Frydee Firebird

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 12th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

1:54AM — I guess technically it’s Saturday morning, but when Firebird is covering Humble Pie, the technicalities don’t mean crap. For absolutely no reason whatsoever that I can discern, I’ve had this song stuck in my head all week, so it seemed a decent way to finish it off. Kind of a random, weird-ass week anyway, with the faux-press release from Black Pyramid, the reunion of Black Sabbath, etc.

I’ve been battling a cold all week — quite literally, the whole time — but am starting to come out of it and, if the timing following some social-type obligations tomorrow works out, I’ll be hitting up the Brighton Bar in Long Branch to see The Brought Low and Infernal Overdrive. I don’t know if I’ll review it, but it’s one of several shows I’ll be at in the next week (Fu Manchu, Premonition 13, and Judas frickin’ Priest come to mind most immediately), so it should be fun one way or the other.

Also: There will be a new podcast this weekend.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say it’s going to be the first of the two-parter 2011 year in review. Or maybe I am giving something away. Anyhow, there it is.

Aside from that, this coming week I’ll also post my interview with Nick DiSalvo from Elder and hopefully find some time to do an album review or two in between all those shows. I’ll also update on the HeavyPink sales and have some new streaming audio from the side-project of Monster Magnet‘s rhythm section, Riotgod. Much good to come, as ever.

Until then, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll see you on the forum and back here Monday for more riff worship. Doom on.

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Buried Treasure: Pre-Record Store Day in Connecticut

Posted in Buried Treasure on April 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I don’t really buy into the whole Record Store Day thing. It’s cool that the website has a map I can find stores on wherever I go, but honestly, I don’t buy vinyl and just about every payday is “record store day” for me. As an institution, I think the record store is something worth saving, which is why I go to record stores and spend my money on a regular basis. Well, that and the records, anyway.

As I’ve been out of the country three Record Store Days in a row, I thought I’d do a little pre-shopping this year and while I was in Connecticut for the weekend earlier this month, I swung by my favorite shop in the state, Redscroll Records in Wallingford. It’s always good to know you’re on friendly ground, and when I walked in, they were playing Black Pyramid‘s self-titled album, so I immediately felt at home. Time before last, if you’ll recall, it was Sleep‘s Dopesmoker.

It doesn’t quite match the batch of discs I pulled in last time I was there in the fall, but I still managed to find some good stuff. I grabbed yet another Monster Magnet promo CD — it’s amazing how many there are floating around — called Five Reasons to Testify that has the awful God Says No shot of them with Dave Wyndorf‘s metal codpiece on the front (I’m not even going to show it), as well as the first Firebird record, the first Quest for Fire and the 1999 Bong Load Custom Records issue of Fireball Ministry‘s Où est la Rock? Not a bad haul, all told.

The Firebird I’d picked up at the band’s merch table at Roadburn 2009, but that was the European reissue and this was the original on The Music Cartel, so I couldn’t resist. When I reviewed the second Quest for Fire album, Lights from Paradise, I said that I’d have to go back and buy the first, and it was good to do that, although I think I prefer the second anyway. I couldn’t remember if I owned the Fireball Ministry or not, but decided to take the chance anyway and it paid off. The record kind of rules. Very Fu Manchu, except maybe for the Obsessed-esque “Death Dealer,” which actually features Guy Pinhas on bass, but enjoyable throughout. Probably the most stoner rock of all their albums, which suits me just fine.

There’s a hole punched in the UPC of the Fireball Ministry, which means it was probably someone’s promo, and I always think that’s interesting, and wonder who got the record initially, what they did or didn’t do with it and how they came to sell it. Every time I get emailed another link to download a new release, I get that “born too late” feeling. I’ve gotten plenty in my day, don’t get me wrong, but when I think of the shit that could have come in my mail (all those Monster Magnet promos, for one) and all the silver-backed bootleg CDs I could have bought in the pre-CDR era, I get a little sad. I guess we make the most with what we’ve got. It’s fun hunting this stuff down, anyway.

Most likely I’ll be back at Redscroll before too long, but just figured I’d share anyway, since it’s a quality store and deserves to have the word spread about it as much as possible. Check them out here if you haven’t yet, or find them on that Facebook the kids love so much.

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Firebird, Double Diamond: Delusions Lost

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know if guitarist/vocalist Bill Steer is a big blackjack player and that’s what he hand in mind in naming Firebird’s sixth album Double Diamond, but he dealt a hell of a hand in 2009’s Grand Union, and there was no way that was going to be an easy album to beat. Partnered once again with Rise Above (who, in turn, are partnered with Metal Blade, at least as far as the American distribution goes), London residents Steer, drummer Ludwig Witt (also of Spiritual Beggars) and new bassist Greyum May (ex-Ozric Tentacles) – the latter who may not have actually played on the album; no liner notes with review mp3s and online info is vague – present a new collection of tracks very much in league with Firebird’s stated classic rock mission. Double Diamond is somewhat moodier tonally than Grand Union, and feels less upbeat in general, but Steer’s songwriting and use of structure and AABB rhyming is, as ever, deservedly at the fore, and the rhythm section this time out is as tight as the tracks require without sounding mechanical in the slightest. It’s a solid rock record from a band who makes solid rock records. Maybe not much in the way of surprises, but that’s never been Firebird’s thing. If you’ve got a rock itch, they’ll scratch it.

He’s among the more underrated riff writers of his generation, and Steer (once a member of grind pioneers Carcass) shows again on Double Diamond his inner boogie. Beginning with “Soul Saviour,” the songs push through at a mostly middling pace, but Firebird’s strength has always been the verse/chorus interplay, and there are a few gems on their sixth outing as well, second track “Ruined” among them. Steer’s guitar line is well accompanied by the bass and Witt’s fills. The song feels less blatant in its ‘70s rock worship than did “Soul Saviour,” but there’s no question to which decade the guitar solo belongs. It could be that Firebird are trying to marry their influences with something more current, and it that’s so, I’m glad to see they didn’t have to sacrifice the catchiness in the process. Their formula doesn’t allow much stylistic movement – they’re not going to suddenly go hardcore on one of these songs, and rightfully not – but as the embodiment of a “what you see is what you get” mentality, Double Diamond does show some progress. If for no other reason than that a third of the band has changed, the dynamic has shifted in kind. “Bright Lights” and the shorter “For Crying Out Loud” find Steer up front in both guitar and vocal presence – it’s his band, at the end of the day – but “Farewell” steps down the energy to a kind of half-ballad level, and is another example of the outfit trying something different.

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Interview with Firebird Guitarist Bill Steer: And a Grand Union it Is

Posted in Features on July 27th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Even in their band pic, no bullshit. (Photo by Sam Scott Hunter)Blah blah blah, Carcass reunion, blah blah blah. Get to the good part.

The good part was this year at Roadburn when Firebird (yes, and Carcass) guitarist/vocalist Bill Steer — who was apparently sick as hell at the time — started belting out songs through his harmonica, drummer Ludwig Witt and bassist Smok Smoczkiewicz throwing down infectiously grooving rhythms to match every solo, chorus and verse of riffy ’70s guitar rock. Shortly thereafter, with the release of the fifth Firebird record, Grand Union, the band proved the energy they captured on stage they could easily match in the studio, providing fitting covers of Humble Pie and James Taylor alongside original highlights “Jack the Lad” and “Wild Honey” while showing the retro sect there’s more to it than vintage gear and fuzzy promo photos.

Indeed, Grand Union‘s second greatest strength (the first being the songwriting) might be its modern sound. In the digital age of endless recording possibilities, Firebird sound natural, unforced and entirely void of pretense. As ever, the trio executes their material with a keen eye on hard rock’s lineage but both feet planted in the present.

Steer was kind enough to take some time out recently for a phoner to talk about the album, Firebird in general, and his plans for the future, including the revelation (spoiler alert) that he’s joined Gentleman’s Pistols on lead guitar. Enjoy.

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Firebird Go Grand, Eat Humble Pie and Take a Zeppelin to Scotland

Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Shop here.Firebird guitarist/vocalist Bill Steer probably wasn’t thinking there’s a chain of grocery stores on the east coast of the US called Grand Union when he came up with the title for his band’s fifth album. In all likelihood, he just went with it because it sounded cool and ’70s-ish, which, out of the context of the shopping list, it does. Produce aisle be damned.

Based out of foggy London town, Steer is probably best known as the guitarist for grind gods Carcass, and if Grand Union serves as anything, it’s a reminder of why Steer looked so damn bored on stage when I saw their reunion tour last year. Sure, he ripped through solos and shredded when it was dictated he do so, but, decked in bellbottoms and a white t-shirt, he seemed out of his element and disinterested. By contrast, when Firebird played Roadburn this Okay, you two, with the long hair, hands in pockets, please.April, he was excited to the point that he couldn’t stand still.

Though, to be fair, Firebird‘s music is the type of classic ’70s rock that’ll have just about anyone shaking their ass. Certainly the crowd in The Netherlands was into it, and Steer — joined by drummer Ludwig Witt and new bassist Smok Smoczkiewicz — locked onto the energy as the band ran through Grand Union tracks like “Four Day Creep,” “Silent Stranger,” “Wild Honey” and Duster Bennett‘s harmonica-led “Worried Mind.” New songs or old, it was good-time rock and roll, which just so happens to be Firebird‘s specialty.

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