Eras of Influence: Exploring the Sounds of the 1990s

This article is part of an ongoing series in which I examine the artists and music that defined specific eras of my life. Check out the introduction to the series here.

1990s: Alanis Morissette, Nirvana, No Doubt, Boyz II Men

As the 90s rolled around, I started to gain a little more autonomy. On occasion, my mom let me choose the radio station. On the schoolbus, someone might talk about a cool new song that had just hit the airwaves. And I would use these moments to begin stretching my wings into new sounds. To put it plainly, I grew a very quick interest in anything that had a guitar.

And the sound of a guitar in the 90s was distinct. While I didn’t yet have the chops to distinguish between different styles of rock, I frequently used the term alternative to describe my tastes. Alternative to what? I don’t think anyone my age really knew. But it was a sound and it made me feel cool. My mom didn’t listen to Nirvana or The Smashing Pumpkins. She feigned interest in No Doubt’s breakout single “Don’t Speak”, but not enough to explore the entirety of Tragic Kingdom. I held my cassette tape of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill in special esteem. It had a swear word!

I remember how early sounds of the decade, in the form of groups like Ace of Base and TLC, blended the fleeting influence of the late 80s with something fresh and new that helped define the pop music of a new decade. A new wave of R&B sounds hit the radio in the form of Boyz II Men and All-4-One. The former’s third studio album II was owned by nearly everyone in my middle school.

During this period, my lawn-mowing and leaf-raking money was used almost exclusively on music – first on cassettes, then on CDs. My first compact disc, purchased in conjunction with a Discman, was Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere (yikes). Did I have to sit perfectly still to avoid my favorite songs skipping? Of course. But the days of rewinding and fast forwarding were over.

As much as I was able to stretch my own wings through the early and mid part of the decade, I still hadn’t found something that was quite my own. I was open to anything, by hadn’t quite pinpointed a sound or a scene that would engulf me. That would all change in 1997, which we’ll explore next time as my first clearly defined era of influence.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #2 AFI’s Resurgence


This may be the busiest year AFI have ever had as a band. Notorious for long delays between albums, there are hints of three possible releases related to the band on the way. Their 10 album, AFI (The Blood Album) is coming out in just a couple of weeks, preceded by two very strong singles and a national tour following not long after. While AFI’s discography is phenomenally strong, the singles indicate one of their best endeavors in several years.

If that weren’t enough, there are at least two side projects on the way: Blaqk Audio have recently announced that there are over 40 songs demoed for their fourth album. Considering that Material released less than a year ago, it seems like Davy Havok and Jade Puget are still riding that wave of creativity to make good on their promise of trying to get new Blaqk Audio releases out quicker.

Additionally, DREAMCAR, the super group of the No Doubt band with Davy Havok on vocals are set to release their debut album this year. There’s no indication of what their collaboration will sound like, but I know enough about Davy Havok to know he wouldn’t be a part of a project he didn’t believe he could make magic happen with. While I don’t know that much about No Doubt personally, people sure seem to like them.

Either way, the prospects of more than one project from a group of artists known to taking their time is something in and of itself to be excited for.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Wet Shoes, Full Hearts: Riot Fest 2015 – Day 1


In the days leading up to this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago, I kept checking the weather app on my phone. Friday? Rain. Saturday? Rain. I thought maybe the forecast might change and we’d be able to enjoy the festival on dry ground for once. No such luck.

I arrived at Douglas Park early Friday afternoon wearing the black Chucks I bought last year to replace the black Chucks that were ruined in the mud at Riot Fest 2014. Before this year’s festival could even begin, the ground was already sloppy. The good news was that Douglas Park allowed for a much more sensible layout than Humboldt Park. At least if we were going to get covered in mud, we wouldn’t have to walk as far.

For me, the day truly kicked off when Every Time I Die took the Rebel Stage. Last year’s From Parts Unknown was a return to vicious form for the metalcore vets and their set did not disappoint. It’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off of Keith Buckley when he’s commanding the stage with his roar, but the rest of the band can be just as rowdy. The set ended with Jordan Buckley throwing himself through the stacked amps on stage, Kurt Cobain-style. It only seemed appropriate, especially after the band’s performance of Nirvana’s “Tourette’s”.

Against Me! took the Rise Stage immediately after and raged through an energetic set. That the band can still stand after a year of non-stop touring in support of Transgender Dysphoria Blues is nothing short of miraculous. That Laura Jane Grace can take the stage with such energy and emotion is a thing of beauty. The set ended with “I Was a Teenage Anarchist”, but the night continued later as the band played a secret show at Conchord Music Hall.

Although I’ve been listening to Coheed and Cambria on and off since 2003, I had somehow managed to miss the band in concert until Riot Fest. The performance was just as I had imagined it would be, however, with Claudio Sanchez singing in perfect tune from start to finish. I was delighted to hear the band play my three favorite songs of theirs (“A Favor House Atlantic”, “The Camper Velourium III: Al the Killer” and “Blood Red Summer”) all in succession. Clocking in at exactly an hour, the set felt like it passed in a matter of minutes.

The most surprising part of the weekend for me took place that evening as the sun set at the Rock Stage and Faith No More appeared. While I’m not as familiar with their music as I would like to be, my friend was thrilled to see the return of his favorite band. It was a sight to behold as the entire crowd sang along with the incredible Mike Patton, who showed off his vocal range in every way imaginable. The band easily had the most impressively tight set of the weekend, with every note sounding as if it were being played from the record.

Part of what makes Riot Fest so great is seeing newer bands like Real Friends get a chance at the big stage while legends like Faith No More are able to flex their muscles once more in front of giant crowds. I’ve said in the past that Riot Fest is like Warped Tour for grown-ups, but truly, it’s bigger than that. There’s literally something for almost everyone, and it’s impossible to leave disappointed or unimpressed.

At no point was this more obvious to me than when the night closed with Ice Cube at the Rebel Stage. I briefly caught a glimpse of No Doubt before making my way over to watch Cube rock the mic. After four of his solo tracks, he welcomed N.W.A. partners MC Ren and DJ Yella to the stage as the trio performed tracks from their legendary Straight Outta Compton release. By the time the crew launched into “Fuck tha Police”, the crowd collectively lost their minds. It was almost surreal watching the crowd unite for one of our era’s most important songs.

Yes, there is mud. Always. But in exchange for our wet clothes and soaked shoes, we’re given some of the most amazing reunions and performances we could ask for. Our clothes are muddy, our muscles are sore, and our stomachs ache from the disgusting food and copious amounts of alcohol – but our hearts are invariably full.

Read about day 2 here.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.