Friday, 26 February 2016

Stage Fright 101

The duo of Black Belt Jones and Wiggaz seemed to be getting over quite well with audiences, so we continued to play shows together. That of course meant I had to perform double duty as I was now the lead vocalist in both outfits. I had been plagued with anxiety over replacing Mike in Wiggaz, but that was short lived. 

Mike came to us all as a group and as friends, to inform us that he would be stepping away from the band scene to focus on life and his new bride Myra. We all accepted that and gave him our best. I hated to see him go from BBJ as I felt he was a very important and instrumental part of the band. Michael was literally one of, if not the most talented player I had met yet in my journeys. As sad as it was to see him go, it was also a relief that there were no issues with Wiggaz replacing him with me before even communicating with him. That never sat right with me. I felt it was somewhat disrespectful towards him, and a bit of a dick move on Greg's part. But then again, sometimes things just happen in the heat of the moment and we have no control over them.

When music is in your blood, it is in there for life, and such was true in Mike's case as well. Shortly after disbanding us, the music bug bit him again. He began creating songs with his wife Myra, and they ended up recruiting former EBS drummer John McCuish. The trio would come to be known as "ETHER" an experimental project in the vain of the band "Ween". I don't think they took things too seriously, and they sure as hell weren't out trying to book gigs or get a record deal, but they were creating something, which is really all that is important at the end of the day. Even if it is just for ones own piece, or peace, of mind.

I was still working midnights at the gas station, and I was still writing lyrics like a mad man. I was frequently tuning into college radio stations during my shifts, and since work was slow, I made an effort to promote our bands as much as I could when the opportunity presented itself. There were a few times that radio stations invited us in for interviews but I had to decline because of work. On some occasions the guys would go without me, and they'd even call me at work and put me on air to join in. It was truly a magical time in my life.

When performing with Wiggaz, I was still wearing my Dad's old suit and the devil mask. I decided I wanted to spice things up with BBJ and bring some level of character to the band, so I started wearing an Afro wig and sunglasses. I'd been performing in front of crowds for close to 8 years now, yet I still suffered some form of "stage fright". It wasn't uncommon for me to stand sideways on stage, or even almost turn my back completely to the crowd. With my Wiggaz disguise I discovered it opened me up more, gave me more confidence, and in turn a greater stage presence. I figured if it worked for Wiggaz it should work for BBJ.

My assumptions were correct. The simple disguise gave me a new level of confidence, and the sunglasses helped me look straight into the crowd without having to make eye contact with anyone. This loosened me up tremendously, which again in turn gave me a better stage presence. I was no longer an immobile object. I was grooving and shaking my shit, much to my own surprise.

With Mike gone we also had to make some changes to the band. Pauly & Mike C. would now have to share stringed duties. We never could decide who should play what, so the guys opted to play both bass and guitar. Once we ironed everything out we had a new formula. Some songs Paul would play bass, on other songs he would play guitar. The same applied for Mike C. We had reached an agreement that worked for all of us collectively, which meant the "Kung Funk" would live on...

Black Belt Jones Interview

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

UPDATE 02/22/2016

Greetings & salutation readers! I hope the new year has been kind towards you all thus far. I'd like to take a quick moment to bring you up to speed with everything. I know I made a New Years resolution to post weekly, and I've been trying to believe me. Life just seems to keep getting in the way, but I will continue to tell my story whenever I get the chance.

Musically I have had a lot going on. I've been grinding away on my latest full length "THEOKOLES" and I'm getting close to the finish line. The album will hopefully be released in the very early spring. It's quite different from my other work, yet consistent with my style. I stepped out of the box a bit musically but it seems to be all for the better. The new LP will feature 14 tracks or so with a running time of 40-45 minutes roughly. 

There are a couple of tracks produced by special mystery guests, and I will also be joined by a couple of mystery guests on a few tracks as well. I'm very much looking forward to dropping this for your ear holes to enjoy! 

I'm also working on my hardcore rap metal project "If you want C.H.U.D... YOU GOT IT" and that too is shaping up nicely. I've payed homage to some classic bands by sampling their music and writing lyrics inspired by them. I've also got a handful of original tracks produced by numerous friends, as well as a few cover songs to boot. I will most likely include a few unreleased songs as bonus tracks as well. Be prepared for the thunder this summer...

That's all from me for now, until next time...

- K

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Birth of Satin

Shortly after the success of our first Brampton show, we decided to hold another Wiggaz/Black Belt Jones double header at the famous, or infamous, El Macambo club in Toronto. I'd played there a few times over the past few years, and even though it was somewhat of a rundown, sketchy place, it was always a pleasure to do my thing there. The walls were adorned with photos of bands that had blessed audiences over the decades, including the Rolling Stones. It always felt magical to step on that stage which had been shared by countless legendary performers. 

The "Elmo" had a downstairs and an upstairs, and in these days most shows were taking place on the ground floor. The was no actual backstage area per-say, so the bands would congregate in the kitchen, which was located behind the stage. The kitchen contained a stairwell at the back of the room that led to the upstairs, and that was generally where the herbal olympics would take place. I have many fond memories of sharing drinks and conversations back there with a lot of great people who were class acts.

A mere week or two before the show, we were all somewhat shook by some news that Mike Myers dropped on us. Mike informed us that he would be getting married to his girlfriend Myra, and he would not be able to join us at the upcoming show. Not only did this mean we were out of a bass player, it also meant that Wiggaz now had no vocalist. Since we had two guitarist it was a pretty easy fix for Black Belt. Either Mike or Paul would play bass, and the other would play guitar...or perhaps each of them would play a bit of both. Regardless, it was a simple bandaid to apply.

Wiggaz on the other hand were in a bit of a pickle. I sat with them at the kitchen table of the Slayer House one night and we all brainstormed, trying to come up with some ideas for a temporary replacement. We eventually came to the conclusion that I was really the only person who knew their lyrics inside out, my only dilemma was I didn't want to be seen as the same vocalist in two different bands performing on the same night. I proposed the idea of possibly wearing some sort of disguise and the boys were on board. 

Greg later mentioned to me that his sister had acquired some devil mask from a haunted house job she temporarily held that past Halloween. I told him to bring it on by, and in the meantime I took a trip to my parents place, as they had boxes of old clothes in the basement. After some rummaging through boxes and closets, I dug out one of my father's old suits that had to be from the 70s. It was beige and plaid, and what I would refer to as a "Herb Tarlic suit" similar to those worn by a character on the old television show "WKRP In Cincinnati" I also found an interesting silk dress shirt that was printed with ghetto like buildings...It screamed disco. The coup de gras was a pair of brown leather platform dress shoes, also straight off of Soul Train. My ensemble was complete, and I was ready for the show. 

I never did see the devil mask until the day of the gig, and it was more incredible than I had anticipated. It was very form fitting, the lips hooked into my lips, the jaw was slit under the cheeks enabling mouth movement, the brow even sat snug in my brow. Nose and ears fit into place perfectly. It was as if this mask was made for my head. I put it aside with my get up, and got ready to hit the stage with BBJ.

Despite being handicapped one player, we managed to pull off a decent set that night, and got the usual warm reception that we were rapidly growing accustomed to. There was a bit of a break between bands, so I cooled down, caught my breath, and had a drink and a smoke. From there I started suiting up, and everyone "backstage" was dying with laughter at "the suit" Wiggaz had a song called "Satin" and with my slick threads and devil mask, Satin was now here and real... In the flesh. The time had come for Wiggaz to hit the stage. I was nervous yet focused, as I didn't want to screw up.

I honestly don't remember much of the performance that night, but I do remember that having that mask on seemed to transform me. I was generally a bit shy on stage, but in full costume it seemed to open me up more and I was a complete mad man. We gave the on lookers quite a show that night, and after our final song we shuffled off stage to a roaring applause. As soon as we got back stage Greg approached me with a wild look of euphoria in his eyes and proclaimed "DUDE YOU GOTTA BE OUR NEW FULL TIME SINGER AND I WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!!!!" 

That was it. The Wiggaz were now OFFICIALLY born. I was overwhelmed and taken back by the whole thing, and I really couldn't stop wondering how Mike was going to take the news that he was no longer in the band...

(Artist conception of Satin in Saints Row videogame)


Monday, 1 February 2016

Hometown Heroes

1995 had arrived and it was the dawn of a new era. Black Belt Jones had released our demo tape, and we had played a couple of "Elvis Monday's" at The El Macambo. The audiences were generally very responsive to the new sounds we were bringing to the table. As much as we appreciated the support of the Toronto people, we were itching to play a show in our home town of Brampton. 

Unfortunately the club Tremors had recently been shut down due to underage patrons being served alcohol, so we now had nowhere to play. I can't even remember who or how this happened, but one of my friends discovered we could have a show in the basement of a pub called "The Ivy Bridge" which was located in the Brampton Mall. We set the wheels in motion to book a gig, and we decided that we would play with Wiggaz, as they now had a demo tape as well, and enough material to perform a short set.

As per usual I drafted up a hand made flyer for the show. Once it was complete I went to the local print shop and fired some copies off. It was now time to spam the town. There weren't many places to advertise per say, but thankfully a few record shops distributed flyers for us, as did our good pal Munish at T-Shirt Palace. Our music was ready to present, the date had been set, our guerrilla marketing was in effect, and we were more than ready to rock this show. Our fate now rested in the hands of the Brampton scene.

When the night of the show was finally upon us, we were overwhelmed by the amount of people who showed up. The basement of The Ivy wasn't a big room by any means, and we were pushing the fire code limit. The place was ram packed to the gills and filled with the smell of smoke and alcohol. Old friends, new friends, and people I'd never even seen before, all filled the room from wall to wall and front to back. The Ivy Bridge didn't have a stage so we set up on the floor. A fellow named Martin worked there, and he helped set the whole thing up. I believe Rob from Wiggaz knew him, and he may have been the key that made this night happen.

Our bass player Mike had been recruited to sing for the Wiggaz, so he was actually pulling double duty on this evening. Both bands put on killer performances and we had the crowd in the palm of our hands. The mosh pit was thrashing and I'm sure a few bottles of beer fell casualty to the hard concrete floor. I honestly think people were just happy to have live music back in Brampton. 

At the end of our set we decided to have a freestyle contest, meaning anyone from the audience could come up and bust a rhyme while BBJ supplied the music. Not many were brave enough to come up, but one girl named Jen had the guts to. She was the girlfriend of Frank, the Wiggaz drummer. Although her rhyme was simple, and possibly not her original lyrics, it was still an amazing sight to see. Pauly had made a one of a kind BBJ shirt to award the winner, and Jen took said shirt home with her on that night. 

We didn't know it at the time, but the open mic freestyle session would become a staple of our sets in the days ahead. It would end up being the way we closed out every gig we played. On this particular night however, once we had finished performing, I decided it was a good idea to throw a proper party at the Slayer House. I literally made an open invitation on the microphone to every single person in the bar to come back and party with us, and the majority of them did.

We ended up with a house full of people and we partied hearty until the sun began to peek over the horizon. The night was a success, the after party was a success, and we were all itching to do it again as soon as possible...