Thursday, July 9, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
By Dave Paco
I came across a website one night while surfing around on the Internet that boasted Iraq’s only heavy metal band! I wanted to know more about the band and their background so I got a hold of them we did this little interview via email.
You call yourselves Iraq’s only heavy metal band. Is that a true statement and, if so, why? Is there much guitar rock in general happening in Iraq?
Yes, we are for now. There are a lot of guitar players but they have not got the chance to make a band because of the what the war left in Iraq.
What is your musical background and influence? What got you into metal?
We got into metal because we want to tell the world that there are people in Iraq and we still have a life and not all of us have the wrong idea about the world. Our background and influence is life and what we see every day and for sure the bands we like... All the band members have their own best, but I will say Slayer, Death, Slipknot, Metallica, Megadeth, etc.
What kind of venues do you usually play? Do you play outside Iraq?
No, we haven’t played outside of Iraq yet and the shows we make in Iraq are on our own. No one helps us do it and we do it because it’s the only way to express our anger.
Does Iraq have a strong local music scene or is most popular music foreign?
Iraq has that strong local music and that’s what really makes it harder for the rock scene.
Can you give me a description of your lyrics or tell me what some of your songs are about?
Our songs are all about the daily life in Iraq and all what we suffer from the war.
Many Americans are disgusted by the war in Iraq and don’t trust our president’s intentions. Do you feel Iraq is on the way to democracy and freedom or do you think America will retain some control of the government to protect its oil interests there?
In some ways Iraq is better now, but before we were afraid of one guy and now we are afraid of everyone. Before if you say any thing bad about Sadaam you will be dead, but now say anything bad about anybody, you will be dead...and it’s kind of funny.
Are you religious as a band or as individuals?
We are not extremely religious as individuals and one of the members is Christian. Also as a band the music we play deals nothing with the religion.
Do you feel that the current tensions between world religions could result in another world war?
No, not really.
Do you ever encounter discrimination because of the type of music you play?
People think what we do is devil worship but we don’t think that the people understand what it is really.
The World Wide Web has made many changes in communication and media. For instance, that’s how I became familiar with your band. Do you think these changes will greatly affect the music industry? How do you feel about people downloading music illegally?
For sure [the Internet changes the music industry], and people download music illegally. I am one of them because as you know not everybody in the world can buy a $25 CD just for listening. No, they shouldn’t [download illegally] but in cases like we have here in Iraq we don’t have a credit card or any way to pay off the internet so I guess the people who own these music stores or web sites, they SHOULD come and open music stores here in Iraq so we can pay them!
Do you trust the media in Iraq? Is there much connection between the local media and powerful companies or politicians?
No, I don’t think so but we don’t trust them because there may be some connection between the local media and terrorists.
Heavy music has long been controversial because of the sound and content. Do you consider heavy music as a positive or negative force in the world today? What has it done for you?
We consider heavy music as a positive force in the world. And it does give us that kind of space to express our mind.
Is Acrassicauda a full time project or do the band members also have day jobs? If so what do you each do for work?
It’s not a full time project because we have to work to support our families. We have every day a different job. I do work in a computer store and some of us don’t even have a job except playing music.
Is there anything you'd like to tell the readers?
We love rock and we think that it is that music that can change the world in many ways, so keep rock and be safe.
The band members:
1. Firas . bass player
2. Fisel . vocal
3. Tony . lead guitar
4. Ahmead . lead guitar & rhythm
5. Marwan . drum player
Our we site is: www.acrassicauda.s5.com
and the band email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Space: www.myspace.com/wwwacrassicaudas5com
(Originally published in the summer of 2006)
By Brian Polk
Inspiring as much hatred, silence, and outright confusion as he does uncontrollable laughter, Ben Kronberg is rapidly emerging as one of Denver’s most promising stand-up comedians. With subject matter ranging from fast food and bodily discharges to angel abortions and testicular massiveness, the comic won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest as well as several other competitions not really worth mentioning. The love and dedication he invests in his craft is second only to the affection he feels towards his own penis, which is huge. Just don’t ask him what the phrase, “Through the trunk,” means … trust us on this one.
Recently, Kronberg agreed to an interview with The Yellow Rake, but refused to make eye contact or acknowledge our writers’ existence in public. Therefore the interview was conducted by his agent via the “Interweb.” We hope you enjoy it.
What type of psychological make-up must an individual possess to become a stand-up comedian? How did you get into comedy?
You have to be very repetitious and be able to constantly come to terms with the realities of comedy over and over again. The realities are: Every time is different, every crowd is different, you are different—even if you are saying the same thing you said last time. I think if you don't recognize the change in yourself then you might become a stale version of yourself. I got into comedy through music and music open mics. My mom bought me a guitar my last semester of college and I started making up songs. At that time, the songs were about terrorism and war and I parleyed my political songs into songs about poop, pee, semen, and McDonald's.
A comedian and a musician? If you were a candidate in an election year, you would be branded a “flip-flopper.” What gives?
I never set out to do comedy, but the natural flow of my creative juices happened that way. I still play "serious" songs, mostly by myself—to be serious by yourself is okay, but to try to be funny by yourself is sad. You need to be interacting with people to justify funny thoughts. You talk, they listen. You write, they read. You make, they watch. Joking with yourself is like masturbating in front of the mirror: Sometimes it's hot. Plus it's nice to see how you would look while having sex. Whenever I jerk off in front of the mirror, I pretend like I'm having doggystyle sex cause I'm standing up and that makes the most sense.
Do you think there’s a part of the brain that makes you want to become a comedian?
I think funny things might happen in the brain, but I think people who are really funny have it in their soul, just like people who like to kill—it's in their soul. The most extreme parts of any human are in the soul. So yes I would still be funny, ‘cause I'd be drooling and pissing and shitting myself. Retarded people are really good at slapstick.
Ever since you won the Comedy Works New Talent Contest, you’ve been doing unhealthy amounts of blow, jumping from one groupie to the next, and walking around like you own this motherfucker. Even though it must be nice to be a Mile High Comedic Celebrity, the chaos that has become your life can’t possibly make you happy. Could you please expound on your inner-emptiness?
You always want more: pussy, blow, peanut butter—there is never enough. The more you have, the more you want. I think not being satisfied is one of the keys to success. The emptiness that I feel lets me know that there is room for more stuff. I Love to eat, and when I indulge and eat a lot and feel really full, that's when I feel the most empty.
You also won the Denver’s Meanest Person Contest, which strikes me as odd, considering other Denver comics who are much bigger assholes than you (ahem, Greg Baumhauer, ahem). Are you a closet dick that only shines when the occasion calls for it, or what?
I have a dick side to me, and unfortunately it has nothing to do with my dick. I keep my hate for other people secret and repressed. Those other cocksuckers like to rag on people most of the time, which clears them out. So when my dick comes out, it can really shoot a big wad of angry semen.
Are your obsessions with McDonalds and poop directly related? Or are they separate entities each suitable for their own respective discussions?
I like things that are salty, and those two things are the saltiest things I know of. I would gladly humor any discussion about either of those topics separately or together. What I would really prefer to do is eat McDonalds with someone and then go poop next to them in a McDonalds, (If you know anything about McDonalds you know they only ever have one place to poop, no paper towels, and a scratched up mirror so the tandem poop wouldn't be possible. I’m a dreamer’s dreamer). And then we would talk about McDonalds.
I saw you almost get your ass kicked by a member of the crowd who happened to be a Mexican Veteran (perhaps you could expound on this). Obviously some of your comedy is offensive. Is it in a comic’s best interest to remain conscious of the line between edgy and distasteful? Or do you just go with what’s funny regardless?
Funny is usually the focus. Edgy and distasteful are ideas that get projected on the things we do/say. I've done most all of my material in front of my mom, and if she can take it but a Mexi-Vet can't, there is definitely something wrong with him. I think and believe that it is more important to do your comedy in front of people who aren't going to like it. It helps you grow and it helps them grow. I want the ideas behind my jokes to be bigger than the laughs they get. So even if no one laughs, they can't say that was a stupid idea.
Does rocking the Casio keyboard during your set make you Avant-garde or just badass?
I'll take the Avant-Garde over the badass. But if they are both up for grabs I think that would benefit me the most. A lot of comics will dismiss the use of an instrument as a prop, but then those same comics will say, "I have this idea for a song; I think it would be funny." And I'm like, "Yeah, totally," ‘cause I'm a nice guy.
(Originally published April 2006)
By Brian Polk
It’s 12:45am, Wednesday morning. A vast majority of Denver’s citizens slumber through the darkness in the comfort of familiar beds, blissfully unaware of the city’s burgeoning energy that refuses to subside. As the night thrives, so does its minions: strippers expanding g-strings to make room for dollar bills, cabbies waiting for their next fares, clubbers dancing to get laid, and of course, Chuck Roy verbally abusing every last patron from the stage of the Squire Bar.
For Chuck the night isn’t so much about comedy as it is hanging out with friends and socializing with his comedy peers. After spending the weekend at Comedy Works, opening for nation touring headliners, or closing the show himself, he needs time to relax. Unlike the open-mic comics, Tuesday Night at the Squire means nothing to him—it’s a peripheral grain of sand in an hourglass of comedy. He doesn’t come to this bar to improve his act; he comes to unleash his fury on unsuspecting alcoholics who wanted nothing more than to get a drink.
Although Roy’s open mic set would make any champion of political correctness cringe, the comic has a brighter side. A veteran of comedy, he spent the better part of his twenties chasing his dreams in Los Angeles, which resulted in an impressive resume: routine performances at Hollywood’s world famous Improv, several national tours, a two and a half year stint as the warm-up comedian on Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and guest appearances on the hit sitcoms Will & Grace and 3rd Rock From The Sun.
After several years in the industry, however, an embittered Chuck left Hollywood for greener pastures. Settling in Colorado, the comic eventually found a home as a featured performer at Denver’s Comedy Works and host of Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as well as writer, producer, and emcee of his own comedy shows, Stand-Up Comedy Battles, and Yell Fest.
The Chuck Roy with a list of accomplishes a mile long in comedy, who habitually insults customers at the Squire Lounge, is a drastic departure from the Republican businessman of his earlier days. Working as an intern for Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign, Roy began his political career as an eager, wide-eyed East Coast conservative. Though, after he helped successfully deliver the New Hampshire primary to Buchanan, Chuck’s desire to contribute to a blatantly homophobic campaign at the time when he was coming to terms with his own homosexuality diminished.
“That’s one of the reasons I got into stand-up comedy,” says Roy, who used the craft to purposefully distance himself from his Republican past. He never again became involved with politics.
Roy spent the next few years perfecting his new act in New England comedy clubs before following his dreams to Los Angeles. The move proved to be premature for the fresh comedian, who, “Went out as a kid and couldn’t stand it, so I turned around, went back to New Hampshire, worked on my act, worked in the Boston comedy scene.”
Not long after relocating back east, however, friends of Chuck convinced him to return to California, a move that would ultimately prove successful for the comedian. His accomplishments didn’t come overnight, however. In his first few months in Los Angeles, he routinely found himself in the audience rather than the stage.
“I came back just two weeks after [Will & Grace] started shooting their first season,” he says. “I would go up and watch rehearsals. I would go up and watch tapings and just sit in the audience. That’s where I learned how to do warm up by watching their warm up comedian.”
He didn’t last as merely a spectator for long. After playing a small role in a PlayStation commercial, Roy was recognized as a legitimate actor for hire and gained the attention of Will & Grace writers.
“Eventually Michael Patrick King, who was a writer on the show, had just heard enough about me and for some reason just wrote this part of popcorn vendor for me,” Chuck explains. “The script calls for three facial reactions and one line. And I told them I didn’t think the line was funny on the first day. And they told my friend, ‘If Chuck were to ever say that to another executive producer he’d be fired.’ And I told my friend, ‘Well if you going to hire a comedian, you might want to find out if the comedian thinks it’s funny.’”
Despite his defiance, “They stuck with me. I added a line and we shot. And the next week I was sitting back up in the stands, watching them tape. I never was one trying to push being down on the floor. Eventually I would make it down on the floor.”
Once he appeared on the sitcom, work came easy to the comedian. Managing the nearly impossible task of landing a television appearance without any representation, he acquired the Gersh Agency as his management company immediately. Almost overnight, he was meeting with casting directors and traveling from one audition to the next.
“It’s a process of where you get used to hearing ‘no,’” Roy admits of the seemingly endless auditions.
But he persevered and landed another guest spot on the show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, where he played the dull-witted son of Kathy Bates. And even though he was a virtually unknown actor featured in a guest spot on a hit television show—a blessing for any comedian—Chuck still took it upon himself to show up to rehearsal late and hung over. He eventually walked into a room with a conference table surrounded by increasingly impatient actors.
“Everybody’s gushing over Kathy Bates,” describes Roy. “Everyone was a little bit like, ‘When are we going to start?’ And when I come in, Kathy Bates yells out, ‘This must be my son.’ The trigger word for my character was, ‘Mama’ — this little retarded guy going, ‘Mama,’ all the time. So I went like, ‘Mama,’ and I gave her a big old hug and people laughed. We sat down. I’m next to Kathy Bates with Newman [Wayne Knight] on my right. Lithgow is on the other corner. Across the table is Jane Curtain.”
With acting experience under his belt, Chuck focused on his stand-up, performing regularly at Hollywood’s world famous Improv. Ultimately the comic would reach the crowning achievement of his career in Los Angeles as the warm-up act for the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a job that led to his disillusionment and eventual departure from the west coast scene.
“Every one of my friends, especially in the business, especially comedians from back east had been calling me for months telling me, ‘Get the hell out of LA, you sound miserable. You sound horrible.’”
With a destination in mind, Roy planned to leave California in the fall of 2001.
“I flew home [from Denver to LA] on September 9th, 2001,” remembers Chuck. “On September 10th, I went to Kilborn, told the makeup artist, who’s my friend and Craig’s advisor, and told her I’m quitting. And I was going to tell him today. And she said, ‘Wait ‘till Friday. Craig doesn’t like that kind of news on a Monday.’”
After that Tuesday, however, Chuck never had the opportunity to talk to Craig about quitting. In fact, the events of 9/11 forced the weary comedian to remain in Los Angeles.
The same people that told him to leave LA, “Were calling pretty much right after 9/11 going, ‘You have to stay in LA. Keep your job. The cruise ships have shut down. All kinds of comedians are coming home. Any of the touring shows are gone.’ So I had to stay in LA for another year. It was the worst year in my life. Staying at this shitty job with this asshole star.”
Finally in late 2002, Roy left California for the Mile High City, an environment not necessarily conducive to comedy. Although he doesn’t audition for sit coms anymore, he seems comfortable in a town without an established entertainment industry. Since the stand-up scene is largely underground, it allows him the creative freedom to write and produce his own comedy shows. Roy also helps young comedians establish their own open mic rooms—even if his open mic sets are little more than cavalcades of incessant insults.
“When I first got here there wasn’t anything like that,” Chuck admits about the underground comedy. “All the old guys were pretty tired and negative about the way the industry was going and the scene. And I was like, ‘It’s coming here. They’re going to start coming so you better shape up.’”
Sacrificing the momentum of his career and snubbing the opportunities of Los Angeles, Roy enjoys his current situation. Not only has he rejuvenated the city’s veterans, he directs its novices, playing an essential role in the rapidly emerging Denver underground comedic community—a function the comedian no doubt finds satisfying.
"It was referred to me this week as DIY comedy: Do It Yourself comedy," Chuck says about the Denver stand-up community he helped create. "Hell yeah, that's what I'm about."
(Originally published March 2006)