Louder Education

Anyone who’s been following lately has seen the immersion in numerous activities since the last post – too much to write about at once – and not the least of which is touring behind a brand new Testament album that has gotten one of the best responses of our careers (thank u!). So for those who’ve been so incredibly supportive of my writing endeavors: please forgive the absence, rest assured that it’s been for many good causes and that it will be more than made up for with the release of my biggest writing project to date (more on that later!).

For now, I’d like to draw your attention to a project that’s making its debut this week. As this is being written with great haste and minimal editing, consider it an informational post, rather than a literary one…

It was about two years ago that I first met with Sound Of Urchin drummer/vocalist Chris ‘Tomato’ Harfenist. My first question of course was: ‘Why do they call you Tomato?’ It turns out Sound Of Urchin (SOU) was one of those bands where one two members have weird names (kind of like U2’s “The Edge” or Aquarium Rescue Unit’s drummer: “Apt. Q258”) One more obvious question came to mind:

What is THOR?

THOR stands for Tomato’s House Of Rock. Tomato, had not only been a major touring musician – SOU has supported acts as diverse as Dio and Tenacious D – but had been Music Director for the NYC Branch of the Paul Green School of Rock, which the Jack Black film School Of Rock is based on). THOR is best described by the THOR Website:

THOR is a Rock Collective, where the THOR members share their ideas with each other and grow on their creative paths together, and our teachers/mentors are professional creative touring/recording musicians who share their experience and help guide the students on their creative paths.

THOR has programs for many genres of rock, including a metal program that had about eighteen kids when I was first made aware of them. One of the many valuable experiences students get at THOR is the chance to perform in clubs all over New York City.

My first time witnessing these THOR kids in concert was at the intimate venue underneath the famed Webster Hall. Different kids were brought on and off stage for each song, all coordinated by Tomato in a fast paced, high energy manner that had to be seen to be believed. I was knocked out by the musical abilities of these kids – some of whom were barely reaching puberty – as they tore through songs by Slayer, Megadeth, Pantera, my own band Testament, Iraqi band Acrassicauda (whose EP I produced) and others.

Meeting them afterwards, I was impressed with everyone’s positive attitude, love of music and humor. Tomato effortlessly went from a not to be messed with authority to a big kid himself. The real kids combine youthful energy with a perspective beyond their years. I was more than happy to do a guest appearance at THOR and felt it would be great to capture it on film.

I immediately thought of a friend, Mike Marco, someone who loved metal, performed in bands himself as a vocalist, and had spent over a decade as one of the few genuine people behind the scenes at MTV that really ‘got it.’ Mike had been behind the MTV 52/52 campaign and, along with his boss, Kevin Mackall, had helped convince MTV to launch specials on Rodrigo Y Gabriela and later, Testament (it was during the filming of the RyG special where we’d first met). As I knew he would, Mike flipped over the idea, dug the kids and and soon began applying creative ideas to the whole project, many of which took place over our regular lunch meetings with Tomato throughout 2011, usually at our favorite Vietnamese Pho house.

We all came up with different names for this project and the one that got the winning vote was one I’d come up with: Louder Education.

Whenever we could, we’d film jam sessions, interviews and performances of the kids from THOR’s metal program. But with schedules (especially mine), things weren’t happening fast enough – it wasn’t long before we realized that many of our ‘kids’ would soon be entering college. We needed to get much more footage, much faster, in a regular format that could be aired while our kids were still kids.

Enter Frank Godla- a metal drummer who not only runs one of the most respected metal websites in the business -Metal Injection- he’s someone well versed in putting together on-line “webisodes” that get from production mode to air quickly. A short time later, one of the biggest music manufacturers in the world, Peavey – who also owns Budda (the amp I play), came on board as a sponsor. With Frank, Metal Injection and Peavey on board, we now had the organization, the gear, the crew and the vehicles to turn this little show into a reality.

Today is the launch day of our project. Our first guest is a guy that is not only a great musician but is absolutely hilarious: Richard Christy – heard daily on the Howard Stern show. He’s also been the drummer for Death, Charred Walls Of The Damned, Iced Earth and more). There will be episodes every Tuesday for the next six weeks with some really great guests (read more at Metal Injection). Don’t forget to tune in.

For now: click below and enjoy!

Peavey presents LOUDER EDUCATION Episode #1 with Richard Christy

16 Responses to Louder Education

  1. Just watched episode #1. It's not everyday that you get to watch extreme metal's cream of the crop jamming it out with kids, added with funny yet true experiences on the road shared by the hosts and guest. Awesome !!

  2. In the fast paced business of life, esp.yours, it speaks loudly when the voice of experience stops to share some ideas and memories and make some new ones, especially on a platform of support done informal and personal (with prevailing humor) a great way to connect..A nice example to show these young talented kids you care enough to take the time and they matter. Look forward to your next big write!

  3. As a fellow educator who has a passion for teaching music I appreciate the stories told to students about the experiences of respected musicians and what had to be done while chasing the dream. Stories of perseverance, trial and error, and the drive to follow chance opportunities can change your life forever. These are valuable reminders revealing that things just don't come easy. It seems that this generation of students is technologically advanced because knowledge, these days, is at their fingertips. They are smarter and driven. The downside to that is that they are not used to the virtue of patience and expect results as immediate as their information is available to them. This endeavor, as well as sharing knowledge as any sort of formal or informal educational experience, is worth the time, effort and integrity put into it which shines through in the video. Nice job!!
    I was impressed with the audio quality – BTW was that folded cardboard on the ceiling as diffusers? I had to do a double take on that one.

    • It's a good point that so many in this upcoming generation, while technologically sophisticated, are very used to things happening quickly and as a result, often ill- prepared for long term goals.

      Bob Lefsetz has a great point about this in a post describing a young college grad who wrote a blog complaining about a failed a job interview because she
      wasn’t given the questions in advance:

      “Huh? Is that the generation
      we’re raising?

      Yes, it is.

      A generation that calls its mommy and daddy twelve times a day, to
      ask how to drive from here to there, how to run the washing machine. And
      instead of imploring their kids to figure it out on their own, these
      parents tear a new tucas to anybody who gets in their way. I can’t
      imagine my parents calling the college administration to complain. But
      that’s what baby boomers do today.”

      http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/i

  4. Loved the first episode and am looking forward to the rest of the series! Those kids really rock and it's evident how much you, Tomato, and Richard Christy love the music and want to share your knowledge and experience. A great program! If only there were a THOR when I was a kid. : )

    • I've said the same thing- it would have been great to have something like that when I was younger. It's a very honest approach to finding yourself as a musician. Of course, things are changing so much business-wise as far as music careers are concerned, there are things we can't teach them. But the processes of developing as a player, making good decisions, avoiding negativity and working as a group are timeless.

  5. The time seems a big problem actually! I saw the charts on itunes by facebook, congrats, it´s always good receive this “feedback” after new album: sensation of work be complete. 🙂

    And very good your “kids” , specially the bassist girl hahahaha , but I also want to see one playing guitar girl too ! If you imagine that it´s a tenue age to learn, absorve all from all, and time to practice, without responsability, i think that´s borning a new generation with nice musicians.

  6. You’ve been a very busy man! Is it any wonder, you haven’t had more than a few moments to yourself, let alone gather some thoughts and quickly share the news about Louder Education. This is an exciting, transforming, and defining time for you! I am so happy for you! Happiness, beyond what words can convey!

    Louder Education (Luv the name!) and Tomato's House Of Rock, T.H.O.R. – What a great opportunity and
    place for kids to creatively express themselves! We need more programs like this for kids. Where they have can a creative outlet, a space to be themselves, discover their potential, and gain access to wonderful mentors. The arts have to comeback into our schools. With budget cuts and systems, what have we done? We’ve managed to cut out the art from the heart of learning in an attempt to save the head–ucation. For a full body of learning, you need both. One cannot survive without the other.

    Alex, please keep sharing your experiences, especially when given the opportunity to mentor. Anyone can voice opinions. However, only one can share an experience. Experiences are far more powerful than opinions. When you impart an experience, to another, it has the ability to resonate within them. Opinions only exist on the surface. What lies within is the truth.

    Through the many projects, personalities, and demands, you continue to stay true to yourself and follow “the compass of your heart.” And that, by example as well as experience, is another lesson you share. 😉

    Looking forward to seeing you in Maine! (Promise, I won’t try to express too many thoughts in too few moments. lol!) BTW – Speaking of music and education, hopefully, we’ll also see you in NYC at the “Edge Rock” Ball for the Rock Asylum!

  7. You’ve been a very busy man! Is it any wonder, you haven’t had more than a few moments to yourself, let alone gather some thoughts and quickly share the news about Louder Education. This is an exciting, transforming, and defining time for you! I am so happy for you! Happiness, beyond what words can convey!

    Louder Education (Luv the name!) and Tomato's House Of Rock, T.H.O.R. – What a great opportunity and
    place for kids to creatively express themselves! We need more programs like this for kids. Where they have can a creative outlet, a space to be themselves, discover their potential, and gain access to wonderful mentors. The arts have to comeback into our schools. With budget cuts and systems, what have we done? We’ve managed to cut out the art from the heart of learning in an attempt to save the head–ucation. For a full body of learning, you need both. One cannot survive without the other.

    Alex, please keep sharing your experiences, especially when given the opportunity to mentor. Anyone can voice opinions. However, only one can share an experience. Experiences are far more powerful than opinions. When you impart an experience, to another, it has the ability to resonate within them. Opinions only exist on the surface. What lies within is the truth.

    Through the many projects, personalities, and demands, you continue to stay true to yourself and follow “the compass of your heart.” And that, by example as well as experience, is another lesson you share. 😉

    Looking forward to seeing you in Maine! (Promise, I won’t try to express too many thoughts in too few moments. lol!) BTW – Speaking of music and education, hopefully, we’ll also see you in NYC at the “Edge Rock” Ball for the Rock Asylum!

  8. I wish we had something like this in Cincinnati when I was growing up and learning, beside my brother teaching me a few metal tunes I was on my own to learn everything. I must say one of my favorite songs I learned during my youth that I still play to this day almost fifteen years later is Musical Death (A Dirge). Much thanks to you and Eric for giving the world such a great song.

  9. What a fantastic post. It gives me hope and great happiness that elders from the metal community are taking the time to educate and nurture the passion for this music in the younger generation. And I hear what you're saying about the talents of some of these young kids. I've been to shows with bands that had members of the ages you've described and was equally floored by the raw skill and prowess some of these young individuals possess.

    You and Tomato keep doing what you're doing. Give the youthful heavy metal community people to look up to and keep their spirit alive.

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