Conjuring Up The Metal With Al-Ce-Mi
I first came in contact with Josh Gregory of Al-Ce-Mi outside Hollywood's famed Whisky A Go Go on The Sunset Strip back in January of this year. I was there to review My Ruin and as we both dragged off respective cigarettes, I mistook Josh as someone waiting in line to buy a ticket, when in fact he was the front man for one of the opening bands. Al-Ce-Mi rolls it loc'd up straight outta Whittier, California. This act is a fusion of both the good vibe-type So Cal ska/metal/punk band like Sublime and the harsher street influenced Suicidal Tendencies. They offer lyrics that make you examine and go within yourself to find the truer self, and I think in an overwhelming sea of metal bands today that typically will go straight for playing the 'evil card' every time out, Al-Ce-Mi is a refreshing alternative and certainly a band of growing significance to the underground metal scene.
Rocket: Man, I didn't realize until listening more to your music and studying some of the lyrics of your songs how much work you really put into trying to educate through your message. Is this something right out the gate that you set as a goal when writing material for Al-Ce-Mi?
Josh: The short answer is yes. But, truly I dont believe in intelligence so I believe that education is what becomes the divide. In other words, I believe that it becomes a label that is used to separate us down into easily digestible pieces, the old divide and conquer trick. At an early age we are told who is smart and who is not and our teachers and peers perpetuate this belief in to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Moreover, if I am told I am smart I will probably act smart and so forth. What I hope to accomplish lyrically is to challenge peoples beliefs to make people think because it is amazing how many people dont think. They look around and think everything is OK because they have money, house, cars, etc.. being comfortable leads to complacency. When you become complacent you are no longer being mindful and can turn into a sheep. Dont step out of line because you might lose you car, house, or your money.
Rocket: That's one of the baddest things I've ever heard someone say, brah. What exactly is the song Downspiral about?
Josh: It is about twisting yourself into that hole in your mind. It's those times when things seem to be going right and you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. I may have a tendency to do this but I think we all do this from time to time. This event is a downspiral that can keep you down. When I think about all the partying everyone does if we dont stop we will end up in a hole we cant get out. I state in the song that numbing the pain is ever temptingwe have a tendency to party when things are going bad to numb the pain sometimes when things get better we keep partying to celebrateyou can get where I am going with this. The song is about questioning yourself for the good or bad.
Rocket: What I find totally cool about you, man, sporting that long hair and crazy goatee is that you are actually a college professor, correct? This trips me out completely. You have both a bachelor's and a master's degree in human communications from Cal State Fullerton. Where and what are you teaching currently?
Josh: I currently teach at Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona, and Pasadena City College
I teach the classes Interpersonal Comm., Public Speaking, Argument and Debate and Business Writing. Just remember if you want to take my class bring your A game because I take it very serious, like everything I do.
Rocket: Give us a brief rundown of your bandmates and tell us how Al-Ce-Mi formed originally?
Josh: Nyro is straight from the street and compliments the heavy back beat with his thick funky ass bass rhythms. He is the wild man that combines soul with funk and takes it to the far reaches of the universe to make up the style he brings. He has strong jazz soloist qualities and cut his teeth on the rhythms of rockabilly. He is part jazz man and the one that left his stand-up bass behind. He has come with Al-Ce-Mi to Los Angeles to spread some thick rhythms. Ryan brings the techno vibe to the surface. His flow of sound provides the proper mood and setting for the cognitive journey of the mind. He represents the L.A. only known to those in the dark corners and accepted only by the creatures of the night. He is the key bearer to those locked rooms of decadence. The style of Al-Ce-Mi lies deftly on the shoulders of Edward Barrett. His hypnotic riffs and devastating power push the envelope of the corporate sound. His evenly balanced combination of Navarro and Page bring the modern to the past creating a postmodern fusion of sound. His ideal combination of style and power provide Al-Ce-Mi the solid foundation to break from the pack. Edward comes from the south and is ready to revolutionize your psyche. Ray Mendez is our street cred. the man with the weapons and a planand he is not afraid to use them. Ray is the swordsman of the band and he carries an axe. Ray comes from a long pedigree of musicianship. A mixture of true tribal heritage combined with the cool combination of the Jazz artist he truly depicts the essence of Al-Ce-Mi. His expertise is only matched by the pure power and energy he delivers. The likes of Ray have not been seen in Los Angeles in sometime. Al-Ce-Mis power is due to their strong backbone of drums. Kirk Allen embodies the true spirit of East Los Angeles by the way of Pasadena. He provides a heavy driving beat based on those of Bonzo and Lars of Metallica, but has the flair of Latin Jazz percussionists like Tito Puentes. He combines stylish soulful rhythms with a heavy machine like backbeat. Kirks love of bands like Slayer and Megadeath really shows through in the way he attacks the drums.
Rocket: And the name itself Al-Ce-Mi also holds some deeper meaning for the band also, correct? I understand you heard the word 'alchemy' initially on a Toyota commercial and sought its definition, which you learned is "The transmutation of base metal to heavy metal." I think that is amazing because it totally represents the Al-Ce-Mi approach.
Josh: Thats what we are about a mixture of sounds that come from the L. A. streets where we are from. I have been living this crazy town and soaking up all it has and in every scene because we belong.
Rocket: That's some straight up shit, dog. And there's too many damn weekend gangsters around in this town for sure. Peeps who ain't even spent ten years here. They put on a gold fucking chain and blare Tupac, thinking they own the zip code. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Josh: If I had to pick it would start with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath to Tool. We want to have the thrash of Metallica sprinkle in some Suicidal Tendencies then turn on the blender and then pour yourself a big glass... it tastes good.
Rocket: Getcha pull on that one for damn sure now. Haha. We talked during the last show we met at about the definite influence of Mike Muir and Suicidal Tendencies in Al-Ce-Mi's music. What has the ST legacy meant to you over the years?
Josh: The ST legacy has shown me to not really rely on the critics and that anything is possible. Me and my crew grew up listening to Suicidal and sort of changed with them. We all were drawn to punk rock for the straight in your face challenge of the music. Then their later stuff Lights, Camera, Revolution was heavy not punk rock. I remember alternating between Metallicas Ride the Lightning and that album for a while. I just look back at ST as guys who did not give a fuck and stood their ground. When they were banned from playing LA I thought wow these guys are for reals because I am from L. A. and there was crazy shit going on. These guys are too tough for L A.? Wow.
Rocket: Right on, man. Killer goddamn point. I throw up horns in salute to Mike Muir and company on that one, homes. Venice White Boy for life right here. Rest in peace Richard Woods and the real ST likes that ain't here no more. So what's your opinion of the current corporate rock scene today?
Josh: I think the Rock scene today is no scene. It seems like every few months their comes the new savior of Rock like two years ago it was the Strokes and Jack White or the Killers or now any 80s sounding new wave band. I dont know, I think that if these bands are here to save rock then we are here to kill it. It is just that simple. Let's put it out of its misery and start over. I want to make rock dangerous and wild again not just pure evil but dangerous like blow drying you hair in the shower. We need to start pissing people off and make a statement against the corporate culture.
Rocket: Al-Ce-Mi's song Kneel and Pray is my favorite. It's got such a crazy blend of styles going on there and I just love your vocal approach. What is this song trying to say to its listener? To me, it comes off like such a surefire pot smoking song. It makes me want to light up every time I hear it and just kick back on Venice beach. Ha! From the title though that's probably not what you're shooting for.
Josh: Yeah, definitely not, we are hoping to motivate you with thought because it not to be political or just be nice because we are coming at you from an angry point of view. Which should be the point why are we as a people angry? The song is about being spiritual not religious because spirituality lets us know that you fit into a system as a part of the system and there are things at play that are bigger than youus. Ive seen people that are going to church or when Ive been to church with family and you see that they are all duded upstraight up going to the good person club and they are ready to rock out. There seems to be no worship just a place to pick up on the other like minded people, a party on Sunday. Everybody is all dressed up they got their Bling-Bling on and its like...Hey, how you doing? These churches all have cool music it just a big spectacle it seems empty not spiritual. Other things like the universe are spiritual I think we are pretty arrogant when we say we can figure out when the universe began yet we can't even deal with the common cold. We can't even understand that the human race is more similar than different; I do not think we can even begin to comprehend the size of the earth let alone the universe. Okay, let me get off my soap box.
Rocket: Ha ha, so are you heads currently shopping labels? And how is that going for you?
Josh: Well, we are currently working with Ryan Greene at Crush studio in Scottsdale, AZ. We are going to do an 8 song EP. It is crazy to be working with this guy. Just to see all those metal records on his wall--platinum and gold. It makes me just want to work hard because he has worked with the greats Megadeth, Alice Cooper, No EFx, etc. We are writing the album and going after a marketable sound with out selling outwhich is something that we will stick to because I think you can make music for the masses without becoming a follower.
Rocket: Impressive shit. I imagine you guys do have a full album of material ready to go, right?
Josh: We have about 25 songs now and we are going to sort out which 8 are or the EP, which will turn into a complete album soon. We are in a crazy writing faze a couple songs a week it seems. We're just working hard right now.
Rocket: How has MySpace helped this band in terms of marketing and promoting itself?
Josh: It instantly gets us in front of 60 million people and lets us advertise our shows. It is pretty cool to have an outlet to touch a lot of people.
Rocket: And tell me who are some of the other underground metal acts that you're digging right now?
Josh: Wolf Mother not so underground now, The sword, Death from Above.
Rocket: You make no bones about it that you seriously approach your music as an art form and that someone like Ashlee Simpson, while making tons of money, will never be looked at in this manner. Why don't we end this discussion here with what it is exactly Al-Ce-Mi is going to try and accomplish in the music business in the next coming years.
Josh: You are right. I think so called musicians like Ashlee Simpson or the other Ashley from OTown are going to make lots of money which is cool, but thats it for them and I know that we live in America and it is all about the Benjamins. All they have though is money with no integrity they are more like actors than musicians anyone could sell records if they have their own TV show, i.e The Bradys Christmas albums. Consumers are funny. Ashlees record sales went up when she got caught lip-syncing. Milli Vanilli should have had better people working for them to spin their story of acid reflux or chronic diarrhea. We hope to start our own label or find the best deal for the long run. We want this to last not blow-up then fade away just as quick because we are built to last.
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