Randy Weitzel: The Music Never Stops
Randy Weitzel, former guitarist for Flatline has not missed a beat since the unheralded dissolution of the L.A. based band. Weitzel has been working on two new projects, 3/13 (Three Thirteen) and American Massacre, that reflect just how much music, his influences, and the relationships he has formed through music; ooze from his pores.
Now 39, and playing since he was 14, Randy left his homeland of Pennsylvania, as well as his thrash metal band, Phantom Crew, in 2000 for California. Playing in an acoustic band for 2 years, he joined Flatline in 2004, which was a 4 piece project at the time. Over the next six years Flatline morphed not only into a 5 piece band, but had built a loyal following, signed to a record label, toured nationally with Walls of Jericho, In this Moment, 36 Crazyfists, Becoming the Archetype, Straight Line Stitch, Threat Signal, shows with 5FDP, Divine Heresy and so many more, as well as a tour in New Zealand. It appeared that the sky was the limit. In 2009, though, financial troubles hit the Flatline camp which ultimately snuffed plans for touring, as well as plans for a follow-up to their smash label debut LP, “Pave the Way,” which was produced by Weitzel. Randy is not one to sit by idle and let his creativity gel. While Flatline played sporadic shows, Randy was writing songs, ideally for their next album, although that didn’t look to be anywhere in the near future. Even aside from that, was the brewing of something special both musically and personally. What was intended to be a solo project, took on a bigger role when the Flatline avenue had been exhausted.
His project 3/13 is a tribute of sorts to a musical era that shaped him into the revered guitarist that has warranted him the respect, awe and admiration of fans and peers alike. Watching him play guitar is akin to a maestro violinist playing a Stradivarius. 3/13 is also a nod to the relationships both musically and personally that he has forged in his vaulted career. However, what makes it more than a tribute and is itself a tribute to the creative genius of Weitzel is that it is completely original as opposed to cover songs. To capture the essence and musical values of the guitar laden music of the mid to late 70’s and early 80’s; the scene pioneered by KISS with Ace Frehley, AC/DC with Angus Young, Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads, Bad Company, ZZ Top, etc. with complete originality; adding his own personal touch, is not as easy as you might think.
There have been bands that have tried to re-create the sound of a different musical era. The most recent memorable example may be The Darkness. When they arrived people harked back to the glam/hair metal period of the late 80’s; however, much of that; as it was then, was based on imagery. There was a similar sound but to hear The Darkness did not take you back to that period of time mentally. There are plenty of thrash bands around that are very talented, and consist of members that are anywhere from 19-29 years old and undoubtedly they heard bands like Metallica, Overkill, Forbidden, Megadeth and others from the Bay Area thrash movement that influenced their sound. However, there is an element that is missing. Those bands weren’t alive or really experience the atmosphere that surrounded that musical movement. They may try to recreate the sound of the music, but they can’t accurately capture the essence of the time period through the music. With 3/13, Weitzel has taken his musical influences from a young age and not just regurgitated the sound, but has done so in a fashion that takes you back in your head to a time period; when as a teen, life was about smoking, partying and trying to avoid getting hassled by the cops. It is about muscle cars, pinball machines, drinking beer, scamming on chicks, skipping school and blasting your stereo with full tilt rock n roll.
Through his travels and experience with Flatline, Weitzel built several friendships. Aside from being a personable and musically knowledgeable guy, Randy is an artisan of his craft. The fans are entranced by his seemingly effortless layered guitar riffs and other musicians give him the respect and admiration he has earned. As 3/13, and subsequently, American Massacre, started to unfold, by no surprise these people stepped up and wanted to be a part of the project(s), including some of his former band mates. Chris Howorth (guitarist for In This Moment), Josh Newell (bass and NRG Recording audio engineer), Lonny Pasillas (drummer for Eminent), Jimmy Schultz (Drummer for Cheva, New Eden, Cerebellion, Soulbleed), Hector Gonzalez (Flatline, Cheva bassist), Travis Johnson (Flatline vox), are among the friends that gladly jumped on board to be a part of these ventures. It wasn’t a matter of Randy calling up and asking for a favor either. These guys, who all have their own music projects and bands, are asking Weitzel, just the same, to play on this track or that…they want to be a part of this. Howorth fresh off tour with ITM and busy recording their new album as they head into Mayhem Festival Tour, is given production credit as well for the 3/13 project as honor to his friend and colleague.
Since Weitzel announced the 3/13 project, questions have abounded about the significance of the name. What started out as a combination of the Amityville Horror and Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment number; didn’t hold any real meaning until later in time when it started popping up everywhere for Randy, including the date written on one of Logan Mader’s mixes of “Pave the Way”. Coincidentally, after the onset of obsession with the number, it was discovered that frame 313 was the frame of the JFK shooting footage that shows the Presidents head exploding. Weitzel philosophizes, “I just want the music to define the name. When someone says Pantera, do you think of a panther or a pretty cool car? I don’t. I think of one of the heaviest bands ever! So when you hear this music I want you to think of 3/13 and when you think of 3/13 I want you to think of my sound.”
Randy sent me some 3/13 demos that he recorded by himself with his guitar, a drum machine and his vox. From the first listen, I could feel the vibe that was being captured and quite impressed that this was recorded in his apartment with the aforementioned tools. I could hear all the influences. I could see myself, beer in hand, cigarette hanging out my mouth, playing pinball, checking out the chicks walking by when I jumped through the window of my Camaro. I could see all this from hearing the music even though at that time period, I was like 10 years old! That is what makes the project special; rather than covering songs of days gone by that would really only appeal to an audience that can remember that time frame; with these original tracks, rooted in the music values of that era, it gives a younger generation the chance to appreciate the music that paved the way (no pun intended) for the music they listen to today. Some may feel it is a departure on what they would expect from Weitzel, yet that is not all he has going on.
Simultaneously, Weitzel has been working quite closely with Travis Johnson on writing songs for his other project, American Massacre. If 3/13 is a reflection of the influences that prefaced his formation as a premier metal axe man with Flatline, then American Massacre is simply the next chapter of progression. Randy describes the difference between the two projects as, “3/13 is music you listen to when you run from the cops. American Massacre is what is blaring when you blow through the barricades.”
Some, well okay…me, have compared Weitzel to Mick Mars of Motley Crue. He plays guitar, writes music, lyrics, produces and truly is an artist. American Massacre is more pure American heavy metal from Weitzel, Johnson, Pasillas and Newell. While Weitzel may be doing service to the era that molded him with 3/13, he along with his metal brothers, state their allegiance to their present metal embodiment with American Massacre. There is no mistaking the sound of Johnson’s growling voice or how those vocals mix with Weitzel’s leads and the heart pounding rhythm laid by Pasillas and Newell to form the straight-to-your-face Jedi mind-fuck metal sound that fans would expect based on where they all come from. They expect it and assuredly those expectations are surpassed with this L.A. metal Supergroup of sorts.
While Randy Weitzel is heavily influenced by the thrash scene of the 80’s; with his involvement in Flatline and playing with guitarist, Joe “Paulo” Guerra, who is 13 years younger, he learned the influence of the likes of a newer generation of metal guitar (i.e. Chimaira/36 Crazyfists). That clash of eras was a magical union for Flatline and with American Massacre, that sound is progressed. By no means is American Massacre a continuation of Flatline. It is simply taking the experiences and the music he played a part in creating with that band to a new level.
Randy is also a man of his people. Highly accessible; he keeps his fans, friends, and family involved in every stone on his path. Since he does all the artwork and graphics for each of his bands and projects; he designed the artwork for the 3/13 album cover but also held a contest on line for all those interested to take the artwork and add their own personal touch. Subsequently, he had everybody vote on-line for their favorite re-creation. The winner, Jeny Huck of Woodland Hills, entry will be used on a 3/13 promo poster, will receive a free CD and a shout out on the liner notes. When it came time to name the other project, he and Johnson had narrowed it down to two choices, Pure Devastation and American Massacre. Rather than flip a coin or rock, paper, scissors, they took it to the people. American Massacre reigned.
The music never stops for Randy Weitzel. With 3/13 and American Massacre, it is evident that he never forgets where he came from; while at the same time keeps the progression of his route to the top of contemporary metal intact. I am fortunate to have befriended Weitzel during the Flatline years, as aside from being friends with the band I am an ϋber fan also. We grew up in the same musical era and scene and I am stoked to have a hand in spreading the word about this exciting project that honors that influence, in addition to announcing that the brilliance of metal creativity did not die with his departure from Flatline. The 3/13 release is coming soon and American Massacre follows shortly thereafter in 2010. Both albums will be released through yet another venture of Weitzel’s, Phantom Republic Music and Design (PRMD), which caters not only to production of local bands, but also all the artwork and graphics associated with the recording.