One of the loudest and most savage rock-and-roll shows I saw in the 1990s was Firewater, which laid sinister rock riffs over various Old and Third World dance beats (klezmer, ska, etc.). This was at Brownies, a cavernous beer-and-smoke-stained club that used to reside on 1st Avenue in the East Village (anyone remember it?). I distinctly recall a Japanese keyboard player in a silver Star Trek shirt whose playing blew my mind. And the lead singer had a very bad attitude. Anyway, the album was called Get Off The Cross (We Need The Wood For The Fire) (1995) and it was a surprisingly fierce and rocking album, with all the snarl and intensity of an American Pogues. It was in direct contrast to most of the fey, self-pitying indie fare of the time.
Now I read that Tod A., the guy with the bad attitude, went on a long hiatus after the US invaded Iraq, disillusioned with life in New York and with America in general. He traveled India and the Middle East with some lightweight recording equipment and "captured performances with a vast array of musicians across India and Pakistan -- and eventually Turkey and Israel," according to his website. "Bhangra and sufi percussion would form the basis for the songs he wrote along the way."
Apparently his trip was interrupted by his getting drugged, beaten and robbed along the Afghan border. This mini-documentary has him explaining what he did and how he did it and it's totally fascinating and inspiring.
A niggling question for Tod: Did he pay these guys or credit them in the liners notes? Whatever. His new album "The Golden Hour" seems worth checking out. Here's a track from it.
This Is My Life - Firewater