Urban Collapse
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Urban Collapse

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"Rockin' It!"

For all of you who have stopped turning the dial to 99.9, jaded by the homogenous and monotonous noise local rock stations have been trying to pass off for “music” for the past nine years- I cannot blame you. I cannot blame you for giving up, for throwing in the towel, for finally standing up for yourself and saying “no more” after going back so many times only to be disappointed. Sure, there’s a good song here or there, much like the, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” phone call that coaxes you to crawl back between the sheets of your favorite amphitheatre or record store, only to be slapped in the face by an indecipherable lack of definition, or worse- auto-tune. I applaud you for taking care of you. You may cautiously welcome the obvious exceptions back into your home, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones are still reliable old flames that keep the flicker burning even on the most hopeless of nights. But all in all, we shudder as we fear the sentiment we’ve heard echo through the generations: Is rock and roll dead?



Given my onset of rock fatigue produced by the limited choices between manufactured pop-rock or artificial anger, I had little hope when sent a tip about a local act that was already garnering packed audiences at the Showbox at the Market. Urban Collapse, a fresh, anomalous Seattle rock band comprised of Berklee School of Music-trained-phenoms, raw-talent naturals, and proficient powerhouses found their niche in the nick of time. Each of the members have been on the Seattle music scene for years, some decades, and have rightly paid their dues and eaten their fair share of humble-pie, but remarkably, their official lineup has only been playing together for about eight months, with a total of only seven shows under their belt as of mid-August. I wouldn’t have believed this myself after seeing them open the Showbox with impossible chemistry and a dynamic set-list that, even with the inclusion of unheard of singles, rivaled the main act for audience interaction. With screams reminiscent of Chris Cornell, lead vocalist Dane Larsen hit every note pitch-perfect with the recorded version of their addictive tracks, and worked the stage with the swagger of an industry vet. He engaged drummer William Childs, whose drumming provided a steady, thumping, rhythmic foundation that the crowd had no trouble banging their heads to. Guitarist Mike Conway and Bassist Dave Mcilraith acted as solid anchors on either side of the stage, each thoroughly conquering their instruments. Mcilraith works intently with the precision of an engineer and the magnetism of an artist. Conway is more mobile, handling his guitar with affection but shredding it with the long-missed grit and grime of hard 90s rock. The crowd was entranced. After you’ve seen enough locals perform at the Showbox, you get used to, and practically expect the hardwood floor to look slightly barren under the ambient light from the bar- but not this night. Since I stood up front against the stage, I didn’t immediately notice the packed house mouthing the words to “Crowd of Many” that had gathered behind me, pushing out passed the hem of the main floor. The question left on everyone’s tongues after the obliterating set seemed to be, “Who ARE these guys!?” Unlike the protocol of the past decade, where “hard rock” has been confused with “drowned out vocals and a complete lack of melody,” Urban Collapse is not afraid of hooks, or memorable motifs. Grungy but without the usual overcompensation of an overly distorted guitar, every instrument balances the other perfectly. It’s abrasion without asphyxiation. Not since Metallica has a band been able to make “catchy” rock so damn hard- and not since Layne Staley has a rock-voice so seamlessly accomplished ballads, screams, and shivers down my spine.

Vocalist Dane Larsen




Like a dizzy little fan-girl I went home to fan the newly lit flames. Sometime in the next week I got a confusing message in response to my suggestion of setting up an interview, “Meet us at the Tully’s building at 7 p.m.” The Tully’s building? Like, as in the one off the freeway with the giant “T” on the side of the tower? Ugh…they were going to meet me for coffee and melt into a Seattle stereotype before I could even proclaim the end of my rock-rut. I should have known better than to listen to those sweet guitar riffs. Right on time, I pulled up to the deserted warehouse as the seductive scent of freshly roasted beans wafted through the cool August air. There was no clearly marked retail establishment, so curiously I called Larsen, who promptly met me outside of the Airport Way entrance. The curious part was that on the other end of the phone it sounded like a war zone…I could barely hear him over the thrash of crunchy instruments. As I followed him inside, down several sets of stairs tucked in between thick slabs of concrete and cold metallic rails, I had a feeling we most likely weren’t on our way to some pretentious little coffee house that just happened to be two levels underground. Bass pounded through the walls and down the narrow hallways of this bizarre, underground music-lover’s heaven. Where the hell was I? We passed several doors with numeric codes on the handles before he stopped in front of one and entered a pin I can only wish I was privy to. Inside was an intimate recording room with instruments waiting safely in their designated places, a white-board with charming scribbles I’m only guessing were the work of the ever-charming male gender, and a plastic garbage can with a cornucopia of PBR cans that had seen better days. I looked around in awe- I’m easy to impress- wondering how I could have never known such a place existed in a city known for its musical sight-seeing and sensibilities. Not since the mid-nineties on First Ave have I heard of such an awesome underground (literally) rock haven. It only got better as we traveled back through the concrete maze towards “the musician’s bar,” where the rest of the band waited. Through the last unremarkable- save for its weight- grey door, waited a small, high-ceilinged monument of musicians past. Pictures and records of artists like Jimi Hendrix, basses and drum sticks and posters adorned the brick walls that passed two or three high tables and chairs, eventually leading to three stools lined in front of a bar. Behind the bar was a tap with about four selections, a fridge filled with energy drinks and Pabst Blue Ribbon (aha!), and a bartender strumming his own acoustic guitar. This place was like its own self-sustaining world that is probably how the rest of the world would look if that one Nextel commercial where roadies ran the planet actually came to fruition.



Drummer William Childs



Needless to say, we all ordered a few rounds and moved from obvious topics like making it in a stale industry where Myspace views are synonymous with success, to bikini coffee stands and their take on underage groupies- to which Mcilraith hilariously answers “go ripen up little fruits”. Given that about half the band has tried to make it in all the classic Sunset Boulevard clubs in Los Angeles, such as the infamous Whiskey A Go Go, the topic of celebrity sightings eventually surfaces. Nothing is more disappointing than meeting a famous figure you’ve long since admired only to find out they’re completely subhuman, or in Dave’s case- only to completely embarrass yourself. Back in his days of setting up sets for other artists, Mcilraith came to find he was setting up for one of his idols- Les Claypool of Primus. As we’ve all done once or twice, he rehearsed his perfect opening line at least a dozen times before he approached the multi-talent, waiting for the story he would someday tell his grandkids to unfold. As he tells it, his perfect opening line was something to the effect of, “Hey man. Wanna go burn one in the parking lot?” He eagerly awaited Claypool’s response. Apparently, right before a set isn’t the best time to go smoke illegal substances, and instead of a story that would live for generations Mcilraith got an awkward and suspicious, “Uhh…no thanks man. I’m good.” But it’s his chill attitude and sarcastic sense of humor that makes every story the bassist tells worth repeating anyway- and it’s Mcilraith that ends up being humiliated for me as I try to console him with my 19-year-old obsession with an afternoon DJ with serious delusions of grandeur. Either way, the talented full-time family man and rock enthusiast lives up to my expectations set by his stage persona. He explains to me that, especially now more than ever, a musician can’t get anywhere without a charismatic stage-presence to back up the set-list.

Bassist Dave Mcilraith

And this couldn’t be truer of the four individuals I sit with. Each wears their own archetype well. Childs, the breathtakingly talented and classically trained drummer, simply observes- the strong, silent type to be cliché. The appointed “musical prodigy” in the group, Childs has been playing both drums and piano since before the age of 10. He’s also earned two highly prestigious degrees from the acclaimed and competitive Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. A true talent, Childs has emigrated from R&B and pop, before ultimately finding a place more fitting in Urban Collapse. Quiet compared to the others, but not to be confused with soft-spoken, you would never know that Childs was the recipient of several distinguished scholarships and awards unless you asked him, and maybe not even then.



Guitarist Mike Conway



Mike Conway on the other hand, has energy and words to burn. The “baby” of the group, the 23-year-old guitarist is perhaps technically the “founder” of Collapse. After launching his own recording studio at the tender and dangerous age of just 21, Conway banded with already-friends Mcilraith and Childs. After one disastrous show with a former vocalist, the budding act was in desperate need of a new voice. With the common thread of Dave and Will between them, it was only a matter of time- or a matter of his former band…well, disbanding- that Larsen was offered a spot in front of the microphone. Dave would phone his friend every so often, casually asking how things were going in his soon-to-be-extinct outfit, and “plant the seed” that he maybe come on over to try things out with them. Not to say that Mike and Dane immediately hit it off, because as they tell it, they couldn’t stand each other. Regardless of that, Dane was given two voiceless tracks to record over as an audition of sorts. Given that Larsen has trained with the incomparable and accomplished Susan Carr, the same woman who’s responsible for the pronounced talents of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Dryden Mitchell of Alien Ant Farm, it’s no surprise that Conway and company capitalized when they had the chance. Once the final lineup was in place, the chemistry was undeniable. And anyone who knows chemistry like this knows you don’t try to fight it.



After we chatted it up in the bar and made sure my questions were answered, we got to the fun part. I was lucky enough to get a front row performance- not that there was really room for second and third rows in this studio after drums and musicians were factored in- as the boys played some never-before-heard material for me. I thumbed through a worn, black leather book with Larsen’s scrawl bleeding through the pages and admired the depth of the lyrics I was looking over. Though we’d earlier laughed at the deep political undertones in radio-play songs like “Bad Girlfriend”- for those of you that aren’t familiar, they’re something like, “she likes to shake her ass…yeah she’s a bad, bad girlfriend”- I was impressed these guys could actually back it up. While there’s always room for fun party songs, and even the gratuitous rock-ballad- they have one of those too, but it doesn’t soften itself “To Be With You,” just because it’s a ballad, it’s somewhere in the quality-stratosphere of “Free Bird,” but darker, harder, and louder- every single one of their songs elevates itself beyond alcohol and rhyming end-words.



So, I suppose my point is ultimately not to lose hope. I know rock hasn’t treated either of us so good lately, but there are other fish in the sea. There are some that know just how to use metal, volume, and hooks. There’s still rock that knows how to be poetic yet gritty, that knows how to push limits and buttons while giving you one of the best shows you’ve ever seen but never expected. Just remember, I found it first.

- Molly Bennet


Discography

2009 - Self Titled Debut EP

Photos

Bio

Eddie Vedder, the famous frontman for Seattle rock legend Pearl Jam, once said “I need honesty, I need truth, and I need hope – I need it! That’s what music means to me.”

For Urban Collapse, the dynamic Seattle hard rock band channeling everything from The Mars Volta to Guns N’ Roses to Vedder’s Pearl Jam itself, music is an explosive release of truth, a collection of like-mindedness and remarkable talent expressed through powerful songs and lyrics.

In early 2007, Urban Collapse was a band without a voice. That is, until lead singer Dane Larsen, a 26-year-old veteran of the Seattle music scene, connected with bassist Dave Mcilraith, guitarist Michael Conway, and drummer William Childs in 2008 to form the hottest band to hit the Emerald City in years, booking sold-out shows at some of Seattle’s most notorious venues and stomping out every listener’s ear drums in the process.

Larsen, a classically-trained vocalist with over 10 years of experience, has been a prominent force in the Seattle music scene with bands Something Vital and renowned drummer Kenny James’ (George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars) The Witching Hour. Trained by Susan Carr, the prominent vocal coach who has worked with Minus the Bear, Vendetta Red, Mastodon, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alien Ant Farm, and Alice in Chains, Larsen has become a staple on Friday and Saturday nights at venues like the Shobox (Market and Sodo) and Neumos, as well as touring the West Coast, performing at such legendary venues as Whisky A Go Go. Larsen’s bands have opened for Floater and The Presidents of the United States of America, and his music has been played on both 99.9 KISW and Funky Monkey 104.9.

Conway, began playing guitar at age 12. He studied classical music theory in his teens and began emulating Joe Satriani, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Dimebag Darrell as his musical passion was unleashed. While in college, Conway studied audio production and launched Audio Vault Productions, a Seattle-based recording studio. The spine-tingling guitarist played with various Seattle bands and many other musicians throughout college, never finding the right fit until 2007, when he started the search for a project he wanted to pour his heart and soul into. He found Mcilraith and Childs, and Urban Collapse was born.

Mcilraith, the well-traveled bassist of the group, began his illustrious playing career in 1989. Spanning from St. Louis to Los Angeles to Seattle, Mcilraith’s sound engineering and stage tech history speaks for itself, but his spectacular bass-playing career is truly impressive. Mcilraith was the bassist for 40dog, C.O.R.E., and Otto's Revenge, among others. He also shared a stage with Flotsam and Jetsom, Sepultura, and Course of Empire. Mcilraith has played in all major clubs in L.A. as well, including the Roxy, the Troubador, House of Blues, Coconut Teaser, the Dragonfly, Opium Den, Whiskey A Go Go, the Gig, Mancini's, and F.M. Station. But Mcilraith never found a true musical home until locking grooves in Seattle with Conway and Childs in Urban Collapse. Mcilraith knew Larsen from a previous band and knew he was the missing piece to Urban Collapse’s puzzle.

Childs, the thundering drummer for Urban Collapse, also knew Larsen from a previous band. And while Larsen is classically-trained, Childs is the true musical prodigy of the group. Playing both piano and drums extensively before the age of 10, Childs studied musical theory and composition while performing with local rock, jazz, R&B, and pop groups in Spokane, Wash. throughout high school. After high school, the celebrated Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. called, where Childs majored in Music Performance and Music Business. Berklee awarded Childs its World Scholarship and Berklee Achievement Scholarship for each of his four years. Childs was also awarded the NAMM Scholarship. In Boston, William studied under notable drummers and recording artists including Dave Dicenso (Cro-Mags, Duran Duran, Gary Cherone, John Petrucci), Casey Scheuerell (Jean-Luc Ponty, Chaka Khan) and Ed Uribe (Berklee Professor and author of The Essence of Afro-Cuban Percussion and Drum Set and The Essence of Brazilian Percussion & Drum Set). William has performed and recorded extensively in the United States and internationally and is the driving rhythmic force behind the musical artillery Urban Collapse blasts upon Seattle.

After showcasing at some of Seattle’s biggest venues, Urban Collapse is ready to leave its mark on the rock industry. The band has worked tirelessly to develop its sound, to develop its unique blend of musical influences into something innovative, something honest – something Eddie Vedder would undoubtedly need.