I appreciate that I am hella late with this one, but bear with me por favor. Supergroup first aired in the UK last summer on VH-1, that wonderful summer of metal, wherein the channel got with the documentaries, talking heads and video countdowns, all on my favourite of genres. It was great. I also got Guitar Hero for the PS2 last summer, so it was a stellar time of kicking out the virtual jams and listening to the oldies on the Death Deck.
Anyway, GH is a topic for another time: today is where I talk about Supergroup, easily the best of that Metal Month, and my favourite ‘reality’ show of them all. I should probably state at this time that I am writing on it now because I missed the grand finale last summer, and it has been repeated this week on VH-1 Classic. The life I lead, eh?
I will happily admit that I am a big fan of eighties rock, referred to by the intellectually challenged as ‘hair metal’ (think about it for a second: every fucking metal band in the eighties had big hair. Even Slayer and Megadeth). As a result, I like Sebastian Bach a great deal, and I support (theoretically) anything he gets involved in. But before I bang on about him, I will mention that I love that gradual reveal at the start of some reality shows: like on The Ultimate Fighter or America’s Next Top Model, when the contenders get selected. UK Supergroup rip-off, Totally Boyband*, had a great reveal: band members turned up blind to a filmed press conference one by one – our reveal was their reveal, though it was less of a revelation to some: New Kids On The Block alumnus Danny Wood amusingly mentioned, ‘before I came on this show I had no idea who I’d be in a band with. Now we’re all here, I still have no idea’). This show had each band member driven up to their Las Vegas mansion and start jamming on the respective instrument.
This approach had mixed success. It was a success for me, obviously, and everyone involved knew guitarist Ted Nugent. I’d imagine everyone recognised Seb Bach, too. Personally, I would have had a hard time identifying Jason ‘Son of John’ Bonham, as I last saw a picture of him in Metal Edge in 1997 (when I was in Vegas, coincidentally enough) and, while I could spot them a mile off, I’m not sure this trad trio knew who either Biohazard bassist/porn dude/Oz actor Evan Seinfeld or Anthrax axeman Scott ‘Not’ Ian were. Anyway, I loved it.
The idea was to stick this lot in a house for twelve days, in which they would hopefully come up with a name, an original song and be tight enough on covers to play a set on the last day. they were initially such an incompatible mix that this did seem like a hell of a job for even seasoned veterans such as these. Along the way, they had to deal with publicists, stylists and other peripheral parties who would get in the way of rocking out.
Rather than critique the show, I figured I would just write about the little events and scenes that stuck out to me; we’ll see how that goes.
One of my favourite scenes of them all came very late in the series, when Bonham was attempting to learn the drum parts to Biohazard’s ‘Punishment’ anthem. He had expressed no small amount of trepidation at learning a song with so many changes (cut him some slack, his day job is playing with Foreigner), but got down to it and acquitted himself well. He is a really good drummer, after all. I fact, one of the most heartening things about the whole programme was the way each member expressed respect for the others: this peaked when Bonham, practicing the tune on his own with the iPod on, suddenly stood up at the kit and screamed along with the ‘I can’t deny reality / As life gets smothered!’ sequence. Also notable was infamously stubborn Nugent rocking the tune at the season-finale concert, as well as hard metal dudes Seinfeld and Ian singing backing vocals for Skid Row classic ‘Youth Gone Wild’. And Nugent playing ‘Punishment’ at the gig. It was all good really.
In fact, Nugent as a whole was a bit of a revelation. Prior to the show I only knew his music from the musical nod Dimebag Darrell gave ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ on that live Pantera album, and had the ranch living old school rocker pegged as a hunting/rifle right wing survivalist nut. And he pretty much is (well, I wouldn’t go as far as to call him survivalist), but I dunno; I can respect his forceful personality on an individual basis. He is a man who knows his mind and is unafraid of standing up for what he believes in. He had a ton of respect for his less famous Supergroup band-mates, became a surrogate father for Bach, and showed great respect for native Americans and various deities. Sure, he also seemed more than a tad sexist, and I wouldn’t particularly get on with him, but he came across as far more of a well-rounded person than I originally gave him credit for. I actually want to get his first album now, too, as ‘Stranglehold’s guitar parts were pretty engaging.
Scott Ian was pretty damn cool, as I figured he would be. He said one really funny thing, but I sadly cannot remember that right now. Hopefully it’ll come in time. Anyway, he represented something of a new school on the show, which is odd considering anthrax was about in the early eighties, but they were more progressive than any other thrash band. He is from New York, too, which I figured would lend a touch of bonhomie with Evan Seinfeld. In reality, viewers heard more about how Ian looked up to the Nuge when he was a kid, but that general element of modernity was a blessing in the face of so much of an old guard atmosphere.
Seinfeld himself was my second favourite player on the show. I have always had a soft spot for Biohazard (I even prefer them to Sick Of It All, and tunes like ‘Punishment’, ‘Authority’ and ‘A Lot to Learn’ (great video featuring what seems to be Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel, for which the song was actually edited to be longer than the album version) are total bangers), and Seinfeld seems like a cool bloke. In fact, he seems to be something of a renaissance man, as he makes (presumably) way more money working with porn star wife Tera Patrick (SFW) than he ever did in Biohazard. Anyway, he’s got that combination of short chunkiness and slightly funny voice (and I mean before his vocal chord issues, so I’m not going poor taste or anything) that just seem really endearing to me. That and he really looked out for Seb in terms of dealing with band manager (and ex Bon Jovi/Skid Row svengali) Doc McGhee.
What was slightly odd was seeing the members of Anthrax and Biohazard in action. Now, I’m well aware that those bands are hardly Genghis Tron or Converge in terms of modernity, but the song Damnocracy came out with was very old fashioned in sound. I can understand that from Bonham, Nugent or Bach, but Biohazard sounded more modern than ‘Take it Back’ when they started. Even Doc McGhee said it sounded like it was from 1982. Maybe old age (and sex with a porn star) has turned Seinfeld into an old fashioned kind of guy. I have to admit, though, he has an ear for a tune, and the Ozzy-influenced melodies he was humming to Seb were really quite affecting. It’s just a shame Bach didn’t heed the advice to slur down at the end of lines.
I fully appreciate this is a thousand and a half words of rambling, but I don’t care; this was a fantastic show that I would definitely buy if it ever came out on DVD; especially if it came with the full, season-ending, gig as a bonus. I loved pretty much all the main characters involved, there were some moments of real emotional impact (Bach’s drinking as a coping mechanism with his father’s death, and the ‘adoption’ by Nugent of him), the pace never dropped nor did the rock star antics ever get old, and I just love pretty much anything to do with rock music. Proper rock music, that is.
I suppose I should write something of a ‘what are they up to now?’ thing, seeing as this was all filmed in early 2006. Well, Damnocracy (I really do prefer the more amusing Chesty Puller as a moniker) has a MySpace page, though sadly nothing much seems to have happened in the last year or so. Anthrax has reunited with old singer Joey Belladonna, which sucks as his replacement, John Bush, was great (indeed, the Anthrax song covered in the Damnocracy gig was ‘Only’, from the John Bush era). Seb Bach, seeing as he was fired from his own band, which has been touring with some sucker on vocals, has released a solo album produced by Roy Z. I really want to listen to that, actually, as Roy Z is a great invigorator of old rock souls, as can be evinced by his complete creative renaissance of Bruce Dickinson in the late nineties. Seriously, he’s like Rick Rubin, but for real instead of beig a charlatan. I presume Nugent is still shooting stuff and eating steak, while Seinfeld is shooting his wife and… eating… her (I’m sorry, I really am). I guess Bonham is still touring with Foreigner, but I don’t want to know, to be honest.
And I guess that’s that, other than to say, as soon as I get my turntable in, I’m getting the early Nugent and Skid Row albums in. And nobody is going to be able to stop me! I won’t go as far as to grow my hair, though, not again…
* Weirdly, the Viacom Ouroboros is about to air a Totally Boyband offshoot for America, Mission: Man Band. Considering it features someone from Color Me Badd, I think it will be essential viewing. Also, gotta love the ‘related product’ shill being an LFO album on Warp (for those unaware, there was an American ‘LFO’, a.k.a. Lyte Funky Ones).