Jason McMaster

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If you have lived here within the last 25 years or so, and have gotten a chance to dip yourself into the “hard rock-metal” scene of Austin, Texas and still aren’t familiar with band names such as Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, SSIK, Godzilla Motor Company, Broken Teeth, Ignitor, then I would have to ask: What planet have you been on? In a city known for having quite an array of talented musicians, Jason McMaster stands as one of them, proving by his dedication and perseverance, that ‘if you follow your heart, instinct, and stick to your guns, anything is possible’.

Carving a niche into the Austin scene since ’81, Jason McMaster, from the early days of Watchtower and Dangerous Toys to Broken Teeth and all in between, has solidified himself as a true icon of the Austin hard rock & metal community. I can personally recall memories of seeing Dangerous Toys for the first time, or even better, coming across a flyer in ’85 bearing the names of King Diamond, Watchtower & Militiaplaying at what was then The Ritz on 6th. I recently caught up with Jason, in early October before he headed on the road with Broken Teeth. We started things off, as I was curious to know about the possibilities of a new Dangerous Toys record. “There are no plans for a new ’Toys’ release. A lot of fans ask about that. It makes me proud that they’re actually thinking that way, but it’s not enough of an avalanche of interest, enough to condone a new release. Our theory is, all peeps want to hear is “old stuff” by a popular band, so, if we write, knowing fans just want to hear stuff that sounds like the song they liked on MTV 20 years ago, what’s the point, writing songs trying to sound like you did when you were a kid. Giving the real fans, exactly what they want sounds like a “win win” to me.”

McMaster in particular connected with an assortment of influential records while growing up such as News of the World by Queen, Hotter than Hell by KISS, All the World’s a Stage by Rush, Obsession by UFO, & many others. It wasn’t long after, before he was fronting a band called Watchtower. “The scene was quite different, much like the 70s and 60s, when entertainment wasn’t as readily available or immediate like it is today,” explained Jason, “We had to go look for it, or wait for it to hit you in the face, a magazine talking about a tour, or a new record. Austin was so different 20 years ago. No clubs were really hosting heavy bands. Real metal was so fresh and scary to the bar owners, they just thought we were gonna burn the place down, assuming it was all just noise and violence. For the most part, we had to put on our own shows, rent out a place, take money at the door, charge what we wanted. Those days around here in the mid 80s were magical like that. If you were a rock-metal fan, you were lucky to know about the Ritz theatre hosting metal shows almost every week for a handful of years. Touring bands would come thru here based upon the scene we had, and the same thing was happening in scenes all over the place, not just in Austin. Chris Gates from the Big Boys & Poison13, needs to get ‘upper kudos’ here for helping out the young metal bands. He showed me how to promote, set up shows, and basically get my feet on the ground, running! Thanks Chris, for teaching me and many others on how to do this shit!! Thanks to Red River, today there are more than a few places that host all types of music, focusing on heavy metal, thrash, punk speed, trashy rock, all of the things that the 6th street clubs were scared of.”

Jason McMaster is no exception to the rule in having had to work hard to see the places he’s seen, to experience what he’s experienced. The memories of sharing the stage, great times, and rubbing elbows worldwide with Motorhead, The Cult, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and many more, are proud moments that indeed no one could ever forget. “People may not realize...I am a fan of music, before I am anything else. I have toured with my idols, all of just being lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right time. I must say, Lemmy (Motorhead) is such a smart, and fun individual, he encompasses what rock n roll is all about. My times and conversations I have had with him were all amazing. He always had time and encouragement. He didn’t favor for my music much, and it didn’t matter because of the things he did offer up to me, it was all real and honest. I thank him for that.”

                Receiving the rewards and the memories of our own accomplishments is only part of the journey, but what makes it all worthwhile, is in giving back to our own. Being a self-taught musician himself, Jason has evolved and has come full-circle with all he’s learned. Currently an instructor at the Paul Green School of Rock, he explained proudly on the impact “giving back” has had and the great addition it has been to his bucket of accomplishments. “It’s been liberating that I can finally give something back to my community, showing kids how to rock using purely my experiences. Rick Carney, who hired me on my career as ‘my diploma’, has been here as long as I have, playing hard, heavy and weird stuff proudly. I love trying to teach the kids what’s gonna work all the time, not just show them the thing I see in them that they can use; things they already have. When they take a lesson from me, I am amazed at the feeling I get when so much potential arises in a lesson.”

                It really all goes hand in hand, from instructing at establishments like the School of Rock to the influences, to the numerous bands McMaster regularly keeps himself busy with. While maintaining original projects with Broken Teeth and Ignitor (who both have new releases) to the occasional show with Dangerous Toys, Jason McMaster has also evolved into quite a “tribute” artist as well, paying homage to the classics of Judas Priest and Metallica in tribute bands Sad Wings and Killa Maul. “It’s all about scratching an itch, being a total fan of the stuff you are covering, that influenced you. I always say, ‘a tribute band better have those songs in their own personal DNA, or they’re not being true to the tribute’. People can go see a decent tribute band and have a blast, remembering the songs and times they had growing up with those songs, which are like old friends. Reuniting yourself as a fan with the songs is a good thing. Young or old, everyone gets “that feeling" if they know the material.”

At present, Broken Teeth has a new record called Viva La Rock Fantastico, which features two tracks with Canadian rock king Danko Jones. Ignitor also released The Spider Queen in October and in between tour dates of Broken Teeth, Jason can often be seen leading the metal onslaught of Sad Wings and Killa Maul. He has come a long way and has indeed made his influence on the Austin music scene, inspiring younger generations to rock! “Austin has embraced me. I feel my life didn’t start until I got here. I love this town. Politically, I don’t like where it is now, too much commerce focused on the wrong thing. Using the arts as a way to sell the city to out-of-towners, is almost telling us, the artists, that they want to use us to get people to move here, and they don’t really want to take care of the musicians here. The musicians here are the ones rallying to take care of the musicians here. The shining light is that even if you’re not a music person, once you live here, you can’t believe you lived anywhere else.” ~