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Rock is dead, long live vampires

Wednesday, May 6 1998
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We knew we were on to something by the number of people screaming. At our studio, drunks would burst in and thrash about the room. Onstage, people would leap up and commandeer the mike, or it would somehow end up in the audience. "I AM AMERICA!" one guy howled . . .

From a letter, 6/15:

During the last song, a drunk woman came up real close to our singer and studied him while he sang. Then, during a guitar solo, she jumped up onto the stage, grabbed the mike and began to issue the most doleful wailing imaginable. The singer left the stage and got another drink. We continued, slowing it down, while she gutted and wailed in soul-twisted agony. A series of fireworks was set off over the awnings of Cahuenga . . . a guy at the bar kept holding a gun up to his friend's head . . . a bum outside was singing Madonna's "Vogue" . . . They will not forget that incongruous sight . . .

So you see what kind of world we're coming to: The gun turned out to be fake.

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It felt good in those days, like something alive and relevant . . . I knew it'd have legs . . . It was hard to believe we wouldn't all be rich . . . Seems there wasn't a time, coming on or off stage, there wasn't someone saying, "You'll be huge . . ." A woman who worked for Billboard once came up to me, shaking her head and smiling, and said, "You boys'll make a lot of money . . ." More important, what we were doing made sense, the elements had properly combined . . .

"L.A. Band Nature's Mediocre Live Show at CBGB Leaves Some Room for Improvement

Guitars, the pop culture phenomena and overt phallic symbols, are the basis for a lot of rock & roll. The music is twanged by countless Americans and is a vehicle to express endless feelings and ideas. With this overload of guitars, how do rock bands find inventive sounds? Nature, from Los Angeles, keeps their sounds fresh with exciting guitar effects and sampling. At CBGB recently, the metal/alternative-rock band hit the crowd with long guitar jams, which would have been banal minus the effects and sampling. Most of Nature's songs start as simple metal songs. Near the end of the songs, though, they jam and contort their guitar sounds with reverb and wah effects. Nature (Zoo Entertainment), the self-titled debut album, includes songs about the funky character Z-Man from Russ Meyer's film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Dialogue from the film is sampled, livening the music.

Onstage, Nature's antics are zany. At one point, bass player Hugh Bonar broke a string. Threatt grabbed the string and attempted to choke Bonar as he played. Bonar avoided Threatt and retaliated by spitting on him. For the next song, Threatt asked, "Can you play with three?" "I only need one string to play this shit," Bonar replied.

Nature's silly stage acts were prevalent at the very end of the show, too, as Threatt and Bonar knocked over microphone stands in a fit of obviously fake rage. They held their instruments above their heads like they were about to break them. Instead, they calmly placed the instruments against amplifiers.

Nature is an average band. One weakness might be that their music crosses too many genres, trying to be too accessible. Combining metal, glam, punk and alternative in one band alienates more listeners than it attracts. Punks who cannot stand glam will not bother listening. Metal heads will probably not like them because they are too alternative. Nature wants to be huge rock stars. Maybe they want to attract a large following too fast. When asked which artist they would chose if they could tour with anyone, Threatt answered, "Whitney Houston. We want exposure, baby." "

-The Washington Square News

But let's backtrack for a moment. Astute readers may remember me as the guy incandescing in the corner back there in the L.A. Weekly film section about three or four years ago, a publicist's worst nightmare . . . At the same time, I was in the process of getting a Major Label Record Deal with a self-destructive little company, ultimately representative, it seemed, of the whole existential schmeer . . .

The Way It Works

Point 1: The record industry is often run by powerful men of the most brazenly stereotypical quality. Often I suspected that the people around me were somehow deliberately appropriating these cliched images, half in parody, half as the result of some fine business sense - lulling their competitors into a false sense of security, then striking with scorpion precision. The line was hard to draw: irony, or the real thing? I remember this one guy, if it wasn't the "sand-niggers," it was the "tea-bags" - a name for every nation, all with a kind of "say it to my face, motherfucker" defiance, as though, again, he weren't really a racist, merely a parody of one . . .

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