Not many bands can cross-pollinate genres, especially one that was/is able to appease metal and grunge fans alike, the one who can, is Alice in Chains. During the grunge evolution in the early 90s, they played metal festivals while engulfing the furore of the grunge rock movement or the Seattle sound many called it.
Fast forward to 2018 and Alice in Chains is going strong, just releasing Rainer Fog, celebrating its release by playing The Crocodile, in downtown Seattle. Their past has been horrid, with the loss of former bassist Mike Starr in 2012 and the enigmatic frontman Layne Staley leaving this mortal coil both due to the evils of addiction.
Mike Inez became part of the fold in 1993, William Duval joined in 2006 to assist the band with a different direction. They didn’t replace Layne, you can’t, Layne was a unique frontman. As usual, fans moan, while some waited to see and hear where AIC go. Witnessing AIC with William Duvall at the helm live at Ally Pally, proved to me they continued the trend of blowing their fans out of the water with being one of the best gigs I’ve attended.
Anyway, I digress, as Alice in Chains is a Seattle band, they got me thinking as who now carries the torch of the Seattle Sound. I’ve seen and touched Seattle, eaten the world’s greatest clam chowder at Pike Place Market, I’ve visited the Singles Apartments, the Mother Love Bone monument, the bar Nirvana was thrown out of at their own album launch party and where Eddie Vedder climbed the rafters in the “Even Flow” music video.
The city’s musical past is extraordinary. It’s given the world Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Tad, Melvins, Heart, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Shawn Smith, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Mark Lanegan, Mad Season, you know what, this is an infinite list.
Because their music had such a great influence in my life I wanted to find out which bands and musicians the locals follow, who they love, who are the ones us over the drink need to hear, see and have in our catalogue of CD’s, cassettes, Vinyl or MP3’s
I’ve narrowed it down to a selection of five.
First up is a musician who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live while in Seattle, at a small bar called Chop Suey. Seeing her play live is a moment that will stay with me, she has such an aura, the humility of her ability is inspiring, her voice is powerful, emotive and she plays the guitar like it is part of her heart.
Her name is Star Anna.
From her debut Crooked Path to the albums with the band Laughing Dogs (check out Alone in this Together) to her solo album Go to Hell (2013) The Sky Is Falling (2014) and Light in the Window (2016) shows growth in her talent. Her songwriting style is astonishing, her strength of voice brings out the emotion of the listener, and her guitar sound achieves more than a good therapist.
During my second trip to Seattle, I managed to catch Star Anna accidentally outside the Subpop store at SeaTac airport. I even asked her to play “Mean Kind of Love” she obliged and she kicked arse, or ass depending on where you are. I’m a total fanboy of Star Anna, I think she’s one of the best musicians around and constantly flies under the radar over here. Even the likes of Duff McKagan and Mike McCready have called her the real deal.
During my visit in 2014, a Seattle local told me this band is going to be huge. She told me they’re on the tips of everyone’s tongue and you need to check out, Ayron Jones. Picking up the debut record Dream, the album hit me especially with ‘Baptized in Muddy Walters’ it shows the lead vocalist/guitars riffs are on point. Audio Paint Job is the band’s second album release is produced by Screaming Trees and Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin. Ayron Jones and his boys are surrounding themselves with people able to push them to the next level. Jones has been described as a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Nirvana. Heading in the right direction. Listen to Ayron’s riffs on Audio Paint Job, realise how this will sound in a venue such as the borderline in London, Bannermans in Glasgow and Komedia in Brighton.
While spending some time in Easy Street Records I asked the staff a few questions, WHO should I check out? A few errms and ahhs and then one pointed to Hobosexual 1 and Hobosexual II. If you like your stuff ferocious, these guys are the band for you.
Hobosexual consists of Ben Harwood on guitars and vocals and Jeff Silva on Drums/Spirit Guide. Their ferocious punk grunge comes with loads of hair and a vegan café thrown in the mix. Their combination of guitar riffs and hefty vocals would be cherished by the people on this side of the pond. Since 2010 these two blokes have been raising hell in local areas with their no-nonsense, not taking yourself too seriously hard 70s influences rock. Their tune ‘Not another mother f***ing song about Robots’ from Hobosexual II blew me away and is always on a playlist. Listen to these cats, especially their third record Monolith. Oh, and Easy Street Records is also a café, I found out about this band and did you know Astoria, where the Goonies are from, is a real place. I do recommend eating there too for some proper decent rub a dub.
Listening to a few Seattle bands back in 2014, I came across a two-piece called The Grizzled Mighty, pure rock n roll baby, guitarist and vocalist Ryan Granger bleeds the music they create. The last year 2017 they were coming to London for an evening before heading off to the rest of Europe. I met Ryan and drummer Faustine, both highly jetlagged and waiting to go on stage, being the last band that evening. The moment Faustine hit those skins and Ryan crunched those chords they were alive. They showed us what rock n roll is about with heavy drumming, loud guitars making a recipe of musical love.
The Grizzled Mighty has released a couple of records Crooked Little Finger and Closed Knuckle Jaw, two hard heavy dirty rock albums. Even though they’ve been here for one evening in a small bar in London if they come back here get yourself a ticket and embrace the new wave of Seattle Sound.
Finally, a band literally just coming to my attention with their EP Last Call. Their heavy blues-fueled rock riffs, a vocal talent that’s astonishing. The band are Bear Axe.
Rock riffs by Matt Williams, vocalist Shania Shepherd, on drums ‘Nukkles’ Tuitama and Jon Lemmon is their bassist. The four comprise an eclectic fusion of jazz, heavy rock, soul and pop. Their blues riffs remind me of grunge supergroup Mad Season, the feeling of every chord, while Shania embraces us with her powerful vocals, especially on ‘Brown Liquor’. Bear Axe have been around a short time and already are kicking down and walking through doors with that developing swagger.
Narrowing down to five was hard. Seattle has a plethora of musicians and bands who are kicking backside at the moment. To ease my conscience, I’ll list a few you need to be aware of.
The Black Tones are Eva and Cedric Walker twin sibling, who play a fusion of garage rock punk and have been called a mixture of Kurt Cobain and cornbread. I love these guys and you should too.
Sassy Black, the former member of duo Theesatisfaction. Firstly, check out THEESatisfaction’s record awE naturalE. Sassy Black is called the Goddess of “electronic psychedelic soul” & “hologram funk’
Pickwick – Rock outfit, their 2013 album Can’t Talk Medicine is a great introduction to the band.
Porter Ray – A Hip Hop artists with genuine potential is certainly someone to look out for. His record ‘Watercolour’ is out. He is signed to Subpop which stood out for me due to the label history. You won’t be disappointed with this fella.
Thunderpussy – An all-female rock outfit who I had the pleasure of seeing at The Black Heart in North London.
I better stop now.