A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
It’s another big weekend for heavy music in Portland.
Tonight, Capture the Sun, Cushing and Purse play Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., beginning at 8 p.m. Then, on Saturday night, Dead by Now will play a farewell show beginning at 9 p.m. at Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., with Swarmlord and Big Meat Hammer.
Both shows are free.
This will be the last chance to see Dead by Now — a powerhouse thrash band that sprang from the ashes of three popular Maine bands about three years ago.
The group started as a trio when brothers J.L. Lennon and Mark Lennon (formerly of Ocean and Twisted Roots, respectively), teamed up with Michael Anderson from the disbanded rock group Loverless. Last spring, they added a singer — Zak Haab, who’s perhaps best known for playing guitar in Stone Tools, Feral and the recently defunct Zud.
Dead by Now is parting under amicable, but unfortunate circumstances. Bassist Mark Lennon is moving due to a family emergency.
During the band’s three-year history, they recorded just one song, which means another five powerful, complicated and unique songs will be abandoned to memory after Saturday night.
The breakup also leaves a world-class drummer without a band — an unusual circumstance in Portland, where several of the city’s most notable heavy bands (Shabti, Stone Tools, Falls of Rauros and Sunrunner) are either languishing without a drummer or dealing with logistic inconveniences from drummers who live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from Maine.
Anderson, 32, a native of Downeast Maine, is a drummer’s drummer, having earned a certificate from the Drummers Collective — an international music school in New York City.
He also has a bit of a John Bonham streak. A glance at Anderson’s Facebook page conjures images of the “Moby Dick” sequence in The Song Remains the Same — cars, construction and crash cymbals. (All that’s missing is cattle.) Anderson is a car and go-kart mechanic, an aviation student and auto racing enthusiast.
And yet, despite a critical shortage of drummers in Portland, Anderson is taking a break from the scene after a solid decade of playing in 10 or more bands (both here and in California). In preparation for this hiatus, Anderson recently acquired a vintage, ’80s-era electronic kit, which he has set up in his attic man-cave in North Deering. There, he’s content to play along to recorded music from Strapping Young Lad, Sepultura and the unfairly maligned Steely Dan.
We checked in with Anderson during an uncharacteristically tame night at Geno’s. Anderson sat at a quiet table beneath the soundboard, near a Loverless bumpersticker mounted to the wall, and talked about influences, precision and time travel.
Post Mortem: In this city — or anywhere, really — there are so many bands that are struggling to find a drummer. I gotta ask: Are people just fucking pounding on your door right now?
Michael Anderson: Not any more than usual. (Laughs.) I hate to say it that way, but there seems to be a drummer shortage. I’ve been in the scene for ten years, and I’m out a lot, so people know who I am. There’s a lot of people who I’ve already played with that say, “Hey, I’m starting this and I need you to play drums,” and I’m like, “Well, you know, I’m all set right now.” And then I hear, “Let’s just jam,” but I’m kind of over jamming. I’m a little tired of it. I want to play some shows and hit the road. I don’t just want to hang out and play instruments together.
Maybe I’m a little burned-out.
I do get asked a lot. Right now, the answer is “I don’t have time for it,” or “I’m going to take a break.” After Saturday night, it will be the first time in 10 years that I haven’t been in a single band. And there were periods when I was in six bands at a single time. So I’m going to take a break from paying studio rent and having two rehearsals per week, and hang out in my attic.
PM: Is it as satisfying playing along to recorded music as it is with a band?
MA: It’s more fun playing with a band because you wrote the parts and that’s yours. I could even screw it up and who would notice but me?
As far as playing alone, I like it. I can choose what songs I’m playing and fantasize about being in Rush or Strapping Young Lad or whatever, but I also have the paranoia of “Who can hear me?” “Did the neighbors come home yet?” Is there someone walking down the street saying, “Oh, listen to that drummer.” I don’t really want to be heard when I’m rehearsing. It’s different at a rehearsal studio. That’s just how it goes. But when I’m at home, I get kind of paranoid about being loud.
PM: Any nosy neighbors in your neck of the woods?
MA: My neighbors are all awesome, so I’m not worried about any of them. There is a neighbor next door who, the first time I set up, he immediately Facebooked me. He was like, “Hey, man, that sounded awesome. Can I come over and watch?”
PM: Are there any new things you’re hoping to learn during this period? Is there a band or an album you’re interested in mastering?
MA: I’ve been working on a few songs from the new Sepultura record — “The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart.” The drummer, Eloy Casagrande, is unbelievable. On the heavier spectrum, if I was going to try to get better, it would be learning his stuff. Slowly but surely, I’m working on one of the songs.
PM: Are you more interested in playing along in your own style or learning the parts verbatim?
MA: Verbatim. I’ve always played along to things and learned them. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal.
PM: If you were to categorize your style on the art-to-science spectrum …
MA: I’d say my writing is artistic, but if I was going to cover someone else’s music, it would definitely be a scientific analysis: What are they doing in terms of the feel, the sound and every note they play?
I’ve done a handful of Clash of the Titans (shows), and that’s always been my goal: to absolutely replicate the drum performance.
PM: The only descriptor that I could articulate after seeing Dead by Now for the first time was “precise as fuck.” Between that style of playing and being an auto mechanic, I’m wondering if there was a point in your life when you acknowledged or discovered that was the kind of person you are. Was there a defining moment?
MA: I think it had more to do with my influences than a defining moment. It was everything from Neil Peart playing every Rush song live perfectly — note for note — to aviation and watching pilots landing planes. That’s just the manipulation of a physical object, the same as throwing a drumstick around or driving a car. It’s all similar to me. Watching Formula 1 drivers … the precision, the accuracy and the timing is all there.
I consider drumming time travel. You’re playing a song with its own sense of time, which exists in the time that everyone’s experiencing it, but it’s different for me while I’m up there. Let’s say it’s a five-minute song, but it can feel like 30 seconds or 20 minutes. While I’m playing drums, I consider it time travel because it’s different concept of time happening among everyone else’s reality of time.
PM: Did you ever feel like Dead by Now was not getting the audience it deserved? Was it ever frustrating?
AM: Yes, but that’s our own fault. Self-promotion is something I’ve never been good at, and I don’t think any of us are. I was lucky that the guys in Loverless were good at making sure people knew who we were or making sure people knew about the shows. I don’t think John (Lennon) was in charge of that when he was in Ocean and I don’t think Mark (Lennon) was in charge of that when he was in Twisted Roots. I mean, we made a Facebook page and occasionally we’d tell some people that there was a show, but we realized we were just a local band for the time being. Our goal was eventually to record everything and then start traveling outward and taking things more seriously. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to that point before Mark had to move. And that’s just the way things go.
PM: After Saturday’s show, when you break down the instruments, the band is done. During the show, is there any particular moment or song that you’re going to cherish or savor?
AM: The one that really stands out is in Song #3. It’s a really laid-back sixteenth note on the ride cymbal. (Scats the beat; throws horns.) Everyone knows it. After the shows, everyone always says, “That part!” And I’m like, “I know! That’s the part!” So I’m going to miss that.
PM: I remember that part! You know, in this role (as a Post Mortem photographer), there’s a handful of moments when I just say, “Fuck it,” drop the camera and bang it out.
AM: It’s a spot where I can go as long as I want because they’re waiting for my cue. So, if I’m feeling on, I’ll just keep going.
PM: So now you’re entering this period of semi-retirement or hiatus. Is there anybody who — if they came to your door and said, “Michael, I’d like you to play with us” — you couldn’t refuse?
AM: Absolutely. I can’t say names, though.
There’s two different approaches to my future. I could either join a band that’s already established, which would be awesome, because then I’d just learn their stuff in my attic and then, boom, go and play shows. Then there’s the thought of starting another project, whether it be my own or not.
And my tour van [a Ford E-350] is going to be fixed by mid-October, so I’ve got a double-bass drum kit, a shit-load of cymbals, electronic drums and a van.
That makes me a pretty eligible drummer.