Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Recap of Reverend Horton Heat Show With Nekromantix and The Creepshow, January 15, 2014, The Trocodero, Philadelphia

Reverend Horton Heat

I've covered or attended hundreds of shows in my lifetime and can probably come up with a Top 10 best if held at gunpoint, perhaps.  These days, as a father, I'm just satisfied to attend shows at all.  I dearly miss the days when I was at 10 to 15 shows a month.  I've done so many on-site interviews with musicians backstage, on tour buses or at local bars near the venues that it grew to be addictive.  As I mentioned in another post, I was writing for seven magazines and five websites once, which meant I was either on the phone or at a show doing interviews.  Now that most of those publications have vanished into the ether of music journalism past, I long for those days when I was living on the edge on caffeine bombs, late night drives along the east coast and the occasional lonely hotel room.

Last week, in snowy Philadelphia, I was hardly lonely as my family came with me for a road trip as I took in the evening at the historic Trocodero club on Arch Street.  After turning in a glowing review of Reverend Horton Heat's newest album REV for Blabbermouth, I was graciously invited to the show by the Rev's camp and his new label, Victory Records, who I've been fortunate to have enjoyed a longtime professional association with.  I think back to when I got started in this racket, interviewing some of their earlier artists like Himsa, Atreyu and Between the Buried and Me, and to see the iconic Psychobilly Freakout, Reverend Horton Heat on their roster is a bit surreal.  However, he appears to be in great hands and I was treated to one of the best concerts I've seen in many moons.  Jim Heath and his compadres Jimbo Wallace and Scott Churilla knocked out a home run with tremendous support from the always amazing Danish psychobillies, Nekromantix and impressive newcomers, The Creepshow.

The Rev and Jimbo Wallace

I won't bore you with a full play-by-play of the night's show, but I will strive to give you a hopefully colorful overview of all that I saw that wild evening at the Troc.  As mentioned, Canadian opening act The Creepshow really cooked as aspirant cowpunks in the same vein as their hosts.  In their case, they're led by a trim and tatted-up female vocalist and guitarist, Kenda "Twisted" Legaspi, who got the venue rolling with her blazing confidence and sharp pipes.  The band knows their way around a psychobilly jam, so the swing dancers and moshers volleyed for control of the floor rather quickly.  Kenda all but stole the show by climbing up the amplifier stacks toward the end of The Creepshow's set into the balcony and sang from the upper tiers.  The packed venue went out of their minds at this point, so by the time Kenda slithered back down and soon thereafter mounted the side of Sean "Sickboy" McNab's slap bass, they'd fully endeared themselves to the audience.  Later, Reverend Horton Heat would pull the same stunt on Jimbo Wallace's standup bass to even louder accolades.

Kim Nekroman and Lux, Nekromantix

Seldom do you see such energy from the opening act, but all this did was make Kim Nekroman and the Nekromantix play even more feverishly than them.  The last time I'd see Nekromantix play, they'd run into some sound issues.  Not this time, and as the Trocodero has been long standing since the late 1800s as a one-time vaudeville and burlesque theater, the old-time acoustics served the Nekromantix well.  Since bringing lady drummer Lux on board, there's a tightness about the band that's larger than ever.  Lux was just about perfect in keeping Kim Nekroman grounded, no matter how fast he slapped his coffin bass and rolled all over the stage in a frenzy. 

At this point, the swing dancers were whittled down to a few diehards as the moshers took over the place.  I recall listening to a couple of people nearby commenting how they didn't expect to see a slam pit this evening, which made me laugh, since anyone who's seen Nekromantix play knows they propagate chaos at-will.  It didn't help a pair of twin roughnecks tackle-danced each other on the floor, bruising one another and laughing like loons.  I felt a little bad for the swing dancers, who were mixed in age, as is apropos for a Reverend Horton Heat show, but I couldn't help thinking some of the people at the Troc should've done their due diligence on the rest of the bill.  Regardless, Nekromantix were balls-out and I'm happy to have seen them slay at all stations this time around.

Kim Nekroman, Nekromantix

In-between sets, I was fiddling with my camera settings following Nekromantix and didn't look up in time as a woman fell backwards from the short step I was standing on beneath the balcony, stage left.  I won't ever forget that sickening thud the back of her head made as it connected with the hardwood floor.  Instantly, me and another guy attended to her and the poor woman clung to me for dear life.  Thankfully she wasn't bleeding, but was decidedly wrecked from her evening's excesses.  Finally her boyfriend showed up and we waited with her, sitting her up and giving her water until security took her to the lobby.

Once the Reverend Horton Heat started, I was ecstatic in the photo pit as he began with the opening two songs from REV, "Victory Lap" and "Smell of Gasoline."  I was happy to have already been familiar with those tunes when most of the crowd was just jumping around and learning it for the first time.  I made eye contact with Jimbo Wallace as I sang and pointed my camera.  He gave me a grin and a nod and lurched his upright bass toward me for a picture, which is this one:

Jimbo Wallace

I'm still fascinated how professional The Rev, Jimbo and Scott, recently returned to the group after a sabbatical, are.  They blitzed through their staples such as "Martini Time," "Psychobilly Freakout," "Big Red Rocket of Love," "Bales of Cocaine" and of course, the crowd-pleasing "Marijuana."  They had the confidence to play six new songs including their hilarious surf hike, "Zombie Dumb" and the equally riotous "Let Me Teach You How to Eat."  There wasn't a body at the show that wasn't moving in some fashion for all two-and-a-half hours of The Rev's set.

One of the crowd heroes ended up being a heavy older man with full white hair to match his shocking white sport jacket, who got drunk enough to start dancing with any girl who would tolerate him, and then he daringly took on the mosh pit.  I'm laughing right now thinking about the look of terror on his face as he first got slung and bopped around in the pit, but to everyone's credit, they took it easy on him and he hung in there for a number of songs.  He got as many ovations as The Rev's band.

Reverend Horton Heat and Deke Dickerson

In his set, Reverend Horton Heat brought on rockabilly and country revivalist Deke Dickerson, who showed up in cowboy gear and a double-neck guitar.  He and the Rev laid down duets that would honor all of Texarkana's best and Dickerson won over the crowd by talking about his younger punk years that led into a crashing cover by the entire ensemble of the Ramones' "Psychotherapy."  Prior to that, Dickerson talked about losing his contacts in a mosh pit at a Black Flag show and he demanded the crowd boo him for it.  During "Psychotherapy," Dickerson got off the stage and yowled the chorus on the edge of the Troc's pit. 

For their encore, Scott Churilla pulverized a wicked drum solo that included the use of his elbow and cheeks.  Reverend Horton Heat and Jimbo Wallace swapped instruments for a bitchin' cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," and then Deke Dickerson returned as the foursome ripped through some Merle Haggard covers that were simply tremendous.

I walked out of the Troc to my car with a group of older gentlemen as the snow re-emerged and doused Philadelphia's Chinatown with an extra half inch.  We were chawing about the show and noting how Reverend Horton Heat still has the, well, the heat.  I'd seen him perform before to a less crazy audience where swing dancers ruled the roost and those varying generations took turns offering the floor to one another.  This night was decidedly a free-for-all, and I felt shadows of my younger, more reckless self peeking at all of the insanity with giddy appreciation.

All photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

              Listenin' to:  Nekromantix - Brought Back to Life

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ray To Become a Submissions Reviewer For ReadWave

Got a story you can tell in three minutes or 800 words?   Then bring your words over to ReadWave, an online hub for aspiring writers to get their work into an electronic community of authors, essayists and lexicon junkies.  ReadWave is stationed in the UK, but writers from around the world have contributed their pieces here and gotten noticed.  It's a groovy place to test your skills without pressure and receive feedback from peers and readers. 

I've been invited to join ReadWave's submissions team as a reviewer, so bop on over to www.readwave.com and hopefully I'll be seeing your work in the near future!  Whattya waitin' for, an invitation?   So served. 

               Listenin' to:  Jim Hendrix - Axis:  Bold as Love

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yo, Balboa...

Here's me getting a cheap shot on my childhood hero, Rocky Balboa.  I had a really nice quasi-business trip to Philadelphia over the weekend to cover the Reverend Horton Heat show, which included psychobilly icons Nekromantix and newcomer cowpunks The Creepshow.  The fam came along and we made a good time of it trolling through the colonial part of the city in the snow.

After a mandatory stop at our favorite cheesesteak haunt Talk of the Town on Broad Street, we slogged through the slush with full bellies until it was show time.  Stand by for a recap and photos here at The Crash Pad of the amazing Reverend Horton Heat, et.al. gig at the famous Trocodero.  It was truly a memorable evening for multiple reasons.  It was, frankly, one of the finest shows I've ever been to, and trust me, I've been to many.


                       Listenin' to:  Nick Drake - Bryter Layter

Friday, January 24, 2014

Words of Wisdom From Jimi...

                       Listenin' to:  Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Live Photos From Ray's Archives Circa 2006

2006 was one of my best and busiest years in entertainment journalism.  At that point, I was writing simultaneously for seven print magazines, including two monthly columns, and five websites.  To this point, all but one of those venues have folded thanks to the ever-changing climate of the digital era. 

I was covering punk and heavy metal along with horror movies and I'm not sure how I tackled it all, other than getting 3-4 hours' sleep a night while maintaining a day job.  I had a very patient wife and our son hadn't yet come along, so I ran myself as close to the edge of collapse as I could, all to make a name for myself.  This pace is not for wussies, I assure you.  My most memorable assignment in 2006 came via an interview with Betsy Palmer (i.e. Pamela Voorhees, plus Candid Camera co-hostess and fifties/sixties t.v. personality) followed by a trip to Camp No-Be-Bos-Co and Blairstown, New Jersey for an article on the filming locations for the original Friday the 13th.

I was at a show more often than I wasn't in 2006 and I snapped tons of photos from the concerts I attended that year.  For fun, I thought you might dig seeing a selection of these pictures from that grueling but wonderful year in my life.  Just getting to interview Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain and have him invite me out to their show was exhilarating enough.  Hovering front and center in the photo pit at the Maiden show might be the most intoxicating live shoot I've ever done.  Enjoy...

Steve Harris, Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson (Nicko McBrain in background), Iron Maiden

Janick Gers, Iron Maiden

Aaron Turner, Isis

Spider, Powerman 5000

Cronos, Venom

The late Corey Smoot, aka Flattus Maximus, Gwar

Tom G. Warrior, Celtic Frost

Doro Pesch

Joey Belladonna, Anthrax

Ogre, Skinny Puppy

Josh Scogin, The Chariot

Wata, Boris

Anders Friden, In Flames

Horse the Band


                              All Photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

                                  Listenin' to:  Sierra - Pslip

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Toughest Thing About Being a Writer

In answer to a question I was asked about what I feel is the toughest thing about being a writer, I said it's both an easy and difficult profession. 

When you submit yourself to your work and when that moment of inspiration is with you, there's nothing more energizing and productive in anything you can do in your life that doesn't involve financial investment, except for the performing arts.  Investment of self is what pays dividends in this racket, and that's what separates the writers from the wannabes.  Dedication and the wherewithal to succeed no matter the obstacles, the growing mass indifference to the arts and brutal competition in this market is key. 

Writing is one of the loneliest crafts you can undertake, thus you need to be comfortable in your own skin and accept the fact a large percentage of people out there won't understand you, much less care about what it is that makes you feel most like a human being.  This is a sports and moving picture entertainment-oriented culture with a greater fixation upon conflict and drama (even pseudo-drama) than ever before.  That can make a creative soul feel tremendously ostracized.  I have a supportive family and loads of friends, thus I'm hardly lonely in the concrete definition, but I am isolated and very much on my own when it comes time to sit down and write, at least when my wife and son are not awake and plying for my attention.

Productivity is fostered by a refusal to quit, which is applicable to any trade, of course, but the more you believe you have already achieved your goals, the more receptive your writer's mind is to letting the words flow and the ideas to nurture into prolific threads of communication.  Often the vision of what you foresee writing about takes a different path with wonderful stops along the way, and the Boomers will tell you faster than anyone, it's all about the journey, man.

Writer's block is the enemy, but the enemy is easily vanquished the longer you practice your skills.  The better you become at writing, it only takes but thirty-seconds to a minute to start the engines and get the sentences rolling.  Research along the way may slow the grind down a bit, but that's part of the exhilaration of the creative process, I think.  It's hard for some people to stop and spot-check a fact as they write, but for me, it becomes critical to my own procedure, particularly when writing an album, book or video review.  The boo-birds and hecklers will let you know if you screwed something up, trust me on that.

However, as I wrote my recent comic book script for contest entry, I found myself flashing through my stack of comics and trade paperbacks that I'd already read through with such intensity the weeks prior.  They sat at my elbow during the entire writing process and new portals were opened from my original concept as I refreshed myself to the material to make sure I was staying true to the characters I was writing about.  The more I felt I got it right according to the published works, the more confident I felt.  The judges will decide if I did a worthy job, but I submitted it with the same feeling of accomplishment and pride I felt when turning in my short story "Before the Ball" to the editors at Chupa Cabra House a couple months ago.  "Before the Ball" has been accepted for publication.  There is something to be said for quantum physics, thus I believe.

Pared down to a simple answer, however, I stated to my friend querying me that the toughest thing about being a writer is getting readers to care enough about you to want to read your work, yet still be able to look at yourself in the mirror and smile.  Staying in the theme of comic books, 'nuff said...

                   Listenin' to:  Red Fang - Whales and Leeches

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Currently Reviewing...


Currently reviewing the latest from The Psychobilly Freakout and it's a burner, hallelujah!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Might as Well Jump Back to 1984

Another rock classic reaches the 30 year milestone.  Part of me smiles that people still care, yet the rest of me shivers.  I remember the year Van Halen struck gold with their monster 1984 album vividly.  In that respect, nostalgia rules and I must remind myself I'm a parent to a child more than half the age I was when this album ruled America.

1984.  You'd have to have been there, but it was hell of a year.  I was only 14 so I had a different vantage than others, but it was at the height of tensions of the ongoing Cold War where the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation between two great superpowers hung over our heads on a daily basis.   It was also filled with a silly Orwellian paranoia that seems absurd to reflect upon now.  Was George a prophet?  Was there a Big Brother watching us?  For younger generations, obviously Big Brother today holds an entirely different meaning, but the debate over whether the government was infiltrating our privacy and silently manipulating our everyday lives was an underlying theme of our times.  How did we react to it?  David Lee Roth told us we might as well jump, so jumped we did, right into sheer apathy of the whole thing.

Outside of a slew of anti-commie action films (the original Red Dawn, for instance) and a lingering, McCarthy-instilled hatred of the former Soviet bloc, you wouldn't be able to tell by American pop culture people were affected all that much by the red alert status of our times.  Reaganomics told us to spend money and boost the economy, which had rebounded nicely at this point following the financial stagnancy of the late seventies.  People were more worried about calling Ghostbusters, getting Footloose and bathing in the Purple Rain.  We spent our fast times in the malls, pumping quarters into arcade machines, downing greasy pizza, flipping off security and hoping to score, which happened less than more. 

So long as our asses looked fine in Jordache and Sasson designer jeans, so long as the Aqua Net held the big hairstyles of The Big 80s, so long as you could breakdance without breaking bones, so long as the nerds had their day and so long as you observed the crucial rule of never feeding your mogwai after midnight, who cared about the bomb?  We had The Terminator, Indiana Jones, Axel Foley, The Karate Kid and Freddy Kruger amidst our borders in 1984, so you best not come fuckin' with the good ol' USA.  Just ask Ivan Drago, who ate some red, white and blue crow, served up by Rocky Balboa the following year.

Yeah, they made a film adaptation of Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984 that only the critics saw, but if anyone was worried about invasion of privacy or thought control, they weren't listening to Van Halen's 1984 album.  The government's cameras may or may not have been on us at-large that year, but all that supposition did was hype up Eddie and Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony, once considered four of the most dangerous rock 'n roll hellions in history, to become the year's biggest party hosts. 

In the neighborhood of my youth, I had a buddy, Shawn, whose family (at the time) was one step ahead of the rest of us.  They were the first with cable t.v., the first to own a Commodore 64 (considered the original home PC) and the first to own a VCR.  Thus Shawn's house ended up becoming Teen Central for a while.  We rented a gazillion movies (most of them horror) and at his house, we listened to the hard rock and heavy metal giants of the eighties coming up i.e. Motley Crue, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot and of course, Van Halen, who were already considered titans of American hard rock.  We also loved our British pals Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, the latter still being constituted as hard before they jilted us with their AOR-kissed Hysteria.  It helped our young lion male cause that Shawn was taping Friday Night Videos and MTV, so we were able to check out the videos by these bands over and over again in full admiration and oozing envy.  MTV was ours, all music, all the time, not this teen angst pseudo drama bullshit it is today.  To each generation their own, but we still want our MTV, the way it was.  Van Halen cemented their legacy as immortals on MTV, after all, with the videos for "Jump," "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher."

The first Van Halen album, Fair Warning and Women and Children First all exhibited a certain toughness to the band that made all of us young dudes pump iron and break each others' bones in epic sandlot football and bedroom wrestling clashes.  It may sound silly, but those albums were empowering to us guys.  Diver Down is that anomaly Van Halen record that makes you squeamish upon sight, at least until you get it on and wince through the cover tunes except for their mondo boss hike of "Pretty Woman" that's given fuel by the bitchin' lead-in instrumental, "Intruder."  Where Van Halen was going to go after that relative fiasco album, nobody knew, but I can tell you most diehards were frightened at first to hear the synth saturation of 1984's signature jam, "Jump."

Today, most heavy music fans have learned to overlook keyboards and even appreciate them.  It worked for Rainbow, Yes, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer before the eighties, so what's the big deal, you might ask?  However, there was a stigma about keys in eighties rock (metal, especially) that had many fans crying foul that "Jump" was so drenched in synths and full of pop kicks.  Never mind Eddie Van Halen was already tinkering with synths on the awesome drag of "Sunday Afternoon in the Park" on Fair Warning, which nobody will argue is a hell of a cool set-up for the thuggish stomp of "One Foot Out the Door."

Thankfully, time has been kind to "Jump" and to Eddie Van Halen's decision to float a lot more keys into 1984.  The title track instrumental is nothing but ethereal keyboards and it's a serious mood setter.  Even the dickswinging pump of "I'll Wait" is driven heavily on a whumping key line that all but hides Michael Anthony's rhythmic bass strut and that song is a killer. 

"Hot for Teacher," I mean, wow.  To this day, I have yet to hear a better drum intro to song outside of Krupa, Blakey or Rich, and Alex Van Halen hilariously pops into a thrusting masturbatory groove that never lets up through this sleazy song.  If there's such a thing as a masterpiece of sleaze, "Hot for Teacher" is it.  I never had any crushes on any instructor of mine until college, but still, every adolescent male of Generation X could identify with the ultra-horniness of that song and it just so happens it kicks so much ass anyone with a rocker's heart can get on it.

I think Alex Van Halen's thumping beat line coming out of the second verse of "Panama" into the next chorus was full empathy on his part, not only for his band, but his audience at-large, no matter what country they were in.  That pulverizing stamp sequence was the summation of what many of us were feeling at the time in our efforts to blind ourselves to the political fireworks around us.  It sounds pissed off and man, was that the kind of juice we craved.  After all, every teenager that's set foot in the face of music is in search of something that identifies and nurtures their broiling angst.  Rock 'n roll was born in the fifties accordingly.

David Lee Roth has never been what I consider a world class vocalist.  Frankly, he's over-the-top and historically pushes his sexed-up wails to every extreme he's not really singing half the time.  He comes off (or simply comes, if you will) like he's shooting a load in his pants while abusing his sound engineers.  Now, this is not intended to disrespect the guy.  I love Roth and his songs, both in Van Halen and in a solo capacity, are a part of my DNA.  His voice in its prime is how you create excitement in a rock forum.  He is the big shoo, as Ed Sullivan would've said.  The changeover to Sammy Hagar may have temporarily gained Van Halen a pure singer, but David Lee Roth's charisma, acrobatics and headstrong bravado helped sell the band beyond the band's otherwordly talents.

For me, 1984 is one of those prime examples like Supertramp's Breakfast in America, INXS' Kick, Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast or even Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair, albums best known for their generous amount of hits, but they are also loaded with outstanding material in-between.  All of the non-hit songs on 1984 are big-time numbers, like the speedy shuffle of "Top Jimmy," the hump-along drive of "Drop Dead Legs" or the rough 'n tumble closer, "House of Pain," one of my all-time favorite Van Halen cuts.  Even "Girl Gone Bad" is pushed to the edge and is decidedly Alex's show with tons of rolls, crashes and rides it feels as sweaty as its subject matter.

I think what the weirdest thing for me with 1984 was my mother taking an interest in it after I bought a vinyl copy with my allowance.  I'd made a point of hiding my music from my folks as most teens do, whether or not the music is parent-friendly or not.  In their goofy way, teenagers are protective of their elements (music, especially) that it seems, well, Orwellian, if their parents are nosing into their business.  My mom insisted we listen to 1984 since she said she'd heard "Jump" on the radio and really liked it.  We did our chores in the house with that album on the family stereo, cranked up, no less, and I didn't show it then, but I'd found a new appreciation for my mother.  I still felt leery having "Hot for Teacher," "I'll Wait," "Drop Dead Legs" and "Girl Gone Bad" swinging along with her in the same room, but she said nothing at all; she just grooved to it with me.  Years later, I discovered a copy of 1984 on cassette in her carry case back when cars came with tape decks.  We joke about it today.

Thus it's evident why Van Halen ruled the year they named their sixth studio album after.  1984 was an event year that found us kids cheering David Lee Roth's purported rebellion against the police as he's getting busted in the "Panama" video.  We roared ourselves silly over "Waldo" in the "Hot for Teacher" video and at least for many of us guys, we tried to keep our peckers down as the strippers played the figurative muse of the song.  We loved Michael Anthony's Jack Daniels bass and marveled over Eddie Van Halen's fret tapestries.  What's impressive is that he chose an abbreviated guitar solo for "Jump," then went around thirty seconds with a keyboard solo that still sounds like audile nectar thirty years later.  Alex Van Halen would win one of many Best Drummer awards and we found no fault with it.  Next to Dave Lombardo and the late Eric Carr, Alex and Tommy Lee were kings of the skins in our time.

With teenagers cowardly blowing each other and their communities to bits these days, it's evident they lack a proper release in their frustrated lives on top of proper guidance.  1984 was one of many mind-blowing things my generation had in our time to help us get rid of the natural inclination to go bonkers and I'm grateful to Van Halen for being there for us.

Yep, Top Jimmy still cooks.

                       Listenin' to:  Van Halen - Fair Warning

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ray Has an Essay Appearing in Neil Daniels' Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers: A ZZ Top Guide Coming 3/1/14

I was invited by my buddy across the pond, Neil Daniels, to write an essay for his forthcoming book, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers:  A ZZ Top Guide, scheduled for release March 1, 2014 through Soundcheck Books.

Daniels has produced scores of rock biographies including Journey, Iron Maiden, UFO, Bon Jovi, Linkin Park and Pantera, to name a few.  He is also the author of Hard Rock Rebels, Rock and Metal Chronicles and Rock and Roll Sinners. 

Neil interviewed me a few years back for his series on music journalists, All Pens Blazing, so I naturally jumped on the opportunity to contribute to Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

Keep your eyes peeled or better yet, pre-order the book at your favorite online book hub.

Also, head on back here to the Crash Pad for my reflections on Van Halen's immortal 1984 album, which turns 30 this year.  Gads, has it really been that long?  Pass me the Metamucil...

                                Listenin' to:  Van Halen - 1984

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ray's Latest Reviews Are Now Live at Blabbermouth

Now running at Blabbermouth, my reviews at the latest albums from Protest the Hero, Lita Ford, Dethklok, Nashville Pussy, Ihsahn, Mutation, Kataklysm, Sinister Realm, Bones, Iron Man, Disfigurement, Matt Boroff, Attackhead, Wolves in the Throne Room, the Heretic box set, a reissue of Paul DiAnno's Killers' Murder One and Nightwish's Showtime, Storytime DVD.

www.blabbermouth.net is your portal, but you knew that already, of course.  It's Blabbermouth, fer cryin' out loud!

                Listenin' to:  Supertramp - Breakfast in America

Sunday, January 12, 2014


                          Listenin' to:  Cult of Luna - Vertikal

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Your Rep Means Everything, Especially in the Music Business," an Essay by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at Readwave

 Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden   Photo (c) 2006 Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Below is a link to a short essay I published a couple months ago at Readwave entitled "Your Rep Means Everything, Especially in the Music Business."

Hope you enjoy!


                              Listenin' to:  Eminem - Encore

"The Hand of God"

From supernova to nebula to NASA's "The Hand of God."  Just beautiful.  I probably should be listening to King Crimson's Islands at this point.

                             Listenin' to:  Heart - Dog & Butterfly

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Movie Remakes That Don't Suck

Last night we took in a double feature of the two versions of The Fly from 1958 and 1986 respectively.  I love both films but naturally prefer the '58 version with Vincent Price, David Hedison and Patricia Owens for its suspense and horrifying payouts.  The Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis reboot is one of the rare exceptions for what I believe constitutes a worthy remake:  under the masterful vision of director David Cronenberg, that entire team made The Fly 1986 their own.  Suffice it to say, each film has a core concept linking them and that's about it.

Afterwards, we got into a discussion about the inexcusable plague of remakes in Hollywood that's been churning ad nauseum since the turn of the new millennium.  I believe especially in the case of the horror genre, the younger generation is suffering from an acute case of envy of what Generation X had in the genre, since damned near every iconic horror film (and many underground classics) have been given the redux treatment.  I've been very vocal about this over the years and hypocritically, I've tuned in to many of these remakes.  Most recently, the new Evil Dead laid an egg for me despite Sam Raimi's involvement and also despite the fact that it has a ton of supporters.  As a third timer, I'm boycotting the new Carrie on principal, albeit I will say my mouth was shut by the 2010 version of The Thing.  While it tried to mirror John Carpenter's masterpiece redo, at least it establishes its own identity in due time and the ending seams nicely into Carpenter's film as a prequel.

That being said, it was becoming difficult at first to peg some genuinely worthwhile remakes, but finally I let the cogs roll and here's a good handful of movie remakes I came up with that hardly suck.  In some cases, they're actually better than the original (i.e. Ben-Hur, True Grit, Casino Royale, Cape Fear and The Maltese Falcon) while others are just pleasant surprises, again honoring the main curriculum of being their own beasts.

Not every single minute of this legendary quasi-biblical epic is riveting, but the 1959 Ben-Hur is absolutely the finest remake in film history.  For me, it contains the single best action sequence shot on celluloid with the chariot race that took almost a year to film and had a casualty along the way.

Right on the heels of the 2008 Swedish version, American filmmakers teamed up with the prestigious horror house, Hammer Studios in 2010 to one-up what was already a masterwork, Let the Right One In.  The performances by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz were so ahead of their years, so adult-like, they cemented the legacy of John Ajvide Lindvist's story as the greatest horror piece in the last two decades, The Conjuring notwithstanding.

Audiences in '82 barfed and the face of horror was changed forever as John Carpenter set the bar for a splatter sweepstakes throughout the eighties that was seldom matched (except for Evil Dead 2 and Re-Animator).  It's not just about the gore to The Thing from 1982.  While the original with James Arness is one of the tensest sci fi-horror flicks of the fifties, this one has characters you believe and believe in, characters you'll be betrayed by as the alien entity takes them over and splits them apart in spectacularly nauseating fashion.

The centerpiece of noir.  What Bogie and Astor accomplished in 1941, a full decade after the original film, remains influential on many media today.  Some things are timeless and Bogie's name is affixed to quite a few of them.

I admit, I'm not a John Wayne fan, though I am a western fan.  I think The Shootist, Wayne's final film is his finest hour, and I also like The Cowboys and Stagecoach (which would one day be remade itself).  However, Jeff Bridges achieved the impossible by making Rooster Cogburn exactly what a true western purist (not a Hollywood western purist) would want, devoid of Wayne's uber-macho huckstering.  True Grit 2010 might've been the shocker of the year, but it's immediately become one the greatest western flicks ever.

The film that made Jeff Goldblum a star.  In lesser hands than his, Geena Davis and David Cronenberg's this could've been a disaster.  Instead, it's a guttural, affecting and sad movie that weighs heavy on the heart as it does with gore.  It hardly contains the shock factor of the '58 original, but Cronenberg smartly swerved toward aesthetics and characterization, particularly as Goldblum embraces his new change then pays the worst form of penance for his arrogance.

Here's one I cried foul against, along with the third version of The Thing.  I'm man enough to admit this film won me over in a big way.  Its biggest crime is calling it Total Recall since it only takes just enough of Schwarzenegger's incredible action blast from 1990 and then establishes its own story from there.  I think that's the main reason people blow raspberries at Colin Farrell's version and I hardly blame them.  However, I challenge you to sit down with this movie.  It's a freakin' burner on its own merits.  Too bad it didn't have the same balls to come up with its own title.

Here's another one I declared blasphemy upon sight.  George Romero's original Dawn of the Dead from 1978 ranks in my top five movies of all-time, pick your genre.  I was actually offended Zach Snyder had the audacity to rip off Romero in 2004, but I went to see it with a buddy nonetheless and I came out feeling enthused.  It's nowhere in the same class as Romero's, but Snyder's Dawn of the Dead obeys the "make it your own" ethos.  I will always tip my hat off to him for having his characters try to communicate with other survivors via the rooftops and then hilariously interjecting a lounge cover of Disturbed's "Down With the Sickness" in the midst of his zombie parade. Cheers.

Robert DeNiro, one of the greatest actors of our time.  I don't think I've ever recovered from his chilling portrayal of a vindictive hedonist in the 1991 Cape Fear.  Scary by mere reputation.

Some people prefer the 1960 original and some people actually hate this 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven.  The cast alone here is worth your time.  The heist of the century never looked so enticing and you're actually pulling for this crew as a result, no matter what side of the law you sit on.  Why we needed an Ocean's Trilogy is strictly Hollywood's business, business being the operative word.

1958 was obviously a great year for sci-fi and horror.  The original version of The Blob is pure camp and pure joy.  Thirty years later, the 1988 remake retains much of the same spirit of camp as the original, if emphasizing more effects than acting.  Not the best remake of all-time, but it is one of my personal favorites.  Yes, I'm against the proposed new update that Rob Zombie just pulled out of.  Consider that an indication of a possible turd that needs an auto-flush.

Daniel Craig has emerged as the second best James Bond behind Sean Connery.  In many ways, Craig's more humanistic, less sexist Bond is the perfect antidote to keeping the character thriving in a politically correct society.  Out the gate with Casino Royale, Craig shows he has moxy, charisma, athleticism and just enough fallacy that would never be tolerated in Bond films of the past.  Skyfall is thus far Craig's signature Bond performance, but this remake as his coming out party is excellent.

                            Listenin' to:  Can - Ege Bamyasi