Side Project Spotlight

Side Project Spotlight: Mad Season

 

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In celebration of what would have been Layne Staley’s 51st birthday, let’s take a closer look at the side project Mad Season. I’m sure most of you out there know about this band by now, but for those that don’t here’s a quick history lesson. Mad Season was formed originally by Pearl Jam guitarist, Mike McCready and bassist, John Baker Saunders. The two had met in a rehab facility and returned to Seattle after their stint there. Not long after the move back, Mike and John recruited Screaming Trees drummer, Barrett Martin, to join them. After only a couple of jams together, they had written the instrumentals for what would become “Wake Up,” and “River of Deceit.” Needing a singer, Mike sought out Layne Staley to front the group. It was Mike’s hope that surrounding himself with sober musicians might also help Layne to get sober as well.

The album they made together, Above, is one of the most haunting, beautiful pieces of work to come out from that era. It’s right up there with how sentimental and profound as Temple of the Dog’s album is. The band originally called themselves The Gacy Bunch, but later changed the name to Mad Season, which is an English term for the time of year that psilocybin mushrooms are in full bloom. The albums music was recorded in about seven days, while the vocals took only a few more days to complete. Before the band went into record the album, while they were still writing, Mike McCready had told Layne that he could do what he wanted with this and write all the lyrics. And so, he did, and it marked a profound moment for Layne, not just as a writer but set him on a spiritual path through music.

The ten songs on the album stretch across genres, such as rock, blues, jazz, and some tribal elements. Some critics thought that Mad Season was just as though Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam had a baby, but the fans, the people that really mattered, saw this album as a gem. Every song on the album had a deep meaning and musically pushed those feeling and emotions. When you have an album with songs like “Wake Up,” “River of Deceit,” “I’m Above,” “Lifeless Dead,” “X-Ray Mind,” “November Hotel” “All Alone,” and “Long Gone Day,” it’s pretty hard to not be astonished by the magnitude Layne, Mike, John and Barrett created. Something else that is worth noting is the inclusion of Screaming Trees singer, Mark Lanegan, on the songs “I’m Above” and “Long Gone Day.” His contributions on those two songs add an extra level of chills to the already spine-tingling album.

In 2012, there was a re-release of the album which featured four unreleased songs. These songs were from the bands unfinished second album. The songs were musically done, so Mike and Barrett asked Mark Lanegan to write lyrics and sing on these tracks. Also included in the re-release was a DVD of the bands show at The Moore theater as well as the bands 1994 New Year’s Eve show at the now defunct club RKCNDY. These performances of Mad Season will leave you with the hairs on your arms and back standing up.

Mad Season was a band that was meant to be. Their album, Above, is beyond tremendous. Mad Season wasn’t just a side project, it was a band that really allowed Mike McCready and Layne Staley to show what they could really do. Not to take away from their contributions to Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, this band just really allowed these two to be free to fully express themselves in a different capacity. Mike McCready is seriously one of the most underrated guitar players ever. His playing and songwriting on Above proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Layne’s vocals and lyrics are absolutely on another level. The lyrics go deeper than his previous work in Alice In Chains. Here he gets a bit more introspective and finds a balance of what he dreams of and what is reality. Barrett Martin continued to prove how talented of a player he is on this album. And John Baker Saunders added a level of subtle cool to these songs, that only he could.

Mad Season still lives on just as the memories of Layne Staley and John Baker Saunders. I like to think of Mad Season as more than just a side project, but more of a band that gave new life to everyone involved in this. All you have to do is listen and let it all sink in and you’ll fall in love with this masterpiece.

 

Mad Season- Above:

 

Mad Season- Live At The Moore:

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Side Project Spotlight: Call Me No One

 

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There are many reasons to start a side project, perhaps you are not being creatively  fulfilled in the band/project you were in or you’ve written a batch of songs that just don’t fit within the band that you’re in. Sometimes its just to explore a different side be it musically or to try something else. There was a side project that came out a few years back that has really stuck out to me since I first heard it. The name of the band/project I’m talking about is Call Me No One and it’s mastermind is Clint Lowery of Sevendust.

The debut album, The Last Parade was released back in 2012 and it’s a bit different than Sevendust. Joining Clint in Call Me No One was his Sevendust bandmate Morgan Rose on drums. Musically the songs are a bit more melodic. Clint described the project as “kind of Nine Inch Nails meets Foo Fighters but with a dark spooky twist to it.” I definitely hear the Foo Fighters side of the equation. CMNO (as the band was referred to at times) really does explore a different side of things for Clint and Morgan. Clint handled all the vocals on the album which really showcases how great of a voice he has. The guitar work on the album is top notch, again showing just how damn good Clint is as not just a guitarist but, as a songwriter as well. Even Morgan’s playing steps outside the Sevendust box and shows just how versatile he really is behind the kit. The songs are pretty solid as well. Tracks like “Thunderbird,” “Soapbox,” “All’s Well,” “Broken Record,” and the closing track “Last Parade,” are stellar. The entire album is pretty damn good. Each song on the album is meant to be there. It’s a full “album” that is full of rocking songs and lyrics that hit home for those listening.
It seems like this was a necessary project for Clint and Morgan to do together. They really got to deviate from what they had been known for and show that they can do more than just the Sevendust style. Though when Clint left the band in the mid 2000’s to do Dark New Day, he was able to spread his wings a bit but, Dark New Day, didn’t really go too far from what Sevendust was doing. No matter what though, Clint Lowery is to me, the secret weapon in Sevendust. He adds so much to the band from his writing, guitar playing and presence. So if you haven’t checked out Call Me No One, now is a good time to do just that.

 

Call Me No One- Last Parade:

 

 

LAST PARADE B-SIDES

Call Me No One- Whatever Happened:

 

Call Me No One- Time Machine: