The Last Action Hero: best soundtrack ever

These days it’s common – nay, expected – for a big blockbuster movie to have a kickass soundtrack packed with original new tracks by the big heavy-hitters of the day. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time the ‘movie soundtrack’ section of a record store was populated largely by recordings of the actual orchestral music scores of films. If a soundtrack featured pop songs, they were often classic tracks that everybody knew. Even in the case of big blockbuster soundtracks which featured a healthy amount of original new songs – like the album which accompanied the release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 – the tracks were very much mainstream radio-friendly pop. So the 1993 release of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero and its soundtrack sent shockwaves through the hard rock and heavy metal scene of the day because it was fricken loaded with crushing tracks by metal, thrash, grunge and alternative icons.

This was an album which featured new, never-before-heard tracks by some of the biggest names in heavy music at the time, including two of thrash’s Big Four. Check out this track listing:

“Big Gun” – AC/DC
“What The Hell Have I” – Alice In Chains
“Angry Again” – Megadeth
“Real World” – Michael Kamen and Queensrÿche
“Two Steps Behind” – Def Leppard
“Poison My Eyes” – Anthrax
“Dream On” [Live] – Aerosmith
“A Little Bitter” – Alice in Chains – 3:53
“Cock the Hammer” – Cypress Hill – 4:11
“Swim” – Fishbone – 4:13
“Last Action Hero” – Tesla – 5:44
“Jack and the Ripper” – Michael Kamen & Buckethead – 3:43

AC/DC’s “Big Gun” kicks off the album, and although they’ve never played the track at a concert, it was heavily visible at the time of its release, particularly due to the pervasive presence of Arnie himself in the video. A classic driving AC/DC twelve-bar-blues-based track with a monster single note riff punctuated by a slinky, bendy melody, the song is classic Acca Dacca. Check out the video, and watch for Arnie doing his own version of Angus Young’s famous duck walk, complete with Gibson SG. While the SG looks huge on Angus’s diminutive frame, it looks like a ukulele in Arnie’s hands.

Alice In Chains’ two contributions, “What The Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter,” are especially noteworthy entries in the band’s catalog because they represent the first tracks recorded with bass player Mike Inez, who was fresh from Ozzy Osbourne’s band at the time, replacing the departed Mike Starr. (Trivia buffs will know that Inez wrote the bass riff to Ozzy’s “No More Tears”). The two songs were mixed by Andy Wallace, although both were remixed by Toby Wright for the band’s 1999 Music Bank box set.

Three of the soundtrack’s songs continued to be played live regularly by their respective creators for quite a while afterwards. Def Leppard’s “Two Steps Behind” was released in two versions: an electric version from the band’s Retro Active compilation of rare and unreleased tracks (the song was also a B-side to the “Make Love Like A Man” single) and a stripped-back acoustic version. It’s the acoustic rendition that was used for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and this is the version of the song that the band still plays live to this day.

Another enduring live track is Megadeth’s “Angry Again.” Written specifically for the film and later appearing on Megadeth’s Hidden Treasures rarity EP, the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards. Apart from Marty Friedman’s brilliant guitar solo and the impressive handlebar moustache sported by Dave Mustaine in the video, the song is particularly interesting for a neat little songwriting trick used in the verses. During the first verse, Mustaine sings over the second half of a two-bar riff, but in the second verse he sings over the first half. It’s a great way of creating a sense of movement from one verse to the next, and probably one of the reasons it’s such a fan favourite.

The album’s other thrash legends, Anthrax, contributed a song leftover from the sessions for their 1993 album Sound of White Noise, their first with Armoured Saint vocalist John Bush and last with lead guitarist Danny Spitz. While the song features the same big riffage as the Sound of White Noise tracks, it has a much more adventurous arrangement, including the use of record scratching.

Queensrÿche and composer Michael Kamen collaborated on “Real World,” a sweeping epic in the vein of their previous work together, “Silent Lucidity.” In fact, “Real World” represents a step beyond “Silent Lucidity,” with Kamen set free to push the Pink Floyd-esque progressive elements of the band’s sound even further. Like “Angry Again” and “Two Steps Behind,” “Real World” was performed live on many Queensryche tours.

A few of the album’s tracks had been released previously, including Fishbone’s “Swim” (from their album Give A Monkey A Brain And He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe). Cypress Hill’s “Cock The Hammer” is from their 1993 classic Black Sunday. And of course Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” presented here as a live version with orchestration by Michael Kamen. Tesla’s “Last Action Hero” is a powerful 80s rocker, although it felt a little out of place in the grunge-friendly climate of 1993, even on an album with such 80s megastars as Def Leppard and Queensryche. But it’s a rockin’ song with some very cool Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar harmony work.

The album is closed out in spectacular fashion with another collaboration between Michael Kamen and unlikely partner: Buckethead, whose alternatingly haunting and rocking guitar weaves through orchestral ambience and electronica. Although Buckethead was already known to hard-core guitar fans, this was probably his first ‘big time’ exposure, and as an introduction to the world at large it’s a very impressive one.

There have been plenty of innovative soundtrack albums since Last Action Hero – the rap/rock collaborations of Judgment Night later in 1993 being a particularly noteworthy example, pairing Dinosaur Jr. and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Helmet and House of Pain, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Living Colour and Run DMC, Slayer and Ice-T, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and more. In fact the Judgment Night soundtrack may have been a big factor in the rise of rap-rock and nu metal a few years later. But perhaps that’s a story for another time.

New Jackson Signature Models

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You may remember Scott Ian of Anthrax discussing his badass Jackson King V in our interview recently. This incredible guitar is now available to the public in two versions, including a USA-built behemoth. Jackson has also announced new signature models for Misha Mansoor, Phil Collen, Mark Morton and Dave Davidson. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Scott Ian of Anthrax

L-R: Charlie Benante, Frank Bello, Scott Ian, Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais

L-R: Charlie Benante, Frank Bello, Scott Ian, Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais

Anthrax has done what few bands get to do: put out one of the best, most memorable, most crushing albums of their career a good three and a half decades in. For All Kings is everything you loved about Anthrax, amplified and brutalized. Scott Ian’s rhythm guitar is as aggressive and tight as ever and his tone is massive. I caught up with him to talk about the record and how he gets that sound. Read More …

Motörhead’s Motörboat

image001PRESS RELEASE: Megadeth, Motörhead, and Anthrax – three of the greatest heavy metal bands in the world – will perform at the first annual Motörhead’s Motörboat cruise onboard the Carnival Ecstasyfrom September 22-26, 2014. In addition to these three rock giants, “The Loudest Boat In The World” will also feature performances from Zakk Wylde, Jim Breuer, Danko Jones, Fireball Ministry, Wilson, and some big surprises…more bands to be announced soon.  Motörhead’s Motörboat will sail from Miami, visiting the ports of Key West, Florida andCozumel just off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. While onboard, guests will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with band members and will see unforgettable performances on various stages throughout the ship.  Read More …

Metal Masters 5 To Stream Live

image003The latest in the Metal Masters clinic series has been announced, with a huge line-up of legends from some of the biggest names in thrash and prog metal. And although it occurs during NAMM Week (and NAMM is industry-only which presents certain challenges), Metal Masters is open to everyone. It’s at the House Of Blues in Anaheim, California, in Downtown Disney and right near the Anaheim Convention Centre where NAMM is held. So if you’re heading there for NAMM anyway, this seems like a great way to kick off the week. And if you’re not NAMMing but you’re in California, go go go go go! And if you’re not gonna be there, it’ll be streamed online! Here’s the press release.  Read More …

Rob Caggiano Leaves Anthrax

Rob Caggiano ESP

Wow, didn’t see this one coming. Guitarist Rob Caggiano has left Anthrax after two albums and a gazillion tours. Fans on Twitter are already calling for former lead guitarist Dan Spitz to return to the band. And Dan tweeted this a couple of hours ago:

“Now playing….
Caught In A Mosh….
With the lead break (I wrote) note for note perfectly executed. Anybody want to listen to it”

But back to Rob. He says:

“I’m extremely proud of my time in Anthrax. Actually, that’s an understatement! We accomplished so many great things together over the years and I shared some of the best times of my life with these guys. As a band, we also weathered quite a few storms along the way. It’s been a wild ride (to say the least) from Day One and I wouldn’t change one single thing about the last 12 years. This is an extremely difficult and emotional decision for me to make but my heart is just steering me in a different direction right now. Read More …

INTERVIEW: MONO’s Daniel Kushner

Have you seen what MONO is up to? They offer a range of environmentally, zoologically and aesthetically friendly cases for we guitarists, as well as plenty of other items too – wallets, laptop sleeves, iPad sleeves, backpacks, pedalboard cases, DJ storage stuff… The company has a clear and identifiable design style  too, which gives their products a lot of character. Y’know how products by companies like Apple and Fender always feel ‘Apple-y’ or ‘Fendery’ yet retain their individuality as an item? That. I had a chat with MONO founder Daniel Kushner about the company’s philosophy, product offering and jam-friendly company culture.

How did Mono begin?

MONO was born out of 3 colliding factors: 1. My desire to build a design-driven company, 2. My desire to reconnect with my musical side, and 3. My frustration at the time with the state of soft goods in the music industry. I felt I could really make a difference in the industry designing pro level products for my favorite activity – going to play music. “Go Play” became my mantra, and continues to be our mantra!

Read More …

INTERVIEW: Pearl Aday

Pearl Aday and her band play kickass high-energy, slightly dark-tinged rock. It’s no surprise that the band rocks so hard. In addition to Pearl’s impressive resume and family history (for instance, she’s toured as a backing vocalist for Motley Crue as well as for her dad Meat Loaf), the band Pearl consists of the members of Mother Superior – who for a while were the new Rollins Band – and her husband Scott Ian of Anthrax. Being surrounded by rock her whole life, Pearl kicks off her debut album – Little Immaculate White Fox – with a raging anthem called Rock Child which immediately shatters any idea that rock is anything but in her blood.

“It’s just a rock song, high energy rock and roll. It’s pretty straight forward,” Pearl says. “The lyrics are about how I guess I am a, y’know, rock child. My dad’s a rock singer, and the lyrics are pretty autobiographical. When I was little my mom worked in a recording studio, and an open guitar place was a really good place for a baby to sleep if you put in a blanket and a pillow. So I actually did sleep in a guitar case. We just felt it was a fun song and a really good opener to kickstart the album.” Pearl could be forgiven for skirting the issue and not writing a song about it, but what would be the point? “I’m not ashamed of it,” she says. “I’m proud of where I come from. It’s part of who I am and what I do, so why not celebrate it?”

Read More …