Friday, May 13, 2011
Flashback Friday - Sixty Watt Shaman
Damn man…what ever happened to Sixty Watt? I find myself asking that question pretty much every time I fire up one of their stellar, stoner rock masterpieces. If you’ve never heard these guys, then you are abso-fucking-lutely missing out on some of the heaviest, grittiest, flat out most bad ass rock n roll of the new millennium.
The band got their start sometime around 1996 in Baltimore, Maryland when Dan Kerzwick (vocals/guitar), Joe Selby (guitar), Chuck Dukehart (drums) and Jim Forrester (bass), merged two other bands, Approach and Supercreep, to form a sort of mid-Atlantic super group. The guys settled on the rather unique moniker, Sixty Watt Shaman, by combining the stories swirling around two of rock n' roll's biggest legends…Jim Morrison, who was known as the electric shaman…and Jimi Hendrix, who once performed using a 60 watt amp that was specially built for him. The band employed countless jam sessions, tireless touring and a furious work ethic, which led to the release of their first full length record, Ultra Electric, in 1998 on independent label Game Two Records.
Being part of a tight knit stoner rock community, Sixty Watt quickly became buds with other notable Maryland acts, such as Clutch (from Germantown, Maryland) and Spirit Caravan (Scott "Wino" Weinrich's project from Potomac, Maryland). Subsequent opening slots for The Bakerton Group (Clutch side project) and the aforementioned Spirit Caravan helped to build a considerable buzz around the band, culminating in a showcase for Spitfire Records in New York City. Holding nothing back, Sixty Watt gave the industry reps in attendance a taste of their intensity and were ultimately awarded a record deal on the spot.
The result was the now classic 2000 album Seed of Decades, which was produced by none other than Jean-Paul Gaster (Clutch drummer). The record was an absolute kick in the teeth, combining classic rock swagger (think Zeppelin and AC/DC) with a stoner vibe (I'll go with Sabbath and Clutch). Throw in the gravelly, whisky drenched vocals of Kerzwick and you've got yourself a true masterpiece. Put it this way…over ten years after its release, I still have this one in heavy rotation.
More high profile tours followed with bands ranging from Zack Wylde's alcohol fueled Black Label Society (a perfect fit for Sixty Watt in my opinion) to sludge-mongers Crowbar and Southern metallers Corrosion of Conformity. Then in 2002, Sixty Watt saw a lineup change as Dukehart left the band to be replaced on drums by Pete Campbell just prior to recording their followup for Spitfire Records. For this one, another heavy hitter was brought in to produce, namely Scott Reeder of Kyuss/The Obsessed fame.
The resulting album Reason to Live was another absolute classic. This one took the astonishing combination of old and new that was first heard on Seed of Decades and expanded on it. Fans of classic rock, southern rock, stoner rock and even metal could find something to love about Reason to Live. More touring followed, including a jaunt through Europe with Karma to Burn and the band seemed as though they'd found a niche and were on the cusp of becoming a cornerstone of the stoner rock genre.
But alas that was not to be. After touring for Reason to Live wrapped up, Kerzwick (who by then had changed his last name to Soren) moved to Oklahoma for reasons that are unknown to this writer…a move that ultimately spelled the end of Sixty Watt Shaman. Since their demise, some of the band members have gone on to pursue other musical ventures including The Mighty Nimbus (Kerzwick/Soren and Pete Campbell), The Devil You Know (Forrester), Angels of Meth (Forrester) and Stillhouse (Kerzwick/Soren and Selby). A few reunion shows were played in Baltimore in 2006/2007, but otherwise, the band remains on permanent hiatus.
If you're reading this and you've never heard Seed of Decades or Reason to Live, I can guarantee you that you are missing two vital pieces of stoner rock history. Both albums are essential to the genre and elements of them can be heard in the music of countless other bands to this day. So be sure to put Sixty Watt Shaman at the top of your list of bands that you need to track down…I promise, you'll thank me later.
"Fill my lungs with rock n' roll…seed of decades…rock n' roll!"
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