Hey, it's not our fault!" Nebula singer/guitarist Eddie Glass protests over the phone from his California home after it's pointed out that his band has circled the globe four times in six years yet never set foot in South Florida. "We tried on our first tour, but your whole state was on fire!" The summer of 1998's wildfires were a cultural buffer for our already musically indigent area. The baby Nebula was only a few months removed from Glass and drummer Ruben Romano's splitting from prominent Southern California rockers Fu Manchu. Nebula was an unknown, "members of" band whose debut slab, the EP Let It Burn, had just dropped and was slowly seeping into the consciousness of aging punk rockers and bored metalheads. They were blown away by Nebula's defiantly retro, bone-shattering attack. Guitar solos, vintage effects, and thundering drum fills abounded. Those geographically fortunate enough to find a Nebula gig in 1998 entered a musical Land of the Lost with musical dinosaurs instead of reptilian ones. It was a mythical world where Blue Cheer and Hawkwind ruled the charts and Iggy Pop was still living in Detroit. In anyone else's hands, Nebula's backward-minded rock would've been cheap nostalgia, but their wah-wah pedal was pushed to the metal too hard to suffer that fate. It was too good to be ignored and too old-fashioned to fit in a post-everything '90s musical climate. Something had to give.
Unfortunately for Nebula, that something was "stoner rock" -- a label the band hasn't been able to shake even though it was better-applied to Sabbath-heavy doom-rock bands like Bongzilla. "People in this day and age need to throw some sort of adjective before the rock," Glass complains. "They do it because anything between the White Stripes and Limp Bizkit can be rock. Ours is just a bit more blues-influenced. We just write and play music. It comes out naturally."
Maybe so, but Glass' musical journey from drummer in grunge punk band Olive Lawn (most memorable for its tune "You're a Dick and I'm Gonna Kill You") to frontman for the kings of stoner rock was bizarre. Like many punk drummers, Glass picked up the guitar, learned three power chords, and strummed along to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. But instead of writing a token "drummer song" for Olive Lawn, Glass practiced for five years and improved until he was better on guitar than drums. He then had his mind melted by Monster Magnet's 1991 acid-drenched opus, Spine of God. "That was cool and new," he says, "that spacier Hawkwind style." Monster Magnet's classic-rock stylings made Glass go back to his bedroom and mainline a steady diet of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin until he had combined the hippie masters' work with his punk upbringing.
But Nebula refused to remake Let It Burn on its two decidedly punkier Sub Pop LPs (1999's To the Center and 2001's Charged), which chapped the asses of message board trolls and fanzine nerds who liked the band's stonier tunes. While the hippies grumbled, the band toured relentlessly, playing at least two overseas tours a year -- converting Europe, Australia, and South America to its cause. "Touring is like a job," Glass observes. "But it's kind of like being the head of the company, you know? You get to see the effects of your work. All the work you do, you get to get paid for. We're our own bosses."
After five years of roadwork, bassist Mark Abshire bowed out, forcing Nebula to cut back to a mere 75 dates in 2003. The band reacted by recording its third full-length album, Atomic Ritual, which was produced by Masters of Reality guitarist Chris Goss. With Goss providing studio magic and odd backing tracks, Atomic Ritual is a psych-rock wonderland, a joyful stomp through musical mushroom fields that's sure to please both classic rockers and punkers. That is, if the tattooed crowd can handle keyboard tracks from the power trio. As usual, Glass isn't too worried about rock orthodoxy. "We've used the keyboards before," he relates. "It's like an extra appendage to the song."
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