Chester Bennington: The Voice of a Generation

Chester Bennington: The voice of a generation, and a heart of gold. I never thought I would be sitting at my computer trying to type through tears, as I pay my respects to a man who changed my life and inspired me to become passionate about the very gift in the world that truly saved me. That gift just happens to be music. Music is what I breathe into my lungs as I do the air around me. It is the reason why I write and live for Electric Perception, and put my hard-earned money into the community that continues to lift me up out of the dark. The community of people that I have met through my passion for music became my greatest advocate, and it continues to give me the push to become a better person, every moment of my life. Linkin Park is the band that started it all, for me. Sitting here at my computer and reflecting on my own experiences, with the musicians that truly inspire what I live for every day, has never been so devastating.

Linkin Park is the band that, for all intents and purposes, helped raise me. Linkin Park is the band that got me hooked on hard rock and metal music. They are the band that still inspires me to connect with myself and love myself as I am. Linkin Park is the first band I watched live; the reason my first major concert experience pushed me to start going to more concerts. I have travelled a good distance, a few times, to see shows I wanted to see because of the adrenaline rush I had from Linkin Park’s set. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people because of the connections I have been lucky enough to make with members of Linkin Park’s fan base. I found the desire within myself to make connections with other music fans I have met at other shows because of the influence Linkin Park has had on my love for music. I have had the chance to bond with other musicians that I admire, as well as a couple of local radio personalities. I am lucky enough to have gotten to share stories with them about the opportunities I had to interact with Chester and how those interactions changed my life.

The first time I met Chester, it was at a Linkin Park Underground Summit in Darien Center, New York. Toward the end of the Summit, I was standing in line for the meet and greet with Linkin Park. I will never forget the moment that it was my turn to meet Chester. I nearly broke down in tears as I worked up the courage to open myself up to him. A few short months before that day, I had been raped at a house party. I had put an emotional bubble around me, as I was still trying to figure out how to even begin to move on from the hurt and guilt that I felt like I was drowning in. Knowing that he had been molested in his youth, I figured this was the moment of clarity and assurance that I needed to get myself back into a state of mind that I could, at least, live with.

Opening up to Chester ended up being the greatest life-changing experience, for me. I never imagined I would ever have it. We spent a good ten minutes talking to each other. The moment I spoke to him about my situation, he put his arms around me and told me that I would be okay. He knew that I was just really starting to come to terms with what I had been through and, during our conversation, he told me he cared about me and that I would learn to fight through my struggle. The sincerity in his voice made me realize, that much more, that I would overcome my guilt and anger. It felt like my heart had connected with Chester’s, that day.

I had the chance to see Chester play with Linkin Park at Rock On The Range in May of 2015, Stone Temple Pilots in September of 2015, Linkin Park again for Music For Relief’s ten year anniversary benefit show the following November, and Kings of Chaos super group featuring some other big names in music in December of 2016. At both the Stone Temple Pilots and Music For Relief shows, he came down to where I was standing in the front of the crowd and sang with me. As we had the chance to duet into his microphone at the Stone Temple Pilots show, I will never forget the way he said to me, “You go, girl!” The fact that he liked my singing voice completely made my night!

The night of the Music For Relief benefit show, I got to catch up with Chester for a brief chat after he got finished chatting with a journalist. We talked about how we were both excited for the show. Towards the end of the show, he came down to me and stuck the microphone up to me so I could sing. We finished up the song “In the End” together after I got to “take the lead”, if you will. After the show, he sat at the edge of the stage to talk with fans. That is when I got the chance to convince him to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I was floored that I got to have such a special moment with Chester. It honestly gave me chills to have my favorite vocalist sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

When I flew out to Las Vegas, Nevada to see him with Kings of Chaos, he was joined by Corey Taylor, Robert Deleo, Matt Sorum, Billy Duffy, Steve Stevens, Billy Gibbons, and Frankie Perez. Part way through the Kings of Chaos show, Corey Taylor started singing “Happy Birthday” to me and was joined by Chester. I felt like the luckiest person on Earth, at that moment. After the show, as soon as Chester came out, I was the first person to get a hug from him. We got to chat and cut up a bit. I got in as many hugs as I could from him because he was such a cuddle bug. His hugs just felt like home. I am forever grateful that the last time I got to see him alive was a wonderful moment for me to look back on.

If there was ever a human being that had a kind of magical power to heal your mental anguish on contact, that person would be Chester Bennington. His voice created a safe place for your mind, and his arms wrapped around you truly felt like home. He has inspired so many people to overcome their own emotional demons, and I am one of those people. The few times that I have met and spoken to Chester, he just knew how to warm me up with his kindness. He knew my face and my story, and he knew me in a way that was so different than how others knew me. The times we looked each other in the eyes, I just knew that he saw me for who I was. He just had a way of understanding you, the moment he laid his eyes on you. His soul spoke to mine, and it is extremely difficult to describe that connection with the appropriate words.

He inspired me to change the way I look at life and the struggles that I have been through, and what he contributed to Linkin Park inspired my will to keep on learning, growing, and developing myself to take on the world one moment at a time. I am still deeply heartbroken by his passing away. The day he died, it felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest and every ounce of joy that he gave me had been ripped away from me. I have been dealing with a copious amount of emotions since he passed away, but I am learning how to lean on those who are still here to keep me from losing sight of what is important to me. I am learning how to handle my grief and live my life to the fullest without being able to look forward to seeing Chester’s beaming personality and warm smile.

I have been listening to Nothing More’s “I’ll Be Okay” as a reminder that there is more to this life than what has been lost and I have so many reasons to be grateful that I am here to pass on what is important to me onto those who need a friend and reason to exist. I want to stress that no matter how much chaos, destruction, loss, and death wreak havoc on this Earth before us all, each and every person that still walks this planet and breathes the air around them is needed and loved. No one is ever truly alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. Chester will be sorely missed because he also was needed and loved.

To Chester,

I will always be grateful for the time I got to share with you. Your warmth and hospitality was always far above and beyond anything I had ever imagined. You knew so much about my inner strength and motivation to live and breathe for something greater, well before I did. I keep you and the memories we shared in my heart. Your words, generosity, humor, and music have been my greatest source of inspiration on what I do in this life. I still feel your spirit inside of me. I intend to continue to spread your love, kindness, and humanity to those whom I have met and have yet to meet. Thank you for being the voice of my generation, and the reason my generation is inspired to go out and change the world around them. I will do whatever I can to make sure that your legacy lives on in the hearts of those who are still here to be a part of the change in the world all of us need to see and feel. You are forever missed, and your influence on music and the people who loved you will always be appreciated and remembered. It hurts to know that you are no longer with us, but we will keep you in our memories and leave out all the rest. Rest in Peace, Chester.

An Experience to Witness for Yourselves

     There has never been a band with the unique kind of energy that Nothing More has during a stage performance. Every time they put on a show, the fans always give that energy right back to the band. Fans can be audibly singing every word of every song during the whole performance. It’s a wonder how the band can even hear themselves! It is an experience that no one should miss out on!

     The band has been giving 110 percent to each and every performance since 2003. From Jonny Hawkins transforming from a drummer into the vocalist all Nothing More fans know and love, to acquiring the former drummer from Letters From the Fire, and constantly working to perfect their sound and stage shows, Nothing More had always been destined to hold their own in the music industry. After just over ten years of working to make a name for themselves, they finally hit the big time in 2014 and have not stopped working to keep the momentum going since then.

     Never failing to produce anything short of an adrenaline rush, these guys keep everybody on their toes at all times. Nothing More produces a feeling of intensive energy that could power the whole planet. Hawkins takes power vocals to a whole new level. His voice leaves you with a completely new perspective on the feeling of Euphoria. Whether he is belting with the prowess of a lion or screaming like an incubus, he has the fans completely hooked from the first note. Every ounce of emotion that he pours into the words and radiates from his soul can be felt from the back of the venue. The deep connection that Nothing More’s music makes with the audience is so powerful that even highly established musicians have a hard time drawing such a massively dedicated fan base the way Nothing More does.

     Their uniquely created instrumental pieces, which include The Bassinator and The Scorpion Tail, add a very special and unique element to their stage shows. The Bassinator typically is played by lead singer Jonny Hawkins, lead guitarist Mark Vollelunga, and bass guitarist Daniel Oliver, while drummer Ben Anderson remains behind his drum kit. Watching them pluck away at The Bassinator is one of the most insane and badass moments to experience. In conjunction with The Bassinator, Hawkins, Vollelunga, and Oliver hop off of The Bassinator to play in unison with Anderson for an amazing drummer’s showcase!

     The Scorpion Tail has been used in more recent shows by Hawkins as part of a cover of “First of the Year” by Skrillex, and is accompanied by its own cordless microphone. Not to give too much away to those of you who have never seen these guys live, but you do not have to be a Skrillex fan to fall in love with their rendition of the tune. Oliver has a major background in welding, which was very crucial in the development of The Bassinator and The Scorpion Tail. Unique instrumental work aside, Nothing More never disappoints with their ability to leave you craving another truly unforgettable concert experience.

     Not only do these guys have one of the best stage shows of all time, they are some of the nicest people on the planet! The fact that they are willing to make extra effort and time for their fans, where it is not generally expected, is one of the greatest aspects of who they are as people and not just as a band. They make their fans feel like a part of their family. They greet fans like an old friend, even if it is their first Nothing More concert experience. Their stage shows and their love for their fans is a beautiful gift to this world, and not something to be taken for granted. Nothing More is a band that so many will always look forward to seeing again and again! These guys are a huge part of the reason why rock and metal will always live on.

         On June 23rd, the first single off of their upcoming release The Stories We Tell Ourselves called “Go to War” will be released. They have included a few songs from the upcoming record in more recent shows. The general public will be able to pick up the full album in September.

Zoo Trippin's 'After Comfest Bash' Brings New Album

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       Have you ever had a conversation with someone you just met, but it was so nice it felt like you've known that person forever? That's exactly how my recent conversation with the fun and hilarious guys of Zoo Trippin' could be described. The band is comprised of Tony Casa (vocals), Lynn Roose III (lead guitar), Stephen Hatmaker (drums), Austin Smith (bass) and newer member Zachary Pontzer (guitar). Their high energy sound is a catchy mix of funk, rock, and blues, though it seems to always be evolving. I sat down with the guys to discuss their new album and the release party at Park Street Saloon on June 24th to accompany it.

    Lyrically, the concept for Purple is the simple premise of opposing sides, red and blue, coming together in unity to form something beautiful. Tony explains how he was starting to pay attention to important issues during the writing of the album, like the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline for example, and recognizing his own "cis-gendered, white male privilege," as he describes it. "I wanted to find a blend of who I was and who I wanted to be."

    Musically, the album is based off the idea of chromeo-synesthesia, which is the ability to hear a sound and visualize a color. In researching this phenomenon, Lynn tried to find something of a universal color wheel to play off of, but with no success. He did however find out about the controversial and over the top Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, who had an organ he invented that when played would display colors on a screen. Mr. Scriabin is also the creator of what's known as the Prometheus Chord. Played in augmented fourth intervals, the chord sounds completely horrendous (like some would describe the movie). This just happens to be the first thing you will hear on the new album. It's the start of the transition to something wonderful. It also represents purple of Lynn's personal color wheel.

    Purple's stellar production is credited to Joey Gurwin, owner and lead engineer for Oranjudio Recording in Columbus, Ohio. He also happened to lay down a little percussion on the album. "His fingerprints are all over the album" exclaims Lynn. Steve describes Joey as "a great mind that helped make some of the songs more epic" with his insight and passion for music. "It was a collective effort working with him" according to Steve and they consider him an active member of the band.

    The rest of my chat with the guys was a bit more casual. We discussed what we consider to be "the sound of Columbus," which include local greats like Cadaver Dogs and Damn the Witch Siren. They told me their dream venue to play is either Red Rock or somewhere in outer space. "Some kind of weird oxygen less place where we are what people hear right before they pass out."

    Be sure to bring your dancing shoes, drink lots of water for when you’re sweating it out, and expect the unexpected at the album release party, which is at Park Street Saloon on June 24th. SPOILER ALERT: They will be covering a Gogo Bordello tune!

Rocking On A Different Range

By Bryan Stoker

Deja vu may or may not be a real thing, but last night when The Blasters walked on stage at the Rumba Cafe and played the first notes to Long White Cadillac, I wasn’t sure if I was 33 and at the Rumba or if I was 5 and at the Ohio State Fair. Back then, I was seeing Dwight Yoakam at my very first concert and he opened his show playing the same song. After a few minutes trying to figure out how many other people have seen two separate bands open a show with the exact same song, I was able to gather myself and take in one of the better shows I have seen.

I am too young to have seen the Ramones in their heyday but the stories of 1, 2, 3 GO! have lived forever, and that method is employed by The Blasters. The only “between song banter” was a simple “thank you” by lead singer and guitarist Phil Alvin. I guess they figure the people there last night paid to hear their songs, not listen to them tell stories and jokes.

The Blasters powered through 90 minutes in the blink of an eye. They played the big songs, some of the unknown ones, and even a couple covers. Some of the best songs of the night were the aforementioned Long White Cadillac, Border Radio, So Long Baby Goodbye, I’m Shakin’, and Marie, Marie. For this music critic the song Dark Night was the highlight. Here the band really showcased the fret work of Cleveland Ohio’s own Keith Wyatt. If I had to bottle up the cowpunk sound The Blasters made famous in the mid to late 80’s, his guitar work here would be what I would use. It was rhythmic like all good punk rock should be, but had the complexity that all great rockabilly guitar is famous for. Phil Alvin’s vocals sounded as good as ever for a guy that has been singing for as long as he has. John Bazz and Bill Bateman held down one of the tightest rhythm sections I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The music isn’t self indulgent or flashy, but it is honest, melodic, rhythmic, and down right fun.

Just down the road, Rock on the Range was happening, and some of the people I have the pleasure of working with at this magazine were Rocking on that Range. Many of the same things were happening at both places. People were drinking, socializing, maybe partaking in an activity or two that isn’t as legal in Ohio as it is in other parts of the country. There was one major difference in the music though, The Blasters seem to understand what the youth of today has forgotten. Rock-n-roll is fun, it's music you can enjoy, music you can dance to, life isn’t that serious. For this writer, it’s tough to have a lot of fun when the music seems so angry.

After all you young guys and gals get done listening to the high powered rock of the modern era, after you have rocked all you can on that range, do yourself a favor and find some Blasters songs to listen to. I promise you won’t regret it. The Blasters can be defined as a two-word phrase, American Music, just like their song says.

Lead singer Phil Alvin and bassist John Bazz of The Blasters 

Lead singer Phil Alvin and bassist John Bazz of The Blasters 

Lead guitarist Keith Wyatt and drummer Bill Bateman of The Blasters

Lead guitarist Keith Wyatt and drummer Bill Bateman of The Blasters

What Chris Cornell Means to Us

     A solemn cloud fell over the rock scene in Columbus, Ohio, and around the world, as news reports of Chris Cornell’s death surfaced less than forty-eight hours before his band was set to headline the first night of Rock on the Range. As he burst on the scene with Temple of the Dog, defined an era in Soundgarden, and brought the noise and the funk with Audioslave; Cornell, and his high-powered, soulful voice, boast a resume with the potential to reach The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in multiple projects.

     Regardless of his endeavours, it is difficult to find a rock-and-roller who has not been influenced, in some way, by the music of Chris Cornell. “I think of what an inspiration he has been on me, [and] that what he meant to me was ‘passion’”, says Tom Cline, the front-man for Noise Auction and The Tom Cline Project. “A desire and fire for his voice and words to be heard. He definitely cried louder than ‘some million dollar baby’. He was the voice of rock & roll for my generation”.  Cline is certainly not alone in his opinion. “Chris was one of the few that is directly responsible for the foundation of a genre”, said Dread Engine drummer, Jay Coughlin “I liked his music, and I liked his outlook on sharing talents in the industry. People like him are one of the reasons I became a musician.”

     As some millennials begin to reach into their thirties, and gen-Xers push toward fifty, Cornell’s career is one we could follow since our childhood. While many millennials spent, what felt like, most of 2016 mourning the passing of stars like David Bowie, most of them were accomplished, elder-statesman, by the time the average millennial discovered music.  Chris Cornell, however, came into prominence just as many millennials were developing their own identity.  “He reminds me of my childhood, and listening to Soundgarden on a lake while fishing with my dad”, says Steve Hatmaker of Zoo Trippin’, and Throwing Rocks at Girls.  As Cornell’s career grew and developed, millions of fans grew up alongside him. His death, along with the 2015 death of Scott Weiland, come at a time when young adults can, just now, look back and see where they have been in their lives. Cornell is also not the first grunge era vocalist to leave this earth before his golden years.  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain put a gun to his mouth in 1994. Layne Staley of Alice in Chains was found dead in his apartment in 2002. Scott Weiland overdosed on multiple drugs in 2015. Cornell hung himself last week. Of the singers from grunge-rock’s big-five, only Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder remains.

    The death of a rock-and-roller hits differently than the death of any other celebrity. When an actor passes, we, the general public, remember the character(s) before we remember the person. When a musician dies, we remember his or her work. Each artist pours their heart and soul into every note, and every lyric.  It is a way for them to talk about the things that excite us, unite us, scare us, and divide us.  “Chris’s lyrics were almost always deeper than a line-in for a song”, said Ben Canton of Personal Public, “the dude strove to make messages and tell stories, and when the subject matter was dark or painful, he only got more powerful.”

     Darkness and pain are not uncommon topics in rock-and-roll. It is part of what makes the art so appealing. It reminds us we are not alone. “Soundgarden’s last album, ‘King Animal’, got me through some rough times”, says Aaron Pauley of The Redvines. “Weird memories of watching my son at swimming lessons, and then, four months later, working-out to it to get through my divorce”. The day of his passing, Rock on the Range organizer, Gary Spivak, spoke on 99.7 The Blitz, saying “to sing the blues, you have to feel the blues, and it’s obvious from his writing that [Chris] felt the blues”.  Many artists use songwriting as a coping mechanism to deal with the troubles and tragedies of life.

     Sam Stockdale of Dread Engine explained, in an interview, that those who gravitate to heavy metal have anger somewhere, and alluded the anger and darkness in their lives is the fuel for the engine that is their music, and if that fuel was ignited in a different environment, it can be very dangerous, and deadly. You will not find a Chris Cornell album that does not have any “dark stuff” in it. Applying that analogy, you may wonder, what would have happened to Chris Cornell if he did not have music in his life?  Furthermore, the circumstances surrounding Cornell’s death raise questions about how he dealt with that darkness. Stockdale offered an uncomfortable, and pervasive, sentiment. “Suicide is a very real, and scary, thing.  Unfortunately, we’ll never truly know why he did what he did, but I’m disappointed in him. Once you become a star, an icon, you have a responsibility to your followers whether you believe it or not. Chris just set a terrible example for his fans. He basically just told millions of people that it’s okay to give into the stresses of life. I don’t care how talented someone is.  This was an act of cowardice, in my opinion”, he concluded.  Ultimately, time will be the judge of how Cornell’s decision to take his own life will affect his legacy.

     As we await the toxicology reports, Chris’s wife, Vicky, indicated that her husband may have taken extra dosages of a Ativan. Ativan, like Xanax and Valium, is an addictive depressant-medication that is used to treat anxiety, seizures, withdrawal symptoms, and assist with sedation. It is not recommended for people a history of addiction, or depression. Given Cornell’s history of depression and prescription-drug abuse, there are likely to be questions regarding how this drug came into Cornell’s possession.

    Rock-and-roll, at its core, stretches far beyond a genre of music. It is a way of life.  We can cover it up in suits and ties, but where words fail, music speaks, and Chris Cornell knew how to speak to all of us.  For me, it was Audioslave’s eponymous album. For Pauley, it was his first solo work, “Euphoria Mourning”.  For others, it was Temple of the Dog. We all have pain. It is a part of life we cannot escape. Yet, for all the different levels of pain we face, it seems there is a Chris Cornell song to go along with it. For that, we say thank you. Thank you for washing away the rain. Thank you for being the highway. Thank you for taking our burdens in your hand. Thank you for going hungry. Thank you for breaking our rusty cage, and, finally, say hello to heaven for us.