Grunge’s alternative revolution in the 1990s was all about rebelling against the yuppiedom of the previous decade.
It began in late 1991 when Nirvana unwittingly crashed onto the charts with its newly minted sound, a direct reaction to the music-by-numbers of Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Hammer and Boyz II Men. Others followed in Nirvana’s footsteps: Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Bush, Silverchair and Candlebox.
But, like punk 10 years earlier, grunge fell out of favor. Copycats saturated the market, and grunge fashion – thrift-store plaid shirts and Doc Martens – became mainstream.
Good riddance, says keyboardist Brian Milner of Orlando’s newest hard-core metal entry, Skrape. It’s time to lighten up.
For those about to rock, the quintet salutes you with its relentless debut RCA album, “New Killer America” (released March 20).
“There’s a new generation of kids,” Milner said recently, “the whole depressing Pearl Jam era is over. It’s time to start having fun again. We’re rocking hard and trying to have fun at the same time. That’s what that means.
“Our music is aggressive, but in general we have a good time playing it and we don’t walk around being depressed all the time. We just do what we do. We play rock ‘n’ roll.”
It may not be terribly original, but Skrape packs a Godsmack-sized wallop with the jarring vocals of Billy Keeton, the crunching guitars of Mike Lynchard, the high-voltage drumming of Will Hunt and the melodic rhythms of bassist Pete Sison.
So far, fans are buying into it. “New Killer America” debuted three weeks ago at No. 157 on Billboard’s album chart, and the first single, “Waste,” has logged nine weeks on the mainstream rock tracks chart. The message will get spread even more this summer as Skrape joins Pantera, Slayer, Static-X and Morbid Angel on the Extreme Steel Tour.
“We’re getting more attention, slash respect, which is a long time coming when you’ve been working at it all your life like we all have,” Milner said. “We started out when we were 13 years old and now it’s finally happening, and you’re like, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’ It’s really cool.”
Skrape, whose members had done time in Genitorturers, Stuck Mojo and a Beastie Boys tribute band, formed in the late 1990s. Rather than wallow on the grueling club circuit, they concentrated on honing their sound through demos – with the intent of getting signed to a major label – and playing live shows sparingly. The strategy paid off. Each rare gig became an event in rock-hungry Orlando.
“I don’t think we really came up with a strategy for that,” Milner said. “We all had been playing in bands for so long that we were like ‘Let’s get together people who have the ability to play and write so we can get a record deal.’ That’s what our sights were set on, because everyone in the band had done other things that weren’t successful or only moderately successful.
“We went in and wrote the songs, recorded demos and started putting them in the right hands. We just didn’t end up doing that many shows before we got label interest. It just kind of worked out that way. It didn’t take long for somebody to hear us and say ‘This is something different, this is pretty cool,’ and told somebody else and that’s when it started taking it off. The word got out there and people started hearing the demo.”
RCA stepped in and signed them, and producer Ulrich Wild (Deftones, Static-X, Powerman 5000) was enlisted.
“We had most of the songs done and then we did preproduction and met with Ulrich,” Milner said. “He came to Orlando where we live and spent a few weeks going over the songs and getting them ready. He was like, ‘Look, this is going to go on a recording forever. This is your first album, so make sure it’s what you want to come out.’ We did a lot of preproduction, worked it out and did what I think is a pretty kickass record.”
The band’s early aloofness rubbed some people the wrong way in Orlando. Not everyone in Disney town was enamored with them.
“Part of that whole story about us being elusive in the beginning was because once we got our deal and started working on our album, we really didn’t play (live) for a long time. We did a few shows, then we were gone recording the record and came back in nine or 10 months and played again.”
“The first couple of gigs that we did, I wasn’t even in the band yet, and from what I hear, it was pretty awful. Nobody liked it and there were actually people who said, ‘Give it up,’ stuff like that. They didn’t understand the sound yet; it was a few years ago, so there wasn’t all this nu-metal that’s out now.
“Hopefully, we’ll make Orlando a rock town. Since we’ve gotten signed out of there, there’s been a lot more rock interest, labels coming through. There’s some good bands there. I actually talked to some people in a rock band not too long ago who moved to Orlando from Los Angeles, if you can believe it, because they heard it was kind of a cool place to be. Maybe it’ll be a new Seattle thing.”
There’s no telling what will become of Skrape. Will it thrive, barely survive or fall by the wayside? Milner says they’re in it for the long haul.
“No matter how bad it gets out here,” he said, “anytime that we’re miserable or pissed off about something, we can always go, ‘Hey, we’ve got a record deal and we’re touring.’ We could be back home working construction or in an office. It’s not that bad. Yeah, there’s moments where you get real excited, like ‘Wow, I’m really here.’ ”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “The first one I got with my own money was Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Speak of the Devil’ and ‘Van Halen I.’ Back then, Iron Maiden ruled a lot of the time for me. I went through stages. Later on, it was Faster Pussycat.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Kiss, the ‘Lick It Up’ tour, in Tallahassee. By then, I was pretty much already infected with the urge to be a rock star, but it didn’t hurt to see that show. It only made it stronger. After that concert, that’s all I needed – ‘Rock ‘n’ roll, I’m doing that.’ ”
WOULD I LAST ON FOX’S “BOOT CAMP”?: “Yes, I could do that. I don’t think it’d be a problem. And the money’s another reason to do it. I’d take the $500,000. Heck, I’d do it for $100,000.”
BWF (before we forget): Glean Skrape on the Web @ www.skrape.com.