The Savage Animal 5.14.14: Goodbye
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 05.14.2014
All good things come to an end. In the 396th edition of The Savage Animal Mike shares his reasons for ending the weekly column after eight years, why you should listen to Fashion Bomb and a final goodbye. Join in putting the animal to sleep and click the link one last time.
Goodbye I: The Intro
This column is eight years in the making. In eight years I've seen hundreds of bands perform, listened to thousands of albums, and have devoted more time writing about music than I've devoted to any other form of expression. I've worked different jobs, had different people in my life, and have experienced as much as I have been meant to experience. I've grown thicker skin, worked hard, and have taken everything I've learned and experienced and made myself become who I am. I've grown into the creative person I've wanted to, I'm lost over 160 pounds (DDP yoga, baby!), I've shaved my balding head, ended long term relationships, wrote screenplays, made movies, started a production company, quit smoking cigarettes, stopped eating red meat, and genuinely did what everyone has attempted in the past eight years.
I've lived a life worth telling a story about.
Part of my life is obviously music. You don't get 396 weekly columns of writing about music without it being a passion. I can't play a note on any instrument, but I just love the art and I can't help but share that. Before writing these weekly installments I'd listen to music, spend hours talking to friends about it, and just genuinely enjoy it in the simplest and most complex of ways.
(This is me over the past year and a half or so, thanks to DDPyoga!)
Over the past few years I've simply lost touch with music. I still listen to music, but not nearly as much because of podcasts. I still try to get to concerts, but I've not made it to one in a REALLY long time because of random reasons. I still wear a few band T-shirts from back in the day, but few and few as I continue to lose weight and my old XXXL and XXL shirts start to hang off me in comical ways. I still keep up on the music news and rumors, but in my older and hopefully wiser age I tend to take a more jaded and pessimistic look at the meaningless antics of celebrity and rich people. It's hard to give a shit about a millionaire rock star or rapper with issues when trying to make ends meet in the real world. Then there's a whole layer of my discontent that's purely on the fact that I feel like music is a dying art form. The mainstream music all sounds the same and has lost what I love about music. The non-mainstream is doing nothing to pull me in. There is nothing really impactful or captivating about music in 2014. Hell, I'm certain I could have typed the same sentence and replaced the year now for a good three or four years. At least.
I'm always going to have passion for the music I came up on and certain artists and certain sounds. I like industrial rock with audible vocals, I like grungy stuff, I like rock that sounds like it's from a garage, I like blues based rock, old school hip hop, old school gangsta rap, cheesy 80s music, nu-metal from when I was in high school, classic rock, the Woodstock era of music, The White Stripes, Strokes, and the "The" bands of the early 00s, I like good angry music, good happy music, Motown, old gritty country, silly jock jams, and all of the music that speaks to me and makes me stop whatever I'm doing or thinking for even a split second to distract me long enough to pull out a smile or real emotion.
Music today is emotionless. Maybe this is the old man in me telling you all to get off my musical lawn, but I just don't feel that with music anymore. There is nothing that grabs me by the neck that screams in my face to want to fight for.
Writing a column every week, thinking of a new topic to cover every week, and taking hours out of my sometimes very busy life to write a few thousand words about music IS a "fight". I'm done fighting. I have no issue walking away from The Savage Animal and THAT sucks. I never saw an end to this because I was always inspired enough to keep up the "fight".
So with that, I'm laying my sword down. I can't save rock and roll.
This is the final edition of The Savage Animal.
Goodbye II: Listen to Fashion Bomb
(MEW logo, circa 2003)
I've mentioned this before, but at the age of 17 I decided to be a professional wrestling promoter. Yes, a "promoter". We were doing backyard wrestling in the late 90s and early 00s and in 2000 myself and a group of friends took it one step farther. We'd travel to a sketchy area in Northwest Indiana every day after school for a few hours. There a local wrestler, Kenny Courageous, would train the dozen or so of my backyard wrestling friends and a few others from the area. It wasn't like we were dumb kids who decided to just have shows. We were dumb kids attempting to do it "right". After nine months or so of training we hooked up with a hand full of local veterans and Chicago guys and put on the first Maniak Enterprise Wrestling show.
This would last for four years. While the people I went to school with were in college, I was shilling my local wrestling shows and booking the same venues that guys like Daniel Bryan, Chris Hero, CM Punk, and other top names wrestled in. If you ever find footage of these guys wrestling in a venue called "The Lincoln Center" in Highland Indiana that's one venue. Hell, the only match I ever had was in the same building.
I learned a lot and experienced a lot during these years. Not just about wrestling and business, but about people and myself. This ended and I had a void. I would wallow in my telemarketing job for a while and just party my ass off. I needed a creative outlet to fill that void. I started writing screenplays and my production company was growing its roots but it wasn't enough. Then all of that passion and focus would find a home.
In late 2005 a friend talked me into going to Chicago with him to see a local metal band. He had seen them open up for Marilyn Manson and swore I'd like them. So I enter the Logan Square Auditorium and wait. I have no idea who else played that night. I vaguely recall the show being a long one and not being impressed with a lot of the music I heard that night. Then five towering figures appear on stage and turn the building into a four walled mosh pit.
This was Fashion Bomb.
At the time it was Adrian Valerie or "Val" to most taking on the vocals and main theatrics, "acid" playing lead guitar, "DreG" on drums, and the couple at the time, "Bambi" on bass and "Mode" on rhythm. They put on one helluva show and left me speechless and wanting more. Over the next few months I went being a casual supporter to a full on fan. Being a NIN, Tool, Manson, and Zombie fan it was a Chicago movement that was easy to get behind. They weren't copying anyone, but the similarities were there and easy to appreciate.
In early 2006 I approached Val after a show and gave him a custom made DVD that featured a shoddy animated video of the band performing a few songs. It was straight out of the South Park book of animation and imagery. He was cool and appreciative, but I'm sure he had no clue what to expect. I'd soon get a personal email from him and a thank you for the DVD.
On July 4th, 2006 I'm watching CM Punk debut on WWE's version of ECW and I get a phone call from Val. The band was going to be releasing its first studio album and was looking to utilize the "Enhanced Content" option that many artists were using during early to mid-00's. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll explain. For a while bands would put out CDs where you could play them on a normal player but if you put them into a computer you could bring up "Enhanced Content". This would often include lyrics, a link to the site, and music videos. The band needed some help with this. I had no idea how to do it, but I was confident I could figure it out and deliver.
Shortly after, Val would make his way from Chicago to my home in Indiana. He hung out and we put together a pretty decent little display for the fans who bought the CD. It showcased some desktop wallpapers of some great live shots, some bonus goodies, the official video for the track "S.S." and my animated cartoon for the track "Christ Puncher".
"S.S" (directed by John Weaver)
At that point I would take on the job of putting together their website, designing flyers, promo, letterhead, and handling some administrative assistance when needed. At this point I was accepted into the band with welcomed arms. At that point Fashion Bomb became part of me.
("Devils to Some, Angels to Others" album cover)
Their first studio album would be "Devils to Some, Angels to Others". I listened to this album as much as any of my favorite albums of all time. Not just because I knew the people behind it or because my name was in the linear notes, but because I believed in it. The music on this album can be labeled "metal", "alternative metal", or "hard rock". Whatever. It's rock and roll at its finest.
When other metal bands were growling and not putting the effort into production, these guys were wearing platform boots, taking pride in their goth image, and putting on the best show in ALL of Chicago. Believe me, we went to TONS of shows in the 00's. I enjoyed bands like Disonic, Shades of Fiction, Marazene, and others. I truly thought they all had a chance to break out and do great things. I also would take a step back from the metal and hard rock of Chicago and take in lighter acts like Fun Club, who I would be exposed to thanks to Mindless Self Indulgence. These guys were playful, silly, and had a great time performing great and catchy songs. Outside of Fashion Bomb, we'd spend more time at Fun Club shows than I can honestly remember. They too made you feel like home and part of the fun. They don't put on shows anymore, but I'm happy to say they'll always be one of my favorite bands of all time just because it's hard not to smile or fondly reflect on the engaging vibe they shared with everyone.
(me and acid, 8/2006)
Fashion Bomb was the bread and butter though. They would run Chicago. Be it Metro, Double Door, Logan Square Auditorium, or the Pearl Room in the burbs Fashion Bomb was the go-to band for touring metal acts looking for reliable support. Over this period I'd get to see them play with acts like Mushroomhead, Voltaire, Godhead, American Head Charge, Dope, PIG, Hanzel und Gretyl, Birthday Massacre, and tons of notable others. If you ask me they not only held their own, but often times stole the fucking show.
They were larger than life in image, put on a great show, were interactive and cool to all fans, and were great talents. In 2006 I proclaimed their debut album to be the BEST album of the year. I still stand by it. Songs from this era include "The Line", "Low", "SS", "God Drug", "Rant", "Ascend This Day", "Mold", "Skin", and the crowd favorite and rebellious anthem "Christ Puncher". It wasn't the same song over and over again. They would show case depth, balls, and electricity. It was metal, it was rock, it was industrial, it was high energy, it was insightful engagement, and it was just pure.
(me and Val, 2006)
"Christ Puncher" (directed by me!)
Fashion Bomb didn't land the cover of Rolling Stone, get on MTV or become overnight icons but this album and this time period was magical for me. If you ever watched the movie "Almost Famous" where the hot touring rock band takes a young journalist under the wing and share in the journey then you can understand what I was living at this time. These guys and girl became close friends of mine. I'd not just be helping with band stuff but I'd be confiding in them, hanging out, and just sharing in the ride. I never got confused. I wasn't IN the band. It wasn't my talents and energy on the stage that was bringing Chicago to its knees, but it was an honor and thrill to be part of the ride.
I would learn things about the people behind the make-up. I would find similar interests, share in inside jokes, meet the families, laugh, get angry and together it was Fashion Bomb (and MiGo) vs. The World.
(me and Val, 2006)
Good things come to an end though. Bambi and Mode would leave the band due to some internal disputes that I never really got the full story on. I could sense the tension for a while and in the long run it was best for everyone. I regret losing my connection to these two people. She was always fun to be around and Mode was one of the few people in the world that I met that matched the passion I had for Nine Inch Nails. At one December show, my friend's car was towed by the city of Chicago. Left with no ride or anywhere to go they took us into their home and let us crash on their floor. They didn't have to do this. It was a long night for everyone, but they went out of their way to be there for us. No matter whatever happened, I always appreciated that.
(me, Joe, acid, & Mode, 2006)
But like I said, all good things come to end. While the "good" was ending, the world of Fashion Bomb was entering a new era. Things were no longer "good". Things were "great".
During this transition DreG would leave the band as well. He was a founding member, but seemed burnt out on the hustle. He actually took it upon himself to call me and let me know he was leaving the band. He didn't have to do this. I was just the flyer guy and web guy. He was very cool and gracious about his departure, but his time was winding down as a member of Fashion Bomb.
This would cripple most bands. Before I came around they had other line-up shifts and had a few years of trials and tribulations but this group was "the band" for me. Three of its members leaving in a short time frame would put most bands out of commission. But most bands don't consist of Adrian Valerie and acid. People would have things against Val and he'd take on any enemy that wanted to step up. They'd go after the jugular, but Val never stopped. Along with acid, Fashion Bomb was not going anywhere. If anything this made the band and brand even stronger. If they could endure this, they could endure anything. And fuck man, they endured.
The week I shot my first independent movie consisted of four shooting days from hell in Indiana…a trip to Wisconsin to see Rage Against The Machine… and then a friend and I hopped into a car and drove to Michigan to wear black button ups and red ties in the heat of August to pass out programs for the band at a small festival they would headline. This was the passion we had for what they were doing. We believed in them and they never let us down. Every show was better than the last and we were seeing these larger than life beings, our friends, evolve into whole new bigger, bolder, thicker skinned monster.
They would add a new bass player named "Trace" and eventually a new drummer that would go under the name of "Drone". This group would continue to tear up venues across the Midwest and eat, sleep, and shit Fashion Bomb. While the old line up was a solid group, this formation was all talent. Trace was a great bass player that could play anything. Drone was a small guy that would turn into a fucking beast behind the kit. His drumming was tremendous. I recently made the statement that he was the best live drummer I've seen and I mean that. Meanwhile, Val continues to display vocal chops that still stand as some of the best I've heard. He owned every stage he stepped on. That kind of confidence and leadership is undeniable. And then there's acid. He was always a damn good guitar player, but to me, it was during this time frame that he came alive. His solos, his technical ability, and stage presence REALLY came out. Not only is he one of the coolest people you'll ever meet, but I'll swear on a stack of bibles that he is the best guitar player I have ever seen. I've been to more concerts than I can count. I've seen Slayer, RAGE, NIN, Manson, Motley Crue, A Perfect Circle, AC/DC, Slash, and tons iconic and well respected bands over the years. So many great bands and great guitar players. Not a fucking one of them is as good as acid from Fashion Bomb. I know that sounds like some bullshit hype by a friend, but acid is the best I've had the pleasure of seeing. I've videoed them A LOT so I've had to rewatch hundreds of hours of them playing. It never got boring or old because they rock, Val is a charisma machine with vocals to slay, but acid's chops were like watching a magician, a machine, and alien all in one.
Things REALLY came together and it was exciting as fuck.
("Visions of the Lifted Veil" album cover)
In one swoop the band would change forever. They signed up with a well-respected and known manager, they'd get signed by a Detroit label with Sony distribution, and they'd release their sophomore album "Visions of the Lifted Veil". Also around this time, I'd utilize my video skills and make a documentary about this very specific time frame. While the doc has tons of heart and merit I'm sad to say it wasn't on par with my expectations and didn't do them any justice. It showcased the band live and behind the scenes. It didn't really tell the story but it did capture a moment in their history. The audio is screwed up, some cuts are weird, and it's not something I'd want to release on DVD but I'm still proud of the effort and the result. It's not perfect but it's still Fashion Bomb.
The release of "Visions of the Lifted Veil" was pretty awesome. They gained coverage from a lot of cool websites, landed in Metal Hammer magazine, got on some great shows, the videos Matthew J Van Howe and the band put together were pretty damn great, and they really just upped the ante of the prior release.
"The Meek" (directed by Matthew J Van Howe)
As much as I loved their debut and listened to it over and over, it's impossible to dismiss the fact that this album is leaps and bounds better. Produced by Ray Herrera of Fear Factory fame and other extremely skilled folks in LA, this album is so underrated it should be a crime to not appreciate it. When you take it all into consideration; the imagery, live shows and the music; it's easy to get excited about the album. Songs like "The Meek", "Veil of Megiddo", "The Stalker", "Press Delete", "Sick One" and the killer "Technological Singularity" make it one of the most loaded rock albums in at least 10 years. I'd even go as far to say this 2010 release was the last album release I was genuinely excited about and anticipated.
"The Vow" (directed by Matthew J Van Howe)
They would lose some more members and gain some, but Val and acid kept going. They'd eventually embark on their first national tour in support of Ill Nino. They'd hit the road again during the early part of 2014 for a tour with Lords of the Lost, a European group. The tour hit up a pretty big chunk of the country. These shows would continue to impress and spread the word, but it's only a matter of time before they are on their own headlining tour. They sure as hell can handle it.
That's the point here. As much as I support this band and put my own time in, it's because it was worth it. Music is a passion of mine and always will be if I'm writing about it or not. I've not even made it to a Fashion Bomb show in a good two or so years. That is not a fact I'm happy about but my confidence, passion, and interest in Fashion Bomb is always going to be there. They are too bad ass not to.
If you've read any of the past 390+ columns and agreed with my point of view, were informed to something new, or enjoyed them at all then I really encourage you to hit up itunes, YouTube, or wherever you go or music and give Fashion Bomb an honest listen. Music is really hard to enjoy these days. There is no real substance or edge to mainstream rock and hip hop as become a joke. Fashion Bomb is the real deal. It might not be for everyone, but if you're a reader or have been a reader of this column then I have a good feeling you'll discover the same magic I have. I've never once heard or seen any of them say "I'm a Golden God" on top of a roof, but I don't think they needed to. Their music, their stage show, and their endurance speak for itself.
Seriously, do me the favor – no, do YOURSELF the favor and LISTEN TO FASHION BOMB.
The name "The Savage Animal" comes from a Sebastian Bach rant on a failed reality show. The show was called "Supergroup" and it took a few different high profile musicians and put them in a house to record and perform with. Folks like Scott Ian, Sebastian, and others were involved. There was a moment in this underappreciated show where they were trying to figure out a band name. In a brainstorming session Bach blurts out "HOW ABOUT SAVAGE ANIMAL?! MUSIC IS A SAVAGE ANIMAL!" While the others didn't connect to the suggested band name, it always stuck with me. I couldn't agree more, music IS a "savage animal".
I saw an opening and wrote a sample piece for 411mania.com talking about how awesome the band Mindless Self Indulgence was but I needed a title. I heard a few of the Skid Row hits and always thought Bach was okay, but I wouldn't full appreciate his talents and being until years later. I did, however take his band name suggestion and use it as the title to my own column. The shoddy MSI column was approved, I had my column title, and the rest is history.
I'd like to thank everyone. Seriously everyone. Without the bad music, the dumb fans, the stupid responses, the smart ass responses, and the fall outs from my bold opinions I'd not have kept writing. The death threats from Juggalos, the random phone conversation with Taylor Swift's publicist over me not liking her, bands like Madina Lake not liking to hear the truth of what people think about them, and being corrected for the many mistakes I've made all gave me fuel to keep "fighting". Thanks for all of that.
I would have liked to have gotten to meet more musicians, I would have liked to have gotten positive responses from bands or artists I put time in praising and glorifying, I would have liked to have gotten Lollapalooza press credentials, I would have appreciated to have gotten at least one response to the dozen or so people I contacted last year about doing interviews, I would have loved to have made money after putting in so much time, I would have loved to have somehow met some idols like Trent Reznor, Bono, Bowie, Manson, Kanye, Kevin Smith, Will Ferrell, Lorne Michaels, Conan O'Brien, Vince McMahon, etc., and in general I would have appreciated more appreciation. Who wouldn't?
I'm not bitter or even upset about any of that. I wouldn't change a thing. When I signed up for this gig I signed up for a free writing job and a spot to share my bullshit. I got that for eight years. I got more than that.
I totally appreciate the love, eyes on my words, and the general conversation. The fans, casual readers, friends, family, Mitch Michaels being the only 411 person to ever really be accepting of my madness, Greg DeMarco, and others who weren't total reclusive and odd. I got some really cool responses from fans, I got to go backstage and interview the group Potluck at a Tech N9ne show, I got to get free tickets and reward a good friend with going to see Three Doors Down (a band I still don't like), I got to listen to artists like Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake, Muse, and others before the mainstream recognized their brilliance, and in the end I got to share my love for music with the world.
To most people it was just a weekly blog, but for me it was like a weekly diary with a music based structure to disguise my personal growth. It was a creative outlet, an emotional outlet, and a way to connect to the world. I've literally grown up into a man during the time I wrote this column. I started at a 22 year old kid and I'm now a 30 year old man. I've learned a lot about myself and the world because of The Savage Animal.
Like Sebastian Bach said, "Music is a savage animal". He was right. Animals don't live forever though, none of us do. With that, I'd rather put this animal to sleep before it's too far gone and bitter. If you're still interested in what I do and what I write about then check out my production company's Facebook at: Facebook.com/DigitalLizard and the website at: DigitalLizardProductions.com. I'll still be dropping some random movie reviews, views on wrestling, rants, and videos but the weekly ritual of "The Savage Animal" is over. Let the Digital Lizard be your new spirit animal.
Thank you for clicking, thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, and thank you for sharing in this journey. There is much more to the journey than music, but it's a beautiful background noise to what should be a beautiful life. Don't wait for tomorrow because today is pretty fucking awesome.