Morgantown rocker puts metal to classic music from Nintendo


Ryan Postlethwait, aka Mega Beardo, performs reworked, heavy-metal versions of music from Nintendo games on -- what else? -- a guitar made from an old Nintendo console. (Ryan Postlethwait photo)

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Anyone eating at Clarksburg’s Washington Square Pizzeria on Oct. 12 had a rather unique dining experience. Adding to the restaurant’s ambience was music by Mega Beardo, the solo “Nintendo nerd metal” project of Morgantown-based singer, guitarist and hardcore gamer Ryan Postlethwait.

Postlethwait, who shared the bill with “folk wave” singer/songwriter Logan Venderlic, said, “We showed up, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, to be quite honest. We walked in, and there wasn’t a PA set up. There was just a bunch of tables and some people sitting, eating pizza.

“I’m like, ‘Man, this isn’t what I was expecting. I’m not sure that these people are gonna dig what I do. I don’t know if they’ll understand it.’ Nothing against them, but I just wasn’t sure that was the kind of crowd that gets into metal versions of old Nintendo songs from 25 years ago,” he said with a laugh.

He made some fans, though.

“I was playing, and people were just going nuts for it,” he said with some surprise. “I started playing one of the songs I did from the ‘Castlevania’ game, and this one guy just went nuts. I ended up selling six CDs, which is a good ratio for the amount of people there.”

Mega Beardo isn’t something you'll see too often in a pizzeria -- or any other venue. There have only been four Mega Beardo shows since 2010.

“I didn’t really fathom going out playing anymore after [2010], until this year,” he said. “I really got the itch to go out and play this live. I really want to do it more because it’s fun and it’s not something people get to see so often.”

Postlethwait has deconstructed music from “Mega Man 2” and “Castlevania” and remade it in brutal, melodic metal fashion. At shows, he plays a guitar made from an old Nintendo console with footage of old games projected on a screen behind him.

Heavily influenced in the late-‘90s by Swedish metal band Meshuggah and more recently by Canadian metal musician Devin Townsend, Postlethwait is working on turning the music from the golden-sheathed Nintendo epic “The Legend of Zelda” into an EP, styled in the “djent” fashion.

Djent, Postlethwait explained, is “essentially just a new breed of progressive metal that has been emerging in the past couple of years. [It] gets traced back to Meshuggah and is just a silly way to describe how their guitars sounded back in the ‘90s, more specifically their extremely tight palm-muting technique.”

Choosing the genre for his project -- called “The Ledjent of Zelda” -- is a bit of a dig at metal fads. Postlethwait, who plans to have the EP out in early 2013, said that, as metal bands caught up to what Meshuggah was doing, it’s gotten slightly derivative and is a source of much derision.

“There’s this weird trickle-down effect, this diluted thing where you can just listen to the new up-and-coming djent bands and tell they’re part of this fad that’s part of the underground metal scene. And it’ll die out soon. I read a lot of metal blogs, and they all make fun of these new djent bands.

“That has me worried, in a way,” he continued. “Probably about a year ago, people -- me included -- started getting sick of the whole djent thing. And when I came up with the idea of ‘Ledjent of Zelda,’ I was like, ‘Man, people are going to see the name of the album and just laugh at it.’

But that might be a good thing, he said.

“I can take this and do it seriously enough to where it’s not a complete parody, but it can be seen as a parody, in that I’m taking music that was made 25 years ago on this little chip that was placed into a plastic cartridge, and modernizing it and showing what it would sound like if some kid in his bedroom wanted to make this stuff as djent music.”

Mega Beardo, Postlethwait said, is all about sharing the music from those games but with his unique spin. “To me, it’s showing appreciation for the music, and since I’m a metal guy and like to have fun, it’s a perfect blend of the two.

“And playing this stuff on a guitar made out of a Nintendo and having the video game footage playing behind me . . . in a weird way, especially for people who don’t know much about Nintendo music, I’m trying to say, ‘Hey man, back in the day, the games that were made had awesome music.’

“I’m just trying to keep it alive.”


Dr. Dog Brings Mountain Stage to Huntington Sunday


Photo: Chris Crisman

Philadelphia-based psych rockers and Anti- Records recording artists Dr. Dog comes to Huntington Sunday to play a Mountain Stage show at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Some people don’t believe in fate. Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick seems to. How else to explain the circumstances that led to him joining the band?

After approaching maybe his favorite Philadelphia-area indie/psych rock band as a formative nineteen-year old fan years ago, and later being brought on, right as the band released its Anti- Records debut “Shame, Shame” and continued to hit new heights of fame and acclaim, it’s a neat story.

“They were doing an in-store session at Tower Records in Philly, on Broad Street,” Slick recalled over the phone from Philadelphia, on a break after finishing the first leg of Dr. Dog’s Fall tour, describing his first encounter with the guys. “I’d seen them before, the first time was with The Raconteurs in Atlantic City. I’d been a fan of theirs for a while.”

Dr. Dog, loved by fans for their infectious songs and energetic live shows, with a new EP, “Wild Race,” in tow, will play a Mountain Stage show in Huntington Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, as part of the Marshall Artists Series with guests The Mountain Goats, Red Wanting Blue, Nellie McKay, and Spirit Family Reunion.

Tickets are free for full-time students with Marshall I.D., part-time students can receive one ticket half-price. Regular tickets are $25 or $30

“So they played this small record store show, and there weren’t a lot of people there so I felt the need to introduce myself for whatever reason,” Slick recalled, laughing hard. “And about two weeks later I saw them at another show in Philadelphia, and they’re like ‘Hey, you’re that kid from the record store show,’ and we hit it off a little bit. Zach [Miller,] the keyboardist, wrote down my number on a little business card.

“Then, a week after that, I was at Bonnaroo in Tennessee, and I was camping with my friends, and they literally pulled up right next to me,” he said laughing. “So it was kind of like fate that I was supposed to be friends with them because we kept infiltrating in each other’s lives.”

Now, Slick has settled in after being welcomed on in early 2010, after infiltrating the minds of co-front dudes, singer-guitarist Scott McMicken and singer-bassist Toby Leaman, musical cohorts and friends since middle school.

“Before Dr. Dog, I’d been playing in mostly in jazz or progressive rock bands. So I was coming from a much more cerebral place with music,” Slick said.

“Then, conversely, going to a band like Dr. Dog and having to kind of scrap everything I’ve learned and understand a new process? Scott and Toby’s songwriting process, maybe it’s more creative, maybe it’s more traditional, but it’s completely different from any kind of songwriting I had been used to at that point.

“So there was a little bit of a learning curve with that. I had to really get inside their heads and understand where they’re coming from. When we did our first EP together, that was my big hurdle, that was my learning experience. After that, everything just seemed to fall into place. We started to understand each other a lot better as people and as musicians.”

These days, Slick enjoys life in one of the biggest rock bands around. For Slick, 2012 Dr. Dog highlights have included playing Conan O’ Brien, Austin City Limits, and opening for Wilco.

Even though he admitted with a laugh he misses his cat Bill while on the road, on the bus he enjoys yukkin’ it up, watching old Larry Sanders and Mr. Show episodes (“those kinds of more absurd late night shows,” Slick said) and enjoying one late night addiction with the band.

“The guys in the band are into playing the video game Mappy until like, four in the morning,” he said, simultaneously half embarrassed and half impressed. “We have this little multi-game unit with a joystick on it and that’s what the guys like to do. They get really into it, it’s kind of insane.”

The drummer said it’s been great to be a part of, and witness, Dr. Dog’s progression as a band.

“They have a very specific vision, and it’s getting broader and broader,” Slick said of the McMicken-Leaman tandem. “That’s really exciting. I feel like I came in at a really positive and pivotal time for the band, just in terms of growth and how they’re writing songs these days.”

After helping the band record its critically acclaimed, self-produced February release “Be The Void,” Dr. Dog’s sixth studio effort and second release on Epitaph Records’ sister label, Anti-, more than a decade after forming, Dr. Dog is in a good place creatively, Slick said, and the new EP is an example of that.

“People seem to be excited about [“Wild Race”] because those songs came from the same sessions as “Be The Void,” so we were anxious to get those songs out into the world. We recorded about thirty songs for “Be The Void,” so there’s more that we haven’t released.

“But that batch of songs in particular, we were real psyched about, because they seem to have a different flavor than the rest of the record, maybe they’re a little more experimental in nature. Especially “Be The Void,” that’s been kickin’ around since 2004. Scott wrote that song as a poem and he’s been playing it through various incarnations of the band.

“That song has existed for a while, but we found the right accompaniment for it. We’d been thinking about what we could do with that song, and we just approached it as a full band, as you hear it on the record, and we ended up really loving it.”

The process of rocking, creating music, maybe re-working old songs, live and in the studio, and sharing that energy with their fans, is a mutually re-enforcing symbiotic thing, Slick said.

“The live shows are what keeps us going. You learn a lot playing live. Sometimes, we’ll try out a song and it doesn’t work, and sometimes we try them out and they work perfectly. The live process is really like the laboratory.

“It also helps that there’s a few hundred or maybe even a thousand fans that are there, singing along, and helping you out with that experience. It’s only getting more and more interactive, and the fans are only getting more and more excited about what the band is doing.

“Now, we’re at this place where the band is super confident in its live ability. We can really take it anywhere at this point.”



Dr. Dog

w/The Mountain Goats, Red Wanting Blue, Spirit Family Reunion, Nellie McKay

Presented by the Marshall Artists Series.

WHEN: 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 4

WHERE: Keith Albee Performing Arts Center, 1021 4th Ave., Huntington

COST: $25 adv., $30 DOS (plus applicable fees)

CONTACT: 304-696-6656 or Marshall Artist Series Box Office 12-5 p.m.

ONLINE: http://www.drdogmusic.com/, http://www.mountainstage.org/


Miniature Giant is big into punk


Charleston punk band Miniature Giant is singer/guitarist Michael Workman, drummer Jeremy Brown and bassist John Ballard. The trio joins forces with city ska band The Tom McGees for a show at the Blue Parrot on Friday. (Photo by Mike Workman.)

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To borrow from the famous U.S. Supreme Court opinion on pornography, when it comes to punk rock, fans know it when they hear it. And for the guys in Miniature Giant, while defining it is an obtuse exercise, punk rock is definitely something they know.

The Charleston-area punk band formed just over a year ago. It recently released its debut EP, “The Superhero Chronicles.”

The band formed out of the nucleus of singer/guitarist Michael Workman and drummer Jeremy Brown, then added bassist John Ballard, before setting out on its own punk rock journey -- which includes a stop Friday at The Blue Parrot with ska band The Tom McGees.

For Workman, who played in metal bands War Creek Mafia and White Chapel District, starting a punk band was -- and is -- all about freedom and fun. He said he found his passion after his uncle gave him a copy of Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”

“From there, I was like ‘THAT! That is exactly what I want to do,’” Workman said. “I started to get into punk rock through that album.”

Ballard, the elder statesman of the band, dates his affection for the genre back 20 years. As an impressionable high school sophomore, he discovered the NOFX album “Ribbed” and was hooked.

Being interviewed on the way to see punk icon Henry Rollins served as a nice jumping-off point to discuss what the band sees as the more redeeming qualities of the genre, which is sometimes perceived as anti-intellectual. Quoting The Minutemen’s D. Boon, Ballard said punk rock is whatever you make it.

“It makes you question things,” he said. “You don’t just get in line and say what everyone else says or do what everyone else does.

“Like Black Flag, for instance, since we’re going to see Rollins. They had a major role in making people question everything. [You’re thinking] ‘This is how I feel. I’m going insane, and nobody’s singing about that.’ And then they come out with something like ‘Nervous Breakdown’ or ‘Fix Me,’ and you’re like ‘Wow! This is how I feel!’”

The guys in Miniature Giant feel pretty good about “The Superhero Chronicles.” Over the course of three 12-hour days at Toronto’s Drive Studios, they worked with renowned producers Steve Rizun and Mike Liorti to further hone their craft.

“Listening to it in the studio was really different,” Workman said of the EP. “Up until that point, we’d only had a little boom-box recording. We just set the recorder up in the band room, hit record, played our songs and stopped when we were done.

“When we were in the studio, we could go back and actually say, ‘Well, let’s change this guitar part up a little bit.’ [We were] able to really work on the songs and craft them, as opposed to just, ‘Let's throw a song together.’”

For the 22-year-old Workman, a lead singer for the first time, it was indeed a learning experience. “Especially with vocal arrangements,” he said. “That’s a little bit of a thing we’ve been working at.”

The best thing about the recording session, he said, was “just being able to work with people who have an ear for it and who do it for a living, who work with people who are where we want to be. Just that environment in general was really informative and eye opening because a lot more goes into it than what people think.”

“They were awesome,” Ballard added.

“They’ve worked with The Flatliners, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Mean Tangerine, a lot of big bands that tour the world,” Workman added with a mixture of pride and awe.

Miniature Giant has been discussing joining Canadian punks The Motorleague, currently touring the United States, for an East Coast tour next summer.

“It’s awesome,” Ballard said. “My last band, when it broke up, I thought, ‘That’s it. That was my last chance.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m done.’

“Luckily, I wasn’t.”

Miniature Giant
With The Tom McGees, Dinosaur Burps and Beggars Clan
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Blue Parrot, 14 Capitol St,
COST: $5
INFO: 304-342-2583