Twas the night before the gig and all through the house, certain creatures were stirring, but it wasn't a mouse.
With guitars tuned and ready and amps by the door and a layer of smoke two feet off the floor.
The ashtrays were full and beer cans were ample, there were quite the party favors for the band to sample.
The Evil guys were quite ready, for their Christmastime gig, to hang with the families and eat like a pig.
For tomorrow would be Christmastime cheer, toys, family, and fun - a wicked eggnog to fear.
Because right after Christmas, it's right back to rocking, for a brand new CD, when springtime comes knocking.
(with apologies to Clement Moore)
My introduction to the Evil guys came sometime in 1998, shortly after they formed the band, and about the time that I was co-hosting an original music segment on Black Frank's longstanding metal radio show, originally "The Metal Pit," now called "The Attitude Network," on 100.5 the Fox. They were really young but seemed of `good' character and attitude.
Like bands everywhere, they wanted to play shows and get exposure for the band. I booked them onto a show at the Toy Tiger and also started playing them on the radio show.
Audiences liked them. Their funky, hip-hop-rock groove had its moments and it seemed to suck you in. Fast forward eight years, it's quite astonishing to see how good this band from Southern Indiana has gotten. No longer seventeen- and eighteen-year-old kids, they are seasoned professional musicians with a clear-cut purpose: success via a record deal.
Kung Fu Hustle & Skull Monkeys
It's interview time. I pop in a movie I recently bought called "Kung Fu Hustle" and we begin this little adventure into the depths of Evil Enginedom with some funny "Kung Fu" ice-breaking: vocalist Cory Miller holds a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Hai!
Between skits of kung fu foolishness, we talked about the band's history and influences and where they'd like to be musically. The band mentioned Nirvana, Deftones, Helmet, Snot, Refused and Faith No More as faves and the creativity of those bands have certainly been a factor in deciding the genre they longed to play.
The band's name was swiped from a video game called "Skull Monkeys," which had a crazy level called Evil Engine #9. The name stuck.
They wanted the Evil Engine enigma to be special: groovin', funky, trippy, heavy, rappy, hip-hop, hardcore, melodic, punk and sometimes radio-friendly. Kind of a melodic karate kick in the face.
Musically? There's no limitations on Evil Engine #9.
They've made that quite clear.
In the last five years, they've recorded and released two CDs. Derailed came out in 2000 and songs from that disc, including "17 Split" and "Disease" began getting quite a bit of airplay, generating significant buzz for the band. Shows piled up, a following was building at a great pace and word was getting around about Evil Engine #9.
Then came the band's second effort, 2002's Better Off Without You CD, which was recorded in Orlando, Florida and engineered by Pete Thornton, whose credits included work with Cold, Limp Bizkit and Shinedown.
While the guys were happy and appreciative to be involved with such a well-known person in the recording industry, in the end they felt that things were changed around a bit and too rushed for their liking. However, the CD sounded good and songs from the CD like "Thorn," "Anxiety" and "Spin," which was featured on the Unsigned Xtreme compilation CD, were well-received by fans and did a good job of introducing the band's music to others who wouldn't normally hear it. The CD did really well on Garagebands.com and went to top, points-wise. Material from Better Off is still requested on original music radio shows.
With a solid following and two CDs to their credit, the band was booked into the best venues in town and beyond.
"Our out of town shows have really been good, too," said Cory Miller.
"Playing Fort Meyers Florida, at a place called Gotham Hall, was off the hook. The Jungle in Marengo Indiana was a great little place to play. Chris went up to a crazy `Grizzly Adams'-lookin dude who was staring at them and said, `Hi, I'm Chris. The guy said `I'll rip yer face off Bob! Let me buy you a drink.' In Knoxville, Tennessee, we played a great gig at The Blue Cat to two thousand screaming kids. Don Hill's in New York City; Dayton, Ohio with Bobaflex; LRSFest at Waterfront Park; Tallahassee Florida, opening for Social Burn; Hard Rock Cafe opening for Smile Empty Soul and, of course, the infamous Kentucky Kingdom show, which we were asked to leave for `use of foul language onstage' and were escorted to out by angry security guards dressed as cartoon characters!"
[Imagine an angry Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse each grabbing Cory Miller by the arm and saying "C'mon fella, we've heard enough" or "ok, fella...come along quietly or you'll sleep with the fishes.' Ok...I'm exaggerating about the costumes, but the thought of that was pretty funny.]
The fact is, regardless of the venue or state the band was in, the crowds were feeling the music and responding with enthusiasm and an all-around approval.
`Evil' Face To Face
These guys are not like your average original rock band. The fact that they have never broken up in almost eight years should say a lot in itself. They are not really party animals, or egomaniacs at all and seem to have a more down-to-earth, family-type feel to their whole existence as a band.
Cory "Kung Fu" Miller
When I first heard vocalist Cory Miller, I admit I wasn't too impressed with his vocals, but there was a quick, rappy thing that he did rather well, on time and I saw the potential in his funk-laden rappy vocals. On top of that, he was a very nice kid, who even today hasn't changed much in attitude. In all these years we've never had a bad word or disagreement, or anything like that. He's easygoing, but firm in what he needs and wants from people. At 25, he just married his girlfriend of five years, Helen, and is now living in Salem, Indiana, doing the pizza delivery thing to make ends meet. Cory seems the happiest I've ever seen him these days.
Cory grew up in a very musical family on his mom's side. His mom played piano and sang gospel and his older brother John played guitar. Cory picked up piano at age six, and at age seventeen, got a guitar and began trying to play Nirvana riffs, badly. His tastes in music vary widely, from oldies as a kid, to Nirvana (his heroes), then later Rage Against The Machine and Deftones as major influences. He loved the late vocalist Lynn Straight of the band Snot, who was one of his main vocal influences.
Music is his life and apparently what he lives for. He has improved as a singer over the years. Before, he never really held sustained notes or showed much power from the diaphragm. The last two times I saw them, I could hardly believe the melodic power and technique he displayed: timing, sustain, cleverness in adopting new vocal strategies and a powerful range using the diaphragm to its fullest potential. Vocally, he's on.
Chris "May The Schwartz Be Vith Youuuu" Schwartz
Chris Schwartz is the guitar0riff-writing monster of the bunch. Always has been.
At 25, Schwartz , who lives in Corydon, admits to being single and loving it. He works as a forklift driver to make ends meet and cites video games, skateboarding and checking out the clubs as favorite pastimes. While his was not a musical family, nevertheless he got his first guitar, a cheap Strat copy, and a $30 pawn shop amplifier at fifteen He began plucking away, mimicking his influences: Nirvana, Deftones and Helmet.
His guitar style is a bit different: some funk, some rock, some metal, and some `I don't know what the hell it is.' His guitar sound is very fat, with ESP guitars, Marshall amps and a variety of effects making for an interesting guitar sound/tone with both clean and all-out rockin' parts, plus some crazy sounds you wouldn't normally hear in a rock band. Kind of high-pitched hip hop/metal riffs.
What is more important is that he can write music, layering riffs in a different and very catchy way, leaving memorable tunes in his wake. Schwartz is as vital to Evil Engine#9 as a light saber is to a Jedi, and writing is "The Force" that lives within the Schwartz.
Twenty-four-year-old guitarist Dave Hutson, from New Albany, has been with the Evil guys going on five-and-a-half years. He's been a great part of the Evil Engine dual-guitar sound, swapping riffs and switching over guitar patterns with Schwartz time and time again. Evil Engine uses layering of totally different guitar parts to achieve one overall groovin' rhythm.
Hutson is married, works in sales at a furniture store and goes to school at Indiana University Southeast to study law. Like Schwartz, Dave had no other musical people in his family, so one Christmas Dave bullied his first guitar from his brother Allen, who got it as a gift but was not interested.
"You won't ever touch the thing," Dave told his brother. Then at age 16, Hutson saw a fat Washburn guitar at a pawnshop and had to have it. He worked and saved all summer and was too happy when he finally got it.
Dave's influences were Alice In Chains and Nirvana, until Schwartz introduced him to Deftones, Poison The Well and several other cutting edge artists. He plays ESP guitars with Peavey 5150 amps.
Dave recalls "Schwartz always had the lowdown on up-and-coming new national bands that rocked. He'd know about new bands six months before anyone else did."
Upon joining Evil Engine #9, his dad tripped out and was upset at his son for joining a rock band. Fortunately, T. J. Thomas, the vocalist for Engrind, calmed things down quite well, saying "it would be ok." Turned out that T.J. worked with Dave's dad.
Drummer Chris Rhine, age 28 and single, works as a bartender at Jillian's and also works at Starbucks in the Highlands. He didn't start on drums until he was twelve. He played snare in high school band all four years and had an absolute blast doing so. Chris remembers that "playing state competition in front of all those people was crazy and the arena was huge. I loved it! I wanted to play more!"
Chris went to school with Jason Watt at Corydon High School and was on the same basketball league/team. It was there that the guys got to talking about jamming in a band together. Chris loves Basketball, rockin' out to Mars Volta, Queens Of The Stone Age and Refused and is currently the only one in the band who lives in Louisville. His drumming influences include Dave Grohl, Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins and John Stainier of Helmet.
Twenty-seven-year-old bass ace and backbone of the Evil Engine groove Jason Watt has it really going on, owning his own business, a auto reconditioning shop that is doing very well, and being the bassist of Evil Engine #9. Being owner of the business and maintaining both job and band is rough and very strenuous, but Jason has not faltered in the slightest. In fact, he's stoked. Married to wife Danielle and with a two-year-old girl named Emma, Watt lives near Corydon.
About five years ago, he started as an acoustic guitarist. A friend named Gote, who was a member of an early version of Evil Engine #9, hooked Jason up with lessons and even gave him the acoustic guitar to play. Eventually the guys asked Jason to join, but on bass instead of guitar. (Everyone thinks that if you can play guitar, bass should be no problem.)
So Jason bought some bass equipment and went to work learning bass chops. After all, to play the funky bass lines that make Evil Engine #9 shine, you've got to have groove, groove and really groove. Some jazz, some funk, some rock and some 80's Prince as well, claims Jason Watt.
"What can I say? I'm a Prince fan and always will be. Purple Rain had a huge effect on me wanting to play music. I wanted to immediately learn guitar and piano."
When not working or jamming, Jason enjoys repelling, hiking, camping, skydiving, basketball and listening to his favorite jams such as Cold, Deftones and the new Mudvayne.
"I'm an adrenaline freak!" says Jason Watt.
He plays an Ibanez four-string with a Hughes and Kettner amp rig.
An `Evil' Future....
What are the immediate plans for Evil Engine #9? A video shoot for the song "Thorn" is in the works, possibly in mid-December in Manhattan, with the same people who made the Hatebreed, Ill Nino and Trivium videos. So far it's a go.
Around springtime, the band intends to record a new CD, but first they need to raise the necessary funds before delving into such costly endeavors.
One thing is clear. The band very much wants to record the newer Evil Engine #9 tracks "At Night And Far Away" and "Emptyness That Kills." If nothing else, they'll probably put out a demo CD with a few tracks on it, but the real goal is a full-length CD.
For now, it's shows, shows and more shows, plus more of the positive attitude that this band believes will someday get them that record deal.