It pulls us along. It’s got a spirit of its own; beyond us.”
–Dave Asher, discussing his band, The Process,
during a 2001 radio interview by Marc Beaudin
(CAGE Sessions – On the Air, WUCX 90.1 FM)
It’s been a lot of years, a lot of shows, a lot of recordings, since I first saw The Process perform in a mid-Michigan bar back in the late-late 80’s. But what immediately hooked me at that initial show is just as evident today: These guys mean what they play. They mean every note, every word, every drumbeat and guitar riff. They mean every ounce of muscle and soul that they freely spend each moment that they are on stage.
To be in the audience at one of The Process’ shows, is to have your mind, heart, and body taken apart and put back together in a slightly better way. Your senses merge and you see the music; hear the lights bouncing off the walls; taste the moment.
The next best thing to being there in the flesh (and soul) has recently been released on DVD: The Process: Live at the Vassar Theater.
First of all, I want to commend the seldom-thanked in the music business – the folks behind the scenes of this production. The technical aspects of this release are extraordinary. From the direction of Gary Bredow, to the live mix by Art Bissonette, the live recording by Lavel Jackson, the camera work by Bredow and Per Franchell, the lighting and sound by Bissonette Sound, the filming and editing by Big Bang Films, the cover art by Steven Gotts, the photography by Rick Morrow, and the production assistance by Tim O’Brian, Chuck Harrington and Seth Payton; every part builds perfectly to a Whole, which provides the optimum showcase for the talents of the band.
And what a band. This recording offers a seamless sound and energy created by four people who, by all indication, share a common soul. With David Asher on vocals and guitar, Garrick Owen on lead guitar, Bill Heffelfinger on bass, keyboards, programming and backing vocals, and Gabe Gonzalez on drums; they are, individually and as a group, at the top of their form. Mature and consummate musicians who’ve lost none of the edge and passion of their younger days.
The DVD consists of a concert of 10 songs, old favorites and new gems both, and it kicks off in signature Process style: a blaze of lighting and fog effects through which bleeds their hopped-up rendition of Wendy Carlos’ haunting and exhilarating “Title Music to A Clockwork Orange.” Glimpses of the musicians are seen in ultraviolent flashes of light. The relentless drumming; like a jet engine preparing for take-off. The tension builds.
And just when you are about to either rush the stage or run like hell, the music breaks into “Blood Runnings” from Craven Dog. A man appears with a skull for a head and covered in a brilliant Rasta robe, like an ancient, long-dead Ethiopian King. He stares into the audience – into and through each person – and now it’s clear: there’s no turning back. The concert has begun.
Song after song, culled from the vast library of Process material, is expertly and whole-heartedly presented. The evolution of each is remarkable, and it seems that their original studio versions were blueprints, and these are the fully-realized structures: architectural masterpieces; holy temples and towers of defiance against all negative forces – all evildoers, downpressers, and craven dogs. The songs are history lessons, incantations, and calls to revolution – danceable social justice and rockin’ revelations. The musicians push their instruments beyond the boundaries defined by standard rock or reggae. They’ve fused these along with funk, rap, and jazz, and raised up a new entity – something that can only be described as “Processian.”
My only issue with this DVD is that the transitions from song to song could be smoother. I would prefer if the camera were kept rolling to capture the incidental material between numbers – to give us more of a live concert feel, and more of a glimpse into the personalities of the band. But this is a small complaint that is quickly forgotten once each song kicks in.
The recording closes also in signature Process style: the resurrection of “Pigman.” Part myth. Part nightmare. Part parable. … He possesses Garrick. The guitar becomes a weapon. … Twenty-seven dogs run wild in the woods. … Death, mayhem, and badass rock’n’roll. … Oink. Oink. … Pigman’s in heaven.
And so are you.