Bringing the music you love to your doorstep!
by Todd K Smith
As part of each issue, we try to introduce a record labels that are unique in forging ahead to bring the world a diverse range of music. We try to select labels that are committed to their artist first and foremast and favor quality over quantity. For this installment we introduce Meteor City. Fans of our website are already familiar with the label but this is our chance to single them out and commend them for a lot of hard work. Jadd, Meteor City’s chief mogul describes it thus: “We began as an online store. We ran our store for about half of a year, then Dominic Giampaolo, the former proprietor of the world’s first Kyuss fan-website, suggested that we do a compilation of unsigned bands all playing the sort of music that Kyuss fans might enjoy.”
“We thought it was a great idea, but we took it a step further by not only getting unsigned young bands, but also having John Garcia (Kyuss), Ed Mundell (Monster Magnet), Pete Stahl (Scream, Wool) and their respective new bands all be part of the project, so there would be some recognizable names as well. This became “Welcome To Meteor City”, and it was the first place anywhere that bands like The Atomic Bitchwax, Goatsnake, Sixty Watt Shaman, Natas, Lowrider, Dozer, and Drag Pack were heard by anyone, so it really made an impact immediately.”
“There was some luck involved, because if we had started later I’m sure we wouldn’t have been able to get to know some of these bands while they were still unknown. When this was happening, there wasn't really a scene yet, there were just a lot of people around the world who were still sad about the end of Kyuss, as well as the end of Slo Burn, and who listened to stuff like Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu but wanted more. The label took off when we appeared with “Welcome To Meteor City”, as though the world was waiting for someone to do what we were doing. Once we did it, there was plenty of interest from distributors, new bands, press/media, etc. And since we had already established contact with John Garcia, it was an easy step to make a deal to release his new band Unida's first recordings.”
“One day, a guy named Henry Vasquez (former drummer of Archie Bunker) from Texas called us up, he sometimes ordered CDs and records from us, and he was calling because the guys from Nebula were at his store and apparently wanted to talk to us. Neither I nor Aaron had ever talked to the Nebula guys or had any clue how they knew of us or what they wanted. Mark Abshire (Nebula bassist) got on the phone and we talked for a few minutes, at which time I thought to myself, “What the hell?”, and asked him if he had any interest in recording an EP for us. He answered that it was great timing, because they were on their way to Seattle to record with Jack Endino, but they weren’t sure how to pay for it. I told them we’d pay, and that was it! Like I said, things happened very easily for us in that first year, because all the bands were still young, and the scene was still small.”
“I never did find out why Nebula was calling us, come to think of it. But just the fact that they knew us even though we had only been a label for a few months shows how small things were in the scene in the Summer of 1998. So, you can see that our first 3 releases all featured members of Monster Magnet, Kyuss, and Fu Manchu, the three most important bands to influence the new heavy riff-rock scene... and I don’t think it was because we were great businessmen or had some deep knowledge of the music business... we really did just get lucky by being in the right place at the right time, and when we saw good opportunities, we pursued them with all the enthusiasm and energy that we had. I guess there are probably plenty of people around the world who have been in the right places at the right times but haven't made THE RIGHT CHOICES... but we did. From that point on, it's been five years' worth of one mistake after the next - ha ha ha”
Spiritu is their latest release under the Meteor City imprint. Hailing from New Mexico and featuring Meteor City’s own Jadd on vocals, the six-track record is a full-volume wet dream. Right off the bat the listener is hit with a sound wall of feedback, then a slow, fuzzed-out, gargantuan riff before kicking it into high gear on “Z (Noonday Demon).” For only being together a year and a half it is surprising they gel so well. They also win the “biggest balls” contest by starting a debut album with a 9-minute track that winds, twist and turns only to come back mid-track with “This is all familiar / I’ve been here before and will be again”. Amazing still is Jadd’s voice. As seasoned as any veteran he delivers “Riding the rode of excess / Straight to the land of sin” on a “Fat Man In Thailand” like a saddle-sore professional. Guitarist Chav wears his Sabbath influences clearly on his sleeve matching Iommi note for note and toe to toe. The real mindblower is the inclusion of a cover of Sir Lord Baltimore’s “Woman Tamer.” For a young band to reach back 30 years and resurrect a dinosaur riff as tremendous as this is very impressive indeed. Bassist John studied at California’s esteemed Music Institute and brings a diverse musical background to the recording especially on “Glorywhore” where his influences from jazz to funk take on a very doom-laden turn. Drummer James coaxes a thundering beat, which embraces each groove with a plodding hypnotic pounding. Now that he has been replaced by Kenny, the intro to “Slump” will go down as his signature piece as well as his relentless bongo action. This one is a show stopper! Classic line off the whole record “I got enough left to fuck this city dry.”
Orquesta del Desierto is a super group of sorts. It combines the talents of vocalist Pete Stahl (Earthlings?/Goatsnake). Drummer Alfredo Hernández (kyuss/qotsa/che), guitarist Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), and bassist Dandy Brown (Hermano) and is heralded as one of the finest compilation of Desert Rock packages out there. Desert Rock is much more layered than say, Stoner Rock, although many members of both genres crossover as demonstrated with Orquesta del Desierto. On this outing all songs were written by Dandy Brown and Pete Stahl unless otherwise noted. Their accomplished talent shine on “Shadow Stealing,” “Mary Strange” and “Scorned Liver” sometimes even coming close to acoustic Cult as in “Global Strange.” Most noticeable on the ten tracks is the overwhelming presence of acoustic instrumentation. Combining layered acoustic guitars, harmonica, horn sections and laid-back mellowness, it plays like a Smiths meets Roxy Music for the Desert Rock community. The Latin feel of “Smooth Slim” and party vibe in “Make Fun” give the record an almost folky vibe. Their press release states that this recording was, "written and performed in the heart of the Palm Desert," which might explain why is feels so natural - almost effortless as if conceived on the disc’s cover. The wide-open sound and acoustic-driven nature of the songs might not appeal to everyone but and the celebratory atmosphere evoked in these songs undeniably takes one to a different place, maybe a place better than the one your in right now. For fans of this earthy-type of jam, rest absurd there is a second record is in the works, possibly with some new Orquesta members but won't be tracked until the spring of 2003.
If you were late getting into Nebula and missed out on their first two killer EPs, now’s your chance to rectify yourself. Both have been combined to make up Dos EPs. In May of 1998 after 41 days into Nebula’s first tour they stopped in New York City long enough to record five songs before heading back to the West Coast. 10-weeks later, after arriving in Seattle, the band laid down another six songs. Eight of the eleven songs were released on two separate EP’s. One was a split with Lowrider on Meteor City. The other was “Sun Creatures” on the now defunked Mans Ruin Records. Three years later Nebula had the opportunity to combined the two EPs together. They took the original tapes into a Los Angeles recording studio, recorded three new songs “Rocket,” “Long Day” and “Bardo Airways” while remixing five of the old songs for this release. The Nebula stamp broadens with this CD. Four years ago they where a justifiable entity with charm and finesse yet they hadn’t locked in on their own originality. Having the early EPs combined gives the listener a chance to time-travel through Nebula’s evolving stages. Fans of the original EPs will enjoy the remixed clarity and be memorized by the growth the band made in such a sort time. “Fall of Icarus” with it’s repeated pan from left to right as well as “Smokin’ Woman,” “Full Throttle” and “Sun Creatures” shine like beams of light. However, it’s the addition of the three newly record tracks that seal the deal. It is in them that we hear Nebula graduate from a bar band to a top-notch hard rock band. Eddie Glass (g,v), Ruben Romano (b) and Mark Abshire (d) are at the top of their game and once your laser hits the metallic riff of “Rocket” closely followed by the blues-rock of “Long Day” watch out!
You would never guess Eternal Elysium were from the Japan, the land of the rising sun not even close to a desert, the moon or any other Solar body, yet, in true Japanese fashion they have done their home work and delivered a second opus of Stoner Rock delight. “Share” pays homage to the almighty riff in nine full-throttle ways. The six-minute “Schizy” kicks the record off with more sludge than a full hog truck on the way to market and shift gears smoother than my old Pontiac Firebird. The band is composed mainly as a rock trio with vocalist/guitarist Yukito Okazaki leading the way. (His accent is largely a source of enjoyment rather than a hindrance). He’s done his homework on the fret board as well frothing up a mountain of metal riffs ripe and fuzzy. His solo’s wail and even the funky shake of “Waiting For The Sun” is very convincing. Incidentally, nice ‘burp’ at the beginning of “Feel the Beat” my favorite, very rock ‘n roll. Large and in charge, the rhythm section of Toshiaki Umemura and Rio Okuya do exactly what they need to too hold down the bottom end. Amongst all that heavy riffing they do wonder around in psych territory on occasion (“Movements and Vibes,” “Love Is All,” “Dogma”) but never get lost or lose their way - just enough to get the sauce going. Tons of attitude-riddled, bottom heavy grooves served up in a tight little package. One question what the hell is going on in “Fairies Never Sleep?”
Atomic Bitchwax, featuring Ed Mundell (of Monster Magnet), are now a major player on the stoner rock scene. Funny how all the guys from Monster Magnet are coming to Meteor City for their satellite projects (see our interview with Jon Kleiman and his side project The Ribeye Brothers). “Spit Blood” is batch of cover tunes mixed in with some unreleased or alternate versions of older material. It wastes no time getting’ going cranking into a full-on version of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” What then follows is a patchwork of instrumental and “experimental” tracks. “Liquor Queen” is an alternate version from their "II" album with a different ending that they do live to segue into other tunes. “Get Your Gear” is a new jam as is “Cold Day In Hell.” “Spit Blood” is a carnival of doomsey meandering mush, not quit living up to its great title. “Black Trans Am” returns us to an old familiar sound even though the track from 1996 that was never released. “U Want I Should,” another unreleased song, might not seem to have it together but on repeated listening it really gets in your blood, funky but still rockin’. It also has a multimedia section complete with video, interviews, web links and more. The album ships with a second CD a Meteor City sampler for 2002.
Website: Meteor City
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