Freelance Writer
The Needle and the Damage Done, a Little Tattoo on Everyone
02.15.06 | No Comments
Category: A&E

Worcester Magazine
A&E Feature

Don’t ever get a tattoo when you’re drunk, too young or blindly in love.

Don’t you know these things are permanent (unless, of course, you consider the costly laser removal surgery a sufficient corrective)? It may seem brilliantly cool to brand “Mary, My Muse” on your ass today, but it might cause some tension between you and your next girlfriend. And statistics support that you most likely will have a next girlfriend. Oh, the needle and the damage done.

Those are a few things frowned upon by Scott Alderman, one of the founders of the second annual Massachusetts Tattoo Festival, which inks up the Centrum this weekend. But done right, and with some thought, he considers the tattoo one of the most interesting art mediums. There’s a lot more out there than anchors and “mom” these days.

“We’re not about giving people their first tattoos,” says Alderman. “This is to see what a good shop looks like, what good artists are all about and to educate people so if they get one they’ll be informed. If some 18-year-old comes to our show to get his hand tattooed, it won’t happen. It’s not something you should rush into.”

Alderman himself, who is not an artist but a self-proclaimed aficionado of the tat, didn’t succumb to the needle until he was 30, and sober. He now boasts 30 on his body. “My left arm is just about done,” says Alderman. “I got my first one in 1990. I went to graduate school in Berkeley and I met all these really freaky people out there. I was from New York, and I had thought I had seen freaky people, but San Francisco was really over the top.”

His friends out there chided him about having no tattoos, and jokingly gave him a copy of the book Modern Primitive, in which Alderman was struck by a tribal design out of the Philippines. That became his first tattoo. “It wasn’t to commemorate anything,” says Alderman. “In ’98 in a hotel room in Berlin is when it got out of control. I was up to the upper bicep by then, but that’s when it started to go down the arm. No, I don’t regret them. It’s almost like, if you regret one, you have to regret them all.”

And he doesn’t regret starting the Massachusetts Tattoo Festival in Worcester. Debuting last year, to coincide with the legalization of tattooing in the state, he and Paul Booth (who is an artist sitting in the upper echelon in his field, his work recently celebrated in Rolling Stone) organized it on the heels of their tour called “Tattoo the Earth,” which visited 18 cities. “That was really a heavy metal tour with a few tattoo artists,” says Alderman. “That’s not what we wanted.” Now that the Massachusetts show was so successful, they consider it a template for other similar ones, which were already held in Chicago and Oakland this summer.

“Hell yeah, I regret a lot of mine,” says Corey Kruger, and adds with a chuckle, “Hopefully you get something you can live with. Everyone gets the tattoo they deserve.” Kruger’s barely got an inch of blank slate to work with, but says that he’ll probably lighten up a few of his regrets with laser surgery so he can add some new stuff. He’s also an artist, who works at a tattoo parlor in Clinton called What It Is, and has been involved with Alderman and Booth’s festival since it was the Tattoo the Earth tour.

Though he hates to pigeonhole himself, Kruger says he performs custom work with a lot of Asian influences, and high-energy modern approaches. When we spoke, he had just finished stringing Hindu-style rib panels from the top of a guy’s knees to his armpit – on both sides. Makes you wonder if there’s a limit. “Well, I won’t tattoo anybody’s face,” he says, “or if I think it will impact their lives negatively, I won’t do that. Like, ‘white power’ or something … “

Kruger will be one of 200 artists, from more than 20 different countries, setting up shop at the show. Attendees can choose from a variety of styles, from traditional hand tattooing from Borneo or Japan to henna. Last year, Alderman estimates that about 10,000 attended, and artists punctured the skin of a couple thousand throughout the weekend. But, he emphasizes that the event is for everyone, even those who choose to keep all of their skin plain.

“It’s bigger than Gladiator,” says Alderman. “It’s a show that basically incorporates all the things that are associated with tattoo culture. That includes, obviously, tattooing, but we also have an art gallery, photography, film and music. There are bands playing over at the Palladium and a film festival at the Bijou. Just everything that’s emblematic of the culture. Even if people have a parenthetical interest, they will find something interesting.”

There will also be lectures, piercing booths, performance art, collaborative tattooing and more.

“There’s a certain preconception people have about tattoo art,” he continues. “A lot of people who have never been to this show said they had no idea of the diversity of the audience, the diversity of the artwork and the levels. They’re blown away.”


Tit for tat: some quickies on Scott Alderman:

Favorite tune on The Stones’ Tattoo You: “Start Me Up”
Among his 30 tattoos: The Stones’ “tongue,” which is the only logo included in his ensemble
How he’ll feel about his tattoos when he’s 80: “When I’m 80, nobody should be looking at me anyway. I won’t even look at it. I’ll remove my mirrors. I won’t even go to the beach.”
The only letters found on his body: ”Show me” on his right wrist.
Rule of thumb: “If you insist on tattooing someone’s name, you should do it in a foreign language so people won’t know.”

What:Massachusetts Tattoo Festival
When:Saturday, Oct. 12 through Monday, Oct. 14.
Where:Worcester’s Centrum Centre (still known as The Centrum to people who live here)
Cost:$17.50 per day, $45 three-day pass
Visit for schedule.

Carry The Zero, Music Feature in Worcester Magazine
02.15.06 | No Comments
Category: A&E

Minus the corporate crap, and Carry The Zero

Nothing personal against Adidas, but Carry the Zero intends to prove that you need not be “macho” or a “goon” who sports that three-striped sportswear to rock.

Echoing our recent article about Miss Fortune, Carry the Zero seconds the cynicism about big conglomerates and label presidents who know squat about music – ruining, or at least tainting, the industry with buckets of boy bands and fist-pumping pseudo rap-infused hardcore.

It’s such a common cry from bands that you wonder how the biz, with very few true supporters, got to its present state. Could it be ….. Satan! Nah, it’s probably just money.

Nevertheless, rock bands like Carry the Zero vow loyalty to their craft, and hope to usher back an age where it meant something (other than looking great with a belly-button ring) to make it on the cover of Rolling Stone.

“The radio bothers me a lot,” says Matt Erhartic, Zero’s guitarist. “It’s just that I used to do work at a record label that will remain nameless, and a lot of people there just didn’t know – they might as well have been selling diapers or baby food. They just have no passion for music whatsoever so it jaded me in some way, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I quit there, but I got to know all the A&R guys just in case.”

But they wouldn’t sign if it meant too much of a compromise in style.

“I don’t want to be a puppet,” says Erhartic, “but at the same time I want to make a living. I don’t want to end up like Harvey Danger, where there is no career development and then you’re yesterday’s news.”

Today’s news is that for months, Carry the Zero has been knocking around Tremolo Lounge studio with Roger Lavallee, the person they affectionately hail “New England’s answer to Phil Spector.”

“Roger is a total popsmith, if you will,” says Erhartic. “He knows when to pull the plug and say, ‘guys, that sucks.’”
Tentatively titled Rev ‘Em Up (a song that details the discontent with big label crap), the band will celebrate the seven-song debut with two shows this month (see below).

It has apparently been tough to find the right mix of characters. Erhartic is the 11th guitarist in this trio, which has undergone 22 lineups. Erhartic, in fact, joined as second guitarist at the time, when the band also had a trumpet player aboard. Veering off the highway from Gas, Food, Lodging, Erhartic complements Zero’s founding members Ed Paquette (bass/organ) and Bill Gaudette (drums). All three sing.

With an older EP (Television Theme Songs) and some rough demos (namely the supposed title track) out of Tremolo to light our way, it’s safe to assume that Rev ‘Em Up has a full tank.

The band describers itself as “left-of-the-dial indie/pop with a stylistic mix of your dad’s old Kinks and Stones records.” The Stones/Kinks cues certainly don’t dangle out there nakedly in

Carry the Zero’s songs, but in trying to zone in on the comparison, the listener can detect an element of classic rock stylings that serve as an undercurrent. “Bad Intentions” does bring thoughts of “Paranoia” to mind. Lovin’ those creative keys on “Apologies,” where the band’s Elvis Costello references finally make sense.

Carry the Zero is bursting with promise. As a young band, they are young sounding, and seem to still be finding its niche. At once, it can sound pure rock ‘n’ roll, hardcore, alternative and indie. When the three have got time behind them, all of these ideas they incorporate into tunes like “Running on Empty” will be smoothly sculpted (and probably will be on the new release). Hopes run high for this debut by a talented, spirited trio.

“Even though we’re a three-piece,” says Paquette, “I think we come across as a lot bigger.”

“We’re looking to take it as far as we can,” says Erhartic. “We understand that it’s not the hottest stuff – it’s not rap rock or candy pop, it’s kind of in between. It’s almost for the people who have been alienated by all of the crap on the radio. I don’t think we’re breaking any new ground, but it’s an alternative to Dope and Slipknot.”

What: Carry the Zero
When: Jan. 19 and 26
Where: Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner and the Lucky Dog Music Hall (respectively)

Babaloo!, featuring in The Boston Globe’s City Weekly
02.15.06 | No Comments
Category: A&E

Ran in City Weekly section of The Boston Globe, January, 2001


The band grooves. And it plays its share of rock clubs. It pleases young, jam band fans. But to call Babaloo a rock band is like calling Burger King a barbecue restaurant.

One of the defining factors that exclude it from being a rock band is its lack of a drum kit. The solid slap of the typical skins is shoved aside here for a jambalaya of world rhythms on congas, maracas and other handle things that dangle from the percussion tree.

“We just don’t play rock at all,” says percussionist/trumpet player La’Zik Chillem. “We don’t have a drum set, which is a phenomenon to me. We bridge every gap in prejudices. Our sole purpose is to be sweaty and celebrate and enjoy life through the spirit of our music.”

Though it isn’t rock, jazz or folk, Babaloo pulls elements from African, Latin-American, reggae, salsa, Irish, Samba, ska, mambo, bossa nova, juju, cha-cha, calypso, Caribbean and other sandy music. In fact, Chillem says this band is best suited for jamming on a cruise ship or an island somewhere. Sesame Street ought to think about booking Babaloo to play on the street with the Muppets. It would be perfect.

Babaloo has enjoyed bills with Maceo Parker, Burning Spear and most recently, on the Levi Stage at the Santana show at the Tweeter Center.

“We are something we originally created, and I don’t think anything sounds like this. I’ve been working in the Boston scene for 15 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this. Every show we go to, people’s heads spin and they tell me this is the best band they’ve ever heard.”

Marked by quick electric reggae guitar chops, layered percussion, slinky bass and bright lines of trumpet, Babaloo calls its sound “Punk Mambo Hardcore JuJu,” and named its first two independent albums (on its own label, Butcher’s Ghost) to reflect that.

“We just took the rock out of punk rock and put in mambo,” says Chillem. “If I were to compare it, it would be Tito Puente mixed with the Ramones. Mix King Sunny Ade and the Sex Pistols and that’s hardcore juju.”

Musically, the band could be compared to Tito Puente or King Sunny Ade, not to the Ramones or the Sex Pistols. The punk comes in the form of attitude – the DIY ethic.

‘97’s Punk Mambo! would make even the biggest tight-butt feel like strapping on a coconut bra and grabbing onto some hips in a conga line, particularly the undeniably fun “What’s in the Banana,” “McDuff,” “Samba Formosa” and “Your Dough.” Hardcore JuJu, released in 1999, is a lot more of the same good stuff.

Six years ago, the basic sound for Babaloo simmered in a Jamaica Plain cellar called “The Hole,” where singer Bruno Molto and guitarist Mary Beth Cahill traded licks on guitars and…. Kazoos. The basement eventually became a microcosm, or reflection, of world music. Joining the voices, guitars and kazoos were the trumpet, congas, bass and anything else that would fit. It was about the mood, the people and the music. Pure punk approach – not a punk sound.

According to percussionist/guitarist/vocalist Mike Weidenfeller (a.k.a. Peter Pants or Captain Kickass), there have probably been between 20 to 25 members of Babaloo over the years. And the names of the players change even more.

“We don’t really take the names too seriously,” says Pants, “so whenever somebody thinks of a name that’s more funny than their old one, they change it.”

Presently, the line-up and names are: Chillem, Pants, el Presidente al dente or B (who is really Molto), freebassist Slim “Family Man” Goody, vocalist/timbales player Pongo Jankowitz and percussionist/vocalist el Plenero de Pspino, Puerto Rico or Furioso. Molto tells us that Smith Crankshift (Cahill) got shot by an arrow last year, and has since only played sporadic gigs with the group.

Got it? Doesn’t matter.

Sung in seven languages including Swahili, French, English and Spanish, Babaloo’s music is as diverse as its members.

“We’re subterranean culture out of Boston,” says Chillem, “kind of like Brooklyn. We’re very diverse, open-minded and high-spirited people, except like now when I’m completely run down.
“Every one of us is very different. We’re like the League of Nations, man. We’re eclectic. We come from difference places, family, upbringing … music even. When you’re in a band you’re with each other 24 hours a day, a lot of things happen. It’s like a family. No matter what happens. Even if we scream at each other, we meet at the music. Music is our safety net. It’s a beautiful thing.”

They meet at the music, and meet at the Milky Way, which certainly isn’t the Love Boat. But Babaloo and its many fans can pretend they’re on a cruise ship. Feel free to bring a limbo bar, leis or straw hats to heighten the experience.