Sam – Guitarist in Down By Law / Black Valley Moon

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Sam – Guitarist in Down By Law / Black Valley Moon

Sam Williams, guitarist of Down By Law, here. I’ve been in DBL since the early 90s. And my first record with the band was Punkrockacademyfightsong. I’m also in an instrumental band called Black Valley Moon, we have a record coming out, soon. If you like guitar rock, check us out on Facebook.

So with these three records, I stuck specifically to the ‘life changing’ theme. With one exception, the records on my list may not have ended up being the most influential, or favorite, thing the artist did for me. But it did get the initial ball rolling for me, in some big way. Hence, the changing of the life.


Van Halen – 1984
This is not my favorite Van Halen album (although I do consider it to be under rated among their hardcore fans). But it is the first one I remember hearing. I was pretty young during VH’s hey day (in 1984, I was 10). So I missed out on experiencing their earlier impact, first hand. I would later go on to discover their back catalog, and develop a deeper love of some of those first few albums. But hearing ‘Panama’ and ‘Hot For Teacher’ and even ‘Jump’ in constant rotation on FM radio was the first exposure I had. And like a million other kids, it was Eddie Van Halen that inspired me to try and play guitar in a serious way. I didn’t care about athletes or actors. But EVH was the guy I looked up to. The only other hero I had that even came close was Spiderman. I remember being really into a couple of hard rock bands before this. KISS and Alice Cooper come to mind. But my love for them at the time was mostly based on their images (I’ve since come back around to them, musically). However, my love for Van Halen was really based on the whole package. The songs, logo, album cover, even the name of the band just seemed stream lined in a way that was light years ahead of all the other bands I was hearing at the time. And for whatever reason, the playing and charisma of EVH was something that I really aspired to. I remember having a VH shirt when I was very, very young. I went into a Burger King with my mom, or something. And the teenaged girl behind the counter told me ‘cool shirt’. It was all over, after that. I felt cool. It’s still a bucket list wish of mine to meet EVH one day and personally thank him. I still think he’s the best. I never stopped digging this band for a second, no matter how hardcore I got. I even like much of the Hagar years.


Dag Nasty – Can I Say
Conversely to the previous experience, Can I Say was not the first Dag Nasty album I heard. But it is my favorite, and most life-changing (for obvious reasons). I remember being introduced to hardcore punk by a friend of mine in 7th grade. Being that I was into the rock guitar virtuosos of the day (EVH, Randy Rhoads, Alex Lifeson), the apparent haphazard approach to musicianship of bands like Angry Samoans and Pilsbury Hardcore didn’t connect with me. It wasn’t until falling asleep to Wig Out At Denkos one night did it occur to me that decent guitar playing and singing wasn’t completely out of the question for the genre. It turns out a lot of bands during this era (late 80s) had started heading down various paths of rock. In fact, I often think of this era of these bands to be fairly unheralded, as of now. Yet their innovations are still being felt in mainstream rock, today. Anyway, Dag Nasty were definitely a gateway band to me before I started back tracking and appreciating earlier, less refined hardcore bands. And I thought they really nailed it on Can I Say. It really blended a lot of elements, perfectly. Brian Baker became my new Eddie Van Halen-esque idol for much of my formative years. But really the band as a whole was excellent. Even the subtle image of the band was cool. I loved the odd name, too. This album, along with maybe Suffer by Bad Religion, are *the* defining albums for what I would call ‘melodic hardcore’. And Dave’s vocals are, and will always be, the defining vocals for this band. There is no one more versatile in the entire genre. I was so enamored that just out of high school I flew out to the other side of the country for a shot to be in a band with the singer of Dag Nasty. Life changing.


Thin Lizzy – Wild One/Best Of
Again, not even close to my favorite album of this band. However, it is the one I was first exposed to. After years of rejecting all things rock (punk tends to do that), I remember being on tour with Down By Law, and our tour manager (a dude that had been roadying for all manner of bands since the 70s), threw this cd on. Something about it immediately touched my hardcore-hardened heart. I had probably heard boys are back in town, at some point, and thought nothing of it. But this collection of songs at this particular time hit me right in the gut. I would go on to appreciate so much about this band. The top notch song writing chops, the soulful singing, the cool image, the awesome versatility. And the unique Celtic vibe, which is another aspect that really resonates with me. I have always loved Celtic music of any variety. Be it old folk songs, or traditional bands like Planxty or the Chieftains. I especially love the combination of this kind of music with rock. And many of my favorite bands are from this region (Big Country, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, SLF). In any case, Thin Lizzy will always be the top of that heap, for me. And more importantly, they changed my musical life by encouraging me to take off the puritanical punk blinders I’d had on for the past decade and start enjoying other forms of rock. In fact, I think I spent the next 10 years listening to nothing but 70s rock. It’s still my go-to genre, most of the time.

Down By Law is a punk band from Los Angeles, California, USA.
Black Valley Moon is an instrumental-horror-punk-rock-Americana band.

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