a-BAND-oned: Blues Traveler

For the first entry into my fancy new column, I’m going to remind you of a great band that has always been one of my favorite groups, and remain so to this day:

BLUES TRAVELER

A rock-jam band formed in New Jersey back in 1987, BT has seen some definite ups and downs in their career. While Blues Traveler is best known among us fans for their improvisational live shows – I’ve been to five of them, and each one is different and amazing – the general public is probably most familiar with the group from their hit singles “But Anyway”, “Run-Around” and “Hook;” the latter two songs came from the same album. BT hit the peak of their mainstream popularity from this disc, their fourth studio album – appropriately-titled Four – released in 1994.

The group’s current lineup includes three of the four original members: founder, lead singer, and insanely talented harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, and drummer Brendan Hill. Bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson joined the band following the death of BT’s original bassist, Bobby Sheehan, who passed away in 1999 of a drug overdose in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sheehan’s death wasn’t the only major obstacle the group had to overcome. Popper’s long-time struggle with obesity also put a damper on the group’s success, and these and other issues compounded to the point where A&M dropped the band from their label in 2002. Fortunately, instead of folding, both Popper and the band took this transition period as an opportunity to start in new directions musically, going largely independent and releasing on smaller experimental labels, while still maintaining their “core sound” that made myself and many other fans fall in love with them in the first place.

Blues Traveler had a great success story from the get-go: in the mid-‘80s, high school mates Popper and Hill formed “garage band” group they called The Establishment, with Hill’s brother on bass and a rotating roster of guitarists. The band produced a few cassette tape demos; in addition to some original songs, their repertoire included upbeat covers of “Gloria” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The group soon added guitarist and football player Chan Kinchla; although he was a promising athlete, Kinchla decided to commit to playing music instead after a knee injury sidelined him from sports. Popper soon met bassist Sheehan and the two became good friends, with Sheehan becoming the new bass player for newly-christened Blues Band in 1987. The quartet held a basement jam session, later christened “The Black Cat Jam.” which spawned the core grooves for several songs on their first album. A black cat happened to be nearby, and the group took this as a sign and adopted the Black Cat as their iconic mascot figure. The group soon changed their name to Blues Traveler, taking the “Blues” both from their style and from their love of the film “The Blues Brothers,” and the “Traveler” from the name of the primary demon in the film “Ghostbusters,” Gozer the Traveler. As a nerdy sidebar, Gozer was also known in the film as Gozer the Gozerian and Gozer the Destructor, but I don’t think that “Blues Gozerian” or “Blues Destructor” has quite the same ring to it. Well, maybe “Blues Destructor…”

Between 1990 and 2008, BT has produced 14 different albums, including 3 live albums and one album, 2007’s “Cover Yourself,” where the band uniquely decided to do cover versions of their own songs. Their best-known (and sometimes only-known) album is easily 1994’s “Four,” and the disc’s singles “Run-Around” and “Hook” reached #8 and #23 on the Billboard chart, respectively. The album itself reached #8 on the Billboard chart, going 6-times Platinum. Only one other BT album, 1997’s “Straight On till Morning,” went Platinum.

To this day, Blues Traveler continues to tour and perform live shows. BT is also one of the few groups that encourages their fans to record and exchange fan-made productions of their live shows; they only ask that it is a free exchange and that no one attempts to profit from it. You can legally download recordings of Blues Traveler’s live shows at www.archive.org and bt.etree.org. You can view BT’s complete discography here, and you can learn more about the band on their website, www.bluestraveler.com.

I love BT, and I have all of their albums, as well as having seen them live on five different occasions. This is one band that I am proud to say that I have not abandoned!

Currently Listening to: Blues Traveler “Four” (1994)
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New Feature: a-BAND-oned

     Many of you here on the interwebs know that I’m pretty heavy into writing, zombies, and writing about zombies, but something you may not know about me: I’m a music fanatic.  I’ve been DJing and emceeing for 12 years, I’ve worked at two different radio stations as an on-air personality, and I’ve even been to a Boys II Men concert.  That’s right – envy me.

     One thing I’ve always prided myself on is the fact that when I find a band who plays music I like enough to get their one of their albums, I do my best to actually become a “fan” of that band.  See, there’s a huge difference between being a “fan” of a band versus just liking some of their music.  When it comes to music, a “fan” is someone who owns albums of the artist in question, and has probably seen the artist live in concert if they ever had the chance.  A fan is someone who knows intimate details of where the artist has been and the things that artist has been through.  And – possibly most importantly – a fan is someone who listens to the artist’s music even after it might not be considered “cool” or “popular” music anymore.

     A “fan” is NOT someone who doesn’t own an album by the artist in question, or someone who doesn’t know anything about the actual person or people who are actually making the music.  A “fan” is NOT someone who simply hears an artist’s songs on the radio and thinks they sound nice.  That is simply someone who likes a song or a few songs from the artist, someone who has a passing fancy to the artist as a listener of music, and nothing more.

     As an example: I like The Beatles, but I would not consider myself a “fan.”  I don’t own any of their albums, and (prior to reading and reviewing “Paul is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion” for The G.O.R.E. Score) I didn’t have a lot of in-depth background knowledge about the group or its members, other than what the “average” person might know.  This Fall I went with my wife Bryrony to Las Vegas, where we saw The Beatle’s Cirque du Soleil show, “LOVE;” I enjoyed it because I was familiar with much of the music, but I definitely didn’t get the same rewarding experience out of the show than a true “fan” of The Beatles probably did.

     On the flip side, I am most definitely a “fan” of the rock band Journey, owning almost all of their albums and having seen them live as recently as last Summer; on many days I feel that I could easily go raging “zombie” on all the misguided frat boys and other people who think they are “fans” of Journey simply because they know the words to the chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

     SO.  In an effort to share my “fan-ness” with you all, I’m going to be devoting some of my blog entries to talking about some of the bands that you may have found yourself listening to over the years, possibly even telling people that you were a “fan,” but have lost contact with for one reason or another – you’d be surprised how many bands that you used to listen to are still out there making sweet, sweet music.  Fortunately for you, I haven’t lost contact with these bands; remember, I’m a “fan,” I’ve continued to listen and enjoy these band’s new stuff long after you’ve moved on to what radio stations and MTV tells you is “the next big thing.”

     I’m looking forward to helping you remember which musical groups you’ve a-BAND-oned!

a-BAND-oned: Coming to Tony's blog soon!

Creatures crawl in search of blood // to accessorize their black zipper hood..

Mini-Rant time!

I have a bone to pick with my local bookstore.

They are a national chain whose name you probably know, but for the sake of anonymity, we’ll keep them nameless for now. Anyhow, my problem is this: they don’t have a Horror section. They have a Sci-Fi section, a Mystery section, a Reference section, a History section, a Politics section, a Teen section, a Romance section, even a section devoted entirely to Maps…but no Horror section.

This means that the zombie books have nowhere to live. Sadly, someone thought that it would be a good idea to put ALL zombie-related books not in the Sci-Fi section, or the General Fiction section, or even the Science section…no, they put all the zombie books in the Humor section! Humor!! I get it that titles like “Zombies for Zombies,” “Zombie CSU,” potentially even books with humorous premises like “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” could reside in the Humor section, but all the zombie books, really? Even the “serious” ones are there: David Wellington’s “Monster Planet” trilogy, Z.A. Recht’s “Morningstar Saga,” the uber-intense “World War Z,” anthology books like “The Living Dead” that are full of really gruesome and potentially scary zombie stories…all right there on the shelf, next to Dave Barry books and Calvin & Hobbes collections. Knowing what I do about some of the content in the non-funny books, I would be seriously concerned for any child who happens to pick up the “wrong” book and start reading.

Or maybe that’s the Store Manager’s master plan all along, to recruit new, young zombie fans…maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong…hmm…

The Aquabats "Charge!" (2006)
The Aquabats "Charge!" (2006)

It was the look of pure hunger.

Hi again, everyone!  This is another exciting post for me, as yet another of my stories has been released in print!  The book is titled “Dead History: A Zombie Anthology,” and all the stories contained within are about zombies existing in different eras of time.  Even though many stories will put zombies hundreds if not thousands of years in the past (or future, I suppose), my story, “The Eagle Has Reanimated,” deals with the not-too-distant past of just a few decades ago.

This is the big one, peeps…this is the story that I am the proudest of, a 12,000-word novella that really was a labor of love for me.  Not only does the work stem directly with the “original ” zombie outbreak from George Romero’s classic 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead,” I was able to incorporate another of my “loves,” astronomy and the NASA space program in particular.  When i first decided to submit a story for this anthology, I knew I wanted to tell a tale that could put zombies in a place that they may have never been before.  The viable locations here on our planet seemed sorely limited, so I thought to my self, “Self, why not put zombies on the Moon?”  That thought was followed immediately by the thoughts, “Great idea!  I don’t think that’s ever been done before,” and “Okay…now how the Hell are you going to get them up there?”  Since man has only been to the Moon once, it seemed the logical choice to tell the story of how zombies might infiltrate NASA and get their hungry little mouths up to our satellite.

A ridiculous amount of research went into this story.  I wanted it to be as historically accurate as possible, and the vast majority of what you read in the story — with the exception of the zombie-related mayhem, of course — is based on the information about Kennedy Space Center, the Apollo XI mission, and the people associated with NASA that I painstakingly learned from various factual websites, encyclopedias, and other historical data.  The resulting story is, I believe, a great one, and was selected to be the first story of the book, a definitive honor, as many anthology editors unofficially put the “best” stories first so that people picking up the book in a store get hooked by the first stuff they read.

In any case, I of course want to share an excerpt from the story with you.  There are only 13 stories in this book, whereas the other anthologies I have been a part of have had 20+ stories each; this most likely means that my story takes up a good chunk of this book, probably at least 20% of the total pages.  I strongly encourage anyone who is intrigued to read my writing to buy this book, as this will give you the most words I have written so far all in one place.  You can CLICK HERE to buy the book from Amazon.com — and if you buy, be sure to give it a nice review so others will be encouraged to buy as well! 🙂  Okay, here’s the snippet…enjoy!

Albert quickly stood back up, the mental haze of being awake in the middle of the night suddenly replaced by his training taking over and telling him what to do.  He turned and looked through the windows of the tiny station to the north, where the sound had seemed to come from.  Beyond the halo of the streetlight that hung directly over the guard station, all was dark and seemingly calm.  Albert picked up his flashlight, instinctively patted his gun holster on his right side to ensure that the firearm was still there (it was), and stepped out onto the road.  He walked a few steps to the edge of lighted circle, clicked on his flashlight, and swung the beam around in the darkness.

“Hello?” he called out authoritatively, using his army training to keep his voice calm and his nerves steeled.  “Is there anyone out here?”  Traditionally Post 12 was a very quiet duty, but occasionally there would be a larger animal that would try to wander out of the reserve and onto the Space Center property, or a civilian car would wander down the unmarked Avenue J and wind up, miles later, at Post 12’s crossbar and barbed-wire fence that separated wildlife reserve from government base and research center.  But those instances were usually few and far between, and rarely happened in the middle of the night on a Monday morning, so Albert had to make sure he thoroughly checked out any strange situations.

After piercing the darkness with his flashlight for a few minutes, directing the beam up the roughly-paved street and off onto the sides of the road where the underbrush wasn’t so thick, Albert was just about to give up and head back into the guard station when he heard the noise again.  A groan, a noise a man or an animal might make if hurt or in pain.  He saw movement slightly up the road, and as the figure drew closer, he could see it was a human – a woman.

She looked like she was badly hurt.  She was walking with a severe limp, and had what appeared to be blood splattered all over her pants and most of her shirt.  Albert looked more closely, and he could actually see one of the woman’s leg bones jutting out through her skin at a gruesome angle.  She looked up at him with vacant eyes and groaned.

Dead History
Dead History: A Zombie Anthology

That’s not a stake you’re holding, it’s a letter opener.

Exciting news: another book that contains one of my stories has officially been released! “Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology” hit the bookshelves this week, and you can click here to order it directly from Amazon.com. This was the first vampire story I’ve ever written, and I’m happy to say the story’s details, replete with the signature Tony Schaab Twist, came very easily to me.

As always, I would like to share a little snippet of the story here, for all of you faithful readers. Comments and feedback are always welcomed and appreciated, whether it be from the section of the story printer here or if you have the opportunity to read the full story. Enjoy!

Before he could talk himself out of it, Trent grabbed the backpack and headed into the office building. He checked the directory in the lobby and headed up to the third floor, where the Red Cross office was located. He entered the office, walked down a long hallway, and cautiously entered the first room he came to. A young woman looked up at him from a desk just inside the door and smiled. “Hi there, can I help you?”

Upon entering the room and looking around, Trent noticed that Brandon was sitting at another desk in the far corner of the room, chatting on the phone. When Brandon recognized Trent, he hung up the phone and waved to him. “Hey Trent, what’s up? Come on over.”

Trent smiled at the young woman and made his way across the room to Brandon’s desk. Brandon, who didn’t get up, reached out and shook Trent’s hand. “How’s it going, man? Wicked party last night, I’m surprised you are up and mobile today.”

Trent smiled and he sat down and stifled a yawn. “Yeah, well, you gotta do what you gotta do, know what I mean? Fortunately today is a rare Saturday off of work for me, so I figured it wouldn’t kill me to get up at the crack of Noon, especially after last night’s shindig.”

Brandon laughed slightly as he reclined in his desk chair, propping his feet up on the end of the desk. “I hear ya. So, what’s going on? What brings you to this neck of the woods today? Feeling the need to donate and ‘give back?’ After all the brain cells we killed last night, you may want to think twice about letting any more cells leave your body.” He winked at Trent.

Eh, Trent thought, the guy probably doesn’t get much opportunity to throw around blood-related jokes, let him enjoy his moment. He laughed half-heartedly as he looked absent-mindedly around the room. “Good call, man! But no, not here to donate or anything.” He continued speaking as he unzipped his bookbag: “I came by to see if you might be able to shed some light on this.” He pulled the bottle out of the bag and placed in lightly on the desk.

The smiled faded slowly from Brandon’s face as he fixated on the bottle. Without averting his gaze, he said, “Sarah, will you excuse us for a moment, please?”

Trent swiveled in his chair. Sarah, the girl sitting at the desk by the door, stared at Brandon for a moment. Then she nodded silently, got up from her desk, and left the room. Trent turned back to Brandon to see that the young man’s face had suddenly become very serious.

Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology (2010)
Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology (2010)

Some, minus that, plus none.

It’s happened.

It’s finally happened.

The day we have all been waiting for, with breathless anticipation, has at long last arrived. And by “we,” of course, I mean “me.”

The book my short story is in has finally been published and is available for widespread consumption! Whoo-hoo!

“End of Days 2: An Apocalyptic Anthology,” was released to the world this past weekend. My short story, “The Nuances of Disassembly,” is contained in the 240-some-page collection of tales. I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing or reading the book, as my copy from the publisher is apparently still en route to me.

Click here to see (and buy! Buy! BUY!) the book on Amazon. I cannot vouch for which of your local bookstores may be carrying this book on it’s shelves, but really, isn’t buying stuff from the interweb easier anyhow?

I have a special treat for you, my faithful blog reader. Below, you can read the opening paragraphs of my story, to get a taste for what you might find in the book. A few disclaimers: not having seen the book yet, I cannot say what the tone of the other stories contained in the book might be, although judging from the title, odds are good they will be centered around the continued non-existence of the world; also, what you are about to read below is from “my” version of the story, and I cannot speak to what (if any) edits the editor of the book may have made for the “finished” product.

That all having been said…enjoy the opening paragraphs of “The Nuances of Disassembly,” my first-ever writing to see wide-release physical print!

This is a story about the end of your world.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate, as it wasn’t the actual planet that ceased to exist, so much as it was the humans on the planet that did.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start over.

This is a story about the end of life as you know it.

See, that still doesn’t sound quite right. That statement only says “after this story, you will have to think about your life differently,” when in reality, you won’t have to think about your life at all, as it won’t exist. That statement is not effective enough to convey the appropriate sense of dread, to convey the fact that, after the events in this story, there are no more humans left alive. None. Zero. Zilch. Some, minus that, plus none. Okay, let me try it again.

This is a story about the end of humankind.

That’s better, I suppose, although it still leaves open the option of other living things surviving. Which is possible, I guess, as we haven’t gotten to the last lines of the story yet and, who knows, I could surprise you. But that statement does definitively tell you that humans won’t survive, and that is essentially the main point that I am trying to convey.

Wow, telling you that you’re all going to die is hard! Okay, now that all of that nonsense is out of the way, I am going to tell you the story.

The story begins on a normal day on Earth. Depending whereabouts on the planet you are, the sun is either shining, hid behind clouds, or not out at all. Let’s start with California, as so many stories do. Its 2:02am in California, and most of the United States is asleep, resting up for a big day ahead which is sure to be full of various activities that will remind everyone of the fact that the USA is still a cocky, supreme world power which thinks it can handle anything anyone throws at it. And today, of course, they are totally and utterly wrong.

End of Days 2: An Apocalyptic Anthology

Author by day, DJ by night, pop culture nerd in between