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