October 10, 2007

Afroskull Lives!

To me, one of the real perks of the blog has been connecting with serious fans of the music, some of whom are top notch players, too. That's how I originally got to know the drummer for Afroskull, Jason (a/k/a the Reaper), keeper of the Funk Files. We would make comments on each other's posts, email about dis 'n dat, and eventually met one day when were were both in New Orleans for some beer and conversation. About a year ago, he linked me up to some of the band's impressive live recordings available at archive.org. Although they formed in New Orleans a decade ago, I've never caught the Skull in action, although I recall seeing listings for their gigs back then. By the time I moved down here, they had re-located to New York City, where at least some of them are from. Anyway, the other day Jason sent me Afroskull's 10th Anniversary press release and humbly asked if I would post it, and even sent along two mp3s, one live, and one a studio cut from their only CD, to share with the HOTG loose-booty community. Listening to them got me pumped to steer this here blog briefly back to the 21st Century. So, here's the press release, with information about their upcoming festivities, a bit of band history, and links to Afroskull sites.


Twin blowouts in New York and New Orleans to commemorate a decade of hair-raising funk New York based funk/rockers Afroskull have announced a pair of shows to celebrate the band's 10th anniversary, on October 12th at New York's Parkside Lounge, and October 20th at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.

Afroskull formed in New Orleans in the summer of 1997 around a core of well-schooled musicians who had first met in the suburbs of NYC years earlier. Using the music of Funkadelic, Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus and Black Sabbath as their guides, they developed a unique style that is equal parts funk, hard rock and jazz. A devoted local following quickly followed along with a reputation for unrelenting funk-drenched sets that lasted well into the wee hours. In 2002, after the release of the locally acclaimed CD Monster For the Masses, several national tours and two legendary "Afroskull Does Black Sabbath" sets, the core of the band pulled up stakes and got back to their roots in New York City. In the years since, Afroskull has gained a whole new audience (along with several new band members) thanks to their red-hot live shows and is now becoming known among hard-core live music fans as one of th e city's best-kept secrets. And now October 2007 brings a 10th anniversary party to each of the band's hometowns, featuring special guests from throughout Afroskull's history.

October 12, 2007 @ The Parkside Lounge
317 E. Houston St (corner of Attorney St.), New York City

The New York version of the 10th anniversary brings the band back to their long-time homebase on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and will feature Jason Marshall on bari sax (of Roy Hargrove's RH Factor), bassist Bearded Jon Stonbely, and a special appearance by NYC guitar mercenary The Wild Koba.

October 20, 2007 @ The Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak St., New Orleans

The New Orleans party will be an epic Afroskull marathon, a true melding of the NOLA and NYC lineups, featuring original bassist Funky Dollar Bill Richards (of I Tell You What fame), and the Horns of Doom: Chuck Arnold on trumpet, Rick Trolsen (of Bonerama) on trombone, and Jason Mingledorf (Papa Grows Funk) on tenor sax. Other scheduled guests include Big John Shaffer on vocals and the Madd Wikkid a.k.a. Earl Scioneaux on keyboards.

For more info and mp3s, visit:

Afroskull on Myspace
Afroskull on the Live Music Archive
So, now that we know where the parties are going on, let's hear a couple of tunes. It's kind of hard to describe the Afroskull experience; but, even listening to a few flimsy mp3s (Jason had to down-code his beefier files to meet the requirements of my music server), I think you can get an impression that this band has a big, dangerous delivery that should be rated in megatons. It's a high-powered groove generator, throbbing with jazzoid horns, all-around intense musicianship, pedal to the heavy metal tendencies (with Black Sabbath in the collective woodshed!?), and Zappa-esque compositional conceptualizing. Fused under extreme heat and pressure with a creative abandon and a gonzo attitude, Afroskull's music demands spirit-possessed body movements and has "Holy Shit!" moments of revelation aplenty.

"Zero Hour"
Go to archive.org

Here are a few comments Jason sent along with "Zero Hour": Recorded live at the Parkside Lounge, NYC, 1/7/05. Also available at archive.org. This tune will eventually be featured on our next studio album, which is still being recorded. We're hoping to have it finished by Mardi Gras.

Looking forward to it. . "Zero Hour" is a fast rolling rattletrap of vibrating parts tightly wound around Jason's rapid-fire, incredibly complex, multi-dimensional drumming (the man must have a few extra arms). I have to go to the gig just to see him actually play this. The more I listen into it, the more amazed I am. On the verge of flying apart at any moment, "Zero Hour" miraculously holds together. Sheer centrifugal force? Gravity waves? Pure collective willpower? However it's done, remember, these are trained professionals. To avoid serious injury, don't try this one at home kids. That jaded New Yorker applause after this song is the only thing off. A riot should have broken out.

The players on "Zero Hour" were:
Joe Scatassa - guitar
Matt Iselin - keyboards
Dan Asher - bass
Jason Isaac - drums
Seth Moutal - percussion
Jason Marshall - bari sax
Jeff Pierce - trumpet
Mark Nikirk - tenor sax

"Theme From Afroskull"

Jason writes, "Theme From Afroskull" was featured on our first (and so far only) studio album, Monster for the Masses*. It was released in 2000. This is the tune that gave the band its name. The "Monster for the Masses" bit at the end was the culmination of a very loose concept that ran throughout the album (monster wrecks New Orleans but wins the citizens over while he does it - doesn't seem quite as funny now as it did back then).

Well, Jason, black humor is better than none at all. Life changes the way we appreciate art more than the reverse, I suppose. This one cetainly works as a soundtrack for the fear of destruction that has always been the monster in New Orleans' closet. Blatantly cinematic, "Theme" is a horror/spy movie soundtrack on steroids laced with lysergic acid diethylamide. Sun-Ra ( and Mingus, too, I guess) jamming with Zappa and Zigaboo at Ozzfest might have sounded something like this, had it ever come to pass. Hearing this stuff, I can't help but be reminded of a current incredible live New Orelans band that mixes some intense rock covers with da funk, brass band style: Bonerama. Perhaps Jason can enlighten us sometime as to any inspiration the Skull may have given to the Bones. As a matter of fact, one of those Bones, Rick Trolsen, will be playing in the Horns of Doom on the 20th. Should be very extremely dangerous, as Eddie Hinton would say.

In the best possible way, of course

*Read Offbeat's review of that album.

[Post-gig update: Man, that was an awesome show, still going on when I bailed to look for a cab at 2:30 AM, geezer that I am. For those of you in the New Yawk area, definitely a must see/hear band, even if you are jaded. Maybe they'll see fit to favor us with another taste later on.]


Blogger The Reaper said...

Dan, thanks much for the very flattering review. Funny that you mention Bonerama. I'm not aware of any overt influence that we have had on them, but we did cross paths many times. Mark Mullins did some gigs with us back in the day, and even recorded with us for a Boozoo Chavis tribute album (if you can believe that). And our guitarist Joe Scatassa, who is also a rippin' trombonist, did a few shows with Bonerama back then too. So I'm sure we rubbed off on each other a little bit through osmosis. We occasionally joke amongst ourselves about Bonerama's covers of War Pigs and The Wizard. Hmmm, Black Sabbath with horns - wonder where they got that idea? LOL

At any rate, we're big Bonerama fans for sure and we're very excited to have Rick Trolsen joining us at the Leaf on the 20th. His old band Neslort inspired us big-time and would make great mp3 fodder for a future HOTG post.

3:03 PM, October 11, 2007  
Blogger lil m said...

I caught Afroskull in action once at the ye olde mermaid Lounge doing one of their funky horn swaggled Black Sabbath tributes several years back...

I think I even have some video stashed away of that show...

Glad to hear the skull are still rawkin'

6:38 PM, October 11, 2007  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Reap, I was brought up so that if I don't have anything nice to say, I don't say nuthin at all. Thus, I heaped some props on you and the Skull.

Interesting influences, y'all and Bonerama. Similarities too obvious to passs up - but still some significant differences. And, hey, I've got plenty of Neslort - great idea for a post, great band. I even have an old radio special on them somewhere that I got through WEVL, way back.

See ya on the 20th. I want to make sure you don't have percussive assistants on stage with you, or extra appendages!

9:01 PM, October 11, 2007  

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