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(Dallas/Fort Worth's Hard Rock Authority)


Internationally Kickin' Aska
By Dixie Beasley

Imagine traveling to far away lands, seeing sights you'd never even thought to see in your lifetime, and getting to play for lots of appreciative fans. Sound like a band dream come true? It is for Dallas based ASKA. In addition to playing the local scene for the past eight years, ASKA has been touring such places as Japan, Guam, Korea, Germany, Croatia, Bosnia, and Saudi Arabia. Along the way they've seen and done some amazing things like eating sushi in Japan, standing at Ground Zero in the Hiroshima Peace Park, and seeing the sights of Egypt. How did they do all that you ask? It started, as it often does, by being in the right place at the right time. After a gig at the infamous Basement in 1990, a man approached the band and asked if they'd like to go play for our troops overseas, courtesy of the US Department Of Defense. Of course, realizing what a golden opportunity they were being handed, they quickly accepted. Since then, George Call (vocals/guitar), Damon Call (drums), Darren Knapp (vocals/guitar), and Keith Knight (bass) have done eight different tours to military bases around the world.

The most recent ended in January and had them visiting places in Croatia, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Macedonia, England, and Bosnia. "Everywhere we went except Bosnia, the people were great and the countries were beautiful. The Netherlands were awesome and from our first show in Croatia till the end of the tour, people were giving us gifts and going wild," George relates. Along with the good comes the bad and ugly and apparently Bosnia was the ugliest. The war torn country dotted with land mines and burned out buildings was scary at best. " Bosnia was weird, it's definitely not a place you would want to live or vacation in. We had to travel with armed guards and wear flack jackets and helmets. The hatred and tension were clear to see - it's a very dangerous place," remembers George. Playing for civilians as well as for military personnel has given the guys an inside perspective on what life is like in other parts of the world. George concedes, "No matter where you are things are basically the same, just with a different setting. People are just trying to survive and do their thing. Every place has it's ups and downs."

One thing that has become crystal clear to ASKA while on these tours over the years is how much different America's metal scene is when compared to Europe's. Everywhere the band has gone overseas, they've encountered a strong and supportive scene. "Europe loves heavy metal. You can walk into any record store over there and find metal prominently and proudly displayed. They seem to care more about the music itself, than making a buck," confides George, "America's scene is too corporate. If your band doesn't sound like what's being played on the radio, the record companies aren't interested in you for the most part. It's a lot harder to get recognition here in the States so going to Europe has definitely put things in perspective."

Aside from the obvious benefits of touring overseas, the experience has been really good for band business. They now have a well established fan base in Europe and have shown up on radio play lists in France. Burn Magazine in Japan gave their latest album, Nine Tongues, four-and-one-half out of five stars. And German label, Nuclear Blast recently added them to their mail order catalog and has expressed an interest in doing some distribution for the band.

Meanwhile, between tours, ASKA has managed to create and maintain their momentum here at home. Constant promotion like merchandise, a newsletter, postcards, a website (with over 15,000 hits), and a strong work ethic have been the key to keeping ASKA alive and well for the last eight years. "Even though things are harder in the US, it still hasn't stopped us from getting good reviews from the American zines, radio airplay in Texas and Louisiana, and a huge crowd following here at home. It is possible to get things done in the States, but you can't sit around and wait for someone to do it for you. You have to work very hard at it," says George. Whatever the formula, it's paying off for ASKA. Determination, hard work and the right attitude seem to be the band's creed to live by, whether at home or abroad. And so continues the story of four guys playing metal in far away lands - kickin' ASKA all the way.


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