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“I hear you tellin’ me you think I´m too young / I got so many things I wanna get done / I can´t slow down / It’s not my way / I see the whole world comin’ / Startin’ today” – Time Is Now
The lyrics are a prophetic understatement. The young Coweta, Oklahoma quartet known as Crooked X is on hyper-speed, musically and career-wise…and the world is indeed coming their way. Even before scoring their 2008 deal with EMI, the intense but melodic hard rockers were opening for KISS in Europe, touring with Ted Nugent and chronicling their lives on the MTV special “Start A Band - Rock The World.” Crooked X’s 10-song debut for MPM/EMI/Capitol (out January 13, 2009) features such gems as the dark, riff-tastic “Nightmare” (featured in Rock Band™ ); the edgy and classic heavy modern rock tunes ‘Time Is Now’, ‘Gone’, ‘Adrenaline’, the powerful driver which is the subject of a Wayne Isham directed video made with Red Bull and MPM, plus the first single, ‘Rock & Roll Dream,” buoyed by an instantly memorable chorus and universal aspirational and inspirational lyrics.
Listening to and influenced by everything from Pantera to Hank Williams Sr. to Metallica--“as long as it has great musicianship” says singer Forrest French--Crooked X share songwriting and lyrical duties for a true full-band collaboration. “We locked ourselves in our practice space and wrote ‘Gone’ in one day,” recalls French. “Songs on our record are very meaningful to us and come from our souls, even the more upbeat songs like ‘Rock & Roll Dream’ are about our lives and dreams.” Adds guitarist Jesse Cooper: “Our music will rip your head off.”
Notes Spencer Proffer (Quiet Riot, Tina Turner, WASP), who oversaw the album on all facets and produced Crooked X along with Michael Wagener (Ozzy, Skid Row, Poison): “They’re pure to rock & roll, a magnet back into classic rock that’s direly missing these days. They write melodic, timeless, powerful rock with elements of Zeppelin, Metallica and AC/DC. But it’s fresh and from their perspective; for today’s generation. That rang my bell loudly, being a fan who is steeped in rock & roll and has made my life’s work in it. I knew I had to get involved.”
Crooked X channeled their youthful agro-energy, confusion, hope and hormones into a 10-song debut rife with searing guitars, passionate vocals and ultra-intense, radio-ready heavy rock that’s inspired by the ‘70s, but sounds decidedly new millennium. It’s an organic sound honed over years--the members of Crooked X have been friends and playing music since fifth grade, going only by what their guts tell them is “cool.” In fact, Crooked X wrote their first-ever song, “Nightmare,” (track 8 on Crooked X) when they were only 11 years old.
If it seems odd to dwell on the long ago pre-teen days, the thing is…it wasn’t that long ago: The members of Crooked X are only 14. High school freshmen. A few years from getting drivers licenses. Playing on the drum line in school band. Studying algebra. Playing laser tag. Kid stuff. Except for their music. Cooper emphasizes: “We don’t want to be looked at for our age, because our music is good for any age. We want to be known for our music, not our ages. And YES, we do write our own songs!” Cooper’s wishes are already coming true. Urban Tulsa noted that Crooked X “melds the modern and classic, and prepares for the long haul. Although the band is young, and unwitting crowds initially view them as a novelty, by the fourth song of the evening, Crooked X has won the audience over and has them eating out of its hand. Credit that not only to the band´s amazing musicianship, but also to a foundation in staples of the metal and classic rock canons.”
As the MTV reality-docu “Start A Band-Rock The World” shows, music is their passion—thanks in part to failed elementary school football careers. “Me and Boomer were on the same football team in 5th grade, and both of our dads were coaches,” French relates. “We were horrible! I’d played guitar since I was 4, and Boomer had a drum set. So we got together and jammed—I knew some Metallica songs back then. We heard about Jesse; he was going to a different elementary school and he’d been playing since he was 3. Then we found Josh in Guitar Center about a year ago. Everything seemed to fall into place.”
Enter media and music producer Proffer and industry veteran manager Doc McGhee, long time friends and partners in McGhee Proffer Media (MPM). They heard early garage recordings, then saw Crooked X when they nabbed second place on the televised CBS Early Show "Living Room…LIVE" talent competition. Proffer explains: “Doc and I are all about the team. I try to be a true coach to the kids, not make them what they’re not, but help get them to where they could go. One of my roles is to nurture their music and direction, help bring it out for fans of all ages. Some of the greatest rock artists of all time started young. Stevie Winwood was 15 when the Spencer Davis Group hit, and he’s still in great voice; Robert Plant was a teenager who has defied time...Jesse Cooper, who I consider a pure talent, in the spirit of a young Jeff Beck, told all of us recently, ‘Hey, in 30 years, I’ll only be 44.’ Talk about putting Crooked X into perspective!
Cooper has already been playing guitar for 11 years—“my dad bought me a miniature Kramer guitar with built-in amp when I was 3.” Now he’s moved up to a Jackson Mark Morton Dominion, an EVH 5150 amp, a Digitech whammy and Boss pedals to augment his bluesy, feel-dominated style which is the perfect contrast to French’s more precise shredwork. Boomer, true to his name, hits hard, locking in with McDowell for a lineup Ted Nugent exclaimed “put their hearts and souls into every performance. Amazing really!”
The parents are 100 percent behind the band—Cooper’s dad is a well-respected Tulsa musician and music teacher—driving the kids to a rehearsal space in a strip mall next to two churches and a video store, and accompanying their minors on the road as their guitar tech. Bill Simpson, drummer Boomer Simpson’s dad, is the band’s business manager, drum tech and runs things on the road for Crooked X. But they’re hardly overbearing stage parents, and, true teens that they are, Crooked X say as long as it’s cool, Crooked X are in. That’s how they chose the band name—“It just sounded cool, and didn’t pigeonhole us to any style; once you get a name, you become that name,” French explains.
And followers have been chanting that name for years in the Tulsa area. In fact, predating Crooked X, the band’s debut album, is Fall 2008’s ‘Til We Bleed, a digital-only EP for the rabid fans who have been asking to buy Crooked X music since “Nightmare” appeared in Rock Band™. The gaming world is only one of many that have embraced Crooked X’s prodigious talent and possibility. The band and their music are closely involved with AST Dew Tour dates, Red Bull events, PBR shows, music featured for lots of action sports on ESPN, Mixed Martial Arts, and Wrestle mania broadcasts.
Crooked X’s goal is simply to rock like heroes Shinedown, Black Label Society and Pantera, explaining: “We want people to hear our music, decide what they think, and THEN find out, ‘wow, they’re 14.’ Instead of , ‘they’re 14, wow, they’re good for their age.’ We’re not a gimmick, we’re a band.” As for where they see themselves in five years—besides being 19 years old!—they conclude, “as long as we’re jamming, having fun and together, we don’t care.”