Local Wire

Long Time, No CD

Gloritone bassist Nick Scropos remembers vividly when the myth of major-label recording came crashing down, near the end of the band's monthlong sessions for its 1998 debut.

Recording with producer Bradley Cook (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age) in Hollywood's Grand Master studios, the group expected all the trappings of big-time rock 'n' roll glory, only to be disappointed.

"We kept waiting for 'it' to happen," recalls Scropos. "We thought that working in this big studio with this name guy, there was gonna be some magic transformation with the recording. Like all of a sudden it was going to just start sounding different, bigger, or whatever. But as things went on, that never happened."

The band -- Scropos, singer/guitarist Tim Anthonise and drummer Dan Lancelot -- was clearly disillusioned by the process, though relatively pleased with the resulting album, Cup Runneth Over, which the bassist characterizes as "a nicely polished local CD. Which, frankly, is what we wanted, in a way."

In the wake of the experience, the three members decided to take a different tack, investing money in recording gear for their Tempe rehearsal space and striking out on their own. Thus began a two-year period of intense writing and demoing, which has yielded some 20 new songs.

Along the way, the group parted ways with Lancelot. It enlisted the services of temporary kit sitter P.H. Naffah (of the Refreshments and Peacemakers) before signing on a permanent replacement in Scott Hessel. Then, just months later, Hessel and the band parted ways, citing a lack of chemistry -- and raising the question of whether Gloritone was heading the way of Spinal Tap. Not long after, however, Hessel rejoined the group, and his presence has infused Gloritone's live shows with a newfound energy as well as expanding its sonic palette to include loops and preprogrammed beats. Of the break-up/make-up with Hessel, Anthonise says it's "all water under the proverbial bridge."

Amid the lineup shuffles, Gloritone's plans for a follow-up to Cup were delayed and eventually dashed when its record label, the RCA-affiliated Kneeling Elephant imprint, went under massive restructuring. Gloritone is currently negotiating a settlement and release from its contract.

Although several labels have expressed interest in the band, Kneeling Elephant's demise means it will likely be three years between long-players for the group. In the meantime, Gloritone has self-released a stopgap effort called . . . before the paint had dried, a batch of mostly unreleased material culled from its post-Cup demos.

Recorded variously on four, eight and 16 tracks, the eight-song disc (which includes a hidden song, the punkish romp "133") is several cuts above most demo collections. Anthonise's post-grunge howl remains intact, and still owes much to the phlegm-charred vocals of Saint Cobain. The slashing rhythms of "Swan Dive" and the terse chords of "Die to Make a Dent" make good use of the combo's familiar percussive guitar attack. Elsewhere, the spacious "Bird" and the dissonant "Dumb and Done" reflect the influence of another alt-rock power trio, Hüsker Dü.

However, the disc's centerpiece, "Dear Vesuvius," represents a real breakthrough for Anthonise. A working musician's anthem of disillusionment, it casts his restrained vocal delivery against a clipped drum loop and fluttering gut-string guitar. The results are staggering, suggesting that beneath the dense layers of modern rock beats the heart of a classicist, a writer with a real sense of Brill Building craftsmanship.

The past few months have seen Gloritone return to the grind of frequent club dates (including a weekly Wednesday acoustic set at Long Wong's on Mill), a schedule that has served both the band's music and its chemistry well. The group's back-to-back performances this past weekend produced the kind of fevered and spontaneous audience response that few local acts enjoy.

Much of that is because of a looser onstage dynamic. To wit, Gloritone, never a cover-heavy band, has let a few favorite obscurities seep into its set list, songs that mirror Anthonise's creative direction at the moment: Nick Drake's "Pink Moon," 10cc's "I'm Not in Love," the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way."

Though an uncertain future looms, the usually tightlipped Anthonise sounds pleased, if not downright jovial, about the band's current situation. Given similar circumstances, most artists would be champing at the bit to record a long-delayed second album. But Anthonise is content to take his time. "Nobody's in any rush to do anything," he says. "That's why we've spent the kind of time we have with the songs."

In fact, the singer is so happy with the results of . . . before the paint that he plans to let the demos serve as a blueprint for the inevitable full-scale recording. "A lot of times the final version never lives up to the demo," he says. "It's a common mistake. And it's something we're going to try and avoid doing when we make the next record -- whenever that is."

Gloritone is scheduled to perform on Friday, November 3, at Long Wong's in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

. . . before the paint had dried is available online at www.semifamous.com/gloritone

Sonik Boom: Urban music fans should take note of the appearance of Sonik magazine, a new publication that cropped up on newsstands in mid-September. The brain child of editor/publisher Ryan Phillips, Sonik is devoted to covering electronic music, fashion and culture. Though the magazine technically isn't Valley-based -- Phillips is currently headquartered in Tucson, though he plans a move north soon -- its primary focus is on the thriving Phoenix DJ/dance scene.

The première issue includes features on trance music pioneer BT and local DJ tech whiz Focus (both recently profiled in New Times), as well as internationally renowned turntablists Nick Warren, John Digweed and Frankie Bones. A second issue of the monthly mag featuring jump-up jungle DJ Aphrodite is going to press shortly.

Phillips says he started the 'zine to help bring together local electronic music enthusiasts. "Arizona has a healthy nightlife scene," he says. "It's just that there aren't as many people aware of it as there should be. Part of the problem with Phoenix is that everything is so spread out that often people in north Phoenix don't know what's going on in Tempe. We're trying to help educate everybody."

The magazine's long-term goals include some regional franchising. According to Phillips, Sonik is already flirting with the idea of expanding to the Los Angeles and Las Vegas markets.

Given its sleek design and better-than-average content, Sonik is a welcome respite from the bulk of nightlife guides, most of which wallow in a predictably puerile frat boy mentality, like the hoary No Cover magazine. Early distribution of Sonik is still relatively limited, but it can be found online at http://sonikmagazine.com.

Reunited and It Feels So Good: Even though they've long been regarded as the critical punching bag of local music, the members of pop combo Satellite have decided to follow on the heels of Dead Hot Workshop and "get the band back together, man." The five-piece will reunite for a Saturday, October 21 show at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe.

This turn of events comes less than a year after the group's acrimonious split. Since then, front man and über crooner Stephen Ashbrook has continued to perform his wildly popular solo sets. The singer has also managed to lead an eerily-similar-to-Satellite combo called Ashbrook! (the exclamation point is our own embellishment).

The reunion gig will feature a lineup consisting of Ashbrook, bassist Paul Cardone, drummer Mike Kellums and keyboardist Tim Rovnak. Guitarist Chris Whitehouse, who played in the group's final incarnation but has since relocated to Colorado, will be replaced by Freddy Gildersleeve, a founding member of Satellite who recently swung his ax as part of Ashbrook's solo backing troupe. The Nita's show is set to begin at 9 p.m., with an opening set from Truckers on Speed.

Sam Sham: Recently, an employee at a local record retailer relayed a story about arriving at the store early one Sunday morning and finding a small army of Sammy Hagar fans lined up to buy tickets for the singer's appearance at the second annual Cave Creek Music Festival.

He especially marveled at the two, um, corpulent ladies -- cruisers and bruisers, as Sammy might say -- who plunked down thousands of dollars in cash to buy the maximum number of tickets allowed, each priced at a scandalous $80. And all this for a "festival" whose lineup, apart from Hagar, was filled with a clutter of "to be announced" designations.

Still, that's just the kind of perverse devotion the Red Rocker inspires in his crimped-hair, acid-wash-bandanna-wearing acolytes. But man cannot live on Warboritas alone. So it is that organizers have bolstered the lineup for the weekend-long rock 'n' country event with a number of big-name, no-name and lame-name acts.

Local institution and mascara abuser Alice Cooper is the highest-profile addition to the rock roster. The Coop will take the stage just before Mr. "I Can't Drive 55" on the festival's opening day. Also playing Saturday is guitar wanker extraordinaire Joe Satriani, who's sure to shred up a storm, as is Southern metal outlaw Jesse James Dupree, late of Jackyl. Seventies prog-rock heartlanders Kansas -- insert your own eye patch joke here -- are also on the bill.

The event's country bill boasts the expected rash of Nashville "hat acts" (John Michael Montgomery, Toby Keith), as well as female twangers Terri Clark and LeAnn Rimes. We'll cut Rimes some slack, as the one-time redneck prodigy has matured into a dolled-up hillbilly tart. And yes, she sure has a purty mouth.

The second annual Cave Creek Music Festival is scheduled for Saturday, November 11, and Sunday, November 12, at the Rancho Mañana Golf Course. Shows begin at 10 a.m. each day.

Saturday Night Special: Valley pop fans are in for a head-spinning treat this Saturday as a pair of SoCal's finest make their way into town.

Over the course of three near-perfect platters of Raspberries/Costello/XTC-styled noise for Big Deal records, Reseda's Cockeyed Ghost has somehow managed to stay underneath the radar. The group also owns the dubious distinction of releasing 1999's most overlooked record, The Scapegoat Factory, an intensely personal collection of songs full of the kind of tortured pop anguish Alex Chilton perfected on Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers.

Band leader Adam Marsland will work his way across the Valley this weekend as part of his "One Man, One Car, One Guitar Tour," a two-month cross-country jaunt during which he'll play nearly 30 solo shows. He'll pull double-duty this Saturday, October 21, performing a free 2 p.m. set at the Coffee Plantation in Tempe with the Scones, then heading to the Arizona Roadhouse, where he'll appear with the Scones and the Pennydrops. Cover is $5.

That same evening, L.A.'s the Excessories -- a female-fronted bubblegum quartet, featuring former members of Redd Kross, the Shakes and Tommyknockers -- makes its way to the Hollywood Alley to perform with the Sonic Thrills and the Peeps. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr