Gig review: Paul Shortino gives us a fabulous career retrospective on stage in Tokyo

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Showman Paul Shortino performs a splendid career retrospective for his Japanese fans with plenty of Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt and King Kobra tunes.

Having fronted Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot and King Kobra as well as being involved in many other projects, bands, albums and shows, American singer and musician Paul Shortino has quite a career to look back on. The 64-year-old vocal powerhouse has no problem in digging into the vaults to put together a couple of hours of fabulous music for this career retrospective. What a treat of a show he and his Paul Shortino Band deliver to his Japanese fans.

Paul Shortino and his Japanese backing band kick off the evening in style with the King Kobra song “Rock This House” before we get a bunch of Rough Cutt classics. The band returns to King Kobra with “Knock ‘em Dead” before we get treated to some good old Quiet Riot songs.

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In the middle of the gig, the band takes a break and Shortino does three songs solo.  Just Paul, his acoustic guitar, great tunes and his fabulous voice. And plenty of emotion. This is a genuine rocker with a big heart who is not afraid of showing his emotions. While he is a world-class showman, here he shows us that he doesn’t necessarily need any fancy pyro or sexy dancers to entertain us.

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With the Shortino/Northrup rocker “The Kid Is Back In Town” the band returns and then we get plenty of goodies from Rough Cutt’s back catalogue. During the evening we do get to see some of Shortino’s Las Vegas stage moves (he’s been fronting the Raiding the Rock Vault show in Las Vegas in recent years). This is a man who clearly loves being on stage and enjoys making people happy with his music.

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

We get a rocking encore consisting of King Kobra’s “Ready To Strike” and, of course, Quiet Riot classic “Bang Your Head”. A fabulous night covering Shortino’s entire career ends with “Stars”, the Hear ‘n Aid charity single Shortino sang on with Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford and others back in 1985. Here Shigeki Fujii proves that he is no mere background singer when he steps up and delivers some ridiculously good vocals next to Shortino. What a combo!

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Paul Shortino Band is an all-Japanese affair which started playing with Shortino last year. It’s a great band led by Jun Senoue (Crush 40) on guitar and keyboards and consisting of guitar wizard Nozomu Wakai (Destinia, Ronnie Romero, Mari Hamada), Shoyo (Cross Vein, Jupiter, Hizaki Grace Project, The Powernude) on bass, Louis Sesto (Blindman) on drums and Shigeki Fujii (Slangrade) on vocals. Shortino mentioned that he wants to record an EP with this band. Let’s hope so.

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Paul Shortino Band is unique in that it gives Shortino complete freedom in performing songs from all parts of his career and not being restricted to just a certain band’s back catalogue. Thus we do get a truly great mix of music from a great American artist.

Paul Shortino Band – Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo – 22nd June 2017 – set list

Rock This House (King Kobra)
Double Trouble (Rough Cutt)
Bad Reputation (Rough Cutt)
Dreamin’ Again (Rough Cutt)
Don’t Settle For Less (Rough Cutt)
Dressed To Kill (Rough Cutt)
Knock ‘em Dead (King Kobra)
Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool (Quiet Riot)
Stay With Me Tonight (Quiet Riot)
The Wild & The Young (Quiet Riot)
Run to You (Acoustic) (Quiet Riot)
Too Many Nights (Acoustic) (Paul Shortino)
Everybody Can Fly (Acoustic) (Northrup/Shortino)
The Kid Is Back In Town (Shortino/Northrup)
You Wanna Be A Star (Rough Cutt)
The Night Cries Out For You (Rough Cutt)
Take Her (Rough Cutt)
Piece Of My Heart (Rough Cutt)
Cutt Your Heart Out / Rock The USA (Rough Cutt)
Ready To Strike (King Kobra)
Bang Your Head (Quiet Riot)
Stars (Hear ‘n Aid)

www.facebook.com/paulshortinoband

www.facebook.com/paulshortino

 

Gig review: Anaal Nathrakh at Astro Hall, Harajuku, Tokyo

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

British extreme metal band Anaal Nathrakh has gone from a studio-only project to a great live act. When they returned to Japan for a brutal gig in Harajuku, Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane was there.

On 18th June, Anaal Nathrakh, the guys coming from the root of all evil and led by Dave Hunt, hit the stage at Astro Hall in Harajuku for the band’s only Japanese show of the year.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

For the second time, Anaal Nathrakh brought their heaviness combined with Dave’s epic vocals to the land of the rising sun. And once again they were welcome by a crowd full of power and thirsty for what the Birmingham guys had to offer. Starting with “Acheronta Movebimus”, guitarist G Rash gave a killer riff to warm up the crowd, which was already on fire in a violent circle pit following each note of the song. When Dave entered with his evil screams, the small Astro Hall became even smaller for such energy. Feeding the crowd’s hunger for pure brutal death metal, “The Lucifer Effect” brought even more desire to destroy everything that makes you pissed off and just surf among all those heads and then dive again from the stage.

As Anaal Nathrakh’s lyrics are difficult to comprehend and sometimes aren’t include in the albums’ booklet, for someone who is not used to their sound it gets really complicated to understand why people get so insane with each song played. But besides being a death metal band, Anaal Nathrakh also brings philosophy within each verse and the hate and wrath for the human nature infect every single person in the room, making everyone wanting to explode with every beat of Anil Carrier‘s drums.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Although this tour is promoting their newest album, “The Whole of the Law”, only two songs from it were played. One of them was “Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion”, combining Dave’s and Drunk‘s screams with Dave’s clean vocals – definitely one of the masterpieces of the album!

One of the strongest songs the band has ever written, “We Will Fucking Kill You”, was introduced by Dave telling the crowd about its video and the violence showed in it. Also, in response to requests from the band, the first stage dives started. It was supposed to be the end of the evening, but as it was their only show in Japan for the year, they decided to present the fans with some more brutal English death metal, which made people even crazier than they already were. There were times the rails were almost falling down due to the pits and headbanging.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Coming back with some old classics like “Drug-Fucking Abomination” and “More of Fire Than Blood”, the band chose the one I consider their best song ever to end the show: “Between Shit and Piss We Are Born”. Once again, brutality, anger and scunner for the human race took control of everyone, making the night an unforgettable and loud as hell one!

What kept my attention the most, and this happened not only by seeing them in action on the stage, but also when I first listened to their studio music, was how powerful and amazing a technical death metal band can be. People who are used to judge the style as only bad noise should check what these English guys can do and how a classical style voice can also have the scariest grunt of all and still be that kind of voice you can even wonder how it would sound singing a classic opera. That is probably why Birmingham will keep being the root of all evil – where everything started back there in the 60s – and keep feeding its people with fury and will to conquer the world’s heavy stages.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

www.facebook.com/anaalnathrakhofficial

www.anaal-nathrakh.com

EP review: Ov Shadows “Monologues” | Damp shadow-hugging music

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ov Shadows is a band that lives in a dark, damp and bleak world. There’s no hope in the band’s fabulously dark music.

This gloriously depressing three-track EP is meant to serve as an introduction to the band who plans to release a full-length album later in the year. Although we only get three tracks  on this EP – “Lifeless Cold They Gaze Upon”, “The Ash That Covers All” and “In Darkness Resounding” – it is more than enough to leave me wanting more and eagerly looking forward to the full-length album.

Ov Shadows is a group of what seems like rather secretive people playing their version of black metal. There is a Swedish connection here with Ov Shadows apparently featuring some members from the Swedish band Waning. The lack of information is OK as the band’s music speaks for itself. Slow, doomy black metal from deep down is what we get. At times it is comatose music which builds up to some kind of crescendo. Throughout the EP we get constant tempo changes which keeps this EP interesting. It is music created, performed and best listened to in darkness. A bit like being buried alive in a coffin or trapped in an underwater cave while having worms singing at your funeral. It’s grim and hopeless and the basis for fantastic damp shadow-hugging music. Especially the aggressiveness of parts of the song “The Ash That Covers All” stands out here.

Ov Shadows’ “Monologues” EP is out today via Xperiment XIII.

www.facebook.com/ovshadowsofficial

www.facebook.com/XperimentXIII

Interview | Krisiun drummer Max Kolesne | “Speed and brutality is something natural for us”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Brazilian extreme metal band Krisiun recently returned to Japan, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with drummer Max Kolesne for a backstage chat before their Tokyo show.

Formed in Brazil in 1990, Krisiun released its debut album, “Black Force Domain”, in 1995 and has been a hard touring band for the past couple of decades. They are currently touring in support of their latest album, 2015’s fabulous “Forged in Fury”. Krisiun consists of three brothers: Alex Camargo on vocals and bass, Moyses Kolesne on guitar and Max Kolesne on drums.

“It’s a pleasure and honour to be back. It’s our third time. We were here in 2002 and then 2014, three years ago now,” says Max Kolesne as we sit down in the band’s dressing room before their Tokyo gig.

You are three brothers in the band. Have you ever faced any issues in the band where being family has complicated things? “I think it is a really good thing. We’re not just brothers, but we are best friends. Every time we might have some argument, some stupid fights here and there, it just takes a few minutes to be friends again. We never really fight against each other. We also say the truth to each other, right in the face. We are best friends so we never have this issue to get to the point where someone would say: ‘Man, I wanna leave’ or whatever. We always stay together, very united. Especially nowadays when we’re older, more mature. We enjoy more to be on the road and just spending time together.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Krisiun seems to be touring all the time. 27 years after the band started, they are touring as much as ever. “Yeah. Real touring started in ’97. We started the band in the beginning of the ‘90s, but it took some time for us to start touring a lot, like in Europe, the States and South America. 1997 was the first tour we did in Europe. From that point on we’ve been touring every year.”

In order to cope with the tough schedule and to get time to produce studio albums as well, Krisiun takes time off from the road once in a while. “When it’s time to start writing music and get focused, we take some time apart from touring. We have two more tours in Europe, after this one. Two summer tours, one in June, the other one in July. Then we‘re gonna have a break from touring just to get focused on new songs, start writing songs for the next album. We always do it like that. Of course, even during touring we have ideas, especially Moyses is always writing riffs and recording riffs. But when we get to this point, we have to get together and put the stuff together, start building the bones of the songs. That’s when we take some time from touring.”

Krisiun on stage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Your style of death metal is very fast. Do you feel that when you write new music you have to fit in with the past and what is expected of you? Or do you just write good music? “It’s more about writing good music. Every time is different. When we were writing the latest one, ‘Forged in Fury’, we just followed our feelings. We wanted to do something, let’s say, not so fast. More like a natural writing process. Playing songs and having a good time. Playing songs that make you feel like banging your head and enjoying the music. Speed and brutality is something natural for us. It’s always gonna be there. Every album is going to be a little bit different. Like ‘The Great Execution’ I’d say it’s more like…more epic than ‘Forged in Fury’. ‘Forged in Fury’ is maybe more old school, more diverse, a little slower. There are more slower parts, more diversity. For the next one we are already thinking about it being faster and more brutal. It’s just natural. We just follow the flow, the natural flow. We are already thinking like this: the next one is going to be more explosive, more brutal, faster.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun on stage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Krisiun is a riff-heavy band – but you’ve only had one guitarist for most of your career. Did you ever consider replacing Altemir Souza (who left the band in 1992) and Mauricio Nogueira (who left in 1994)? “No, I think we are good like this, man. Especially if you listen to ‘Forged in Fury’, the bass guitar is really loud in the mix, so I don’t feel like we’re missing one guitar. The chemistry between us three is great. We’ve been playing together for so long it would be weird to have somebody else in the band right now at this point. I think we should just stay like this.”

I understand that you are currently working on the follow-up to your latest album, 2015’s “Forged in Fury”. When will the next album be released? “It’s hard to say right now. But we’re not gonna take too long to finish the writing process. Maybe in the beginning of the next year, maybe after March. For sure it is going to be before June or July.”

Will it be produced by Morbid Angel legend Erik Rutan (Belphegor, Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore) again? “We don’t know yet. We’re still thinking about it. He’s the first option, I guess, but we still have to think more.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Just before coming to Japan, you were stopped by the authorities from performing at a sold-out show in Bangladesh. You were also detained at the airport and denied entry. Has this kind of extraordinary thing happened to Krisiun in other places in the world? “Not like that, man. I think that the worst experience we have ever had was in Bangladesh. I feel sorry for those guys, the metalheads that live there. They have to live under the shadow of all this extremism, religious bullshit, whatever. I feel sorry for those guys. We talked to some of the metalheads, like the promoter and the other guys. People like us. They like the same kind of music, they like to have fun, they like to have friends. They are open-minded people. But unfortunately, in their country, I think 80 percent of the people living there, they are not open minded like they are, like we are. It’s kind of complicated. Hopefully, one day all this shit is going to change, but it’s hard because people are going more crazy nowadays. They wanna conquer the world. It’s really fucked up at this point. We’ve never had a problem like that. One time we had one show cancelled in the States, just right by the border of Mexico. The city was Corpus Christi in Texas. A lot of religious people and politicians, people there were like: ‘This is not gonna happen!’ It was us and Angelcorpse in, I don’t remember, 2002 or 2003. Unfortunately we had to cancel the show because of religion and politics again.”

This has been your third successful visit to Japan. Will you be back soon? “I hope so. If it was our choice, we would come here at least every two years, at least. It’s kind of hard to bring us from Brazil all the way to here. It’s very expensive so we always have to set up some kind of tour, try to book shows maybe in Australia or more shows in Asia, Right now, on this tour it is the first time we play in countries like Indonesia and Singapore, which was really good and really nice people and the crowds and the promoters. Everything went really smooth and nice. Probably for next time, it’s gonna be like this tour. We are gonna set up some kind of tour of Asia. It’s gonna be easier for promoters to bring us all the way from Brazil.”

Krisiun always seems to be part of very cool tour packages. How do you decide on what bands you tour with? Is it coincidences or do plan carefully who you tour with? “Luckily, especially in Europe and North America, we have a good agent. They have good bands in their agencies too, that’s how it goes. We have to have a good package to tour, especially in North America and Europe, because so many bands, so many tours are happening at the same time. If you go alone, by yourself, it’s kind of hard. Not just for us, but for all bands. Even bigger bands, they need a strong package. For us, touring with NervoChaos is such a pleasure. We are friends for so long, for more than 20 years. It’s a good time. We always have a good time and laughing and talk shit all the time.”

www.facebook.com/krisiun.official

www.krisiun.com.br

Interview: Edu Lane of NervoChaos talks about censorship and metal’s fight for freedom

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Censorship reared its ugly head in Bangladesh recently when extreme metal bands NervoChaos and Krisiun from Brazil were stopped from performing at an already sold-out show. When the bands shortly thereafter turned up in Japan, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with NervoChaos’ bandleader Edu Lane backstage before their gig in Tokyo.

Founded in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1996, Brazilian extreme metal band NervoChaos recently recorded its latest and seventh studio album in Como, Italy at the Alpha Omega Studio. “Nyctophilia” was released in April and the band is now on a massive world tour to back up the album.

NervoChaos on stage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They play raw extreme metal and with the addition of Cherry Sickbeat on guitar, the band’s sound has got a slightly punky hardcore edge to it which makes it stand out. “I would say extreme music” says Edu Lane when asked to describe the band’s music. “It gets it all. I don’t like to say death metal or thrash metal because it is kind of limited for what we do. We have some black metal-ish, and death and thrash and hardcore. We do what we like and for the people that we like. We don’t think about this or that crowd. We have just a feeling, just a passion.”

NervoChaos not only saw their sold-out show in Bangladesh cancelled by the authorities, they were also detained at the airport without explanation when they arrived in the country. “We were invited to play Bangladesh. As Brazilians we need visas. So we went to the Bangladesh embassy in Brazil, we got our visas, everything was working fine so far. The promoter was working on promotion. Ticket sales were very good. People were travelling from Nepal, India, from different places to the show. We arrived at the airport around one in the morning. We did the usual immigration deal, you know. I was let in. They stamped my passport and I went to the belt to get the cases.” Then things went from normal to bizarre as all the members of NervoChaos and Krisiun were suddenly stopped and retained in a small room, had their passports taken away and no information provided about what was going on. “Luckily I have a friend, a very good friend of mine who went to school with me. He’s the ambassador of Brazil. I called him,” explains Edu. After some 11 or 12 hours they were eventually released. “Only because I called the ambassador and he called people in the Bangladesh government. The ambassador told me they were going to arrest us and send us to jail. Just because we look different. We couldn’t believe it. We were shocked. We were not provoking or insulting their culture or anything. We thought: we have visas, the kids are there, the promoter is doing a proper job. It’s an amazing thing in 2017 to still have such a country. I feel bad for the kids there. Now they are fighting for their rights, they’re rioting. They are trying to do something which we support. It is freedom,” explains Edu about his feelings about the sad situation.

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

As a result of the Bangladesh situation, NervoChaos cancelled a few dates on its Asian tour as they worried about more trouble. “We decided that, after the Bangladesh experience, it is better not to risk it. We do it for the passion. We don’t want to fucking die or go to jail because of that. We want to fight for freedom and metal is a big thing worldwide. Hopefully those kids in Bangladesh will get a better treatment and a little bit of freedom.”

Edu continues: “We don’t know what happened. What’s normal for us, seems not normal for them. Long hair, tattoos, black shirts, you know? Not even pentagrams or something like that. I am not sure if they checked the lyrics or even went that deep on the search. I think they just looked at us and said: ‘Nah!’”

NervoChaos has a partly new line-up, with Edu the only remaining original member. Notably Cherry Sickbeat (of Hellsakura fame) has added a dimension to the band with her guitar playing. The new line-up – consisting of Edu and Cherry plus Thiago Anduscias on bass and Lauro Nightrealm on vocals and guitar – seems to have had an impact on the band’s sound. “I think so. We’re trying to evolve as a band, always. I think that new members always bring their own baggage, their own touch, which is good. I try to keep our sound the same but evolving. Not being static, not even moving. I think they brought a new sauce to it. I think it is very good. They’re experienced and I think it is working fine. I hope it lasts!”

With a new line-up and an evolved sound – do you concentrate on the newer songs when you play live or do you still play a lot of the old material? “In the set list we have more songs from the new album, like three or four. But we do play songs from each of the albums we have. We don’t have a long set time, so it’s kind of hard to squeeze everything – we have seven albums now! Tonight we have 40-45 minutes, so I think we can do it properly. Usually we try to play at least one song from each album and focusing on the newer stuff.”

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

While NervoChaos has been a hard-touring band for two decades, the recent Tokyo gig actually was the band’s first-ever gig in Japan. “Yes, it is the first time. We were supposed to play in Japan two years ago, but we had visa problems, so we couldn’t make it. We did the Asia tour without Japan. But this time we managed properly with the visas and stuff.”

The tour package bringing together Krisiun and NervoChaos has proven a popular one. “It is a good package. For us it is an honour to be touring with them. We did this package in Latin America together with them and that’s how the Asian promoters kind of asked for the package over here. That’s why we’re here. We’re friends for, I don’t know, 25 years. It’s an honour for us to be sharing a stage every night with those guys. I think it is a good combination. They have the more extreme, brutal kind of death metal and we play more the traditional, old-school metal.”

Edu Lane is a busy man. In addition to leading NervoChaos as its drummer and founder for the past two decades, he is also the newly appointed Latin American representative of Alpha Omega, the international music management company which operates in partnership with EMP Label Group, a company led by Megadeth’s David Ellefson. “It’s very new. We were recording the new album in Italy and that’s how I got the invitation to start working with them. I am doing the Latin American territory but I am not limited to it. I just booked a European tour for Ratos de Porão.”

Latin America is a strong market for many metal acts but it is also a territory where it is difficult to do business for artists from other parts of the world. “It’s kind of hard if you go down there with the wrong people. I don’t want to see the bands that I like and that are friends getting screwed, you know?” explains Edu on what he and Alpha Omega bring to the table. The Alpha Omega-EMP tie-up has so far been a successful one. “That’s why I joined them. I like the idea and the concept of Alpha Omega: a big network of experienced people working and trying to help each other.”

Last year, NervoChaos celebrated its 20th anniversary with a limited edition box and followed that with the latest studio album in April this year. What’s next for the band? “Lots of touring hopefully. After this we’re gonna do a big Brazilian tour, around 65 dates. From there we’ll go to Europe, probably around 60 to 70 dates in Europe. Then it’s gonna be the end of the year already. Next year we plan to a lot as well. I think two years is a good amount of time to tour and to promote an album. We want to release a studio album every two years.”

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Relentless touring around the world is at the centre of NervoChaos’ business model. “That’s the only way to survive for us. Because if we don’t do enough shows, we have to go back to regular jobs. Then it is a nightmare, doing double shifts and stuff. So we try to play as much as we can so that we can live out of the band and fully concentrate on our music and dedicate us to our passion.”

Following our chat, NervoChaos puts on a great show for its Japanese fans. As I leave the gig, Edu stops me and says “Keep the flame burning!” Indeed. He’s a man full of passion for metal and its fans. Certain authorities may throw some speed bumps on the road once in a while, but they can’t stop NervoChaos and its fans.

www.facebook.com/nervochaos

www.facebook.com/officialalphaomegamanagement

Gig review: Pretty Maids – the Danish melodic hard rock veterans have still got it

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Danish melodic hard rock veterans Pretty Maids deliver a solid gig in Tokyo in front of their loyal Japanese fans.

Just prior to coming to Japan for yet another round of gigs, melodic hard rockers Pretty Maids opened for KISS back home in Denmark.That gig must have given them some confidence and energy, because when they walk on stage in Tokyo for the second of the band’s two Tokyo gigs, they are on fire as they open with “Mother of All Lies”.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The current line-up of Pretty Maids features the two original members Ronnie Atkins on vocals and Ken Hammer on guitar, plus bassist Rene Shades. There are also two newcomers (and vitamin injections!) since they last performed in Japan in 2015: Swedish guitarist/keyboardist Chris Laney (Randy Piper’s Animal and Zan Clan) and drummer Allan Sørensen (Royal Hunt). The band is tight and delivers. But it is frontman Ronnie Atkins that sets this apart. His voice is still intact after all these years and he still knows how to entertain an audience.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

I first saw Pretty Maids in concert in 1990 and most recently at Loud Park in 2015. This evening in Shibuya we get a full-blown headline gig with all the goodies we want. We get fast rockers and we get some power ballads, just as expected when one of the best Scandinavian melodic hard rock bands performs in Japan.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Melodic hard rock bands from Scandinavia has a long tradition of having a loyal fan base in Japan. Pretty Maids is no different. The Japanese love affair kicked off with Europe back in 1983 and soon thereafter Pretty Maids was one of the leading bands in a big crowd of Scandinavian bands finding success in Japan.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

This evening the band is in a playful mood. We not only get the band’s classics and plenty of their newer material. We also get some great cover songs. We get treated to a part of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” as an intro to “I.N.V.U.”. Then we get a big chunk of Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” as well as John Sykes’ “Please Don’t Leave Me” (a cover Pretty Maids recorded in 1992). The band’s latest album, “Kingmaker”, was released in October last year and this evening we get to hear three songs from that album: “Kingmaker”, “Bull’s Eye” and “Heaven’s Little Devil”.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The best song of the night is the band’s 80s classic “Back to Back”, which is only rivalled by “Future World” during the encore. We get a long set filled with great music. The gig doesn’t really have any dips and the crowd keeps going throughout the gig. The audience knows all the words to the newer material as well as the classics from the 80s.

Pretty Maids on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Pretty Maids – Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo – 1st June 2017 – set list

  • Mother of All Lies
  • Kingmaker
  • Red, Hot and Heavy
  • Walk Away
  • Heaven’s Little Devil
  • Yellow Rain
  • Rodeo
  • Savage Heart
  • Pandemonium
  • Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd cover)
  • I.N.V.U.
  • Bull’s Eye
  • Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpions cover)
  • Eye of the Storm
  • Please Don’t Leave Me (John Sykes cover)
  • Back to Back
  • Future World
  • Little Drops of Heaven
  • Love Games

www.facebook.com/prettymaids

Interview: Paul Shortino talks about his upcoming Japan shows

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Paul Shortino returns to Japan with a show packed with Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot and King Kobra material.

He made a name for himself with Jake E. Lee in Rough Cutt. He also sang with the Hear ‘n Aid project alongside Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford before he fronted Quiet Riot and later King Kobra. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a chat with American vocalist Paul Shortino ahead of his two Japan gigs on 21st-22nd June.

What can the Japanese fans expect from your upcoming Paul Shortino Band shows in Japan? “The fans can expect a high energy show with lots of fun and great musicianship. I’m so honoured to perform with such talented and humble musicians. Great line-up with Jun Senoue on guitar and keys, Nozomu Wakai on guitar, Shoyo on bass, Louis Sesto on drums and Shigeki Fujii on background vocals.”

Will it be a set list that spans your entire career? “The set list will be songs from the two Rough Cutt records, the Quiet Riot record I recorded and some songs from earlier Quiet Riot to pay tribute to Kevin DuBrow. We will also be doing songs from King Kobra and ‘Back On Track’. I will perform a duet with Shigeki Fujii, doing “Stars” from Hear ‘n Aid, a tribute to Ronnie James Dio.”

The Paul Shortino Band consists of Japanese musicians. How did this band come together? “My wife Carmen was contacted for me to do a symposium and live performance in Nagoya. Jun put the band together. I had worked with Jun Senoue on the Sega game ‘Sonic Adventure’ and recorded the song ‘Dr. Eggman’. I believe Louis Sesto had a lot to do with this. This band is so amazing. We are planning to do some recording and future shows.”

In the 80s, you fronted a Quiet Riot line-up that while it didn’t have any original members, it featured some serious pedigree and skill in Frankie Banali, Sean McNabb, Carlos Cavazo and Jimmy Waldo. What do you most remember from your time with Quiet Riot? “That was a great band. It’s too bad we didn’t do another record. We spent a year working together on the ‘QR’ record. We all got really close working everyday together. We toured South America and Japan and then the band came to a halt. I only wish we would have toured more and would have done another record. However, the band got derailed somewhere along the way and we parted ways.”

You have performed in Japan before, including with Quiet Riot in 1989. What’s your best memory from Japan? “In 1989 Quiet Riot did a promotional tour with Grover Jackson and Charvel guitars. Then we performed in Osaka and Nagoya and three days at the Sun Plaza in Tokyo, where we filmed the shows that later came out on a DVD. That whole experience in Japan was amazing! Seeing Japan outside of touring and performing. Playing to the fans, then experiencing Mount Fuji was beyond words. Big love for the Japanese people and culture.”

You’ve played with several major acts during your career and also had a prominent role in the Hear ‘n Aid project. What’s your career highlight so far? “I feel super blessed to be able to do what I love to do all my life. I know nothing else, except the song in my heart. So, really every aspect of my career has been a true blessing and highlight. I will say that I was very honoured to be a part of ‘Stars’ with everyone involved and the late great Ronnie James Dio. ‘Spinal Tap’ was pretty cool and followed me throughout my career. Haha!”

You appear in the cult move “This Is Spinal Tap!” How did you end up acting in this movie? “Well the way this came about, Rough Cutt was performing, Jake E. Lee was in the band, at the Troubadour, located in Hollywood. The band ran an ad in a local newspaper that we were performing at the Troubadour. The casting crew for ‘This Is Spinal Tap!’ saw the ad and asked Jake, Dave and myself to meet with Rob Reiner. I showed up first dressed in my white leather. Mr. Reiner and wardrobe said ‘We have Duke Fame. No need to interview anyone else!’”

After Japan, what’s next for you? Are you now mainly busy with the Raiding the Rock Vault show in Las Vegas? “Raiding the Rock Vault is an amazing show! I love doing it and will continue to perform in it five nights a week! I am also working with my Rough Cutt band mates, rekindling our relationship, writing songs and hoping to release another CD next year. I am hoping the Paul Shortino Band will be putting out some material of our own in the near future too, and touring with Paul Shortino Band would be fantastic! The difference with Paul Shortino Band is that I get to perform all of the parts of my musical career. It’s a win for my fans and myself. Big love and see you in Japan very soon!“

Paul Shortino Band will perform in Osaka on 21st June and Tokyo on 22nd June. www.creativeman.co.jp/event/psb2017/

www.facebook.com/paulshortinoband

 

 

Interview: Dirk Verbeuren reflects on his first year in Megadeth

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Megadeth are better than ever and new drummer Dirk Verbeuren has certainly been a great addition for the band. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson met up with Dirk backstage at a recent Megadeth/Anthrax show in Tokyo to talk about the former Soilwork drummer’s first year in Megadeth.

Megadeth has had quite a few terrific drummers in the band’s long career. In 2016, they recruited then Soilwork member Dirk Verbeuren as its new drummer to complement the fantastic line-up of Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson and Kiko Loureiro. Originally it was a fill-in gig as live drummer on part of the “Dystopia” world tour. But after a few months, Dirk was offered a permanent place in the band. A year after Dirk joining Megadeth it is obvious that the Belgian-born and US-based drummer gels very well with the band and has lifted them a level or two.

“It’s been a lot of fun! It’s been, obviously, an unexpected change but a great experience. Like many people who are in this kind of music, I grew up listening to Megadeth, so now to be a part of Megadeth is still kind of unreal at times! Sometimes I’m on stage and I am like: ‘This is really happening!’ Hahaha!” says a very happy Dirk Verbeuren as we meet backstage in Tokyo before Megadeth and Anthrax rock the sold-out venue.

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Megadeth’s fans seem to have warmly welcomed Dirk without any of the drama that many other metal bands face when they replace some members. “They’ve definitely been very kind to me, they’ve embraced me. The shoes to fill are big, you know what I mean? People like Gar Samuelson, Nick Menza… Even all the other drummers that played in the band, like Jimmy DeGrasso, Shawn Drover, Chris Adler from Lamb of God who recommended me to the band. Those are all top notch people, so it’s… Yeah, I’m doing my best! Haha!”

Stepping into a legendary band with a vast back catalogue of fantastic songs originally played by some rather fabulous musicians can’t be the easiest task. Do you try to copy the original drumming on the classic Megadeth songs or add your own style to the songs when you perform?

“Well, here’s the thing: the goal for me and what the band expects from me, is to be as true to the songs as I can. It’s a song by song case. Sometimes even a section by section case where I try to figure out what I can do, maybe what I would do, maybe what I can do differently. In other parts I am sticking to the original, pure and simple. A lot of the flair comes from the way one person plays compared to the next. And I play the way I play. I can’t sound like… Even though my groove is kind of similar to Nick Menza’s in a way. I grew up listening to a lot of his stuff too, so it probably kind of influenced me in that sense. In the end, I can’t sound like him. Only he can sound like him. Same with Gar and same with all the other guys. I don’t focus too much, I don’t think too much about that, I just try to honour the songs.”

When the offer came to join Megadeth came out of nowhere, was it an obvious thing to accept? “At the beginning it was supposed to be just a fill-in gig. That’s how I was approached. It only overlapped with, at the time I think it was five or six Soilwork shows that I was missing. I talked to the guys: ‘Are you guys OK with me doing this?’ I’m just filling in.’ ‘Yeah, cool, no problem! Of course you should go and do that’. Then as I was on the road, it turned into ‘Hey, do you wanna join?’ So by that time I had already had some time to sit and think about it. What would I do if they asked me? Because you never know. By that time I had had some thoughts, some conversations with my wife and stuff. Then I was like “Yeah! Haha!”

Soilwork mainman Björn “Speed” Strid early on expected that Megadeth would ask Dirk to stay permanently and told Dirk: “When I heard you play with them at Sweden Rock, I knew he was going to ask you to stay.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dirk was a long-term drummer with Soilwork and leaving that band was not easy but he remains on good terms with his former bandmates, not least because he pointed them in the direction of finding his replacement. “The Soilwork guys have been super supportive about it. That’s cool. No bad blood whatsoever. Bastian Thusgaard recently became full-time, so I’m very happy that all worked out. He’s a great kid, great drummer, very motivated, hardworking. I discovered him because he put on some Soilwork covers online where I was very impressed with his playing. When this happened, I thought of him. I showed the guys a few videos and they were like: ‘Yeah, man. Put us in touch with that guy!’”

In a way it is similar to how Chris Adler recommended Dirk to Megadeth when it became clear he wasn’t going to be able to do that much touring with Megadeth because of his Lamb of God commitments. “Very similar. Also, Kiko as well. I had met him some years ago. I actually saw an Angra show in ’96. At the time I didn’t know him personally. Then he came to see a Soilwork show some years ago in Finland where he was living at the time. We talked a little bit and stuff. So he also, when names came up and stuff, he was like: ‘Dirk is great!’ Yeah, I was warmly recommended. It worked out good,” says a very pleased Dirk.

In my opinion you’re the best extreme metal drummer in the business. Obviously you have the talent and capability to be he drummer in Megadeth, but was there ever any doubt in your mind about your ability to do this with such a big band? Do you feel any pressure in this new role? “Well, thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. Yeah, the first two shows, definitely. There was a lot of stuff going on in your mind. But in the end all you can do is rely on your experience and if something happens, sometimes crazy stuff happens, you trust the fact that you’ll make the right call. Sometimes you have to make a really quick decision: what do I do here? And so far I’ve done pretty good. In the end it’s rock’n’roll, it’s all about having fun and that is still the way I approach it. Actually, it’s even more now than in the past. It’s kind of like I realise how lucky I am to be here doing this, playing music that I like in front of lots of people who are coming to see it. I mean, there really is nothing to worry about, right? It’s not like we’re trying to solve hunger in the world or something. We’re playing music for people to have a good time.”

With a great, and what seems like a stable, line-up of Megadeth, this band can really do something fantastic with the next album. Do you expect to be part of the songwriting from now on? “I don’t know. Obviously I haven’t been in that spot, so I haven’t experienced that. We’ll see how it goes. I’m definitely open to anything. I’ve started recording some ideas, you know, just having stuff in my phone. I look forward to spending time with the guys working on ideas. Obviously a lot of it is centred round Dave. He’s been the main songwriter for the whole time pretty much. Kind of from there we’ll see how it goes. It’s good that I have this period of time, unlike Chris who came in and it was pretty much straight to recording. I think that’s difficult, because you have certain ways of doing things and then all of a sudden there is this band with this whole past. That’s quick adaption. That can be tricky. Whereas with me, I’m probably going to spend at least two years, if not more, playing the songs live. That gives me some time to see the different areas of the band, see the different styles. For example, Gar has a very different style than Jimmy, than Nick, than Shawn and Chris and all the different people. And Chuck! I forgot Chuck Behler earlier. Great drummer too. Actually, I met him. He came to one of our shows last year, on the US tour. Super cool guy. That gives me a chance to take that information in and all these different grooves. Then when it is time to create something, I will definitely tap into that. Because it is a very different way of playing for me than, obviously, Soilwork or any other stuff I’ve done.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo.

Megadeth has an interesting history of the band’s drum techs stepping up to become the band’s drummer. Clearly you thus have ensured that you now have a rubbish drum tech who is not threatening your position behind the kit, correct? “Haha! Well, I have Tony Laureano, so he’s not exactly a rubbish guy. He was Dimmu Borgir and he has played with Nile. I was actually on tour with Tony back in 2002 when my old band Scarve opened for Nile on a European tour. Tony was drumming then in Nile and I was very impressed with his playing. We’ve been kind of friends ever since. I can’t say we were in touch all the time, but we would email ever now and then and I would see him at festivals. I saw him once with Dimmu. He loves teching. He’s a great drummer and he still plays. He still has several projects that are in the works. But he just loves doing this, being on that side. Hey, it’s cool. He’s an awesome guy. Great tech.” (Prior to Dirk joining Megadeth, Tony did a few shows as fill-in drummer for Megadeth, including their headline gig at the Japanese festival Loud Park in October 2015.)

So, what drummers have influenced you? Are you listening to drummer from different genres than metal? “Yeah, I listen to a lot of different things, but I do listen to a lot of metal. I don’t know that I feel that I am the best metal drummer. I like that you think that, it’s very kind, but you know I get a lot of inspiration from metal guys. Like I love Mario from Gojira, I love James from Vader, Tony was a big influence of mine for many years, especially around the Nile years. He was doing a lot of crazy stuff. Sean Reinert. I definitely listen to other styles of music as well. It’s very diverse. If you look at my phone, there’s everything from jazz to electronic to industrial to pop music to rock music, old-school punk. All kinds, even classical music. Sometimes when you come out of a tour or show or something, you just want something completely opposite. Kiko has been showing me a lot of Brazilian cool stuff. He’s a great acoustic player too. Sometimes he’ll sit after the show and just play beautiful things and I just sit there listening to him for an hour because it is so nice and a totally different vibe. The same with drummers. I like to keep things interesting. If you always listen to the same thing, especially as I get older, after a while… I need something else now. So I switch from Napalm Death to Squarepusher to Miles Davis within a few hours.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

You have always had multiple projects and bands on the go throughout your career. Now that you’re in Megadeth, do you have time for side projects and teaching drums and such? “The focus is Megadeth obviously, but I have been teaching quite a bit when I am not on tour. I have a few students locally and a few Skype students and I really like that part because I love when younger drummers ask questions and wanna learn stuff. I kind of make myself useful in a different way than entertaining people, passing on some stuff I’ve learned. I’ve been doing this pretty much since I was 18-19 years old, so it’s been a while. And, yeah, some side projects. Pretty under the radar stuff, like Bent Sea. It’s purely for fun. No ambition whatsoever, just making noise. I’m just kind of doing my own thing whenever I feel like it. There’s no schedule or business plan, it’s just the old-school way.”

One of the talented and hardworking musicians that Dirk frequently plays with is Shane Embury of Napalm Death and Brujeria fame, who is also in Bent Sea with Dirk. He is in so many bands and projects that he recently ended up performing three sets in a row with three different bands every night. “That’s Shane for you. Great guy. Super humble. Loves music, loves making music with people. We have several things in the works together. But my focus is on Megadeth. It’s obviously where I put everything in right now.”

Following a very successful Asian tour, more touring is coming up for Megadeth. “We first go to the US with Meshuggah. Really good friends of mine. Great band. Tomas Haake is another big drum influence of mine. We’re going out with them for a month in the US and from that we pretty much go straight into the European dates. Then back to the US for the Scorpions tour. It’s a pretty packed year this year.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo.

The much talked about Scorpions/Megadeth tour will bring Dirk together with another fab drummer, Sweden’s Mikkey Dee, the former Motörhead, Don Dokken and King Diamond drummer who joined Scorpions last year. “I love watching that guy play. It’s energising to see. He’s still on fire, man. He plays maybe better than he did before.”

Megadeth opening for Scorpions was a tour package that was rather unexpected. “Scorpions at the time was one of the biggest hard rock bands before thrash really existed. It’s not often Megadeth will open for somebody. It’s kind of like an interesting bill. I think it’s going to be really cool. Big venues. It should be a really interesting tour.”

It is time for Dirk to warm up for the first of two sold-out Tokyo shows with Megadeth. As he walks on stage a couple of hours later, he is a beast behind the drum kit proving that he was the right pick for the job.

www.facebook.com/dirkverbeurendrummer

www.dirkverbeuren.com

www.facebook.com/megadeth

www.megadeth.com

Album review: Old James “Speak Volumes”

Old James. Photo: Tammy Raybould

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The fabulous Brian Stephenson (Annihilator, Skull Fist) is back with his own trio and a jam-tastic debut album from Old James. Love it.

The multi-talented vocalist, musician and composer Brian Stephenson has earned his stripes in bands such as Annihilator, Skull Fist and Aggressor. In Old James, an explosive rock trio in which he plays bass and sings, Brian is joined by his brother Chris Stephenson (Cauldron, Enforcer, Skull Fist, Aggressor) on drums and Andy Thompson on guitar. Now the trio has its debut full-length album, “Speak Volumes”, ready. It rocks and you should buy it.

This Canadian trio of musicians just jam their way through this terrific album. It seems almost effortless, but there is obviously heaps of talent and hard work behind this album. “Speak Volumes” is an album that has a live-in-the-studio kind of feel. It sounds like a bunch of chums playing away in a rehearsal studio, putting it on tape and releasing it as an album. Fabulous!

Old James is intense, riff-happy and hard-hitting blues-based rock music with groove and attitude. But most of all, it is a trio which loves what it does.

Brian Stephenson on stage in Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“Words As Weapons” is an immediate and obvious favourite song. It has everything: fast pace, some funky parts, a terrific bass line, a whole lot of jamming, tempo changes and Brian’s fantastic voice and personality. Those of you who have seen Brian perform live on stage know what his personality can do to a song. He can make an average song great by simply adding himself. In my review of a Skull Fist gig fronted by Brian in Tokyo last year, I wrote: “Stephenson looks like a young Sebastian Bach. He dominates the stage like Bruce Dickinson. He manages to sound like Ian Gillan, Bon Scott and himself in the same song. He’s a class act – he’s got the moves and the vocal talent and he is so clearly enjoying himself up on stage. This is what any band should want from their vocalist.” And that was him as a stand-in vocalist in someone else’s band. Old James is a trio with Brian at the centre, performing their own music.

The rawness, freshness and roughness of the songs on this album make this terrific. “Salutations” is another smash in the face with a piece of fab rock music. “Kill Off The Rose” has a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe to it and so does “Eugene”, while “Master Imploder” kicks off as an AC/DC rocker which turns into high-energy boogie rock.

Brian Stephenson is the real deal. With his presence, charm and raw talent, he commands your attention. Whatever he does on stage or in the studio, it always impresses me. He has so much talent that he’s probably faced with extra charges for being over the baggage limit when he flies.

But Old James is not all about Brian. His younger brother Chris is a fab drummer who has played with Brian in many other bands over the years and the album features some fantastic guitar work by Andy Thompson. The trio gels brilliantly. They’re tight like a rush-hour Tokyo commuter train.

Old James’s “Speak Volumes” is out on 5th June. Get your record players ready.

www.facebook.com/oldjamesband

www.oldjames.ca