline and feeding off the crowd’s energy. With my initial fear of thinking that Angel of Death might be axed from the set, it was put to rest instantly when the unmistakeable riff reverberated in the hall and in my head. Setting aside my decorous inhibitions, I started slamming into people with reckless abandonment. In hindsight what I did was gosh darn immature and silly. I could have been hurt or worse. But it was a Slayer concert after all, if I had wanted to boogie and gyrate I would have gone to a Michael Buble gig (he’s great by the way). Even Brandy later confessed that he too didn’t want to be part of the moshpit. By the time the opening riff of Angel of Death kicked-in everyone and I mean, everyone, went berserk. Nobody was spared. It was either you were part of the moshpit or you stood way back. It’s also funny to note as I was headbanging I was also taking down the songs in my mobile phone and snapping pictures away. Araya (he’s like Osama and Santa Claus if they had a love child), Jeff Hanneman (he’s the man yo) and Kerry King (who is quite short) were very obliging with their headbanging. But it all wasn’t good…

Some Bum Notes:

  • Hanneman’s solos were not audible enough. I’m not too sure whether it was my being more to the right which also happened to be King’s side.
  • There were some who actually stood and smiled. This ain’t a friggin’ Linkin Park or Il Divo concert. It’s a Slayer concert. At least headbang a little!
  • The brevity of the show. It started half an hour late and stopped at 10 p.m. sharp. They didn’t take many breaks in between songs so it wasn’t that bad. Though another 15 minutes would have been greatly appreciated nonetheless.
  • They didn’t play some of their more enlightening songs due to the restrictions imposed by the authorities. Araya was apologetic which softened the blow somewhat.
  • The girls, some of them rather attractive (albeit they had weird makeup on and horrible fashion sense), were clearly there because they’re boyfriends were.

All in all, it was the best concert I’ve ever been to, which is a stretch since I’ve only been to 2 thus far. I had an awesome time. I’m so looking forward to the next time I see Slayer if I ever do get the chance. Till then, keep on slaying all!

Chris is signing off. For now…

PS: To the people I moshed with, sorry I banged you guys.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Have I or have I not? I think I have. Um, I don’t think I have. Ugh.

After what seemed like the longest time I finally found a parking spot. It’s a bit far from the entrance but what the heck, the walk would do me good. I get out of the car and lock it. I walk about 5 meters and realised I didn’t lock the car. I walk back, cursing myself. It’s locked. Shit. I walk to the entrance again and I feel a sense of anxiety crawling up in me. I run back to the car to check that I have indeed locked the car. It was still locked. Satisfied I tell, no, I force myself to remember that I have locked the car already and there’s no need to go check again. The last time I did that the car-wash employees gave me queer looks.

We all have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It’s just that ours is not as extreme as others and we don’t need to go to therapy for it. The feeling you get when OCD kicks in is not pleasant. It really is an itch that can’t be merely scratched, it has to be thoroughly dispatched off. For people who have it mildly they have another word for it, Habit. Like for instance, I normally start off my day with a song, preferably something that is upbeat and galvanizes me to carpe diem. It’s something that I’ll do but isn’t a must. If it was OCD, the minute I’d get up from sleep I’d have to run over to my stereo and start blasting music. That would be bad.

Here are other OCD quirks of mine:

  • I have to wear a wristwatch whenever I go out. Even if it’s to the sundry shop that’s about 2 minutes away I’ll still wear it.
  • I can’t litter away. I have to find a rubbish bin to dispose of it.
  • I have to put my money in order; RM1 in the front, RM5 second and so on. And they all have to be face forward.
  • I tend to air guitar at the most unfortunate times. Sometimes a song just pops into my head and triggers an automatic response where my right hand will curl and goes into an all out riff jam. Many think I’m a pervert since my hand is ahem, positioned, at an angle.
  • I tend to headbang as well. Though even I have to admit it’s a bit scarier since people might assume I’m having an anaphylactic shock.
  • I shake my legs quite often. It’s not because I’m a sufferer of Shaky Stevens Leg Syndrome, but rather the fact that a song randomly pops in my head I’ll immediately do a drumbeat. And if I’m really into the song, in tandem, my hands will shake and bang an imaginary drumkit too.
  • The way I arrange my CD collection would make a systematic person cry inconsolably. It’s not in alphabetical order, it is however, in order of “greatness”, which translates to the CDs I frequently listen to.
  • I have to read with music on.
  • My blog posts have to be written in more than 500 words. Only on extenuating circumstances will I be forced to blog with a post of shorter length.
  • I normally proofread my posts as I go along. I can’t do it when I’m done otherwise it won’t be finished.

I think that just about does it. There are probably a bit more but I’ll have to proofread which means this won’t get posted at all. These quirks are the reason why there’s only one me and you. Of course, there’s bound to be others with the same symptoms as the above but that would be coincidence. Weirdness afflicts anyone, anywhere.

Chris is signing off. For now… He thinks… He hopes… He… BAH!

PS: This is sort of a meme, so I tag Syar, Mawar and whoever who wants to tell us about your OCD quirks. Please do check out Maria’s blog as she has hers with some pretty interesting quirks.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Going solo

Coldplay. Franz Ferdinand. Keane. The Killers. The This and That. Snow Patrol. Razorlight. The Argh...!

What do the above have in common? Apart from being the forerunners of the new wave of “rock” (I could debate this all day, but for the sake of not wanting to have a protracted and possible rancorous war of words with the exponents, I’ll keep my sentiments to myself (for not the time being of course)) these bands are currently ala mode, with kids getting into them because of their out of this world catchiness, unbelievably varied hooks and singers with distinct voices.

And most importantly, these bands do not subscribe to the Church of the Solo.

What is a solo anyway? And what’s the difference between a solo and a lead? Some say it’s the same thing. People like me however, know what they both mean to a song. As a non-musician trying to explain it to another non-musician, it’s been a difficult task to elucidate because the minute I hear a song with the above components I immediately recognize which is which. This ability to distinguish solos and leads didn’t come easily. Try 6 years of almost non-stop listens. It’s an ongoing education you could say.

Of course solos are meant to be indulgent! They are called a solo, duh! Like any good recipe, a solo can be used to spice up a song or to give it a shot of much needed adrenaline. Bands who say that solos are archaic are whiners who can’t play more than 3 chords. But what do I know right? I’m an old school guy who appreciates good song-writing. What I don’t like is when people talk claptrap (this is a cool word) about things they think they know.

Can you imagine Deep Purple without Ritchie Blackmore’s solos? Iron Maiden without theirs? Judas Priest without the solo duels? Or even The Beatles who normally didn’t incorporate them into most of their song but when they did it matched perfectly to much effect and create masterpieces of utter brilliance. Soloing is an art. You have good ones and you have bad ones. That’s why I listen to the good ones!

So here is Chris’s Top 5 Guitar Solos of All Time (because I couldn’t think of 10):

Metallica – Fade to Black

Without a doubt Kirk Hammett’s finest hour. As we all know, the former Exodus shredder was tutored by the one and only Joe Satriani. I guess Hammett wouldn’t be the guitarist that he his without the guidance from Satch. Metallica’s first “ballad” of sorts came out of nowhere, proving that the former thrash gods could write a moving, brooding and ultimately one of the finest metal songs of all time. All this is largely thanks to Hammett’s solo which extends the song’s meaning of wanting to end it all to its glorious climax.

Dream Theater – Voices

When 5 musicians came together, 3 of them with their Berkeley background the obvious was that each member were masters of their chosen instrument. The song is monstrous; a 10 minute marathon of epic proportions culminating with quite possibly John Petrucci’s best solo of his career. It is sweeping, powerful and it makes me wish I hadn’t spent my money last year when they came to Singapore to perform. I feel a need for a tissue. Lots of it. NOW!

Nevermore – The River Dragon Has Come

This is seven-string wizardry at its finest. Jeff Loomis’s guitar tone remains one of the heaviest in metal today. He has an uncanny ability to know when and where which technique is going to sound great and this song has it all. From tapping to all out goreng-ing (Malaysian for tearing it out) I wet myself every time I hear it. Gross but true.

Whitesnake – Sailing Ships

A lot of fans give this album the track is from tonnes of flak because of one guitar virtuoso’s approach to the solos and melodies. It was odd to say the least. But nothing in this world can take away Steve Vai’s solo for this song. On one side it’s Vai at his Vai-est and the other is brilliantly taken like the best Manchester United goal (you heard me!).

Megadeth – Holy Wars... The Punishment Due

For years I’ve hated Dave Mustaine because of my then blind and undying allegiance to Metallica. And his vocal delivery remains one of the most atrocious in the history of thrash metal. But nothing, and I mean, nothing, can take away from the fact that his solo right after Marty Friedman’s own blistering piece still captures me off-guard with its technicality and awesomeness.

I have to make this clear yet again, I despise the current crop of bands that play under the banner of rock. But to each his own and whatever floats your boat. As for me, my boat is about to play some of old school rock.

Chris is signing off. For now…

PS: The only band with ‘The’ in their name I like is The Darkness. Their second album tanked big time though.