I’ve dropped a new track by way of the new Crunch Pod label sampler “The Future Of Dreaming Vo. 2”. My track as C/A/T, “Resistance”, is exclusive to this compilation – making it a Bandcamp exclusive track as I’ll not be releasing it via Spotify, Apple Music, etc.

I encourage you to pick up this “pay what you want” compilation at the Crunch Pod label Bandcamp site as it’s loaded with tracks from electronic artists both known and obscure.

If that’s not enough to get you on board, here’s the promotional push from the label:

Crunch Pod & Auricle Media proudly presents “THE FUTURE OF DREAMING Vo.2”, a free music compilation featuring a varied collection of over 4 hours of music with 47 handpicked unreleased, rare and exclusive highlights from some of the most innovative, genre bending electronic, IDM, experimental, ambient, DnB, power electronics, rhythmic noise, EBM, dark wave, techno and industrial artists from around the world.

“THE FUTURE OF DREAMING Vo. 2” was put together in order to showcase the state of the art of the ever evolving electronic musical landscapes. This special compilation was arranged with care to achieve a great balance of talents by the likes of well established acts and up and coming artists, doing what they do best by pushing the envelope, testing the limits and breaking the boundaries of genres and styles. We hope that by presenting this release with such varied sounds and elements, which invoke a multitude of emotions, that it will envelop listeners with plenty of inspiration.

Huge thanks and love to all the artists participating on this compilation and to all the fans and supporters of crunch pod for helping to make this happen.

C/A/T 2017 FAQ

The performance at Das Bunker’s 21st Anniversary event prompted many questions about what I’m up to now as C/A/T. I talked to a few people before and after the performance at Bunker, but obviously as releases start coming and word gets out there will be questions from those who did not attend that event. This post is going to attempt to explain things as best as possible.

Q: Was the Das Bunker performance a one-off thing or are you back full-time?

A: Das Bunker was not a one-off. Granted, I have no shows booked at the moment and am definitely not intending to play live often – fingers crossed DB21 won’t be the final show. I’m back “full-time” in the sense that I’m producing music as C/A/T again. As of this writing I’ve already finished a track for a compilation and have begun work on the “comeback” EP (maybe it’ll be longer than an EP, but I’m gunning for an EP right now).

Q: What will the new material sound like? What era of C/A/T will it be most like?

A: Instrumental beat driven music. I had a general idea of how I wanted new C/A/T to sound back in 2014 when I closed up shop. I’m planning on continuing along those lines. Of course, I had to completely recreate my studio environment since then as gear was sold and computers died. It will be different as I’m using a bunch of new stuff now. The closest thing I can equate to what I’m working on to is “Justice” from the “Justice” single I put out in 2014.

Q: Why was the DB21 set mostly old instrumental tracks?

A: I had short notice to put a set together for the gig. Since I have no interest in doing vocals or “terror EBM” music now, it made the most sense to run with an instrumental “power noise” set for the DB21 event. Even still, I spent a lot of the prep time going through many external hard drives pulling together backing tracks from 12+ years ago and converting samples to work with modern software. The next time I perform live it will be very different from the DB21 show.

Q: What about your Corvx de Timor project?

A: It’s dormant. I feel the arc that project took was good and I’m still really happy with the entirety of the project. I have no plans to release any new music as Corvx de Timor; but maybe someday.

Q: What about [insert any number of side projects I’ve had over the years]?

A: No side projects. I’m 100% focused on C/A/T from here on out as far as music goes.

Q: Are you still running Crunch Pod? Will you release your new music on Crunch Pod?

A: No, I don’t still run Crunch Pod. My new music will be self-released on my Bandcamp page and via the usual Apple Music / iTunes / Spotify / etc. digital shops.

Q: What did you do during your time away from music?

A: I wrote. Most of the sites I contributed to died in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Election. I do still write about pro wrestling on a site I founded a few years ago called Turn Heel.

Q: Where is the C/A/T social media?

A: I’m using the name “catwithslashes” wherever possible. I have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – though I’m most active on Twitter as Facebook has throttled the page to the point it barely exists.

Well, “never say never”… right? I’ll get into why I’m back in the music producing game in a later post. But the point today is to announce that I’ll be performing a C/A/T set as part of Das Bunker‘s 21st Anniversary festival in Los Angeles this October. It’s a three-day event and C/A/T will be on day 2, October 7th. This will be the first C/A/T performance since the 2011 edition of the UK’s Resistanz Festival. Also, the first North American C/A/T show since 2010. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Das Bunker has a Facebook event set up with the entire line-up for the three day festival here. Also, you can purchase tickets for DB 21 at Ticketfly right now!

Now, I don’t exactly plan on playing a ton of shows from here on out. And I’ll definitely never “tour” again – that much IS a certainty. So, if you’ve always wanted to check C/A/T out, DB 21 would be a great time to do so. This early in the game, the set is shaping up to be a more classic “power noise”-era C/A/T set – with some other surprises thrown in. Of course, if time permits, I’d love to debut some of the new material in October as well.

When I quietly restarted C/A/T a few months ago, I had zero intentions of playing live again. However, Das Bunker has traditionally been one of my favorite places to play AND getting the offer to play with such a great lineup was something I definitely could not pass up.

I should probably add that I will not have merch for sale at DB 21. I got rid of the remaining physical product I had about 5 years ago. If you’re looking to support my new productions somehow, I have a ton of music available for purchase on my Bandcamp page.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to dropping a set in October in L.A. and hopefully I’ll see you there!

As many of you who have found this website are aware, I ran the industrial music label, Crunch Pod, from its inception in 1998 until I closed it up in late 2011.

Under the original iteration of Crunch Pod, my deal with the various bands I worked with was that they retained all rights to their music. So, in effect, if the label ever closed, their music didn’t have to fall into that void of “Man, I hope some obscure torrent site archived those albums” that tends to happen when labels go away but owned the rights to the music. That said, if after I closed down the label you had a hard time finding an album by an artist we worked with… well, that is on the artist. They have 100% control of their music and can obviously choose to release it or keep it unavailable.

Between 2011 and 2014, I made an effort to contact the remaining bands we still had the physical product of hanging out in my garage (ie. the back stock of CDs). I made arrangements to get copies of those albums to several of the artists. Other artists were either not interested, never responded, or decided it was prohibitively expensive to deal with shipping a bunch of heavy items across the country – or internationally – as the cases may have been. In Summer 2014, the remaining stock I had was delivered to the Sacramento County Kiefer Landfill. So, if someone ever wants to do a “E.T. / Atari 2600” archeological dig to find the Crunch Pod CD back stock… well, that’s where it has all been buried. Good luck!

You may have noticed that in between the 2011 closure and 2014 that the Crunch Pod Bandcamp page still had albums by Manufactura, Broken Fabiola, and my personal projects C/A/T & Captive Six. I eventually migrated the C/A/T and Captive Six albums over to a Bandcamp site of my own. There was a brief period those albums became unavailable on Bandcamp due to the issues Bandcamp was having with how VAT charges were going to be levied. Once that issue was addressed, I uploaded the entirety (give or take) of my music back catalog to: https://benarpmusic.bandcamp.com/. Barring the occasional “death hoax” that seems to spring up every 8 months or so and creates a rush on the free downloads – you should be able to obtain the vast majority of my music there for free until Bandcamp stops being a thing.

So, back to Crunch Pod. Not long after I made arrangements to get Karloz.M from Manufactura the vast majority of his remaining CD stock in 2014, he expressed interest in keeping his releases on the Bandcamp page – and – restarting Crunch Pod to continue to release new music. I agreed. It was really that simple. I had no interest in doing it myself, but far be it from me to be a road block for a creative and driven individual to keep the ‘Crunch Pod’ name alive.

I turned over the Bandcamp page to him, he started up a Facebook page for the label, and started plotting the upcoming releases. The rest, as they say, is… well… history, but here are some random facts I’ll throw out there just because:

– I’m writing this blog post in the hopes that SEO and Google indexing help clarify the mass amount of confusion over who runs Crunch Pod in 2016/2017/etc. I HAVE LITERALLY ZERO TO DO WITH CRUNCH POD NOW. I have no say in what they release, what they charge or don’t charge for releases, who they sign, etc. It’s entirely Karloz’s deal until he says otherwise.

– If you never really liked me for whatever reason… well, you can support away now because I have nothing to do with this “Crunch Pod version 2.0”.

– I’m still very much retired from music production.

– Yes, there are copies of the Big Tex CD buried in the landfill.

So, that is that. If you’re intrigued by the new Crunch Pod, check them out at Facebook and Bandcamp.

Hotel Cecil (now rebranded as Stay On Main) is notorious, even more so now that the current season of American Horror Story is based off of the place. I realized when Elisa Lam tragically lost her life there in 2013, that back in 2008 I had actually spent a night in this place. Since it’s Halloween, I figured I’d tell my experience of the Hotel Cecil, as it was back in 2008. The experience there is still etched into my mind seven years later.

I’ll preface this by saying I had no idea of the Cecil’s reputation until long after I had stayed there. I was a musician for many years, so I’ve stayed in my share of dives and sketchy places – it wasn’t until I was about to retire that I started “losing money” by paying out of pocket to stay somewhere a bit safer. You don’t always get put up in the nicest hotels by the promoters, but that’s a story for another time.

So, how did I end up staying at Hotel Cecil? It was August of 2008 and I’d just come home from being on the road with the band I was in at the time. I had seen some acquaintances on MySpace (it *was* 2008, remember) discussing a road trip down to Los Angeles to attend legendary dance club Das Bunker. Thanks to the internet and knowing which bands and DJs performed that night, I know I was at Hotel Cecil on August 15th and August 16th, 2008. Seeing as how I’d just played at Das Bunker a few weeks prior and had a great time, I was eager to get back down there. I’m not one to go on random road trips with people, and wasn’t back then either, but I think the lure of the road convinced me to put in for the trip. I didn’t pay much attention to the planning as I didn’t really care too much about where we were staying. I just needed a vague idea of how much money to chip for gas and hotel expenses.

Turns out, they booked a room at the Cecil since it was “close” to the venue. Oh, how many people over the years were lured in by Cecil’s supposed proximity to things in Southern California? It’s even used as a joke in the first episode of AHS: Hotel. Granted, it was about 5 miles from the venue, but I’d stayed closer and in a nicer place when I was there just a few weeks earlier.

The drive down to the Los Angeles area was uneventful. We rolled into the Hotel Cecil around 3pm. The couple that booked the room checked in and came out and got the rest of us to let us up to the room. There were five of us total sharing the room. I didn’t realize until check-in that we were not paying for double occupancy, hence the sneaking around. Well, not like it mattered much. The desk clerks were grumpy and clearly didn’t care that the two people that just checked in came back in moment later with three more people.

The hotel looked very similar to the Hotel Cortez in AHS, however, this was back in 2008 so it looked more run-down. Apparently a year or so after I stayed there, the place had a remodel, at least of the lobby area. Oh, and I should note, that at 3pm, typical hotel checkout time, the place was a ghost town. We stayed on either the ninth or tenth floor. I don’t remember exactly. On our way up to the room we encountered one guy, probably 40s or early 50s that was just kind of wandering the hallway of the floor. Not a great vibe, but I’ve stayed in dives before so this was about what I expected once I realized the situation I was in.

The room was basic. Two beds. A table. An older model TV set. We were “lucky” and had a room with a bathroom. Of note was that all of the windows opened to the air, including the bathroom one. Again, we were at least nine stories up.  No screens, no guards, nothing. Could have easily jumped out and ended it all should any of us desired to do so. The TV was odd and didn’t seem to be picking up cable or satellite TV… or even broadcast TV for that matter – just static on every channel.

We came back to the room, after a few hours wandering around Little Tokyo, to get ready to go to the club. I got ready quick so I started messing with the TV that earlier did not work. I managed to get some sort of music video channel that was only playing 80s music videos. The only photo I took there with my phone was this random photo of Wham’s ‘Careless Whisper’. I don’t even know why I took it.

carelessThe odd thing, which I just noticed when uploading this photo to the site, is that the photo file’s creation date is August 20th, 2008 at 1:20am. The photo was one hundred percent taken around 7pm on August 15th, 2008. Okay, weird.

Anyway, I had an uneasy feeling upon first entering the hotel and again when we got ready, but I just chalked that up to being with people I barely knew in a sketchy place. We went to the club and things immediately went off the rails. Let’s just say people in our party started acting really strange and some stuff happened between the couple that organized the trip that made the rest of the night tense. Around 2:00am, we made our way back to Hotel Cecil.

The couple shared one bed, and I was on a bed with their male friend. The other guy, who was pretty drunk, was passed out on the floor. Despite being exhausted from the long day and stressful evening, I had a really hard time sleeping. Every one else in the party passed out immediately, but, I kept looking at the clock and every time I’d drift off a bit something would wake me up. Around 3:00am, and lasting for about an hour, I heard a loud conversation coming from the hallway and heard someone pacing back and forth in front of our door. Obviously, sleep did not happen and when the sun started to rise at 5:00am, things finally calmed down and I think I got about an hour of sleep before everyone started waking up at 6am to head home. At the time, I just figured “crackhead hotel, probably a fight or someone on something” in the hallway and didn’t think much of it. I was more worried of a “hotel room invasion robbery” or something similar than anything else.

The drive home was eventful as for no reason whatsoever, the car started developing problems in the void that is the drive between Los Angeles and Sacramento. Luckily, the car eventually started working again for no reason and by Saturday evening I was safely home.

In the direct aftermath of the trip, I felt that I learned the lessons of only traveling with people I know, and to always give myself an “out” somewhere if I’m meeting up with people I don’t know that well. Basically, don’t rely on random people from the internet to be my transportation and lodging.

It wasn’t until the Elisa Lam case, some four and half years later, that I realized this was the same exact hotel I’d stayed in. I did some research and learned about the people jumping out of the windows, about the serial killers that stayed there, and about other people’s odd experiences there.

Seeing the debut of American Horror Story: Hotel earlier this month brought the whole thing back. I actually had to pause it as the show enters the Hotel Cortez the first time and tell my wife that this *has* to be based on the Cecil.

Looking back on the experience, I can say it was one of only a few places that gave me a feeling like something was off. The other place I felt this was the Leland Hotel in Detroit, MI – another “great” hotel I stayed in while on the road with bands. I can’t definitively say the voices and people I heard around 3am that Saturday morning were paranormal. They could have very well just been other guests of the Cecil that night. I mean, we did see the one middle-aged guy walking when we first arrived, but prior to hearing the 3am voices, encountered no other people in the hallways or elevators, nor heard anyone else make a sound. In retrospect, the odd behavior of my travel companions and strange car trouble that “fixed itself” after being in the Cecil was likely coincidence, but maybe… it wasn’t.

Anyway, that was my Hotel Cecil experience. I can now tell I people I spent a night at the murder hotel and survived.

featured image by ZhengZhou (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

So, it seemed time for the pro wrestling content to have its own site, so I’ve set up a new portal for that, Turn Heel.

Feel free to head over there if you want to keep up with my reviews and recaps about pro wrestling. This site will remain strictly for my reviews of movies, games, books, and the like. I may rant and rave here occasionally too. We’ll see.

Thanks to everyone who checked out the wrestling content here and I hope you follow me to the new site.

-Ben

NXT Logo
(WWE Network)

My first memories of professional wrestling are probably similar to most guys my age. I clearly remember staying up late on Saturday nights to watch WWF’s Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC. I don’t remember the first match I ever saw, but I imagine the ubiquitous WWF brand being found all over mid 1980s culture had something to do with it. At some point in late 1986 my Dad took me to my first live event. A few years later, I went to my first TV taping, a Saturday Night’s Main Event that is now available on the WWE Network.

As the 1990s began, I stopped following WWF as closely, and eventually moved on to other things. Judging from the amount of writing that exists about the early to mid 1990s, I didn’t miss all that much. The late 1990s found me in college, working at the campus radio station. WWF RAW was appearing on our campus (1998 RAW episodes are not available on the WWE Network yet, or I’d link to that show too). I got myself a free ticket to the event and found myself hooked on pro wrestling again. WWF was in full on “Attitude Era” mode and I watched religiously all of the way through the “Monday Night Wars“.

Around 2004, life began to get pretty complicated and I started putting almost all of my free time into my music career. Something had to give and that wound up being pro wrestling.

Over a decade passed where I was casually aware of the, at that point, WWE. However, I never found myself catching an episode of RAW or looking to see if any live events were coming to town.

I’m not even sure the reason, but I found myself starting to read a variety of wrestling websites in the build up to WrestleMania 31 in early 2015. Along with starting to familiarize myself with the 2015 main roster talent, I began to hear more and more about WWE’s developmental promotion, NXT. By then, NXT was a WWE Network exclusive show, so, not being a subscriber I never caught an episode. Still, I was pretty intrigued.  The handful of pro wrestling sites I was beginning to follow couldn’t say enough great things about NXT.

I read the results of WrestleMania 31 online as the show unfolded. The surprise finish of Seth Rollins cashing in the “Money in the Bank” briefcase to win the WWE Championship in the main event impressed me. I, like many online, felt the match would end with Roman Reigns defeating Brock Lesnar. That finish got me to watch RAW the next night for the first time in eleven years. I decided to subscribe to the WWE Network so I could start catching the Pay Per View events. With some time to kill I started poking around on the Network and remembered, “Oh yeah. NXT is on here”.

Having no idea what to expect I dove in to the earliest episodes available on the Network. Within a few episodes I could see that this was something entirely different from the product I was seeing on Monday nights. I found myself hooked within three or four episodes. I began binge watching the show like it was a hot, new Netflix exclusive. Before long I was nearing the end of 2014’s shows and only three or four months behind.

So, why was I drawn in?

The first thing I like about NXT is the way the show deals with talent. They’ll throw someone out with a terrible gimmick, or even no gimmick at all, but that isn’t something that has to stick. Becky Lynch, now throwing down on RAW and PPVs, debuted as a stereotypical Irish girl – even doing a jig in the ring. She then transformed into “generic rocker girl”, before finally settling on a pseudo steampunk look that she’s running with currently. You don’t typically see a transformation like that on the main roster. Talent usually sinks or swims with whatever persona they debut with, with years sometimes passing before a character gets tweaked.

Sasha Banks was an also-ran in a stable called the “BFFs” in the early episodes I watched. I was able to watch her come into her own as an in-ring performer and completely craft her “Boss” character into one of the best overall talents I’ve seen in years.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. WWE had conditioned me to not pay much attention to the female performers. But, notice the first two names I’ve thrown out here are women. NXT showcases their female talent and gives them equal, or sometimes more, time with the male performers. “Diva” matches on RAW would typically end within a minute or two, but NXT would have ten to fifteen minute matches with two women giving a better performance than I’d ever seen from a “Diva” match.  WWE is taking baby steps with their “Diva Revolution” on RAW by infusing it with three of the top female NXT talents, but they still have a long way to go.

NXT also has done a great job in pulling me in and making me give a damn about the feuds they present. I didn’t start out a huge Sami Zayn fan, but got that excited feeling I used to get as a kid when I saw him finally go over for the title at one of the NXT “Takeover” specials. Similarly, I have become a Sasha Banks fan, but I still had ‘all of the feels’ when I saw Bayley beat her for the NXT Women’s Championship at the “Takeover Brooklyn” event the other night. I haven’t felt that way watching any program, especially pro wrestling, in a long time. Nothing the WWE has done on the main roster has even come close to making me actually care enough to see one of my favorite performers lose to someone else. That was certainly unexpected, but, very welcomed.

When WWE runs with disappointing outcomes and missed opportunities on the main roster, I feel like I at least have my breath of fresh air every Wednesday night on the Network. NXT is growing and becoming a force to be reckoned with and I’m sure it will change as its popularity as an alternative grows. It may even end up watered down like RAW is. But, I’ll always be able to look back on 2014 – 2015 NXT and say, that’s what made me a fan again.