American Head Charge (AHC) bassist Chad Hanks, the principle songwriter and co-founder of the Twin Cities industrial metal band, died on Sunday at age 46. His friends' tributes around the internet said he had been suffering from a terminal illness.
Hanks and AHC frontman Cameron Heacock went from little hometown recognition to playing in front of big crowds at Ozzfests, 93X Fests, Slipknot tours and a lot more in the early-2000s. They then put on some well-remembered local gigs at First Avenue, where a benefit for Hanks already on the books for Nov. 26 will now be a posthumous tribute to him.
"It's full-contact music," Hanks once told the Star Tribune of AHC's intense, rowdy live shows, where the band members sometimes endured as much physical damage on stage as did fans in the mosh pit.
In a later interview, he did not bemoan what he saw as a creative slump in the Twin Cities metal scene: "That's sort of how it was when we started, and we liked being the ones to lead the way," he said.
The group's DIY success helped bring it to the attention of super-producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers), who signed AHC to his American Recordings label and had the group out to his allegedly haunted Los Angeles mansion to record 2001's "The War of Art." Metal magazines Kerang and Rough Edge each gave the album four-star reviews (out of five), and VH1 picked it as one of the "12 Most Underrated Albums of Nü Metal."
During the recording of that album, guitarist Charlie Paulson of the Los Angeles ska-rock band Goldfinger — a childhood friend of Hanks' from California — described to the Star Tribune how Hanks provided the fuel behind AHC's fiery sound.
"Dissatisfaction with the world at large makes him play music," Paulson said. "And then it's not being satisfied with the music that's being made that makes him play the kind of music he plays. There are musicians very few and far between that are as talented as that guy."
Hanks and Heacock were both native Californians who met in a rehab facility in Minnesota in 1995 and formed the band soon thereafter. They remained AHC's two constant members, enduring such calamity as the sudden death of guitarist Bryan Ottoson in 2005 and more stints in treatment programs.
Last year's AHC album "Tango Umbrella" for Napalm Records earned more high praise from metal blogs. "The kind of nü-metal record that actually does it right," declared New Noise Magazine. "These guys were one of the best bands out there around the time of Mudvayne, Slipknot, Sevendust, Disturbed and others."
Heacock posted a heartbreaking photo Sunday on Facebook that showed him head-to-head with the bedridden Hanks, with no words offered (or needed).
One of AHC's two guitarists Ted Hallows wrote a tribute on Facebook, saying, "Rest In Peace my friend. You will be missed and your music will live on forever. Thank you for making me a better guitarist and thank you for all the great memories we shared together. Love you man and won't ever forget you."
Touted with the Hunter S. Thompson quote, "Too weird to live, too rare to die," the Nov. 26 tribute to Hanks at First Ave will feature performances by Black Flood Diesel, Blue Felix, the Omega Sequence and more as well as a silent auction to help offset Hanks' medical expenses. Tickets are on sale for $15 via eTix.com.