Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Strangers When We Meet

I know I'm at "that" age when this kind of stuff happens.. but still..

Shit.. Another old rock hero gone!? I loved The Smithereens when they first came out.. Their first tour in 1987 at One Step Beyond in the 'burbs of Santa Clara.. Then the show at The Stone in San Francisco in 1988 which was one of the most drunken and great shows I've ever seen a band perform.. Pat got on his knees and guitarist Jim Babjak put a beer on his head and hit it off into the crowd using his guitar like a baseball bat. Later I was standing up front and didn't see Babjak onstage but his guitar was still coming out of the PA.. and I turned to my left and he was standing right next to me smiling as he wandered around the club playing via his wireless.

A very sold rock band when I needed one in my life when metal was boring to me for the most part. 

Peace in Rest, Pat DiNizio.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Read For Me, Menlo Park

Bruce Dickinson
Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, California
November 2, 2017


Bruce Dickinson just completed another U.S. Tour this week and his first solo tour in 20 years.. Although here in the 21st Century it wasn't a band tour, but a spoken word trek to support his autobiography. Thankfully, the Bay Area was included in the itinerary with one of the only two West Coast appearances.  
  • Monday 30th October - Huntington, NY - Book Revue | 7:00 pm - SOLD OUT
  • Tuesday 31st October – New York City - Hudson Union Society | 12:00 pm | SOLD OUT
  • Tuesday 31st October – Brooklyn, NY - Saint Vitus Bar, Hosted by WORD Bookstore | 7:30 pm | SOLD OUT
  • Wednesday 1st November – Los Angeles, CA - The Regent Theater, Hosted by Book Soup | 7:00 pm | SOLD OUT
  • Thursday 2nd November – Menlo Park, CA - Kepler’s Books | 7:30 pm | SOLD OUT
  • Friday 3rd November – New York City - Gramercy Theatre, Hosted the Strand Bookstore | 6:00 pm | SOLD OUT
  • Saturday 4th November – Ridgewood, NJ - Bookends Bookstore | 1:00 pm - SOLD OUT

Obviously it doesn't really count as a "U.S. Tour" since it only visited New York, New Jersey, and California.  The huge upside was while several of Bruce's other appearances were at theaters that seated up to 1,000 people, the Bay Area stop was limited to around 200 lucky souls who were wedged into Kepler's.

Iron Maiden and Motörhead were the bands who influenced me the most profoundly in my Salad Days and no matter how nit picky and jaded I can be about bands now, when it comes down to it it's still Maiden... Always.

This photo was taken by the teenage me the first time I saw Maiden... which was also the first time they played in the Bay Area on the Number of the Beast Tour in 1982. My expectations were high to see Bruce at a bookstore in such an intimate and unique setting, but the wild card was would it be interesting hearing him speak instead of fronting Maiden onstage.

Prior to the event we few, we happy few, met at the British Bankers Club (BBC), a "British Pub" that is literally 100 feet or so from the bookstore. It should have been the perfect spot to pre-game before Bruce since the BBC has been a fixture in Menlo Park for almost 100 years (!). However, sadly the place was sold in recent years and the old interior completely gutted and remodeled into a modern sterile Silicon Valley 2017 environment. What a bummer... Oh well.. at least the food and libations were decent.

To quote Maiden: "The Golden Goose is on the loose and never out of season.."

Inside Kepler's, the event started pretty much on time with Bruce arriving accompanied by an emotionless security guy who kept watch and glared at the audience the entire time. There would be no shenanigans like bum rushing the stage on this night.. which of course probably would not have happened anyway.

I didn't know what to expect and I think everyone in attendance was caught off guard when Bruce hit the tiny stage like he does at a Maiden show. He dove right in with a well-paced prepared presentation complemented by slides from his book. It was engaging, funny, insightful, and entertaining!  

Most people may not be aware that Bruce battled cancer on his tongue in 2011 and his autobiography is the result of that near-death experience. This perspective gave all of his stories more weight since he obviously appreciates everything in his life more. The one story he told that struck me was how he had spent 10 years as a commercial airline pilot and he'd use his vacation time to go on tour with Maiden! Amazing.. and you cannot help but appreciate that Bruce still preferred to work even though he could no doubt have rested on his laurels living off of Maiden royalties. Inspiring.
He told tales and showed slides for almost 90 minutes (a full Maiden set!) and then picked up a basket that had tennis balls in it (?!) and flicked the basket at the audience so the balls flew out. Each ball had a different number written on it and that's how he selected what passage from his book he would read. Imaginative and random! It gave the event that little personal and spontaneous touch. 

As we were waiting for Bruce to arrive, the bookstore's staff handed out blank note cards to random attendees to write a question for Bruce to answer. Yes, I got one and asked:

To close out the presentation Bruce read most of the questions that had been submitted on the cards. Alas, my question was answered in tandem with another question about The Trooper Beer but I guess it should have been obvious Bruce would plug his own beer. Still, at least my question was acknowledged. 

The night ended with Bruce signing copies of his book (no memorabilia or selfies were allowed) and while it was a typically controlled, assembly line signing with 5 seconds of interaction it was still cool to finally "meet" Bruce after all these years, shake his hand, and have him say "Thanks, mate!" to me.

All in all it was a very casual, civilized, entertaining, and full circle evening that was made more special because I witnessed it with good friends, some of whom I saw Maiden with back in The Day.

Now cue this song of course.. which I did not like at all when it was originally released.. but ironically it's now one of my favorite Maiden tunes. Imagine that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Murder x Metal Allegiance

Yeah... posts to this site have dried up.. but that doesn't mean things aren't happening "behind the scenes" in the world of Umlaut. For example, this event that was announced today will happen during NAMM next January down in Anaheim. Check out the Metal Allegiance website for all the updates and details!

We'll be returning to the House of Blues Anaheim on Thursday, January 25th for our annual January metal assault! This year marks the introduction of Bobby Blitz (Overkill) and John Bush (Armored Saint / ex-Anthrax) to our ranks ....in addition to other surprise guests!

The night will also feature the core four - David Ellefson, Alex Skolnick, Mark Menghi, and Mike Portnoy - who are taking a short break from recording our second full-length album! Joining us will be Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Gary Holt (Slayer/ Exodus), Chuck Billy (Testament) and Andreas Kisser (Sepultura).

The night will be sponsored by Musicians Institute and Murder in the Front Row, by Harald Oimoen & Brian Lew and forthcoming documentary. Direct support from Nuclear Blast Entertainment label mates Wednesday 13! Opening the night are Superfix and a special Musician’s Institute formed band.

General admission tickets will go on sale on Friday, October 27th at 1pm EDT / 10am PDT and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/MetalAllegiance-Jan25

VIP packages which include early access, meet and greet, poster, shirt, pint glass & laminate! Get them at http://metalallegiance.bigcartel.com

Monday, September 11, 2017


Never forget. 
Born to Lose. 
Live to Win.


Monday, September 04, 2017

Peace In Rest, Dave Hlubek

My obligatory Dave Hlubek Peace in Rest post. Hlubek was one of my first guitar heroes and I was way into Molly Hatchet circa 1979-80 before I discovered NWOBHM. I loved Southern Rock as a kid because it was all about guitars, guitars, guitars. Yes, this suburban California Chinese kid was into Redneck Rock.

I saw Hatchet twice on the 'Flirtin' with Disaster' and the 'Beatin' the Odds' tours. Hlubek became one of my faves, not only because he shredded, but in a Guitar Player magazine interview he revealed how he had lived in Sunnyvale, California (my hometown!) for a short time as a kid when his Navy dad was based at nearby Moffett Field in Mountain View. That tripped my teenage mind out; a rock star had lived HERE!? 

Not long after all of this I became obsessed with the European Metal bands. I traded my 'Flirtin' with Disaster' tour jersey to a penpal in Newcastle, England for, if I remember correctly, a Black Sabbath 'Heaven And Hell' 1980 U.K. Tour shirt.

Anyway, I loved Hatchet for a time and their concerts were great. Here is some Molly Hatchet and Dave Hlubek detritus from my teenage scrapbook. Photo by the teenage me from the July 27, 1980 Day On The Green show. The 1981 Oakland Auditorium show would have been even better if Whitesnake had not cancelled and replaced by Les Dudek (who was joined onstage by Neal Schon that night) instead. 

Peace in rest, Dave Hlubek. Your talent and music meant a lot to me as a pimply-faced teenager. 

"I'm flirtin' with disaster every day.."

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Mongolian Metalheads

I feel very bad for not posting about this sooner.. Especially because I've literally had the following book for 2 YEARS. I happened to come across it again as I was organizing my office and I must apologize to my friend Devon who gave it to me.

Long story short, back in the Spring of 2015 Devon and his band Conquest For Death went on an amazing tour of Asia playing shows in Japan, Korea, China, and... MONGOLIA!  Yes.. MONGOLIA! Who knew, right?!

Prior to the tour Devon informed me about the scene in Mongolia and how it was small but very passionate and rabid about the music. I gave him an autographed copy of Murder In The Front Row to give to the person who organized the shows there but I still really didn't have my head around it until Devon returned. After the tour was over, he presented me with a copy of a photo book the locals wanted me to have. It's a collection of portraits of 56 fans from the Mongolian metal scene. Wow.. 

A couple of the Mongolian fans wrote me messages in the book, which was mind blowing that there are locals in Mongolia who speak English. I don't know anyone in the States who can speak, let alone write, in Mongolian. Do you?? Amazing!

Each portrait is captioned with the fan's name and their Top 5 metal albums. What's striking to me is how these Mongolian fans don't look any different from metal fans here. Some of them look very "metal" while others present themselves as "normal" looking. However, the fact all of these individuals bleed metal makes their appearances irrelevant.

I wish I could feature all of the portraits here. It's very profound to realize there are people "like me" on the other side of this planet who appreciate some of the same music that has influenced and inspired me since I was a kid. Obviously, in the current day and age we live in this realization that people tend to have more in common than not, especially once you take politics and religion out of the conversation, should be inspiring and give you hope for the future. METAL.. To make the obligatory Saxon quote: "Denim and leather brought us all together!"

Anyway, the group behind the book has an active Facebook page. Check them out.. and thanks AND apologies to Devon for the inexcusable delay with posting this!  HAIL!

Friday, July 14, 2017

He Is

Five years ago I met a Swedish guy in a new band on his first tour. He already knew about Murder In The Front Row before we met.. Which was kind of crazy. Fast forward 5 years and this friend's band is the sole support act on Iron Maiden's current North American Tour. A couple of weeks ago I bum rushed the meet & greet before this friend's band shared the stage with our old heroes at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Bros before Satan.

Three days before that Maiden show, Ghost also headlined their own Bay Area show in San Francisco at the historic Warfield Theatre. Papa Emeritus once told me that The Warfield was a venue he dreamed of playing as a kid in Sweden after he read a review in Kerrang! magazine of the 1991 Guns 'N Roses secret show there... and now he and his band have played The Warfield twice. Dreams do come true... Trivia: Some people collect guitar picks.. Others setlists.. Umlaut collects day sheets from shows he attends.

I've been following Ghost since almost Day One and the various incarnations of their leader Papa Emeritus is one of the most creative people I've ever met. It's been fun and amazing watching them get to this next level. The new stage production for the band's headline shows is almost Broadway-like.

PYRO!! Five years seems like a long time ago...

It's been beyond F-U-N to follow a band again from their almost baby steps to full-blown success.. and that's the point a lot of people miss about Ghost.. Metal tends to take itself too seriously and Ghost are F-U-N. Also, comparing them to "Mercyful Fate" is lazy.. If you listen to their music it's more obvious they are a Satanic version of The Beatles... Deceptive melodies that deliver and punctuate deceptively clever dark and evil lyrics.. That are F-U-N to sing along to.


"He is the disobedience that holds us together.."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Only Murder Is Real

This new photo by my Murder In The Front Row co-author Harald is beyond amazing to me!  It was taken at the With Full Force Festival in Germany last week when Harald and D.R.I. shared the bill with the legend Thomas Gabriel Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) and his current band Triptykon.

In early 2010, I heard about a new book titled Only Death Is Real by Mr. Fischer chronicling the early days of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. The book was being published by something called Bazillion Points in New York City and I pre-ordered it. When the book arrived I was blown away by how personal it was.. It had amazing early photos and stories AND, to my astonishment, my old early-80's Metal 'zine Whiplash was mentioned as one of the fanzines Hellhammer sent their first demo too (they did!). Surreal! 

I was also gobsmacked over how similar and parallel the original Metal scene in Switzerland was to what was going on in The Bay Area at the exact same time. Teenage Metalheads in Switzerland and Teenage Metalheads in San Francisco were doppelgangers of one another! It was like looking into a time machine mirror.

The book and its production quality was so perfect I remember thinking to myself that if I ever did a book I'd like to do it with Bazillion Points. Fast forward almost a year later and I got a message from Ian Christie of Bazillion Points proposing to do a collaborative book with myself and Harald. I tried to play it cool but my mind was blown over how full circle things had become. 

In the years since Ian and Bazillion published Murder In The Front Row there have been many, many other moments when I felt like this and this photo is the latest one. Metal can still be amazing and inspiring... Sometimes.

Death Meets Murder
San Francisco - October 2010

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

25 Years Ago Tonight

Backstage tonight in San Francisco in 1992.. Garth Brooks, Boyz II Men, and M.C. Hammer were ahead of his band in the Billboard charts that week. CDs were still sold in long boxes. The San Francisco Giants were 15-11 for the month and the Dodgers ended up finishing in last place that season. Dave Righetti was pitching for the Giants out of the bullpen.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

No Remorse

Metallica / Iggy Pop
Foro Sol, Mexico City, Mexico
March 3rd and 5th, 2017

Prior to leaving on this trip I traded messages with The Front Man and told him how seeing The Band in a foreign land has been on my bucket list for a long time (Vancouver doesn't count...).  Not long after arriving in Mexico City I saw The Front Man in person and we chatted about me seeing the band in a foreign land for the first time again... and then later that evening The Front Man dedicated 'No Remorse' to me in front of a sold out stadium of 70,000 Latin Americans:

"This one's for Brian!"  What. The. Fuck.  Later at the after show gathering back at the hotel, The Front Man came over to me and asked "Did you like that?!"  Fuck yeah, I did..  and my mind was blown for a couple of days, man.  It was the emotional highlight of what was an epic 5 days south of the border.

These shows in Mexico City were basically "warm up" shows for Metallica to road test the latest version of their ginormous stadium stage they'll be using in U.S. baseball and football stadiums this Summer. The venue site was massive and felt downright medieval at times. Evidently Foro Sol used to be the home field for the Mexican national baseball team, but now it primarily hosts Formula 1 racing events.

What made these Mexico City shows extra special was having Iggy Pop as the support act.  IGGY.  POP.  The fact that Iggy was on the bill, and it was NOT a festival, was a complete "when worlds collide" event for me. At one point before the 2nd show I wandered around the venue and watched Iggy's band soundcheck without him. When my iPhone took this picture the band was running through 'Gimme Danger' into 'Search And Destroy':

Oh yeah, and Henry Rollins was there hanging out with Iggy, taking photos, and just being Hank.  I've seen Iggy live around a dozen times over the years, but never in front of a massive crowd like in Mexico.  However, any doubts I had about Iggy translating to a massive Metallica audience disappeared during his sets as he worked the entire stage (He's 69 years old!).  He stormed onstage with 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and kept it going for a solid hour each night.

Oh, and Iggy (He's 69 years old!) dove into the crowd each night.  When I grow up I wanna be like Iggy!  It's easy to forget how many songs he's written or co-written as hit after hit after hit kept coming.  'Lust For Life'.. 'The Passenger'.. 'Repo Man' (!).. 'Some Weird Sin'.. and of course Stooges songs like 'Down On The Street' and 'Loose'.  Hands down one of the best support acts Metallica has ever hosted.  SO GREAT.

As part of this tour, Metallica have curated a traveling museum of memorabilia that is displayed at the venue.  When I first heard about it I thought it would be lame, but in reality it's pretty fucking cool.

The hidden treasures of the exhibition are found in the road case drawers that are labeled simply with their contents such as "Cliff".. "Fanzines".. "Tour Passes".  When I opened the Fanzine drawer I had a pleasant surprise when I saw my old 'zine Whiplash displayed with issues of the legendary Bob Muldowny's Kick Ass Monthly and Ron Quintana's Metal Mania 

I had forgotten that one of my Hetfield photos was on the cover of that issue of Kick Ass Monthly back in 1984-85  Peace in Rest, Bob.

Get this, the traveling museum also contains the ORIGINAL artwork (aka PAINTINGS) for Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets!  Holy shit, right?!  I can't believe they're shipping these priceless items around the globe for fans to see.

At this point you can cue 'Wherever I May Roam':  Since I was at the venue early on the show days I killed time wandering around the venue, eating the catering food, and chatting with friends.. and walking past random shit like this:

At one point during the weekend I found myself on the other side of a room divider from the band's tuning room.  For awhile I was serenaded by the sounds of The Bass Player practicing by himself and singing his band's new (and excellent) song 'Confusion'.  Needless to say, I now have a difficult time listening to that song without hearing The Bass Player's voice.  Awkward.

I'm not being dramatic when I say these shows in Mexico City were life changing on a certain level.  I can be the most jaded mofo when it comes to this band, but seeing them in front of massive crowds in a foreign land was inspiring.  Metallica sold 200,000 tickets to these 3 shows.. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND tickets in ONE city! 

The Latin American fans were not there to pose or sit in a VIP area sipping expensive drinks and taking selfies of each other.  Each night, 70,000 were there for THE MUSIC and their love of THE BAND.  I don't think you can have that kind of authentic concert experience on this massive scale in the States anymore, at least for a Metal band.


It's hard for me to articulate how passionate the Latin American crowd was towards the band.  Before they came on, and even between songs during the sets, the entire stadium would start a soccer-style chant of "Ole!! Ole! Ole!! Ole! Me-tal-lica!!"  At times during the shows you could feel the ground and the stadium itself moving as the crowd went bonkers especially during vintage anthems like 'Harvester Of Sorrow'.  In addition to the entire general admission stadium floor pogoing and going nuts, several times I looked up to the farthest, deepest part of the stadium and even the fans in the very back nosebleed seats were going off.  It was amazing.

On the 2nd night I was down at the front dodging thrown beers but getting hit by at least two.  When I turned around during 'Battery' this was the crowd action going down behind me:

How do you say "Battery is found in me" in Spanish?

I like the new Metallica album quite a bit and I like how the band has their swagger back again. 'Moth Into Flame' and its groove is one of my favorite Metallica songs already, and live it's even better.  As I said earlier, Mexico City was a warm up for the band and crew to dial in the stage, production, and set... and as such there were some minor awkwardly weird moments.  Such as during 'Now That We're Dead' the band formed a drum circle mid-song (each of them on a drum facing each other) and attempted a tribal vibe moment.  That sort of thing works for Neurosis but not so much for Metallica.  In Latin America it kind of, sort of worked because the culture there loves drums.  However, if it continues in the States this Summer I can see it being the bathroom break in the Midwest.  A drum solo is a drum solo. Honesty is my only excuse.. Anyway, kudos to the band for trying something different.

Despite the brief warm up gig moments, the band completely owned Mexico City.  No band is better or sounds as good as Metallica on a massive stage in front of a massive crowd.  I've said this before, the bigger the crowd, the better the band performs. For the Sunday show I wanted to experience the show from the middle of the seething metal masses so we made our way to the platform attached to the front of house lighting desk. My iPhone took this picture during the "Die!!  Die!" chant in 'Creeping Death':

I had an epiphany moment as I watched the 3rd show from the lighting desk.  As 'One' started I ducked off the platform to use a porta-potty located next to it for the crew and guests... and as I stood inside of it the song's intro pyro was going off outside.  Okay.. on second thought.. maybe it wasn't an epiphany but it was a surreal moment.. Being in a Mexican porta-potty as 70,000 people are losing it around you and stage pyro explosions and gunfire recordings from the PA are going off.  Metal.

Away from the shows, it was a reality check to see how so many fans camped out at the band's hotel hoping to get a glimpse of their Rock God heroes. It was a profound seeing fans who were not jaded, who probably don't read Blabbermouth, and who simply love THE BAND and THE MUSIC.  Pure and easy.  It was straight up inspiring seeing that kind of devotion again, the kind that I used to have a million years ago.  Latin America es mas Metal.  I should also say that, away from the shows, I had the best time hanging with friends doing stuff and drinking stuff. Epic good times.

Anyway, in the 35 years (!) that I've been following Metallica I've been fortunate to have witnessed many amazing moments.  On the 3rd and final night one of those amazing moments happened again as the first song of the encore:

Full circle amazing and I loved how this collaboration was unexpected but made complete sense.  The charisma and intensity of Iggy onstage was a contrast to him at the after show party back at the hotel bar.  Seeing Iggy wearing glasses, comfortably slumped in a big leather chair, laughing and chatting is an image I'll always remember.

Yes, this blog rant is about something that happened over a month ago, but better late than never I suppose.  To be honest, much more happened in Mexico City and my head has been too overwhelmed to attempt to document everything... Plus, real life shit meant I couldn't spend a lot of time trying to fill this space with words.  So, I've simply tried to capture the vibe of my Metal time in Mexico City with my favorite band.

Number of Murder In The Front Row fans who recognized me in The Snake Pit  during a show in Mexico City = 2.. Amazing! On the way back to the United States, some pimply-faced teenage TSA agents called me a fag. Who knows what other Metal adventures await over the next year now that Metallica are back on The Road.. 

All pictures courtesy of Umlaut's iPhone.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Baseball Über Alles

Since today is Opening Day of the 2017 Major League Baseball season...

After 13 years I'm struggling "creatively" to keep up with this space.  No, I'm not going to stop being Umlaut and I will continue to post here as the mood or opportunities strike me.  However, in order to keep things fun and interesting for myself I've now started to "blog" about baseball on a new site started by an old merch industry buddy.  It's called Baseball Über Alles!

A couple of things I've posted so far are:
Anyway, check it out if you're interested and especially if you dig baseball!  There's also an awesome Baseball Über Alles logo t-shirt available for a mere $20 via the store link on the site.  The logo concept was mine but my old merch buddy was the one who executed the great artwork.

Again, I will continue to post in this space now and then... so stay tuned.  I do have a couple of things planned when the time is right... and rants about gigs too.  In the meantime,  PLAY BALL!

 Full circle:  1987 to 2017