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Issue:July 2002 Year:2002

NEMESIS: Will Play for Allies

By David Lilly Photos by James Moses

Attention Louisville: keep your eyes open and an ear to the ground. The Nemesis of your entertainment world is here. "Do you mean Howard Stern? Marilyn Manson? Perhaps Martha Stewart?" you might collectively inquire. Way to speculate, music lovers, but no, it's even better because this Nemesis is not in it just for the money and fame. They're in it because they love performing and playing heavy metal music...I urge you - continue reading! Not only that, but any preconceived ideas you have about metal musicians - or at least their appearance - could be almost completely dispelled by this young band of clean-cut looking guys. Be not dismayed by the term "heavy metal," for this is an interesting bunch of midwestern guys and here is their story, so far...

Nomadic Semantics

Like nearly everything else, it all began a long time ago. The term "heavy metal" originally was a militaristic term of affection for artillery. In the early 1960's, William S. Burroughs plucked it from Uncle Sam to use in his novel Nova Express, and there it lived until relocating to music journalism, from where it soon found its present home as the label for a genre of music. Louisville's Nemesis is one of the most recent bands to pick up and carry the heavy metal music banner. It is a young band, but their collective heart pounds a solid beat as they have a genuine belief in what they're doing. Part of their dedication means playing mostly original music. While they individually like and have been influenced by well-known bands such as System of a Down, Pantera, Nirvana, Anthrax, Sepultura, Soulfly, Deftones, Fear Factory, Static X, 311, Tool, Rorschach Test, Slayer, old-school Metallica and even The Clash, Steely Dan, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, they have favorites closer to home, as well. Ask for names and they'll talk about downSIDE, Kallus, Inidle, Vender, Shapeless Matrix and others.

Related Historicity

Photo by Christopher Rumage. From Left, DJ Rino (Thomas), Dj Mongo (Chris Miller), Jason Koerner, Mike Taylor, Tim Owens and Chris Taylor
Photo by Christopher Rumage From Left, DJ Rino (Thomas), DJ Mongo (Chris Miller), Jason Koerner, Mike Taylor, Tim Owens and Chris Taylor

This has nothing to do with Peter Gabriel, but every band has its genesis. Young but already-seasoned Louisville musicians Mike Taylor, Jason Koerner and Tim Owens have been playing music together, on and off, since their mid-teens. Nemesis was hatched in the summer of 2001 - appropriately during thunderstorm season. Taylor and Koerner had been playing in a band called Inidle, from which they departed "due to excessive drug use by other members," according to Koerner. Each of them moved on to other projects. Eventually, in spring 2001, they resumed their partnership and decided to form what would become Nemesis. With Taylor and Koerner on guitar, Chris Miller was summoned. Miller, also a former member of Inidle, was hired to handle the keyboards, an unusual instrument for a metal band, but then these guys dig experimentation. The next step was to pick up Matt Vaughn, formerly of Psychopathy, to make string thunder (play bass) and Alex Koenig, formerly of Execrate, to make skin thunder (play drums). Vaughn exited in December 2001 and the band became a quartet with the ever-versatile Koerner moving to bass. Next in this musical chain of events, Chris Taylor sent Koerner an email requesting an audition to display his bass-playing talents. Said talents were more than enough to land "Ludacris," as they call him, a job (his first ever) making string thunder. Are you on the edge of your seat now, wondering what happened next? Well, remember Alex Koenig? He left the band in March of this year. Who do you suppose replaced Koenig at making skin thunder? None other than Tim Owens, a former member of the bands Chosen Guilt, The Slackers, Pancake Orphus, and, of course, Capt. Ameba.

For the record, both Vaughn and Koenig gave advance notice of their impending departures. Ergo, the band respects them.

There is one more item in the latest chapter of the book of Nemesis. In an effort to be more accessible and to continue experimenting, a fellow named DJ Rhino is now part of the band. For details, read on.

But who ARE these guys?

Even though the most senior member of Nemesis is barely old enough to reminisce about anything, all of the current members are experienced musicians. "So, who are these bold and earnest-yet-jovial young men of metal?" you most curious of music fans must wonder.

Starting at the top of the seniority list, Mike Taylor has been playing drums just about as long as he's been toilet trained (coincidence or parental plot? His dad's a musician). How did he manage to become a guitarist and the lead singer for a metal band by age 21? By 6 or 7 years of age, he'd been turned on to Stevie Ray Vaughn's music and shortly thereafter, was bitten by the electricus guitarix bug. "After Vaughn's death," Mike noted, "I became more and more interested in Nirvana and the underground scene." Upon the demise of the "alternative" scene, guitarist and singer Mike formed a band with his good buddy, Jason Koerner.

Twenty-one-year-old Jason Koerner plays and attacks guitar (he also plays saxophone, but that's another story) and contributes backup vocals for the band. Prior to Nemesis, however, he played in The Slackers, Inidle, Shapeless Matrix and Consider The Source. Interestingly, the latter band consisted of men in their Forties, except for Koerner, who was then 19.

Due to the tendency of the other guys in Nemesis to be a bit reticent offstage, Koerner is by default the spokesperson for the band. This works well, since he is both intelligent and articulate. You also might say that his cup of enthusiasm runs over. With intensity and sincerity, he explained that for him, "It's an honor and a privilege to have people come to see us play and to spend their hard-earned money to do it. Those people are the reason we're onstage, so it's of utmost importance that we give them the best show we can." He works as a supervisor at UPS, which requires a professional appearance and demeanor. Nemesis is his outlet for the stress in his life.

The next link in this metal chain is the tall and humorously risqué Chris Miller, also known to his bandmates, friends and hopefully someday, in Metal magazines across the globe, as "Mongo." When you hear keyboard sounds screaming from a Nemesis song, you hear the soul and chops of Mongo. Frisch's, the all-American restaurant chain, is where this 19-year-old musician is otherwise employed. He tends to utter a lot of, shall we say, colorful comments and seems to have a masochistic streak (during the interview he ate hot peppers like they were M & M's, despite the pain it was causing him). However, I sensed that behind the machismo facade there's a decent guy with a taste for adventure (mentally and otherwise) - not just hot peppers. He not only brings keyboard talent to the band, but also a certain vibe, which I'll get into a little later.

And now, music fans, let's have a big round of applause for the youngest and physically smallest member of the group. Fifteen-year-old Chris Taylor (a studious sophomore at Pleasure Ridge Park High School) added his name and bass guitar expertise to the established roster of Nemesis in February 2002. When barely out of single-digit ages, Chris took bass lessons from his dad and now has four years bass-playing experience. According to legend, Chris emailed Koerner, expressing a keen interest in playing bass for Nemesis.

Chris was less dedicated to honesty than to the aforementioned academia. Our bass-playing hero Chris allegedly indulged the band with worldly tales of drunkenness and cruelty, including that he was born a few years earlier than he actually was. This slightly mendacious maneuver got him and his bass in the door for an audition. Obviously his short and boyish physical appearance betrayed his tales. However, the guys were so impressed with his playing that he was hired on the spot and after three band practices, Chris Taylor played his first live show with Nemesis. Chris's bandmates have since taken it upon themselves to affectionately dub him Ludacris (it wouldn't hold up in court, but hey, it's fun) Next thing you know, he's trapped in a booth at a Steak n' Shake, sitting across from a journalist who has a son older than him. Yes, being an unknown but talented teenage musician has its advantages.

Tim Owens is the third 21-year-old and next-to-newest member of this musical family. Owens starting banging on a drum kit at 10 and hasn't stopped. Prior to Nemesis, he played in The Slackers, Chosen Guilt, Capt. Ameba, and Pancake Orphus. It was intriguing to learn that while Owens plays drums in a metal band, his background is jazz/fusion. To his credit, he is versatile and talented enough to play `metal' drums as well. As if being able to play such diverse drum styles isn't enough, Owens also plays guitar.

DJ Rhino is the newest member of the band, coming aboard in May of this year and bringing with him a turntable, some vinyl discs, samples and high-tech equipment. The band invited him to play a show. The crowd apparently ate it up, digging the hip-hop seasoning added to the band's fierce metal smorgasbord, and Nemesis became a six-piece band. Mr. Rhino's roots are somewhat elusive, but I can tell you that at age 22, he already has at least six years' performing experience behind him, having played in E-Flat.

This is not a simulation

To attend a Nemesis concert is to experience wicked hail-storm vocals, aggressive music and an abundance of kinetic energy on stage as well as in front of the stage (a.k.a. the mosh pit). It is a barrage of sensory input, to say the least. They're putting on a show, yet it isn't contrived. This type of music tends to inspire a lot of physical movement, especially among teens and twentysomething folks. Mongo brings an element of balance to the scene. While he does his share of bouncing around (and sometimes contributes vocals), he's the one guy onstage at a Nemesis show who might cause you to wonder if he's ingested more than the recommended dose of codeine. His aforementioned vibe is that of being relatively mellow amidst the cacophony of sound the band produces onstage. One of Mongo's `key' contributions to each show is to hit a note (yes, on his keyboard) prior to each song to remind singer Mike Taylor of the correct key to sing in.

At the other extreme, we have Chris "Ludacris" Taylor, who is a little bigger than his bass guitar but whose stage presence and performance give the impression that he was doing this when he was born. I am not exaggerating; he bounces around the stage, jumps up with his legs tucked under him, (a la Pete Townshend) and twirls in circles, while never missing a note or a beat

It's a joy (though somewhat bewildering) to watch the clean-cut, soft-spoken Owens pounding his drum kit amidst the tsunami of music his bandmates make. Being the drummer pretty well limits his stage travel, but he keeps very busy laying the foundation for the others to play on and he clearly has a blast doing it.

If anyone comes close to being as mobile onstage as Ludacris, that's Jason Koerner. Having seen video footage of the band playing live, Koerner laughed and remarked, "No wonder I'm exhausted when the shows are over." He generally attacks his instrument and the energy from the force of doing that causes him to be jarred around here and there. The savage vocals he contributes would be enough to cause many people to drop after 10 minutes and enjoy a good nap. So, if you're hankering to see a metal band that gives it everything they've got, check these guys out.

In addition to that...

One aspect of Nemesis shows is when they have a guest musician or singer for a song or two. An experiment where this was taken a step or two further has turned into a communal side-project: Rampanemeside. Rampanemeside is a collaboration between Nemesis and local metal peers Rampant and downSIDE; a scenario that Nemesis is eager to continue. As Koerner explains, "with Rampanemiside, everybody wins because it's a major blast to have musicians from three different bands, but not three entire bands, onstage." It changes the chemistry of what's happening onstage, the musicians get to bounce off of each other, both literally and creatively, and as Koerner adds, "it brings elements of three audiences together and the `fun' element is incredible. I go even crazier than I normally do when playing with Nemesis, and everyone has a great time." Koerner notes that an almost indescribably enormous energy is generated.

Underground and in the van

Being an intelligent bunch of musicians, Nemesis has many goals, both short- and long-term. The most immediate ambition for them is to release an official CD of some of their original music. They are in the recording process as this article takes shape and - metalheads, mark your calendars - are projecting a CD release date of late summer 2002. Taylor has an underground recording studio (in his basement, actually). Inside that studio is where the band practices and records. The guys practice their established material, which helps out the newer members, as well as recording while they just jam. They listen to a playback of what's been recorded and try to pick elements from it to build into songs. According to Mike Taylor, they also use Cakewalk music software. This allows them to add various sounds and musical parts to their music and see how it affects certain songs as they continue experimenting by bringing elements outside their genre into their music. The emphasis here is on creating a distinctive sound.

Since this is a group that has definite ideas of what they're doing and where they want to go, are they willing to compromise their music in order to become successful and "big?" They realize and accept that a certain amount of compromise is inevitable in order to make a living at this. However, they are not willing to "sell out" and allow record industry executives to take complete creative control.

Asked about cover art for their debut CD, Koerner enthusiastically spoke of his interest in employing Louisville artist Jeff Gaither for that task. Gaither has done work for Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N Roses, Van Halen, and Drowning Pool, among others. Gaither also created the now-infamous October 2001 cover of Louisville Music News.

At some point, these guys want to expand their gig locales to St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville and anywhere else they can get booked. Determination is not a problem.

The Humility Department

No artists accomplish these things entirely on their own. Without the cooperation of friends, acquaintances and, sometimes, complete strangers, nobody would've ever heard of most performers, new or old. Nemesis is acutely aware of that and they expressed a multitude of gratitude for several people, including their publicist, Christopher Rumage. A good friend of Koerner's, Christopher was recruited for public relations (and, rumor has it, because of his authentic British accent) because he has great people skills and a real gift for that type of work. In addition to that, he likes the band, their music, and wants to see them succeed. At this point, he is committed as a volunteer. I found two things most impressive about Christopher: he seemed reluctant to be included in the interview because he didn't want to distract from the band members and, when he did talk, he came across as genuinely concerned about their success, in addition to being professional and confident. As he explained it, "I pick up as much of the business end of it as possible because the band's job is to play music, which is what they should be concentrating on." In addition to bookings, gathering contacts from various sources and making phone calls, he also offers suggestions regarding "what to do next" or what roads they might try going down or want to avoid taking. Christopher is quite interested in making public relations a career.

As far as others outside the band, Nemesis gives a big group-hug to Allen "Big Al" Keller. Keller is an old friend, going back to The Slackers (a band Koerner, Owens and Mike Taylor used to play together in). Big Al has been and continues to be immensely appreciated for giving his all in the areas of security, driving, moving and handling equipment, and generally putting his helpful hands into all pieces of the Nemesis pie.

The guys insist that without Percy Yee and Jennifer Chang at Tek World, Nemesis would be unable to play live as often as they do, nor would they be as progressed as they are.

This grateful bunch of dudes also wants to thank any and all other bands and individuals that have helped them out. Finally, and perhaps foremost, they offer a primal "We love you!" scream to the many fans who get out to see them do what they enjoy the most, which of course is playing onstage. "Our fans are most important to us," Koerner emphasizes, adding, "we would be nowhere without these people."

While the band is definitely interested in a new and improved website, the current url is www.geocities.com/wearenemesis. When a new site is up and functioning, a link to it will show on the current site. You can join a discussion group to keep posted on the band's activities and interact with other fans by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NEMElist.

If all else fails, or perhaps you wish to go this route first, send email to elanavin@yahoo.co.uk and/or jjkslacker@cs.com.

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