"They called me on Tuesday and asked me what we were doing Friday," Johnson says, beginning to relate the tale of what passed two weeks ago. "They put us up at the Hilton right off Universal Studios and basically treated us awesome -- drivers took us where we needed to be, catering, totally a pro deal."
So pro that the members of Trucker even had to get their hair and makeup done -- something that tends to be unnecessary at the local clubs. "We were in there with Enrique's (Iglesias) dancers, and they're all getting made up," Johnson says. "We watched them, and they put us up in the chair and didn't speak to us any different than they speak to anyone else. It was great because nobody was like, 'Oh, this is some rock band from Kansas.' They put just as much effort into making us look and sound good as they did any of the other bands. All we took out were our guitars, and I gave them a list of what we wanted as far as gear went and it was there."
Sadly, the pipe dream of getting to keep some of it didn't happen. "We walked away with only our one talent badge," he says, noting that the band was supposed to receive four. "Enrique had so many damn people that they ran out of badges. We get there and there's a guy screaming into the mic, 'I need to get Trucker three fucking badges and three fucking beers right now,' and there were seriously two people running around just looking for shit for us. Meanwhile, they're apologizing to us and we're just like, 'We don't care.' We're still getting to do the same things. We just didn't have the thing around our neck because they'd walk us where we wanted to go. They're used to having a lot of dickheads, I think."
Such as, for instance, Smash Mouth. "Smash Mouth got hammered and got on the stage, and they were only supposed to do three songs but ended up doing five to nine," Johnson explains. "The producers got up on stage and said, 'You guys, you've got to get down. We're on a pretty serious schedule here. We're doing two shows.' And they were like, 'Fuck off. We'll do as many as we want. Get the fuck off our stage.' This is what I was told by all the crew. They put us two hours behind schedule."
By the time Trucker had done its part, closing time was fast approaching. "They had a big, nice after-hours, like a huge 12-foot projection screen, fully lit, and the bar was done up like the stage, totally decked out. We didn't get to enjoy that much because the LAPD ... came in and shut down even the movies and said, 'You can't have any liquor anywhere after 2 a.m.,'" he says. "We kind of got cut short on that because we had to go on at 1 p.m. By the time we got off and they'd interviewed us a couple of times, everything was closed down. So Smash Mouth is kind of our downfall in this whole thing."
Other stars turned out to be much more hospitable, however. "We went at 9:30 that night and got taken up to our dressing room. Enrique Iglesias was there on the same strip and No Doubt," Johnson says, before continuing his list with the show's two hosts, "(Matt) Pinfield and the Dorito girl from the commercial (Ali Landry)."
Then, of course, there were celebrities of a more dubious nature, in particular, one Mario Lopez from the curiously watchable Saved By the Bell. "He walked by while we were doing an interview ... and it was just kind of like, yeah, whatever. He's like, 'Rock Chalk Jayhawk,' or some shit because he heard Lawrence."
Those are just the ones that Trucker could pick out too. "Another problem is, I don't know who I saw and who I didn't," he says. "Like, I don't really know who The Bloodhound Gang is, and as far as I know, they could have been sitting right next to me. I've seen them in their dog outfits, but I can't really recognize them."
But after it was all said and done, Johnson has zero complaints. "It wasn't that bad, because we got to talk to a lot of people (and) made a lot of contacts and some good friends." And he'll probably be more than happy to tell you all about it when Trucker plays Grand Emporium, Monday, April 3, with Haloshifter and Avondale.
Rap sessionIt was fitting that the meeting took place at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, because a certain type of culture -- hip-hop culture -- found itself under attack. A packed room of about 60 people turned out March 22 for a forum concerning rap music's influence on NFL violence. Kansas City Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock and PitchWeekly writer Shawn Edwards presented their opposing viewpoints, with KCTV-5 sportscaster William Jackson as moderator and research psychologist Stacy Daniels Young as commentator. The Kansas City Association of Black Journalists-sponsored gathering was the result of a Feb. 3 Star column in which Whitlock claimed hip-hop music was partially responsible for the spate of recent criminal activity among pro athletes. Edwards countered with a "Reverberations" rebuttal in Pitch.
While Whitlock seemed ill-prepared, coming in 45 minutes late and admitting he had not read Edwards' article though "people told me about it," he was well-versed in his arguments. "We should not be surprised that young, black hip-hop artists are getting involved in criminal activities," he said in reference to rap's frequently violent lyrics. Whitlock compared the situation to how 1960s bands, such as The Doors and The Grateful Dead, influenced white kids to dabble in "drugs and free sex."
Edwards mentioned during his opening that Whitlock's headline ("Hip-hop culture is root of NFL violence") was particularly misleading. "The phrase 'hip-hop culture' disturbed me because you're talking about a totality of culture," Edwards said. "Hip-hop culture can mean anything. I mean, Colonel Sanders is saying 'Boo-ya.' You'd have to blame advertisers then for (inciting violent acts). Or movies."
Whitlock confirmed that he didn't write the headline (an editor did) but admitted that he should have taken responsibility to ensure that a more appropriate title was chosen.
"It's hard enough for black people now to be viewed positively," Edwards said. "We don't need to blame hip-hop culture for everything that goes wrong." Edwards pointed out the positive side of rap -- beyond how it influences the public commercially and in pop culture -- citing artists such as Mos Def and Common who avoid the gangster lifestyle and misogynistic themes.
"I know there are positive rappers out there, but they don't seem to sell as many records or move the crowd as much," Whitlock responded.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Young sided with Edwards when it came to questioning whether the link concerning NFL violence had more to do with fame and money than hip-hop culture. It was a criticism that Whitlock seemed unable to defend.
Audience members were allowed to step up to the microphone, and in one spirited exchange, a man identifying himself as the father of KC rapper Tech N9ne offered his story. "Getting into the music business was the best thing that could have happened to my son. He's not selling drugs or doing drive-bys," he explained.
Whitlock countered, "But he is rapping about it," referring to the illegal substance-heavy lyrics of Tech N9ne's single "Let's Get Crunked Up."
While the forum eventually devolved into a question and answer session in which the crowd members were more interested in spouting their own personal dogma than addressing the capable panel, it did prove that rap's cultural effect is a complicated, polarizing issue -- one that demands to be analyzed and debated. -- Jon Niccum
Ah, that's the stuff Boot Hill's been threatening to drop its debut disc, Laudanum, for some time, and it looks as if it's finally going to happen. Now that the day has arrived, the band has some explaining to do about just what exactly Laudanum is. "In the Old West, it was a medicine for many things. It was a mixture of opium and alcohol," explains bassist-vocalist Allegra Cloud. "Good for what ails you."
A potent mixture, indeed, much like the band, which features the team of Allegra and husband Gary Cloud, guitarist-vocalist. No doubt a bottle of the stuff would have come in handy during what turned out to be a marathon 16-hour session with Lou Whitney in Springfield, Mo. Whitney has also worked with other local talents, including Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys, Hadacol, and The Welterweights, and there's good reason his services are in demand. Gary says, "Lou is God, basically. He's great and he understands when you say, 'I want to sound like this.' Boom, exactly."
Allegra is also reverent toward the man's skills, though with a somewhat winking eye. "We tease Lou a lot about being legendary because every time he's mentioned in Rolling Stone, he's mentioned as 'the legendary Lou Whitney,'" she says. "First thing, I walk in there and he says, 'You guys want some coffee?' We said, 'Sure.' He hands us a coffee cup, and I said, 'Is this a legendary cup of coffee?' I harassed him throughout. He would give me this kind of smirk."
There was no smirking, however, during Boot Hill's stay in Springfield, when the Clouds decided they needed a little bit of quality time. "We had a double room with our drummer, Eric Zapien," Allegra says, also noting that Zapien has left since Laudanum's recording; that slot was filled by Jeffrey Holt, formerly of Ethan's Revenge. "We wanted just five minutes alone in the room, and he was tired and wouldn't get up so we got really angry. We wanted five minutes alone. We said, 'It'll only take five minutes,' and he wouldn't leave." After a short pause she explains why it wouldn't take longer. "We're very good at this."
With that in mind, it makes the title of Boot Hill's next disc, Rock and Roll Love Story, seem just as appropriate as its predecessor. "At least part of it is at Lou's," Allegra says. "We're excited about the next one. We're like Hollywood; we've already fucking moved on." It's Laudanum, however, that will be celebrated at a CD release party April 6 at Grand Emporium with special guests Velvet Freeze and Amy Farrand and the Gospel Sensations. Too bad its namesake won't be on special.
Heavy Metal Rule #612: You don't have to use your real name A few days into the new year, Canvas' Pauly-C found himself going from being one of the four guys in the band to simply the one guy in the band. Rather than saying that's that, however, he decided to recruit the group's original drummer back into the fold, find two players to fill the vacant spaces, and add a new element to create what should be termed Canvas version 2.0.
"Around Jan. 10, we had the band, everything was going pretty good, we were working on getting a management deal and, unfortunately, they had another guitar player that was looking for a record deal. The rest of the guys were asked to go join that guy and just quit the band Canvas," Pauly-C recalls. Incidentally, that didn't quite work out for the three deserters, who have started another band called Killswitch. "I was the last original member of the band."
Not for long, though. "The original drummer, D-Rock, was a good friend of mine. We always stayed good friends through the whole time. When he left the band back in August, I immediately turned to him," he says, noting that a drummer and a guitar player don't quite a band make. After finding new vocalist AD and new bass player Bloodfist, Pauly-C decided there was no reason to stop there.
"For a long time I always wanted to add a fifth member to the band and get a little bit of an electronic sampling thing going on, but we were always real busy doing a lot of shows and never had time to audition anybody. After I parted with the other guys, I decided I'd been doing the four-piece thing for so long that I just wanted something added, make the sound a little bit thicker, add another texture to it."
As expected, Canvas has come through all this change with a new approach. "We're doing less rapping on this," he says. "We're still doing some of the old songs because people liked that stuff, but it's still basically your heavy metal rock thing. I don't want to be called a rap-rock band, because that's kind of getting burnt out." Canvas, which is not a rap-rock band, will play at Gee 2000 sometime in April (calendars aren't available yet) and is always to be found at
Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at firstname.lastname@example.org.