It's a sunny evening on July 5th during the shank of summer and the members ofTension Head are rested & primed after the long Independence Day holiday weekend. After taking a 3-month hiatus from performing, the group is poised and ready to set the fuse on their first full-length CD release, which in and of itself is an aural package of fireworks that explodes with focused displays of passion and gut-wrenching precision.
Entitled Fire in the Hole, the debut collection consists of nine original cuts and a Tom Petty cover that aptly harnesses the intense energy of the group's live performances while affording them the latitude to shape their sound for lasting impact.
"We throw away three times as many songs as we play," explains vocalist & songwriter C.L. Rossio. "If we don't think it kicks ass, who else is? We produce quality songs that make you sing back the lyrics or keep the riff going in your head for days. Frankly, I think that's part of the reason we do so well - the clarity of our songs. We feel after this CD goes out we'll have a lethal combination for arena rock, which is as it should be."
Recorded within a 3-year period amidst several personnel changes, on first listen Fire In the Hole doesn't sound much different than the group's clamorous live performances. "We tried to keep the recording as 'live' sounding as we could," comments bassist Tony Garcia. "Most people don't like to see somebody live and hear something totally different on recording. Most people know that a 'live sound' is hard to capture on record, but we felt it important to deliver that feeling and energy that we get back from people in a live setting."
When asked to describe the sound they strive to fashion, C.L. is reflective. "It's not dark and it's not depressing. It's party music. It's energetic fist swingin' music. We all have different backgrounds and likes in music, so we focus and bring that all together - everything from Tejano to Hardcore Punk to Metal and even Rap."
Indeed, while Tony lends his ear to old school punk influences such as The Stoogesand The Clash, guitarist Sean Griffin feels the pull of old-school rock bands likeBlack Sabbath and hardcore groups like Forbidden.
As for C.L., he puts it this way: "I like a tiny bit of country, a tiny bit of Rap, but anything from Metal to Hard Rock is where my blood runs. I love it all, as long as the beat makes you move, I don't care."
The group also feels this concoction of influences is what has lent the group it's ever-expanding success since their inception.
"The formula we have is working," states C.L. "Crowds keep getting bigger at our shows, and it's been five months since we played out live. We took a break to create some type of anticipation while recording the album. Plus it was time for a break, so it didn't become boring for us. All bands need to take a break from time to time."
"JoJo Jimenez is our 4th drummer," continues C.L. "It's kind of a Spinal Tap type joke within the band," he laughs. "But it seems this band has gotten better & better with each new member that comes in, which is unusual, because usually if you lose a member you also lose songs, fans, and the feel to your music. But we stood firm because we didn't want to lose what we had gained. Each drummer has helped us evolve more and I give credit to each member involved with the progress of Tension Head."
"JoJo comes from a Tejano background," adds Tony, "and he brought a finesse to the drumming, with more rolls and more feeling to the music. He adds more flavors to our sound, which is what we're going for. We want to please as many people as possible. We know we won't please everybody, but we do get people coming up to us at shows saying they don't even like hard rock, but enjoy our band. It's the high energy people get from us and the clarity of our music, vocally and instrumentally. It's somewhat simplistic, but that's what makes us what we are - straight to the point."
As for the title, Tony says he came up with Fire in the Hole from something he heard on TV. "It sounded good and when I thought about it the title kind of references a 'first shot'; let's go out there and get 'em. It kind of fits for the attitude we have as a band."
Starting a new musical outfit is a daunting task for anyone, but at what point did the members of Tension Head notice growth in audience attention and feedback?
"I would have to say when Pat joined the band," notes C.L. "By the end of Tyler's position, we paid a lot of dues everywhere. Flint treats us like we're in a hometown and The Machine Shop fans are the most hardcore Tension Head fans out there, period. Not to say Saginaw isn't right up thee with them. The Hamilton St. Pub is also a main venue for us, but we've been fortunate."
Indeed, the band has managed to land opening gigs for such national recording artists as Trapt, Anthrax, Damageplan, Monster Magnet, Drowning Pool and Sponge.
"I would have to say that opening for Anthrax was a career highlight," reflects C.L. "Not only because we got to play with one of our heroes and a band we all grew up listening to, but to actually win over a crowd. The Flint Journal said we stole the show, so that was a high mark."
When asked what they feel about the 'state' of the music scene today, Sean is quick to answer. "If you're talking about the MTV scene, it's all Marilyn Manson look-a-likes and way too trendy. But I think it's always been that way to a degree. There's just a certain amount of bands that be themselves, which is what we're about. We don't have gimmicks. We're not all dressing alike or wearing masks or painting our faces. People appreciate this, I think, because it's more genuine and shows we're more in touch."
"For me personally, it's been an up and down ride," states C.L. "Health issues have taken me up & down and it takes a lot out of you, particularly the way I sing. You have to watch your voice and learn how to project differently. It's done its stress on me, but you learn and move on. That's been a big hurdle. Anybody that screams or yells and tries to make it sound clear is going to go through some pain."
"What's incredibly gratifying though," concludes C.L. "is the number of people that have offered their services to help the band because they believe in us. Whether it's building flyers or helping on our website or photography to recording the CD itself, there's a lot of people we need to thank. We've been blessed in that sense. They all seem to like us and want to help us as much as they can, to be part of what we're doing as well."
"I don't have to say any names right here, because I don't want others to think they can take advantage of them, but each person knows who they are."
For more information on Tension Head check out their myspace profile atmyspace.com/tensionhead.
Tension Head will be performing at the Altered Skin Revolution in Old Town on July 15th and have a CD release party at the Hamilton St. Pub on July 29th.