by William Slyter
Isn’t it funny how memories work?
I was just a fresh-faced 19 years old when I moved to Seattle in the fall of 1992. Art school was the reason, but rocking out was the dream. With five years of drumming already under my belt, I was hungry for metal and felt like I had something to prove.
I was from a small town and had really only played a handful of small gigs with buddies from high school. With Queensryche at its peak of popularity and grunge well on its way to changing the music world forever, Seattle promised plenty of new musicians to meet up with and get some real-world experience at last.
I was at school for drawing and designing, but there was also a music industry school at the same place. There was no shortage of metalheads there! It wasn’t long before I was cramming my brand-new 7-piece Tama Rockstar Deluxe kit into my 1980 Chevy Chevette. I lugged it all down to the legendary NAF Studios to jam with these two guitarists from California that I’d met at school.
So, what do you do in 1992 before meeting up with a couple of musicians you’ve never played with before? Swap some CDs, of course! Ya gotta have something to play that’s ready to go, so you bust out those cover songs to get a feel for the taste and style of the people you’re jamming with.
I didn’t bring anything new to the table for them. My picks were classic metal like Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” and Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” and other songs that they were already familiar with. For me, the thrill was finally drumming to some of my favorite heavy metal tunes with musicians that could shred those songs and enjoy doing it!
Instead, I was the one about to be hit up with a new experience when the guys wanted to play songs from California band Vicious Rumors’ 1991 album, Welcome to the Ball.
Vicious Rumors never really hit big in the US mainstream. A great “power metal” act, they wound up being one of the many victims of the rise of grunge. Or maybe they were a little bit ahead of their time. By 1991 standards, they were maybe too thrashy for the Bon Jovi set but maybe too Bon Jovi for the thrashers.
For me, it was just fun stuff to drum to. We tore through the first three songs from that album like we’d been playing them together for years! It was a great time.
We did jam one more time a few weeks later, but the magic was gone.
The things we had in common took a back seat to the things we disagreed on. There were no big arguments or anything like that. Just sort of, “Huh.” The jams had been fun, but it didn’t need to be said out loud that the fun ended there.
Fast forward many years later…
Sometimes, when you’re writing new music, you get a sense that you’ve heard that riff before somehow. You just can’t place it, though. It feels like you’re banging your head against a brick wall!
Then it finally comes to you.
Of course, it was from that great CD you listened to way back in 1992. Of course, it was the only song from that album that you didn’t get to jam on that you really wanted to play. The other guys hadn’t learned that one, so it just wound up sort of sitting there, all that time, in the back of your head.
And then suddenly, your imagination takes you back to that first awesome time jamming in your brand-new city with brand-new people on brand-new music. You remember the excitement, and how you bonded through thundering drums and snarling guitar amps. No words needed.
You remember that even though the practice room reeked of old pot, stale beer, and fresh cigarettes, you didn’t care. Because, in that moment, it was new. It was all new to you.
All these years later, we can find virtually any music we’ve ever heard in our lives with just a few taps. Nothing brings the memories back like putting that physical CD in a player, though. So, you better believe I rooted through some boxes and have been enjoying Vicious Rumors’ Welcome to the Ball non-stop.
And that elusive song? Not everything on that disc has aged well, but “Mastermind” is still just as good today as it was in 1992.
So dig through those old boxes. Find those old jewel cases and the treasures they hold. Pop in that CD and turn it up LOUD, and find out which songs take you back to when it was all still new.