Pasadena, for all of its innumerable charms and attractions, isn’t exactly known as a rock and roll hotbed. A full generation after the rise of Pasadena shred-legends Van Halen, however, the band Holy Grail is looking to restore the 626 to its status as the birthplace of rock legends.
The latest band to emerge from the small but vivacious Pasadena metal/rock scene, Holy Grail has for the last ten years been comprised of a tight-knit cadre of dudes who attended High Point Academy and La Salle High School. If you were a Pasadena high schooler from 2000 on and wanted to rock (or had a child who did), you probably saw (or heard about) bands such as Dolores, Trigger Renegade, Jet Fuel, White Wizzard and Ex-SAF at the No Future Café on Walnut. From this primordial soup emerged Holy Grail, who are James J LaRue, James-Paul Luna, Eli Santana, Tyler Meahl and Blake Mount.
By bringing high-level musicianship, a sense of humor and a balls-to-the-wall attitude to the old-school metal style of the 1980s, Holy Grail has quickly ascended through the L.A. metal ranks, recently getting signed to Prosthetic Records, featured in an LA Weekly article and picked to open for the Finnish metal titans Children of Bodom’s upcoming show at the Glasshouse in Pomona.
I recently ran into my former La Salle classmate, Holy Grail drummer Tyler Meahl, near the band’s current Atwater Village headquarters, and he gave me the skinny on growing up metal in the 626.
Who and what is Holy Grail?
James J. LaRue, lead guitar; James-Paul Luna, vocals; Eli Santana, lead guitar; Tyler Meahl, drums; Blake Mount, bass — five dudes with metal hearts and long hair.
Would you say you guys are the most metal group to come out of Pasadena?
Most “unique” metal band in Pasadena, yes. Most metal? I could see that, but probably not for long — you never know what them kids are gonna do next.
What’s your favorite musical act to come out of Pasadena? Feel free to include high school bands. Even high school bands you’ve been in.
Holy Grail, Van Halen, Ogod, Antarcticans. High school bands? Poly Groton Experience, Ex-Saf, Dolores and Friendly Collar Boys.
Are you sick of getting a Van Halen question everytime you mention you’re from Pasadena?
Naw, it’s refreshing every time, and it’s a good way for interviewers to show they are interested in things that shred!
If you could/had to fight one member of Van Halen, who, and would you win?
I challenge Wolfie [Wolfgang Van Halen, 18-year-old son of Eddie and current VH bassist] and and Hagar [Sammy Hagar, former vocalist, current Tequila impresario] but I’d love to spar with [orgininal vocalist] David Lee Roth, I might learn a few moves. I’d probably win because I know their weak spots: brown M&Ms or a turkey sub for Wolfie .
What was your favorite thing about growing up in Pasadena (or the immediate area)?
The mountains, canyons, waterfalls, and also the earthquakes and wildfires around us.
The fact that I’m one of the few guys collecting vintage metal on vinyl from the Pasadena area.
Also the way people stare at you with disgust for having long hair and wearing a Balls to the Wall T-shirt.
What was your LEAST favorite thing about growing up in Pasadena?
The Sierra Madre police department getting up in our grill when we were trying to have a good time. Also, the lack of metal-heads. Particularly metal chicks, ha!
What’s the most metal spot in the ‘dena? Is there a “most metal” spot here?
Colorado Bar or the Rancho are pretty good [and cheap!]. But the most metal spot would probably be Suicide Bridge [the Colorado Street Bridge], especially beneath the bridge. There are so many lost souls around that you can sometimes hear their screams!
Do you plan on staying in L.A.? Would you ever move back to the Pasadena area?
Pasadena will always be one of my many favorite places to wreak havoc, whether I’m young or old.
Rock on. This is not a question.
Shred on! That is not an answer, it’s an order.
Check out Holy Grail’s tunes and see when and where they’re playing on their MySpace page.
— Daniel Siegal