Contact Us

Bullpen Bulletins #4: The Amazing Citizen Wright

. . .

Musicians often spend a lot of time talking up their colleagues——–usually for their own benefit. It usually comes off as really phony and kind of sickening, like listening to an actor kissing the ass of everybody they worked with that year in their Oscar acceptance speech. In daily conversation I hear so many people talk about their “amazing” friends——musicians talk about how “amazing” this or that person is who produced their records or played with them or whatever—–it gets pretty nauseating, and of course brings up the obvious question: if everyone you know is so goddamn “amazing”, then how can they really amaze you anymore? If everyone you know is so amazing, then being amazed becomes the norm, and must therefore, by definition, be your average experience with people (in which case it cannot be amazing anymore unless you have some kind of strange excitability or nervous disorder by which you become excited and wide-eyed with every single experience you have as if it were the most earth-shattering thing you’ve ever witnessed—-in which case your amazement is produced internally, and therefore does not necessarily apply to those things you encounter in the world). Barring this occult possibility, I can scarcely conceive how people who use the word “amazing” three times per sentence in daily conversations can be called sincere.

I usually don’t engage in the over-use of this word because I (obviously) believe it’s just dishonest most of the time and reeks of self-aggrandizement through association. And I also, frankly, don’t get “amazed” by people very often, unless you count the times I am amazed at how stupid, phony, lazy, dishonest, and boring they can be. And when I do become amazed by someone in a positive way, it’s usually an athlete or revolutionary who lived a long time ago in some country where people actually have to struggle to survive or accomplish something. Sure, there are amazing people in your everyday life, but unfortunately they are often amazing in their capability to keep putting up with what they do on a daily basis, or to keep a smile on their face in the midst of complete tedium and/or monotony. These are the people in your neighborhood——-and often everyday people you meet in the midst of your own mundane routine who work at the post office, hospital, or local halfway house and keep a smile on their face day in and day out while facing physical and emotional challenges I can only shudder at. But I’m not gonna open that bleeding can of working-man-worms here—–I’m not nearly a big enough Bruce Springsteen or Karl Marx fan for that——so to the point of this rant: there’s one person I can always count on to AMAZE me.

. . .

Bob Wright

. . .

I want to talk about Bob Wright of Brocas Helm in this installment of Bullpen Bulletins because not nearly enough people know or appreciate his music. Even fewer people appreciate the man himself or understand how truly larger than life he is. If you want a second opinion on this, just ask anyone who has talked to him after a show or anyplace, anytime, for that matter——and they will tell you that he really is LARGER THAN LIFE (in the literal and figurative sense). I know many people will immediately think, “Oh sure, guy from Slough Feg talking up Brocas Helm——one quirky, medieval-sounding, nerd-worshipped ‘true metal’ band scratches the back of its most obvious ally——floor me with a feather……………”. Well, you may have a point there—— I’m not going to tell you that analysis is completely untrue, but I will say that I don’t worship Brocas Helm because they are “true metal”, or because I know them personally or have played shows with them or whatever. I know them personally because I love their band, not the other way around. And my band sounds like them not because I listened to them as a kid or even during the formative years of my band, because despite the fact that my band is from the same town as them, and have a similar sound (in some ways), I’d never heard of them until around 1997 or ’98, when we happened to be put on the same bill (mostly because there were no non-Machine Head-sounding “metal” bands in the Bay Area at that time).

Their live show instantly blew me away——–partially because their music is great—–old-school metal with a good dose of authentic rock and roll attitude, and great musicianship, and most importantly, great songs!! Real songs that you can hang onto and sink your teeth into——-records that sound different from one track to the next, that surprise you——–that might even AMAZE you. On top of that, their live show is filled with old-time heavy metal pomp and swagger (and to vaudevillian proportions)———The bass player comes out in a cape and then proceeds to put on aviator goggles and a captain’s hat, and swings his bass around like a rapier while Bob Wright stalks and struts like a hill-giant clutching a ukulele———he’s gotta be at least 6’4″ and hulks over his Les Paul (or Flying V more recently), making it look like a toy. Things were so dull in the live music scene back then that these guys really struck me, really woke me up——-and the fact that all three of them were at least 10 years older than me made it even cooler. I thought, “Well, if I can someday be as good as them, that’s okay, I don’t need to sell 1,000,000 records”.

There is no doubt that some of my love for them is a result of their “cultishness”——not necessarily because they have a “cult following”, but because they are underappreciated enough to still be sort of “my secret little band”. Although this may add to their appeal for a select few, I would really like to change this status——-for I believe that Brocas Helm has unique enough music and personality, style, etc. to be very popular and not lose any of their charm. After all, I still love the Beatles to death despite their global domination——-they still seem like your own personal little band, playing songs written just for you, and that’s why they’ve always been so damn appealing. Well, I love Brocas Helm for the same reasons I love the Beatles——three great musicians with distinct, quirky musical personalities——-you would never mistake any of them for any other musicians. No one has ever said, “Oh yeah, that weird guy ‘The Wizard’ who slings his bass around and wears a cape—-he plays bass for Angel Witch, right?” Ain’t gonna happen. The movie about Brocas Helm would make Anvil look like Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

. . .

. . .

One night a couple years ago, I went to see Brocas Helm on a weeknight in San Francisco, and Bob insisted on giving me a ride home in his truck with all of Brocas Helm’s equipment in the back, after I argued with him that he really didn’t need to since he had to go unload the entire band’s equipment himself at two AM and then wake up at six to do electrical work——-and this guy’s over 50. Anyway, I think I heard his entire life story that night———-he dropped me off in front of my house, but then proceeded to produce this incredible hour-long monologue on the sidewalk until around three, covering everything from high school parties in the ’70s to his early rockabilly and doo-wop bands, church performances, guitar tech-ing for James Hetfield and then into all the projects he was currently working on: his evangelical work as the Reverend Bob Wright, his lounge music recordings, Bob Ho’s Hawaiian songs——-and much more I can’t even remember now. I chalked a lot of this up to late night banter, until I discovered some of it really existed on YouTube. The man is unstoppable—–but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself (see links posted below). There’s a lot more to this man than Brocas Helm.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Brocas Helm than just Bob Wright as well—–Jim “The Wizard” Schumacher is also a human anomaly I can’t even begin to describe without extending this article to at least 50 pages———–and Jack Hays is quite beyond description as well, and perhaps the most technically “amazing” musician of the three. He has what is probably the most unique drumming and speaking style I’ve ever heard, and I think his brain has an altogether different synaptic firing pattern that the rest of humanity—–conversation with him has a strange “quantum” quality in which nothing seems to be expressed explicitly until you reflect on it hours later and realize his sentences were sort of like ZIP files, infused with multi-layered meanings and extractable, timed-release information cells. Jack is also Brocas Helm’s recording engineer—–notorious for taking forever to mix songs———which at first seems to be the result of superfluous fussing over things, until it comes times to master them. Justin Weis has mastered two Brocas Helm albums—–and his reaction was basically: “When I first received the files, they sounded really low-fi and chaotic—–totally unmixed, until I opened them up in Pro Tools and realized that I hardly had to do anything. Somehow everything just fell into place—–it was all in there, but in some strange ordering system that I’ve never seen before. Total chaos to the naked ear, yet like a perfect mix encrypted in some bizarre audio language that simply needs to be translated”. This was the case with Brocas Helm’s long-awaited 2004 album Defender of the Crown, which is, in my opinion, their best album——the only one that I think can even come close to comparing to their live show. If you have not heard this album, and you call yourself a metal fan, or a music fan in any capacity, you must hear this record. They hadn’t released an album since 1988’s Black Death, which was originally intended as a demo. So 16 years of material went into Defender of the Crown——and it shows.

. . .

Slough Feg – “Tactical Air-War”
feat. Bob Wright on vocals

Subscribe to Invisible Oranges on

. . .

When I asked Bob to sing a song on my last album, he launched into the project so whole-heartedly that it made me wonder why Brocas Helm doesn’t have 20 albums out instead of three (seeing as their career spans nearly 30 years). He immediately recorded six different version of the song I sent him with different vocal melodies——–and played some of them to me over the phone. When he showed up in the studio, he laid down six new vocal tracks over the song——–obviously having practiced them for days. We ended up using all of them at once, so if you listen to “Tactical Air-War” (from Slough Feg’s Animal Spirits album), you’re actually hearing Bob Wright times six.

Again, if you think I’m just talking up my metal bros here, I really don’t blame you, so don’t take my word for it——-go ahead and judge for yourself. Check out this Brocas Helm live clip:

. . .

Brocas Helm – “Into Battle” (live)

Subscribe to Invisible Oranges on

. . .

…and then check out this clip of one of Bob’s early bands from the late ’70s:

. . .

Wright’s high school band Prisoner

Subscribe to Invisible Oranges on

. . .

…and, if you dare, check out some of Bob Wright’s “solo” performances (!!!!): [Ed. note: These truly are amazing.]

. . .

Reverend Wright

Subscribe to Invisible Oranges on

. . .

The Fabulous “Bob Ho”

Subscribe to Invisible Oranges on

. . .

…and you’ll plainly see that this man who has more personality than David Lee Roth and Jim Dandy rolled together (and also looks incredibly like John Travolta) is truly a force of nature to be reckoned with.

— Mike Scalzi
Photos by Rick Audet

. . .

Bullpen Bulletins #3: Metal & Hardcore – Regurging the Merging
Bullpen Bulletins #2: Is there possible accounting for taste?
Bullpen Bulletins #1: Welcome to the Grind Ole Opry

. . .

Recent News

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://www.invisibleoranges.com using your original account information.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for Invisible Oranges - The Metal Blog quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!