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By Lee Zimmerman
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After graduating to proper rehearsal spaces, Knight (still no slouch as a businessman) finagled a deal to record at North Miami's world-renowned Criteria Recording Studios. Over a period of nine months Knight and his band recorded during downtime at the studio in exchange for a commitment to share profits with Criteria should a major label pick up the resulting album.
The final product isn't far removed from what Vandal had been doing years before. Near Life's ten cuts are characterized by crunching guitar lines, thunderous drum beats, and Knight's trademark full-voiced vibrato. The music almost never relents, offering one pounding anthem after another. The disc's lone quiet moment comes in "Just Can't Wait," a ballad backed by a spare piano melody. The songs use vocodor effects and guitar pedals to distort sounds, adding color to the bombast. The aptly named "Epic Proportions" even features an eerie synthesized string section that adds an ominous note to the already fearsome walls of guitars.
The Vandalesque sound should come as no surprise. Lead guitarist Valero often played with members of Vandal informally. Poole was also familiar with Knight's first band and had played in the same scene, with another hard-rock outfit called Nectar.
Although the process of recording Near Life Experience was grueling, it gave Knight the resolution he was looking for. "It was the turning point, I think, because I knew there was something tangible that you can feel, taste and touch," he says. "We were recording a record, so I knew it was going to the next step."
Knight shared production duties with Criteria staffer Keith Rose, who has engineered albums for Foreigner and Soul Asylum. Rose was able to send the final mix of Near Life to Arnie Acosta, in Los Angeles, who has mastered albums for U2 and Peter Frampton. "All the big names that we worked with and all the people involved helped me get more excited about it," Knight says. "It was an affirmation to me that I was heading in the right direction."
Today, the breakup of Vandal is more than three years old. But the loss still affects Knight. The title of his new album reflects the trauma that lead up to its recording. In fact, he is so haunted by what happened with Vandal that he prefers not to refer to his current bandmates under a collective name.
"He let us know that he was going to do that from the start and we said it was okay with us," Valero notes. "On this first album, he pretty much wrote all the music, and we just gave it a little more flavor, so he has the right."
Knight says the absence of a band name is an issue of self-protection, more than ego. "After putting so much effort into Vandal, I couldn't afford something like a band breakup happening again," he says. "So, hypothetically, if this band does break up, I know I'll be able to continue moving forward because it's going under my name."
These days, Knight's high-octane ambition seems fully recovered. He talks of signing a major label recording contract, and even someday managing his own subsidiary label. His current plans include a documentary video to supplement the new release. He's also making sure his bandmates share in the labor of his heavy publicity campaign.
After spending an evening sticking flyers on cars parked outside the Sunrise Musical Theater during a Mstley CrYe concert, Jwani views Knight's zeal for promotion with some perspective. "It's very draining when we're hitting these huge parking lots with thousands of cars in them," he says. "I get home a little grumpy. But at the same time I think, You know, it's going to pay off. I question myself sometimes, but, honestly, I don't let it get to me. If it doesn't happen, I'll just try something else."
As for Knight, he's still convinced that the road to prosperity is paved, at least in part, by zealous promotion. "Unfortunately when you're not signed to a major label, you've got to do all you can to get your name out there," he observes. "With this band, I'm being the manager as well as the singer and songwriter. That's just me. I'm just used to having a lot of things going on at once. Unfortunately I don't have anyone of merit knocking on my door saying, 'Hey, I'm willing to manage you.' I'm not going to settle for anything that isn't better than what I'm doing now, so, until somebody comes along that has the same mindset as I do, I'll continue doing it on my own."
Eric Knight and his band will be performing with the Starts, and Rezin Saturday, January 16, at The Button South, 100 Ansin Blvd, Hallandale, 954-454-3301. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.; cover charge is $5 in advance and $7 the day of the show.