Ryuko Interview

In February last year, I interviewed Chester based punk/grunge band Ryuko at Pentre Fest. Due to numerous unavoidable issues – not least this blasted pandemic – the piece was unfinished till recently. Not long ago, this post finally appeared on Ever Metal, and I thought I’d republish it here too. Enjoy!

“Grandpa, what’s a gig?”

“Well son, a gig was what we used to call a band playing live music, in front of an audience.”

“What, people watching musicians play their instruments?  Crazy!”

“I know it seems like a strange idea to you youngsters, but it used to be a fantastic experience.  Actually being able to gather with friends and strangers to enjoy hearing music.  It was another world.”

That’s what the situation seems like right now: no gigs, no gatherings for entertainment – the old days sometimes feel like a lifetime ago.  At least it seemed a whole different world back in February 2020, before the pandemic, when I caught up with Chester based band Ryuko at Pentre Fest.

The three piece – comprising The Bobfather (guitars/vocals), Captain Andy (bass) and MattMan (drums) were something of an anomaly at the metal-centric Pentre Fest.  Not that Ryuko don’t rock out, but their brand of punky, alternative rock was a little different from the other bands on show.  I found their style of honest, yet far from pretentious rock’n’roll refreshing and it added a vital tone to the proceedings.

Post gig, I caught up with the band to pose some questions and contemplate the meaning of life.

First off, the cliched yet crucial discussion on influences:

Bob: It’s weird, ‘cos we’ve got influences from all over.  If you listen to one of our sets, it has stages: it starts off punky, then it goes alternative rock.  Then it goes a little metal/grungy, then back to punk at the end.

Matt: Drop D then back to punk!  I’m a huge fan of Motorhead and Metallica, the list goes on, so me being the drummer, I was always doing these thrash beats.  To go from that to stepping into this, this was more fun to me.  I really enjoy myself when I’m behind the kit with these guys.

Bob: When I write the songs, I listen to quite a broad variety of music, so I think that becomes apparent in my songs.  I don’t like to write the same song twice.  As far as when I started out, I would say when I was a teenager, I first started listening to Nirvana, Carter USM.  I also drew influences from a lot of electro – The Prodigy and stuff like that – so sometimes I’d try and work out how to play dance songs on a guitar.  And then that would give me the influence to write more interesting songs.  I like to try and fuse a bunch of different genres together, make it more interesting.

Andy: I listen to a lot of Neil Young, I think he’s a very diverse artist.  He’s done folk, he’s also done electric stuff.

How do you promote yourselves?

Matt: I’m more into social media than these guys are.  We’re promoting ourselves on Facebook, we’re gonna make a new YouTube account.  That’s kind of going up and down at the moment…

Bob: We don’t know how to work it!

Where does the name Ryuko come from?

Bob: I’m really into anime and all things Japanese, Japanese music… At the time I was watching an anime called Kill la Kill.  The main character is called Ryuko Matoi and I just thought it was a really cool name.  Some really fun facts: Ryuko is one of the least popular names in Japan.  It basically means “rebirth”, start over.  So I thought, we’re starting again, it’s a really cool name.

Andy: Well it’s not a cool name in Japan, is it?

Bob: It’s cool to me!  I think it’s cool!

Andy: I do wish we’d chosen a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce.

Bob: People can never say it.

Your cover of the Madness classic “Baggy Trousers” tonight was a surprising choice, but great!

Matt: We decided to spruce that up to make it ours.  The original is completely different to how I play it, I add extra little bits just to make it more funky.

Do you feel you’ve got the right band dynamic between the three of you?

Bob: We’re pretty good as we are.  More people add more complications cos you’ve got to think – are they free; do they drive, are they going to be available…

Matt: I’ve got a son, he’s 9, we discuss upcoming gigs before we agree to it.  If I’ve got my son and he comes along with us, if he’s allowed in the venue we play – he’s got his little ear defenders, he just sits in the corner and watches us or plays his game.

Bob: I’ve got three jobs…

Sounds like a positive environment to work in.

It’s got to be positive, if it’s not it just doesn’t work.  If no-one’s happy, nothing gets done.

So, what’s next?  What are your plans?

Bob: World domination!  One step at a time…

Andy: We’ve been working on re-doing our EP, we’ve been recording on and off.  Recording, playing as many gigs as we can.

And there you have it: an enjoyable chat with the gentlemen of Ryuko.  Make sure you check them out live, as and when we can return to the experience of live music.  If grungy, punky alt rock with some metallic crunch is your thing, then Ryuko will be just the antidote you need in these dreary times.

With apologies to Ryuko, who have waited months for this interview to see the light of day.

Check out Ryuko on Bandcamp and Facebook. Plus you can follow this link to listen to the interview on YouTube – yes, you can admire my fantastic interviewing skills for real!

And don’t forget to pay a visit to Ever Metal!

Wino – Forever Gone Album Review

WINO – Forever Gone

Ripple Music (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 26/06/2020

Running time: 46 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Who remembers that old TV programme, The Fall Guy?  You know, the one where the Six Million Dollar Man becomes a stuntman/bounty hunter, getting into all kinds of daredevil scrapes whilst pursuing the bad guys?  At the end of every episode, old Lee Majors (for it was he) would be seen chilling in his backyard hot tub, mulling over events whilst drinking a cold beer and smoking a big, fat cigar.

Well let it be known that I, too, like to relax in the tub with a beer after a long, hard day of whatever-the-fuck-it-is-I-do.  None of your business, really.  Just take it from me, I need to unwind in a mass of bubble bath, with candles and refreshment.  And of course, some music, just to add to the ambience.

This might not sound very metal to you, but let me tell ya: this new album from doom metal originator Scott “Wino” Weinrich would make ideal tunes for chilling in the tub.  Or pondering lost loves and fortunes in a dusty bar.  Or sound tracking a lonely drive across the desert, escaping an inevitable encounter.  But to be honest, I like the bathtub metaphor best, ‘cos I’ve not used it before.

“Forever Gone” is stripped down and intimate; the title song itself is just Wino the man, plus acoustic guitar.  Beautifully melancholic, the listener can really get lost in this.  “Taken” also ploughs a lonesome path, with Wino’s voice revealing a soulfulness that I’d never appreciated before.  

For any fans of The Obsessed or Saint Vitus who were hoping for something louder and more aggressive, there’s not too much of a leap from familiar ground really.  Other than the sonics, the emotions of loss and despair are what unifies Wino’s other output to this endeavour.  “Dark Ravine” brings a more Americana style to the proceedings, but it’s all still intense as hell, whether the guitars are turned right up or not.    

It’s not all gloom, though: “You’re So Fine” introduces a laid back, country blues number that sounds almost boogie-ish.  Throw in a great cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation” and this is an album that’s certainly full of surprises.

Great music can create images in your head for your own movie; “Forever Gone” is one of those.  Melodic yet mournful, intense and introspective, there are dozens of stories to be told within the grooves of this record. 

Check out Wino on Facebook, Twitter and Bandcamp.

Visit the Ripple music website here, or check ’em out on Facebook or Bandcamp.

And make sure you visit Ever Metal for more reviews of awesome music!

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock and Metal Albums of 2020

Good riddance, 2020! Am I right, or what? Still, it’s not all bad. There were some absolutely magnificent albums released last year – some I reviewed for my buddies at Ever Metal, some I discovered through other means. Some were massive, huge hits; others were small yet mighty triumphs.

Despite a lack of live music, there was plenty to investigate music-wise. So much so that it was really difficult to compile my annual Top 10 Albums list for Ever Metal. A few giants of rock and metal, though they released highly accomplished work, were reluctantly forsaken in my search for the crème de la crop.

Here they are, in (natch) reverse order:

10. The Goners – “Good Mourning”

9. Supersuckers – “Play That Rock’n’Roll”

8. Testament – “Titans of Creation”

7. Weed Demon – “Crater Maker”

6. The Atomic Bitchwax – “Scorpio”

5. Volcanova – “Radical Waves”

4. The Brothers Keg – “Folklore, Myths and Legends of The Brothers Keg”

3. Son of Boar – “Stoned Wail”

2. Desert Storm – “Omens”

  1. AC/DC – “Power Up”

I thought that this year, one of the smaller, indie label bands was sure to get to number 1. It almost happened, but then AC/DC released the total brain melter of “Power Up”, pretty much saving 2020 in the process. Now if only Angus and Co could release an album monthly, we might be able to get through 2021.

A few shout outs for notable mentions who didn’t make the cut this year, such as Ozzy, Wino and others. Seriously can’t believe I left out “Danzig Sings Elvis”, though.

You can read my full Top 10 (plus plenty of others) on the Ever Metal website, which also features links to songs and videos. Highly recommended! The direct link is here.

All the best for 2021 – here’s hoping for more great music!

The Best of 2020

Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.

Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.

As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.

10. Haiku – Autumn

An encouraging response to my creative writing, I was very surprised to see that this poetry piece in the Japanese Haiku style was my tenth most-read post of the year. Encore?

9. Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.

8. Halloween Horror Fest 2020

The first of my annual horror movie reviews of 2020, this one featured the Hammer version of Dracula.

7. The Best of 2019

I’m not sure if last years top 10 blogs appearing here is a good thing or not? Either way, 2019’s round up of the most popular blogs was a winner.

6. STYLE: Safari Jacket

2020 saw the materialisation of the long-promised STYLE section at the Virtual Hot Tub. This first blog, concerning the wonderful Safari jacket, got us off to a great start.

5. Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

A feature about some of my favourite skate art, as created by the super talented Liane Plant for Death skateboards. Awesome stuff.

4. SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

More skateboard based action, with a playlist of songs from my skating youth in the late 80’s. Full of stone-cold classics, these songs still inspire my sessions today.

3. Death Star Playset

I love my vintage Death Star playset. Setting it up with original Star Wars figures for some blog photos was a lot of fun, it’s great to see it was popular!

2. 1980s Skateboard Style

More skateboarding, and another successful entry for the STYLE section! It’s me, dressed in old skate clothes from the late 80s that still fit (or did, before lockdown).

…And what will be the most popular, widely read blog of 2020? Drum roll, please:

  1. Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.

As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.

Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?

Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!

Christmas Tat 2020

More bad taste baubles for your entertainment! Last year I displayed some of the wonderfully strange and tacky Christmas tree baubles that I’ve acquired. They can be found hanging from the branches of our festive tree. As I’ve added a couple more to the collection, I thought I’d share them here. for your enjoyment.

Now, something that has distressed me this year, whilst perusing the delights of Twitter, is people referring to these decorations as “ball balls” or even “baule baules”. I know, disgraceful isn’t it? No wonder we’re in the mess we’re in.

Anyway, I hope you like these ball balls, may they bring some yuletide cheer to what is a tough situation for us all.

Below you will see:

  1. A gherkin wearing a Christmas hat (or a pickle wearing a Christmas hat, if you prefer)
  2. A robot (note the clear plastic space helmet he’s wearing, just about visible)

And with that, all I can say is Merry Christmas to all of my readers. Enjoy this festive tat, and keep coming back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub for more fun next year!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #19

Hit singles! All time classic songs! Novelty throw-away rubbish! From the cool to the crap, it’s all to be found at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub on a Singles Night.

You see, what I do is, listen to a pile of old 7 inch singles that have been languishing in my “not played yet” pile. They could have come from anywhere: genuine gems that I’ve tracked down; record fair lucky finds; or – more likely – junk I find in charity shops.

Pour yourself a drink and check this list out. Do you own any of these on vinyl? What are your favourites? What should be consigned to a fiery pit and melted down?

  1. Kim Wilde – “You Came” / “Stone”
  2. Louis Armstrong – “All the Time in the World” / “Pretty Little MIssy”
  3. The Hollies – “The Air That I Breathe” / “No More Riders”
  4. Duran Duran – “The Wild Boys” / “(I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement (1984)”
  5. Bananarama – “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” / “Push!”
  6. The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations” / “Heroes and Villains”
  7. Justin Hayward – “Forever Autumn” / “The Fighting Machine”
  8. The Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star” / “Kid Dynamo”
  9. ABBA – “Angeleyes” / “Voulez-Vous”
  10. The Creatures – “Miss the Girl” / “Hot Springs in the Snow”
  11. Blondie – “Rapture” / “Walk Like Me”
  12. Bobby Patrick Band – “Dallas Theme” / “The Waltons Theme”
  13. The Beatles – “The Ballad of John and Yoko” / “Old Brown Shoe”
  14. Goombay Dance Band – “Seven Tears” / “Mama Coco”
  15. Lionel Richie – “All Night Long (All Night)” / “Wandering Stranger”
  16. Donna Summer – “Dim All the Lights” / “There Will Always Be a You”
  17. Jermaine Stewart – “We Don’t Have to…” / “Brilliance”
  18. Allan Sherman – “Mexican Hat Dance” / “Won’t You Come Home Disraeli?”
  19. Earth, Wind and Fire – “Let’s Groove” / “Let’s Groove (Instrumental)”
  20. Pointer Sisters – “I’m so Excited” / “What a Surprise”

Some classics indeed. Another great night of a couple of small drinkies and spinning wax: I recommend it to anyone.

The Goners – Good Mourning Album Review

The Goners – Good Mourning

RidingEasy Records (Us/Them Group)

Release date: 13/03/2020

Running time: 41 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

This little beauty threw off it’s shackles and ran for the hills, almost without me noticing.  I’m blaming the societal breakdown caused by Corona virus, obviously not an oversight on my part.  No, sir.  “Good Mourning” – the debut album from The Goners – was released back in March 2020; just before the world turned into a 1970’s Charlton Heston dystopian sci-fi movie.

The Goners are comprised of Nate Gone – formerly of Salem’s Pot – on vocals, with four dudes from Swedish rock band Yvonne.  “Good Mourning” is a throw-back to zoned-out good times and bizarro occult rock, with absolutely no regret the morning after.

First song “Are You Gone Yet” sets the pace nicely: fuzzy 60’s garage rock with a proto metal ferocity.  With the next track, “High, Low and Never In Between”, the Goners throw in more of their other specialty – 70s doom with groovy, care-free freak outs.

Wonderfully out of time, this retro feast also sounds totally now.  You can throw this on your portable music system and liven up any social gathering (so long as you stay far enough apart).  Press play and jump around all crazy-style to “Evil (Is Not Enough)” and “The Little Blue” – this is Black Sabbath if they were a Stones cover band.

Plus – and this seals the deal – a couple of fine, desert bleached songs in “Good Ol’ Death” and “Dead in the Saddle” that rattle with a dread atmosphere.  Absolutely essential for your next David Lynch/rockabilly/goth themed horror party.

“Good Mourning” by The Goners, then: if you’re a werewolf biker trapped in a cursed world you never made, but like to let your scraggy hair down with chicks from a Russ Meyer movie – this is for you.  Great cover art, too.

I’ve thought I was a goner myself, on a few occasions: most of them involving my old mucker Ozzy Osbourne.  One time, we were drinking in a golf club in LA and got thrown out, as you can imagine.  So, Ozzy decided to go for a joyride in a golf buggy, with me on shotgun.  He was flooring it, but we were only going at a jogging pace, so the golfers soon caught us up and were ready to brain us with their hitty-stick things.

All of a sudden, Oz drove the buggy over a hill and we toppled into a sand dune (bunker?).  We were lucky we were thrown clear and the buggy just managed to avoid crushing the pair of us.  The golfers took pity and consoled us with a nice brandy in the clubhouse.  Till the cops turned up, and dragged Ozzy and me off to jail.  The whole time, we were both wearing Sharon’s dresses.

Find The Goners on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Check out the RidingEasy Records website, or find them on Bandcamp or Facebook.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al and Ever Metal.

Haiku – Autumn

It’s not all crazy fun and games here at the Virtual Hot Tub. No sir. Sometimes, I like to exercise my intellectual side, provide warm nourishment for my creativity. It’s a good balance to the exciting rock’n’roll existence I lead most days.

So here I present a Haiku I wrote a while back, on a course, which is appropriate for this time of year. Enjoy.

Autumn

Leaves fall from the trees

The children return to school

The nights grow darker

Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

Rather than just write a post about my latest set up – as I have done in the past – I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. You see, I’ve inadvertently become a collector of skate art. I don’t have a lot, but I have a few pieces. Though I’m destroying this art on a regular basis, so who knows how my collection will develop – if at all.

Regular readers will already know that I’ve been partial to equipment from Death Skateboards for a long time. UK based company, great ethos, cool and durable products. You may have also seen my previous blog about my Richie Jackson pro-model. That was where the addiction started.

The art for the Richie Jackson deck was drawn by an artist called Liane Plant. I loved it’s detailed, clear and defined lines – a realistic portrait of Richie the master, done in an art nouveau* style. Very clever and quite beautiful. At least it was, till I skated it and shined the graphics off.

Liane has also produced other graphics for Death (along with other skate companies, bands etc). Last year when I needed a new deck, I picked up the Patrick Melcher model, which has a fantastic mermaid graphic. I was all set to stick the trucks and wheels on, then shred it – when I decided not to. This amazing creation will go on the wall instead.

I’m not a deck collector – they’re too expensive – and to be frank, in a house already cluttered with vinyl, toys and other collections, I just don’t have room. The only deck I have on the wall is a reissue of the classic Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp face, drawn by Jim Phillips. If I had the space and the cash, I’d have loads of skateboards on my walls. But for now the Melcher mermaid remains something of an anomaly.

Then this year, I bought another Liane Plant graphic – Eddie Belvedere‘s iron maiden model. Again, another intricately detailed work. It’s bold and grim, a very heavy metal deck graphic melding hot chicks and medieval torture. Totally in your face. But like the other graphics, I love it because of the realism that Liane has created in the characters.

I set up the Eddie Belvedere deck with my Indy trucks and Death wheels, and I’ve been skating it for a while. Great deck, lots of pop, now with a messed up graphic. Never mind, that’s what skateboards are for.

I am slightly regretting shining the graphics on this one though. Let’s see what my next deck will be. I’ll need something to skate, but will I be vulgar and unrefined enough to defile another work of art like this??!

You can see more of Liane Plants work here and on Instagram.

The Death Skateboards website is here.

I bought these decks from Native Skate Store, who are pretty bloody good.

Bonus! Here’s a link to a little article from Sidewalk about Eddie Belvedere’s set up (old but gold).

Now go and Google some footage of Death and the above mentioned skaters. Thank you.

*I think it’s art nouveau, not sure if I’m honest. Should probably educate myself.

Halloween Horror Fest on Wheels

Well that’s it, it’s November – and my month of watching spooky movies for Halloween Horror Fest 2020 is at an end. Yet don’t be distraught, dear reader – here are the mini reviews of the movies I’ve watched, but not written up till now. Starting with something truly shocking…

Poltergeist (1982)

Shockingly bad, that is. I remember seeing this film in my teens, it scared the crap out of me. I was looking forward to revisiting Poltergeist, widely regarded as a classic horror film – but it was absolutely terrible.

The story centres on a pleasant, well-off family living in a new Californian housing development. It’s all lovely and cutesy-pie until the youngest child starts communicating with ghosts through the TV screen. Then it’s unbelievable jeopardy time, as the little girl is kidnapped by the spirits and taken away to ghost land.

Poltergeist starts well, with some interesting supernatural phenomena in the first 20 minutes. But it quickly abandons any subtlety in favour of big, dumb Hollywood spectacle: and the sheer ridiculousness of it renders the film not scary at all. In fact, I was bored 45 minutes in. A couple of jumpy moments, but very silly and very disappointing.

Compare Poltergeist to The Exorcist, and the latter film – though employing some shock tactics – is far more believable: it seems more real. The Exorcist is still a damn scary movie, and Poltergeist just isn’t.

All very strange, you may think, knowing that Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper, who made the genuinely terrifying Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately, someone Spielberged all over this film, leaving a twee load of nonsense and small town USA schmaltz. Old Stevie was involved as writer, producer, possibly even director and tea lady – and his influence shows.

You’d be better off watching the old BBC gem Ghost Watch, that’s far better.

4/10

The Howling (1981)

Another early 80’s horror – and although this one is also somewhat dated, The Howling is actually a pretty cool film.

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news reporter, who has a too-close for comfort encounter with a serial killer she’s investigating. To aid her recovery from the trauma, Karen’s therapist Dr Waggner (Patrick Macnee) recommends she recuperates at the The Colony, a remote health resort. Little does Karen realise that the other residents are hiding a secret…

Directed by Joe Dante, The Howling is a very entertaining film. Despite the werewolf transformation scenes now looking a little dated, the overall design and atmosphere are excellent. It also has some humour, a bit of raunch, and plenty of tension to keep everything rolling along quickly.

Released the same year as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is sadly nowhere near as good as the John Landis classic. American Werewolf is still more terrifying by far. But The Howling is a great popcorn horror for a Halloween evening.

8.5/10

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

More lycanthropic fun next, with this uber cult horror movie that does exactly what it says on the blood stained tin. Seriously, do I need to summarise the plot for this one?

Here goes: a gang of rowdy bikers – The Devil’s Advocates, no less – have a run in with a Satanic cult, which results in one of them becoming a werewolf. Much bloody carnage ensues. And that’s it.

Cheap and cheesy, this grindhouse exploitation flick is one of my recently discovered favourites. Like a horror version of Easy Rider, it’s certainly a product of it’s time – don’t watch this if high production values and modern Hollywood set pieces are your thing. Tom Cruise fans, walk away now.

The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant however, and the satanic ritual looks pretty grim. If you can forgive the atrocious wolfman make-up, you’ll find a lot to love here. Werewolves on Wheels is a low quality B-movie genre mash up that’s a work of art for any freaks like me.

9/10

And there you go, horror fans – another batch of movies with bite for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest! I’ll be back next October, so long as this pandemic doesn’t blossom into a full-on zombie apocalypse. See you then!