If OZZfest is any indication, Santa Barbara, CA is the metal capitol of America, represented on the tour by Life of Agony frontman Whitfield Crane, Snot, and newcomers Ultraspank.
"It's a weird scene," says Ultraspank lead singer Pete Murray of his hometown. "There are like three colleges there, so you get people coming from all different parts of the country." That's the case with Ultraspank, as Murray, guitarist Jerry Oliviera and drummer Tyler Clark migrated to the coastal community for school. "It was either there or Maine," Murray, a native New Yorker, muses of his choice. But even with a degree in Film, his interests were always aimed at music, as he and his future bandmates spent the better portion of the decade playing in local Santa Barbara outfits before coming together, as Spank, about two years ago.
"Basically, we were all in Santa Barbara bands for a long time," he recalls. "Tyler and I were in a band before Ultraspank for probably eight years, and Danny [Ogden, bassist] was playing in that band for four of those years. Neil [Godfrey, guitarist] and Jerry's bands broke up at the same time, we all hooked up, and it was a whole new source of creativity. The timing just worked out really well. The band wasn't really around for that long when we got our deal, but it didn't feel that way because we'd all been playing for so damn long."
While they may be experienced players, they're still rookies to the ways of the road. Following North American and European runs with Stuck Mojo, dates with Incubus, and a pre-fest trek with Rorschach Test and fellow OZZers Kilgore, they're looking to carry the momentum through the summer, and possibly rounding out a Sevendust, Clutch and Stuck Mojo package in the fall.
"I'm so stoked to be on OZZfest," Murray beams, "Obviously the exposure is nice, but I think we're more stoked about seeing our favorite bands everyday. Soulfly, Tool, Sevendust... It's like summer camp or something!" Summer camp for the musically incensed, maybe, which leaves Ultraspank feeling right at home.
Their self-titled Epic Records debut runs the gamut of heavy extremities, flogging the senses with a pacing as dynamic as Korn, melodies in line with Megadeth, and vocals that shift from as salient as Tool's Maynard Keenan, to the aggro-assault of Fear Factory's Burton Bell. "Obviously we're into the Deftones and Tool, like everybody else, you have to love that!" Murray says of Spank's sound. "Tyler grew up in the Bay area metal scene, that's where he came from, Danny's way into Tool, I'm into Ministry and stuff, that's probably where most of the programming comes from. We get influences from everyone in there."
And don't think the founding father of OZZfest isn't one of those influences.
Watching Ozzy's headlining set on the opening night of the tour, in the New York City `burb of Holmdel, NJ, Ogden turns with a sheepish grin and reveals a bit of his metal past. "When I took my first bass lesson, the instructor asked me what two songs I wanted to learn more than any others... I said [Ozzy's] 'Crazy Train' and [Iron] Maiden's 'Hallowed Be Thy Name.'" Now, Ultraspank share a stage with the metal legend, opening shows on the festival's main stage on an alternating basis with other side stage-mates.
Despite the band's ragged schedule, they're traveling from show to show in a van, handle set ups and break downs on their own, and have nightly autograph signings in the Fest's Never Never Land concourse. It's an opportunity they're cherishing.
"It's great, we're getting spoiled to death," says Ogden. "We get three catered meals a day, get to save our per diems, and are playing in front of the biggest crowds we've ever played for." Not constricted by the main stage's seats, the second stage has proved the popular stomping ground for the tour's more active fans, making moshing, body passing and general disorder par for the course. "We're close to the people, and they can get rowdy, it's fuckin' killer, it's where it's at!" raves Godfrey.