Remembering John Lennon

Twenty-five years ago today, former Beatles singer/guitarist/songwriter John Lennon was shot outside of his New York home. Of all the things for a seven-year old to notice, I happened to remember watching this on the news the following morning and just somehow knowing that the world suffered a great loss. Lennon’s rhythm guitar style with the Beatles inspired me to start playing the guitar when I was a teen, but he was more to me than musical inspiration. He peacefully fought for what he believed in, voiced his opinions and stuck it to the man, and yet always managed to sneak in some folly with the English language. Although greatly remembered as one of the Beatles, he also asked us to imagine a world free from want and hate. Today, I dedicate this blog to John Lennon, his family, his friends, and his fans.

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The FBI’s new antipiracy label

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen; I haven’t been to jail or fined for breaking the law. Today I bought the new Audioslave CD, “Out of Exile,” and I noticed the new FBI Anti-Piracy sticker on the back. I don’t burn copies of a CD and give them out or sell them. Instead, I burn one copy for the car and download the music into my computer to use with my portable digital jukebox. They are strictly for personal use; I do not broadcast their contents illegally, share them online, or give them away. I am not rich enough to buy multiple copies of one album, and doing so is practically ridiculous. But the anti-piracy sticker got me thinking and researching, so here is what I’ve found.

The FBI is working with recording associations (Recording Industry of America Association – RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America – MPAA) to help stop piracy of their members’ materials. Technically, according to an RIAA lawyer, it is illegal to copy music from a copyrighted source to another. However, the practicality of enforcing the law is so difficult that it is rarely pursued. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 states that “copyright holders cannot sue the average user for making home recordings of their music” (Van Ness, see CD Burning Software Review article below).

Below are some links that provide more information. In the meantime, I’ll continue my current practice.

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation Investigative Programs Cyber Investigations – The Anti-Piracy Warning Seal

Digitalproducer.com article: Copying Music to CD: The Right, the Wrong, and the Law – For the Record: The RIAA Position on Home Copying (1998)

US Code 17 – Copyrights

CD Burning Software Review article: Is CD copying illegal?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Of 1998 – US Copyright Office Summary (this opens a 71 KB PDF file on the US Copyright Office’s web site)

BBC News article: Why that mix CD might be illegal (Nov 10, 2003)

No more guitar?

As an aspiring guitarist, I find the following Wisconsin State Journal article somewhat disturbing. But I don’t believe it means the end of the guitar as an American icon. Sure, popular music (stuff made with computers, synthesizers, and samplers) does not have as much guitar in it anymore. But the guitar is still common in real music. This covers jazz, country, blues, rock, and metal (yes, there are other forms of real music, but I don’t consider pop music real to begin with).

Even then, guitars are still apparent in some pop music. Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews play the guitar. John Mayer is a blues guitarist gone popular. But these seem rare in today’s “Top 40” culture. I was young and stupid once, and I listened to popular music in my youth. Today, I am a living, breathing musician who appreciates musical and writing talent. That’s why my musical influences include Lennon and McCartney (and I can’t wait to see Macca play at this year’s SuperBowl), Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Joe Walsh.

It’s also no secret that I’m a Metallica fan (or a Metallicat). Their intense, guitar-driven riffs and mind-blowing fast solos keep me wanting to learn how to master the guitar, or at least play like Kirk Hammett (as I’ve said, when I grow up I want to be him). For the handful of us that are purists, it is difficult to convince us that guitar in music is dead. It’s very unfortunate that popular music has essentially put it to rest. I think it goes to show that the recording industry still controls the music that we listen to.

So if you’re like me and an aspiring musician (or an accomplished one), appreciate the talents that you have. Perhaps chicks will again dig us. I’ll continue to enjoy playing for as long as I can, and I’ll never tire of the great original sounds that come from the guitar.

Wisconsin State Journal: RIP? Pop Musicians Are Making Do Without The Icon Of Americana

Remembering Dimebag

Last night, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Damageplan was gunned down while performing in front of an audience last night. The shooter also fatally shot five other people, including two members of Damageplan, before a police officer fatally shot the shooter. What would drive someone to pull off such a terrible mistake is beyond me.

Dimebag was a leading force behind Pantera, and his guitar riffs blew us away. He influenced so many people, and he helped keep the spirit of metal alive. I’m dedicating this blog to him and his bandmates, his family, his friends, and his fans.

Links:

Lars Ulrich (Metallica): RIP Darrell

MSNBC: Metal world mourns death of “Dimebag” Darrell

MSNBC: Deadly Ohio nightclub rampage baffles police

Metallica movie finally released here

After waiting nearly two months, I finally saw Metallica – Some Kind of Monster. It was well worth the wait. I’m so inspired that I’m on my way to writing another soapbox article… I’m long overdue for one. So, as an added bonus, I am also working on a soapbox article about my last days at DOT. It’s officially done, and I’m looking forward to a long weekend to prepare myself for a great career move to DATCP.

Metallica Some Kind of Monster

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster (SKOM) here in Madison since the end of July. Initially, Metallica’s web site listed its release on August 6. That later changed to August 27. So here I was wondering what my future would be and hoping to get a chance to see this highly rated film. Now I know, I’m disappointed that I may not see this movie.

I called the theater today to see if it was going to open this weekend. Unfortunately, due to dismal (more like unannounced) pre-screening turnout, the theater does not plan on showing it. The person I spoke to said that it may come out next week, but there’s no certainty of that.

I was actually hoping to give it some attention by posting the little SKOM graphic on my site’s navigation bar. I mean, it’s not a concert movie; it’s not Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same. Instead, it’s the bitter reality of what happened over the course of two years in the life of Metallica. They went through a series of tumultuous ordeals that came to blows in 2001. This film digs deep into the band’s heart and exposes the “monster” that needed to come out.

So I’m really turned off by this repeated “postponement.” I think the thing that bothers me is that the band is using a grass roots approach at announcing this film event. That’s pretty cool, because they’re getting their fans involved. But what ever happened to good old-fashioned television or radio advertising? Don’t think that Metallica couldn’t purchase some television ad spots and let the world know that there is a great story to be told. The film has received a variety of film festival selections and continues to receive great reviews from larger markets. That’s one big problem with living in such a small market city, though; it’s small and you don’t always get an opportunity to see something like this. I really can’t complain about where I live, though. Instead, I’m just upset that SKOM isn’t getting the attention that Disney’s America’s Heart and Soul received, despite its abysmal ticket sales (mind you, America’s Heart and Soul is a counterstrike to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11).

If I don’t see it on the big screen, I hope Metallica releases it on video/DVD.

Now that that is off my chest, I also want to mention that I’ve finally completed (yes, that’s right, completed) the England scrapbook. Next up is the new site. Since I purchased Dreamweaver, I’ve decided to redesign the new site from the ground up (well, that plus I’ll still import existing items). I will spend the next few months working on it along with new features, such as the web site evolution and possibly building my desk.

Metallica

Originally posted: June 2000 

Metallica is a heavy metal music band. For a heavy metal band that’s been around for over 20 years and can still sell out a concert, I can’t help but notice some people still whining over their recent recordings. Since Load and ReLoad were released in the mid-90’s, I have heard people say that Metallica has sold out. I beg to differ.

Metallica began as a heavy metal group in the early 80’s. They actually brought heavy metal as we know it to the US from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were pioneers. As they progressed into the 90’s, they continued to increase their momentum as a dominant heavy metal force.

But they changed their tunes with Load. ReLoad was no different (basically, music that didn’t fit on Load). They began to move into areas they had never before recorded. For me, it was a great change of pace. They are still Metallica, and the music is still as skillful as it ever was. Yet some people think they’ve gone downhill. I thought rock ‘n’ roll was about doing what you enjoy doing, not what the critics have to say. And if they’re doing something wrong, then perhaps all of those people who are buying tickets and helping them sell out concerts are missing something.
As a person who has come to appreciate music on various levels, I think Metallica has actually gotten better. Singer James Hetfield really produces a range of tones with his awesome voice. Bass player Jason Newsted has done some amazing things to jam his riffs in your face. Drummer Lars Ulrich rolls and bangs the life out of the skins. And guitarists James Hetfield (yes, he sings and plays) and Kirk Hammett ride wild and daring riffs that scream and wail, plunging you deep into their twisted and wicked world. Hearing them play just sounds like they really are pouring their souls into the music.

I especially like the sounds they’re producing now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what they did years ago. But their range of sounds is amazing. Some songs are bluesy, others are somber. But it’s still loud, present, and alive. And they still found room to put out music that has just as much thrash as their earlier stuff. Their a true heavy metal band that can perform a wide range of sounds and show more talent than many other bands that have been around in the last 20 years.
Perhaps some people are afraid that Metallica is getting old. Those people should try listening to the double-album where they play with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They haven’t lost their touch… they really rock! Or maybe they’ve been together too long. Given the average lifetime of most music groups, I’d say Metallica seems to have some longevity in them (despite Newsted’s departure in 2001).

In April 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit with a company that puts out MP3 files of their music. Apparently, copyright infringement does not seem to be an issue on the Internet. But do I blame them? No; in fact, I hope they set a precedent. How would you like it if you worked hard on a project and someone else reaped the benefits of it? I’d be upset and frustrated, and I’m sure Metallica feels the same way. I don’t think it’s about the money. I believe it’s about taking advantage of someone else’s talents. Essentially, the band was ripped-off, and I’m glad they fought back.

In 2001, the band seemed to be falling apart. Early in 2001, Jason broke away from the band, feeling the need to focus on other things in his life. The break-away was amicable (from MetClub sources). In April the remaining three band members went back into the studio to start work on their next original album (Bob Rock, their producer, filled in on the bass), all while on the search for the next Metallica bass player. In July, Metallica settled their suit with Napster, which seemed to be a windfall. But a week later, James was admitted into rehab for “alcoholism and other addictions.” This postponed many Metallic-events and left things in the hands of Lars and Kirk. Things were probably starting to look abysmal. Then September 11 happened. It seemed that everything else suddenly seemed so insignificant. A week later, Metallica expressed that their site was a hate-free zone and put the word out that they don’t want people to spread the hate that many of us felt after the morning of September 11. Although still looking for a new bass player, Metallica informed its members on its web site that James was out of rehab and “feeling rather good about life.” Despite all the adversity of 2001, this band is dedicated to its music, its expression, and (most importantly) its fans.

With the release of St. Anger, it seems that Metallica is missing one long-standing component to its music: the guitar solo. But this album is not business-as-usual; instead, it’s a vehicle for the band to get over one of its most difficult obstacles and move forward. After seeing Metallica in May 2004, I realized that it was as strong as ever, despite what the critics say (did I mention that it sold out the concert in Madison in a record 22 minutes?). Some people say that St. Anger is the biggest disappointment from the band. I think it’s one of the greatest albums, because it’s raw, heavy, emotive, and absolutely genuine.

Metallica as a band does something that some people just don’t seem to get. This is a band that really has recognition, that has a great track record, and that really does what others are afraid to do… write and play music that allows them to really express themselves. And as for me, I love listening to it. Some people think I’m off my rocker when I say that my favorite band is Metallica (I usually listen to them in the car, at the office, at home… just about anywhere I can). If I were to choose an example of someone with celebrity status who sets a good example, it has to be them because they know how to express themselves through some amazing tunes. They do the one thing that they do best: play some really loud, awesome music. And if they’re good enough to play with a symphony orchestra (and you’re reading from someone who loves the symphony), then they deserve more praise and credit than they’ve received. Did I mention that they write their own music, play their own instruments, and actually sing their own tunes? How many “bands” and “musicians” do that nowadays? And for a band that’s over 20 years old, they still have this amazing ability to sell-out concerts wherever they may roam.