NOVEMBER 2016 TOUR JOURNAL

11.7.2016 Chapel Hill, NC
I’m chilling in the green room above the venue. It was a long trip down here for the first show, but I’m ready to rock and roll.

Earlier on, we hit the same burrito place that I normally go to when I’m in Chapel Hill. This is our third time playing at Local 506; it’s a pretty cool spot, hopefully we can get some people to show up tonight. It seems pretty quiet down there.

I remember playing the Cat’s Cradle with Isis, which is technically in Carrboro, but is only about 4 blocks away from here. When we first started doing gigs at Local 506, I didn’t realize that we were in the same town. None of the guys in the band were present when we did the tours with Isis. Those were good times.

I sat in as a guest on Danny’s podcast, Ascending the Holy Mountain tonight. It was cool, we talked about the band, the upcoming election and life on the road.

The only thing left to do is play the set.

11.8.2016 Chapel Hill, NC
We stayed with Charlie’s in-laws last night after the show. They live in a beautiful house in a safe neighborhood. It can be stressful at times, staying with people on tour. I’m always worried about the van being broken into. It’s better to get a room at Red Roof Inn of some place like that. There’s secure parking and the hard check-out time is a good motivator for getting on the road at a decent time. Nonetheless, it’s cool here.

The first set is in the books. The show was small but I’ll take it. We played some new material for the first time live. It’s always a little rough, but by the end of the tour, those songs will be part of the muscle memory.

You can feel the tension building up over the election tonight. It feels like that we are observing history, that either way, whoever gets elected, will have a profound legacy on the future of this country. Both Clinton and Trump can possibly be facing criminal charges; what kind of message does that send to the world. I cast my absentee ballot for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Do I believe in him? Hell no. Do I think he has a chance on getting elected? Hell no. I hate that we really only have two choices, the Democrat or the Republican. It’s uncomfortable and I’ll be relieved when this is all over with. The reality is that I would have voted for Bernie Sanders if he hadn’t been railroaded into dropping out. Even the Primaries were controversial over who actually won.

11.9.2016 Atlanta, GA
The vibe of the show last night was pretty heavy. No one really came out. When I went to settle up with the promoter, he blamed the election and the general intensity of the situation for the poor turnout. I can see his point, but Atlanta has never really been our town.

Our set ended around midnight. As we were playing the last song, I thought about how the election was over. Everyone was glued to their phones, tv screens and whatever way you can get news, tracking the back and forth struggle between the two candidates. Trump slowly gained on Hillary and secured the electoral vote. Clinton won the popular vote by a narrow margin. The fact that this is the system we work with is troubling to me. I can go on and on about the issues with the Electoral College, but there are better qualified people out there that can use more eloquent language.

The fact that Donald Trump was elected president is sad and embarrassing to me. He has no experience in government and has pandered to the ignorance of our general population to stack up support from the under-educated, disenfranchised white people that make up a large part of the US; that and old people that are detached from the reality of a modern society. Unfortunately, I place my parents and some of my family members in this category. Politics and family are hard subjects. I love my family, but you can’t control how people feel about things like politics.

In general, my family fit the profile of the typical middle class Republican. It’s always perplexed me that poor and middle class people back Republicans, but it’s a manipulation. It’s like using chicks in bikinis to sell cheap beer. My family are “religious” in the sense that they identify as Christian, Catholics actually and the is a big tool that the Republicans use to manipulate people. My dad, though he has led a successful life, been able to raise a family, own a home and live comfortably, is not wealthy. I think that guys in his situation will always identify with the rich upper class because they see that as a possibility, the potential to improve your economic sanding is an idea that was a reality for most of his generation, but has become a real challenge for people in my generation. The Republicans unabashedly are about making money, big business and maintaining the upper echelons of economic society. Their plan rarely includes solid middle class people like my Dad.

This is going to be an interesting run across this country. I feel like this will be a big point of conversation.

11.10.2016 New Orleans, LA
When I saw that we were playing at Siberia, I knew that it was going to be a long night. We would go on late and there won’t be a lot of people at the show. A handful of familiar faces showed up, which is always really cool.

I met Fedya’s brother Misha; we ended up crashing at his place last night. He used to compete in a variety of different martial arts, so it was cool talking to him about Jiu Jitsu and training in general. I like to think that I know about martial arts and training, but this dude is the real deal.

The overall vibe is pretty heavy. The Trump thing is fucking with everyone. The most intense thing that I’ve observed is how may people of color live in these states. I’ve always been aware of that, but under the current circumstances, it takes on a deeper meaning. These states are the Trump strongholds. How does it feel to be a black man living in Georgia knowing that most of your state voted for a racist?

11.11.2016 Houston, TX
Tonight is another night where you know that no one is coming out to your show. There’s something about the venue that makes me feel like no one comes here. There’s a bar filled with nice white people downstairs drinking and eating. It doesn’t compute that there would be a bunch of bands playing the kind of music we play doing a gig up here. Maybe I’ll be wrong.

Now that the first few shows are out of the way, I feel like we’re playing the songs well. The new material fits in with the old songs pretty well. We’ll be recording these songs in January for the new record. I still have a lot of work to do on the lyrics and hours of rehearsal ahead of me before I’ll be ready. Rutan is a perfectionist to a degree that I’ve never experienced before; it’s a good thing, I appreciate that level of diligence. The Savage Gold recording session was a real learning experience, so maybe this time around will go a little smoother because I know what to expect. You only get the opportunity to record your LP once, it comes up every couple of years and you only get one shot at getting it right.

11.12.2016 Austin, TX
We crashed with Morgan and Natalie last night after the show. It feels like my Austin home, I’ve been taking advantage of their hospitality for the last five years at least. It’s quiet, safe and I can park the van in a secure place. The van we got from the rental company is pretty right on; normally, we get an Econoline but this time around, they gave us a Transit. It doesn’t even feel like you’re driving a van.

I got to see JL Beaulieu yesterday. He recently moved back to Austin, so I made it a point to catch up with him.

The show was good; some folks came out. Barracuda used to be called Red 7, a venue we’ve played many times. The new, renovated version of the club is cool, but I felt nostalgic for the dilapidated, broken down era of the venue. I get like that sometimes, in a way, I don’t like when things change too much. Chris from Woe appeared last night wearing a suit. It’s always a pleasure seeing Chris Grigg. When people that are out of context show up in random cities on tour, it takes me a minute to connect the dots. Coincidentally, he was in Austin for a wedding.

We have a short drive up to Dallas today. We’ll probably get lunch at a nice place today and have a chill morning. Tonight we’re playing on the Superjoint show. It should be interesting. Earlier this year, Phil Anselmo got into some trouble when someone caught him on video sieg heiling and yelling “White Power” at a gig. The internet went buck wild and their were people coming out of the wood-work to throw him under the bus and accused him of being a racist. Everyone has a voice in this modern age. One of the more douche-chilling things was the singer of Machine Head’s unsolicited 11-minute Youtube clip where he fulfilled his duty as a social justice warrior and indicts Anselmo. I’m not defending him, but the clip of him throwing up the Hitler salute speaks for itself. It’s embarrassing; I’m not sure how much of an impact Anselmo has on younger people these days, so aside from not being a supporter of White Power, I don’t know how much perspective I have on any of this.

I’ll let guys like the singer for Machine Head sort it out.

11.13.2016 Dallas, TX
The show last night was interesting. The gig goes down as one of the most professional and friendly show I’ve ever played. We normally don’t get to experience this level of professionalism down in the trenches, so I’ll take it when I can get it. It was one of those shows where, if you wanted to, you could just sit in a room before your set, watch TV, play your set and go back to your room without ever interacting with anyone else. There were several different green rooms backstage. Us and Wolvhammer share a room, the other bands on the bill had their rooms, and somewhere in the labyrinth of the venue, Phil and Superjoint had a room.

The venue was huge; earlier in the day, there was a monster truck show there, that’s how big this place was. Max told me they showed up early and the place was packed with monster truck enthusiasts and women dressed up in rockabilly attire, tattooed, most likely a lot of cleavage was being displayed.

After load-in, we kicked it in the green room, ordered our meal and dug in. It didn’t even feel like we were at a show. There was a flat-screen TV showing random Mexican shows. There was some kind of music award show on. The first thing I noticed was how attractive the women were. They were strong-looking olive skinned beauties with brown eyes; healthy, not like the Hollywood chicks you normally see on American TV. Those women look like they had been cutting weight for a wrestling match, dehydrated, depleted and way too skinny.

They had a full-on video system rocking at the venue’s stage setup so the idea came up that if we had the backdrop video that we used at Roadburn last year, we would be able to project it behind us during our set. Lately, I’ve been backing up my files on a series of external drives so I can free up space on my laptop so there was a good chance that I didn’t have the video. Fortunately, I had the video stored on a thumb drive that I randomly had in my bag. The drive had been living in my bag since the European tour last year.

It was a bit of a tough crowd. During our line check, some guy in the front was yelling at us to hurry up. Tough crowd. I wanted to tell the guy that it wasn’t really up to us on how long the line check was taking. It felt good to play the set; I’m not sure how many people got into it, but for me it was a good night.

I’m not very familiar with the various bands that Phil Anselmo has. I own Cowboys from Hell and Power Metal, the first record that he sang on. I have the first Down record and dig it. We listened to Superjoint Ritual on the way up to Dallas and it seemed like some hardcore influenced metal. Jimmy Bower is in the band and I have ultimate respect for him and Eyehategod. I watched a little bit of their set from the merch area.

After the show, I settled up with the promoter, no issues and totally pro.

11.14.2016 San Antonio, TX
We enter the wasteland today. It’s a long, boring drive through ultimate desolation out to El Paso. I’m gearing up for a lot of consecutive hours behind the wheel.

We played in the basement of the Korova last night. It was the yin to the yang of opening for Superjoint. It was a throwback to the countless shows I’ve played in basements and makeshift venues over my lifetime. Not much to be said about it. We played, load out and move on.

I love eating a Denny’s when I’m on the road. It’s a solid place for a simple meal and mediocre coffee. After the show, we checked into the motel and hit Denny’s. We were the only patrons in the entire restaurant. There were two dudes working there; they were smoking cigarettes outside when we rolled up. It was a cool night, sitting there in an empty restaurant.

11.15.2016 El Paso, TX
This is a rough part of the country to tour in, primarily because of the long drives. We’re facing another long drive today out to Albuquerque. A few of these in a row can really chew you up.

The show last night was a rough one. There was a huge accident on the highway that runs through El Paso and the opening band couldn’t make it to the show. I got some intel from the promoter that someone was killed and they shut the highway down. Wolvhammer bailed on the show, so it was just us and another band. I think 5 people were there when we played our set.

You can look into Mexico from El Paso. This is my first time here; I’ve driven through here many times on the way to somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to do a gig here so now, at the very least, I can check that box off.

11.16.2016 Albuquerque, NM
We stayed at a very sketchy-looking motel a few blocks from the venue. When we pulled into the parking lot, a lot of undesirable-types were lurking around, checking out the van and generally projecting a shady vibe. It felt like something horrible had happened there. I’m tripping out on how many people must pass through these places over the years. I wonder if anyone died there.

Tim Schmoyer came out to the show last night. He moved out here a few months ago and it was really cool to see him. It was good to see a familiar face. I’ve known Tim for two decades, we’ve been through a lot together over he years. He’s one of those friends where even if you haven’t seen them in several months, you pick up where you left off.

We played well. The set is dialed in pretty good, the new songs sit in there comfortably and it’s all systems go. There was a small crowd, but I’ll take it. After the set, this guy told me that we were better live than he expected. I’m not sure if it was a compliment or an insult. I tried to assess where he was coming from by looking at his expression but I couldn’t get a read. People and the things they choose to say trip me out sometimes.

We have another long drive today.

11.17.2016 Phoenix, AZ
I woke up and didn’t know where I was. I thought that I was home at my apartment and it took a few moments to realize that I was in a motel room sleeping in a bed with Ben.

Not much of a recollection of the show last night. We played a show in Scottsdale; there were people there, we did an interview in the van. There’s not much else to say about the show.

11.18.2016 Los Angeles, CA
It’s good to be out of the desert. I love southern California. I always think about James Ellroy novels and Charles Manson when I’m in LA. The desert is beautiful, but I’m a coastal kind of guy.

We met up with Mark Vieira earlier, did a quick photo shoot for Metal Blade and had dinner. The show was good, I dug the venue. I was reminded by Jeff Caxide that many years ago, Anodyne played there and the only people that showed were him, Turner, Aaron Harris and some of the Hydrahead people.

MGR opened the show. It was awesome seeing Mike and J playing up there. They did a great set. I saw the Isis mosquito stenciled on Mike’s road case and it made me a little emotional. I’m turning into a sentimental old man, I suppose. Those were good times, though a lot of dark personal stuff was going on at the time. It was an end of an era when Isis broke up. It saddens me to think that I won’t be able to see all of those guys together in that context ever again. Man, time flies on broken wings.

I met some of the Metal Blade people. Up until now, only Mark has been interacting with them. Outside of a few emails with their PR, I haven’t had any contact with them at all. 
We’re kicking back at this loft in the downtown area. I was told that Vincent Gallo lives in this building.

11.19.2016 San Diego, CA
The high point of the night was hanging out with Bobby Ferry. It was a good set at a strange venue. We’ve only ever played at the Casbah. This place was out in a really nice part of town. Based on my observations, I speculated that it was the gay part of town. Bobby confirmed this observation.

San Diego is a strange city. There’s a really conservative vibe here. Maybe it’s because there’s a strong military presence here.

I haven’t been able to talk to my parents. Usually, my Mom emails me a lot when I’m out here. I have a lot of work to do with respect to reconciling with the fact that they both voted for Donald Trump. It’s a heavy feeling; in the past they’ve always voted Republican but it didn’t have as much weight until now. It’s hard. It’s made me question a lot about our relationship. This really ugly thought has lodged itself in my brain. What if my Dad thinks I’m an asshole? This election has really drawn lines and created an “us and them” vibe in the country. There are people saying that they want to leave the country, there’s been a spike in racially driven crime, it’s a mess.

11.20.2016 Ventura, CA
I wondered why we were booked here but going through some old emails, I saw that originally we were originally intended to play Sacramento. It was a rowing the boat night. We played, got paid and shipped out.

11.22.2016 Winnemucca, NV
Today is a travel day. We drove out of Cali and across Nevada; there are still a significant number of miles left. The show in San Francisco was cool. It was in the small room at the DNA Lounge where we played earlier this year with 1349. Andrew came out. It was good to see him. There are times that I wish he was still playing in the band.

Wolvhammer didn’t play. I got word that their van crapped out in Ventura. I don’t think we’ll be seeing those guys again. That’s a hard obstacle to overcome.

When we checked into the motel, we got some vouchers for a meal at the diner across the street. I think it’s time to motivate everyone and eat.

11.23.2016 Salt Lake City, UT
We hit Denny’s last night after the show. Our waiter was one of the smoothest dudes ever, really soft-spoken and polite.

We played a good set; the show was uneventful. My old friend Kelly Green came out and gave us a box of vegan baked goods.

11.24.2016 Nebraska
Today is Thanksgiving so there is no show tonight. There was no show last night either because the promoter saw some Facebook posts made my one of the Wolvhammer guys about their van being out of commission and decided to cancel the show. For some reason there wasn’t any local bands on the bill, just us and Wolvhammer. In my opinion, that’s lazy booking. If there was a local band, the show would probably still have happened. That’s what we did in San Francisco and Salt Lake City and that’s what we’re probably going to be doing on the rest of the dates.

I made my phone calls this morning. I spoke briefly with my Mom. Ever since I discovered that they were going vote for Trump, I’ve felt this wedge between us. When Trump actually won, I began feeling distant from them. I didn’t come out of left field, my Father has always voted Republican and my Mom just follows. Deep down, I knew that they would blindly follow that madman, but until I heard it from my Father’s mouth that he was voting for Trump, I entertained the hope that they would see reason. My Father has always been one of those Middle Class people that identifies with the Upper Class; I think that this phenomenon is common. From his standpoint, the American Death Machine seemed to work, he was the last generation to enjoy the fruits of his labor, to support a comfortable lifestyle with only one income, two cars, pension. His America is different than the cash-and-carry world I live in. Add Trump’s rhetoric and empty promises and I can see how my Father would fall for the ruse.

I’m on coffee cup #2. It’s good, bad coffee at the Quality Inn today. I’m not sure what the name of this town is. We drove all day and pulled off the road around 21:00. It was an exhausting run across the high country, beautiful but hard to appreciate under the circumstances. All of that empty space makes me feel lonely. I bet that country hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Being on the west coast has made me soft; I got used to the warm weather and now it feels cold. I noticed it when I stepped out of the hotel room into the hallway.


11.26.2016 Indianapolis, IN
Last night was a good night; the last time we came through wasn’t so good. Indy has always had a lot of weight for me. There have always been allies out here. I thought about Jared and McCash a lot yesterday. Losing those guys hit me really hard. Jared was going to join the band back then before he spiraled off. He came out to New York for practice a few times but things started growing difficult.

McCash’s death came out of nowhere. I suppose that is a testament to how out of touch we were at the time. I remember getting the news that he had died the morning after and being shocked. I didn’t know how deep he had sunk or what his situation was. The only interactions we had were about a musical project that we were planning on doing; it seemed like a positive thing, like something to live for.

At times it seems like both of those guys are still here, but that’s an illusion.

Wolvhammer made it for these last two shows. Apparently, they had to buy a new van. Something like that can completely crush a band on the road.

I met Luke from Kuma’s Corner last night. He shot some video of us talking for a documentary piece about extreme music and the food industry. It was a really good talk and he’s a cool guy.

11.27.2016 Dayton, OH
It’s over. It was a rough one and now it’s time to drive home. Dayton is kind of an anticlimactic city to end a tour in, but it is what it is.

TRANSMISSIONmichael hill