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All fired up
The Burning Brides take no prisoners
Related stories

Burning Brides: FALL OF THE PLASTIC EMPIRE. By Mikael Wood.

Itís no accident that Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats spent two years studying acting at New Yorkís famed Juilliard School before the rock-and-roll bug bit him in 1996. That accounts for his ability to get into character for the menacing delivery of a primal line like "I want you gaaaaaaaahhhhhhwwwwwww-uhhnnn!!!!!" from the back-from-the-crypt garage punk of "King of the Demimonde," a characteristically amped-up, guitar-driven track from the trioís thunderous new Leave No Ashes (V2).

"We brought dry ice into the studio, and the whole floor was completely covered in fog," the 34-year-old Concord native recounts while kicking back on the bandís tour bus in Seattle. "I turned off all the lights, and I had six candles to my left, six candles to the front of me, and six candles to my right. I had a giant Black Sabbath poster on the wall right in front of me. Thatís how you get a vibe going." That, plus a little herbal encouragement, "Iím perpetually stoned," he admits.

Coats has the unblinking confidence of a leading man and a flair for drama when it comes to the Burning Brides, who include his long-time girlfriend, Melanie Campbell, on bass and Jason Kourkounis on drums. (The trio headline downstairs at the Middle East this Saturday.) Among the nuggets he drops during our conversation: "I think weíre a really, really important band." "This record is clearly a four-star record but Rolling Stone only gave it three." "Being a bandís band, weíve become friends with lots of huge musicians who love us, and every band wants us to go out on tour with them."

It would be easy to write this all off to an overfed ego. But though there are kernels of truth in Coatsís proclamations, the raspy, weed-choked laugh belies a bedrock of self-awareness laying beneath the bluster. He may be frustrated that after eight years sweating it out in clubland, the Burning Brides havenít "made it." But he hasnít lost his sense of humor about the rock-and-roll game.

And Coats has reason to be proud of Ashes. Thick with blistering guitars and bombastic drums, the album offers heavy doses of vintage Sub Pop punk-metal garage grunge, the murky growl of heavy stoner rock, and the hook-laden crunch of classic cock rock. There are moments when itís easy to spot the influences. A muscular guitar riff straight out of the AC/DC songbook adorns the discís opener, "Heart Full of Black"; the wild wah-wah, fuzztone fervor of the title track is pure Mudhoney. Elsewhere, the Brides mine and combine familiar elements in less obvious ways: the swampy, semi-acoustic ballad "Pleasure in the Pain" and the dark, bluesy, swaggering "Vampire Waltz" put the bandís own mark on tracks that are right up the alley of Queens of the Stone Age and their pal Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan.

Coats, of course, believes the bandís appeal ranges far wider than that might suggest. "Will we ever have a platinum record to put on the wall? Probably not. Do I think we deserve to be more popular than we are now? Yeah, absolutely. I think weíve released one of the best rock albums of the year. Am I bummed out that our picture isnít on the cover of Spin with ĎBest Live Band on the Planetí next to it? I dunno. If people canít package us because weíre not color coordinated, thatís not my problem. But where are the bands that make you feel like youíre driving 90 miles an hour in a convertible? Where are the bands that make you feel like walking around with gold spray paint, yíknow, spray-painting pigeons? You know, bands that move you and make you think weird fuckiní thoughts? Weíre one of those bands, man."

The Burning Brides are also one of those bands who enjoy having a "bad" rep for indulging in classic rock-and-roll excess. "We were known for Ďtouching the hot stoveí one too many times," Coats says of the time the band spent living in Philadelphia, "and for ending up in weird sexual situations with circus freaks and animals." That attitude may not have helped endear them to their former neighbors in Philly, but itís never hurt their live shows, where Coats goes out of his way to make a spectacle of himself. "We take peopleís heads off when we play."

On a more serious note, he says, "Weíve definitely lived it. Itís like living your life in a movie ó itís a non-reality. Iím completely engrossed in my character . . . the character is me, my job is to expand on my character. Iím supposed to be a superhero version of myself. Iím really not all that interesting as a person, but Dimitri of Burning Brides is very interesting. Right now, Iím very much being myself, but Iím also aware of the fact that people are going to be reading what Iím talking about. Maybe itíll entertain some of them, maybe itíll cause others to absolutely despise us. Thatís cool: I just donít want a mediocre or lukewarm response. I wanna get a reaction either way."

The Burning Brides headline downstairs at the Middle East, 480 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, this Saturday, August 21, with the Explosion and the Rolling Blackouts; call (617) 864-EAST.

Issue Date: August 20 - 26, 2004
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