OH LORD, IT'S A ROAD REPORT
by Mike Keneally
Guitar Player, July 1994
Yo dudes, Dimebag here and this indeed being penned on the road during the March'94 Z tour. I'd hoped not to employ any "roadish" cliché in this installment, and I promise not to offer you a detailed description of our bus (though it rocks), but I feel more than compelled to thank those of you who have come to the shows or written letters with kind comments regarding this column. Even with such a decidedly low-rung-on-the-music-business-ladder act as us, the after-gig crunch can het a little hectic, and I rarely feel I have the opportunity to express my full appreciation for those of you who like what I do. So here: I genuinely appreciate it. Thank you
None of us in Z can understand how big groups go out on tour for two and a half years at a clip, playing the same show over and over again. We would start killing people if we were forced to do that, so we devise methods to keep ourselves entertained. Dweezil draws up a different set list for every show, and while our repertoire is not infinite, we indulge in a decent amount of song shuffling from night to night. If we haven't played "loser" in the last couple of shows, our enthusiasm towards it increases when it does make the list.
Each show also acquires a unique texture via unplanned events. I personally get nervous when there's more than two continious seconds of silence during a show, e.g. when Dweezil is changing guitars, and I will leap to fill the breach. More often than not, the singer in the woods is employed. As it appears on our Shampoo Horn album, my improvised faux-jazz guitar is reasonably varied, rhythmically and harmonically. Onstage it consists primarily of the chord shown here. You will notice no fret position is indicated - none is required. Play this chord anywhere on the fretboard, then move it down and up and about, and you will be whisked to the magic lounge in the woods where our friend, the singer, plies his trade. I need only hit this chord once onstage and Bryan and Joe - our beloved, attentive rhythm section - instantly fall into place with just the sweetest walkin' jazz you ever did hear. Then Ahmet can tell the audience about something noteworthy that happened to his anus or force the crowd to obey the raven strapped to his microphone stand. By this point, Dweezil has changed his guitar. If I need to do the same, I can do so once I'm certain that Bryan and Joe have absorbed my vibe (which, as I've indicated, takes them but nanoseconds) and can carry on without me. Then I put on my new guitar (guitar changes in this band always indicate different tunings) and the rock and roll returns with a bloody Viking vengeance.
Other valuable stopgap measures include: Ahmet's treasured Elvis impersonations. At any point in the show Dweezil may suddenly proclaim. "Ladies and gentlemen ..." then announce the presence of Irish Presley, Nervous Presley, Pathetic Presley or (my fave) Bench Presley. Each Elvis variation has its own special song, but in every case, the announcement is followed immediately by the drum fill and fanfare that, once upon a long ago, heralded the real Elvis' arrival upon the Vegas stage.
Or we play the theme and/or incidental music from The Price Is Right television series, which can stand alone or be used during our occasional talent contests involving various friends and acquaintances (it might make more sense to play the Star Search theme in the latter case, but none of us can remember it).
Or we play the "Cowboy Dance", a pantomime performed by Ahmet, wherein each of his body movements, no matter how repugnant, is accompanied by appropriate noise from the band. This requires both a strong band and a strong stomach. Either Dweezil or myself can signal our desire to have a "Cowboy Dance" take place by playing a mournful motif in D minor (actually C# minor-we tune everything down about a half-step) that sounds something like R.E.M. playing Ennio Morricone. The motif is not included in this column because I'm dashing this off at pretty much the last minute, I would like to get Dweezil's permission before using it, and he's at the gym right now. So you'll have to come to a show if you wish to taste this delicate interlude.
The song "My Beef Mailbox", a compact chunk of pop heaven from our album, is a bang-up massive jamfest onstage which can go on for days. Before yesterday's show in Detroit, I was approached by a fellow very eager to hear "Jazz Discharge Party Hats", a rather odd tune of Frank's. Aiming to please, I began my "Beef Mailbox" solo with it, only I played it as if the record was skipping: "Once upon a t - Once upo - Once up - Onc - Once upon a time, etc. Bryan and Joe followed suit. After I few seconds, I destroyed that texture with a horrid clunge chord, followed by some unaccompanied solo lines that reminded Bryan of the solo from "Inca Roads" (also by Frank), so he started playing the bass part for that, and Joe followed suit. By the end of the solo, it was patently obvious that we were, in fact, playing "Inca Roads", so I confirmed that reality by playing the composed bits which signal the end of that song's solo, bits among the most divine music on earth. Then I yelled "Bryan Beller on bass!" and the next first steps into unfamiliar territory were taken.
When we get onstage we know that we don't know what's going to happen, and we couldn't be happier about it. I'd consider it condescending of me to package that into a morsel of wisdom for you - you're a smart person. If there's a moral here, you're gleaned it by now. have a ball and see you in Fresno.
Shampoo Horn is on Barking Pumpkin; Mike's album hat is on Immune Records. If you can't find them, ask your remarkably helpful record shop employee to order them. Make them understand "no" is an unacceptable answer.
©1994 Guitar Player Magazine