That Was Then/This Is Yesterday

Live review: 7000 Dying Rats, Covered Wagon Saloon, San Francisco (6/22/02)


Like the Nondor Nevai interview found elsewhere on this site, this review/interview was originally published in Night Moves, a music zine with high-class literary aspirations, which lasted for one issue. I believe it was stuff like this concert review that Agony Shorthand‘s Jay Hinman had in mind when he wrote in his review of the zine, “Some of the writing is that of the preposterously stupid rock and roll innocent, out on the town for a partytime night of heavy metal and extreme blood-curdling experimental noise.” Indeed.

It was a magical night for rock-and-roll at the Covered Wagon on June 22, 2002, the longest day of the year, although judging by the way the time flew by during this concert, it certainly didn’t seem that way! Au contraire, quite the opposite. You could tell it was going to be a magical night early on in the evening. People were filing into the bar by the handful, buying beers, talking to each other, and playing pool (some of them at least). Some of them looked like they were saying hello to old friends, while others were only there for the music, or else they just didn’t feel like talking to anybody, which is o.k. because I understand that; sometimes you just need a little “QT” (“Quiet Time”). As the night went on, the temperature began to rise, as the body heat given off by the people caused the heat in the whole room to grow warmer. Beer flowed from the kegs behind the bar like orange juice at a citrus growers’ convention, and people drank it up, while others looked at the merchandise or else passed out fliers for more rock concerts that were coming up. Oh well, you’ve got to spread the word somehow!

Fast forward an hour and twenty minutes later: show time is nearing. Yes! All eyes were on 7000 Dying Rats as they took the stage, setting up their makeshift gear and finishing up with their last few bottles of beer before taking the stage. After taking a few brief moments to tune up their instruments and do the sound check, carefully adjusting the volume levels on their speakers so that the sound would be balanced just right for the performance, they took the stage. All six of them! I thought, Is this a basketball team or a rock band?!? Especially since they all had little white towels around their necks. Then again, I don’t know many basketball teams who wear big black masks over their faces (with just little tiny holes for their mouths and eyes).

But, from the first slashing guitar riffs and heart-pumping drumbeats, I knew I was in rock-and-roll heaven, and not at a basketball game. Similar to the Turtles, this band also had two vocalists. They were not the harmonizing kind of singers like in the old days, though. These guys were more the “screaming” type. It sounded like they had a lot of pent-up anger stored up, to scream that loud. They also jumped around a lot and burrowed into the audience like some kind of giant rodents and also fell over a lot of people. The audience was definitely confused. There was one hostile person who was spinning around and “moshing,” who even got mad at the guys in the band! I was watching him for a minute, then I looked up on the stage, and there was the bass player standing with his back to the crowd and his pants around his ankles, showing everybody his hairy, white butt. Gross!

But through it all, the band kept playing, and I must say, the music was steaming, creating a sound that was heavy, albeit filled with passion and energy. The band played many of the songs from their latest album The Sound of No Hands Clapping (tUMULt/Toyo/Touch & Go/ECM/Matador/Six Degrees/WEA Japan). They even played the fan favorite “Strippers on Ecstasy,” which had more of a “new wave” sound. They also played many new songs that I have never heard before. Sometimes, Toney, one of the lead singers, would give a little story on how the songs were made up. Like, before this one song, he made an evil face and said, in a scary voice, “I wrote this song … while clipping my toenails!” Aahhh!!! Much to the crowd’s surprise, they closed their with a version of “Anyway You Want It (That’s the Way You Need It)” by, the band, “Journey” — a fitting end to a hot night of music, and another victory for Heavy metal.

***** SPECIAL BONUS: Interview with 7000 Dying Rats vocalist Toney Vast-Binder! *****

I was so impressed with the concert that I traveled back to six months before it happened and sent him these questions over the Internet. For the full scoop, read on!

What year did the band form?

We’ve been around, in various stages of productivity and decay, since 1992.

What was the line-up at that time?

[Vocalist] Josh Diebel was the only current member around at the time. They made a couple of demo cassettes, which were later released as two of the three 7″s included in the box set that came out on Stomach Ache. They only played two or three shows before 1994, I think.

What was the line-up by the time of Fanning the Flames of Fire?

The line-up for Fanning… was long. I think there were about twenty people involved. The line-up seems to be dictated by who ever we happen to be drinking with at the time. Funny drunk people are usually let right in. However, the criteria for membership is harder to meet than you might think. Not everyone is a funny drunk.

Is there someone who could be considered the group “leader” (I don’t want to start any fights here)?

Great. Thanks. We talked this one over and decided to break up.

How has Ted Nugent influenced you?

One time, I was really depressed … and then “Fred Bear” came on the radio and I shot my dog.

If Rick Derringer offered to guest on your next album free of charge, would you let him?

Fuck yeah, he produced the soundtracks for Zapped and Bachelor Party. Do you remember that crappy song that Adrian Zmed sings in Bachelor Party? He played guitar on that bad boy. That’s my shit, dog.

[Note: This is true. Also, apart from his better-known work with Steely Dan, Cyndi Lauper, and Weird Al Yankovic (including the solo on “Eat It”), Mr. Derringer’s discography includes appearances on this impressively baffling list of albums: Tim Bogart: Master’s Brew; Wilson Gil: Wilson Gil & the Willful Sinners; Dan Hartman: Images; Thomas Jefferson Kaye: First Grade; Jerry Lacroix: Second Coming; Love & Money: Strange Kind of Love; Madam X: We Reserve the Right; Alan Merrill: Never Pet a Burning Dog; Hilly Michaels: Lumia; Norman Nardini: Love Dog; Michael Quatro: In Collaboration with the Gods; Mason Ruffner: Mason Ruffner; Eddie Schwartz: Public Life; Silver Condor: Trouble at Home; Simpson: Simpson; Danny Spanos: Passion in the Dark; Michael Stanley: Rosewood Bitters; Artie Traum: Cayenne; Rosie Vela: Zazu; Joe Vitale: Rollercoaster Weekend; on the soundtracks to the films Up the Creek, Transformers: The Movie, Air America, Encino Man, and George of the Jungle; and on the various artists compilations The Wrestling Album, L.A. Blues Authority: Cream of the Crop, and Songs from the Better Blues Bureau.]

Have you ever thought of doing any Blood, Sweat & Tears covers? How about the band Blood, Sweat and/or Tears (they are a little more obscure)?

Yes. We feel we are kindred spirits with any band that makes bad decisions. Like selling 6 million albums in a 3-year period, then going on a tour of Eastern Europe in 1970 that was endorsed by President Nixon and the U.S. State Department, alienating their mostly hippie fan base in light of that little war that Nixon was heading up in Vietnam. Pretty smooth.

What is the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten while on tour?

Probably those “Venison McNugents” I had at a McDonald’s in Jackson, Michigan.