November 7, 1996 * Vol. 6, No. 45
With their outlandish get-ups and attitude, Alicin's Journal sticks out like a sore thumb in their hometownand that's just the way they want it
by John Sewell
Dateline: Newport, Tennessee. Strange creatures have descended from the stratosphere bearing guitars and spewing blood. They have been spotted at several dives around East Tennessee, bludgeoning Earthlings into submission with their music, a combustible mixture of metal and industrial rock. As these beings gain momentum, they are spreading their disease to the north, with sightings as far off as the über-punk hangout, New York's legendary CBGB. This is not a test of the Emergency Broadcast System, this is the real thing!
Okay, so maybe that's a bit over the top--but it's actually not that far from the truth. The East Tennessee music scene has seen its share of musical mutations, but never anything quite as, uh, interesting as Alicin's Journal. And it just had to happen in Newport, of all places.
Alicin's Journal has been spreading its musical madness for a little over three years now, evolving from a high school cover band into the horror show they are today. During their reign of terror, Kevin, Jayson, Chad, Tré, and Philip (no last names, please) have become adept at their skills on vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and guitar, respectively. The guys are still young (ages 19-21), but have approached the music scene with an intensity that belies their youth. "After we started playing out, I told the guys that this is what I wanted to do with my whole life, and we've just gone from there," says Chad. "When I joined the band we decided to get serious."
The band's onstage personae would lead one to expect them to be equally melodramatic in their offstage personalities, but the men of Alicin's Journal just seem like normal Southern guys; guys who like to put on horror rock shows complete with quasi-androgynous getups and simulated violence onstage, that is.
The band is often referred to as "the Marilyn Manson of Tennessee," a title they disavow--sort of. Although no longer sporting whiteface makeup, they do still wear black lipstick, eyeliner, and plenty of thrift shop couture onstage. Nonetheless, they are in a process of reevaluating their image because they don't want to be pigeonholed as Marilyn Manson wannabes.
"We were cool with the white makeup until every article that came out about us compared us to Manson, and we got sick of that," says Jayson. "We don't really sound like them anyway."
Well, maybe. It's understandable how the untrained ear could find the missing link between the two, especially anyone who had heard the lurching industrial noise of the Newport band's previous release, Sliverware. In reality, the latest incarnation of Alicin's Journal's sounds weighs in closer to the post-thrash metal stylings of Korn and Pantera, full of thick riffs, menacing rhythms, and Kevin's vitriolic howl.
The band has experimented with samples on their most recent recording, a cassette entitled Kill Us....Save The World. Lack of funds prevented the band from exploring this technology to the fullest, but they wouldn't use too many loops or sequencers even if they could, preferring to physically produce the sounds you hear onstage.
Kevin, the primary lyricist of the band, says that the violent imagery that often comes up in the band's songs is merely an outlet for anger and aggression, not a true reflection of his mental state.
"The way I write lyrics, one person can listen to it and say, 'Man, he's talking about stabbing someone,' and someone else can get something entirely different. You have to look at it with a bit of humor; that's what makes the world go 'round!"
The band has a serious work ethic and, in the last year, have played around 60 shows, including the CBGB gig, where they opened for Speedball Baby and Bloodloss, a side project of Mudhoney's Mark Arm.
"CBGB's is a rat hole and I love it," says Kevin. "It's the ultimate rock 'n' roll club."
This past summer found Alicin's Journal playing for the largest crowd of their career: an estimated 2,000 campers the day before Lollapalooza in Newport. The show culminated in a crowd jumping on stage and getting naked, a benchmark performance for the band.
Coming from the buckle of the bible belt, Alicin's Journal has encountered plenty of opposition from the religious right. Though the guys don't claim any affiliation with Satanism or any other religion, they have enjoyed the result of the controversy that surrounds the band: publicity.
"We played at this street festival in Newport, and we were passing out our cassettes to the audience," says Kevin. "At the same time, there was this religious group passing out their pamphlets through the crowd. After the show this lady gave me their tract or whatever that said, 'You have an enemy.' There are all these religious people in Newport that are against us, but that's publicity--and any publicity is good."
"I just laugh at it," adds Jayson. "If they would actually read and listen to the lyrics, they would see that they have nothing to do with all that religion they're talking about."
Satanic or not, Alicin's Journal manages to provoke extreme reactions from their audience, including violence directed at band members. An incident at the band's last Mercury Theatre show resulted in Jayson hitting an audience member over the head with his guitar.
"I hit one of them on the head with my guitar 'cause he was trying to drag me off the stage," he shrugs.
"At first it was like really cool though," adds Philip. "You know, we were letting them beat the hell out of us onstage, they were jumping up and slamming into us and that was okay--it just got out of hand."
All in all, Alicin's Journal members aren't as serious about their "message" as some overzealous audience members seem to be.
"It's just entertainment." says Tré.
"Basically we do this as a form of release," adds Chad. "You know there is definitely some humor in all of this. I mean, if someone decided to come to the show with 'Alicin's Journal is fags' written on their forehead or whatever, I'd just laugh and go on. There's just too many people that take things too seriously."
"That's just us," opins Kevin. "We're totally the opposite of what a lot of people think we are. I mean, we're just acrobats in a circus, you know?"
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