It was supposed to be a one-off thing: guitarists Mike Johns and Richard Burnett and drummer Brian Smith—one-time members of Vegas metal band-made-good Hemlock —joining bassist/vocalist Chad Smith onstage at Henderson’s JJ’s Bar for a handful of songs last November. Not that the then-current lineup was lacking; Chad Smith amassed plenty of pleasant memories (not to mention Star Wars figurines) with those guys during their recent two-week tour of Japan.
Once back in the States, however, family obligations and video-store business opportunities arose. One by one his fellow musicians departed, “amicably and not-so-amicably,” Smith explains.
In the interim, Smith had stayed in professional contact with Johns, Burnett and his brother. Now, after a half-dozen Southwest warm-up dates, the original Hemlock roster officially reunites for the first Ink Friday at the newly launched Sinister Rock Bar (formerly Club SRO).
“It’s been nine years since Richard was out of the band, so we’ll probably try and bust out some songs from back in that era, and some of the new stuff, of course,” Smith predicts. “It’s been seven years since my brother was out and five years since Michael was out, [but] it just feels natural to all be jamming together again. Some of the people that can actually come to the show were kids that haven’t seen us play since the Elks Lodge or Jaycees. Now they can actually come out and have a drink or two and watch us play something from 1995 or ’96.”
Not that the new/old lineup intends to live in the past. Hemlock has toured virtually nonstop for 15 years, circling the world alongside the likes of Slayer, Lamb of God and Hatebreed. “The [recent] Ministry and Meshuggah tour was 1,000-2,000 people a night, and even on nights off I booked in-betweens. We’d play for 2,000 people up in Canada and for 150 the next night in Erie, Pennsylvania,” Smith recalls. “This year we’ll do a U.S. tour, hopefully with some bigger bands again, but if not, we’ll just go out and do it on our own.”
Hemlock plans to record its fifth full-length in April and then revisit Japan. Only this time, Smith will be exploring the Land of the Rising Sun alongside his original cohorts. “Everything happens for a reason,” he says. “Now that they’re back there’s definitely a new hype and excitement. It just feels right.”