With spring and summer fast approaching, the 2020 Summer Games are on everyone’s minds. We’ve started seeing some of the newest innovations unveiled—everything from Olympics medal stand looks to track spikes to skateboarding uniforms—and now there are lifestyle drops with a heavy skew toward sport. One of our favorites thus far is Reebok’s International Sports Heritage Collection. And we’re all over the Reebok Club C Revenge Plus.
It’s obvious the Club C draws style cues from vintage tennis aesthetics. Hallmarks of the ’80s court design are all here: The low top dips below your ankle, the upper is made from supple leather, and a rubber outsole runs underfoot. But the Club C Revenge Plus strays from the typical all-white motif. Instead, it’s imagined in cream with hits of orange (or as Reebok likes to call it, Mars Dust) on the hang tag, logo, and vector—which, by the way, saw its prominence begin on the international stage of the ’96 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nostalgia doesn’t have to come at the expense of comfort, though. These kicks have a plush foam tongue, molded sockliner, and cushioned midsole, making them an excellent wear-everywhere shoe. They might have stadium-worthy looks, but you can rock ’em traveling, on casual days at the office, and all weekend long. No need to wait ’till the Olympics kick off on July 24. This is an idyllic shoe to break out of your winter blues and style with your favorite jeans, joggers, or even a suit. Perhaps best of all, the premium look and feel of the shoe won’t cost you $ 100.
Other offerings from the International Sports Heritage Collection include three printed track jackets and three sweatshirts in varying red, green, and blue hues. Come April, a second iteration of the collection will be unveiled. You can expect another Club C Revenge Plus shoe, a Classic Leather model, and more Olympics-inspired merchandise.
IN THEATERS NOW: Long-time friends Alice and Ben find themselves in that inevitable year that all late 20-somethings experience—in which seemingly every person they know gets married—and agree to be one another’s plus ones as they power through an endless parade of insufferable weddings. Starring Maya Erskine (“PEN15”), Jack Quaid (“The Boys”), Beck Bennett (“Saturday Night Live”), Rosalind Chao (The Joy Luck Club) and Ed Begley Jr. (A Mighty Wind), PLUS ONE is “sharp, raunchy, and altogether winning” (SlashFilm).
The intense battle royale action of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s popular Blackout Mode will be taking its act to the famed island prison of Alcatraz, Activision revealed today (April 1).
The new map will allow players to engage in both close-quarters combat and long-range exterior firefights as they battle to be the last squad standing the company revealed in a press release. The 1:34 trailer shows off how you will have to utilize new techniques and strategies while taking on challenges such as zombies on the new fog filled and creepy map.
“The new Blackout Alcatraz map is set in a fog-filled island boasting a variety of environments that all lead up to the big cellhouse atop the hill. Requiring new strategies and tactics, players will drop in, gear up and fight through both close-quarters combat and long-range exterior firefights as they battle to be the last squad standing.
Alcatraz is launching in addition to the original Blackout map, so players will have two distinct maps to choose from when jumping into the mode.”
The Alcatraz map launched April 2 on PlayStation 4 first with Xbox One and PC players joining in on the fun very soon after. You can take a good look at what to expect in the trailer for the exciting new Blackout Mode arena below and while you are at it read up on Call of Duty mobile as well.
But wait there is more, Activision/Treyarch also announced there will be free access to Blackout Mode starting on April 2-30. So yeah you get an entire month to join the Call of Duty battle royale party.
Produced By WIRED Brand Lab For Samsung Chromebook Plus | In September of 2018, WIRED celebrated our quarter century anniversary with a four day festival in San Francisco. As part of the celebration, we partnered with Samsung and the new Chromebook Plus to explore the new world of the modern, always-on consumer. WIRED Videos
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Many explanations is a tell for cognitive dissonance
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Secretary of State Pompeo is handling things like President Trump
Shake the box
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I fund my Periscopes and podcasts via audience micro-donations on Patreon. I prefer this method over accepting advertisements or working for a “boss” somewhere because it keeps my voice independent. No one owns me, and that is rare. I’m trying in my own way to make the world a better place, and your contributions help me stay inspired to do that.
This Wank Party, featuring Tomas Fuk, Dusan Polanek, Martin Polnak and Romi Zuska is a lovely Dreamset, suggested by Daniel a long-time supporter of the site. Part 1 starts with Martin in the bathroom, rinsing his mouth. Then he goes into the bedroom and lays on the bed. As he rests, Romi, Tomas and Dusan rush into the room and overcome him. They tie his hands behind his back and as he complains Romi quietens him by pushing his stiff cock in Martin’s mouth. Tomas and Dusan get their dicks out too. Soon Martin is tasting Tomas’ cock too. Dusan straddles Martin as the others take turns in his mouth. Martin has to suck the cocks as his head is pushed onto them. Tomas straddles him, pushing his cock deep into the mouth. Then Dusan does the same, pulling the hot mouth onto his stiff dick. Turning him over they pull down his underwear and spank Martin’s sexy ass. Then it is back to sucking cock with Romi and Dusan taking turns at pushing theirs into Martin’s mouth. Then Tomas fucks his face hard. Turning Martin over again the others tickle him all over before spanking his ass some more.
Charlie Sheen says the “hooker” suing him for exposing her to HIV is an extortionist, who rolls the dice with STDs on the regular because she’s banged “hundreds, if not thousands,” of guys. Sheen is responding to the lawsuit filed anonymously last summer…
Boutique distributor Entrenue has been named exclusive distributor of the new Wink Plus vibrator from sex toy designer Crave, a multispeed upgrade of the brand’s classic mini vibe. XBIZ.com – Pleasure & Retail
The holidays are about appreciating what we have right in front of us — like unheralded but invaluable players such as the Lightning’s Brayden Point, Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault and Nashville’s Kyle Turris, who deserve props for powering top-3 teams. www.espn.com – NHL
Tom Brady, Todd Gurley and Drew Brees are in. Who else made it among the 88 players? And who should have made it? NFL Nation reporters detail every Pro Bowl pick, surprise and snub for all 32 teams. www.espn.com – TOP
Les images présentées dans cet ouvrage sont une sélection des meilleures photographies de Dani olivier. Elles sont telles que saisies lors de la prise de vue de l'artiste, sans retouche, ni altération.   Dani Olivier crée des effets en projetant des images et lumières complexes sur ses modèles.  Les modèles sont nus et sans accessoires. « Je réalise des portraits qui croisent peinture et photographie. Ils mettent en valeur la beauté des femmes et ont pour objectif de les dévoiler dans leur double dimension de corps et d’âme. J’opère un travail de révélation qui procède par apparition d’images et permet ainsi de montrer l’aura du modèle, voire d’accéder à une dimension cachée. Je cherche à rendre visible une part de l’invisible. À cette fin, je fais appel à la créativité du modèle en lui offrant d’exprimer sa singularité par le biais de compositions personnelles, peintures, dessins, ensuite projetés sur elle. S’y ajoutent ses propositions en terme de mouvement ou de gestuelle. Elle est ainsi co-inventrice de l’image qui naît de la rencontre de nos créativités. Afin de donner toute sa force à l’image, celle-ci obéit à un principe d’authenticité qui passe par une intégrité de la photo (ni retouche, ni altération), une fidélité à l’instant. Au final, j’essaie d’embrasser dans un regard corps et âme. »
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BRANCHING OUT: Gwynnie Bee, the clothing rental subscription service for women sizes 10 to 32, is partnering with Jay Godfrey to launch his first plus-size collection exclusively for members. The five-piece collection will feature bestsellers and styles from his current line in sizes 10-32. The pieces are being offered for rent on GwynnieBee.com on selected launch dates through Sept. 14.
The pieces, which include four dress styles and one jumpsuit, retail between $ 186 and $ 375.
Gwynnie Bee’s membership options are one item out at a time/$ 49 month; two items out at a time/$ 69 month; three items out at a time/$ 95 month, and up to 10 items out at a time/$ 199 month.
Jay Godfrey, which has been in business 12 years, sells at such stores as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Intermix, Aishti (Lebanon and Dubai), in addition to Revolve.com and JayGodfrey.com. That collection wholesales from $ 100 to $ 250.
As reported, Jay Godfrey launched Jay x JayGodfrey, a diffusion line for fall selling.
A Conversation with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Johnny Van Zant
Mike Ragogna: Johnny, the new one is titled Lynyrd Skynyrd Live In Jacksonville. Using the old term f there’s really such thing as a blast from the past, this would be it, right?
Johnny Van Zant: Yeah, you know, it was something that we talked about doing for a while. Actually we had the thought a few years ago but it just never panned out. This year it worked for us. We did it in a really cool place down here, an old theater that’s been here for years called the Florida Theatre, it holds about eighteen or nineteen hundred people. We did it over a period of two nights and it was a great time. We went back and tried to have as much fun doing it and doing it in the same order as it was on the record, which was really cool because “Sweet Home” starts out Second Helping. [laughs] For that particular part of the show it was like, “Okay, we’re starting the show with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ which we never do,” so it was a hoot. Then we had a bunch of songs that we’ve done in a medley because there are so many great Skynyrd songs but we’d never played them all together. We were up in Canada earlier this year at a sound check and we went through the whole thing, so when we got prepared we finally booked the dates and we had a great time. It was awesome for me…I was home every night. [laughs] The bands were awesome, they were there from all ages, that was a pretty cool thing to see. I hope the fans love it, man. We had a good time doing it, I’m looking forward to seeing what the response of the fans are.
MR: You have a couple of dates left in November, right?
JVZ: We just have those few shows, we usually try to take off this time of year and spend it with our immediate family instead of our Skynyrd Nation. Try to catch up on things.
MR: What have you learned about your first two albums from the tour and playing the songs often?
JVZ: Probably just tempos and stuff like that. We were like, “Wow, that was recorded really fast!” Either in our old age we’re getting slower or we we’re just like, “Wow, that’s really booking it on the album.” There’s just different little intimate parts where you go, “Wow, okay, maybe we could’ve done this,” or “Maybe we should’ve done that,” but again, man, it was just a blast going back. For us just doing our record set, of course you play “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” so we’ve been playing those for a long, long time, but then you have songs like “Curtis” and “I Need You” which was really cool because the band’s never done “I Need You” live. It was really cool to go back and do that one, it’s a great song. Looking at the fans singing along with it was awesome.
MR: I imagine you guys might have discovered a couple of new favorites.
JVZ: You know what, we hadn’t done “Poison Whiskey,” which was really neat. We never figured it would go over that great live, and I don’t know if it was just particularly that night, but it just went over really well that night. Those two nights, I should say, because it was done over a period of two nights.
MR: You said it was a multi-generational crowd. What do you think is leading the younger crowd to Lynyrd Skynyrd other than their parents introducing them to you?
JVZ: Yeah, forcing them to listen to it. [laughs] I always go, “Did your parents force you to listen to it?” and you’d be surprised, a lot of them say, “No, I love the music!” I think it’s just that Skynyrd songs are timeless. “Free Bird” is timeless, “Sweet Home” is timeless, they’re just timeless songs. I think people relate to Skynyrd, it’s a working class band. They’re just songs with messages. To this day there’s never been a song written that didn’t have a message.
MR: It’s been said that you guys were the smartest southern band there ever was when you came around.
MR: Songs like “Workin’ For MCA” were pretty controversial, considering it was your home label. What kind of memories are coming back to you from those days as you revisit these two albums?
JVZ: Well, I think just a band getting its act together and growing as a band. There was an album called First And Last that was put out years later that was done before these two albums, but these were the first two albums that were successful. Of course, Pronounced… came out and “Free Bird” did pretty good for that record, and when “Sweet Home” came out it flip-flopped and made people start catching on to the first record from “Sweet Home.” They went back and went, “Wow, there’s another record out there called Pronounced…” and both of them went rapidly platinum and the band just exploded from there.
MR: Was it like Al Kooper was a member at the time?
JVZ: Yeah, he was. He guided the band. Al’s a great musician. If it wasn’t for Al Kooper there might not be a Lynyrd Skynyrd. He’s the one who found us at Pinocchio’s in Atlanta, Georgia and signed us to Sounds Of The South through MCA, brought the band to attention.
MR: “Sweet Home Alabama” is probably your classiest, most classic single, whereas “Free Bird” has grown even beyond you; it’s not just the band’s anthem, it’s a southern anthem. What was that?
JVZ: Way back when, there was FM radio, and jocks used to say, “Man, we love “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” because we can put it on and use the bathroom and when we come back it’ll still be playing.” [laughs]
MR: So you have DJs’ bowels to thank for this.
JVZ: Yes, there’s a lot of them out there that appreciate those two songs. That was a time when radio played whole albums instead of just singles. Singles were new to FM radio when “Sweet Home” came out. The biggest single for Lynyrd Skynyrd was actually “What’s Your Name.” That was the highest charting single for Lynyrd Skynyrd, which kind of amazes me because “Sweet Home” was a single, too, and it’s the one that’s been played for years and years in movies, we’ve got our buddy Kid Rock who had it in his song “All Summer Long,” along with “Werewolves Of London” by Warren Zevon. It’s just amazing to me. It’s pretty funny, we were over in Europe a few years ago and we’re all Beatles fans so we went on The Beatles’ Liverpool tour, we rented a bus and took our crew and we had a guide telling us all about their houses and, “Oh, this is the field where ‘Strawberry Fields’ was written.” We went to John Lennon’s house and there were these kids in the neighborhood on their bicycles and they said, “Hey, who are you?” because they could tell we were some band. We were like, “Lynyrd Skynyrd” and somebody said, “Yeah, ‘Sweet Home Alabama,'” and one of the kids spoke up and said, “Oh yeah, Kid Rock’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama!'” [laughs] We were laughing our butts off. We said, “Thank you, Bobby, for introducing us to some eight year-olds in London.”
MR: But that points out that you have an international audience. What is it about Lynyrd Skynyrd that gives it this kind of presence?
JVZ: I think it’s just common people, man. People love the songs. You hear a song like “Simple Man” or “That Smell” and people relate to it. Hell, these days “Saturday Night Special” with all the gun stuff going on, it’s just relatable man. There’s an old saying, “Hey, the music will be around a lot longer than we will.” That’s a cool thing about playing music, that music will be here long after we’re gone.
MR: Johnny, what advice do you have for new artists?
JVZ: I don’t know, man, it’s such a difficult time, first of all if you’re going to do this have plan A and plan B. So many people are great singers, great players and never make it, so have that plan B, but follow your dreams and work hard at it and keep your nose clean, that means don’t be into drugs and drinking and all that stuff, man, because that’s ruined a lot of my friends and almost tried to ruin myself with it. Just keep at it, man. If you believe in yourself, give it a time period and see what you can come up with.
MR: In your case, it’s really also been about family, hasn’t it?
JVZ: It has. We always tell people when we were young we didn’t have six hundred channels and video games and computers and iPhones and stuff, we had an old swing set out in the front yard and that was our entertainment. We would listen to the Grand Ole Opry and the Ed Sullivan show and learn the songs and go out and sing them on the swing set during the day. That was our entertainment, it was very common. We weren’t a rich family, but we were rich in family. We didn’t have a lot of money, but hell, money don’t make you who you are.
MR: I imagine the pain doesn’t go away, the loss of Ronnie and everybody in that crash.
JVZ: Oh yeah. October twentieth was thirty eight years, I believe, and it just doesn’t seem that long. I guess time flies, but it just really doesn’t seem that long to me. It still seems like yesterday.
MR: Since you guys planted those seeds, look at all that’s sprouted. You ended up with not just your band, but Rossington Collins, 38 Special, Skynyrd left a mark.
JVZ: Yeah, and hopefully we still keep on keepin’ on. We’re getting ready to start recording for a new record and all that good stuff, it’s what we do. I had a conversation with Gary Rossington the other day, he’s had some heart trouble, so he said, “I went out by my lake and I’ve been kind of meditating and I figured out what’s really important to me–my grandkids, my family, and playing guitar.” I went, “Yeah, that’s pretty much all of us.” That’s what we love. You asked me what it is about Lynyrd Skynyrd; I think it’s that the fans see who we are. There’s no faking it or trying to be something else. No makeup–no offense to anybody who wears it. But as far as artists go, if you see us on the stage, that’s who we are and when we come off it’s still who we are.
MR: So you’re still okay with being the Kings of Southern Rock?
JVZ: [laughs] You know what, man? I have to put the Allmans in there, too.
JVZ: We all grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, so there was something in the water. Hey, that’s a good song title, I may use that. [laughs]
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Pentatonix’s Avi Kaplan
Mike Ragogna: Avi, on your new self-titled Pentatonix album, you’re exploring some new technology and stretching out a little more vocally. So how did you approach this album differently than past projects?
Avi Kaplan: In terms of production, I think that the goal for this album was to show how we write songs and how eclectic we are, but it’s also an album to really compete in the pop world. As for the new technology, we actually haven’t used too much more than our other albums, we’ve just been a little bit more liberal with some different types of effects, some filters and reverb. What we wanted to do was push the boundaries a little bit, but also make sure that anything we do on this album is something we can recreate live. That is something that is super, super important as a band. Regardless of what we do on the album, we want to make sure that we can do every single track justice.
MR: How did these songs come together?
AK: Our record label put us with a bunch of different songwriters, we wrote in duos and trios. Honestly we just wrote a bunch of songs, I’d say around forty, and then at the end, we just chose the ones we thought accentuated what we do best.
MR: Were there any songs or their recordings that really pushed you?
AK: I think that with originals, everyone is going to be more emotionally invested, so with these songs I wouldn’t say that it was trying to figure out how it was done but actually getting everyone to agree on how it should be finished.
MR: Avi, Pentatonix recently won the Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instrumental Or A Cappella. That has to relaunch you differently than if you were still going the independent route, like after the group’s initial Sony signing years ago. How did that propel you as a group creatively or professionally?
AK: Professionally, I think it made us feel like we had been doing the right thing. It felt so good, we were so proud of it. I wouldn’t say that we’ve gotten any new opportunities because of it, but it’s really just an amazing thing for us to have under our belt, and for us to be able to say as an a cappella group and as individual artists.
MR: What’s the relationship between Pentatonix and its fans? Are you aware of who they are in the bigger sense?
AK: Absolutely. Our fanbase is definitely a family. A lot of them have been with us from the beginning, really. I feel like one of the reason it’s so close is because we’re an a cappella group in the pop industry, we’re trying to compete with all of these acts, we’re obviously going to be the underdog in every way. Our fans also feel that way, they want to be able to prove to the world that they can make us everything that we think we can be. We’ve gone on this journey together and just gotten so much closer. We love to say that our fans are the nicest fans in the world. They’re just the most supportive. It’s really just an amazing family, we’ve become friends with our fans, we know them by name and by face, it’s just a really beautiful thing.
MR: What do you think has evolved over the course of the records? Can you see a difference between where you started and where you are now?
AK: I think that overall, we’ve just come a little more into our own as artists trying to figure out our sound. Even this album was a little experimental, trying to figure out exactly what our sound is. I think we’re still refining it, but through all these processes, all the albums we’ve done and all the things we’ve done, I think we’ve just been refining our sound, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
MR: What are your thoughts on Pentatonix’s association with Cracker Barrel?
AK: Well, first of all, I love Cracker Barrel. We all love Cracker Barrel. I know that the trio who grew up in Texas went to Cracker Barrel growing up, Kevin’s from Kentucky, he went to Cracker Barrel all the time, we’ve been to Cracker Barrel as a group, I’ve fallen in love with it, I love southern food, I love southern comfort, I just love the vibe. As a group I feel like it totally resonates with what Cracker Barrel stands for and the vibe that they have. As far as how it came about, they’re fans of the group, we’re fans of Cracker Barrel, it just kind of worked out.
MR: Are there any fun or interesting collaborations that will happen in the future with the organization? Maybe surprise some Cracker Barrel crowd one night with an impromptu performance?
AK: That’s exactly what’s going to be happening, we’re doing surprise performances at Cracker Barrels, singing for fans, eating some food, it’s going to be a really great time. At the end of the day when you put together a scene in Cracker Barrel it’s going to be amazing.
MR: “First Thing’s First” is a great song, it’s like, “Okay, you want to get rich and all that, but first thing’s first, get your house in order, get your heart in order.” That’s sort of the message of Pentatonix in a lot of ways, isn’t it?
AK: Absolutely. The thing about it is we really pride ourselves in being grounded and really keeping the right things in the forefronts of our minds and our hearts, it’s something that we really care about as a group and want to continue, and something we really want to extend to our fans and really anybody. We want to have a positive message. There’s a lot of music out there that isn’t positive, it doesn’t really talk about the greatest things. When it comes to music in general I personally feel that music is around to bring life to others, and I feel that that’s what we personally try to do nonstop with our voices. Singing is such an organic and vulnerable and humble thing, it just makes sense. If we were trying to be cocky and talk about terrible things I feel like it just wouldn’t make sense with what we do. It’s just our vibe and what we care about.
MR: And that theme carries through when you listen to something like “Ref” or “Misbehavin,” which, if you listen to the lyrics, of course, you’re not misbehaving.
AK: Yeah, it’s funny because when you hear the aesthetic of “Ref” or “First Thing’s First,” you think it could be a little bit of a cocky song or talk about some bad things, but it really doesn’t, the messages behind both of those songs are really great.
MR: By the way, I think “Ref” might be my favorite song on the album. With regards to a relationship, saying, “I’m not going to be the ref here,” is a subtle, cool concept. I don’t think I’ve heard that said in such a way before.
AK: Honestly, I was so happy and proud of everyone in the group for the writing we did.
MR: If you only had time to show a person one song on the album, what would that one song in your opinion be?
AK: Man, that is really, really tough. I would say either “Cracked” or “Na Na Na.” I think both of those are really our vibe, really our style and it kind of accentuates the happiness and the fun in “Na Na Na” and the seriousness and the soul and grit in “Cracked.”
MR: Now that you have set the bar at this level of songwriting, does it tend to make you want to stretch the boundaries even further? I’m not suggesting taking on anything like religion or politics, but are there bigger concepts that you’d like to tackle?
AK: I think we’re always trying to expand. As far as religion and politics, I don’t think we’d ever take a stance on that type of thing because honestly everyone in the group is very, very different. We all have the same values, but we don’t all agree on the same issues. We wouldn’t ever do anything that would make anybody uncomfortable. If there ever was something that we felt really strongly about, like music in schools, that’s something we can all get behind, if there was ever an issue that we all felt really passionate about and could all get behind, one hundred percent we’d expand and really take a stance on that.
MR: Of course, you all have music education when you were in school.
AK: Yeah, we were all classically trained, I was actually an opera major in college, Scott was a pop music major, Mitch had actually just graduated, he was going to be a music major, Kirstin was a music theater major in college. Kevin was actually pre-med and East Asian studies but he has been doing music and is an extremely amazing talented musician, he’s classically trained, he played at Carnegie Hall, he’s done a lot of great things in music.
MR: I think a big point in the debates on music education in school is the grade school level. Did you all have grade school music programs?
AK: I’m sure we all did music in grade school. I know that I was in band, I played trumpet, Kevin was in Orchestra, he did cello, the trio definitely did choir in grade school as well.
MR: Who oversees the vocal arrangements?
AK: You know, we actually have a different overseer for every arrangement because we all have such different and eclectic musical styles and tastes. For instance, if we’re going to be covering an R&B song I would say that Scott would take over for that sort of thing. If we’re doing a real chill, vibe-y, emotionally type of thing, or if it’s choral and has a lot of beautiful harmonies I would say I would arrange it. Kevin is the leader when it comes to beats and all those different groove changes and stuff. Everybody has a different strength. It might even just be because of what song it is. If Kevin’s super in love with a song he can lead that one, you know?
MR: I’m sure people have thrown all kinds of musical comparisons at you guys.
AK: Oh yeah, there are a bunch of different groups that people talk about, absolutely.
MR: Have you taken any cues or inspiration from any of those notes?
AK: Absolutely. I would say that I’m the biggest a cappella nerd of anybody, I would say that I listen to a cappella groups more than anybody else. I know that we definitely have our own style but there are times where we say, “Oh my gosh, we should definitely have a Take Six moment here,” or “We should do an old school Manhattan Transfer-y type of thing here.” We definitely have knowledge of that stuff and we do a bunch of different styles, we like to lean in different directions, it’s a lot of fun. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for those groups doing their thing and having those different styles, we really wouldn’t be here.
MR: I think this is a great time for Pentatonix because there are so many boundary-pushing productions out now that are grounded in pop.
AK: Honestly, it’s really cool that they’re getting more creative and experimental when it comes to production, but also you’ll notice that while there are a bunch of dance songs out there a million tracks in them, there’s also stuff like Adele, or this new Drake song that are very, very minimal. There’s a lot of minimal tracks coming out and that’s something that’s very exciting for us because at the end of the day we have five voices, one who beatboxes and sings at the same time. It’s really cool to know that there are some tracks out there that are pretty minimal that we could definitely compete with.
MR: Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas To Me is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of recent years. Just thought I’d mention that.
AK: Yeah, it’s surreal to hear that.
MR: And on your new album, you have a New Year’s song that accentuates its complicated vocal arrangement. Was it fun to record?
AK: That was a lot of fun to sing! It was really cool, actually. I run an a cappella camp and we actually brought in the A Cappella Academy Choir, which is all of my students. That was really amazing to have them sing on that song, so it was extra fun to record that.
MR: So you’re into mentoring?
AK: Oh absolutely, running that camp is definitely my favorite thing that I do in my life right now.
MR: Avi, you fell right into my devious trap! What advice do you have for new artists?
AK: I would say to really, really think about what your strengths are, play to those, doing try to compare yourself to other people. If music is your heart, put everything you possibly have into it. Don’t let any opportunity go by, make sure you do everything possible to make sure that you can succeed in it. Not everyone has success in music, not everyone gets rich and famous from it, but at the end of the day you can remember why you’re doing music, to bring life to others and to lift people up. Just keep that in mind.
MR: So what’s coming in Pentatonix’s future?
AK: Honestly, there are so many different thing that we want to do. We really want to have a hit song on the radio, we’re working on that now, more touring, expanding our fanbase, there are so many things we want to do.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Ben Rector
Mike Ragogna: Ben, your brand new album Brand New went Top Ten! And you’re positioned in the Top Ten on like five other Billboard charts. You’re a superstar!
Ben Rector: You’re kind to say that. I’m not sure I’d agree, but I’m really glad people have enjoyed the record!
MR: Alright mister, how did you do it? Did it have something to do with your voice, maybe the songs?
BR: I hope so. I’m not sure what else I’ve got going on that people would buy the record for!
MR: Okay, so it took a few albums and singles, but what would the documentary say about how you got to this level of superstarfulness? Leave out no detail!
BR: If there were a documentary, it probably wouldn’t be terribly exciting, as it’s mostly been slow and steady growth over the past 8-10 years. I started traveling and playing music professionally early on in college and ever since it has grown steadily. There wasn’t one thing that drastically changed my trajectory or brought a whole bunch of new fans on board at once, I think it’s just now getting to the place where it’s a little more visible.
MR: Kidding aside, it’s like “Make Something Beautiful” is the theme of the album, as in when something goes wrong in life, you’ve got to make something beautiful. Can you pull the curtain on some of these songs, how you came up with some of their topics and maybe a story or two of their creation?
BR: So glad you noticed that song! Basically, for this record, I wanted to make a first record again. The longer you do something, the harder it is for it to feel fresh and new, the way it did when you were starting out. I wanted to get back to when I was in college skipping class to write songs, looking forward to Thursday afternoon when I’d drive to another state and play for free hoping I’d sell enough CDs to pay for the gas home. That’s the central theme of Brand New, which is also the single. I actually wrote that song after the record was finished, it always ends up that a few weeks after you’re done with an album something special shows up and usually there’s no time to record it. Since that had happened a few times already, I built in a little extra time to see if anything like that would show up, and thankfully it did!
MR: By this point, and since you released the last couple of albums yourself, do you enjoy recording and releasing albums yourself? Are you at least grinning a teensy bit that you beat the system and sold thousands of CDs without a major label?
BR: It’s definitely really satisfying to see something work and find an audience without a machine behind it. On paper there definitely shouldn’t be as many people coming to shows and buying records as there are. I’m really grateful people are seeking it out!
MR: Who are some of your favorite artists and who inspired you creatively?
BR: I love a lot of old singer songwriters, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Randy Newman, Billy Joel. I love new music too, but those are probably my favorites.
MR: What’s your favorite song on the album and don’t claim, “Oh, they’re all my children, I couldn’t do that,” because that won’t work.
BR: I think mine is probably “The Men That Drive Me Places.”
MR: In “Almost Home,” you lost your shoes in New York City. And there’s a guy talking obnoxiously on a flip phone in “The Men That Drive Me Places” who’s from where? New York. Is there something with you and New York?
BR: That’s a great question! I think both of those were actual events. I did lose a pair of shoes in New York City on a tour, and my best honest guess about where Howard was from was New York. I don’t know if that means that me wanting to mention it is just evidence that New York is cool and iconic?
MR: I love that you wrote a song about a huge gathering…you know, in “30,000 Feet.” Is this yet another New York City song? Maybe about the Halloween parade? By the way I’m kidding.
BR: At first, I didn’t understand the question, and I now see that it is a pretty good pun.
MR: I can’t help it, sorry. What advice do you, Mr. Ben Rector, have for new artists?
BR: Spend as much time and energy as you can getting better at writing songs, that’s what will separate you from other artists–at least in my opinion. Work hard and having high expectations for your work.
MR: And lastly, how do you think you’ve grown as an artist?
BR: I think on this record cycle my goal was to be able to soak things in a little more. It’s easy for me to focus on what needs to improve or what isn’t good enough about a show or a record or anything really, and I’m realizing I don’t want to look up in ten years and realize I spent all my time worrying and none of my time enjoying what is a really rare and awesome season.
WE/OR/ME’S “THE LONG GOOD-BYE” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Liza Mitchell
According to We/Or/Me aka Bahhaj Taherzadeh…
“‘The Long Good-Bye’ is a song about detachment. We live out our days as if in constant denial of our own mortality. We attach ourselves to this world as if we will never leave it. We bury ourselves in jobs, in relationships, in so many things that tie us to a reality that is in truth temporary and fleeting. This song is an acknowledgment of the ephemeral nature of our lives, but it has never felt sad or morbid to me. It is about embracing the unknown and letting go of the worries and attachments that we carry around in our daily lives.”
Mike Ragogna: John! Mr. Panic! How did your new one, Street Dogs, come together?
John Bell: We’ve been moving in a direction of capturing on our studio recordings as live a feeling as possible. It’s a departure from what we’ve done in the past, because we do so much live stuff with our regular touring performances, and those recordings are available as well, but still, in sometimes if you get too bogged down in the technology of the studio things can tend to homogenize. There’s a tendency to maybe lose some of those moments that just pop up spontaneously, so we’re making an effort to keep that in the mix, so to speak. We just made a conscious effort to do these songs one at a time and keep as much of everybody’s original performance on a track as possible. To a large extent, we accomplished that. Some of the tunes were brand new, so they were put together in a more studio, traditional way, but for the most part even the vocals we cut mostly live while the band was playing. More of the spontaneity comes through, there’s more of a magic moment in there when you’ve played the song enough to know how to be in the groove but you haven’t played it so much that you’ve over thought it.
MR: You’re a very respected group.
JB: By some. [laughs]
MR: And you’ve been together for thirty years. To me, that shows respect for each other in the band. What do you think has kept Widespread Panic going strong?
JB: We started out together pretty green. This is the first and only band that I’ve ever been a member of. For years we just had each other as far as our musical support and our performance experience and songwriting experience. We were already pretty solidified before we got into the whole record industry and some of that stuff that would jostle a band in its early beginnings loose. We already knew we could count on each other, everything else was more of an outside world than the world we were aspiring to. There was some early glue there that I think helped out. Beyond that, our mission is to perform music on stage and have fun doing that and do it in an improvisational sense, so it’s always fresh to us. You’ve got a blueprint of how you’re going to approach things before you go on stage, but then the thing kind of takes on a life of its own. That freshness takes the boredom out of the situation. It’s like going to sleep every night; you know you’re probably going to dream, but you don’t know what’s going to happen.
MR: Nicely said. Improvisation is so much more common in jazz and blues, your New Orleans style is pretty unique.
JB: All those musical genres fill up at the same family reunion. They’re cousins, blues and jazz. Rock ‘n’ roll is…oh, I don’t know, just the less intelligent cousin.
JB: But the elements of improvisation are the same. You have to have a certain command of your instrument, even if that’s vocals. The next thing is you’ve got to be listening, and able to hear five other guys at once and what conversation is taking place at the time and be able to enter into that conversation without interrupting. And to be able to let go a little bit. Be in control, but at the same time let go and flow with what’s happening, because it’s not all under your control. All that’s under your control really is being a mindful steward of what you’re doing.
MR: You start the album with “Sell Sell,” and that seems to set the paradigm for the whole record. Why did you choose to start with it, other than my theories?
JB: You know, I respect anybody’s interpretation of how things are laid out. I can tell you that we didn’t really think about it in terms of making a statement or anything. Basically, we looked at the songs that we had accumulated for this record and tried to come up with an order that seemed to flow and have some cohesiveness. We just decided that one seemed like a good way to kick-off the first sounds you hear when you put on the record.
MR: So I’m over-thinking it when I see connections between many of these songs?
JB: Well there is something; by the time you get in to do a record, it’s a snapshot of the band’s collective mindset, where you are in that period of your career or your life together. There could be some underlying subliminal cohesiveness that we’re not even aware of ourselves.
MR: You’re also an old fan of folks like Dr. John, Van Morrison and you’ve even cited George Carlin as an influence.
JB: First record I ever bought, yup. Class Clown.
MR: Do you think that that set your humor and view of the world?
JB: By the time it got to that album and some of his work as he continued to evolve, he was more than a comedian. There was a funny, cynical philosopher kind of guy in there, too. Kind of like Lenny Bruce, close, but not as caustic, and a little bit easier to understand. I bought the record because I think I was eight or nine and he was doing this funny thing where it looked like he was putting his finger up his nose. You used to buy albums for their covers and then see what was inside. But there’s a rhythm in the way he tells a joke, the way he colors a scene for you, and obviously there’s the way words can be looked at differently and fit together in a way you hadn’t used them in everyday language. Those were the things that were coming through, but again I was just a kid, I didn’t know things were coming through, but when I look back I can say listening to comic records–Firesign Theatre was another one–it was just kind of blowing up your mind and letting you know that there are other ways to treat our Americanized English language.
MR: “Street Dogs For Breakfast” and “Poorhouse Of Positive Thinking” seem like they could’ve been written after a George Carlin show.
JB: [laughs] This is an interesting bit… Those came from Jojo’s brain. So I don’t know, play with that. I’m not trying to blow the theory, but I didn’t want to silently sound like I was taking credit for those.
MR: How has the group evolved over the years? What has changed from the beginning until now?
JB: Hmm. Something I take for granted: for years we were flying by the seat of our pants as far as where we were gigging, where we were staying, the equipment we were working with. For years now we’re working on a level where we don’t worry about any of that stuff now. We’re thirty people on the road and usually it’s eighty or ninety percent of the same faces on every tour. It’s been like that for a while so you’re very grateful and there’s a point where you might have taken it for granted, but that makes it so you can get out and just focus on the music. But that’s been in place for probably twenty year, twenty five years. But that’s a big deal, having the stability and professionalism behind the scenes. I also go to bed earlier. We don’t go out after the show and raise hell ’til sunrise.
MR: Dirty Side Down was one of your most critically-acclaimed albums, and then you took five years off. Was that a reaction to it being your most critically-acclaimed album?
JB: We really don’t think in terms of a timetable or anything. We spend a lot of time on the road, we try to spend as much time with our families as we can when we’re not on the road. Deciding to go in and put another record out just pops up when you get the itch. It doesn’t seem that long to us, because your last album feels like a new album for about a year, and then we did pre-production on this thing about two years ago, then we came back and recorded it. This album’s been finished since February and now it just came out. For us it doesn’t seem like five years, it seems like two years if you look at it formulaically like that, but beyond that we don’t really even think about it. We put out and album when we feel like putting out an album.
MR: Yeah, and then thirty years go by and you’re not really thinking about that either.
JB: We’ve got material out there, because of the new way that music is listened to, over the internet. All of our shows are available to download and listen to the day after the show. You can pluck the songs out or you can buy the whole show. Then sometimes we go in with some of the live material and put it through a full studio ringer and create a live album like that.
MR: I think it’s great that Widespread Panic has realized how to support yourselves with your music on the internet by selling the concerts, et cetera, whereas a lot of other seasoned bands still haven’t figured out what to do next.
JB: We’re lucky that there would be an interest to buy the show, or buy multiple shows of the tour or listen to it on the couch while it’s streaming in your living room, or do pay-per-view. We’re really lucky that the way we did our stage show was that every show was going to be different. It’s not like we’re going to throw the same fifteen songs at you every night. These last three nights we played probably seventy songs and there wasn’t a repeat in the whole night. I guess what I’m saying from a marketing standpoint is we’re fortunate that the way we approach it we’ve got a different product every night that somebody might be interested in buying.
MR: What do you care about in music these days? What are you listening to? Are there contemporaries you listen to or is it mostly the stuff that you already love?
JB: Mostly, my personal teddy bear of a collection, the stuff that I’m familiar and comfortable with. But there’s so much out there. Lately I’ve been trying to get back and listen to some older stuff–like Woody Guthrie kind of things–start just revisiting the stuff of the past that were the building blocks of folk music, which overlapped with the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene. Things that I might have overlooked. I’m just being curious about the musical lineage.
MR: Would that include folks going forward like Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie and Joni Mitchell? Folk music was the role model for most of the singer-songwriters who became popular in the sixties and seventies.
JB: And there’s something of a refined revival going on with Americana, where it’s more traditionally based and song based, there’s a little storytelling going on. If I’m trying to listen for new stuff I’ll watch Austin City Limits or there’s an NPR station on North Carolina that I listen to on a radio app on my iPad. They play stuff I’ve never heard, but they’re one after another, just blasting it. It’s called WNCW. I think they’re out of Asheville.
MR: Do you see yourself developing something out of that? Is there a future John Bell album inspired by this music?
JB: Oh, no plans along those lines. I was just trying to answer your question as truthfully as possible. Along with my Van Morrison and Leon Russell and Zeppelin and Talking Heads, that’s where my ears have started reaching out and finding some interest. I always feel fortunate that I’m still a fan and I can get excited by listening to the radio just like when I was a kid.
MR: And there are a billion internet stations to listen to.
JB: Oh yeah. I remember the fascination of having a short wave radio and that was like magic, when you got something you were really lucky, you’d be listening to some wack stuff from the Soviet Union or something. But here with the internet you can dial up stations all over the world clear as a bell. It’s amazing.
MR: What does the future look like for Widespread Panic? You said you put together projects when you feel like it, but there’s still a marketing side involved. How do you balance those?
JB: You coordinate things so they don’t get in each other’s way, but beyond that it’s just a byproduct of doing what we’re doing. Basically we’re writing songs, living our lives and we get on stage and play music and thankfully people are still coming out to support that or else we wouldn’t be able to do it at all. We write together, which is a blast. We’ve got the live and studio forms to put those down for people to look at. Beyond that the rest is just a byproduct of what we’re doing. Dare I say it’s an art form.
MR: You had Duane Trucks join the band for a little bit, filling in for Todd Nance. Fill me in on that.
JB: We’ve just been playing with Duane for a little bit. It’s basically a personal affair, so I’ll just leave it like that, but I will tell you to go out and have a kid enter the fold that’s half your age is really a gas. He comes with none of the cynicism that we’ve created in our worlds. His enthusiasm level is huge. Being from the Trucks family, and a generational music family his respect for music and his knowledge of how to communicate verbally as well as the way he plays, it’s really refreshing.
MR: Is there any mentoring going on?
JB: Yeah, him to us! No, the best thing we can do for him is mention movies and say, “You haven’t seen that yet?” Harold & Maude, Being There, stuff like that.
MR: Do you also like Robert Klein?
JB: Oh definitely.
MR: That was a really great period for comedy and comedy albums. It was like people were using their brains in addition to outrageousness.
JB: Oh, it was wild. I was exposed to Firesign Theatre when I was in high school but as I became a little better read going through college I’d listen to these things and there are contemporary literary references and things like that that I had no idea were underlying these bits. There were also references to pop culture that I wasn’t really privy to at the time. Firesign Theatre was kind of psychedelic comedy.
MR: Tom Lehrer did that, too. I’m getting off track here, though.
JB: Man, you’re right on track. I got kicked out of class in first grade for bringing in That Was The Year That Was. Man, if you listen to something like “Who’s Next?” about the proliferation of the atomic bomb, a couple of the players in the script are different, but it’s still very applicable to what’s going on today. It’s amazing.
MR: I think what’s going on politically today is pretty amazing. The parallels, some of the same fights and some of the weird stuff that’s happening in politics, it’s like the late fifties again.
JB: I don’t know, maybe when things were in a bit of a boom status before the housing crash and stuff like that, in times when the majority of folks are doing pretty okay and they don’t want their boat to be rocked, I think they might tend to not be so loud with airing their grievances and finding fault with other folks and stuff like that, but it seems like when times get pinched some of these old wounds hadn’t really healed and those same patterns bubble back up out of frustration.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
JB: Oh, wow. Try not to get distracted by any of the other byproducts that come up with what your artistic intentions are to begin with. The original inspiration is what got you locked in in the first place. If you’re a painter or a sculptor or a musician or poet, you’re excited because something’s happening through you and you’re getting to experience something kind of magical. If you’re able to sustain that and involve that receptivity in yourself as an artist and you do it long enough that people start to notice and you’ve got “a product” some other distractions can come in and really muck up what the original inspiration was. You can do both. You can stay in your artistic mindset and if the business part becomes a part of it, that can have a life of its own, too. But it’s easy to get distracted. You’ve got to keep exposing yourself to that feeling. Keep some breath in it, water those seeds.
MR: So I guess we’ll be talking again in five years?
JB: Maybe so. Who knows, there’s no big plan sketched out. As long as it’s fun and serving our collective soul, then there’s no reason not to do it. It’s helping with the quality of life. Our lives. Take it or leave it.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
HOT PEAS ‘N BUTTER & DAN ZANE’S “AMISTAD” EXCLUSIVE
According to Hot Peas ‘N Butter’s Danny Lapidus…
“‘Amistad’ is a video that has been a long time in the making and has been a labor of love. The general theme of the song is friendship and how friends are always there for each other…It features Hot Peas ‘n Butter’s new friend…Dan Zanes, who lends his awesome voice to the song and his awesome self to the video. While recording the song, we really hit it off and we are so proud to call Dan a true friend. He was the inspiration for this song and for the theme of our new album Put Our Heads Together.
“Every new year that we make music for kids and families we realize a little more how important our community is and how important it is to stand by your friends. Friendship has been a continuing theme for Hot Peas ‘N Butter all along.
“The recording of ‘Amistad’ at P.O.D. Noise Studios in NYC, was enhanced by performances by Clifford Carter on keyboards [Bill Evans, Paul Simon, James Taylor]; Rich Mercurio on drums [Sara Barreilles, Idina Menzel, Enrique Iglesias]; Oz Noy on guitars [Chick Corea, Eric Johnson, Warren Haynes]. HPnB band mate Francisco Cotto performs on bass. Lead vocals were by the two artists and real-life friends: HPnB leader Danny Lapidus and Dan Zanes. Lapidus also produced and mixed the song.”
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The moment has come. Earlier this evening Alexander Wang took his last bow at Balenciaga as the house's creative director. Wang's final show was one of the most anticipated collections of the Paris Fashion Week…
Jessica Alba’s amazing body, and bank account, were on full display in Cancun. The 34-year-old mother of two was enjoying a fabulous vacation this weekend — no doubt celebrating her killer figure … and her Honest Company recently being valued at…
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Arny Donan has visitors to his new apartment. They are Tom Vojak, Victor Burek and Jirka Mendez. He proudly starts to give them a tour, starting with his hot tub. Tom and Jirka quickly get naked and into the tub as Arny takes Viktor to show him more of the apartment. As they continue Vitor and Arny start to kiss. Tom and Jirka have similar ideas, and are soon all over each other, kissing and with Jirka wanking on Tom’s big cock. After fooling around some more, they all join together and get naughty.
In another scene, Jindra Durak is fucking Tomas Hozman. He is being encouraged by Vlado Tomek whose own cock is rock hard and waiting for a turn. He soon takes Jindra’s place, sliding his massive cock deep inside Tomas’ eager hole. Tomas is also wanking on Viktor’s dick. Vlado really pounds at Tomas’s ass for a while then withdraws, to be replaced by Jindra again. Tomas moans as his ass gets it nice and deep.
We have Steve Peryoux, Mate More, Arny Donan, Paul Belonek and Radan Flex. We come across the guys, already naked and kissing each other. With cocks already rock hard Steve and Arny turn to suck on Radan and Mate, while Paul sucks Arny. Everyone is getting a good workout with mouth and cock.
We join them again as Arny is ramming his big cock in and out of Steve’s ass while Radan is doing the same to Paul. Steve is enjoying Mate’s cock as well, and then Paul takes over sucking it. As the fucking continues Mate decides he needs to feel some cock in his ass, so it is all change as he rides on Radan’s cock and Arny switches to fuck Paul.
We join Libor Bores, Danek Gyor, Vladimir Kruty, Peter Van Don and Milan Beran. Libor gets Vladimir’s cock deep in his hole, while he takes Milan’s in his too. Peter watches on as he is sucked by Danek. These guys all look so good and really love the hot sex.
Glamweazels London-anthem for our time is indeed a poignant one, lamenting the demise of many of that citys iconic music venues, in particular Tin Pan Alley aka Denmark Street. Music-News.com RSS feed Join Group Chat!
Mike Ragogna: Mark, let’s talk about Cauterized. Recording artists often title albums, not just because it’s a key track or because it sounds like a cool title, but the title makes a statement about the project. It ties-in with a message the album is supposed to be achieving. Does that apply with Cauterized?
Mark Tremonti: You know, to be honest, I fell back on Cauterized. I wanted to name the record Providence at first, and then I seemed like the only one who thought that was the strongest title. So I kind of went back, went through every lyric in the album, went through every song title, and kind of made a list of maybe 200 possibilities and I went over and over that list and then finally went over it with my brother Dan and we kind of focused on Cauterized. We thought it would be a good word; it’s not your most typical. I have never heard of an album called Cauterized before or a song or a band, so I figured it would be a good, nice, unique name.
MR: Providence a contender?
MT: I thought Providence was a good classy name for the album and that song is kind of the anchor, epic song, the last song on the album, a very important song for the record. I just thought it was very fitting. But again, it was my opinion and I had seemed to be the only one in the band and within all of our big group of friends that thought it was the best title, but I was wrong! [laughs]
MR: How do you feel you’ve progressed from the first Tremonti album to this one?
MT: Other than the simple fact that we added a band member on the bass, Wolfgang Van Halen, the biggest change for me was that this was the first time I recorded an album after being a professional singer. The first album I recorded was the first time ever in a studio as a singer and after recording the album I went and toured for a year and a half. When you’re out there on tour you develop your skills, you develop your voice so much more than if you were sitting in your room practicing vocal warm up tapes or vocal techniques, or taking vocal lessons. It made a humongous difference in the way I look at singing and I came into the studio with a new confidence, much more confidence this time around.
MR: There had to have been some angst going on where you were like, “Ugh, is this working? What’s going on here?”
MT: You know I had been a songwriter for so long, since I was a kid, but it was something I just wanted to do to get a lot of ideas I knew would never see the light of day on tape or recorded, because I have this fear of being this old man who’s upset that my life’s work just kind of went unknown because I never released a lot of these ideas that I loved. A lot of these heavier ideas that I had loved just never quite fit the bands that I was in so this solo project started as just an outlet for me to get material that would never get out there out there. It’s developed into something where, on this album, has turned into something so much more. Something where we saw the potential in the band in the first record, and now we’re pushing our limits as hard as we can and making the most of it.
MR: Now creatively, you kept using this as the vehicle for getting out things you really couldn’t get out with Alter Bridge and Creed, but what are the things that you think are the biggest changers? What is the spot light mainly on, beyond your voice, that separates you more out, that takes you more out from Creed and Alter Bridge?
MT: It definitely gets more of my roots into this band. When I was younger I was into speed metal, heavy of all kinds and punk and the other guys that I work with weren’t really into that. With this I’ve had so many riffs and parts that I’ve written in that kind of heavy metal side of things that just never fit and I really wanted to make sure that that side of me got out on this project. But, at the same time to keep that melody the core of sort of the most essential part of the song- which definitely has to be the melody.
MR: How do you see yourself evolving as Tremonti? You’ve had a lot of musical success, and many other artists would keep the formula going, yet you’re sort of evolving from that. How do you see yourself evolving even further? Do you have a goal? Is there a mission plan?
MT: No, the only goal ever is to improve on what you’ve done in the past and not repeat yourself, to still have the melodic approach. I think going forward we’ll try and get a little more progressive, but not progressive to the point of loosing the core of what people like about a song, but to add more progressive elements to it. I feel as if there are a lot of bands out there that are doing things that we’ve never heard before that I really appreciate. I want to pepper those kinds of ideas within our music and make it more interesting, give it some more depth, but not loose the essence of what the song is.
MR: The reason why I’m asking that question is because you did have a mission statement with Creed. It may not have been a conscious one but you ended up making a statement with that group. With the album Providence, that word seems to be the big statement song of the album. So how far do you dig into a song when you’re writing it? Do you have layers of “that’s not good enough”? How do you approach things creatively these days?
MT: The same way I always have. I will write ideas and I think most songwriters will write ideas they get really excited about and they’ll try to finish that song before they move on. I will write an idea and try to write similar parts to fit with that idea until I’m not inspired anymore and I’ll immediately go and start writing something completely different. Then I’ll go back sometimes months or weeks later, and go and organize my ideas and if a part has been there for sometimes ten years, I’ll wait until it’s married to another part that I feel is as strong and fits the mood. Some songs it takes years and years and years to develop because I don’t try and force a song to be finished. I let it happen naturally and that’s what I’ve always done. That’s what makes it easy working with Alter Bridge and Myles [Kennedy]. I never approach Myles and say, “Here Myles. Here’s a song I wrote. Sing it.” Myles and I both do the same thing. We’ll say, “Here’s a part I really like. Do you have a part to put with it?”That way we both feel each song is special to us because we’ve added something to that song. If Tremonti goes, “I just wait for a part to match another part,” and I will sit with the guys in the band and I will play them all my individual parts. When they like an idea I’ll mark it and then we’ll go back and work through those ideas until we find matching parts. I don’t like to have songs that have a forced section of the song where you’ve got great sections and then all of a sudden the bridge is lacking because you tried to push it. But, sometimes it works where you try and write in the moment like in pre-production. On the song “Providence” for example, most of that song was written in one day. But you never know when that inspiration is going to happen. I just try not to force it.
MR: What songs do you think best represent what you’re about these days?
MT: I can tell you the songs I was most excited about. “Flying Monkeys” early on when that came together and when we finalized that song in pre-production I was very excited about it. It did everything I wanted to do within the song. I liked the fact that it didn’t have a traditional guitar solo, and the mood it set and how heavy it was without being fast. It was just a very important song for me to get finished. It’s funny, the first single Another Heart was not really a very important song to me through the recording process, but it became more important as it went on. It was kind of one of those songs where I felt the verse could have been better, but now that I’ve lived with it I think “You know what this is the perfect verse for that song.” It just took me a little time to realize it. Like I said when I try and put parts together I want to make sure the perfect parts are fitting with one another. The rest of the band and Elvis were all like, “No it’s a great verse for the song,” but I doubted it until I actually heard it. That’s what’s good about this because five heads are better than one. That was one that we really worked on very hard. Everyday we’d come in and try and better it. There were points where we were satisfied where it was but we just kept on digging in and made it better each time. It seems like a new sound for us, that song, and we’re very happy with it.
MR: You’re at that point where things keep getting better. What are the experiences of the band when you’re on the road? You’ve been touring since April, and you’re going to Europe now, by the end of a tour it seems like a lot of bands feel like they really know the material. A lot of times unfortunately the tour happens after the record has been released. Do you ever have that experience where towards the end of the tour it seems like, “Oh man, now I get what that song is about?” It’s not second guessing so much but do the songs significantly take on more of a personality or light because of what’s being discovered about that song on the road?
MT: Sometimes when you’re out there singing live you get so much more experience when you’re doing it in front of people. Just yesterday when I was running through songs, I have to make sure I’m pushing my voice at home or else I’ll loose my voice in the first show, so I’m singing through some of the songs and I’m singing them differently than when I recorded them because I’m placing the vowel sounds differently, or putting a breath here differently just because of the way I’ve been doing it live. Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-record the way I hit that word. But, that’s only stuff you can learn after touring for a month. When you’re in pre-production you’re only singing these songs for a few weeks. Lyrics are usually the last thing that comes together because of that you don’t have a ton of experience singing them before you track them.
MR: What about technique? Has someone taught you how to save your voice on the road? Have you had voice lessons or are you doing anything proactive to protect it?
MT: I’m going to knock on wood but I haven’t had any problems, so far. Myles is very protective of his voice but he sings much more than I do. He’s non-stop out there. We sing very differently. I sing very very loudly. For high notes, I push really hard and I know I’m not singing completely correct, but at this point I have never felt like “uh-oh” I’m going to have to cancel a show or sing a less song. I’ve felt like it’s been strong, it’s been there. I think everybody’s genetically different. Some people’s voices give out easier than others, and so far mine has hung in there. I think as long as you don’t get a cold or a virus it’s good.
MR: You have a companion album to Cauterize, Dust, that’s coming out next year. You recorded a lot of material but again, songs may be evolving on the road. Dust was completed in 2015 yet coming out in 2016. Might exploring that album’s material on the road change how you’ll eventually feel about Dust‘s recordings?
MT: I didn’t even think ahead. I just said I want to record as many songs as possible, and then I got with Elvis our producer and said let’s put together a package for the most amount of songs we can do and we decided on twenty. So I put together twenty-five songs and then we got together for pre production and cut five of them out and recorded the top twenty. It wasn’t until almost mixing time that we started to say how the hell are we going to release these twenty songs. I think twenty songs at one time is way too much. If a band releases fifteen songs, I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older now, but if a band releases fifteen songs I’m going to quickly breeze through it and have four or five songs that I like and I’m going to forget about the other ten. I don’t want that to happen to this album but at the same time I thought ten songs I grew up on ten songs, I grew up on less than that, I grew up on eight song albums. Metallica records and Judas Priest records and old school records had four songs on a side. I kind of thought this ten song record idea is going to work well. I think it’s easy for people to digest. I’m just going to wait until everybody really gets this record and they’re eager for the next one before the next one comes out. Twenty songs at once is just way too much.
MR: When Dust comes out, it’s going to sound, well sonically it has the same players so it’s going to be beyond a companion piece but sort of like part two.
MT: It’s just the sister album. If I looked back at the 20 songs I didn’t want it to be the ten heaviest songs and then there’s the campfire ballad, and I didn’t want it to be the ten good songs and the ten not so good songs. I took it and looked at it and said ok if there are two mellow songs – ones going to go on the first record and one’s going to go on the second record – I mixed them up as good as I could. I’m not going to lie and say that maybe some of my favorite songs didn’t make the first record because the first impression is always the most important, but the second record is not going to be far off from the first album as a whole.
MR: One of the songs, “Arm Yourself,” how did that come about?
MT: I had the idea for that chorus for a while and I remember at the last Alter Bridge writing session, Miles was really loving it and I always loved it. I just tried to really work that into the song and when we went into pre-production I remember Elvis saying that was his least favorite song. All of us as a band were like well it’s one of our favorites just cause I think it’s the heaviest song in the record, and once we got it done and it was time for vocals I remember Elvis going, “This is a fun one man, this is a great one.” And I’m like, “See, told ya. Just give it time.” That’s why always the five heads are better than one kind of thing. It always works for every individual whether you’re a producer, a guitar player, drummer, everybody’s opinions count but it’s just a good energetic song and just one of the band’s favorites.
MR: You have participated in bands that have sold over 42 million albums, so how do you keep perspective after that kind of success?
MT: The only goal I ever have or perspective I ever have is the last record. This record has to be better than the last, and when that happens I feel good about myself. If that doesn’t happen I feel like it’s time to retire. I never rest on my laurels. I never sit back and wait until the last minute to do anything, I always like to be over prepared and work my hardest. If you’re not getting better, you’re only getting worse. I think that jumping back between Alter Bridge and Tremonti keeps each band excited, keep you learning new skill sets and it keeps you challenged. I think that’s kind of what’s helped. I think that’s why Miles and I especially keep doing what we’re doing.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
MT: It’s all about the songs. I’ve always said that from day one. If you write a great song nobody’s going to be able to successfully follow that great song. I get tired of gimmicks. There are some gimmicks that are great, some bands do it well. But I think at the core, the songs are the most important things. That’s it. Focus on your songs.
MR: Where do you go from here? Dust is in the can and you’re going to tour. I asked you before what the game plan is as far as Tremonti but what about you personally? What’s your goal at this point? You’ve had so much success, what do you do now?
MT: Songwriting has always been such a big part of me; my goal is to be able to do this as long as I want to. I don’t ever want to all of a sudden not be able to do this if I’m still able to be here to do it. Songwriting is still a huge part of me. My goal is to make Alter Bridge and Tremonti both comfortable bands to tour in so that I can bring my kids out anytime they want, have my wife fly to Poland if she wants and whenever she wants. Right now Tremonti is at this state where we’re starting from square one again and so it’s kind of an uncomfortable touring situation. It’s exciting to get on stage but everything else is kind of dry because on our days off we share one hotel room. Everybody – the crew and band share the same shower and we’re starting in clubs again. So it’s back when you first start your first band and it’s like camping and it’s like fun and you’re having great experiences. But this is the third time I’ve done it. My goal is to get to that next step with this band as soon as I can so I can have my kids visit me whenever they want without having to keep twelve other dudes on the bus.
MR: Creed has been traditionally kicked around a lot. Does that hurt your feelings that something like that would have happened to something precious to you?
MT: I think it had to do with a lot of things. The first was when we were new and we were the underdogs everyone wants you to succeed, but even when you look back at Creed, its not the most original sound. There are a lot of bands that sound similar. But when you look back when we first came out we were the only band that sounded like that. Everything else was kind of a Third Eye Blind kind of sound. It was a happy pop-y kind of rock scene. We were the band at that time that came out with the more somber, more moody stuff, and Phase the New were the two bands that kind of had that sound. I figured that just because we sounded different from what else was going on, I know a lot of people compared us to the whole grunge scene, but still it was a different more moodier kind of thing we had going on. I think that’s why people connected with it first. People connect with it and it starts getting bigger and then when it got completely massive that’s when people were like, “Hey wait a minute. This isn’t as cool as I thought it was. It was all over the place. I’ve heard this song a billion times.” Then things stated getting out of hand with certain band members’ behaviors and that’s when the gloves came off with critics. I think I read a quote by Michael Jackson once, he said if you want millions of fans you better get prepared to have millions of people that dislike you. It’s just part of the game. I’m lucky enough to have had a very successful band that sold lots of records and played sold out arenas, but then I was also very lucky to have a band like Alter Bridge that was critically approved, that the critics approved of and other bands dug and kind of live both worlds.
PANDA ELLIOT’S “LOVESONG” EXCLUSIVE
Panda Elliot is an Argentine singer-songwriter whose new album, Forastera, will get a US release in late August. Her new cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong” will be included on the US release.”
“Lovesong was the first song I ever felt comfortable with singing, it represents a real turning point in my life. I wanted to record a laid back version that cut the song to its core and that was the inspiration for the music video, simple and timeless.”
A Conversation with David Anson Russo
Mike Ragogna: David, to this point, your career has embraced performance art, film, video, writing, and music, which you’re currently focused on due to your connection with the non-profit, Little Kids Rock, its mission to bring music back into the education system. When did the issue of disappearing music programs in formative education come to your attention?
David Anson Russo: I have 4 grown kids and as a father, have watched the removal of the arts programs from schools across the country, and coming from a family of artists, its a big issue. That is why we desperately need foundations like Little Kids Rock in order to deliver its music program to kids who would normally not have access to music lessons and instruments. The reason LKR is as vital as math, science, or learning a trade is because there are so many rewards through the process of learning an instrument; self esteem, pride of accomplishment, developing a life-long passion, a possible career, etc. it’s a gift to a child something that will deliver value throughout his or her entire life.
MR: What is Little Kids Rock’s history, how does it function as an entity,and what age groups does it assist?
DAR: The best way to answer this question is right out of the LKR agenda – What makes Little Kids Rock different is that they do more than just donate instruments like guitars, drums and keyboards; they build lasting music programs that focus on teaching kids to perform, improvise and compose the popular music genres that they already know and love, like rock, pop, blues, hip-hop, country, reggae and R&B. Little Kids Rock also trains public school teachers by donating the instruments, curriculum resources, and support ,aterials they need to ensure that their kids have all the tools to rock! Any full-time public school teacher in one of their 29 current cities is eligible to apply for the next Modern Band workshop in their district. Applicants don’t need to have advanced abilities on all instruments, but only a basic proficiency on the guitar. Upon completion of the workshop, teachers can get a program up and running in their school quickly and at no cost to themselves or the school.
MR: What is its ultimate goal and how will it ideally succeed?
DAR: The goal is to provide musical education to all children living in areas without access to music programs. It’s about offering musical education during their important formidable years so they grow up with and nurture skills, talents, accomplishments, and build self worth through a rewarding creative passion. Remember, ours is a creative culture and society, everything you see is art, design, fashion style and we are all driven and connected by music. Music scores our lives, and it is very important that we all think of it as important.
MR: Do you think it’s purely economics or something more that led to the United States de-emphasizing musical education?
DAR: When the country is hurting economically, as we all experienced due to the collapse in 2008, programs were destined to get cut. Schools must operate on less revenues. There is trickle down effect and the kids are the innocent victims. People make drastic choices and hard cuts that in hindsight, may not have been the best choice ultimately. The good thing is that organizations like LKR enter into the picture to rescue music programs and attempt to restore programs. If you take music, the arts, sports, class trips, out of the school system, kids have an awful lot of free time to experiment with other things that may not be good for them. It’s important to mentor kids by filling their minds, hearts and soulswith productive and enriching experiences, like learning a musical instrument.
MR: What are some of Little Kids Rock’s achievements?
DAR: You would really have to go to their web site to read about how they have significantly impacted children’s lives across the country and the incredible system they have built to bring their wonderful programs to those who stand to benefit the most. I think their achievements are obvious looking at every kid who has learned a new musical instrument or music related skill set and talent. This strong positive influence will continue to grow as LKR grows, hence why it is so important to help them out now.
MR: Beginning today at 11am, you will be performing in a Saks Fifth Avenue window to bring awareness to the cause. Several of the young LKR students from an under-served LA school will be performing at this kick-off “window reveal” event as well. Can you go into the specifics of the entire three-day event?
DAR: On June 9, 10, 11, I will be painting for the LKR charity in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills (9600 Wilshire Blvd) for all to see. Please stop by and say hello. One huge front window at Saks will be my fishbowl art studio where I will be creating one large, acrylic on canvas painting a day, for three days. The second window will serve as the art gallery for 14 completed original works of art that will be auctioned off at the on-line Charitybuzz auction and at the private live auction the evening of June 11th inside Saks. https://www.charitybuzz.com/littlekidsrockThe event culminates in an invitation-only live auction where I will donate 100% of the proceeds from the sale of 14 original paintings, 3 created “live” in the window, and a dozen limited edition fine art prints to The Little Kids Rock Charity. The charity is chaired in LA by notable motion picture producer Cindy Cowan, who will host the auction for Russo’s works with Saks.
I had successful book tours with Simon & Schuster in the 90’s where I painted in the windows of some of the most prestigious book store windows on Fifth Ave in NYC. Based on these positive experiences I decided to do it for charities. Over the past few years, I have appeared at about seven different charity galas, where guests watched the paintings come to life over the course of the evening and then each painting is auctioned off during the live auction at the end of the night. I have been honored to help many different charities – JDRF New England, BJA Lung Cancer Foundation, APLA for AIDS research, CUN benefiting foster kids, and more – through my art. It has been working well because people I’ve spoken with seem to like the whimsy and inspirational messages inherent in my new art style, called What a Great Life. The art has raised significant sums for each charity, with all proceeds being donated to the charity. I have been working with Saks Fifth Avenue for the better part of a year to create a window event where I paint live for charity in their expansive windows. The Saks creative charitable initiative is about helping others through art.
MR: At its conclusion, how will you determine if the Saks Fifth Avenue event was successful? And what do you think the kids ultimately will take away from their experience?
DAR: The most important thing is to create funding for this great charity. All that matters to me is that the art sells for high prices to art lovers who are charitable of heart, love kids, and love music. This is more about helping LKR than buying art. Your take-away gift for your caring charitable contribution is a beautiful work of original art, but the donation you provide will help so many kids, and this is the primary focus.
MR: It’s interesting that you’ll be combining performance art with music at the event. That must be very satisfying for you personally.
DAR: Its incredibly satisfying to be able to create an image that can be turned into revenue to help those less fortunate. You mean, I can draw a picture and it can help! I’m in! This is an artistic creative event! Visual arts, music, fashion, and style, are all a part of this event. If you look at the work I am creating for this event, you will immediately see what I mean. In addition, all my work is created to music, primarily jazz and sometimes I will even include music links with the art on social meida so fans can listen to the music that helped inspire the art’s creation. The music is a part of my work as much as the paint. For this event, I am combining “music” elements for LKR and “beauty” elements for Saks.
MR: What was your own musical education like, what are your favorite works and who are your favorite artists?
DAR: I played the tenor banjo when I was little and went to lessons regularly, but cannot play anymore. I can sing a bit and play my steering wheel pretty well. We have a few well know singers in our family. Perry Como was my grandfather’s second cousin. Opera singers Richard Tucker and Jan Peirce are family members. My music interests are very eclectic. I grew up in the 60s/70s so it ranges from Robert Johnson and Benny Goodman to classic rock and everything in between. Currently, classic and cool california jazz – Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Bird, Joni, Hendrix, Johnny Cash, etc.
MR: What else are you working on lately?
DAR: My primary focus is building this new art brand we are calling What a Great Life or WAGL, which is an inspirational brand, based on the exact style I am using for the event. My FB fan page shows all the art and includes famouse insirational quotes as well. People have coined it as whimsical, romantic, wildly inventive, and out of the box, like Dr. Seuss meets Yellow Submarine. We are focused on applying all the art and fabric designs to created beautiful high end products; apparel, beach towels, silk scarves, bags, shower curtains, and more. The most important part of our goal now is creating our animated e-greeting card company, and webisodes with the art/characters and invented world of WAGL. My awesome animation team just created our first animation and over the next year will be creating a wide variety of animated greetings for the public, unlike anything you have never seen before. In addition to being an artist and author for most of my life, I have been a television series creator and executive producer for the last two decades with a few new series in the works as well. As you can see, there is a lot in the works, art related, joyful, and life affirming. What else is there?
MR: What is your advice to new artists?
DAR: First, read the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. Live and embrace your passion, fully and completely. Be a unique voice and reveal to the world what you are thinking. If you have something important to contribute, they will pay attention only if you deliver your pure self to the work, then your contribution will be rewarded. The world has everything and eveyone else but you and your uniqueness. It needs you.
MR: What ‘s next on Little Kids Rock’s agenda?
DAR: I know they have a great deal going on and they do a big event in October in NYC so maybe I will find my way there to do another painting for them. Meanwhile, they infuse children with the joy and love of music and that is a daily ongoing occurrence. Namaste!
SONGS OF WATER’S “11 MILES” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Sallie Mosely
According to Songs Of Water’s Stephen Roach…
“11 miles is a bit of a surrealist ‘Mono Myth’ or what Joseph Campbell would call a ‘Heroes Journey,’ only in this instance, the hero is literally being strung along by his own sense of calling. The concept for this video borrows imagery from Asian folklore as well as details from a personal dream. Ultimately, I think ’11 Miles’ is best described as an ascetic love story.”
“‘Rolling Fields’ is from our first album Ancient Tales. This set of songs & narration chronicles the life of Dawn from a Knights Lady to Immortality in the Kingdom of Haddon. As the story unfolds, her Knight leaves Haddon for war and to fight for the Warrior Queen and wage epic battle. Meanwhile, Magic, especially black magic should never be toiled with. A terrible curse had been placed upon the land, the witches spell true to her words, had taken grip. The Haddonites looked to the skies in horror, as their moon rose the color of bloodfire. Each of our lovers gazed upon this dreadful sight, the smell of death began to fill the air around them and now more than ever, they wished to be together once again. So they perform a duet, although far away, ‘Take me back to the “Rolling Fields” where the grass is greener and the world is real.’
“Little do they know that what is to follow will force them to make momentous decisions. Does our Knight desert his Queen and be branded a traitor after news that his family are dying? Does Lady Dawn loses Faith when the cursed plague comes to take her children? ‘Oh God, your choir is dying.’ ‘Rolling Fields’ will take you on a journey to the centre of your heart.”
The story of The Fludes’ Lady Dawn, The Enchanter and Father, can be found with maps and ancient scrolls in the Kingdom of Haddon at http://www.dawndiamonds.co.uk.
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You’re either #TeamiPhone or #TeamGalaxy but at the end of the day only one of the devices can be named the toughest. Find out which phablet comes out on top when Erik and Justin put them up against a toilet.
This is what you get when established rockers like SWEET decide on various cover versions and sweetify the chosen tracks in the process: a feel-good album that not only rocks but manages to churn out some kick-ass surprises! Music-News.com RSS feed Join Group Chat!
Les images présentées dans cet ouvrage sont une sélection des meilleures photographies de Dani olivier. Elles sont telles que saisies lors de la prise de vue de l'artiste, sans retouche, ni altération. Dani Olivier crée des effets en projetant des images et lumières complexes sur ses modèles. Les modèles sont nus et sans accessoires. « Je réalise des portraits qui croisent peinture et photographie. Ils mettent en valeur la beauté des femmes et ont pour objectif de les dévoiler dans leur double dimension de corps et d’âme. J’opère un travail de révélation qui procède par apparition d’images et permet ainsi de montrer l’aura du modèle, voire d’accéder à une dimension cachée. Je cherche à rendre visible une part de l’invisible. À cette fin, je fais appel à la créativité du modèle en lui offrant d’exprimer sa singularité par le biais de compositions personnelles, peintures, dessins, ensuite projetés sur elle. S’y ajoutent ses propositions en terme de mouvement ou de gestuelle. Elle est ainsi co-inventrice de l’image qui naît de la rencontre de nos créativités. Afin de donner toute sa force à l’image, celle-ci obéit à un principe d’authenticité qui passe par une intégrité de la photo (ni retouche, ni altération), une fidélité à l’instant. Au final, j’essaie d’embrasser dans un regard corps et âme. »
Mike Ragogna: Ben, Blue Camus is your thirty-first album. From your perspective, what did you achieve on this album that you didn’t on the previous thirty?
BS: On the one hand, every record is like a child; you love them all and wish them the best. I love this one because it has a combination of great grooves and intellectual investigation that just doesn’t happen these days, if it ever did. But I’ve always admired jazz musicians for their global perspective; they tend to be improvisers in not just their music lives but in their lives in general, and so they read, they think, they talk about ideas. This CD captures this.
MR: In 2012, you released Don’t Cry For No Hipster to your usual critical acclaim, good sales and successful tour. As you’re moving forward creatively with Blue Camus, what do you notice is changing in the creative and, I’ll say it, also business process?
BS: Obviously, the recording business is at the end of a long ten-year slide, moving away from physical product to streaming and subscription models. So the business of the business is changing dramatically and relentlessly. From a creative perspective, nothing changes. I wake up in the morning and try to deal with the problems in front of me, whether they’re musical or personal or just intellectual. Then, a little further down the road, I always look forward to going out and playing gigs with my friends. It’s like boys night out. It’s one of the payoffs of doing the work.
MR: Would you please give us the tour of the album, like how it was mapped out creatively, what your favorites are for whatever reasons, and what is the big or holistic statement that it’s making?
BS: Every album is the same and every album is different. The process of recording always involves solving the problems at hand, and each time, the problems are different. This time it was a matter of fitting brief philosophical narratives into free form grooves in a way that the listener hears the whole thing as a series of songs, emotions, movements, colors. From my point of view, every album I make is exactly that: an album. I try to make the sequence and the material flow so that the experience of listening to it is cumulative. Of course, that is not the current fashion. Today it’s all about singles and nobody cares where in the album sequence you might find Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” I don’t even know if it’s on a physical album or just on the streaming services, where sequence is irrelevant. But I have the luxury of thinking about these things.
The holistic statement, if there is one, is about living a human-scale life in our modern world, which most people would agree is out of control with technology, ambition, cynicism and just plain cash. Referencing the existential philosopher Albert Camus in the song “Blue Camus” is a reference to his search for meaning–even just feeling–in the modern world. This is a problem we all face; we eat without tasting, look without seeing, listen without hearing. We are not in our bodies and so we often feel lost or disconnected. Music is one of the great emotional anchors in our lives so it’s natural to try to set up a nice groove and welcome the listener to check it out: “If you don’t say what you want, want what you say, you’re just hanging in the cut between avant and passe…” is the relevant line.
The song “A is For Alligator” pretends to be a children’s song but is really about capitalism. Is it really possible to let the alligator play in the bathtub? Of course not; the alligator will eat you, or you will eat it. Capitalism. I dedicate it to George Orwell because Animal Farm used the same structural conceit.
There are also some nostalgic hipster moments like “Dee’s Dilemma,” an obscure jazz song from the ’60s updated with a Crusader’s kind of funk groove. The point being, I have not forgotten the music I loved fifty years ago; I am still a witness to the execution and I find some comfort in knowing that you stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
“There Used to Be Bees” is an instrumental meant to capture the motion and wonder of watching bees in my garden and then suddenly grasping the inevitable moment that’s coming when, as there will be with frogs and elephants and so many other species that human’s have no time or respect for, they will be no more. Again, a human scale perspective. Bees are just trying to make a living, not a killing. People can learn from that.
“The King of Harlem” is based on the Federico Garcia Lorca poem “Poet In New York.” I wrote it several years ago when I was asked to participate in the celebration at the New York Public Library of the discovery of the original manuscript. I saw it as a piece of music dedicated to a lyrical work of personal passion. Lorca had come from Spain to New York in 1929 just as the stock market crashed and even though he spoke very little English, he became very involved with the dark side of the city, both through the economic panic and the dangerous life of its homosexual community, or which he was a part. I wanted it to feel like Lorca’s words felt to me, to try to capture the emotional universe he invoked, without having to be literal about. His poem was about modernism and what the modern world does to its inhabitants. You can start to see a theme here I guess; I’m very interested in how humanity can survive all its great technological success.
“Wake Me When It’s Over” is an attempt to call political gridlock what it is. I wrote it when the Tea Party was holding the government hostage. “Too many people got nothing to say but they’re saying it louder and louder every day.”
MR: You were part of Steve Miller’s band for many years. What do you feel you added to his projects best? Do you have any favorites from that catalog of work?
BS: Well, I’m best known for co-writing the song “Space Cowboy” and I guess my contributions to his lyrics were my initial contributions, that and editing things he had written early on. Over the years, I also hooked him up with songs and musicians. For example, back in 1973, I produced the blues musician Paul Pena who wrote a song called “Jet Airliner” and when Steve heard it, he went to Paul and bought the rights to it and turned it into a huge hit. And many of the musicians he worked with for years, like drummers Gary Mallaber and Gordy Knudtson, came to him through me.
MR: Since you’ve been in at least three worlds of music–rock, pop and jazz–what do you think about the states of those genres these days?
BS: I really don’t think of music categorically. I know there are categories, particularly in record stores–if there are any such things anymore–and in Billboard charts, but I have never been able to figure them out or understand my place in them; perhaps if I could, I would be better known.
MR: What has the jazz format allowed you to express or accomplish that Steve Miller’s band and other rock and pop acts you worked with didn’t?
BS: In a pop band like Steve Miller’s you attempt to give the kids what they want, which is exactly what they heard the first time they heard the hit song on the radio. You play the same arrangement, without any additional notes or too many changes in the arrangement. And you generally play in front of a large audience so you have to play very simply so the kids in the back can follow along. You don’t want to loose them in any controversy. Steve always used to say, “That’s the problem with jazz musicians; they always want to add notes that aren’t there.”
It’s not the same as playing simply. Playing blues or R&B, you play simply but with authenticity and conviction. Pop music is basically an act, an evening of theater that the kids get to play along with. Blues, R&B and jazz are all authentic forms of Americana and leave room for personal expression, digression, recapitulation and are often better served in smaller venues and to a more intelligent or experienced group of people.
MR: What’s the story behind your commitment to jazz?
BS: When I was a young kid, maybe seven years old, I heard “Pine Top’s Boogie” by Pine Top Smith and it really spoke to me. I was taking piano lessons so I went to my teacher and she provided me with a boogie-woogie book. Then when I was thirteen, I heard the Horace Silver record Six Pieces of Silver, which just floored me. I must have listened to that record a hundred times, over and over again, like an Eskimo huddled around a fire, being warmed by the music and convinced that if I heard it just one more time, I would understand it, or be able to somehow translate what I was hearing into my own life. When I discovered that Horace and the others were black, I immediately understood that race is a chimera; there is only one race, the human race, and everything else is local color. The music spoke to me of deep humanity and a kind of profound, everyday spirituality that suggested we are all brothers, we are all related and that we can get better, feel better–even happy–if we live the right way.
MR: Who influenced you?
BS: As a piano player, I would say Erroll Garner, Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck, Bud Powell, Sonny Clark, George Shearing, Freddy Redd, Wynton Kelly, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Red Garland, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Bill Evans, and, of course, Pine Top Smith.
MR: Beyond Blue Camus material, do you have any personal favorite songs that you recorded in the past that still affect you deeply to this day?
BS: The songs that I wrote that I like the most are “Life’s a Lesson,” “So Long,” “Old Hoagy,” “There They Go,” “Don’t Cry For No Hipster,” and “In the Beginning”.
MR: At this point in your career, what has your musical mission evolved into?
BS: Living the life I sing about in my songs. It’s all well and good to have good ideas and gather up knowledge and technique but can you live the life you sing about in your songs. That’s the question I first heard in an old gospel song of the same name, and it still is news.
MR: These days, are there any musicians you prefer to create or perform with?
BS: The most important musician in my life at this point is my son, Leo. He is now in his thirties and has a life and a career of his own, but we have developed a kind of musical radar from playing together for so long and he brings out the best in me. Also I love his sense of humor and I find my best work comes when I’m laughing.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
BS: If you try to be anybody but yourself, you are doomed to be second best. Having said that, we all start out by trying to copy our heroes. Naturally, we will fail. And it is in the recovery from that perceived failure that you will begin to develop your own voice. So make your own mistakes. Embrace failure.
MR: When you released Blue Camus, were you even aware you had released thirty albums previously?
BS: Not really. I could have counted them up but I certainly wasn’t thinking about anything other than solving the musical problems in front of me.
IRON TOM’S “NOBODY’S CHILD” EXCLUSIVE
The new single “Nobody’s Child” is taken from LA-based Irontom’s forthcoming self-titled release compiling their previous singles. Says Irontom drummer, Dyl Williams…
“‘Nobody’s Child’ was one of our first songs together, and it’s always been very different from our other material. Whereas most of our songs can get loud and aggressive, this song is more relaxed and spacious – and it’s taken us a little time to complete a recording that does it justice. It has followed us quietly for years, and we’re excited to finally share it. The creative process is very cool.”
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Eliot Ness fresh off his last released titled Paper route is back again with another banger for the streets titled “Platinum Plus”. This Houston Native is showing why he is a rising force to be reckoned with. There is a lot more projects to come from Eliot Ness and it will keep getting better and better. Stay tuned for Eliot Ness and his next endeavors.
In Wank Parties Plus From Prague 17 we have Hugo Antonin, Zdenek Bodbaba, Alan Carly, Danek Gyor and Paul Belonek. In this first part we find them in the garden where they are going to have some wheelbarrow; races. First off is Antonin at the driver and Paul as the wheelbarrow. Then Zdenek and Danek, followed by Antonin again, with Alan. Then they have more races, leaping as frogs before actually having a game of leap-frog. All this while they are naked, cocks flailing as they leap. It seems that there is a reward for the winner, which is Paul’s cock.
We have Tomas Melus, Marek Borek, Martine Merlot and Marek Prohodil. We find them in the river, splashing each other. Then they go back to the house, washing themselves in cold water, outside, before entering. They also wash each other, and then strip off, leaving their trunks and shorts to dry. Marek B wonders what they can do next and Marek P responds by taking his cock in his mouth. The cock gets hard, very quickly, as Marek P sucks it. His own cock is being sucked by Tomas too. Then Marek P sucks Martin as well, taking turns with Marek B’s cock. All the guys cocks are rock hard with Tomas stretching his mouth to get as much as Marek P’s as it can.
In Wank Parties Plus From Prague 17 we have Hugo Antonin, Zdenek Bodbaba, Alan Carly, Danek Gyor and Paul Belonek. In this first part we find them in the garden where they are going to have some wheelbarrow; races.
The Dancing with the Stars finale freestyle often determines who's going to walk away with the Mirrorball trophy, so who gave themselves the best chance at victory? Was it Noah Galloway, Riker Lynch, or Rumer…
“‘Duct Tape Heart,’ one of the tracks from the Barenaked Ladies’ forthcoming album Silverball–out June 2nd–is an Ed Robertson and Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra) collaboration. ‘I love the imagery of a MacGyvered heart–a heart that is taped back up, but by virtue of being duct-taped back up, it’s rock-solid,’ Ed notes, no pun intended.
In Robertson’s view, Silverball has already attained a lofty status in the band’s canon, for reasons that are fundamental and enduring. ‘I think the strength of this record is the band playing together,’ he says. ‘We’re pushing in new directions–as always, I think–but it’s still unmistakably these four guys playing together, and that’s what I’m most proud of. I put the record on and it doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever done before, and yet it is unmistakably the new Barenaked Ladies record. We made it quickly and effortlessly, and I think it’s a great showcase of what this band is capable of.”
ERIC HUTCHINSON’S “FOREVER” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: JUCO
According to Eric Hutchinson…
“I had already made a video for ‘Forever’ when John [Danovic] emailed me this idea he had. It was this cool little demo video he made in his car. Stripped down but he totally got the visuals across. I loved it instantly and I had to see it made! The actual video he made is even cooler. This video captures all the emotions I felt when I wrote the song. The ups and downs of love and waiting.”
The video’s director, Jon Danovic, adds…
The inspiration for the video came from the lyric, “Tell me how you know nothing lasts forever.” There’s a desperate optimism that attracted me to the song, I tried to balance that hope and melancholy with the visual.”
“I wrote ‘Wildfire’ about being carefree and not allowing others to bring you down, which is summed up in the lyrics. ‘Rising like a phoenix, I’ll make you see. I’ll burn even higher, Burn even higher. I’m a Wildfire.’ ‘Wildfire’ is much more mature than my other songs…it really reflects my personality and artistry. It’s an anthem for the vagabonds, the wanderers, and the hippies of now.”
“Wildfire” is the free download of the week on iTunes!
A Conversation with David Coverdale
Mike Ragogna: David, sir, let’s talk about all things Purple.
David Coverdale: Oh, Mikey Rags, what a treat! Two of my favorite elements in my life, Mike Ragogna and HuffPost.
MR: Then you’re either in for a treat or a wild disappointment.
DC: That depends on what you think of the f**king record, probably!
MR: [laughs] It’s hard to be objective because of our friendship, but I honestly think the record is excellent. And furthermore, I believe The Purple Album is very significant in the DC cannon because it brings your career full circle. It’s almost like after all your experience in making music–being as creative a person as you’ve been all these years–you’re looking back and respectfully treating your roots. I’ll go further. I believe this revisit of your Deep Purple material brings out musical elements of the material that you’re only now hearing at this point in your life. Conjecture, of course, but pretty close, right?
DC: That’s about it, thank you! It was nice talking with you! [laughs]
MR: [laughs] David, actually, why did The Purple Album come out now, and why not earlier in your career?
DC: It’s a very layered why, but the whole idea was birthed from tragedy. You are right when you say we’ve come full circle because that’s actually what I’ve been saying while I was mixing the album with Michael McIntyre. It was a feeling of completion of a particular journey. I think the next chapter of my life is going to be somewhat different. Still involved with music, that’s my primary vehicle for expression, but maybe not the big Tarzan, animal skin, swinging through the trees and beating my chest stuff.
MR: Well, then this interview is absolutely over! Take care, be good.
DC: [laughs] No, I’m still swinging from light truss to light truss unfortunately. It’s so very funny, Michael, from the very beginning, even before Purple, I’ve always challenged myself as a vocalist, as an athlete, as a student, and of course that was amplified by joining Purple. I wrote like four or six versions of the song “Burn” as the new boy, just wanting to please. Of course, they chose the lyric. But I’ve always challenged myself and continue to this day, but this challenge has become a little more challenging as age rears its questionable head.
Purple was literally birthed from tragedy. In 2012, I received a call from a representative of my beautiful friend and former colleague Jon Lord, who was just an amazing character in my life, a mentor, he introduced charm and grace to a working class kid from Heathcliff-land, Wuthering Heights. Jon had been diagnosed with cancer, which was horrifying, and the next thing was, “He’s determined to beat it. On his recovery, would you be up for doing some kind of Purple project?” I went, “Absolutely, you tell him I’m there for him.” The greatest sadness, of course, we lost Jon. But the loss and the grieving led me to open dialog with Ritchie Blackmore after over thirty years.
Really, there was no project on my agenda, on my radar; none whatsoever. For me, to stand between Ritchie and Jon, it was the Colossi of Rhodes. I was able to work with Glenn Hughes and Jon Lord and Ian Paice; I worked with those guys other than Glenn in early Whitesnake. Sadly, the last time I saw Ritchie, which was over thirty years ago, we had a physical confrontation which was very unpleasant and unsavory for both of us. An unpleasant rivalry between Whitesnake and Rainbow persisted for many years until Whitesnake became so ridiculously successful and sold so many records it wasn’t even a consideration.
But for two reasons, I wanted to speak to Ritchie. One was to commiserate on the loss of Jon and the other was to sincerely thank him for being part of a decision that gave me the opportunity to front one of the biggest bands in the rock ‘n’ roll world. I had no preperception of global success. I’d seen Deep Purple on a couple Top Of The Pops, I’d seen a little bit of one of their shows in the north of England where I lived. I knew they were big in England but that’s all I knew. I had no perception whatsoever off the kind of global success they were embracing. So to give this unknown, untried, untested vocalist from the north of England this incredible, indescribable opportunity to front and to create songs with Ritchie and Tommy Bolin was the Willy Wonka golden ticket. They started me on a journey that may be completed at the end of this forthcoming world tour.
MR: And your versions of these Deep Purple songs aren’t clones but evolved versions of the originals. Was this a sort of resolution, maybe what you always wanted to do with these songs?
DC: Oh, very much so. My primary thing when I heard “Burn” was, “Christ, I was naive. Jesus, I was young. Buddha, I was innocent.” [laughs] I was literally flying by the seat of my pants. The cliché would be “thrown in the deep end to sink or swim.” Fortunately, I swam. I actually used one of the lyrics from an initial version forty years ago on my last studio album, Forever More. But what was really fantastic for me, reconnecting with these songs after reconnecting positively with Ritchie Blackmore was, “Jesus, what a great band!” It tends to diminish over the decades when you’re focused and moving around. I’m not a nostalgia guy, I’m a, “Now and moving forward, what are we doing next,” kind of guy. The Lewis and Clarke of rock. “Okay, this f**king avenue’s closed, let’s hack our way through this one,” determined to find a new way to deliver music from A to Z in these very, very new times.
What I was astonished by was the musicality, how the songs stood up, even the production values were pretty happening for that time. It reconnected me with fortunately more positive memories than negative ones. For instance, actually doing The Purple Album sitting next to Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra firing on all six cylinders on the “Burn” solo and going, “Oh my God, I was sitting next to Ritchie Blackmore over forty years ago in The Rolling Stones truck recording the original solo. It was moments like that. Tommy Bolin and I writing “Love Child” after hanging out with Bob Marley & The Wailers. We totally loved reggae. I loved it since it was ska and bluebeat. There was a large Jamaican populace in the north of England close to where I lived. I loved that stuff. So the original version of the song called “Love Child” was literally reggae. [Sings “Love Child” to a reggae beat] At the end of it, Tommy and I looked at each other and said, “F**k it, Purple ain’t gonna buy that.” So we made it significantly more butch, but on the Come Taste The Band album there are a couple little inflections of reggae that really I don’t think anybody picked up on other than Tommy and I.
These things were super little reconnecting dots that I had just let go of years ago. It was fabulous in so many ways, being able to write a small elegy to Jon in the middle of a song called “Sail Away.” I digress somewhat because the conversations with Ritchie Blackmore took place in 2012 going deep into 2013 while I was on Whitesnake’s world tour “Year Of The Snake.” He asked me to speak to his manager, who then asked me if I could keep a secret. I said, “Of course not, I’m a f**king singer!” She said, “Would you be interested in doing a project with Ritchie?” Primarily, I thought, “Hmm, Blackmore/Coverdale; we could embrace the music of Purple and Rainbow and Whitesnake, it could be an interesting ticket.”
Then the question was would you choose Roger or Glenn. I love Roger Glover, I worked with him, he produced two solo albums for me a lifetime ago, but Glenn Hughes is my soul brother. We communicate pretty much every day. At the time I dug out these old projects. This wasn’t even on my radar, Michael. So literally I dug out the Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band albums and thought, “Eh, he’s not going to want to do anything from Come Taste The Band, of course. Hang on a second, he’s going to want me to do ‘Smoke On The F**king Water.'” But I was digging into them and going, “I just hope he’s up for giving the house of Purple a fresh coat of paint and maybe moving the furniture around a little bit.” What my words were, once I actually got into the studio with Whitesnake was, “Snake ’em up a bit,” said with the benefit of forty years of experience in survival in a very challenging industry.
So I was starting to work on this while discussing things with Ritchie and his manager. The unplugged version of “Sail Away,” which I thought would be a wonderful transition, maybe even a duet, with Ritchie’s lovely wife Candace. They have a beautiful Renaissance-style music group called Blackmore’s Night. So I was pulling all of these strings together to make it some kind of cohesive thing, but you know the more I discussed it with his manager the more I felt, “I can’t share this vision.” At this time in my life, I’m not going to do anything I don’t want to do, Michael, so I very respectfully withdrew from further dialog regarding a project and wished them well in everything they do. Fortunately, we’ve stayed in touch.
Then I was having dinner with Cindy, my wife–I don’t know if you ever met her back in the day–but I was commiserating with her, “Eh, what a bummer, I’ve done all this work and it’s not going to see the light of day.” It was my beloved partner who said, “Well, why don’t you do it under the Whitesnake banner,” and I went, “Oh!” My glass of chardonnay hovered mid-drink as that realization hit me. And with my being a meditative little son of a gun, I meditated on it for a couple of days and then I spoke to Michael McIntyre my co-producer. I’d already been speaking to Doug Aldrich who was still involved with Whitesnake at the time, so I spoke to our fabulous record company Frontiers and of course these guys are fans of rock and total Deep Purple fans, so I said, “How would you feel if Whitesnake did a tribute album?” There’s never been a best of for Mark III or IV! How f**king goofy is that? The best classic rock tunes in the world and the management has never had the thought of, “By all means, let’s keep milking the teets of Mark II, but what about Mark III and Mark IV?” It all kind of came together. My musicians all had the same kind of musical boner, so it came through, all systems go.
MR: So when you entered the band, it also was an education in how to go solo and rev up Whitesnake.
DC: Oh yeah. I’m like Bubba The Love Sponge. I just soak it all in. I was there, I still don’t understand all the technical stuff, but I know if I want to add a little more EQ here, less bass there. I’ve never wanted to be an engineer, but I was there for every session, watching it, discussing it. Just earlier we mentioned the “Burn” solo, which is a breathtaking musical, symphonic solo from not only Jon Lord but also Ritchie Blackmore. It harnesses his classical training for a breathtaking guitar solo. When I was sitting next to Ritchie in the Stones truck in Switzerland, he turned around to Martin Birch, our producer and engineer and said, “Slow the tape down a bit.” I’m sitting there going, “Huh?” But suddenly “Burn” starts playing [mimics slow track], I have no f**king idea, but then Ritchie’s at the top of his neck playing along with this, pre-click track stuff, playing that Bach sequence. Then he said, “Oh, play it back at normal speed,” and he plays it back and it’s this astonishing, [mimics solo] mandolin kind of thing. He said, “What do you think?” and I said, “It sounds a bit like a balalaika!” He said, “Play it back. He’s f**king right. Take it off.” I thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to be fired.”
That was my huge learning lesson. If somebody asks you, tell the f**king truth. In any given situation, tell the truth because it’ll pay off. Ritchie and I wrote most of the material together, and then the band of course put their astonishing identity on, which is what really made Deep Purple, but I wrote a lot of stuff with Ritchie and that actually made our work easier. I thought, “Thank God I have an opinion because I’m from Yorkshire,” and we’ve got an opinion about every f**king thing.
MR: [laughs] You were talking about always telling the truth earlier. It seems like that’s a major component of your work.
DC: I’ve always loved music, and my beloved aunt who I lost at the same time as Jon Lord was fourteen, spending all of her pocket money on Little Richard and early Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and I’m this six or seven year old going, “Oh my god, this is fucking unbelievable.” I still can’t articulate what pulled me in about Hendrix, what made Hendrix my muse. He’s this guy harnessing blues and soul and exciting guitar and image and blues lyrics and extraterrestrial cosmic shit. He’s everything. Hendrix just harnessed everything that I love. There are no mistakes. I go to school one day and the music teacher was ill and the only other teacher who had a free period was the science teacher, a guy called Benbow. He said, “I don’t know what to talk to you about; I’m just a clarinet player.” So he played a bit of Sidney Bechet, but then he played Lead Belly and I’m going, “What the f**k? All the hairs on the back of my neck are going up! What is this?” I’m eleven years old or something and I go up to him afterwards and say, “What is that?” He played me a bit of Big Bill Broonzy and I’m going, “Wow!”
Before I played an instrument, I would write secret poetry to express myself. I kept it well away from my soccer-playing chums, otherwise I would’ve had my ass kicked probably. “Hey, how are you doing?” “Well, the sun hangs slowly like a golden orb.” As soon as I started playing a couple of chords they became lyrics. Hearing blues singer talk about the honesty of sex, the honesty of politics, of poverty, of heartbreak,” it just rung all of my bells, as opposed to leaving me flat on “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” F**k, that meant nothing to me. But when you’ve got The Who harnessing Motown and you’ve got The Kinks harnessing whatever the f**k Ray Davis was, those things just resonated like f**k. All of that was going into the Coverdale blender to be mixed up in preparation for my work with Deep Purple.
MR: How big does spirituality play in your life and music?
DC: I’ve always completely and utterly believed in a supreme being. Always. I was unable to articulate it when I was a kid, but my best friend was a catholic kid and I used to sneak into their church, I knew all the hymns, until a priest grabbed me by my significantly short hair and dragged me out and literally threw me out of the fucking church, which probably served me well in the long time. I’ve always believed in God, even as a child going, “Oh, please bring me a grey bike for Christmas.” I always believed there was something more than what’s just here. Of course as I got older my believe system became that of spirituality. I don’t particularly embrace religions, but my spirituality is complete, I meditate and pray to God every day without fail and do my energy intentions and stuff. It’s an amazing journey to be on. It’s the ultimate accessory for me, Michael. Having real hair and meditation has made my life complete. [laughs]
MR: Well, I have one of those! [laughs]
DC: So the thing for me now…you said “full circle” and that’s exactly the expression I’ve been using. A feeling of completion. Being able to pay respectful tribute to the men of Deep Purple. There isn’t a note on The Purple Album that isn’t a respectful nod to each of our colleagues. All my liner notes in there are respectful. The guys came in… Reb Beach was so full of this project that Michael and I offered him a co-production scenario, which he did heroically throughout last year. Joel Hoekstra came in to assume as a fresh guitar player after Doug Aldrich had moved on. Joel’s musicality is extraordinarily welcome. Tom and Michael Devin, Tommy Aldridge came in, the drummer, he came in and set the energy bar for this project. If anybody can’t hear the drive and celebration from the moment “Burn” starts going I don’t want to know them. It’s like f**king NASCAR with Tommy in the driving seat. Tommy’s very much like the school of Ian Paice, the original drummer on these songs, who was significantly more influenced by big band drummers like Max Roach and Buddy Rich and whoever, harnessing those elements in a rock environment, whereas a lot of other people follow the school of John Bonham, just straight forward rock ‘n’ roll stuff. This was perfect for Tommy to come in on. I said, “None of these are going to be singles, we don’t have to worry about CHR, just fucking go for it,” and my god, they did. But as soon as Tommy started going I saw the guys physically go, “F**k!” and everyone came up a few notches. It was really inspiring. It was all positive, Michael, it was lovely.
MR: In your opinion, what is the legacy of Deep Purple?
DC: I have no idea. I’ve never done it for that stuff! You guys are the ones who throw words like that in. Oh my god, when I’m doing interviews and people are very nervous with me, saying, “oh my god, you sang with Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore, Tommy Bolin, Jimmy Page, Uncle Tom Cobley and all,” you go, “Wow, it has been a serious career!” But I’ve never looked at it with those eyes. Never. It just isn’t something, “Oh my god, we deserve a place in the–” fuck ’em if they don’t want us in the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame. Every one of my musicians, and Lars from Metallica and Paul Stanley are going, “What the f**k, aren’t you guys in?” I was actually talking to Ritchie at the time we were nominated, two years ago, I said, “Are you going to go?” he said, “Nah,” and I said, “Well if you’re not going I’m not f**king going.”
But we still sell records. When I got that big success in America, MTV time, ’87, ’88, ’89, all those years, most of the interviews out of America had no clue about Deep Purple. I was very happy to just continue talking Whitesnake, Michael. Nothing I’ve ever done is for legacy. I didn’t know “Still Of The Night” or “Is This Love?” were going to be giant fucking songs that were part of the background of people’s lives, are you kidding me? I just try to sing as good as I can, write better songs, make better records, play better concerts and challenge myself. If I’m not inspired to put effort into my work then I’m getting off that f**king horse immediately. When I stand in front of these guys and sing I do stuff that shocks the shit out of me, let alone anyone else, because I have the inspiration, the drive from that stuff and I’m still to this day inspired. Hopefully, you can hear that.
MR: Oh yeah. Has this foray into The Purple Album changed how you’re going to look at your own stuff?
DC: What was fascinating for me was seeing such a palpable thread from the very beginning of my writing with Deep Purple through to my last studio album, Forever More, there’s an absolute connection. I’ve written two heavy metal songs, “Burn,” and “Stormbringer.” Those lyrics have nothing to do with heart and soul or a search for direction or anything. They’re sci-fi fantasy things, which basically I wrote for Ritchie Blackmore, because he loved that s**t. I wasn’t going to do “Stormbringer” on this album until all of the band emotional avalanched me. “You’ve got to do it, I can’t ‘Snake it up, it’s in fixed melody, blah blah blah,” and I went, “F**k it, okay, you want to do it? We’re going to make a sonic fucking storm. In the performance and the video we’ll have it for the first time and probably the only time I’ve done production stuff with that kind of music.”
Michael dug out storms, my son Jasper became the voice of the storm, that kind of demonic voice at the beginning and the end. Four year-old Jack Hoekstra sent his daddy a message while he was working with me and I said, “Let’s put that in there.” I found a cassette of my daughter at four years old singing songs that I used to write for her, so Michael McIntyre fucked them up and low-fi’d them and distressed them. Those kids are the willful children of the storm. I’ve never done that before! It was a poopload of fun. It’s probably not something that I’m ever going to do again, but it was great and it serves its purpose for this. But in all of the songs I’ve found that there was this really common denominator that was so easy to put in certain musical accents which maybe we did live with Purple, but I’ve maximized on doing those accents so it’s part of the Whitesnake identity. It was really fun, very organic and natural. I swear to God, meditating and sitting down with a guitar, or sitting down at the piano, it just unfolded. This project was absolutely meant to be done at this time in my life. I have no doubt whatsoever.
MR: How do you think Jon would’ve reacted to The Purple Album? He had to be in your heart and in your mind as you were doing this, right?
DC: I know what you’re saying, but I’ll be honest with you. I never look at replacing musicians. I get new people in who I feel can help inspire me and take Whitesnake another step up the ladder and hopefully reciprocate with them so it’s a mutual exchange of energy and creativity. I specifically focused on the twin guitar attack of Whitesnake on this record. I brought in a keyboard player I worked with many years ago who I knew was an acolyte of Jon Lord and Emerson and Rick Wakeman to do the keyboards, but I said, “The focus will be on twin guitars. The keyboards are just going to be more layered and more orchestral on epics like ‘Mistreated’ and ‘You Keep On Moving’ and ‘The Gypsy,’ adding more synthesized orchestra than we did back in the day.” I think Jon’s response would be, “There’s nowhere near enough f**king organ on this! It’s missing my organ.” And that’s what it is.
But Jon was such a unique man, his musicality, his inversions. George Harrison was brilliant with inversions, moreso than the other two guys, but as George came into his own he wrote all of these things he called silly chords, those diminished chords and stuff that worked beautifully and established the George Harrison identity. Jon Lord would bring that to my songs. His musicality, instead of a straight “C,” he would say, “Oh, what about a major seventh or a minor seventh,” and my god it made all the difference in the world. He had a beautiful feel for music and melody. Gorgeous.
MR: Can you remember his reactions to your creativity while working with him?
DC: Jon was huge to me. I’ll give you three very quick examples. Just after Ian Gillan and Roger Glover joined, my local group supported Deep Purple, the early Mark II as students at Bradford University. The Purple guys were really complimentary. We had some alternate arrangements for “Shakin’ All Over” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. But I was already messing around, trying to take straightforward songs and making them more rocky or whatever. You know how Page did with Willie Dixon songs and Duane Allman did with Muddy Waters stuff. Taking the blues and just making something symphonic with them was really interesting. There’s no reason on this planet for me to lie, but Jon Lord sat me down and said, “I like your voice a lot.” I’m going, “Oh my God, this is amazing!” He said, “Do you have a phone number in case it doesn’t work out with the other guy?” I didn’t have a phone number, I was still living with my parents and we never had a phone. So I gave him my address and we went our separate ways. Of course, I’ve got blue birds flying out of every orifice driving home and checking the mailbox every day for the next three months. And it worked out incredibly well with the new guy, as we can all testify.
The second time was my audition when I’m this nervous kid. I brought a bottle of Bell’s Whisky and the guy who drove me down hid it from me, but of course I found it, so I’m having little sips, and Jon sat me down and said, “Don’t worry about it, just be yourself. You’re among friends.” He spoke to me like an incredibly kind soul. This beautiful-looking guy really settled my nerves and helped me calm down. And he did the fucking same again after I got the gig with Purple and I’d been at rehearsals at Clearwell Castle with the power trio of Blackmore, Pace, and Glenn Hughes. Jon had had to stay in London for a couple of days on business and he called up Ritchie and said, “So how’s it going?” “Oh, great,” and he said, “How’s David doing?” “Oh, he seems great. He hasn’t sung anything, but I think he’s doing well.” [laughs] So he comes down to Clearwell Castle and he sends everybody down to the local pubs, so it’s just Jon and I in the studio–well, crypt–where rehearsal stuff is. He goes, “Yeah, have a drink. I must tell you, when you sang yesterday at the audition I had tears in my eyes. It was beautiful.” I sang more of the Ray Charles style vocal.
So he’s just playing music and I’m singing along, Beatles tunes and rock stuff, just the two of us and a couple of drinks to get the edge off. It was an amazing conversation for this founder of Deep Purple to share with a new guy, he said, “It’s really hard for me because when we started I was the primary writer. Once we did the In Rock album Ritchie became the dynamo. Ritchie can just play the simplest of riffs and everybody goes, ‘Oh wow, that’s amazing!’ But if I played that riff on organ it just doesn’t resonate. Nobody gets it.” I said, “Some of my favorite stuff is chord-related on organ. Have you got any chord sequences?” and he played me this sequence which ultimately became “Might Just Take Your Life.” I went, “F**k, that’s like ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine!” That was my foundation, so I start wailing on this stuff and John’s going, “Oh my god, look, goose bumps!” and all this. I would take my riffs to Blackmore and I would take my chord sequences to Jon. It became really apparent from then on. But I can’t tell you how pivotal Jon Lord was in my life to help me on my fucking journey. It was amazing.
MR: Can you hear other musicians’ works who seemed to have been affected by him? Can you hear what kind of influence he had on rock in general?
DC: Oh God yeah! He just made the Hammond organ. Him, Wakeman, Emerson, those guys just took it from Jimmy Smith and put it into a rock format. If you take Jon Lord’s left hand off Deep Purple record it’d be an entirely different band, even with Ian Paice and Ritchie playing. His sound was absolutely crucial to the sonic identity, as far as I’m concerned, of Deep Purple. He and Keith were beating the stage with their organs, if you’ll excuse the expression. Thrusting their organs all over the stage.
MR: [laughs] What advice do you have for new artists?
DC: Oh, in this day and age? Get a f**king lawyer. All the music companies are doing 360 deals, which couldn’t be more obscene to me. I love my lawyers. My guys have integrity, which isn’t usually synonymous, but for me as a business man I can’t see the logic of cutting your nose off to spite your face. Why would you want to not pay an appropriate royalty for streaming? Why would you try to diminish the worth of an artist when it’s their work that’s fueling their industry?
MR: It’s preying on desperation. I hate the overt greed of it. No shame.
DC: Musicians can go out and play to fill the gaping hole that the lack of record sales has created, but streaming has actually become the saving grace for record companies. But it really is to the point of such diminishing returns for musicians that I have no words to describe it. I would turn around and say, “Okay, let’s make this work,” but now I’m hearing that new contracts that are sent out from friends of mine who are lawyers, that record companies now want to pass on paying even streaming royalties because they consider streaming “promotion.” That is beyond a grey area.
MR: What does the future hold for you?
DC: I’m in awe of the bar that The Who and The Stones have raised, but I really can’t see me doing “Still Of The Night” how it’s supposed to be done at seventy. I just can’t see that. But then again, I thought I was done at thirty. It is physically demanding. One of the things I have to do is a blues album, because I truly love the blues, and whether or not this is my last big rock record it would be appropriate to go out as I came in, but I’m not sure of that because we’re probably going to be filming and recording this upcoming tour, but I see in my future just making music available directly to my fanbase through the website or wherever rather than sweet talk a record company into allowing me to do a blues record. But the other thing I want to do, truly, is an unplugged Greatest Hits with a couple of new songs. Not totally unplugged, not Simon & Garfunkel, but something not so physically demanding on my body and my voice. I do still maintain a good mid-range and low voice which seems to be appealing to a lot of people, particularly the ladies. So even if this is the last hurrah in terms of “David Coverdale aka Tarzan,” there’s going to be some up close and personal stuff I think in the foreseeable future.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
RYAN CALHOUN’S “COFFEE” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Trever Hoehne
According to Ryan Calhoun…
“I knew ‘Coffee’ was going to be a polarizing song, people are either going to love it or hate it. So I wanted to have a video equally polarizing. I didn’t want the video to be ‘on the nose,’ for example a guy in a coffee shop trying to talk to a good-looking girl etc etc. As a kid I was obsessed with Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video–who wasn’t. And with the popularity of Zombies, I thought we could do something along those lines. I worked with director Gavin Fisher and we shot the video in a day at a ranch about an hour outside of LA. I liked the dichotomy of a cheerful song about coffee being set in a post-apocalyptic zombie world! I want the viewer to be like, ‘Wait! What? This is hilarious!!’ Also, as for me, I have become a huge fan of The Zac Brown Band. He gets thrown into the ‘country’ world, but he’s so much more than that. He kind of does what ever he wants, sometimes his songs are country, other times more folk or rock. He’s a badass and he makes no apologies for it, it’s very inspiring. I do feel like my new album is parallel to Zac Brown’s style of music; he has definitely taught me that a good song is a good song. Write what you write and do what you love!”
SONNY KNIGHT AND THE LAKERS’ “WHEN YOU’RE GONE” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Mike Madison
According to Sonny Knight and the Lakers drummer Eric Foss…
“For us, playing live is all about putting on a show, not just picking a bunch of songs and playing them. Set lists are developed in a very methodical way. There is no stopping to switch guitars, or tune, or tell funny stories. I guess we think of it as more of a performance art in that sense. Nothing against folks who don’t do it that way, some of my favorite artists are the exact opposite of this. I’m thinking of how Townes or Ramblin’ Jack performed live. This is just what we’re into and works best for us. Last year, we were blessed with the opportunity to perform our show nearly 100 times throughout the US and Europe. When things finally calmed down at the end of the year, we knew it was time to develop a new show. But we wanted to document this one before moving on from it. Then a four show engagement at The Dakota in Minneapolis fell in our lap and we knew it was now or never. The crazy thing about working with Sonny Knight is that at 67 years of age, somehow he just continues to get better night after night. I’m glad we were able to capture him performing that show at his very best before we dismantled it. Now we’re just looking forward to doing it all over again, releasing a new studio album, touring that record, and God willing, cut another live album.”
A Conversation with Motopony’s Daniel Blue
Mike Ragogna: You recently posted your video “Daylights Gone,” a song from your new album Welcome You. What’s the song’s concept?
Daniel Blue: “Daylights Gone” is a song comparing the phases of the moon to the transformative nature of the human experience.
MR: This being your second album, what’s been the growth or significant changes for the band creatively between the self-titled debut and Welcome You? Have your personal relationships changed since the early days?
DB: I wrote most of the first album alone in Tacoma. I hired Buddy Ross as a producer and he wound up joining and we built a band around the record we created. When we got signed, we collected a new drummer, Forrest Mauvais and a second guitarist, Mike Notter.
We set out to write a “record we could play live”, since the first record was mostly me and production tracks. During the writing process of the second album, Buddy moved on to work with Frank Ocean and I lost another member, Brantey Cady, to a friend’s project. Mike, Forrest and I brought on a trio–Andrew Butler on keys, Nate Daily on guitar, and Micah Simler on bass–and went about finishing the record and writing at least another dozen songs. We ended up finding a pretty new sound and since we were after a live sound we started over probably six or seven times. Micah went on to tour with Noah Gundersen before we tracked with McCarthy and we brought on Terry Mattson on a recommendation from Hey Marseille–Seattle chamber pop. We wanted a “band record,” and to us that meant everyone got input on everything and we all had to absolutely love every measure of our parts.
MR: What are the responsibilities of each of the band’s members in the recording and live processes?
DB: First, it’s to our specific instrummies and strengths; I’m good at lyric, Mike is a hell of an arrangement man. But as I said, there’s not much we didn’t listen to from every member who got inspired.
MR: The last album’s emphasis track seems to have been “King Of Diamonds.” Is this album’s biggest highlight “Daylights Gone”? Can you go into a couple of stories behind the topics or creative process of a couple of other songs?
DB: “Daylights Gone” wasn’t my choice. I’m torn between “Changing,” “1971” and “Gypsy Woman,” depending on my mood. Changing was a total band effort and we rewrote it like 40 times so the name became kind of ironic. “1971” came from a chorus Nate had cooking based on his idolization of that period in music and a “champagne super party” he feels like he missed out on growing up in the depressing 90’s. “Gypsy Woman” is a song from my inner feminine–Carl Jung would call an “anima”–to myself about how to be a performer.
MR: What was it like working with Mike McCarthy?
DB: Indescribable. Im kidding. I’m not kidding. He’s a master at vintage sound.
MR: How does Seattle play into the spirit of the band?
DB: Context is the only definition we have, buddy. It’s the only thing that’s real.
MR: Which artists or songs influenced you as you became aware of music? What age did you become aware you wanted to follow music as a path?
DB: Growing up, I wanted to be either an astronaut or a rockstar. But the truth is my parents didn’t trust or teach science and we listened to very little secular music. When I was 12 we moved to Washington and I discovered FM radio on an alarm clock they bought me for school. I would listen in secret with the intent a dry sponge has in a puddle. There was no filter, I wanted it all. As I developed my own style and friend group I leaned toward grunge and classic rock, but mostly because that’s what the other kids with skateboards listened to… In my late teens and early twenties, I was a fiend for electronic music and dance culture and when the drugs wore off I got into Emo and shoe gaze. When I started writing poetry in my mid-twenties, someone turned me on to the beats and that led me through the ’60s to Dylan and then Neil Young and subsequently late era John Lennon. Wherein I fell back in love with The Beatles…which was the only music my parents had that wasn’t pretending to be religious. Full circle, haha!
MR: Are there any steps or events you would have wanted to do differently up to this point?
DB: I’ve no regrets. All consequence is learning.
MR: What’s Motopony map of the future?
DB: Love one another. Stay close, forgive each other. Stay honest, enjoy what comes.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
DB: Ask yourselves the big why questions. Where does inspiration come from? How does sound create emotions? Who am I, really? What do I actually have to say?
Avoid the trap of trying. Don’t let anyone–including your own desire–make you try to sound like this or that. Don’t try to be cool or popular. Don’t try to write music that sells. Fame and money will come if you are chosen and dedicated to pure expression that other humans can relate to. Love the listener, even if you are being critical of them. Tell your truth in a way it will be understood. Don’t copy your heroes, they weren’t copying theirs.
CRAIG GREENBERG’S “THAT GIRL IS WRONG FOR YOU” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Roberto Ariel
According to Craig Greenberg…
“The song, ‘That Girl Is Wrong for You,’ isn’t about one ‘girl’ specifically, but is more an indictment of a few women I’ve known over the years. In the lyric, I am singing as the benevolent narrator, trying to warn a friend, but the truth is it’s about my experience going after women that aren’t right for me, which I seem to do repeatedly in my life. Maybe it’s wanting the unattainable, or maybe it’s a fear of commitment I have that makes me pursue unworkable relationships. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured it out yet, so I imagine the song will continue to resonate with me for some time.
Musically, ‘That Girl Is Wrong for You,’ is one of the most straight ahead songs I’ve written, and also one of the shortest. I’d say it’s as close to a standard pop song as I have in my catalog. Rarely do I like key changes in pop songs, but I managed to slip one in that I think works quite effectively to give the song a lift, and also isn’t cheesy. And I’m especially proud of the piano solo breakdown in there. I defy any listener to not nod their head or stomp their feet during that section. It’s rock ‘n’ roll as I think it should be–simple, danceable, and fun!”
“That Girl is Wrong for You” is off of Craig Greenberg’s album The Grand Loss & Legacy.
Candice Huffine is breaking new ground as the first plus-size model to design a ready-to-wear collaboration in nearly a decade. The model launches her #LovedByCandice capsule collection with Italian brand Elena Mirò this week—and…
Police officers stand next to banana boxes containing cocaine in Berlin on May 4, 2015. (AP Photo/dpa, Soeren Stache)
Nearly 400 kilograms of cocaine were hidden in banana shipments sent to Aldi supermarkets in and around Berlin, Germany, earlier this week, according to news site The Local. Police spokesman Stefan Redlich called the error a “logistical mistake,” Agence France-Presse reported.
German police initially valued the haul at close to $ 17 million, but they may have lowballed it. An updated statement said the drugs had a high degree of purity and a street price of nearly $ 44 million.
The shipments are presumed to have traveled a well-known drug smuggling route from Colombia to Europe, Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported. Investigators were reportedly still searching through Aldi’s banana supply for other illicit imports.
Amazingly, this is not the first time that Aldi stores in Germany have received cocaine with their bananas. In January 2014, The Local reported that police had found 140 kilos of the drug in those supermarkets in what was hailed as the second-largest bust in Berlin in 35 years.
Someone’s in trouble.
Masked policemen stand next to banana crates with confiscated drugs in Berlin on Jan. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/dpa, Daniel Naupold)
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“‘Daylights Gone’ is a song comparing the phases of the moon to the transformative nature of the human experience.”
Motopony Tour Dates
6/13 – Hotel Utah – San Francisco, CA
6/15 – Casbah – San Diego, CA
6/18 – Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA #
6/23 – Moon Room – Denver, CO *
6/25 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR *
6/26 – Domino Room – Bend, OR *
6/27 – Showbox @ the Market – Seattle, WA *
6/28 – WOW Hall – Eugene, OR *
7/01 – Leo’s – Oakland, CA *
7/02 – Sophie’s Thai Kitchen – Davis, CA *
7/03 – Madame Siam – Los Angeles, CA *
7/05 – The Continental Room – Fullerton, CA *
7/07 – Bunkhouse – Las Vegas, NV *
* = w/ Tristen / Big Harp
# = w/ Bootstraps
photo credit: Bradley Garner
A Conversation with Devilskin’s Jennie Skulander, Nail, Paul Martin & Nic Martin
Mike Ragogna: Hey Devilskin, you’re already the #1 rock act in New Zealand. Do you really need to conquer the US as well? Don’t you want to start with Australia?
Jennie Skulander: Why not do both at once!
Paul Martin: We are really keen to explore the US, we have a great fan base here already and obviously its one of the hot spots for the world music industry. Australia is important to us as well but I think the US is way more exciting and more challenging!
MR: I notice a couple of Martins on the group roster. Is this like Duran Duran with all those unrelated Taylors? But if you’re family, do you still even like each other now that you’re the #1 rock band of New Zealand?
JS: We enjoy everyone’s company and still can tolerate snoring when touring…just.
PM: Haha. Love the Duran Duran analogy… But no, we have bonafide blood relations in the band. Nic our drummer is my son and playing and touring the world together is, for me, one of the best experiences a father and son could have. Jennie is also my sister-in-law and Nail is my evil twin.
Nic Martin: Playing music with my father is an experience to be cherished, and there’s no way I could pass it up or take it for granted in any way.
MR: What should US audiences fear most about Devilskin? Why “Devilskin,” oh by the way? Don’t you know we’re a Land of Puritans and won’t you consider changing your name to “Angelskin”? And who’s got the devil-iest skin in this band anyway?
JS: Yeah, I believe Paul is the most devilish. Well, he looks it. No need to fear us. We will have a cup of tea with you if you like. We chose the name Devilskin as everyone has a Devilskin–evil/good.
PM: All the US audiences need to fear from us is a good swift kick in the butt from a butt kicking rock act! Puritans, satanists, we love them all! No, we would never compromise our name to save offending someones beliefs. I guess my skin is the most Devilish with my full sleeve and back tattoos!
MR: I couldn’t help but notice your album is titled We Rise. Do you mean like waking up in the morning or from the dead?
JS: We Rise means we have been left in the dark for so long and now we have risen and succeeded. And we will continue to rise!
PM: We mean, “Look out, our band is on the rise!” We are on a mission!
MR: How did the band congeal? Who influenced you other than Led Zeppelin?
JS: I knew the guys from playing with them years ago in my previous band. my influences are Deftones, Cohered and Cambria, Snot, Faith No More.
Nail: Pantera, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses are a few of the bands that influenced me musically growing up.
PM: We all knew each other from the same town in New Zealand and all had a healthy respect for each others music and talents. Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Pantera, T-Rex, Ramones and lots more.
NM: I was lucky enough to be offered a fill-in role in 2011, and ended up being offered the full-time gig. My influences include Avenged Sevenfold, Periphery, Coheed and Cambria, to name a few.
MR: If you weren’t making music and being the #1 rock band in New Zealand, what would you all be doing in New Zealand? And which indigenous animals does New Zealand have that differ from Australia’s since we think you’re the same country and this would be a good moment to educate us about the differences?
JS: I would love to be doing something in health and fitness. And we have a kiwi bird in which Aussie doesn’t. Our rugby team is also better.
N: I would be driving heavy machinery, and crushing s***.
NM: I would be a useless vegetable without music; I’d be giving all my change to Nintendo games! Put simply: Aussie = Scary animals that will kill you. NZ = Peace & Love all ’round.
MR: Which US rock bands scare you the most and which one’s ass are you looking most forward to kicking?
N: No US bands scare me. We prefer to focus on our own adventure!
PM: I’m not scared of any other bands. Looking forward to kicking anyone’s ass that gets in the way! [wink]
MR: Does the fact that you’re playing and recording rock ever keep you up at night and if not, shouldn’t it? Can’t someone convince you to pick up acoustic guitars and sing pretty love songs?
PM: We love rock, we also love to write pretty acoustic songs. Our agenda is nothing more than quality, evocative music that people can believe in.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists? No, really.
JS: Don’t give up!
N: Practice and take pride in your art
PM: Stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to use em!
NM: Don’t sit on your ass and watch someone else live your dream. Get up and make it happen yourself.
MR: What is it about Devilskin’s rock that will establish it beyond classic Led Zeppelin’s, your favorite band in the world as you established earlier?
PM: Quality music, heartfelt and genuine. Lots of emotion and dynamics. Heart and soul.
NM: I’ve been railroaded by Led Zep apparently! Paul summed it up.
MR: Now that the love affair is on between Devilskin and the US, will you forgive us when we wake up grumpy, which will be often and it’s a pretty horrible thing to have to put up with so you might want to plan that New Zealand exit strategy like right now?
JS: We love you. And we love your Taco Bell.
N: We love the US and look forward to an on-going relationship.
PM: We love the US unconditionally, we don’t care that you snore! We can’t wait to return and see more of this beautiful country!
NM: I’ll rub your back at night so you don’t wake up grumpy, as long as I get Taco Bell. Better yet, I’ll bring it back to New Zealand with me.
TOM LEVIN’S “THUNDER ON” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Johan Topel
According to Tom Levin…
“‘Thunder On’ is inspired by the buffalo at my sister and her husband’s farm Little Pitchfork Ranch in Alaska. Ever since I first got in contact with the buffalo I’ve been very fascinated with the animal and that naturally lead me to Native Americans and their wisdom. I picture the song being a conversation between an older Indian and a younger person coming of age.
“I wrote the lyrics to ‘Thunder On’ together with Aimee Bobruk from Austin, Texas. We met for the first time through The House of Songs in conjunction with the Live At Heart music festival in Sweden in 2013.
“In the video, the shaved side of my face symbolizes civilization and the unshaved side symbolizes nature. It also resembles the look of buffalo hair.
“The video features footage from trips I’ve made to the following places: Falsterbo and Sodra Dellen in Sweden. The Alps in Switzerland. Mallorca in Spain. Little Pitchfork Ranch, The Matanuska Valley, Hatchers Pass and Homer all in Alaska. Toronto, Kansas City, New York and New Orleans. It also features footage from when a friend of mine crossed the U.S. on a motorcycle passing the Texas Mountain Trail and driving by wild fires in Colorado.”
The video was directed and edited by Johan Topel, https://www.johantopel.com
Footage: Johan Topel, Tom Levin, Johan Wellander and Todd Pettit
A Conversation with Johnny Ray Miller
Mike Ragogna: Johnny, what motivated you to write When We’re Singin’–The Story of The Partridge Family and Their Music?
Johnny Ray Miller: My love of the music. The Partridge Family is remembered primarily as a TV show, and the music is so often overlooked. Nothing has been published on the subject, and I felt it was time someone took it on.
MR: What is it about the music that makes it special?
JRM: Well, it’s interesting because the very image by which this music was marketed and successfully sold to millions is very different than the musical roots that make up its origin.
MR: How so?
JRM: It was marketed as bubblegum music. But its identity is really Adult Contemporary or Easy Listening. The musicians who played on these albums were the same musicians remembered as The Wrecking Crew, who played on some of the biggest albums from that era. Guys like Hal Blaine, Max Bennett–who had deep, jazz roots–Dennis Budimir, Joe Osborn–intrinsic in the discovery of The Carpenters, and played on their albums. I mean, these guys played on everything! They were considered the best of the best–the first-call musicians that everyone wanted working on their albums. They played on albums by Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, and many more.
MR: The songwriters were also some of the best pop writers of the era.
JRM: They were! Legendary songwriters worked on these songs, and most of these songs, probably 90% or more, were written and tailored specifically for the Partridge Family. There were very few cover songs. Guys like Tony Asher, who produced The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds wrote for The Partridge Family. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who are noted as some of the greatest songwriters of all-time also contributed songs. Paul Anka wrote “One Night Stand” for the Partridge Family. L. Russell Brown who had just come off his big hit with “Knock Three Times” penned six songs for The Partridge Family and his first one, “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” was thefourth Top 20 single and sold in the millions. His next big hit was “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the ‘Ole Oak Tree.” Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos began their early career with The Partridge Family, having written the band’s second single, “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” which hit #6 on Billboard and #1 on Cash Box. These are the guys who left The Partridge Family gig to produce the up and coming Bruce Springsteen. The late, great Gerry Goffin also wrote at least four songs for The Partridge Family!
MR: Gerry Goffin is one of the greats.
JRM: Yes! He wrote the third Partridge Family single, “I’ll Meet You Halfway,” which went to #9 on the Billboard charts in early summer 1971.
MR: How many different songwriters are credited to The Partridge Family music?
JRM: Over fifty. Talents like Diane Hildebrand, who was one of the only female songwriters signed to Screen Gems at the time, wrote songs for the Partridge Family, including the first season theme song, and title of my book “When We’re Singin’.” Jack Keller was another successful songwriter who worked on a few Partridge Family cuts. He had a great reputation for writing film scores, and music for television. Bobby Hart also wrote a lot of songs for The Partridge Family. Hart, most famous for his work as producer/songwriter on The Monkees actually wrote more Partridge Family songs than any other songwriter with the exception of producer Wes Farrell who partnered with all these guys from time to time.
Johnny Cymbal and Peggy Clinger wrote for both Partridge Family and David Cassidy’s solo albums. They were young, singer/songwriters who were launching the early phase of their career during this time. Terry Cashman and Tommy West wrote eight songs plus a theme-song outtake for the show. These two guys were really impressive music guys who had worked with Wes Farrell prior to The Partridge Family and found the project interesting, so they jumped on board. They were also producing Jim Croce during the early ’70s as well. I mean, the list really does go on and on.
MR: Tony Romeo was probably the most associated songwriter with The Partridge Family, his having written “I Think I Love You.”
JRM: Right. Tony Romeo was a genius. He had already been writing music in the ’60s, and he was heavily influenced by old Italian melodies. He loved the work of Joni James and some of the early ’50s artists. Many of his Partridge Family songs have these kinds of influences. He also knew how to connect with the inner workings of David Cassidy. He intrinsically knew how to write for him–not just for the sound of his voice, but for the inner expression that comes to life in this music. David Cassidy has a rich, versatile voice that was, and still is, incredibly underated.
MR: Why underated?
JRM: Because of the marketing image. The marketing image was so strong, that even when David Cassidy tried to break it himself, once by posing nude for Rolling Stone, it still didn’t put a dent in it. Yes, little girls were in love with him, and many young boys wanted to be him, but the longevity of his career and talent comes from the quality of his voice and this music. It holds up.
MR: Why do you think The Partridge Family songs hold up?
JRM: Put a Partridge Family CD in your player with five or so other CDs sometime when you are having a party, or a casual get-together with friends. Don’t tell them what you put in that player. I guarantee you they will say “I like that–who is that?” That’s the true test. It stands on its own after all these years. David Cassidy has a voice that is instantly recognizable to that demographic. He has rich vocal tones, and layered interpretations to his recordings that come off complex at times, because David himself was complex.
MR: Would you say that today the marketing image has been broken, or is it still intact? I mean, what happens after you tell them who it is? They laugh, right?
JRM: That’s right. They say “no way!” But all of us who were 8, 9 and 10 at that time are now 53, 54, and 55, so it processes differently. We are all nostalgic now. When we look back at our childhoods we are especially attached to that part which holds the test of time. The Partridge Family music does that. I have researched every single album–there were eight studio albums and two hits packages–and every single song, and I have put together commentaries for each album and song. Thanks to the input of guys like John Bahler, who wrote all the vocal arrangements on every single album, and the late, great Mike Melvoin, who did all the arrangements on the music, we now have the first book on the music of The Partridge Family.
MR: Is your book all music or does it cover some of the television side as well?
JRM: The television story is also in this book. The show had more celebrity guest appearances than any other show of that era, including Ray Bolger–the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Academy Award winners Dean Jaggar and Jodie Foster. Shirley Jones and the other cast members were like a family, and they have great memories of the episodes and the show as well. Keeping the content fresh, I spoke with all the producers who worked on this show, many of whom have never been interviewed about their Partridge Family days, and they have great memories and fun stories to tell. Producer Paul Junger Witt has great memories of the show and the music. Even the bus!
MR: Ah, the classic Partridge Family bus. What ever happened to it?
JRM: That’s in the book, too. And there’s a fun twist to that story! I don’t want to give it all away, right?
MR: John, when is this book coming out?
JRM: December is the plan. This fall is the 45th Anniversary of The Partridge Family debut. We are running a campaign on Kickstarter.com as we speak to try and fund the publication of the book. Kickstarter is a new model for getting your creative projects off the ground. I have been told that it is changing the publishing industry drastically.
MR: Kickstarter for publishing?
JRM: Because things are getting funded! New and different things are getting published. When We’re Singin’ was actually just chosen as a “Staff Pick” among their 600-700 daily book projects.
MR: Where can people find more information on this?
JRM: Go to the website https://WhenWereSingin.com. It’s all there–how to get the book, when to get the book, the progress on Kickstarter.com… It’s all there.
ZAK SMITH’S “HAVE YOU LOOKED OUTSIDE” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Stephan Alessi
According to Zak Smith…
“There are many things I’m apathetic about. Apathy can be a statement of independence, it can be a statement of protest against a system or group that wants something from you or wants you to think or act in a certain way. Trying to force yourself to feel emotions that you don’t feel is a dead end street. There’s a quote I like by Charles Bukowski where he says, ‘To feign real emotion, yours or the world’s, is of course unforgivable.’ It’s a bit harsh, but a good line; it speaks to the broader point that there is certainly something dispossessing about pretending to care about something when you don’t.
“There are things not to be apathetic about. To see police officers choke a black man to death with no repercussions, to see black people’s lives repeatedly held as cheap by law enforcement throughout the country, is in fact to be addressed directly. What they are saying is, ‘We will do this forever. You are not brave enough or smart enough to do anything but watch.’ The more power and control invested in the hands of the few, the less sum total of justice there is in the world. To be apathetic about people forcing a steady stream of manipulation and smiling at you, and not be enraged is to give up. And not just politically, it’s to concede and accept a dreadful vision of reality.”
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Mike Ragogna: Mr. Idle, your latest, titled Total Rubbish, is not total rubbish, goodly sir.
Eric Idle: [laughs] Well, it’s “total” in regards of what we recorded.
MR: A complete collection of basically everything Monty Python released on CD or records. Hallelujah.
EI: Yes, it’s the complete audio collection, and there’s quite a lot of it, isn’t there.
MR: So whose idea was it to pour this much Monty Python into one container?
EI: I think it was our wonderful manager, Jim Beach, who said it was time these came out again. There’s such a lot of wealth of material we’d completely forgotten about because we wrote it only for the album. It’s nice that they’re out again. I actually haven’t had time to listen to it, but I’m looking forward to it because I think there are some hidden treasures in there.
MR: How do you feel the records compared to the TV show? Did they bring out some other elements of Monty Python that the show couldn’t?
EI: It started out just being a BBC record of the highlights of the first series or maybe the first two series. We did it in front of a live audience and it was material that was pretty much familiar to us anyway. All the other albums were created as records and that meant that people wrote fresh material, there’s no visual element to it that’s missing, it was for audio only. We used it to play gags like the three-sided album, which is, sadly, very hard to reproduce.
MR: It was so confusing to try and land the needle on the right side!
EI: We wanted to just blow people’s minds when they put the second side on and it was completely different. We started both of the second sides with the same joke so they couldn’t tell which side they were going to get. It was always fun playing around with the form and trying to startle and surprise the audience.
MR: Monty Python was so influential globally, but you have to know that.
EI: Python has been influential. Interestingly, when we first came to America in 1973, we were known purely through our records. Buddha Records put them out and people didn’t know there was a TV series because it hadn’t been on American TV then. It was like Firesign Theater, where it was just for audio. It was quite fun.
MR: WNET, the PBS in New York aired Monty Python… and it was so outrageous for the time period. I remember watching an episode with my father who tried unsuccessfully to make it through a full episode. As he left the room, he turned to me and said, “Well, one thing’s for sure. These boys are pretty angry.” [laughs]
EI: I think there’s a truth in that. I think comedy is anger, and its expression in a very healthy form.
MR: So there’s a therapeutic element of it for you!
EI: Comedy is very therapeutic, because it says things you don’t really expect to hear. I think it’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes, with the kid going, “Look, he’s not wearing anything!” I think that’s what comedy does really well; it exposes hypocrisy and says, “You really shouldn’t take these people that seriously. They’re foolish, the lot of them.”
MR: One of the amazing things about Monty Python’s Flying Circus was what you each brought to the mix to complete the picture. You all were stars in your own right and all of your talents were on full display, yet there was no single star. So how did the creative mechanics of this venture work?
EI: John Cleese was a star because he’d done The Frost Report. He was very famous in England, but instead of doing a show like Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, he didn’t want to do his own starring show. I think that’s very interesting about him; he wanted to do a gang show. He and Graham [Chapman] were watching a show that Mike [Palin], Terry [Jones] and I did called Do Not Adjust Your Set and he said, “Let’s get these guys.” But when we came to writing material, it was always the whistle test. You had to read it out and if people laughed, it was in and if they didn’t laugh, we’d sell it to The Two Ronnies.
MR: Were there any routines where, once you acted them out, they were even funnier than how you conceptualized them?
EI: The interesting thing about the group is it’s a group of writers. I don’t think there’s ever been such a group before, where the writers have final say. We’re always trying push it and not be the same old BBC comedy show, which is why we use that phrase, “And now for something completely different,” which was used perfectly seriously on comedy shows and then they’d have somebody singing a song. There was always a component of light entertainment in British comedy TV shows. I think we were able to circumvent that and mock it, too.
MR: Is there a particular album you admire most?
EI: Everybody would take turns to do various things. Often, the records were produced by Mike and Terry. I didn’t get into producing records until Matching Tie & Handkerchief. John Du Prez and I were working on it and we encouraged people to put songs in it, which was a different move for Python. Then, finally, I got to edit all of the Python songs together on Monty Python Sings, which is our best-selling album by about a factor of ten because you can hear a song again, but you can’t hear a sketch again. “I’m not going to put ‘The Cheese Shop’ on again, I’ve heard it once. I’m going to laugh, but I’m not going to laugh more the second time.” But with a song, you can hear it again.
MR: Speaking of singing, you re-recorded “The Galaxy Song” only with Stephen Hawking this time around. How did that come together?
EI: It came about because of ‘O2 and the show we put on last year. Brian Cox is a friend of mine and he’d be going on and on about how some facts of “The Galaxy” are not accurate. That’s mainly because it was written in 1982. Thirty years have gone by and we now have better understanding of how many billions of stars there are and what the distances actually are. He’d always go on a nitpick about that, so I wrote a bit for him where after we sang the song, he’d come on and start to pull it to bits. Then he gets run over by Stephen Hawking, and it made me laugh so much, the idea of Brian Cox being run over by Stephen Hawking that I said to Brian, “Do you think he’d do it?” He said, “I’ll email him!” He got a reply in ten minutes saying, “Yes!” [laughs] So we had the brilliant pleasure of going up to Cambridge for a day and filming with him. Next week, they’re going to show that documentary Monty Python Live where you actually see us going in. We had already got him saying the lyrics and we added music and tempo and adjusted things and we play it to him and you just see him smile. It’s just really sweet.
MR: That sounds like another amazing off-the-scale moment for you. Some of your songs especially are so well-known and loved that singing them–especially “The Lumberjack Song”–practically was a ritual for every kid growing up. What is your explanation for Monty Python’s popular culture resonance?
EI: I don’t know. One thing we always agreed on was it would never go in America. We were convinced that that was so, but some American producers came and asked us if they could buy the format and we all had a good laugh and said we don’t have a format. So I said, “Let’s sell it to them anyway.” We really thank PBS. PBS made it popular and it was on in every city in every part of America. It would still not be on network TV. It’s largely thanks to PBS. Nobody measured the people watching PBS except in Dallas, where when they first put it on they got these enormous figures suddenly. Dallas was the first place to put it on.
MR: Could one of the reasons Monty Python was so popular with kids be that teachers turned their students on to the show? I remember one of my high school english teachers took our class on a field trip to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
EI: I think the playground is the first place where kids start to say, “Did you see that show last night?” and Python really was a classic cult show. It had a tiny audience, really. It was late on a Sunday night in England and people go, “What’s this?” It’s kind of amazing that it’s in ninety-two countries now. It’s mind boggling. The Russians watch it, the Japanese watch it, the Czechs watch it, the Hungarians watch it. It was saying something kind of silly about humanity, I think. I guess in a way, it was also about Television, which was certainly new in England. It reflects the television culture, which is not the only culture you there that is left.
MR: What do you think about some of Monty Python’s now classic skits after all of these years? The exploding penguins, the silly walks, the Cheese Shoppe, the lumberjacks…
EI: It’s a funny, sort of strange parody of bureaucracy and politics, really, the silly walks. The idea that you would have a whole department of silly walks, there are just as equally silly departments doing silly things. The Penguin is just completely, wonderfully absurd. Now it’s time for your penguin on top of your television set to explode.
MR: As far as comedy in films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, …Life Of Brian, and …The Meaning Of Life really pushed boundaries. I always hoped there would be a next one. By the way, why wasn’t there a next one?
EI: We found that there aren’t many great subjects left. When we wrote and filmed Meaning Of Life in 1982, that’s sort of the last time we performed together until ‘O2. It is a young person’s game, that sort of sketch comedy. You begin to want to write longer pieces–well, we did write movies, but it’s harder to write a movie with six people. It’s just harder because you get the characters and a plot and all of those things that you need in long form are harder to do in a group whereas what we used to do was just dash out funny bits and stick them together and find themes that link them and exploit the random quality of it but appearing to make them connected.
MR: Then again, you quickly went into a smaller format with Rutland Weekend Television that gave birth to The Rutles.
EI: Yeah, but nobody had parodied The Beatles. They were gods. This was 1977, so they were all still alive, it hadn’t become where everybody’s lives were somewhat tragic in parts. It sort of just took the story, which is a great story, of these guys who come out of nowhere and just take the world.
MR: Speaking of The Beatles, George Harrison practically became a member of your troupe.
EI: He was such a huge fan of Python and all rock ‘n’ roll people sort of were, really. We were the ones who weren’t playing instruments, but we’re all of the same generation, that sixties generation, except our thing’s comedy. We kept together a pretty good time. We started in ’69 and ended in ’82. That’s a pretty good run for a bunch of guys who are going to get married and have their lives. I think we did pretty good holding together.
MR: Eric, what advice do you have for new artists?
EI: I think what you do is you start out copying people you love. We copied Beyond The Fringe and The Goons and then you get into the rhythms and you start to write your own versions. I think you have to learn somebody funny and understand what’s funny and then try to find your own voice.
photo credit: Andy Gotts
MR: Do you feel like Monty Python completed its mission? Are you satisfied with Monty Python’s legacy?
EI: I think we did good. I’m most proud of the fact that we actually got together in our seventies and actually went and did a farewell show. I think that’s fairly unlikely. I think all of us would have said, “No, that’s never going to happen,” but then under the circumstances, there we were just doing it. It was kind of fun and sweet and tender and touching. It was a great evening.
MR: I’ll never forget watching the reunion, seeing the urn sitting there, thinking, “Oh my God, no!”
EI: We did a great joke with the urn at one comedy festival where we kicked it over. That had four minute laughs on it. The audience just couldn’t believe we had gone there. We were sweeping it up and getting vacuum cleaners and brushing it up. It was good fun.
MR: So when’s your next farewell tour?
EI: I think it’s quite impossible. A, Michael Palin doesn’t want to do it and B, we just about got us in time. We’re kind of old and it’s a lot of hard work. I think we just found the best way to come together and do it for the last time. I think that’s got a lot of class to it. I think you won’t see all of Python going out again for sure. I think people won’t stop performing and doing their own things at all, because that’s what you do with your own life, but I think the unlikelihood of getting five people together–people always want you to write things, they don’t realize we live in different continents and rarely meet. You have to be together to write something, even if we had something we could still do, those time are gone. I wish there were more Beatles songs.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
ASCAP’S I CREATE MUSIC EXPO CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY
photo credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com 2008
According to the ASCAP gang…
“It’s the 10th Anniversary of The ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO. Twenty-five hundred songwriter and music industry hopefuls at all levels of their respective careers, come out to Los Angeles each year to experience this three day ASCAP EXPO experience. Over 60% of the attendees travel from all over the country and internationally.
photo credit: Rick Miller/MRES Photography 2010
“This is the only resource of it’s kind, and all are welcome. One does not have to be a member of ASCAP to participate. The Loews Hotel complex is buzzing with one-on-one opportunities, seminars, workshops, and live music simultaneously and all in one complex. Networking opportunities have garnered some amazing success stories [note: see below], and so much good information is imparted by top music industry professionals.
photo credit: Brian Dowling/Invision for ASCAP//AP Images 2013
“Over the years, music icons Tom Petty, Kary Perry, Jeff Lynne, Dr. Luke, Quincy Jones, Justin Timberlake, Ludacris, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, and so many more have taken part in this both creative and informative, 3-day experience.”
Aloe Blacc was already a performer/songwriter when he attended in 2010. He was inspired by hearing Bill Withers speak. “He is one of my great heroes. He was reciting lyrics of songs that he’s never released or even finished and it showed me that the creative spirit never ends. That’s what I can take to the grave: Whether there’s a career or not, you’re an artist for the rest of your life. You may not be a commercial product for the rest of your life, but at least you have your art with you.” http://www.ascap.com/eventsawards/events/expo/news/2013/09/aloeblaccrecountshisasca pexpoexperience.aspx
PJ was also discovered at EXPO by panelist Shawn Barron who was in A&R at Atlantic Records. She’s now signed to Atlantic and has a pub deal with BMG. Since signing to Atlantic in the first half of 2014, she’s penned infectious singles for Meek Mill (“I Don’t Know”), Wiz Khalifa (“True Colors” ft. Nicki Minaj), and B.o.B (“Not For Long” ft. Trey Songz). She will be an EXPO panelist this year as well (Sat Building Your Team) http://www.ascap.com/eventsawards/events/expo/2015/schedule.aspx
Mindkilla is a rapper/producer who was introduced to Malik Yusef at the iStandard show a few years ago. Here’s a description of what happened from Mindkilla’s publicist:
“Rosaline is the title track off my new EP. The song is about losing a close friend due to romantic tensions. It’s one of the few songs that I’ve fully written on the piano, and one of the first that felt like it needed to be on piano to fully capture what I was going for. My close friend Ben Klein shot and directed the video, and Mary Kerrigan did the sound. Anna Beckerman and Julia Foote are featured on background vocals. I am very excited about the way that it came out.”
Scott will be performing at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall on May 1st.
SCOTT MICKELSON’S “HERCULES & IRON MAN” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Christopher M Howard
According to Scott Mickelson…
“‘Hercules & Iron Man,’ which draws parallels between the struggles of mythological heroes and the struggles all of us face every day, seems to strike a nerve lots of folks. Whether we’re leaping tall buildings or pushing a stroller down the street, it can sometimes take all our strength just to make it through the day. We succeed and many times fail but we do what we need to do. “Hercules” has become a heavily requested song on Flickering. My buddy Jeff Campbell who sings on the record and who has performed it with me many times did me the favor of coming to my studio to capture it in an honest, stripped down, manner. Thanks Jeff!”
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International best-selling singer, songwriter and musician, Melody Gardot, is back with her 4th studio album, Currency of Man. The highly-anticipated Currency of Man is an intensely creative milestone, transcending musical distinctions of jazz, blues and R&B, to offer a stirring social and musical statement. On the new album, Melody joins forces again with Grammy Award-winning producer Larry Klein. This striking musical partnership saw their last collaboration, 2009’s My One and Only Thrill sell over 1.5 million copies, and produce songs that have become modern classics. Currency of Man marks a substantial leap forward indeed, as we see Gardot take her gift for songwriting in a completely different direction to her last record, the critically acclaimed release The Absence.
Melody explained, “Every album is a journey and this disc in some ways is a leap into the unknown. After spending time in LA, the songs all became about the people I’d meet, people who were experiencing life on the fringe.”
About her song “Preacherman,” Melody revealed, “The song (Preacherman) is inspired by the story of Emmett Till. It talks about his life, but more importantly it centers on the idea that racism is not dead. Sixty years ago he died, the same way that Trayvon Martin died–for nothing–and to put it plainly, I’m tired of it. The lyrics recount this young boy’s story, as it deserves to be told and remembered, but more importantly the song also begs the question ‘How many times do we have to repeat ourselves before we learn from our mistakes?'”
photo credit: Dean Stockings
A Conversation with Boy George
Mike Ragogna: George, you’ll be premiering a new reality series. How is this going to work?
Boy George: Well, it’s something I’ve been asked to do before, it’s not the first time I’ve been approached but it really wasn’t something I’d ever really considered in the past. It’s not something I would think of doing in the UK because we just don’t have it down like you guys do. We tend to work the American ones, and they’re the popular ones. Somehow the other way around, it sort of works. When you do an interview in the UK, the first question’s always something really depressing like, “Tell us about the worst point in your life.” [laughs] That’s the starting point and you think, “Where’s it going to go from here if that’s your first question?” “Tell me when you were most unhappy.”
No, I’m in a really good mood! I feel like I’m in quite a happy place. I invest a lot in happiness. One of the things I love about L.A. is there’s a lot of positivity there. I hope that will come across in the show. But no one really knows what it’s going to be! I asked that question very early on, but it’s one of those things where until you turn on the cameras and put all the characters in place and do it you really don’t know what it’s going to be. If you watch an early episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians it’s very different to what it is now. I think part of the excitement for me is that I really don’t know what it’s going to be.
MR: According to your quote, I think we have a hint of what it’s going to be like. “If Marge Simpson met Dolly Parton and went dancing with Ziggy Stardust.”
BG: [laughs] That’s just what goes on in my head! That’s obviously just a colorful quip, but I guess how hard can it be to be myself?
MR: Nice. So we’ve seen the entertainer Boy George as a solo artist, as a member of Culture Club, and you’ve participated in other creative configurations. So who really is Boy George these days?
BG: I like to think I’m a little more chilled out. As I said earlier, I invest a lot in being happy, it’s a big thing for me. I want to bring people into the creative process. I’ve got lots of exciting projects coming up. But eventually it’s really just me being me. I’m a Gemini, there’s a lot of personalities going on. [laughs] I’m approaching the change, as well. [laughs]
photo credit: Dean Stockings
MR: Is it possible this series is a vehicle for your own rediscovery?
BG: I think, in a funny way, I’m more creative now than I’ve ever been. I’m having a kind of creative Renaissance. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a platform to bring all of that stuff to public attention.
MR: I know you’re still putting the pieces together, but how do you think your series might differ from other reality shows?
BG: That is a really big question. I’m not sure how we’ll change it up. Obviously I’m me, and those other shows don’t have me. As far as I know I’m not a Kardashian. If you compare The Kardashians to The Osbournes, it’s a totally different vibe. The Osbournes have that great British explosive emotion. The Kardashians are a little bit more calm. Even when they’re getting annoyed they’re quite linear and they’re quite controlled. I don’t know if I’m like that, I’m probably going to find out a lot of stuff about myself.
MR: How do you feel about your contributions to music and pop culture to this point?
BG: It’s an ongoing process for me. In a funny way, I’m more excited about what I’m doing now than I was twenty years ago. I’m very into now. The past has allowed me to be who I am right now and I’m very grateful for that, but I think it’s important to have a healthy respect for the past but not to wallow in it. Now is always the most exciting time. I just feel that I’m ready for a new adventure and something quite extreme, something quite different to what I’ve been doing. Coming to America, uprooting myself from the UK, it’s going to change the alchemy of my life. I’m kind of excited by that.
MR: Beautiful. What advice do you have for new artists?
BG: I think you have to be really focused on what it is you want to achieve, you have to be able to take criticism and the knocks and all that and you’ve got to just stay focused. If you want it badly enough you will get there, but you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. I think you also have to operate from your heart chakra. You have to really come from your heart and soul. That’s how you connect with people. Whenever I’m working with young singers it’s the first thing I always say–connect to what you’re doing emotionally, that’s the key. That’s what makes people out there feel something and connect with you. I think that’s the most important advice I’d give anyone.
MR: What do you feel has been your biggest growth?
BG: I’m happy. [laughs loudly] I think the biggest thing of all is that I finally like myself. Not in a kind of egotistical, self-obsessed way, but I quite like being me now. I think it’s been a long struggle to get to the point where I’m pretty happy in my skin. I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years, I’ve become a bit more grounded, a bit more Zen. I feel pretty happy.
MR: And I hope you’re happy about making so many people happy throughout your career. So many really appreciate you and what you’ve added to their lives.
BG: Thank you, that’s a really sweet thing to say.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
DYLAN JAKOBSEN’S “CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE GONE”
photo credit: Matt Kennelly / Fort Vanity Photography
According to Dylan Jakobsen…
“I’m very excited for the release of my ‘Can’t Believe You’re Gone’ video. I’ve always been one who wants to go out and tell a story but this time I wanted to write something a little closer to home. As we get older, we realize the people we love are getting older and everyday you risk the chance of losing somebody close to you. This video is about remembering the time you spent together and honoring their memory. We shot ‘Can’t Believe You’re Gone’ in a small town about 100 miles southeast of Seattle. On the anniversary of his father’s death, a son heads to the cemetery to honor his dad and has flashbacks of some of his favorite childhood memories along the way.
“I wrote ‘Can’t Believe You’re Gone’ in mid-2014 after hearing the news that my close friends grandfather had passed away. I hope this song can mean as much to each person listening as it does for who its dedicated to and myself.”
RADIO ROOM’S “BETTER NOW” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Alex Hutchinson
According to Radio Room’s Robbie Murphy…
“‘Better Now’ was one of the last songs we worked on for the record. It was kind of floating about the writing sessions for a good two months before anyone said anything about it. It all started with that kind of synth-delay driven guitar riff, but it was so bad sounding at the start before we tweaked it up that we didn’t really think anything of it. When we went into the studio with it, we actually thought we were going to see it as the weakest song on track but we think it turned out to be probably the one we enjoy most on the album.
“Steve Albini was a gent to work with. We got on with him really well and learned a lot from the experience. Looking back on it, if there was a chance to just talk to him and not record an album, we would have still went over for that reason alone. He made the sound golden and gave us plenty of creative control, letting the album unravel naturally over the course of the recording sessions.”
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GOODNIGHT MOONSHINE’S “DARK SIDE OF THE RAINBOW” MASHES PINK FLOYD WITH THE WIZARD OF OZ
photo courtesy of Seth Cohen PR
The video of the song “Dark Side of the Rainbow” is a mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Time” from Dark Side of the Moon, and “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. Their aim is to pull back the curtain not only the urban legend of the Pink Floyd album but also to reveal the tension that often exists within a new marriage.
According to Eben Pariser…
“The whole thing emerged from the 90s phenomenon of syncing The Wizard of Oz movie to the Dark Side of the Moon album, and all the speculation that the coincidences were way too precise for Pink Floyd to not be in on it, especially since they were making movie soundtracks at the time. When I was 16 (after allegedly indulging in the stoner-sport of syncing the film to the album,) I spontaneously realized that ‘Time’ was in fact a perfect reharmonization of ‘Over The Rainbow’–but it took me 16 more years to find the right vehicle to record and perform the mashup, in my lovely wife Molly and our collaboration, Goodnight Moonshine.'”
According to Molly Ventor…
“We set out wanting to convince people that Pink Floyd intentionally synched the album to The Wizard of Oz. During the filming, we realized how closely the 2 sets of lyrics paralleled the different sides of a longstanding philosophical argument we’d been having; Venter believing that much in life is out of one’s control and that we must remain hopeful and optimistic, Pariser believing more in the power of individual will and action, and that missed opportunities are one’s own fault. Through the taping we recognized we were each trying to convince the other of our own life perspective. The video captures how painful that endeavor is. We’re a newlywed couple, letting you in on our life together through our music. All the good stuff, but also the dark stuff, challenging stuff–the stuff that often goes unsaid. No kitsch. And largely positive and healing through the revelation that we are at the core, just normal folks trying to make a marriage work. A positive loving relationship, and a deeply artistic and somewhat daring one.”
For more on : http://www.goodnightmoonshine.com
A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton
Mike Ragogna: Billy, your group The Boxmasters has been working on its double CD Somewhere Down The Road for a while now. How does The Boxmasters hit you these days as opposed to when you were just starting out with the group?
Billy Bob Thornton: In the beginning, we didn’t really know how long it would last. It was kind of like a side project for my solo stuff. We thought we’d make that record and maybe another one and that would be it. It began as a sort of stylized thing. We were experimenting with a combination of British Invasion and hillbilly music and putting them together and wearing the suits in tribute to the sixties, which is the era we love. The first two or three records were almost like art projects. Like I said, they were very stylized. If you remember the first Boxmasters record, it had transitional music, so it never stopped. We put an extra CD of covers in each record as a bonus, songs we loved and that inspired and influenced us.
After those records were done and we parted ways with Vanguard Records, we thought we’d gone as far as we could. Then all of a sudden, we just started writing songs and playing the way we naturally sound as opposed to trying for a specific thing. On the first record, we were doing Mott The Hoople, The Beatles, The Byrds and singing it like David Allan Coe. Then JD and Brad and I started writing these songs and we just played them the way we naturally sound. As it turns out, the reason we made this new record a double is because we sound like two things. We have that moody sort of dark, atmospheric sound, and then we have this very late sixties LA country rock sound in the vein of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Burrito Brothers, with some influence of Petty and people like that. We discovered that that’s who we really are. We’ve written probably two or three hundred songs that aren’t even on records; we’ve got five or six songs that have already been mastered that aren’t out. We’re just going to sell those records on the website because we’ve got so many. That sound on Somewhere Down The Road–on the first side especially–is kind of what those other songs sound like. We’ve kind of finally settled into that.
MR: Do you feel like you guys reached this point creatively because of what’s going on in your personal lives? Maybe you’ve “matured” in some ways, if that’s the right word?
BT: I think that’s a good word for it. We have matured as songwriters, musicians, singers, everything. I think you can’t help doing something for so long that you’re just going to get better. We’ve gotten better over the years. I think we have more confidence. We know we can write songs and we know we can write songs that people can respond to as opposed to whatever weird stuff is in our head that we experiment with. I think we have definitely matured. I think recording is probably my favorite thing to do in music. We love playing live, that’s a great thing, but being in the recording studio is such a part of our souls and so natural to us. I love acting, I love doing movies and I love music, I love them all equally, but I think I only like the process of actually doing the stuff. I love the process of recording, I love the process of doing movies as an actor, I just don’t like all the other junk that’s involved with it. So maybe in the recording studio, you just feel exempt from everything when you’re in there. It’s like you’re hidden in a cave somewhere alone doing what you’re feeling in the moment. I guess that’s why we recorded so many songs; we just keep going. Even ones that aren’t intended to come out maybe. We get an idea for a song that probably isn’t commercially viable but we record it anyway because we want to.
MR: The process is more important than an end result. How is your creative expression different or the same in the fields of acting and music?
BT: They both really do feed my soul. Not only are they both very cathartic–I know that word is probably very overused but they truly are–but I just love the artistry of both. The thing is you get to experience what’s in your mind in different ways. It feels the same inside, it’s just as good both ways, but you get to experience your art in a different way. But to me, they’re really the same thing, just expressed in different ways. I never expected to become and actor of any stature. It just kind of happened. Because of that I always approach things this way: I’d rather have a hundred or two hundred really hardcore fans than millions of fans who just treat it like anything else and you get slagged off half the time and some of them are sort of interested or some hate it and some like it. It’s that end result thing you were talking about. I don’t do anything with that in mind. I never expect that we’re going to have a hit and I don’t particularly care if we do. It would be wonderful, but that’s not why we do it. That’s not why I do anything in movies either.
MR: You talked about fans who would really “get” what you put out. Can you identify what that kind of fan is, what your core fans love about The Boxmasters?
BT: Generally, our fans are people who like an eclectic mix of things. They’re people who aren’t diehard rock ‘n’ roll fans or die hard country fans, it’s kind of hard to identify our music and I think it’s kind of hard to identify our fans. We tend to have fans that are either forties and fifties and up or twenty year-olds. It’s sort of that middle range in there, people from thirty to forty, I don’t think we have as many of them for some reason. That could be because of whatever time they grew up in. I think maybe people in that age range were sort of spoon fed a particular fashion statement and things were put in boxes more when those people were growing up, whereas when I was growing up everything was very eclectic. I listened to Hank Williams and The Mothers Of Invention in the same day, and the radio would play James Taylor and Black Sabbath on the same station.
I think maybe the reason we have some younger fans is because that’s sort of starting to come back around. A lot of people are really down on music right now, but I see that even sometimes people of my generation are the ones trying to fit into a mold more and more. You see guys who were singing Vietnam protest songs and now they’re on the cover of a magazine doing a duet with a pop star so they can remain current. I’m finding that some of the guys in the younger bands are real fans of The Boxmasters because they themselves are looking for their thing like we were in the sixties. So when they hear something slightly off the beaten path they really dig it. I actually have hope for music right now. I really do. I didn’t before. Everybody knows the eighties was kind of a bizarre generation. The nineties had a little resurgence but then it kind of went away for a decade or so, but I think it’s really coming back. People are looking for different things. People are listening to certain metal bands as well as Mumford and Sons or the Old Crow Medicine Show, people like that. I think it’s on an upswing. Also young kids, say teenagers up until young twenties, are discovering The Beatles and Buffalo Springfield and Aerosmith and whoever it was along the way. There are plenty of twenty year olds who listen to Deep Purple and Zeppelin and The Who and everything like that.
MR: Since you’re a pretty solid music expert, doesn’t understanding what went into making classic, high-quality albums make the process a bit intimidating for you? Like how do you balance striving for that caliber while just expressing yourself and letting creativity flow?
BT: I think it’s two things. One is never forgetting history. Never forget that history of all the great classic albums over the years, letting them influence you and not being ashamed to say, “Yeah, absolutely, we were trying to be The Beatles” or The Stones or The Animals or whatever, that’s our desire. The bar was set very high for people of my generation. We all wanted to be The Beatles and we knew we were never going to be, that it was going to be impossible. You’re always reaching for an impossible goal, so you never get lazy about it. You’re always striving and you’re always desperate for acceptance and approval and everything. When the bar has been set that high you just never stop trying. At the same time, a good part of that is you have such great music and songwriting to draw from, you let it wash over you and influence you.
The second part is that you have to remain open to new things. We’re not trying to just copy old stuff that we love. We’re knot like that. We’re truly not the old guys chasing the kids out of the yard. We really do respect the evolution of music. I think you have to be open, resect the evolution of music and at the same time hold on to your history. You put those two things together and it’s very satisfying to you. Whether anybody is going to respond to it or not, that’s up to them. We have no control over it, but for us, if we accomplish those things, always striving to get better, always striving to be open to new possibilities and yet never letting our history die in our minds, the best of you comes out and you know at the end of the day that you’re not leaving any stone unturned. It’s very satisfying.
MR: These two CDs represent a fraction of the songs that you’ve recorded. So what was the assembly process like that led to this particular album?
BT: We were writing new songs to make an album, but when you’re writing songs, one day you may not feel a song that’s in that vein, so you write something else. It’s like, “Well, that doesn’t belong here. I love the song but it just doesn’t belong in this particular group of songs that we started.” So we took the maybe twenty or so songs that we had that were new and said, “Wow, we’ve only got five of these jangly, Byrds-like LA rock songs and we’ve got seven of these moody things. That doesn’t make one album.” So we went back into some of the songs we’d written before. I think the earliest ones on this record are from 2010. There were two or three of those that exactly fit what we were doing now. We had started writing this whole record of very sixties-like songs using a Farfisa Vox Continental Organ, and we said, “You know what? If that organ was a B3 instead those songs would totally fit this record.” So we had Teddy Andreadis, our keyboard player, just come over and replace the Farfisa with a B3 and suddenly they belonged on the album. Once we got those songs together, the label people, Mark and Tammy Collie who signed us to 101 Ranch Records, had certain favorites that were in the moodier side. We side, “Gosh, we don’t want to put out just a moody record right now because we want people to hear these pop rock songs. Let’s ask them if we can do a double album.” They were all for it. I guess, as they say, it was no skin off their nose. We ended up saying, “Well look, these are the songs we love; let’s just make two records.”
So we wrote new songs and collected ones from other recording sessions that just fit and ended up with the two records we really wanted. The other five or six records that we had finished we didn’t want to break up because they fit together too. There are songs from all of those records that could’ve gone on this, and as a matter of fact some songs where we were like, “I wish we could put this on here, it really fits,” but we didn’t want to break those records up. As a result, we ended up saying, “We’ll sell those on the website at a later time.” We do have a real nice cult following, people who really love us. There aren’t a lot of them, but they’re great. We thought, “What we’ll do is we’ll even maybe put out five song or six song EPs of songs we don’t have enough of that style to make a whole record.” Some of them are even in demo form. We thought it might be interesting every now and then to put on the website a five song EP of songs that aren’t even finished, so people can hear what it’s like before, say, the lead guitar’s on there, or there’s no background vocals or something like that. Then later on, we’ll finish those and put them up finished.
MR: To me, the title track, “Somewhere Down The Road,” is the centerpiece of the album. For you, are there a couple of other tracks that are really important for the project?
BT: There’s a song on the first side called “This Game Is Over” which is a particular favorite of ours. On the moody side there’s a song called “What Did You Do Today?” which I think is what they’re putting out on Americana radio mainly and a song called “Somewhere” that we’re really in love with. It’s a very different-sounding song. It’s got a very different chord progression and I sing it slightly differently. But you love all your songs and you hope other people will, but sometimes you might have a favorite song that nobody else responds to and then you have another song where you say, “Eh, that’s kind of a standard song,” and everybody’s crazy about it. You never know. But “This Game Is Over,” a song called “Getting Past The Lullaby,” which I think is a beautiful song. Anybody who loves their mother is going to love that song.
MR: What do you feel about The Boxmasters’ legacy? When you look at this body of your work as well as the unreleased albums, what are your observations?
BT: I truly believe that if we had been twenty-five or thirty years old in 1968 or 1973, we would have been a huge band. I think we probably make music the way we do and with the passion that we do for thirty or forty years from now and not for today. I feel that someday, we will be an appreciated band, so I kind of look at it that way. We do it for ourselves and we do it the way we feel. We don’t craft anything tailor-made to be a hit, but I do believe that someday when people hear the thousand songs that we have I think some music geek is going to say, “Hey, you know what? I think these guys are worth their salt.”
MR: Billy, what advice do you have for new artists?
BT: I would say first and foremost learn the history. It’s like for you, as a journalist and as a writer, someone who is a fan but also makes a living at it, if you didn’t know who Walter Cronkite was, or Edward R. Murrow or Mark Twain or Jim Morrison or Chuck Berry was, if you weren’t real familiar with them, then you don’t have the education that it takes to truly be an artist. I would tell them, “Don’t just look at what’s shiny and bright in front of you right now. Always learn your history.” Also, if you’re a singer or a guitar player or whatever it is, even if your intention is to become famous doing whatever’s popular, if you’re content to let someone else write the songs and you just be the artist, I would say still write anyway. Even if you don’t intend to put it out there, even if you don’t feel it’s good, I think writing is an exercise that just makes you better whether it’s ever going to be seen or heard by the public or not. And write it from your heart and do it the way you feel it. Don’t try to copy anybody. Even if your life is going to be about copying and becoming popular and doing the current thing, I think it’s still important to create what you naturally create. I think it makes you better as a human being and as an artist.
MR: Excellent. Now what’s your advice to yourself?
BT: I think probably the number one best piece of advice for myself, and it’s so hard to do, is to ignore the comments of the now millions and millions of critics. Now with social networks everyone has an opinion and if you rub them the wrong way there’s not anything you can do about what they’re going to say. There’s seriously nothing you can do. So in other words, if they’ve got a bee up their ass about you, let’s say you say something stupid in public and it gets on the news, what an ass you are, if you apologize publicly, which has become a popular thing–“I’ll apologize to everyone”–they’ll say, “Oh, he only did that to help his career.” If you don’t apologize, then you’re an asshole for not apologizing. In other words, I’m trying to learn that there’s not a thing I can do about the people that hate me on the internet. Nothing.
As an artist, you’re sensitive by nature, and probably a little unbalanced, so it gets to you more. I’m trying to learn how to not let my oversensitive nature overtake me and make me stick my head back in the cave and not want to put myself out there. You have to do it. There are a lot of people out there who suffer from this. A lot of people have made comments like this throughout history but I think Jonathan Swift said something like, “…if what a certain writer observes be true, that when a great genius appears in the world, the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” I think you just have to get used to the fact that you’re doing what you love and what you feel and you are at least doing it, so anybody who’s willing to stick their neck out–and I don’t care if it’s the silliest part on the silliest sitcom out there or the deepest Marlon Brando performance out there–both of those people have something in common. Both of them were willing to try.
In that sense, you can’t separate anybody in the entertainment business, no matter if they’re a lightweight or real heavy. If you make a silly, syrupy pop record or you make some masterpiece like Dark Side Of The Moon, the one thing those two have in common is that they both put their necks out of the cave. They’re both willing to do something, so you end up being talked about by people who are not doing anything. We have to pay attention to the people who do, not the people who talk about the people who do. That’s the biggest lesson for me.
MR: Wow. So are you looking forward to the tour as a way to get your head fully back into music for a while?
BT: Yeah, I really am looking forward to it, especially since I’m going out with Brad and Teddy and J.D.. They’re my friends. I don’t have a lot of close friends, I have a lot of acquaintances, but I’m going to be out there on a bus with guys who are my friends and who I spend time with anyway. There’s a certain family camaraderie there. The only bad thing about touring is it’s not a good place for the kids, on the bus and everything. My daughter Bella is now ten. She’s going to be eleven in September and I’m going to miss her a lot. It’s thirty five days, but thirty five days when they’re ten is a big deal. That’s the hardest part of touring. On a movie, it’s different, we just got back from New Mexico and the family went with me because you’re in one spot. On this you just can’t do it. And we’re not spring chickens, either. It’s not like when we were younger. I used to rodeo and I could sleep in the front of a truck while some guy’s driving. It’s not like that anymore. We all try to take all of our vitamins and get ready to go.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with The Boxmasters’ J.D. Andrew
Mike Ragogna: J.D.! You good?
JD Andrew: I’m good! I’m trying to shake the nerves of getting ready to go on tour. I haven’t had a tour where I left my kids for longer than four or five days, so that’s a little nerve wracking right now. Last time I didn’t have any kids when we went so I didn’t have to worry about it.
MR: What’s it like juggling your music duty and being a new dad?
J.D.: Most of the time it’s not too bad. Billy sold his house a couple of years ago, so we don’t have the studio in the house anymore, so we don’t work six days a week fifteen hours a day anymore. If I had the kids and we were still doing that schedule I would probably shoot myself. It’s a lot easier time now, we just go and record when we have some songs or have some time. It’s a lot more relaxing, especially when the kids don’t sleep at night.
MR: So this new album is a double CD, which is pretty ambitious. How did you approach this one? You recorded it progressively over the last few years, right?
J.D.: Mostly. This one was done mostly at Henson studios, some of it was done over at Billy’s house previously, but it started in about 2013 sometime. Brad and Billy wrote “This Game Is Over” and “Sometimes There’s A Reason.” I would call those two songs the touchstones for at least the first CD. They’re all original, both CDs. The first one is kind of more rock ‘n’ roll and jangly sixties country rock stuff and the second one is more of the moody singer-songwriter stuff, more like Billy’s Beautiful Door record, using his Warren Zevon influences and doing that sort of thing. I would say three quarters of this stuff was all done in the past two or three years. Some of it is from five years ago. When we initially met with 101 Ranch they were like, “Give us a record! We want to put it out.” We had so much back catalog material and records finished we initially started just picking songs from everything but we said, “We really want to keep these other records together and release those as they are at some point,” so we said, “Why don’t we just do a double record?” and the label went, “Sure, why not?” That was in some ways easier for us, to concentrate on two different sounds, the two different things that we do rather than figure out how to mix the two together.
MR: How has the band evolved sonically?
J.D.: The other projects were more hyper-stylized. We were really going for the combination of the early sixties/hillbilly/British invasion stuff. We made very definite guidelines on what were going to do, what we weren’t going to do, what equipment we would use, things like that. As we’ve evolved we’ve evolved into playing how we play naturally. It’s still got all of those sixties influences, it’s just a little more–I don’t even want to say “modern,” it’s just a little more relaxed in its stringency to those kinds of rules that we set before. It’s kind of jangly rock ‘n’ roll.
MR: So it’s like Boxmasters 2.0.?
J.D.: Yeah. Brad Davis is playing lead guitar on this stuff, we had another guy on those first couple of records. Not that they do a lot of things differently, it just is a version two. Brad Davis and Teddy Andreadis are now official Boxmaster members. We’re a four-piece as far as documentation goes. We’ve got six guys on the road. It’s just become more of a straight rock ‘n’ roll band at times with crazy moody psychedelic stuff in it.
MR: How are you going to perform this project on the road? And what have you learned from being on the road that you’re now applying to Boxmasters’ music?
J.D.: We’ve always kind of been a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll band on the road. We sound big, we play loud. Right now it’s two electric guitars, an organ, a bass player, a drummer, and Billy’s out front and we just try to fill it up, but this time we are doing some shows at smaller venues where we’re going to do a slightly more stripped-down version of ourselves where there’s some acoustic guitars and some stools, which we’ve never really done before. We’re going to play some of these songs where we get more moody and slow.
MR: J.D., what have you found Billy’s favorite environment for a Boxmasters show to be?
J.D.: Billy wants a big show. He wants a place where we can have a good light show. Basically the thing he doesn’t want to do in any place, no matter how big or small, is he doesn’t want to look like a bar band. We work really hard on putting these shows together and we want that to come across. There’s lighting and projections and fun stuff going on, we want a sound system that will actually play above the band so it sounds big. When he does these really moody songs, he sings in his low register and he’s got a very resonant voice, so sometimes you need a system to get it to come out. When you’re kind of whispering it’s hard to get it out to the people.
MR: How about you? What are your favorite kinds of venues?
J.D.: My favorite places that we’ve played have been punk clubs. I like to sound like The Replacements live. Basically, “Let’s have a train wreck and have a lot of fun doing it!” At the same time, we want the songs to have starts and endings that actually start and end together and not just devolve into chaos. But I like them to all be faster than they probably should be, and louder and trashier. That’s just my personal preference. We’re a tight band, we’ve got really good players, it’s a lot of fun to play with the guys.
MR: Do you prefer recording or performing more?
J.D.: I have so much freedom in the recording process as far as how we sound. That’s what I do. That’s my initial hat that I think of. Playing live is fun, but then I have to worry about how fat I am and getting up in front of people and looking like a complete loser. That’s the part I worry about.
MR: When you’re recording are you considering having to play these songs live?
J.D.: No, we don’t tend to think about that at all. When we recorded most of these songs, it wasn’t until August or September of last year that we were really thinking of putting these together as a record. Anything we’ve recorded was just because we felt like recording it. Billy’s like, “As long as I can get in the studio every few weeks or once a month I’m fine. Otherwise, I lose my mind.” Everything is just recorded as we feel at the time. There’s no other outside influences like playing live or anything. The tempos are whatever is right for him to sing to and the rest of the instrumentation is mostly whatever our strengths are. I play the jangly stuff, Brad plays the fancy lead guitar stuff, Teddy does the keyboards and Billy’s the drummer, that’s it. Whatever fits whatever song is being done at that time is what we do.
MR: Do you have a couple of favorites on the project?
J.D.: I think every one of us would agree that “This Game Is Over” is one of our favorite songs, sonically, lyrically, vocally. It’s just really a great song. Another one of my favorites is “Somewhere Down The Road,” the last song and the title song of the record. That’s a song that was initially on another project we were kind of working out, kind of a concept record that we haven’t finished yet, so it just made sense that that song would go in this new batch. It’s one of the few songs that I actually remember writing. We wrote so many songs that I don’t remember the actual genesis of, but for some reason I remember when we wrote “Somewhere Down The Road” and how we did it. I’m trying to go down the list in my head. “Young Man’s Game” is my favorite one on the second side.
MR: I love that the concept of “sides” of a record has expanded into meaning two CDs.
J.D.: [laughs] Yeah.
MR: Which side would you listen to casually?
J.D.: I would probably drive to the first one and put the second one on at my house to do work. They’re just two different moods. The first one is much more of an exciting record for doing upbeat things and the other one’s a little more for doing introspective things.
MR: How has the writing experience evolved for you guys?
J.D.: We’ve done eight or ten songs since that record has been finished and we’re actually working more as a quartet on writing some of these songs. Most of the time, Billy will either have a chord or two that he’s plinked out on the guitar and maybe he has a lyric idea, he might have a whole lyric written. Some of the time, I have a whole track started or completely finished, other times I’ll just have some sort of riff idea. Really it comes from anything that gives us inspiration. It doesn’t take a lot, really, it’s just a couple of chords that make us perk up and go, “Hey, that’s something!” Then we’ll turn it into a song. Teddy brings all of his piano chords into the mix, so we’re trying to incorporate more of that along into what we do because it just gives it a little bit more different stuff. All that equals inspiration.
MR: Do you feel like the permanent addition of keyboard has shifted the focus of your approach?
J.D.: It’s not going to end up being a big sonic shift, it’s just anything that gives us an inspiration. Teddy can add a couple of different weird chords into things. That’s what we’re always going for, just evolving into more weird chords.
MR: Does Billy’s schedule as an actor ever conflict with the band’s schedule?
J.D.: He says, “Let’s tour in April” and that’s when we go. Any time we have something band-related that’s going on that’s important he just tells his film manager that this is what we’re going to do. It’s not a lucrative position for him, but a lot of times they can reschedule. We haven’t had to deal with that before, because he wasn’t making a lot of movie projects for quite a while, which gave us years of constant recording. This is the first time he might actually have a bunch of projects going on. We’ve all got stuff going on, Brad’s got his own studio in Texas, he’s got to take time to close the place down and postpone projects, and Teddy’s always on the road playing with someone. I hang out with my kids most of the time when I’m not working with Billy. It’s good.
MR: So this has evolved in a good way for you all, time-wise.
J.D.: Yeah, everybody has other things they do. It’s just a matter of, “Hey, are you available this time?” “Yeah, I am,” “Great, let’s get together and do something.” It’s not the other three of us sitting around and going, “Man, I can’t wait until we can tour again.” It’s whenever it’s good for all of us. We’re excited to make it all happen.
MR: J.D., what advice do you have for new artists?
JD: My advice is to not chase whatever trend is going on and try to sound like everyone else. Take the people you are inspired by and start digging into who inspired them, and then find out who inspired them. Get back to the root of the music that you love. It might surprise you as to what was the genesis for somebody else’s inspiration. I’m sure Billy will say this too–learn your history. There’s so much of it that’s being lost, we have to hold on to it and learn it and teach it to others. Use that history and use it to inspire you to make music that is personal to yourself and not just whatever the next hot thing is that’s going to get you on American Idol.
MR: Nice. Do you think that’s what people are taking away when they listen to a Boxmasters project?
J.D.: I hope so. They should know that it’s heavily influenced by the past. We’re trying to bring it to new audiences, especially with the older cover stuff. Bring it to new audiences who might say, “I really like that song by Webb Pierce, I want to go listen to more of that,” and then they go and find Del Reeves or Merle Haggard or The Boxtops or anybody like that. Find things that are inspiring and might lead them to new creative heights.
MR: Musically, is there anything out there that surprises you anymore?
J.D.: I constantly feel like an idiot because there’s so much stuff that I haven’t heard. I hang out with Brad and Billy and Teddy and they are insane in their knowledge. It makes me feel like I don’t know anything. It makes me feel like I have to be constantly learning and looking into doing other things so I don’t feel like a complete idiot. These guys know so much history, it’s inspiring. Everyone really is influenced at their core level by other things. Brad grew up as a bluegrasser, Teddy grew up more of a rock ‘n’ roll, R&B kind of guy, Detroit via New Jersey. I’m also a little bit younger than those guys, I started learning a little bit later than them. Even though I was years behind my time I haven’t caught up. I’ve still got a lot to learn.
MR: What kind of a legacy do you want The Boxmasters to have?
J.D.: Basically I want people to listen to the music and read the lyrics and see that there’s a whole lot going on. Some of it’s poppy, bouncy, good time-sounding stuff but there’s really deep thoughts and stories and things going on that are a lot deeper than they might think. I want people to know, “Hey, that’s Billy singing,” he really is a great vocalist, a great storyteller, and all those crazy girl harmonies that you’re hearing in there, that’s him, too. I think I’m the boring underneath stuff that’s not the stuff you listen to and go, “Wow, that’s fantastic,” but he does all the high stuff that I can’t even reach anyway. There’s a lot going on in these records even if it just sounds like some guys bashing away. And it’s all played, there’s not machines going on. This is all how they used to make records in the old days. That’s what we do. We don’t use tracks live, we just play songs. That’s why we crash and burn at times.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
LINES WEST’S “PERFECT PAIR” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Ryker Kallas
According to Brian Larney…
“Lately, John and I have been talking a lot about some of the great songs of the late 60s and 70s a la Badfinger or Paul McCartney. The sound of those records and the song craft on them is just mind blowing. In every song there’s a killer hook! I had the idea of “Perfect Pair” kicking around for a while and it seemed to just beg for an arrangement that reflected our enthusiasm for that sound.”
Lyrically, it’s really about a pedestal and a plea. I can remember a few times finding myself in one of those -the quintessential unrequited situations yet I remain an optimist. The song ends with ‘I can take you anywhere. We’re two of a perfect pair’…I guess I’m just hopeless.”
DOUG BURR’S “NEVER GONNA BE YOUNG AGAIN” EXCLUSIVE
photo courtesy Tell All Your Friends PR
According to Doug Burr…
“We wanted this one to be jangly, Buddy Holly sounding. The music is kind of at odds with the story on this one–which is nothing new in the folk music world of course, the idea of a soldier living through war. Musically it stands out a bit on the record, but the subject matter was spot-on, and that song had received such strong audience response when playing it live. I’d been including that one in some live shows, since about 2012. So it felt like it needed to be a part of this record.”
Mike Ragogna: Toby, you’re about to tour in support of your latest album Every Kind Of People. Now that there’s been a little distance between its release and this tour, how have these songs matured or evolved since they’re recording?
Toby Lightman: I have been playing some of the songs off this new record for a while now, but they never get old to me. These songs in particular resonate daily for me. I think as I get older and more comfortable with how I feel, I am able to relate more to them. I have older songs that I feel that way about too and relive that same emotion or feeling every time I play them, but not all of them. I feel that with every new song that’s on this record.
MR: What was the creative and recording process like?
TL: It was really challenging! It took me a while to figure out who to record with. I had a style in mind, which was a fusing together of where I started in more pop/R&B with the more organic blues that I gravitated towards. It was hard to find the right producer who was hearing that sound in his head. Once I found that producer, all of the musicians that he gathered were totally on board with what I was after musically. I’m really pleased with the way it all turned out…although it took a hot minute.
MR: Which musical acts inspired you when you were young and when did you decide you wanted to make music as your career?
TL: I have to say, I grew up listening to a lot of different types of music. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Fugees, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder. I never had one favorite, I like them all for different reasons. The moment I decided to pursue music was when I finally had the courage to sing in front of an audience. I had been singing in choirs, in large group settings, but hadn’t really sung more than a line or a solo, until my music teacher asked me to audition to sing the solo at my high school graduation. I ended up getting the solo and sang a whole verse of the gospel version of “Bridge over Troubled Water.” That was the first time anyone had heard me, my family, my friends, my schoolmates. I was shocked by their reaction to my voice, that I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue, it was something that I had to pursue. An interesting lesson to learn after singing in front of almost 1,000 people!
MR: You’ve had many song placements over the years in such high profile TV shows and films as Vampire Diaries, Bones, One Tree Hill, and many others. When you as the artist have major success in that arena as opposed to with your project releases, does that affect how you approach creating music or the energy dedicated to one format over the other?
TL: I try not to let it control the creative process. I think when it first started happening, I would try to write songs that were “placeable.” But over the years, I’ve learned how to fuse the two goals together of having songs that appease my own need for emotional release and songs that can get placed. When I’m writing, I’m always looking for inspiration. Sometimes that will be my own experience, but sometimes I am able to take a brief and put myself in that role and feel what they’re feeling. It’s just another way for me to channel a feeling. But it always ends with a genuine feeling from me.
MR: Which are your favorite Toby Lightman recordings from over the years?
TL: I have to say my favorite songs are usually the ones I’ve written strictly alone. I have co-written quite a bit because sometimes you need a little push. A push for a better lyric or a push just to write in general. But when I’ve sat down alone and was able to channel an emotion, those will always be the songs that I connect with the most. “Everyday,” “Better,” “Bumps in the Road,” “You’re Welcome,” “When You Ran.” These are just a few of the songs that sometimes I have a hard time getting through because they cut a bit deeper. I know it sounds cheesy…
MR: How do your stage appearances differ from how you approach recording? What do you bring to the live format that isn’t captured on recordings?
TL: Being on stage is so different. I love both process’ the same really. But there is nothing like being on stage. It’s so primal. You have no time to overthink, no time to redo mistakes. You have no choice but to lay it all out on the line. When I’m on stage, I take more chances vocally because I want to feel something different. Every time I perform, it’s a new experience. I also am a self-deprecating idiot in between songs to counter the heaviness of the lyrics that I’m singing. And most of the time that’s not to appease my audience, it’s almost more to make me feel comfortable with how much I’m opening up emotionally in front of everyone!
MR: Do you have any favorite venues that you like to perform in?
TL: I LOVE Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Dakota Jazz in Minneapolis, World Cafe in Philly, Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta… There’s a bunch. I like anywhere my fans like to be really!
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
TL: Get out there. Write songs. Play shows, play open mics. Don’t just try and be famous. I see so many people trying so hard to just be famous and spend no time on making their talent as good as it can be. You can push your way to the top, but if there’s nothing behind the curtain, it ain’t happening. Talent and good music will always come first for me when I’m discovering new music.
MR: What’s coming up beyond the tour?
TL: A cookbook? No, just kidding. Well sort of. I already have plans to put out a bunch of other music and am excited to get started on different projects. But I just shot a video for the song “Your Welcome” and am psyched to release that next!
DANIELLE NICOLE’S “YOU ONLY NEED ME WHEN YOU’RE DOWN” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Marina Chavez
According to Danielle Nicole’s camp…
“Written in New Orleans by Danielle Nicole and GRAMMY® Award-winning producer/guitarist Anders Osborne, ‘You Only Need Me When You’re Down’ is one of six tracks showcased on the ex-Trampled Under Foot singer/bassist/songwriter’s self-titled solo EP, set for release on March 10 via Concord Records. Influenced by artists as diverse as Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney, The Neville Brothers, Sarah Vaughan and Janis Joplin, Danielle calls her sound ‘blues-based roots.’ The video spotlights her versatility and range as she lays down the bass lines while also handling the vocals, with Mike ‘Shinetop,’ Jr. Sedovic on keyboards, Brandon Miller on guitar and Jan Faircloth on drums. A full length album is scheduled for release in late summer 2015, featuring more music created in New Orleans with Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Moore and Sedovic.
A Conversation with Rebecca Juliet
Mike Ragogna: Rebecca, your song “Damsel in Distress” is your latest single. The song is about empowerment, but have you ever at least felt like you were in that position and how did you push through it or change your self-perspective?
Rebecca Juliet: I’ve definitely been in situations where I am not empowered. Being catcalled on the street is one example. Just the other day, for instance, I was walking to a grocery store two blocks away from my apartment (by the way, wearing sweatpants), and was whistled at three times. I wish that I could say that such incidents are rare. These demeaning actions occur much too often to too many women, and aren’t a reflection on the victim, but rather the offender. Recognizing that such instances aren’t about me but rather about a system that gives the impression that my body is an object allows me to move forward and focus on making a positive change.
MR: For some, do you think it might be a matter of slipping into the “damsel” identity as opposed to doing the work to self-empower?
RJ: I don’t think that anyone would intentionally put himself or herself in a servile position; no one ever wants to feel lesser. That being said, that’s the way that women start out. Our society is an innately uneven playing field. I once saw a great comparison of women in our society being like bicycles on the road. Technically, the road is supposed to be shared equally between cars and cyclists, but it was made for cars, not for bicycles.
With that in mind, whether or not a woman wants to fit into a “damsel” identity, unless she is actively working to escape from that prescribed role, that’s where she begins and often where she will be forced to stay.
MR: The net sales of the recording from Amazon and iTunes are going to Girls Inc. Of New York City. Why that organization?
RJ: First of all, living in New York City, I wanted to find an organization in my area. There are opportunities for philanthropy everywhere, and I firmly believe that people can make the most change in a physical area that they know well, as working somewhere close to home means having an increased understanding of the needs of that community.
I chose Girls Inc. of New York City in particular because, as a student, I am keenly attuned to the importance of education of all kinds. Girls Inc. of New York City provides many types of education to underprivileged girls from all five boroughs. These programs range from economics to STEM fields to pregnancy prevention to media literacy to community service and to, I believe most importantly, the cultivation self-esteem.
MR: Bust Magazine called your song a Feminist Pop Anthem. I know they were only referring to the recording but do you consider yourself a feminist?
RJ: I absolutely refer to myself as a feminist. I know that some people shy away from using that word because being a feminist can be equated with misandry, or in colloquial terms, “man-hating.” But that’s a total misconception. Feminism is about creating equality between the genders, not about switching around a hierarchy. The goal of feminism is bringing the underprivileged up to the same level as those with power, not bringing the privileged down.
Everyone who sees women as equal to men are feminists, whether they would use the term or not (and I think that they should!). Feminism is an inclusive movement, intended to buttress the rights of every woman–including trans women. In my mind, there isn’t really a middle ground: there’s sexism, and then there’s feminism. Being complicit in a sexist system by not taking a stand against it allows for the perpetuation of that inequality.
MR: In your opinion, what needs to change to assure women’s equality in society, not just on a legislative level?
RJ: I think that changing people’s mindsets is actually the first step to guaranteeing women’s equality. Legislation is terrific, but that’s only half of the battle. If no one believes in what laws protect, they aren’t entirely helpful. What’s more important is inculcating the belief that women and men are inherently equal, and therefore deserve equal treatment in all spheres.
There are so many stereotypes in our society, and one of the scariest things about them is that many people pretend that there aren’t. Women are still expected to be thin and have long hair and shave and diet and have babies, but I always hear about how much society has improved. Yes, we are definitely better than we were fifty years ago, but I sure hope that in fifty years we’ll be better still. One of my friends has an amazing tee shirt that says, “I’ll be a postfeminist in the post-patriarchy.” Our world is still run by men in so many ways, and before legislation can truly support women, people need to recognize 1) that our society is still glaringly sexist, and 2) that’s something that everyone needs to actively work to change.
I believe that an obstacle to those realizations is the view that this movement is solely a woman’s movement. To make real change, we all–all genders, all races–need to see the feminist movement as a comprehensive struggle.
MR: Profits from the sales of your 2013 recording “Angel On Our Shoulder” went to charities benefiting Sandy Hook Elementary’s victims’ families. You seem to be socially active when it comes to charitable causes. Where did you get the awareness to become energized enough to champion these causes and topics?
RJ: I’ve lived in New York City my whole life, and I really do believe that living in such a socioeconomically divided city is part of what gave me this drive. It’s odd to be an area with apartments that are worth millions of dollars, and walk five blocks away and see a low-incoming housing project. Seeing the extremes of our society compelled me from a very young age to try to make a difference.
I also went to a full time Jewish school when I was younger, and I believe that having a religious education imparted the necessity of tikkun olam, repairing the world, in whatever way I can.
MR: What advice do you have for new or emerging artists?
RJ: It sounds terribly cliché, but I really do believe that kindness and helping others is one of the most important things in the music (or any) business. On a really nitty-gritty level, no one wants to work with someone who’s haughty or rude on set or in the studio. On a larger scale, I know that I’ve taken much more pride in my music because of its charitable element, so in that way, philanthropy has inspired me to keep going and keep pushing myself.
MR: What’s next on your agenda? Where would you like your musical career to be five years from now?
RJ: If you remember junior year of high school, you might not be surprised to hear that it’s pretty chaotic between schoolwork, SAT prep, and the college search. As a result, I haven’t had much opportunity to reflect on where I’d like to be with my music down the road. That being said, singing and philanthropy have been my passions for as long as I can remember, and I definitely want to continue to combine these passions by making more music that effects positive social change for years to come.
THE LEEWAY’S “IF ONLY” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Elena Montemurro
According to The Leeway’s frontman Pedro Barquinha…
“‘If Only’ is a song off of The Leeway’s self-titled EP. This sad ballad is an ode to commitment issues when it comes to relationships. It depicts a character who’s had trouble committing in the past and is now with someone who he probably likes more than anyone he’s been with before, but the old feelings creep up nonetheless making him unable to stay in the relationship. The song draws as much from the great Jazz songwriters as it does from Folk lyrically, and musically.”
And The Leeway’s camp adds…
“The Leeway are a Brooklyn based indie/folk band lead by Pedro Barquinha. By taking elements of Folk music such as dense vocal harmonies and an acoustic instrumentation of banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, and piano and then mixing it with intricate arrangements, The Leeway brings a sound that’s both innovative and fresh.”
Mike Ragogna: Beth, your new album is titled Better Than Home. So what’s better than home?
Beth Hart: “Better Than Home,” the song, is about getting out of your hiding place and having the courage to live as loud as possible. It is about feeling the life that has been given and has been waiting for you all along.
MR: “Might As Well Smile” makes a very good point about trying to stay optimistic through personal challenges, headlines and hypocrisy. To me, those are some excellent, tight lyrics. So how did you come up with this one?
BH: I was going through depression and struggling with powerful cravings to drink. I got so fed up with it that I decided to write something positive to help me realize that all I really have to do is fake it till I make it. I realized that I needed to smile anyway, and find all the wonder in life that’s certainly worth some gratitude. And it really worked. I started to come up out of it. I really love that song.
MR: What are a couple more of your favorite songs on the album and what are the stories behind their creations?
BH: “St. Teresa” is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the importance of grace. One of the many wonderful things she said was that the definition of having grace was to give love and help someone that you think does not deserve it. This, to me, is unconditional love–going beyond our judgment and cherishing anyway. The song was inspired by the film Dead Man Walking. It’s so brilliant. It carries such weight.
I also love “As Long As I Have a Song.” It’s my first time opening up about my absolute love for writing. I talk about how when writer’s block happens it’s not just frustrating, it’s terrifying to think that maybe the thing that helps me to heal and pray has possibly been taking away. This song reminds me to always, always, always value the gift of writing and to be so thankful for it.
MR: What was the recording process this time around and which lucky musical pals came to the party?
BH: We recorded in New York City, then mixed in Los Angeles. Ed Cherney mixed, Rob Mathes and Micheal Stevens produced, piano was Rob Mathes and myself, guitars were Rob and Larry Campbell, bass was Zev Katz, and drums were Charlie Drayton. We spent seven days in the studio and it was real cool. I was surrounded by great people…and how can ya not love New York?
MR: Speaking of pals, you recently did a project with Joe Bonamassa who adores you in my interviews with him. But the adoration doesn’t stop there. What’s going on with all this Beth Hart luv?
BH: Well, I hope he loves me because I love and adore all the musicians in his camp and the producer, Kevin Shirley. We’ve made two records now and a live DVD together…but it’s not that kind of love. I have a husband who’s the sexiest man that’s ever lived!! And I adore my Scotty more than anything and anyone, forever!!!
MR: Nice. How would you define your music these days?
BH: I call it Americana–rock, blues, soul, story teller, gospel, and sometimes a sprinkle of jazz–all the stuff Americans invented. The best.
MR: I’ve interviewed you like thirty times now, if by thirty, I mean twice. We’ve basically talk about your latest project, which, of course, we’re doing again here. But let me ask you about your roots this time. Which artists were you listening to growing up and what songs really got to you?
BH: I listened to a ton of different genres. From classical–Beethoven, to jazz–Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Anita O’Day, to reggae–Steele Pulse, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, to soul–Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, James Brown, Etta James, to blues–Howlin Wolff, Big Joe Turner, Robert Johnson, etc), to hard rock–Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Rush, Black Sabbath, Sound Garden, Alice In Chains, Tool, Les Claypool in Primus, to punk–Ramones, Black Flag Pattie Smith, to story tellers–Carol King, James Taylor, Ricky Lee Jones, Eagles, Tom Waits, etc.–and this long ass list could go on and on and f**kin’ on!
You know, sometimes the songs that really affected me were not from the artist catalogue of their music, like the song “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen. I never got into any of his other music, but that song to this day is in my top three lyrical masterpieces of all time. It so beautifully describes longing. It’s clever, but never reaching. It’s full of promise, but never a bullshit fairy tale. It’s the shit that writers should study on how to craft a great lyric. Also, The Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is perfect and so f**king true, but never preachy. There is a humility to knowing. I love it. The song “Summertime” is, to me, a musical feat. Just the music alone does it for me–soaring melodies, both gentle and powerful, like classical music, then a total blues style lyric over it. So fantastic. And last but not least, “Strange Fruit” by the great Billie Holiday and Nina Simone–genius!. This song musically is so gorgeous and DARK DARK DARK, which is so totally appropriate for the darkest of lyrics covering, in such a poetic way, the true depths of slavery, cruelty, and depravity. It’s brave, it’s honest, and it will never let us forget. It’s art.
MR: What are the stories behind the transitions from music fan to performing musician to recording artist?
BH: The transition from fan, to performer, to recording artist for me was like learning how to dive…and each board got higher and higher. I wanted so much to do it, but I was afraid I’d be hurt. Now I’m used to being hurt and I know it is part of it, and that’s okay, because it also brings such love and joy. It’s totally worth it every time.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
BH: The best advice I can give is to do it because you have to, and try to never rate yourself or your work based on others’ reactions. This is very important. It’s a gift to enjoy, not to get more and more. If more comes than that’s awesome, but if more never comes don’t ever let that determine your worth. Have faith in everything and everyone, including yourself.
MR: Though there seems to be a healthier environment these days with new or emerging artists taking control of their own careers as opposed for depending on major labels to propel them. Yet it’s virtually impossible to have a huge career without those labels’ support and coordination and contacts. If you were starting now, how would Beth Hart approach getting her music discovered?
BH: Oh I have no idea. I suppose I’d do what I did before, and that’s write and perform anywhere and everywhere constantly.
MR: How have your creativity and career evolved within a turbulent music scene’s sea changes?
BH: I honestly don’t focus on that, that’s what I have a manager and a label for. I have enough to jumble with taking care of myself and being creative. I also believe that God has me right where I’m supposed to be, always.
MR: So what surprises do you have waiting for the Beth Hart fans and newcomers?
BH: No surprises. I have a humble outfit, but we still give as much love and energy we possibly can each night. We play songs from all the records, so I always hope to make the audience feel very happy that they came.
MR: At this moment, are you where you want to be in your life?
BH: I really am enjoying and feeling so so grateful each day lately. This is a calm and peaceful time.
BUFFALO RODEO’S “BLUE SKY” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Adam Wolffbrandt (www.http://www.adamwolffbrandt.com)
According to Buffalo Rodeo’s Zach Preston…
“Blue Sky” is the first single off Buffalo Rodeo’s upcoming EP, 123 Water, out March 6th. The band recorded this EP in a warehouse-turned-recording studio space in Horse Cave, KY, where we ostracized ourselves in a small town in the middle-of-nowhere. From those warehouse sessions came the songs that make up 123 Water. “Blue Sky” for me is a song about personal and spiritual realizations that I’ve observed growing up in a conservative religious household. Many times it felt like too much emphasis was put on what happens after I die, when most of us aren’t in control or completely aware of what’s happening in reality. It’s ultimately about living for what’s in front of you, until you can grasp the rest. Personally I think the rest is important just not as worthwhile as simple ethical lessons of respect, decency, or appreciation for what we already have.
A Conversation with The Stone Foxes’ Spence Koehler & Shannon Koehler
Mike Ragogna: Spence, looks like you’ve got some “Locomotion” behind your Foxes First Fridays. See the lame thing I did there?
Spence Koehler: Ha! I’ll take it! It’s definitely been a fun new way of rolling out new songs, giving fans something fresh to look forward to at the beginning of each month. We’re happy to see that they’re into it too.
Shannon Koehler: More dad jokes please!
MR: [laughs] So this upcoming album, with one song being released a week over the course of a year when it will finally be released, will not only be a full album but somewhat of a travelog, also containing pictures, live recordings and more. How did the idea come about to approach your new album this way?
Shannon: It started a year and a half ago when we decided to add three old friends to the team, Brian “The Buffalo,” and Vince “Trish” Dewald, and Ben “Wang” Andrews. All three are multi-instrumentalist wizards, and as they joined one by one over that time, we jumped into the studio between tours to slowly develop our new sound. We play a live show that feels like we’re a high octane GT 500 engine, but we wanted to get that feel to translate to tape. We took the straight up rock n roll that all six of us love to play, and went through phases of punk, country, folk, and pop sounds. This collection is the documentation of that process. It’s nothing like the old school albums we’ve done before. With one song about heart problems and surgeries shortly followed by another about gentrification in SF, the songs all feel so different, but they come from the heart of the same rock ‘n’ roll band.
Spence: Plus, the way most people digest new music is shifting. We wanted to give everyone a fresh track each month that they could listen to for free. This method gave us an opportunity to feature each song for an entire month, which is rarely the case on a traditional record. For those who enjoy taking the time to listen to a record from front to back we are also going to release a full physical album, press vinyl etc. That release will include some studio B sides, live video from The Chapel residency we did in Nov. 2014, and photos of life in the studio and on
MR: How has your audience reacted to this approach so far? Were you ever
afraid it might demand more of their patience than they’re willing to give for such an ambitious approach?
Spence: At the merch table after shows people keep asking us about the new
tracks and when the next one is coming out, they seem to be digging it as much as we are. When we were brainstorming about how to release the songs, we discovered that we all love it when we find out that there’s a brand new EP or single up for download on “So and So’s” site. You don’t have to wait for a full album to drop later down the road, you can go listen to some of it right now.
Shannon: Our fans and friends have stuck by us through thick and thin, from our first show at a cafe/laundromat to headlining The Fillmore. We weren’t afraid to give our fans something new, in fact, we wanted to to give them the music for free as a thank you. We can’t do it without them, and we know that.
MR: How many of the Twelve Spells have been completed?
Shannon: We’re actually in our friends studio, The Complex in downtown SF,
doing overdubs on the last tracks right now! You know it’s going well when going to the studio feels like going to camp. It feels like summer camp right now.
Spence: Yeah, we have all the main tracking done, but the big final task is mixing the songs together as a group. We recorded with some well known dudes with impressive resumes and big time artist credits, but this time around we wanted to get back to the basics and do it ourselves. So far it’s felt really natural and great.
MR: Is there any older material or songs written over a year ago making it into this batch?
Spence: There are some old riffs I had saved away that we used, probably some old lyrics that Shannon found on a notepad under his couch among the cookie crumbs and dust bunnies.
Shannon: They weren’t under my couch, jerk face! Some of the songs are a year old, some of them were written two weeks ago about things that are in our newspapers. A lot of our lyrics come from our passion for social justice issues, and there’s always something worth standing up for and singing about.
MR: What do you think of the blues-rock scene these days?
Spence: For a while, it seemed like Jack White and The Black Keys ruled the world, everything they put out was monstrous and awesome, but I feel like that bubble has burst and bands like Alabama Shakes and Tame Impala are putting out the most honest forward thinking blues these days.
Shannon: Everybody is so damn good…our Bay Area brothers Strange Vine and Two Gallants, and even bigger boys that we look up to like My Morning Jacket and Wilco… We could go on forever, but we’re lucky to live in a time when there are so many great bands taking rock n’ roll and doing it their own way.
MR: What’s been the biggest surprise about making music together over these last few years? The biggest evolution for the band or music?
Shannon: Honestly, we’re surprised to be talking to someone like you! We never thought we were gonna get farther than that cafe/laundromat. Playing festivals like Outside Lands, starring in music videos, flying to other countries…it’s all gravy.
Spence: The band has evolved several times since the start. Adding Elliott on
keys was a big sonic change to the beef of our sound. Two–and sometimes three–guitars gives Ben and I the flexibility to back up and weave in and out of each other. The addition of Vince, our second lead singer and songwriter, has expanded our vocal range and lyrical depth. Probably the most visible change has been adding Brian as a second drummer, letting him focus on his beats and allowing Shannon to sing and play harmonica from the front of the stage with a full tilt band behind him.
MR: Has this First Friday program been working better than you planned or is it still a work in progress?
Spence: It’s definitely been working well, though one big unexpected challenge has been coming up with the artwork for not one, but twelve covers. We’re collaborating with our friend and fellow SF artist Giuliana Pinto, who has been doing incredible paint on cardboard backdrops and costume design for our covers. Each song is given a representative character and she takes it from there. We’re all taking our turn donning whatever crazy outfits she’s devised for the cover shoots. I let her dress me up in shimmering glitter, makeup and hairspray to pose as Ocean Man for the cover of “Like it ain’t Nothin.” Giuliana herself wore tights and a red cape in the BART station for the cover of “Cold Like a Killer.” All of them are shot in and around different parts of SF because this place is a big part of our inspiration.
Shannon: And as we said before, not all of the songs are completely done…yipes! So we’ve been in my room with a kick-ass mic and towels draped all over my walls singing, disturbing my neighbors, then running in to mix, sending it out to be mastered, all to get it back in time for the first Friday.
MR: Who do you listen to casually, like what bands or solo acts?
Spence: I’m on a country kick right now–Buck Owens, Flying Burrito Brothers, Ryan Adams. Bakersfield-style stuff.
Shannon: I’ve been digging a lot of Nick Cave, he’s got a song about how Miley Cyrus was the best girl he ever had. If I wrote that, I’d get kicked out of my band! Outside of that, I can never get enough of The Band, and if I need to get pumped up lately I turn Jay Z’s “Threats” waaaay up!
MR: How do you see your recordings and music growing over the next year? How will that effect musical output and touring schedule?
Shannon: We’re really gonna put our heads together when the spells are finished, but we’ve been loving the darker places the music and lyrics have gone. We like the hard hits, with Ennio Morricone licks, just a pinch of hip-hop when needed, and lyrics that talk about what’s happening right now. A lot of people sing about girls, and we do it here and there too, but Vince and I are passionate about peace and social justice issues that our generation can’t ignore. We feel that rock ‘n’ roll has the power to move mountains, and we’re gonna keep playing till we move one.
Spence: We’ve had our days in most studios and home-recording environments and I think we’ve finally found a comfortable spot right in between at the Complex SF. It’s not a slick LA studio and it’s also not our musty used-mattress-lined garage. It’s kind of a glorified garage though, a Wayne’s World-style garage with some quality gear and a chill dude who knows how to run it. It’s important to have a good set of mics and preamps to get solid tones. We track most instruments live, all together in the same room, with a bit of bleed. If someone flubs a note, but the rest of the take is right on, we keep it. Then we dub vocals either at
home or at the studio. We try to get too bogged down in the process and let the tracks speak for themselves.
MR: What advice do you have for new or emerging artists?
Spence: Write more songs than you’re actually putting on your record, then choose the best. Our first two records were cut the moment we had enough material to fill an LP and I’m sure we could have done better if we were not so antsy to just get another record out. It’s nice to have options to choose from when you’re putting together an album.
Shannon: Play lots of shows. Play lots of shows. Eat some ice cream… And then play more shows.
MR: What advice would you have given to The Stone Foxes when they started out?
Spence: Play like it’s the last show you’ll ever play. We once drove all the way to Phoenix, Arizona, to play for a huge room full of empty chairs. But we played in to ourselves nonetheless and made it a hell of a good time for us and the few people who were there putting on the show. Two years later, the same promoter asked us to open for The Black Keys.
Shannon: There was a meeting after another bad show in Southern California
where our managers sat us down the next morning and told us we could never play that sh**ty again. I wish I could have told ourselves that two years earlier. Oh, and I would have also told myself, get a better van, you idiot.
MR: [laughs] What does the immediate future look like?
Shannon: We’re about to book it down to the desert and play a mess of shows
including the the VIVA Phoenix fest and a bunch of SXSW showcases. We have eight shows in four days in Austin, so we’re getting in shape so we can keep it high voltage! We also are continuing to collect healthy non-perishable foods at each show and take them to shelters and food banks as part of our Goodnight Moon Project. Donate food to those in need and we’ll give you a 7″ record, easy as pie. See what it’s all about at http://www.goodnightmoonproject.org.
Spence: This Friday, we’re releasing “I Want To Be You” in our next installment of #FoxesFirstFriday. Check it out!
DIDA’S “APOLOGY” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Care Of Dida Pelled
According to Dida…
“‘Apology’ is the first release from my upcoming album Modern Love Songs. The core of the album is the idea that the same human feelings that have always existed, like songs of love and introspection are explored through a contemporary, personal perspective. On a musical and artistic level, I draw heavily from the great American songbook, and am constantly inspired by its great interpreters. In a way the direction of this album is a continuation of themes I find in those classic sources.
The song was written by my main collaborator, Tal Ronen. On the surface, it describes an experience familiar to New Yorkers, that of having caught a mouse. However, as the song progresses the separation between human and animal, captive and free, living and dying, begin to blur. Working with these ideas in mind, Iyar Dyoman directed this video. It features my parents, Peli and Dahlia Pelled.”
A Conversation with Sugar Ray Norcia
Mike Ragogna: Sugar Ray, your new album is titled Living Tear To Tear. Why all these tears?
Sugar Ray Norcia: Well, I don’t think of it as sad! Just listen to the band cruising along taking you for a joyful ride. The lyrics on a lot of the songs deal with common human emotions some, of course, about troubles, troubles in a relationship or trouble with something or another but the music behind it is very uplifting and therapeutic to me.
MR: Do you have some idea of what your projects will be about as you begin the creative phase or do the songs tell you what it is as you dig into the writing and recording?
SRN: I don’t begin with a preconceived idea for a project other then to keep in mind what it is that we as a band do best and that is to play our own unadulterated, unbasterdized version of urban,electric blues.I also keep in mind the incredible talent of the players around me as I write material. “Monster” Mike Welch on guitar is just that…a monster. His style is electrifying,inventive,subtle and passionate. These are the things that make a dynamic performer. Anthony Geraci is on piano and sometimes Hammond organ. It’s a pure delight to hear the keyboards being played with such intensity and sensitivity while keeping it all in the right style that compliments our material. I’m not just saying….I know! Then there is Mudcat Ward on upright and electric bass and Neil Gouvin on drums. Man they are a dream team of a rhythm section…the bands nucleus. Playing with them is like being driven in a Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac. Mudcats smooth, steady bass lines complimented with Gouvins world famous shuffle on his coveted, vintage Slingerland “Radio King” drum kit is the s**t! Man, I have to stop and go get a beer and a harmonica. I make my own damn self-inspired!
MR: [laughs] How does it feel to have a 35th anniversary with the band?
SRN: It feels great! I think it would be fair to say that not too many bands have been together for 35 years. Mike Welch on guitar is the newest member of the band. He’s been with us for about 15 years. The rest of us have played together for 35, yes that’s right, 35 years, more or less. I figure that’s a total of about 155 years of experience!
MR: From your perspective, what happened on Living Tear To Tear that never happened before on previous recordings?
SRN: Oh I don’t know. To me everytime we step foot into the recording studio something special happens. We are there to play our best but it’s like a frozen moment in time. If we were to record the same song once a day for any number of days, each take would be a little different from the last. It depends on how you are feeling in the moment.It depends on how relaxed or tense you may be or how many drinks you may have had or what’s going on in your private life or what the mix sounds like in your headphones.All sorts of variables ultimately contribute to the final product. We usually cut a song once, one take with almost no overdubs.
MR: Were there any surprising moments on the album? Any songs that gave you a tough time? Any that ended up becoming favorites?
SRN: None of the songs gave us a tough time. If you don’t know your craft after all these years then something aint right with you! One of my favorite songs ended up being the slow blues I wrote called “Misery.” It comes from somewhere other that just your normal three chord blues progression. It comes from deep within your heart and soul. It’s hard to describe in words. We were all in another place…almost spiritual I would say. We were just lazily floating through blues heaven making chord changes in unusual places, riffing off each others creative ideas, all unrehearsed and free. Thats a great thing to happen.
MR: What do you think of the blues these days? Does it still have the chops to get out there every night and do it again?
SRN: Like anything else, the blues evolves in all it’s different forms and off-shoots.I myself am not a big fan of rock inspired blues or blues that’s over the top. There’s nothing wrong with that approach but like to keep it true to the 1950s style of amplified blues. I like old stuff….old cars, old amps, old radios, old wine, old stuff. Maybe that’s why my friends have been calling me “The Old Man” since I was about 20!
MR: You as the artist, what do you feel are the best things that you contribute to the blues?
SRN: I think it’s really what I just said. My band and I are keepers of the flame when it comes to preserving the integrity of authentic sounding urban blues. I think given the complexity and craziness of the world around us today that it is refreshing for a lot of blues fans on this planet to hear as they say…the real deal. Our most recent album Living Tear to Tear was honored with seven Blues Music Award nominations this year including Band of the Year and Album of the Year. For myself alone I have thirteen Blues Music Award nominations for the Bluetones last three CD’s and last year I won two Blues Music Awards for my contribution on an album called Remembering Little Walter which also received a Grammy nomination. That makes me a three-time Grammy nominated blues performer. Not too shabby for a 61-year-old Italian American from Stonington, Connecticut. You know what the great Muddy Waters once told me? He said, “Sugar Ray, you Italians got soul!”
MR: Sweet. Do you think the blues will last forever?
SRN: What’s that saying? The blues will never die. It’s true! As long as we live in this sin sick world, the blues will be around. Since the beginning of time man has had some degree of the blues. It’s just a fact of life man, a fact of life.
MR: Sugar Ray, what advice do you have for new or emerging artists?
SRN: I would have to say…be yourself. You’ve probably heard that before but man it’s so right.When you get to a place as a young or older artist where you can incorporate all of the musical stylings that you appreciate and form them like from a ball of clay into something that is uniquely your own then you really got something. Be yourself….nobody else is!
MR: There’s no way you’re ever going to retire, is there.
SRN: Well, no. An artist doesn’t really ever retire. One may say that he or she is retiring but it really aint so.You know I had an uncle who played real great jazz guitar for all his life and one day when he was around 60 years old or so he just three up his hands and said, “That’s it, I quit!” I was devastated. I urged him to go out and play but he just refused. He said “no damn it, I’m done.” No one could figure out how or why he just stopped cold until we all realized that he had developed a bad case of dementia and that was the reason he threw in the towel .So, as long as I have my health I’m in the game.
MR: Even though you perform and record the blues, are you happy?
SRN: Listen to track # 3 on our CD “Living From Tear to Tear.” It’s called “Things Could Be Worse.” My Dad always told me, “Son, at times, you may think you have it bad but look around you…things could be worse.”
I’ve been married to the same great woman for forty years…I’m happy.
I have a wonderful family…I’m happy.
I live in a beautiful house in the country on twelve acres…Im happy.
I have chickens, a cat and a great dog…I’m happy.
I write, sing and play the blues with one of the best blues bands on the planet…I’m happy!
ELAINE ROMANELLI’S “25” EXCLUSIVE
photo credit: Nejat, www.nejat.com
According to Elaine Romanelli…
“The song ’25’ is for everyone reaching a birthday and wondering what is ahead — and also for everyone looking back and laughing at the twists and turns. Most of all, it’s a celebration of feeling joyful, of living fully and loving your friends, right now, no matter your age.”
Orlando Bloom put on a Gregory Hines-esque performance — tap dancing like a total pro when we asked the legendary lady slayer about banging curvier girls … and the video is awesome. Just watch … Orlando was walking out of Giorgio Baldi Tuesday…
Newcomer Dylan Gardner’s latest video is for “Too Afraid To Love You,” one of the key tracks from his album Adventures in Real Time. A full interview with Dylan, fresh from his recent Warner Bros. signing, also appears later in this post. But first, check out the premiere of “Too Afraid To Love You”…
A Conversation with Carlos Santana
Mike Ragogna: Carlos, I attended your Corazón concert in Mexico a little over a year ago and it was a beautiful experience, the music, the guests artists, the love for you from the crowd…
Carlos Santana: Oh, thank you, it was very inspiring for me, too! Great energy, a lot of inspiration. I’m very grateful and proud of how everyone presented themselves. I really believe that we touched a lot of people’s hearts in a positive way.
MR: Your new book is titled, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, and it seems that you’ve brought your life to light on a daily basis.
CS: When a lot of children cross the street, especially in New York, you’ve got to hold on to your father’s hand or your mother’s hand or someone you really trust. I think since I was a child, I was aware that I needed to hold on to the hand of something that is very tangible. I feel really grateful that music has served me correctly by keeping me with health and a good life, out of distractions and trouble.
MR: And your music and you seem thoroughly intertwined.
CS: I’m just grateful. I’m attentive to the frequency.
MR: As you allude to in your new book, you were born into a very musically devoted family, like you had no choice but to be drawn to music.
CS: You know, that’s a good way of putting it, but I’m glad I didn’t have a choice because everywhere I went, there was always something to remind me that there’s a higher purpose. I think Rick Fox last year said to me, “What is the collective lesson we can all learn from this about love?” In any situation or relationship, what is the lesson that we can all learn today about love? Love is really expansive. Fear is very constricting and very limited. It has a very, very low ceiling, like a coffin. Love has no fear, so the sky is the limit–if there is such a thing as a limit as far as your imagination or your contribution or your achievements. It’s more important to promote in billboards the divine qualities that each person has. People have such a hard time believing that they are divine or that we have light, we invest more in being wretched sinners and useless, hopeless, worthless, helpless. That energy is so boring! So with the book or anything that I do, I like to inject the reality that if you just take a deep breath and close your eyes and actually feel the center of your heart, you can access this essence that creates miracles and blessings.
MR: When you’re creating music, do you feel that essence? Is that what drives you?
CS: Yes. You get really calm, really clear, and you have clarity, certainty and courage!
MR: You refer to having used drugs through a certain period in your career. I don’t want to talk about that, but you mention how they supplied an opening of sorts. Was that a major change in how you created or looked at music from that point on?
CS: Yeah. You’ll never be the same. How do we say it? Once you see the invisible, you can do the impossible.
MR: Beautiful. Around 1972, there was a jazz influence that began to creep into your work. What was the experience of shifting from an Afro-Latin style to something that was more improvisational, more of a jazz approach?
CS: Thank you for asking that. I think that it is important for any person. Everyone is an artist. If you can compliment life, you are an artist, no matter what your vocation or profession or way of doing it is. It’s important to open the cage and let the hamster out. The hamster likes to just go around and around and around on his wheel, but just spinning your wheels can become very boring. That’s more scary than anything, for me, to just be safe like that. I’ve been blessed with the right people at the right time in the right place; Michael Shrieve bringing me records of Coltrane and Miles Davis or learning about Olatunji and African music, or even The Grateful Dead. Especially someone like Bill Graham, it was a must for him at his concerts. “If you want to see Santana, you’ve got to hear Miles Davis; if you want to see The Grateful Dead, you’ve got to see Buddy Rich or Roland Kirk.” Impresarios nowadays don’t do that as much, but promoters back then wanted you to expand your horizons, especially as an audience, so being in the sixties, you would have to learn about Nureyev and José Greco, Manitas de Plata, Picasso. It can’t just be something limited. If you listen to The Beatles, even they were listening to Ravi Shankar or Segovia. So real artists are not afraid to expand their wings and go for the unknown.
MR: You had a partner on your musical journey in Clive Davis. It seems he played almost a Godfather role and allowed you to continue creating your own vision.
CS: Yeah, you know, I’m very grateful because both times that he came into my life he has created a humongous door for me to walk through and then we’re able to bring to all four corners of the world something that I can still say–this second–is relevant. Like Bob Marley or Michael Jackson. Santana’s relevant. We’re still here. We can coexist with Andrea Bocelli or Sting or Prince or the new people, Lady Gaga or even newer people. And I’m glad to see that Tony Bennett is the same way. That’s the mark of a true artist, where you can coexist and make it relevant.
MR: Musicians recognize you as an icon, and I imagine playing or duetting on one of your albums would be a deep experience. What is that process like when you combine your talents with others?
CS: It’s very rewarding to have your phone ring any day or night and it’s Pharaoh Sanders or Wayne Shorter or Miles, back then, or Stevie Ray or Iago. I’m not dropping names, I’m just saying who I am. I am them. I am them because I love them. When my phone rings and it’s John Lee Hooker and he says to me, “Man, when I hear your voice, it’s like eating a great big piece of chocolate cake.” I was like, “Damn.” I just levitate because I love John Lee Hooker so much, and Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush, all the same musicians that Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page listened to. We grew up with them. They’re our teachers and heroes.
MR: Every great teacher seems to say, “You don’t get knowledge until you’re ready for it.” Did you find that there were definite times in your life when you were able to say, “I’m ready for it” and only then move up?
CS: Pretty much. At the right time, I was able to listen to Coltrane and Monk and say, “Well I know they’re playing the blues, but it’s not what I’m used to. I need to listen to it over and over until I can identify with this frequency because I love this frequency, but I don’t know how to articulate it.” Some things I’m never going to learn. Charlie Parker and Coltrane when they get really out there, or Wayne, or Herbie, this is why I say that some musicians are like an ocean and other musicians are like a humongous lake, and other musicians are like a swimming pool. I’d rather hang out in a big lake. I can’t go with Charlie Parker and Miles and Wayne, not this incarnation. It’s a different kind of vocabulary but it doesn’t stop me from loving it.
MR: The roster of the group “Santana” changes frequently, adding techniques and qualities of that musician before they move on. Do you think you can define the entire exploratory process of Santana as spirituality?
CS: Exactly. Spirituality is not mechanical. There are mechanics to grace, but spirituality is about taking a leap of faith. This is why we love Wayne Shorter so much. Any musician who leaves my band is because what they’re hearing is louder than what they’re playing with me, so they have to follow their own voice. We grow, and they grow, in a different way. There was a time for Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon to create Journey and there was a time for me to embrace Weather Report and Miles. Sometimes people accuse you of “committing career suicide,” but for me, it’s really more about following your inner voice. It will always take you to the Land of Milk and Honey.
MR: Carlos, what advice do you have for new and emerging artists?
CS: I’m not into telling people who to be, what to do, or how to do it. I am into inviting everyone to make everything quiet in your mind and listen to that inner voice that has got oceans and oceans and galaxies of creativity. Those three words again: Clarity, courage and certainty.
MR: Was there any time when you felt like your direction or choices were not for the best?
CS: Only one time. I don’t remember necessarily when it was, maybe the eighties, but I think that I was overly trying to appease a producer and then I said, “Wait a minute, I’m going to be playing this music, not him. So after a while, I said, “I think I overextended myself in trying to please someone who doesn’t really understand my heart.” I had to re-record half of the album in a different way. So I learned not to listen to producers that much. I honor them but I’m the one that’s going to play the music for the rest of my life, not them.
MR: As you were writing The Universal Tone, did you have any revelations, maybe you saw things in a newer light?
CS: You know, I don’t live with regrets or grievances, I think that everything that happened, as long as I could look at myself in the mirror and say, “I did my best with what I had and who I was back then,” then I’m okay. I have asked forgiveness or apologized to whoever, and then I go on. I don’t like to be stuck. If there’s anything I’d tell anyone, it’s don’t get stuck with yourself. Keep going.
MR: Wonderful. Are you feeling creative in a certain way that’ll send you on a new musical adventure?
CS: Yes, right now I’m busy listening to Sonny Sharrock, Alice Coltrane and Larry Young. A lot of Tony Williams and, of course, John McLaughlin. But mainly, I think, right now, I’m listening to Stevie Ray and other guitar players. I haven’t listened to guitar players in a while, so right now it’s like Stevie Ray and Sonny Sharrock and Alice Coltrane.
MR: Carlos, at this point in your life, do you feel that are you still learning?
CS: I’m learning to trust more and thrust more and be more economical with energy. When you get to a certain age you lose half the power and speed, but what you gain is finesse. Finesse is like a diamond that’d going to shine and be really brilliant. I’m not afraid of any of that stuff. If I am learning I’m learning to present myself more gently with humility. I have so much conviction that a lot of times it’s misconstrued by arrogance. You have to have confidence if you’re going to do anything. Sometimes people confuse your confidence with arrogance. I wanted to work more on humility and presenting the way Herbie and Wayne do.
MR: What do you think when you look at what’s happening in the world today, as someone on a path of positivity and evolution?
CS: It’s almost like when you throw up and you lose everything that’s no good for you. A lot of stuff that we need to throw up is a lot of what we believe about God and the constitution. A lot of stuff in the bible is God-zilla. God is just love. You won’t throw up with God.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Bobby Rush
Mike Ragogna: Hey Bobby, what’s happening?
Bobby Rush: What’s happening is me! I’m Mister Happening, man! [laughs] I say it in a joking fashion, but I’m so happy to be in the position. Now, I’m already a winner, I’m gonna win it. Whether I lose or win, I’m going to win it, because in this race, you’re a winner just to be in it.
MR: Absolutely man, hope you get it. So it seems you’ve spent a lot of time with the blues, but this is your second consecutive “blues” album among the many albums you’ve recorded, and the second blues album nominated in a row.
BR: Yeah, it’s not my first, but it’s the first time they’ve been back to back. It makes me feel like eight years ago when I won the Blues Album of the Year and the Acoustic Album of the Year. I think that’s the first time in history it’s ever been done, one man winning both categories in the same year. But now, back to back is pretty hard to beat out, too. If we walk away with it we’re happy, if we don’t walk away with it I’m happy because we’re in good company with the guys around us. Everybody does it to win, but if you’re in this kind of race, you can pick cotton.
MR: Bobby, the album we’re talking about it, of course, Decisions. It’s backed up by Blinddog Smokin’ and you’ve got Dr. John as a guest. What’s the story behind you’re association with Carl Gustafson, another of the projects participants?
BR: I was in New Orleans cutting a song and Carl Gustafson who is the writer for this song, wanted me to do it. When I first heard it, I thought he was putting down New Orleans. I’m from Louisiana, I didn’t want him putting down my home state and my town that I thought so much of, but when I looked at it from all angles I found out he was talking about making sure that we as a people don’t zip our lips when we see what kids are doing or old people are doing or what anybody’s doing. Don’t just say, “It’s not my child, I don’t have anything to do with it.” It is our child. It takes all of us to raise a village. New Orleans is one town, but wherever you live, that’s your New Orleans, if thing’s aren’t going right there.
MR: That’s beautifully said. How did you get Dr. John on board?
BR: Dr. John came over, heard the song and said, “I want to be a part of this!” “Do you like the song?” “If I didn’t, it I wouldn’t be here.” [laughs] You know Dr. John. It was like a great family reunion kind of thing for him and I. We’re fifty years friends and being both from Louisiana we had something else in common. It just worked out perfectly for both of us.
MR: Bobby, so far, you’ve already won many awards with Decisions.
BR: It’s well-written, it’s well-recorded, it’s well done. It’s a new thing, but yet it’s got the old elements in it. We haven’t forgotten what it was and yet we modify what it is. It’s just an all-around good CD.
MR: What is it about this album that resonated so big this time out?
BR: I think they’re good songs, Dr. John brought some good elements to it with our friendship, I think the way it came off people can hear the honesty and the innocence of us doing it and we feel good about it. It’s a good song that everybody should link on to when you’re talking about “Murder In New Orleans” and then when you leave that song, you’re going to the title song of the album because you’ve got to be careful making decisions. When you’re making a decision, you’re not only making it for yourself, it’s for your family and the people around you. Even when you put a record out you don’t just put a record out because of the record, you’re thinking about who it’s going to touch, what home it’s going into. You’ve got to be careful what you do and say, you hope to say something positive that will be beneficial to everybody who listens to your records. This is that kind of CD. It involves all kinds of elements in this CD.
MR: Your last album, Down In Louisiana has been referred to as an “updating the sounds of the swamps and junkyards.” It pushed the genre’s boundaries.
BR: I’m always trying to modify things I do. I’m not trying to change the wheel of the wagon, but I’m trying to modify it and make it run better and reach more people and younger people, because younger people are the ones tearing up all the roads. Let’s face the facts. My children and grandchildren are the leaders of this world. We try to do things that they can relate to, that they know about, and try and educate them and modify what we do. We don’t want to take them too far and too fast, I’m an old man, not a rapper, but I do want to have some sayings that they can relate to so young people can get into what I’m doing.
MR: In your opinion, what unique thing do you bring to the blues?
BR: I haven’t changed my story, but I change the approach to what I’m doing. I think I say, “Here, this one can have a little rap.” I’m not talking about what Snoop Dogg or some of the other rappers do, but at least I can relate in that song fashion, the way I approach it so that young people can say, “Hey, this guy’s up to date with us.” It’s almost like writing in our business twenty five or thirty years ago, we couldn’t talk on the phone and do interviews, we had to be present, but now it’s all digitized and we can do things on the phone and what we don’t like we take out and what we shouldn’t have said we can block out and make it right. That’s what I try to do with my music, I try to think about where I’m going and who I’m singing it to so I can make it right for them. If you’re selling candy to an old folk home they may like it, but they can’t chew it. You have to put it in a form or fashion where they can digest it. Same thing with music. You’ve got to bring it to them in a way they can digest it.
MR: Bobby, you seemed like you had a great time on The Tonight Show.
BR: [laughs] Let me tell you! I hope that Dan Aykroyd can get this message: He did something to me that nobody hasn’t ever did for me. He took me under his wing and respects what I do so well and I’m one of the last of the kind doing what I do, and he embraced me so well, I just love the man for what he’s done. I could never pay him for feeling the way he feels about me in any kind of way. We haven’t talked about this, but I’m hoping that somewhere down the line he and I can get together and make a black and white Blues Brothers. I’ll never forget what he did with me. Jimmy Fallon’s show was great, everybody treated me so well, it was red carpet and I hope we can do it again.
MR: And you also have that Take Me To The River connection.
BR: Right, that’s the documentary, I’m playing a big part in that, Snoop Dogg’s playing a part in that, Al Green, Otis Clay, William Bell, Lil’ Peewee, Frayser Boy who’s done some things with me, the late Bobby Bland and a lot of other artists were involved with this. It’s down at Sundance now. It’s gotten a lot of attention because it’s great and because I’m part of it. On top of that I’m up for the Grammy nomination, I hope we win it and if we don’t win it we’re still winners because we’re in the race.
MR: Where do you think blues is headed?
BR: I believe that Bobby Rush can make a big difference. If you think about the black entertainers today you think about B.B. King, Buddy Guy and me. If you think about black entertainers period then you’ve got to add in Little Richard, Chuck Berry and all the guys over eighty years old who have played a big part in what the young guys coming up are doing now. Entertainment-wise Elvis Presley played a big part for me because I’m out kicking my foot across the stage, but Elvis Presley did the same thing I do. He can get away with it, so did Tom Jones. They kind of opened the door for Bobby Rush along with B.B. King and all the guys who have come before me who set a trail for me to come through the door. Now I’m one of the top five who are left to do this and I thank God for putting me in this position. I never thought that I would be an icon as the leading role of the blues cats, man, especially the black blues cats. I never thought I’d be here.
MR: Do you look at that concept and feel a burden or a responsibility as a torchbearer?
BR: It’s a responsibility. When you’re the king of blues you’ve got to be careful what you say and do. Everybody’s looking at you to carry this thing on. Now I’m finding guys who understand me and respect what I’m doing to try to pass my legacy on to someone else and keep it going. That’s what you have to do. You’ve got to educate the people who don’t know about it and encourage the people who are doing it so they can make a living at doing it.
MR: I know who influenced you, but do you feel their ghosts are still around when you’re making music? Do they still influence you in that way?
BR: Oh, yeah! When I get on stage I can close my eyes and see them around behind me. I see Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf saying “Go, boy, go.” Yes I feel that. Yes, man. I feel the presence of a lot of guys. I feel the presence of my father who was a preacher and never came to see one of my shows. Being a preacher he never told me to sing the blues, but he never told me not to. So with that in mind, I always feel I’m okay in the blues world because my daddy didn’t tell me not to sing as a preacher. Muddy Waters always said, “Hey boy, you’re going to be a big man one day, you’re going to make a lot of money.” “You mean I’m going to make a lot of money off something I would do for free?” It’s not about the money, it’s about the love of the music, you know?
MR: Where do you feel the blues comes from?
BR: Blues comes from a state of mind. Whether you’re black or white, it’s a state of mind. It’s how you feel. The blues isn’t always stuff that makes you feel bad, but it’s not always stuff that makes you smile. When I lived on the farm as a country boy, on a Saturday night we’d come out of the cotton field and go to the juke joint and hear the blues because we were going to meet all our favorite girls, or if we didn’t have a favorite girl we’d look at them and hope they’d be our favorite girl. That was a good time. The saddest time was late Sunday afternoon because Monday morning was a work day. That’s when you had the blues because it was over and it’s time to go to work again. You’d be glad the blues was coming back again on Friday because Saturday you’d go out to play. Everybody really sings the blues, because everybody wants the same thing: A good house, some money, some good health, a good girlfriend or boyfriend, you want to be peaceful in life; everybody wants the same thing. If you don’t have that it’ll make you feel sad, but if you have it it’ll make you feel good. The blues can make you feel good, or it can make you feel bad. Someone asked me, “Why do you sing the blues? Because your woman left you?” You can have the blues when your woman leaves you, but you can also have the blues if they stay too long.
MR: [laughs] What are you going through when you sing the blues?
BR: When I really create, I’m by myself. Most of the time it’s when I’m in the car and I don’t have a pencil or my tape recorder. Things really come then, when you don’t have anything to write on. Give me some toilet paper and I’ll write on that! Write something on your pants leg and hope it comes out. I create from what I know, what I think, and what I wish. Where I wish I was, where I think I want to be, where I used to be, or some things that I’d like to do. All those kinds of things. When a man writes, he pretty much writes about what he knows. It’s like writing a book: You can only write what you know. Other than that is fantasy. You can have fantasies about things you do or what you don’t want to do and you write about those kinds of things. When I was a kid, I started to write about animals, my first big gold record was “Chicken Heads.” At the time Louis Jordan had this song out about how a monkey and a buzzard were good friends, but the monkey was a better friend to the buzzard than the buzzard was to him, so the monkey said, “Mister Buzzard, straighten up and fly right.” I got into writing about things that I could relate to on the farm. I watched the cows, the birds, the chickens and I started to write about things I could relate to. Then I started writing about the rooster, the boy, and the hens, the girls. I took those kinds of things and related them to me as the rooster and the girls as the hens. If you think about it, it’s nice to be in the barnyard when there ain’t a lot of roosters but there are a lot of hens.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
BR: Look in the mirror and face the facts and do all you can while you can, cause there comes a time that you can not do what you want to do. What I mean is be honest with yourself. You’re either cold or you’re hot, there’s no lukewarm. In my position I guess I got caught up in a situation where I’m a performer. You’ve got to understand that this business is an entertainment business. It’s not about singing, it’s not about playing the guitar. All of that is good, but you’ve first got to be an entertainer. You can teach a man how to play a guitar, you can teach a man how to play any other instrument, but you can’t teach a man how to perform. An entertainer’s born, not made. You have to look at yourself and say, “Am I made, or am I born?” If you’re born, it ain’t much you have to do, but if you’re made you have to know that and say, “Listen, I’ve got to go out on the road, I’ve got to work hard, I’ve got to rehearse and rehearse. Most of the time you don’t have to rehearse if it’s natural. If it’s not natural, then you’ll have to work on it. Work on your publishing, write the song and be independent, where you can control your destiny.
MR: You speak with such authority, do you think some of that comes from your dad being a preacher?
BR: Oh, yeah! I remember when my dad told me, “Son, I’ve got ten children, you’re one of them, I want you to drop out of school because you seem to be more apt than all the rest of my children. I want you to help me do some things in the field so you can help me make a better life for the other children.” I didn’t know how to take that. I thought it was some great thing to do, I got to step out of school and I got a job at a gin and I was making twelve dollars a month. Three dollars a week. That was my first job. My job was to bring him the news. The news was, we as black people didn’t know about Dow Jones, but people in the gin would pick up what they were going to sell, sell the cotton for this, sell the beans for this, sell the peanuts for this. My daddy would come in on a Sunday morning and go into the church for service at ten and tell them to meet him at nine or nine thirty so he could tell them what to sell or not sell by my information.
MR: You were the school.
BR: I was the newspaper, I was the school. I told them what to sell. My daddy would walk in and say, “Son, what you heard today?” I’d say, “You can’t sell no peanuts today. You can sell some cotton, but you can’t sell beans. They went down this week, they’ll be up next week.” That was the Dow Jones.
MR: That’s amazing. I want to ask you a delicate question. It seems like as a country, we’ve certainly made big progress towards a non-racist society. But a certain level of racism was revealed with what happened in Ferguson and in NY this past year. What are your thoughts on this?
BR: Here’s my thoughts. The more things change, the more they remain the same. They’ve got highway signs saying you should drive fifty-five, that’s for the ones who have the desire to speed. But then if a man is a wife beater who learns not to beat his wife, he still is a wife beater. When you don’t have a desire to beat your wife, that’s the Godly principle. You can change the laws so they say that every man is equal, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the heart. “The law says this is what we’ve got to do,” but your heart is different. We have to understand that what we want is different from where it is now. We’ve come a long way, but yet not far enough. I’m sitting in a position different from a lot of guys as an entertainer, because I have crossed over to a white audience and I did not cross out of the black audience. So many men–and I’m not calling names–have crossed over to a white audience but they just no longer have the black people following them. I’m a blessed man to have this middle-of-the-road kind of thing going. Not everybody knows me, but it’s growing. I’m so thankful to people that see me and accept me for who I am and what I do. That doesn’t happen to every man.
MR: Do you know what you’re going to say when they give you the Grammy?
BR: [laughs] I’m so thankful because when I walked away with the nomination it was already done for me. If I walk away with the Grammy in my hand it’s just a plus for me. If I win, there’s going to be somebody who loses, and I feel for the person who loses behind me like they feel for me when I lose behind them. Charlie Musselwhite won last year and I took my hat off because I love Charlie Musselwhite. Everybody’s out here fighting for the best for them because winning the award will give you the upper hand to get more wood. At my age now I need more wood, I need more kindling. I’m working, I’m in pretty good health, let me do something so I can make some money to take care of my family and spread the good news about this blues thing. And maybe, just maybe, some young man, black or white will come up and say, “Hey, I’m going to pattern myself after Bobby Rush.” I’m hoping that some day I do something right enough for them to follow me and that leads them to something that’ll do good for them and their family.
MR: That’s wonderful. So you’re eighty years old now, right?
BR: I didn’t say, I didn’t say! [laughs]
MR: So we already know what you did for the first part of your life, what are you going to do for the next eighty years?
BR: [laughs] Oh, for the next eighty, I’m just going to play music and sit more down on the stoop so I can relax. I won’t have to jump as high, I won’t have to pat as hard, so I won’t go so hard on my heart. And I’m going to try to keep makin’ love. Because when you make love, love will come back to you.
MR: You’re awesome, I don’t want to keep you any longer…
BR: Before we go, let me thank you for what you have done, and what you’re doing and what you plan to do. What you write about me is what people perceive me to be. I’m one of the few guys who’s left who hasn’t did everything just right in my life. I’ve had three beers in my life. That doesn’t mean I’m so right or anything. Paul in the bible talked about being the worst sinner. He was number two, I’m number one. I’m thanking you because what you write about me is what people perceive me to be, and I’m hoping to come off as this guy that people like. I’m not substituting anything to do what I do, honest to God.
MR: Booby, you have nothing to worry about. And anyone who writes about you is going to love you instantly, you’re truly one of the greats.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
KRISTIN ANDREASSEN’S “LOOKOUT” PREMIERE
photo credit: Laura Crosta
According to Kristin Andreassen…
“Hurricane Sandy hit New York hard. My apartment was left high and dry, so when the storm cleared, I went to offer help at a friend’s house in the shoreline neighborhood of Red Hook. Their basement apartment had filled up with enough water to float their upright piano, but they as much help as they could use that day, so instead I spent the day clearing muddy furniture and mementos from the basement of a total stranger. ‘Lookout’ is about friendship and community in the face of tough times. It’s also about the inevitability of hardship as time and age makes everybody’s journey more challenging.”
A Conversation with Dylan Gardner
Mike Ragogna: Dylan, when we las spoke, you were releasing Adventures In Real Time yourself, going the indie route. Now you’re signed to Warner Bros. and it’s coming out on that label. What the heck happened?
Dylan Gardner: Well we put the record up on Spotify and about two weeks later I was sitting at Panda Express and I opened Spotify to check the numbers–not thinking anyone would know it came out since guerilla marketing takes so long–but “Let’s Get Started” had eighty three thousand plays. I was just wondering what happened. It turns out a lot of people clicked on the record when it came up under “New Releases” on Spotify and it got added to all of these different playlists. People shared it and shared it and it got on a lot of big Spotify playlists and suddenly the record started getting played over and over again and before I knew it “Let’s Get Started” had a million plays, and then it had two millions plays and the rest of the album was racking up a hundred thousand plays, it was quite insane. Warner Bros. took notice and contacted me which was great because I personally think Warner Bros. is the greatest American label and it feels amazing to be in a company of legend.
MR: Yeah, it’s awesome that they got what was going on with you as an artist.
DG: They completely got what was going on. They’re an artists first label.
MR: There must have been someone who championed you at Warner Bros. and said, “We’ve got to sign this kid.” What’s the signing story?
DG: Just going through the ringer. I’ve been doing this since I was fourteen, shopping my songs around and showcasing them. You meet more people and you meet people who know people and you go to all these things. I went to Capitol Records in about 2012 and met some people there and showcased for them and it turned out that the demo got around the office and the people from Capitol ended up going over to Warner Bros. and kind of took me with them on their departure. As soon as they got there I already knew some people at Warner Bros. just from playing around and before you knew it there was this giant family there of people that enjoyed my music. Once I went in there and talked to them, they all just had this look on their faces and the legendary Lenny Waronker was in the room too and I was just like, “This is the best place on Earth.” I feel like I’m going to be able to express myself artistically and be in the company of amazing people and I’m going to become a better songwriter, a better person and a better performer.
MR: Warner Bros. has a history of sticking with artists for a while, too. I think you’re in a really good place.
DG: I’m definitely in the right place.
MR: Were there any tracks that they suggested to make changes to?
DG: No, it’s solid re-release. They heard the record, they said, “It’s your vision, it’s perfect, let’s not change it, let’s not do the big corporate machine thing; this is your baby and we’re going to put it out exactly how it is and we’re going to pour gasoline on the fire.” That’s what we’re doing. They trust the vision and I trust them and all the rest.
MR: How did the album itself come together?
DG: I started writing the songs about two years ago and I was demoing all the songs in my room. I must have demoed about a hundred songs, I took everything out of my room, got rid of all the stuff in my closet because I needed a vocal booth, I got all these instruments, went Goodwill shopping for some, and just recorded all night. We had all these demos and my manager and I looked at this and thought, “Well there’s a record in here somewhere.” So we tried to find someone to help realize this because my producing in Pro Tools as far as getting a record-ready sound was not up to par yet, so we went around looking for people that we knew and my manager who worked at A&M in the nineties signed Jack Drag, which is John Dragonetti’s band. He was one of the people that we contacted. The first track that we tried out I think was “I Think I’m Falling For Something,” he tracked a little bit of the record and I got to his house and listened to it and I was like, “Whoa, he’s a producer. He’s the one that will help me make the record.”
photo credit: Jeri Heiden
MR: “I Think I’m Falling For Something” is probably my favorite track on the album.
DG: Oh thanks, it was definitely one of my favorite songs to record. The part that I have the most fun with while record making is getting to experiment and try new things. On that track specifically I wanted something to lift the chorus so I was listening to Pete Drake records, he’s this slide guitar player from Nashville who plays with a talk box. He actually introduced Peter Frampton to the talk box. I wanted a lap steel through a talk box for the middle of each chorus and we were able to replicate that and it was awesome.
MR: “I Think I’m Falling For Something” is such a terrific recording that I would predict it’s goes Top Ten record if Warners releases it as a single. There. Said it, can’t take it back.
DG: [laughs] Really? Wow, I hope you’re right!
MR: Hey Dylan, this album just sounds so fresh. But when you finished recording and mixing the project, did you ever listen to an online station or the radio and feel like you needed to change things up?
DG: No, when I finished the record, my first thought was, “This is the record I wanted to make.” It was the vision that I had in my head since in the first song that I wrote for the record. I was really proud of it. I try not to pay attention to the mood swings of the music world. There’s always something that’s there for five minutes and then it’s gone. It’s the “Harlem Shake” or something like that. I try not to pay attention to that because you fall under the same spell and try to make that and it might work if you put it out in that five minutes but then you yourself become a product of yesterday. I’m not in music to become a product of yesterday. I try to transcend all of the influences I have. There’s definitely things that make those “five minute” songs special, don’t get me wrong, but the vision I have is always what comes to me, it’s never inspired by cashing in.
MR: Sweet. You’ve often said you were inspired by The Beatles, and I think one can tell from your music and the way you dressed in your video for Adventures‘ first track, “Let’s Get Started,” that they were quite a big influence on you.
DG: Oh, there hasn’t been a bigger influence on my music, my life, and the way I behave than that band. Those four people, just the way they inspired everyone, let alone me, everyone who had a television set back in 1964 saw them playing became a fan. Some of the first memories I have are of listening to Beatles records. I had A Hard Day’s Night cassette tape that I played until the magnetic tape was all around my room…I wish I still had that! There’s just a magic in learning to play the songs, and there’s never enough to learn about the band. They’re just that kind of band.
MR: I think it’s true that whenever one listens to music at different times in one’s life, he or she hears it very differently.
DG: Oh yeah, I think you’re always a different person every day. If you listen to the same song every day you’re going to hear something different. I hear something different in my own songs every time I listen to them. If you put music down for a while and come back to the same piece of music you’re going to feel slightly different about it. It’s like listening to songs you used to listen to as a child, they’ve got a completely different meaning.
MR: Do you think you can see all these different layers because you’re recording your feelings?
DG: Oh yeah, I go back all the time and see songs that were about one thing are actually about another and I didn’t even realize it. The song “Feeling Of Love” I wrote as the euphoric feeling of love that hits you when you’re in love, but I’m singing the song live and I realize the lyrics are shifted and that it’s about my dog. [laughs]
MR: There are ten songs on here, did you arrange them with a Side A and Side B in mind?
DG: I didn’t think of it in terms of Side A and Side B in quality, but in terms of a record listening journey and when it’s appropriate to flip the record. I wanted the first song on the second side to be “The Actor” because when you listen to big stars’ records Side A is rocking, “Boom, boom, boom,” and then you flip it over and it calms down. I did think of it in terms of that, but as far as record making I thought of it as a collection of ten songs. I had song tracks but it wasn’t until I had the final order that I thought about people who flip the record over, for vinyl buyers. It’s a selfish thought, but to me, if it didn’t come out on vinyl it didn’t come out at all. That’s just the only way I listen to music.
MR: There’s a diversity on this album that is unusual. I think beyond Side A / Side B format, each song fits with the next in certain ways.
DG: Right, like I said, you’re a different person every day and you’re constantly going through different records that you pick up at the record store, or something happens to you in your life that you get interested in. If you look back at a collection of a lot of songs you wrote you have some diversity there. Change, for me, is always a great thing. I plan to have a wide scale in my discography. One person I look to for that is Elvis Costello. After Armed Forces he’s never in the same place twice.
MR: That’s a good point. And I think it’s illegal to repeat the genius that is Armed Forces.
MR: Rumor has it that as you recorded this album you also had a few more albums’ worth in the can already, gee I wonder how I know that?
DG: [laughs] I do. I could put out two records tomorrow.
MR: Is it the same team that approached the current record or have you got everything recorded on your end?
DG: This is all me. This is just me working in the backroom the entire time we’ve been making all of this stuff. That’s all I do all day, I don’t go outside or party or play with my friends, I just sit on my computer or at my piano and I write and record.
MR: So these things haven’t been worked over by Dragonetti yet?
DG: Actually, he just heard the collection of songs I’ve got and we’re super psyched on it. We’re always thinking down the road. In terms of football, Russell Wilson said when he held the Lombardi trophy the moment he put it down he just thought about the next one. That’s an artist’s job. The moment you put the record out you’ve got to start thinking about the next one, whether or not anyone cares or even knows about it. I plan to make a lot of records in my lifetime and this is the start of the journey.
MR: So Dragonetti gets the tracks you’ve recorded and then he works on them from his end?
DG: Yes. But that process has not started yet because I’m still just writing and writing and writing. I want to have as many songs as possible for the official moment when we look at the record and go, “Let’s make it.”
MR: You must be champing at the bit to get the next one…or are you kind of savoring what you did at this point?
DG: To be honest, I’m kind of in the middle of both. I’m constantly working on the future. Going back to football again, one of the wide receivers in the Super Bowl said he got to the Super Bowl early and was just catching balls for three hours beforehand and he was ready to keep it up when the game started. I’m constantly just working at it for the future. If someone comes to me and says, “Put the record out tomorrow,” we’ll start making it. I’m definitely on the bandwagon of supporting this album and getting this album out there. I wanted as many people as possible to hear it. That’s why I’m going on tour for a month. We’re touring the United States, we’re going to put the record in front of all of these people, play high schools and do interviews–I want to be in front of the people, man. I want them to hear it and I want to give a great show.
MR: So touring is going to be extensive?
DG: Oh yeah, just going and playing a bunch of venues. I just added all the tour dates two weeks ago to the website, dylangardnermusic.com/tour. I’m so poorly traveled, I get to go to all of these places for the first time, I’m just going to play my heart out. I want to give people a sweet show. Full on electric. Just me, my brother [drummer], and my bass player, we have so much energy. Just wait ’til you see it, man!
MR: Looking forward to it! Dylan, what is your advice for new artists?
DG: My advice for new artists is work hard and practice at your craft every day. Never put something in front of what you want to do for the rest of your life. The day that you do what you love you never have to work again. It’s really honest but you have to work at what you love. Follow your dreams, not in the sense of just saying those three words; You have to actually act on it. If you think you’re an amazing songwriter or you think you’re an amazing performer, practice every single day because you’re only going to get better. If you want to be the best in the world at something you’d better start now.
MR: Now that you’re associated with a major label, what do you still have to pay attention to in the same way you did as an indie artist?
DG: I still get to have all of the creative input, it’s still always my input, “Hey guys, why don’t we do this?” I’m still running all my Twitter and Facebook and stuff because I don’t want someone who’s not me to take that over and post boringly all the time, I want to interact with all of my fans. My artistic integrity is three thousand percent. Just a couple of months ago we wanted to put out another music video, so we said, “What are we going to do?” and I said, “How about ‘Too Afraid To Love You?’ We’ll do a music video like this and we’ll film it in this place,” and everyone was like, “Cool.” So that’s the music video that’s coming out pretty soon. They really helped me have all creative control of that because they’re an artist-friendly label. So we’ve got this cool, exciting music video for “Too Afraid To Love You” coming and that’s going to be really awesome.
MR: How do you think it’s going to affect you and your music when you turn the corner and become a huge act?
DG: Success to me only means more people being able to hear the music. I still want to be in the same bedroom making the same music, I’m not in it to be on the front of People magazine. To be a songwriter and for people to hear my music, its success means more people hearing and sharing my music and collecting vinyl or listening to any of the artists I’m inspired by. That’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. It really means just making more friends and making more music than ever.
MR: So this is your social connection?
DG: I put music first and word of mouth will hopefully get the music out there.
MR: FYI, your album is still in heavy rotation with both me and my son. That’s really good stuff to come out of someone’s bedroom.
“This Man Overboard track will appear on Man Overboard’s upcoming split with Senses Fail (www.facebook.com/sensesfail) out March 3rd and includes an original song from each band as well as each of them doing a cover of one of the other band’s songs. It’s a co-release from Rise Records and Pure Noise Records. Both bands are going to be touring with Bayside and those tour dates can be found here: http://manoverboardnj.com/tour/“
Mike Ragogna: James, Complicated Game is your first album in six years. How complicated was its creation?
James McMurtry: The writing process was no more complicated than usual. I start with two lines and a melody and try to build from there. If the song keeps me up at night, I finish it. If not, it goes on the scrap pile to possibly be fished out and finished at a later date.
The recording process was a bit different this time. CC Adcock and Mike Napolitano produced the record in New Orleans. Most of us in my racket have to tour more than we used to because the mailbox money’s not there anymore. We can’t afford to hunker down in the studio for six weeks. So I’d come in for a week, sometimes with my band, sometimes solo, lay down a few tracs and then head back out on the road. While I was gone, CC and Mike would figure out whom else they wanted on the record, or whom else they could get. Often, decisions were based on who happened to be in town. You never know who might turn up in New Orleans.
MR: Your songs’ topics cover a wide range yet they’re all able to fit into the “Americana” genre. Does making this breed of music afford you more freedom to investigate and express than the other genres? Considering everything evolves or at least changes a little, what do you think of the “Americana” these days and do you have any favorite contemporaries? And didn’t you receive a Grammy nomination?
JM: My Grammy nomination was for Long Form Video in 1994, just before Americana came to be thought of as a genre. I don’t know if there was a chart for Americana Radio at that time. Seems like AAA–Adult Alternative Airplay or Triple A–had just morphed into almost what AOR–Album Oriented Rock–had been, and Americana had not yet grown up into the slightly more country version of Triple A that it eventually became. don’t know if Americana qualifies as a genre, or if it’s a catchall category for those of us who play a mix of country and rock ‘n’ roll and can’t get much play anywhere else. I’m not complaining. I need the spins and I’m not sure what really constitutes a genre anyway. Americana Radio has a bright future if they keep spinning the likes of John Fulbright and Jason Isbell. Those guys are top notch.
MR: How personal does the subject matter get for you, for instance, how much of you is there in songs like “Copper Canteen” and “Deaver’s Crossing” maybe as opposed to “Long Island Shores” and “How’m I Gonna Find You Now”?
JM: My songs are fiction whether I’m in them or not. I did used to cross a farm owned by some people named Deaver when I was a kid, but I fictionalized the account. I never knew the real Mr. Deaver. He’s crippled up in the song because it fits the meter and makes a good story. I did meet the real Mrs. Deaver. She was delightful. The other three songs you mention are totally made up, unless you count the rattle in the dashboard in “How’m I . . .” I did have an actual dashboard rattle that got the song going in my head. I don’t wash down blood pressure pills with Red Bull, but a couple of nurses I met on a cruise ship told me they did that all the time.
MR: “Peter Pan,” “Out Here In The Middle” and “We Can’t Make It Here” are some of your best loved songs. Do you have any personal favorites?
JM:”Restless” is always fun to play, and “Long Island Sound” off the new record.
MR: What is it about James McMurtry songs and recordings that keeps it admired and relevant?
JM: You’d have to ask a listener. I don’t know what’s relevant or admired.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
JM: Don’t quit unless you can.
MR: What’s coming down the pike?
JM: The pike itself, and lots of it.
JES INTRODUCES “TWO SOULS”
photo credit: Courtesy of KTEE And Planetjes Inc.
According to Jes…
“For ‘Two Souls,’ I was looking to write on the more progressive, more pop side of dance, but I wanted to keep the emotional and angelic feeling I love to put into my songs. ‘Two Souls’ has been a long journey, and it went through many incarnations. It started as a very stripped down ballad, but later took on a whole new shape. The meaning of the song is also very close to my heart. It’s about coincidence in life, the ironic instances when we have met before in a different time and place, but never knew it. I know it’s a bit of a different sound for me but I hope my audience will embrace it. They know I love to write and sing in so many different styles and I think this one will also capture their hearts.”
A Conversation with Ed Vetri
Mike Ragogna: Nice to meet you, Ed. So Wind-Up Music has gone through a maturation period that seems like you’ve ushered-in. First off, for perspective, let’s talk about your own music career background. What are some of your favorite career highs?
Ed Vetri: Hey Mike, nice to meet you. My favorite moments are dealing with the young artists, the excitement to get a record deal and get into studio, that first feeling that they are not alone anymore. Specific moments that come to mind; Creed selling out Madison Square Garden; and the album “Weathered” being #1 on the charts for nine consecutive weeks, Evanescence winning a Grammy for “Best New Artist,” Finger Eleven performing the hit “Paralyzer” on the rooftop at the Much Music Awards in 2007, Seether having three #1 singles off their last record on Wind-up. Achieving a number one single at rock for the Young Guns song “Bones” after working it for 37 weeks. The first new artist to achieve a #1 on its debut song since Seether’s “Fine Again” in 2003. Ironically, Seether took 32 weeks. Those long climbs to #1 songs define the tenacity and character of Wind-up. Finally launching the Virginmarys with iTunes and having it be the first artist and only “Double single of the week” with the song “just a ride”. All of our my great moments are centered and based on achievements of my artists.
MR: How did you come on board at Wind-Up and what did you most admire about them?
EV: I had a relationship with the founder, Alan Meltzer, through a prior deal we did together. In the late ’90s, he then purchased Grass Records–featuring a very young Conor Oberst–and upon the signing of Creed, the name was changed to Wind-up Records and I joined the team. So other than feeling we had the “tiger by the tail” with Creed and Alan’s crazy and wild passion, I felt it would be a great opportunity to get into the business I loved.
MR: Wind-Up has been around for 17 years now. What do you think the label stands for these days? What’s its mission compared to when they first started?
EV: I think our slogan “developing career artists” was true 17 years ago and rings truer today. The early mission was really to build a company, with Creed as its first artist, to compete with the majors. We committed to significant staff, including radio personnel, before putting out our first album. It was a “build it and they will come mentality,” be successful with Creed and other rock bands would find us as the best label for rock bands. Today we are not a format specific, we look at great talent, sounds writers and amazing performers, then we deal with genre and formats. Our roster is more varied than in the past, but the common thread amongst todays roster, include incredible live performers , with powerful songs and a commitment to work very hard.
MR: What is the most unique thing you bring to their creative or business model and ideally, what would you see Wind-Up having accomplished in about five years?
EV: I have always had a focus in creating value for the company. My business background is always there to compliment the creative side, always working in tandem at Wind-up. When I started, I was deeply committed to building a publishing and merchandising business. Those would and did end up creating great value to the company, but also allows for a deeper more, committed relationship with the artists. When you have multi-right deals with the artists, we can tap into various deal structures to find creative ways to finance artist development and allow us not to be a “one and done” company, but have the ability and commitment to put out multiple albums for each and every artist, thus giving their career a real shot. I feel I strategically and properly timed the selling of our back master and publishing catalogs. Those artists were all in different stages in their respective careers and WU is a a pure A&R focused development company, so I believe selling those back catalogs allowed WU to invest in its future signings and facilitated the heritage artists to move on to platforms that were more suitable for them at the point in their career.
MR: When you look at the current music scene, what are your thoughts? What do you think are its strengths and where do you think it needs to improve?
EV: I think the industry does a great job at creating hit songs and pop stars. I am not sure you will be listening to those songs 10 – 15 years from now, but they are very popular and successful at the moment. Many feel a bit fleeting. I think we need to have more long term career artists, ones that have longevity, most of the artists filling arenas consistently are from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and they do it year after year, because it is based not on one or two hit songs , but a long term relationship developed with their fans, consistent touring and an amazing catalog of songs. As labels we need to provide and platform to allow artists to grow over time and develop those deep routed fan relationships. We need artists, that write and perform their own music that have something meaningful to say and can deliver their music at a high level live.
MR: Do you think people will need a break from dancing someday and the music scene might embrace another direction with its pop?
EV: I think the is a place for all of it, EDM, POP , ROCK etc…the various festivals show collaborating artists from various genres working and performing together and I think and hope that will continue. I know there is always a place for great lve rock bands and I believe that is where the roots of music are deepest.
MR: Who are some of your current favorite artists and who are some of your favorites associated with Wind-Up?
EV: I have been to over 230 Bruce Springsteen shows so I need to start there! He is always current to me and still puts out meaningful records that have a strong message. I love Lorde, Eric Church, Royal Blood, Trombone Shorty, the list goes on…
MR: What advise would you give to new artists?
EV: They have to start the fire on their own. Don’t think magic happens when you sign a record deal, if you do happen to get one, that when the real hard work begins. Be a great live act and focus on songs, its always about the songs. Your job is to write, create and perform , do it everyday and make it special. Be committed , patient and focused, play every night, like you are playing in front of 10K people, you never know who is watching.
MR: Looking back at your career at this point, what would have done differently?
EV: Jeez, for one, listened to my kids when they told me many years ago I should be looking at these DJ’s and get into the live business! Maybe I should have stuck to those guitar and piano lessons, but hell , I am better finding great players than being one.
MR: What does the future bring for you and Wind-Up?
EV: I hope for great success for our artists, in however they measure success. WU and I remain committed to artist development and will look to be a leader in the independent music community for years to come Keeping the independent sector strong and healthy is critical for artists, I would hope the consolidation t the major label level stops and the indies can compete at the partner level on a fair and consistent basis with the majors. Great artists usually comes from the Indy sector first. If we are successful at having our music heard and our artists seen, then we have delivered and our employees will be happy and so will I. WU has always been about its artists first, however the consistency of its success has been its employees and leaders around this office, many that started with me “back in the day.” Entertainment – The Huffington Post
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A Conversation with Girish Malik, Bickram Gosh & Sonu Nigam
Mike Ragogna: Gentlemen, hello. The film Jal has gotten a lot of attention, lately, among the Oscar crowd where it’s on a long list of current nominees. How did this project and all of your involvements begin?
Girish Malik: It started as an idea for a short film about migratory birds and the environmental factors affecting them which evolved in to a human story over the years. During my many visits to Kutch for research along with Rakesh with whom I have co-written this film, I was fascinated with the place and the people, the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes that keep moving and yet call this hostile desert home, pretty much like the flamingos. I felt so close and motivated to tell this story and to showcase this world. The music had a huge part to play in the narrative of the film. From the very beginning I was very clear about how I wanted the film to look, but I was still searching for the right sounds. During my research I came across, Bickram’s “Primal” track from his album Kingdom of Rhythm and that struck a chord with me. I had a meeting with him and we connected. Sonu I knew separately and we had earlier discussed other projects but I had never worked with him. During my conversations, I found out that they were collaborating on an album. From there the idea formed of both of them collaborating on JAL.
Bickram Ghosh: This is first film that Sonu Nigam and myself composed together for! Mr. Nigam is India’s singing superstar and he and I had been working together on an album, The Music Room. Mr. Girish Malik had been speaking separately with Mr. Nigam and me regarding his film only to discover we had already starting working as a duo! Mr. Malik had heard much of my previous work on audio albums and some of my tracks were already part of his soundtrack references.
When the three of us sat together we realized that there was a palpable chemistry and we were even able to create the song “Jal De” in record time which then was used to create a reference mood by Mr. Malik when he started shooting.
Sonu Nigam: It’s simply bliss to find ourselves in this elite list with some of the most celebrated composers in the world, and that too in our very first outing as a composer duo. It so happened that I took a year’s sabbatical from Mumbai and moved to LA in 2009. Something happened and my musical sensibilities changed as a result of the unlearning that transpired in isolation there. Upon my return, myself and Mr. Bickram Ghosh, one of the finest percussionists in the world, decided on a musical collaboration couple of years back. In a chance meeting with director and old friend Girish Malik, Girish proposed I do the music for Jal. I proposed Bickram Gosh to join hands. And thus began the journey called Jal.
MR: Briefly, what are each of your creative histories?
GM: I have been creatively inclined since childhood and explored many mediums. I was a state level gymnast and was doing contemporary dancing and ballet. But later gravitated towards semi-classical and folk dancing specializing in Chau – an Indian tribal martial dance. I performed in India and internationally at many prestigious festivals as a dancer. This was in my final years of school and college. During college days, I got involved in theater where I spent many years acting with the most reputed personalities of Delhi Theater. Theatre led to television in Mumbai where I worked as a lead actor for seven years in some of the most popular shows. At the peak of my acting career, I felt stagnated because of the kind of work that was happening in Indian television and turned to production, direction and writing and set up a successful television and advertising production company. I produced, written and directed over 1000 hours of TV shows & many ad films. I have also worked as a creative consultant for top Indian and International broadcasters. JAL is my first feature film as a producer/director.
BG: I’ve played pure Indian classical music for many years, accompanied Ravi Shankar on the tabla for over a decade. I performed with him on his Grammy awarded album “Full Circle” in 2002. I played on the title track of George Harrison’s Brainwashed, which won a Grammy nomination. I played on two albums with Anoushka Shankar both of which got Grammy nominations. I have subsequently travelled the world with my Indo-fusion band Rhythmscape. I’ve collaborated with artists across the globe be it Africa, America, Japan, Israel, Australia, Europe etc. I often hear sounds in combination, cultures juxtaposed – that is what really marks my compositional faculties. I like working with a huge gamut of instruments. Of course, percussions are my first love.
SN: Having begun my career as a singer in my childhood 37 years back, I have been fortunate to have experienced unfathomable love and accolades worldwide. Music and songs play the most important part in Indian films – sometimes more pivotal than the script. And Indian film industry rules entertainment in the entire subcontinent. The past 23 years have given me thousands of songs, both film and non-film, thousands of concerts worldwide, besides opportunities like hosting the biggest, most respected and first ever talent show Saregama for 6 years on TV way back in 1995. I also judged the first two seasons of Indian Idol and then The X Factor eventually, besides various other major television series and events. Internationally, the only tribute to the great Michael Jackson by his blood line is in collaboration with me. Jermaine Jackson sang a song written and composed by me, which was inaugurated in the most prestigious IIFA Awards in Toronto in 2011. Besides, there are collaborations with Avicii for his song “Levels” and Britney Spears in “I Wanna Go.” Kylie Minogue’s only Indian film song is a duet with me.
MR: Bickram, you’re a world-renowned tabla player whose history includes playing with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. What do you think your musical and life experiences affected what you brought to the project?
BG: I think like Mr. Shankar, who used Indian instruments and Indian musicality as his core language of communication, I too do the same. I may use western instruments or oriental sounds, but my core emotional content is brought from India, her rich tapestry of sounds and the ability of Indian instruments to strike a deep intimate chord with the human heart.
My life has been textured with rich emotional experiences honed through a huge amount of travel. I see the human predicament as the same, whichever part of the world you may be from. Therefore, I like using a single instrument and weaving a variety of sounds around it, thereby putting the basic instrument into a larger context. Kind of like what classic literature or film often does. Elevating one man’s story into a metaphor for the human predicament.
MR: Sonu, to you, how closely did the final music of the film express what you were envisioning?
SN: When I first penned the first 4 lines of the title song, I narrated it to my late mother, who had just been diagnosed with cancer and was getting treated then. I truly believe she blessed and initiated the creative process of Jal. Me and Bickram Ghosh then sat in my studio to design the core sound for the track that would in due course decide the core ethos of the film, which was yet to be shot. I would like to now mention our director Girish Malik for having the clarity of vision, the dignity of not succumbing to mediocrity and giving us complete freehand to musically express Jal.
MR: What do you think the state of Indian films are at this point in time? Do you see them being even more widely embraced than they are now?
GM: I really hope so. A lot of the emerging filmmakers from India are making films that are essentially Indian and yet very global. They are trying to make real, heartfelt stories that go beyond the formula. In India they form a niche but in a country like India, niche is also big. As for international recognition, there are a lot of pre-conceived notions about Indian cinema that we have to deal with. What’s great is that now there are more avenues and more awareness so, a lot of independent expression is coming out of the country. Earlier it was tougher to make those kind of films.
BG: I think the fact that some films like Jal are breaking free from the clichés that have plagued Indian cinema for long, is an excellent sign. Like Satyajit Ray who showed a real India, Girish Malik, through Jal, shows a side of India hitherto rarely seen on the screen. The fact that our film deals with the universal issue of water makes it a microcosm of a global issue. This kind of cinema will make Indian films much more relevant globally.
SN: The Indian Film Industry is a monster of an industry in its own capacity. We make all kinds of Cinema. Jal, and its music getting recognition in the mainstream category of Oscar, on its own merit, is a huge morale booster for not just the team involved, but the entire industry. Even a remote association with it, can change an entire culture of thought process of a film industry anywhere in the world. Such is the credibility of an Oscar.
MR: Girish, Jal already has received an Indian National Film Award for Best Visual Affects. What do you think it is about the film that’s resonating on the world stage?
GM: I am happy that the various aspects of the film are being recognized on different platforms. The subject of the film is of course very universal and so are the emotions associated. The film was first recognized at Busan International Film Festival in Korea where it was featured in competition and received critical and audience appreciation for its cinematography, story and of course the music. A lot of research and detailed work has been done on every element of the film keeping in mind the mood and narrative of the film. A lot of heart and soul and years of hard work has gone into the making of Jal.
MR: This may seem like a superficial question but how has Bollywood hurt or helped the cause for getting appreciation of Indian films and filmmakers?
GM: An Oscar nomination or win is huge, of course! It’s a wonderful validation of your hard work and talent. Being recognized on this huge platform by the biggest and the best also means that the film gets exposure all over the world. And if that happens it just makes it easier for us to continue doing the work we believe in. Jal is my first and it has been a huge struggle to make this film. If a nomination or win happens, it will make the road ahead easier.
BG: I feel the clichéd side of Bollywood which emanated from vaudeville – like format spilled over to the screen from the stage has run its course. It has helped primarily through gifting the world a huge treasury of songs and music which has been loved and appreciated widely. But the clichéd format has often clouded the minds of the world audience and they have unfortunately missed some gems from India in the process. This has been detrimental to getting appreciation.
SN: First of all I shun the word Bollywood. I find it to be a very tacky nomenclature for an entertainment industry as unique as Indian Film Industry. The dominance of Music, song and dance in 99% of the films here, coupling with some of the world’s most fanatic fan following, gives it a character unheard and unseen anywhere in the world. Ironically that trait itself isolates it from world platforms. Jal perhaps, is in this celebrated race predominantly due to its unique musical approach and its clever usage of music confirming to International norms. With all humility, no piece of the music of Jal, can be used in any of the other films in contention in the list, it is that unique!
MR: In your opinion, which scenes marry the music to the visuals best in the film?
GM: Honestly, I think all of it is very important. The work that happened on the music and background score of the film was very extensive, over almost a year. Each and every sound was worked upon with a lot of thought, keeping in mind the space and emotions of the film. Cinema is an audio-visual experience. And that is how we worked on and edited this film from the very beginning. I do have a few favorite sequences, of course. One is where Bakka is completely shattered and is hallucinating just before the twister. Then in the end when Bakka is being dragged through the desert… Also the sequence where Kim is being chased by Kesar with a dagger. Sounds are as important in invoking an emotion or conveying something as the visuals.
BG: The opening scene where the camera moves over the parched land and a frame drum played over it. The sounds created from dead skin – on the frame drum – almost sound a death- knell for life in the water afflicted area. The oboe that serves as Bakka’s theme is next. Bakka’s is a water diviner and seems to have supernatural powers. It was important to use a sound that was alien to the terrain so that Bakka was connected to something beyond his immediate surroundings. It breaks the familiarity of the character from his surroundings. I also like the impassioned drumming – using a huge variety of drums – during the water ritual. The distinctive drum sounds used here are very different from the much used tympanies and other orchestral drums normally used in films. The exotic cry of the song “Jal De” (give me water ), the romance of the song “Ankhiyan Tihari” (your eyes) and the final climax where the chanting is used to denote a much larger force in action are also some of my favorites. I think the soundscape of Jal has a unique character and that is what is drawing people to it. It is a tapestry of fresh new sounds that put the visuals in a more pointed context.
SN: For me, the opening scene sets the tone of the soul of the movie and its music.
MR: What advice do you have for new musical artists and filmmakers?
GM: Musically, like I said, cinema is an audio-visual medium. Maybe because of my background as a classical dancer and in theater, my vision and thought process is always an amalgamation of sound and visuals. In fact even when I am writing a film, I start collecting sounds and make notes. Sometimes I write my scenes with an audio reference. I even pre-recorded some references to be used while shooting important sequences to get that mood and rhythm. Also, editing is not just editing the visuals, how you edit your sound will make a tremendous difference. I also completely believe in research and detailing. Shooting is just one part of the process. A lot of how the film turns out depends on your homework before the shoot and during writing and in the post-production. The key is in details. The rest, I think the safest thing to do is to take a chance and follow your heart!
BG: Learn your craft first. Then proceed through life with sincerity and passion. As you grow richer as a person, your work becomes deeper and more meaningful.
SN: I see a lot of creative artistes, singers, composers, directors, and writers etc., wasting their precious time criticizing other people’s work. Analyzing is imperative. Being a cynic, is anti-God. We close the doors to our creative and learning faculties when we are too critical in life. I have done that in my ignorance in my initial days too. But I got the point soon. Everyone around, is a guru, teaching you two things. What to do and what not to do. Listen!
MR: Will you all be working together again in the future?
GM: We have connected creatively during Jal and my kind of cinema matches their world of music. For every project of mine, I know how I want my sounds to be like and that is always the pre-requisite for who I need to associate with to give me that world.
BG: Of course, this is just the beginning!
Sonu Nigam: I would certainly want this bonding to bear more fruits for a long time to come.
MR: What do you picture reaction being to an Oscar nomination or win? In the long run, does it matter?
GM: An Oscar nomination or win is huge of course! It’s a wonderful validation of your hard work and talent. Being recognized on this huge platform by the biggest and the best also means that the film gets exposure all over the world. And if that happens it just makes it easier for us to continue doing the work we believe in. Jal is my first and it has been a huge struggle to make this film. If a nomination or win happens, it will make the road ahead easier.
BG: The Oscar is the biggest validation to cinema- related work in the world! Of course it matters! We believe we have a very special distinctive sound which is the result of life-long research, sincerity and experimentation. A recognition as huge as the Oscar can inspire us to work harder and can be a window to future opportunities which can then showcase our talent.
SN: Over the years having been bestowed with the most respected awards worldwide, I have come to believe that awards are like gifts. You love it when you receive it. But you shouldn’t complain when you don’t. I haven’t received one yet but I can assume that an Oscar must leave a lifelong impact on the receiver.
SCOTT WEILAND RELEASES HIS “MODZILLA”
photo credit: Jamie Weiland
According to Scott Weiland…
“I feel that ‘Modzilla’ exemplifies the overall sonic quality of the album. The guitar sound and the vocals show a ‘no holds barred’ approach. It’s a fresh sort of retro but modern too, and I think that both the STP and VR fans as well as new fans will gravitate toward it.”
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Mike Ragogna: Billy, it seems like only yesterday when you made history becoming the youngest singer to reach the top Billboard Country Albums spot. Do you even remember that these ten years later?
Billy Gilman: Yes…such a while ago, yet it seems literally like yesterday. I remember so much. Good and bad. Mostly great of course. Very lucky, I am, to have people respond to me and my voice that early on. Pretty bomb!!
MR: You also sold over 10 million records worldwide before 16. How did the media attention and all that success affect you?
BG: It really didn’t affect me. Granted I have been very lucky but my parents were key. They couldn’t care less if I’m their plumber or a 10 million selling singer. I’m still their son and they will kick my ass now as they did then. Haha. That’s what most kids and young adults need. Parents that are just that. Parents!
MR: You later made the decision to move back home with your family in Rhode Island and you’ve used your celebrity to help organizations like St. Jude’s and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Was this in some way getting back to your roots and grow intotoday’s 26-year-old Billy Gilman.
BG: Well, I make my time between Nashville and Rhode Island. Having traveled literally more than half my life I love RI and my family and friends. No one should give that up. The charity work was a no brainer for me. Seeing other young men and women and children battle every day hoping to live…how selfish could I be having done what I’ve done and not wanting to help in ANY way. It’s bigger than all of us. Those kids and adults teach me more about life than I could ever learn elsewhere.
MR: You recorded 2012’s “The Choice” for yet another charity, Soles4Souls that included many artists. Can you first go into the story behind “The Choice”?
BG: So proud that this was accomplished! My co-writers Dan and Philip and myself were writing for this project and started on “The Choice.” Knowing it didn’t fit the run of the mill song we instantly knew it was an anthem. Why not an anthem for the greater good? We found a great charity in town–Nashville–called Soles4Souls. I then realized there had never been a song like We Are The World in country music so my brain start spinning. I thought why not ask the people I’m closest to in my field of work and see if they would commit to singing a line for the charity single. I started with 4 people and ended up with 18! Never In my wildest imagination would I have thought they all would say yes. I went to Haiti to see firsthand what the charity does and what this single would provide to so many. It’s been an awesome and fulfilling project.
MR: That brings us to “Say You Will.” What’s the story behind this recording, when is the new album coming, and can you go into any behind the scenes stories about it?
BG: “Say You Will” is very special to me. It’s the very first single I have co-written. It’s like a baby lol. It was born during the time of “The Choice.” Started with a chorus and it evolved into one of the best songs my voice has been able to perform. I love the treatment of it…letting the voice and words be the front running theme. Not an over produced pop/country song.
MR: Billy, what advice do you have for new artists?
BG: My number one advice would be, know who you are as an artist before anything else. Know your craft better than anyone. Listen to your gut no matter how many times other people question your gut.Be truthful whether it be personally or lyrically. And always make your fans #1
MR: How do you picture your future, creatively and personally?
BG: I really hope this brand new path–where it’s basically me getting back into the ropes–is where I’ll be for a while. Creating the best songs I can for my fans and getting out there to the public in any form. If you love what you do, truly love it, you will stop at nothing to achieve any form of success. That separates the men from the boys. Passion.
BEN JAIMEN’S “SATELLITES”
According to Ben Jaimen…
“I started working on ‘Satellites’ a few months before meeting with my producer. It has a great riff and when I played the song for him, we decided that it should be the single because it’s so catchy and the hook really grabs you. It’s a song people have on when they are having a good time, weather in a stadium concert or a party, or just hanging out with friends. It’s about people being together. It’s about people loving each other. I wanted to capture the excitement you get when you hear something you love, the feeling that makes you want to jump ‘to the moon’ because you are so excited.
“I have been creating music my whole life and began songwriting when I was 14. I think this EP, Through the Universe, is the best representation of my work, and it’s the perfect time to have others involved in my work. It’s about teamwork, and I want them to be a part of the team…”
Mike Ragogna: Ernest, how do you feel about your creative body of work these days?
Ernest Ranglin: I feel fine. And good! When you have been doing it as long as I have and still get to keep doing it, I feel like a lucky man. I love what I am doing. I still compose and write and I am always trying to find that sound…whatever it is that I am hearing at the moment. I am still learning.
MR: You recently released the album Bless Up. How did it come together?
ER: I a did a festival in California in 2011 and connected with some musicians out there that and I had met a nice gentleman named Tony Mindel and we seem to have some common ideas at that particular moment. The band had a nice connection and we did a quick little recording (album name Avila) in just a few days in lovely studio in northern California. I brought in a new composition and we reworked a couple of my older ones and each of the musicians added a tune and I think had had something pretty special. I really enjoyed the sound. We all stayed in touch and Tony and I connected again a year later in New York. I mentioned I had a stack of new compositions and Tony was excited to make another album. This time around we’d had more than a couple days in the studio to record what is now Bless Up. Needless to say I am very pleased with the results and this is a good feeling. The musicians have very international world flavor and style. Inx Herman is from Johannesburg and Yossi Fine is a very talented Bass player /producer from Israel, and keyboardist Jonathan Korty a great musician from the San Francisco Bay Area. This band and I have a special musical understanding. I hope people will agree when they hear these songs.
MR: Any particular songs that you’re most fond of having played, created or recorded for Bless Up?
ER: That is difficult to say. I consider all of these songs good friends–this is a bit of humor as one of the tracks is titled “Good Friends.” But really I like them all and think we have a pretty good variety on the recording. I think the compositions encompass many different styles–ska, reggae, jazz, world music–we put in some interesting elements and instrumentation on this album such as like harmonium and the melodica. These songs have flavors from many different eras of my career. So in that way, I like that we have so many sounds that will take the listener to many different places.
MR: How do you approach your music now compared to when you first started?ER: Well I am always trying to be stay true to myself as a musician and a person. I never want to write for anyone but I also want people to feel good and enjoy what we are playing. I feel I have a certain style that is accessible to the listener but I try to keep it original and have some interesting things as far as melody, rhythm or tempo in each composition as well as well. I have many different influences of course–Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker the great John Coltrane. But I work very hard to maintain a unique sound. I am self-taught, and always learning. I read a lot of music books when I was younger and the music that I grew up certainly influenced me but I have always tried to play my way. I try to portray what is necessary for the music. I try to play whatever suits the moment, as much as that is possible.
MR: What have been your observations about music over the years? For instance, genre changes, new artists, technology?
ER: Well music is always growing and changing and reinventing itself so I try to remain neutral in regards about judging new artists and technology. I am sure they were thinking my music was pretty different at some point when we were playing the ska rhythm and reggae for the first time. Everyone is a new artist at the beginning of their career and there are always new talents coming along. As far as technology, again the technology is just a tool and it always depends on how you use the tool. It always comes down to the music and if technology can help all the better, but for my style it usually comes out early in the process so hopefully we don’t need much of anything else to make it sound the way we want it.When When I was just starting in studios we used very rudimentary 2-track recording. Vocalists shared mics. One mic for drums etc… But we got a lot of real sounds in those studios. There is always room for new things and developments in technology. That is just the way things go, but it still comes down to the essential musical elements and what people feel. It is always about feeling the music for me.
MR: What are some of your favorite recordings that you’ve ever recorded? Do you continue to play them live?
ER: That is a tough one as well. Again, I like so many of them it is hard to pick favorites. Of course, Below the Bassline is something I have always been proud of. I still do many of those compositions live so of course that one has a special place in my heart. Modern Answers to Old Problems and In Search of the Lost Riddim… They all came from a desire to explore new and different styles and I was lucky to be able to collaborate with great musicians. I try to play the style and sound that suits the moment. And there have been a lot of moments indeed. I am blessed to have the opportunity to travel the world and create music that comes form my heart and soul.
MR: Does playing live still have that excitement to you like from when you first started out?
ER: Oh yes, definitely. I still enjoy performing very much. Of course, as I grow older I play a little less but there is nothing like performing one’s own music to people who truly appreciate it. I still enjoy traveling and seeing new and different places and visiting some of my favorite cities.
MR: What do you make of the respect and reverence people have toward you and your music?
ER: Well I am deeply appreciative and humbled by all the nice people out there who seem to appreciate what I am doing. I have always tried to create something of substance that is accessible and pleasing to the ears. I am very grateful that I have been able to create something that is enjoyable and don’t plan on absconding anytime soon! I just want the good vibes to keep following me.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
ER: One, look for a good teacher. I know I wish I had one. 2–Always remain true to your own heart and vision and try not to be like anyone else. Of course, you can always have your influences but chart your own course and stay true to yourself!
MR: Beyond promoting the album, do you have any plans or projects in the near future?
ER: I am always interested in new ideas in music and learning about different musical cultures. Specifically, I am interested in music from India and Southeast Asia and, of course, Africa. Perhaps combining many different sounds from all over the world and infusing this into a one conceptual project…who knows. I think this new record represents what I am doing now but I am not planning on stopping. I hope the music will continue for a good long time.I also plan to write a book one day. I’d like to get down all the great stories from over the years on paper. That’s part of my plan.
A Conversation with Mary Sarah
Mike Ragogna: Mary Sarah, your debut album Bridges on Cleopatra Records approaches country classics with their original hit artist singing with you. Where did the idea for an album like this come from?
Mary Sarah: When I finished touring with Kidz Bop, I returned to Texas to find that the only place I could sing often was the local and regional opry’s around Houston. I fell in love with traditional country music and fans were asking for a cd every time I played an Opry. So we originally set out to do an EP of the songs I sang quite often in the opry’s but when we turned our attention towards Nashville I had people encourage me to think a little bit bigger. I was introduced to Kent Wells–Dolly’s producer and band leader–who in turn introduced me to Dolly Parton. Truly, we started with a small idea that turned in to this finished project which is why I say it was “miracle after miracle”.
MR: Did you ever expect this level of country icons to appear on the album?
MS: I don’t think I ever “expected” anyone to agree to sing with an unknown, unsigned artist but I am so grateful that they did. I just kept going in to the studio and showing them what I could do vocally and then we would wait to see if they agreed. It was artist by artist and song by song.
MR: What do some of these songs and artists mean to you, and do you have any specific songs on Bridges that you have specific memories or stories attached to?
MS: I have stories with each one and this will always be one of the best things that I have ever done…I know that I will have stories to tell my grandchildren about these amazing Legends. “Where The Boys Are” seems out of place but this is a song I sang very early on in the Opry’s and the iPhone video of it with the Oak Ridge Boys helped to give me credibility when asking some of the Legends if they would consider singing with me. It opened doors and I love to sing it.
MR: You’re an 18-year-old who, through this album, is creating a “bridge” to older generations and some beloved songs. Do you feel the weight of pulling off a project like this just right? Are you aware you might be presenting material like this for the first time to your peers and are you anxious to see their reaction?
MS: I am excited because I told so many of my friends what I was doing on the weekends when I was in high school and they didn’t have the faintest idea why I would choose this over a party. My parents have taught me to respect those that have gone before me and I hope to not only introduce my generation to these songs but to set an example that you can never go wrong honoring those that have made a way for you to follow your dreams.
MR: What made you choose a country music path?
MS: Losing yourself in the story. I love getting lost in a song and what it can do to your soul.
MR: Are there other songs that you might have recorded but didn’t have the time or room on the album for?
MS: I really can’t say that there is because I believe that the Legends that stepped up and said they would do this deserve all the recognition. There are no empty hopes or any regrets…I love it just the way it is.
MR: What’s your favorite track and why? Were you surprised by the approach taken by any of the guest artist performances?
MS: I can not name one because I love them all. I was very shocked and surprised by Dolly. She said she loved the trax and wanted to dance around my vocals. I was in shock but I was not going to tell Dolly what to do. The outcome is an amazing version of “Jolene” and I am so happy because it does not sound like any other recorded version of “Jolene.”
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
MS: Take constructive criticism, don’t let anyone tell you what your dream is and surround yourself with good people who make you a better person. Don’t chase after fame because it is fleeting.
MR: How do you picture Mary Sarah five years from now? What do you hope will happen for you
MS: I hope to be touring and sharing great music with people around the world. I have been blessed enough to start with the Legends and I hope to be a Legend one day that can do what these Legends have done for me.
A Conversation with Gangstagrass’ Rench
Mike Ragogna: Rench, your first album was the big, happy Lightening On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic, then came the undeniable Rappalachia. Since then, you’ve been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Theme Music. So what is all this Broken Hearts And Stolen Money stuff?
Rench: All three albums draw heavily on the common ground Hip-Hop and Bluegrass have in subject matter–outlaw life, heartache, and being a badass. The latest album just turned out to have lots of songs with robberies, so I figured lets shout that out front in the album title. Maybe because robbing banks is how we financed the last few tours.
MR: “Long Hard Times To Come” was your breakthrough, but It looks like another Gangstagrass song, “Give It Up,” is up at bat. Will this bring on even more heartache and thievery?
R: Actually we have a newer track out now, “All For One” and we just released a video for it that is really starting to pick up steam. This track stands out as one of the rare happy and positive tracks. We show how Gangstagrass can be a symbol for how America could still come together and party. People think we are so divided that there is no common ground, but we are here to prove them wrong. It may be presumptuous to make ourselves the symbol of how America can be united, but if there is anything that stands for how we can bridge the gap between us, it’s a rapper and a banjo player getting down together. So we have declared that this video is good for America.
MR: Okay, perhaps you’re Justified to do such things, but before we go any further, can you go into what gave you the idea to combine two traditionally contrasting genres? What are Gangstagrass’ humble roots?
R: My dad is from the panhandle of Oklahoma, so I grew up with honky-tonk music at home. And when I was in grade school, hip-hop blew up and my friends and I went crazy over it. I always liked things that pushed boundaries and experimented, and because of my honky-tonk roots, when I started producing hip-hop I always had an urge to put something twangy over the beat. I had to just go for it, bring my two main influences into one project.
MR: Has Brooklyn caught on to Gangstagrass and as we speak mimicking what you’re doing for fame and fortune?
R: As far as I know, we are the only ones doing high quality bluegrass hip-hop. I would welcome anyone to join in and make it a movement, and we do have a great fanbase in Brooklyn, which is the perfect place for this–lots of great Bluegrass pickers and sick emcees. Who knows, maybe out there in a basement somewhere right now there is a jam going on to get the next great bluegrass-hip-hop band started. But for now we stand alone.
MR: What and who were your early musical and personal influences and do you feel you’ve honored them with your creative adventures or have you shamed them to tears or both? Don’t leave out anything about your RUN-DMC breakdancing.
R: Yeah, in third grade, it was all about breakdancing for me – every recess we would throw down our cardboard to do our backspins to the Beat Street soundtrack. I had a casette tape I dubbed off of a friend with Run-DMC “Raising Hell” on one side and Beasty Boys “License To Ill” on the other, and I wore that tape out. But when I got home it was Willie Nelson and George Jones on the stereo. There was also Gram Parsons, which I learned more about later, and he was a definite inspiration in terms of crossing genres in a way that was ahead of his time, bringing psychedelic rock and country music together before people were ready for that. I think if he were around today he would probably be incorporating hip-hop into his sound.
MR: Have you been slapped or approached with any other form of aggression by Bluegrass purists who feel you’ve made a mockery of their art form?
R: For the most party the response from Bluegrass fans has been overwhelmingly positive. We just got back from a really successful appearance at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, which was an amazing thing to be accepted into. But there is that fun little slice of purists for whom what we are doing is a crime against nature. They are certainly entertaining. Especially the claim we hear now and then that hip-hop is too violent. Apparently they aren’t away of the incredibly violent tradition of “murder ballads” that are part of bluegrass history. One day on tour I put a version of “knoxville girl” on in the van and the rappers jaws dropped.
MR: Where do you see this Gangstagrass-y stuff heading?
R: We will definitely be seeing world domination sometime next week. I look forward to our own brand of sneakers, drinks, and cologne. We are currently working on flying sharks with laser eye beams. We will probably use those for transportation on tour next year. Right now the jetpacks keep falling off the sharks. But expect to see an expansion – there will be more Gangstagrass, a solo Rench release and some other secret side projects to be revealed in 2015.
MR: What’s your advice for new artists?
R: Just do what you love and share it with the world and believe in yourself, and brush your teeth and don’t do drugs.
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Mike Ragogna: Natalie, what have you been up to lately beyond the new album?
Natalie Merchant: I’ve become extremely active in the fight against hydraulic fracking in New York. Where are you based?
MR: Iowa, though I grew up in New York, so this concerns me as well.
NM: Well, New York is sitting on the Marcellus Shale, which has huge reserves of natural gas, but the only way to extract them is by exploding the bedrock a mile or two under the surface and pulling the gas up using hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater which will then be contaminated. It’s also extremely radioactive down there. We’re watching what’s happened in other states with the contamination of aquifers and the devastation of previously rural areas that are now highly industrialized. There’s also quite a bit of contamination of the air that occurs with hydraulic fracturing. Anyway, I’ve been involved in that, and I made a film called Dear Governor Cuomo, because of the moratorium that was put in place by Governor Patterson before Governor Cuomo–which he has upheld.
MR: Natalie, do you think he’s weighing the economics heavily and that’s what’s affecting things?
NM: If he’s doing it for short-term gain, he would have opened the flood gates long ago. I think it’s politically very contentious because there’s a massive grassroots movement against this. Actually, we had a big victory last week, the court of appeals in New York ruled that all of the village, town, and city bans that citizen groups have put in place will be upheld. It’s a huge blow to the gas industry. Anyway, we’re just saying that it’s an extreme form of extraction that’s extremely dangerous, and we want an independent health study that tests what the impacts on the environment and health of not just humans but wildlife would be and what sort of impact it would have on our natural resources. Then we can weigh out whether it’s worth that risk. That’s happening in Colorado and North Dakota and Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia, there are these thirty-six other states where they’re fracking and there’s massive devastation of prairie. We’re also questioning whether it’s wise to make that a major export. We’re talking about energy independence. We can supply for our own needs, but if we’re talking about selling that gas to other countries we’ll need to get three to five times the amount. Anyway, that’s one thing I’ve been doing. I’ve also been involved in local activism in the domestic violence advocacy groups, and made another film called SHELTER. I’ve gotten into this new form of protest that is multimedia. We gather together the community activists, and in the case of Dear Governor Cuomo, we have scientists and victims from other states who have had their water contaminated, and then we put together a program with music that is relevant to the subject we’re trying to educate people about and put together an evening where we alternate between appealing to the heart and appealing to the mind, left brain, right brain. People take in the information in a completely different way than if it was given by a speaker. We also have visuals, photographs, film, and we film the whole event so that it can be a tool for activists between the organizing.
That’s what we did with the domestic violence issues, too. I got to go to some district attorneys’ offices in the two neighboring counties where I live in the Hudson Valley and we asked the prosecutors for statistics. We wanted to quantify the problem of domestic violence in our area because we felt it was a crisis but we couldn’t really sound the alarm without telling people how large the crisis was. The statistics had never been gathered in one place before, so we actually did a service to the domestic violence community by gathering the statistics and publicizing them. We found out there have been thirty-seven homicides over the past fifteen years related to domestic violence. They involved a child of three months all the way to a woman who was seventy-eight years old. People brutally murdered. And this was in this rural, bucolic environment. Then we started to look at how many domestic incident reports had been filed that year and the year before. There were tens of thousands. Then we checked how many arrests, how many convictions. When we actually did the event I decided that we as a community hadn’t acknowledged properly the deaths of these people, so I took all the names of the victims and I went back into the newspaper and I looked at the way their deaths had been reported. There was more written about a local football match than the brutal murder of two women. I decided that we have to memorialize these women.
MR: What was the commonality? When you looked at all the information, were there any conclusions that you came to?
NM: The conclusion I came to is that we need to have a community response. What was interesting was that I had this bias of, “I live in the country, this happens in the city.” It was not evenly distributed, but it was actually weighted a bit heavier in the countryside. There’s more domestic violence in the countryside, but the homicides are evenly distributed in both the urban and rural communities. That was jarring to me. But we took the thirty-seven names and we had a string quartet play a requiem, a piece that I had written, and we projected their names. It was an incredibly powerful moment for our community, to acknowledge that this was happening and to mourn these people. Anyway, I did that, and then I also did the Leave Your Sleep project which was a massive five-year project with a hundred and thirty musicians. I wrote a short book about the poets and spent a whole year talking to defendants of the poets and their estates and their executors, going to different institutions, finding photographs. A lot of those poets are so obscure there are no biographies–probably four of them had biographies. That was a really fun, engaging project that I could work on while having a small child.
MR: That approach was very original.
NM: It was interesting, I finished the project and I took it Nonesuch and Robert Hurwitz who’s been running Nonesuch for thirty years said it was the most original project he’d ever seen. I took that as a huge compliment coming from him. He’s worked with Steve Reich and Philip Glass for years.
MR: Let’s get to your latest album. It’s simply titled Natalie Merchant. You could have taken that approach before, why now?
NM: I wanted to make a distinction, I wanted to set this album apart from previously, and the album that preceded it, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, which was vocal music. I wanted to say, “This is my work.” That’s what I was trying to achieve through the self-title. It’s a piece of work that’s been in progress for probably fifteen years. I was focusing on having a family and my community activism and interpreting folk music and adapting other people’s words to music. I was also in a kind of journal-keeping fashion writing my own songs because it’s a compulsion. I have to do it. It is a kind of catharsis that comes from journal writing. So much happened in fifteen years, it’s a pretty sizeable piece of time. So much happened, not just in my private life but in the world. Wars began and ended. We as a global community recognized that we are seeing the impacts of our wanton ways on the climate, Hurricanes Katrina and Irene and Sandy. We’ve seen typhoons. This ongoing crisis of people being displaced by war and natural disaster, which I ended up writing about in the end. The UN figures–I’ve read 27.5 million people displaced by conflict. I’ve also read figures up to 40 million. It depends on what state those people are living in. Some people are living under tarps, some people have had to move to other countries to build their lives, but they still count as refugees and displaced people.
MR: Do you think there’s any solution?
NM: It would take a spiritual revolution. That’s what I’ve been praying for my whole life, that spiritual revolution. And it’s not recognition of one got or one creed. The spiritual revolution that I’m waiting for and I’m praying for is when we realize what a miracle it is that we even exist on this planet.
MR: My son and I have been watching the updated Cosmos series. In relation to the time and space of the universe, what a speck of a speck of a speck times a trillion and more each human being actually is.
NM: How very minute we are. We’re just misguided. Our brains are just large enough to completely undermine our whole existence. It’s tragedy on a scale that cannot be imagined. it just devastates me every day. We have scraped away topsoil that people in the arid regions of the world would lay down their lives for and covered it with tar. Just start with that. We don’t value what sustains us. We poison the water, we poison the air, we destroy the soil. It’s maddening. You know what’s even more maddening? To explain this to a child. I didn’t really consider that when I got pregnant that someday I would have to try to interpret the madness of my species.
MR: The hardest thing is when you try to raise them to be decent people and the world throws at them messages that are contradictory to that.
NM: And you hope that you’ve given them a strong enough foundation that they can be critical enough to say, “That’s wrong.”
NM: That’s the goal of good parenting; to raise critical children who can look at the world with a strong base and a critical eye. And then you hope and pray. The other thing that I’ve really wanted to do is provide a protective environment for her long enough to have an authentic childhood. I think every child deserves that. It’s just heartbreaking that so few children get the opportunity. That protective coating that you put on your child, it seems like the whole world is conspiring to bust it open, with the types of film that are created and the books and the video games and the violence and wanton destruction that exists in the world. I’m just constantly shielding my child. I’m really thankful that I live in the country. When I take her to the city, we’re just assaulted by the imagery. I have no control.
MR: Do you see a spiritual renaissance happening to the planet?
NM: I think it’s happening on a tiny scale. When people say, “Are you optimistic or pessimistic?” I say, “I’m optimistic about individual transformation, but it’s the massive institutions that take so long to change.” They’re so inflexible. I’m pessimistic about that. What can we do about the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world? What can we do about it? Nothing. What can we do about the carbon in the atmosphere at this point? There’s nothing we can do. What can we do about the great lakes? What can we do about the icebergs? This is going to a dark place, but that’s why I made a dark album. I just feel that people need consolation. If Billie Holiday had never recorded “Strange Fruit” 1939 would have been remembered as just the year that The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind were released and the Andrews Sisters had a number one hit about whatever, and we wouldn’t know that there were artists who saw the world for what it was, saw the dark of the world and were disturbed by it. Billie Holiday had the courage to make art about it.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
NM: I would just encourage them to dig deep into themselves, find their authentic heart and be vulnerable. Allow people to see that part of themselves, because that’s what people are going to respond to. I think that’s what’s going to be your lasting legacy. Think about that. What would you like to bring into the world. I think the most powerful thing you can put into the world is that part of yourself that’s felt so deeply.
MR: And that would probably not only be good for the art, but for the human as well.
NM: Mm-hmm. There are so many other aspects to a musician’s world these days, it started with the MTV business. Younger people are just more conscious of trends and branding. That kind of thing didn’t occur to us years ago. There weren’t that many platforms for it. You had a record cover and you had a poster, and that was it. Then came MTV and then came the internet. It’s fascinating and it’s fun to play with and there’s so much you can do with it if you have that capacity. But a lot of artists are just songwriters or singers or guitar players and that whole visual component and having to constantly promote yourself, that can be daunting.
MR: It sure can.
NM: I remember what it felt like, and it still feels like that. When you connect with another person over a piece of music that you both love… We were doing that on the tour bus the other night. My guitar player pulled out his guitar and we were singing songs for hours after we’d already played music for five hours between sound check and the show. We just love it, that feeling of connection and camaraderie, it’s so powerful. Everybody wants to feel like they’re included. That’s what music is about, to me. It’s inclusion. “I feel that. You feel that? We feel the same thing,” whether it’s feeling it with the artist or later on with someone else as you share that same piece of music.
MR: An anthem is a powerful uniter.
NM: Think of how powerful Nirvana was. Think of how powerful Bob Dylan was. Some people are like lightning rods.
MR: That’s a good way to put it. Natalie, we really haven’t talked much about the album yet, can you walk me through it just a little?
NM: This is a survey of fifteen years of work. It wasn’t that I just wrote ten songs in the last fifteen years, I probably wrote thirty or more. But this collection began to coalesce, these songs seemed to belong together more than any of the others. The thing that they all seemed to have in common was they seemed to be about transformation on some level. They also seemed to be about intensely personal subjects, or the world at large. Somehow I wanted to make that connected. I wanted intersections between public and private like we all have. I’ve always used this technique of creating characters and then either inhabiting those characters or having a dialog with them, which happened a lot on this record. “Ladybird” is a woman who has reached that point in her life where she feels extremely dissatisfied but knows that she has created a life that she can’t abandon. So it’s about self-sacrifice, it’s about yearning, it’s about limbo and assessing your life from wanting to change but not being able to because there’s so much at stake.
MR: How does it feel to have created one of the most memorable singer-songwriter albums, Tigerlily?
NM: It was as much a surprise to me as anybody. After 10,000 Maniacs, we had toured for years, we’d done that large MTV Unplugged album, it was kind of the pinnacle for us, with “These Are Days” on that last album. Then I kind of got to the edge of the precipice and I jumped off and I said, “I just want to start again and I want to make a little, quiet record with a little band.” I paid for the record myself, I produced the record myself, I did all the preproduction in my garage and I recorded it pretty quickly at Bearsville Studios. I was so close to the ground with that record, and then it exploded and sold five million copies. Still to this day, when I play those songs, there’s such a huge response. I’m actually re-recording the record next year with all these beautiful string arrangements that I’ve written for all these orchestral shows. I decided, it’s the twentieth anniversary of the release of this record and I’d like to revisit these songs. The truth is I don’t have to revisit them because they’ve stayed a part of my repertoire throughout my life.
MR: Has the material evolved as Natalie Merchant has? Have the lyrics or the arrangements changed significantly over the years?
NM: I think I was pretty precocious, because they’re still extremely relevant, songs like “Carnival” and “Wonder.” The thing that I find really wonderful is how it was embraced by people. One of the things that we’re actually doing is interviewing people at these concerts I’m doing right now about Tigerlily and hearing their stories. The song “Wonder,” in particular, because it’s become an anthem for sick children. It’s become an anthem for children with physical and mental challenges, and it’s so much about the love and support of the parents in helping those children overcome any obstacle. I’ve talked to doctors who said, “We don’t really know how to understand that impact that something like your song has on children, but it has an impact. It has healing properties.” I’ve actually had doctors tell me that.
MR: I’ve heard quite a few artists say they modeled their albums after Tigerlily.
NM: I don’t think of myself as extremely influential or important. I sort of think of myself as a fringe artist. An out there, cult artist on the fringe.
MR: Would you say that you’re still developing as a human?
NM: I hope so! I think having a child really changed me in a really profound way. I have been living on the edge of society, just passing through towns for years. If I put all the years I toured together, end to end, it would be twelve solid years of sleeping in a different bed every night. All the while I was yearning for a home and a place to belong. I think that when I settled in one place and I had a family and watched my child grow up and became somebody who people depend upon on my community in a real way, not just, “Oh while I’m in town maybe I’ll do a benefit for you,” but in an, “Oh, you need someone there at ten o’clock to set up chairs? I’ll be there. You need someone to make all these cupcakes? I’ll be there. You want me to teach the kids civil rights? I’ll be there,” way. Becoming a part of a stable community was very transformative for me. When you embrace a place as home you want to protect it. I remember when I met Pete Seeger. I’ve been in the Hudson Valley for twenty-seven years now, and Pete much, much longer. I remember we took the train together down to the city and by chance we bumped into each other at the railway station upstate. We had this lovely talk all the way down to the city and I remember him telling me, “Natalie, you just have to find a place, make it your home, and stay there.” He said, “Musicians get lost.” It was a wonderful source for that advice. So I took that to heart.
MR: What a beautiful moment. I would add–my perspective coming from being a new parent–that your child also is your home. That could be as big a part of it as one’s geography.
NM: But I think if everybody embraced and protected their home, we’d be golden. The familiarity is important. Once you know a place and love it you want to protect it. When we were organizing both the anti-fracking event and when they tried to start a logging campaign in the state parks of New York we toured all around New York state having petition drives and playing concerts and we publicized that there was this plan to allow logging in the state parks and a cement factory in the Hudson. We ended up presenting a petition to the governor with signatures from a hundred and twenty artists from New York who didn’t want that to happen. Even things like noticing that the Headstart playground was falling apart in my local town, just being more proactive. It just goes on and on. I decided I would not do shows in my community for anything but the benefit of my community. You know who I learned that from? Fugazi. When they played in Washington, if they charged money, it was to benefit their home.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Freda Payne
Mike Ragogna: We have quite a few things to talk about here, especially your new album, Come Back To Me Love. So who is this love you want to come back to you?
Freda Payne: [laughs] That’s an interesting one, no one’s ever asked me that one before… “Who is this love you want to come back?” I guess all the loves I’ve ever had. The ones who are still living, anyway. [laughs] The song “Come Back To Me Love” is about a person who separated or split up for a little while but they still love that person and want them to come back into their life. I’m just saying that you can read that any way you wish.
MR: You recorded one of my favorite jazz songs, Kenny Rankin’s “Haven’t We Met?” It’s become a real standard over the years, huh?
FP: Oh yeah! I had become friendly with Kenny Rankin, I got to meet him doing a special annual benefit at the home of director Oz Scott here in Sherman Oaks. It was for The Jackie Robinson Foundation, he had it at his home, he has this huge backyard. It’s an event where he invites close to about four hundred people and it’s called Jazz On The Grass. He had artists like the late George Duke, Marcus Miller, everybody. It’s just one of those kinds of events where you could go and see Sheila E., or Lalah Hathaway or anybody like that. I’ve done it several times where I was also one of the guest artists as was Kenny Rankin. We met and got to be friends. Of course he passed away two years ago, but the thing is that I always liked that song. When I was in the process along with my fellow producer and orchestrator Bill Cunliffe I said, Bill, I’ve always liked that song “Haven’t We Met?” and he said, “Yeah, I like it, too!” and that’s how that came about.
MR: Kenny Rankin’s death was a surprise. I know that he reached a certain level of fame and appreciation, but it almost seems like especially after albums like Silver Morning, he should’ve been a household name.
FP: He was special. He was really a special musician and singer. You’re right, he should’ve gone to even greater heights of fame.
MR: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. Let’s look at some of the other material. Do you have any stories of how you related to this material when you were younger?
FP: Every single one. “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” I always thought of that as a cool standard, a swinging upbeat song to do, and of course everyone knows Cole Porter.
MR: What about the songs by Tom Robinson?
FP: Tom Robinson wrote six of the songs on the album and I like all six. “Lately” is something I think a lot of people can relate to in terms of another personal relationship that’s not quite in balance.
MR: There are two more by Gretchen, “Come Back To Me Love” and “Whatever Happened To Me.”
FP: “Whatever Happened To Me,” you know when you’re kind of perplexed and not sure of yourself, it’s almost like a psychological kind of thing where you go, “Hey, wait a minute, what’s going on here, what am I doing? Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?” [laughs]
MR: [laughs] Nice.
FP: Then there’s “You Don’t Know,” that’s like you’re on the prowl. You know that feeling when you’re out there at a singles bar, or you’re at a club or a supermarket or ayour gym and there’s somebody that comes in who’s at your spin class or your yoga class and you start noticing them–“You don’t know what I’m feeling, you don’t understand. I love you with a passion, baby, my heart’s in your hand. You’ve got to know that I just want to be with you.” You’re out there trying to hook up.
MR: It’s funny, you swing the words when you talk about it as much as you swing them when you sing them.
FP: Yeah, when you get into it–I don’t know if I told you, but I have more of myself and what I like and my choice of songs on this CD than I’ve ever had ever in my entire recording career. Usually when you work with a big company and they give you a producer or, in this case I chose my producer. I’d already worked with him and he’d been currently working with me as an accompanist as well and he has his own name, Grammy Award Winner Bill Cunliffe–as well as a Thelonius Monk Award winner. We both chose these songs and these things I wanted to do. We basically chose from about twenty two of Gretchen and Tom’s songs the six we liked the best.
MR: How about “Save Your Love For Me”?
FP: Oh! “Save Your Love For Me,” that goes back to the sixties. Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson. I always loved that song. I never sang it before I did it on the album. I never performed it ever. Now I’m doing it. I always liked that song. There are always songs you’ve always liked but you never did. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” is the only one of them on the whole album that I had been accustomed to performing prior to this.
MR: Did you discover more layers of the material as you delved into them this time?
FP: Yes I did, and guess what? As I go and start performing them in front of people in clubs and theaters and areans or wherever I’m going to perform them it’s going to get better, because I like it better as I go.
MR: And it seems like you had a blast with these songs.
FP: I’m having a blast, and I have a blast when I perform them. When you’re doing material that you love, it’s so much better. There are songs that I’ve recorded in the past, songs from the seventies where I wasn’t that into the song but I did it because the producer said, “We need to do this, this is the best song for you,” but I wasn’t that crazy about it. As a result I wound up not really performing those songs that much.
MR: Yeah, and who can blame you? It gets a little painful to sing songs you’re not into.
FP: Yeah, it is. Now, I’ve got to say, my hit “Band Of Gold” that I had back in the early seventies, I do that because people love it so much and I get requests for it no matter what I’m doing. Let’s say I do a whole jazz show and I come back with “Band Of Gold” for the last encore, people love it! They want to hear “Band Of Gold” because that’s how they know me.
MR: And also “Bring The Boys Home” during a time in history when yet again we had a war and people were raising their voices to bring the troops home.
MR: “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home” were both about that same topic, was that a concept that was close to you?
FP: I’ll put it this way: I’m far from being a Jane Fonda. I am not on that cutting edge at all. I did the song because bascially number one I believed in it and number two I felt the deep, heartfelt sentiment and the emotional tag of it–that you could feel the pain of people who had relatives or loved ones or husbands or daughters over there. And to be honest with you, the company was trying to get a hit record.
MR: So was it really Holland-Dozier-Holland and Invictus Records directing that?
FP: They called me into the office to play the demo of the song and upon my first listen it brought tears to my eyes. I said, “This is right on time. This is what the public would probably want to hear,” and they said, “Yeah, we feel the same way, too. You need another hit record to follow up ‘Band Of Gold.'” So that’s how it all happened.
MR: Wow. Interesting. You weren’t exactly Crosby, Stills & Nash, but you really put a voice and a face, an identity, to the concept of, “I’m a real person, let’s bring the troops home.”
FP: Right. I mean, I wasn’t walking down Pennsylvania Avenue protesting and getting arrested, but just like Crosby, Stills and Nash and all these other singers, I was in the pop vein who did cutting edge material delivering messages through their lyrics and their artistry. A lot of poets do that, too.
MR: Exactly. You’re one of the centerpieces of the Holland-Dozier-Holland Invictus story.
FP: I am. There was a documentary done a few years ago and they entitled the documentary “Band Of Gold,” because that was the biggest seller during the time they had the label.
MR: It was a huge record. But you also brought “Joy” and “Deeper & Deeper” and other non-topical songs.
FP: And when I did “Band Of Gold” I got nominated for a Grammy for “Best R&B/Soul Singer (Female)” and then I got nominated, twice actually, for the album Contact.
MR: That’s right! That’s right! To me this is a jazz album, what you’ve just put out.
FP: It’s definitely a jazz album, on a jazz label.
MR: But jazz these days also hints towards R&B, funk, all these other areas that it has embraced over the years.
FP: Because jazz came from all of that. Jazz came from funk which came from the gospel church which came from the pentecostal church and the baptist church. Jazz has also infiltrated the hip hop world, you hear a lot of jazz infused into certain mixes.
MR: And there’s the connection to the blues.
FP: Oh yeah, the blues is jazz, too, as far as I’m concerned. You go to a jazz club and you can hear–as artistic as some jazz artists might be–when they start playing some blues that’s a whole other thing. There’s raw blues, the pure blues, and then there’s blues intermixed with jazz. It’s more of a jazz inflection on blues chords. For instance, in my show, I do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. When I do the “St. Louis Blues,” there’s a version that Ella did that I kind of emulate. She starts it off rubato but slow, the piano is playing very slow, bluesy chords, it’s funky. It might have been Tommy Flanagan or someone like that as her pianist at the time and they’re playing real funky blues for let’s say twenty four bars of the song and then they’ll jump start it and go back to the top with an uptempo version of it and do it like that. That’s a very clever way of doing the blues.
MR: Lots of people know you as a pop R&B singer, but you actually started out as a jazz singer with Quincy Jones, and now you’ve sort of come full circle. What is it about jazz that got you into this and keeps you fulfilled now?
FP: I think it speaks more to my intellect musically, based on how I’ve been trained and how I was brought up. It speaks to my inner soul, I’ll put it that way. I didn’t really get into R&B until I was in my early twenties, and that’s because of Motown becoming more sophisticated and using better arrangers.
MR: That’s a good point, they sort of took a few steps forward from what was R&B to establish “The Motown Sound.”
FP: Now we call them The Funk Brothers, but the musicians who were employed by Motown and did a lot of the Motown sessions, whom I wound up working with back then–Earl Van Dyke became my musical director for twelve years, he was one of the key Funk Brothers.
MR: But Holland-Dozier-Holland had those original Motown roots anyway–is that how the crossover happened?
FP: Yeah, absolutely. I went to high school with Brian Holland. I had met Eddie Holland when I was fourteen years old. Berry Gordy, Jr. brought him to my house. That was when Berry was trying to get me to become one of his artists. This was pre-Motown years. Berry Gordy wrote three songs for me and took me into a studio in Detroit called United Sound, recorded them, and he wanted them to sign me as an artist. My mother wouldn’t follow through with it because she wouldn’t agree to his terms.
MR: [laughs] That seems to be the cutoff with some artists, why they were or weren’t on Motown.
FP: Same thing with Aretha Franklin, don’t you think he tried to get Aretha Franklin? She had her dad, the Reverend Franklin and he sat down with Berry and said, “No go. No go.” She went to Columbia and then Atlantic and the rest is history.
MR: But it’s interesting how you’re Detroit, it’s a natural fit, you went to school with Brian.
FP: Oh, and I forgot, I’m leaving out Lamon Dozier. He’s an integral part of HDH. I went to school with Lamont all through middle school. I went to school with Lamont from the sixth grade to the eighth grade. I had more of a history with Lamont. It’s almost like we’re all from the same pot.
MR: Have you had reunions, especially with Lamont, over the years?
FP: Oh yeah, I just did a think in honor of Lamont here in Beverly Hills on June seventh. The brand new Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills which opened just last year, a man by the name of Charlie Fox–have you ever heard of him?
MR: Of course, Gimbel & Fox.
FP: He asked me to participate in honoring Lamont Dozier as well as David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Annenberg. I participated in that with my sister, who was one of the Supremes. So I just saw Lamont recently. As a matter of fact I just bumped into him at the supermarket the other day!
MR: [laughs] Nice!
FP: And also in 2011 I did a tour with Lamont over in Europe with Sir Cliff Richard. We did a nine city tour of all arenas called the Soulicious Tour. Lamont was one of the acts along with Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo, James Ingram, Percy Sledge and myself.
MR: Where is the album with all of you performing together? With all of these friendships over the years, it seems like you’d have a lot of fun doing more tours and collaboration albums.
FP: You’re absolutely correct. That’s what happened with the Soulicious Tour in the UK, but something like that would go over well here in the States, I think.
MR: I think so, too. What is your advice for new artists?
FP: It depends on what stage. If you’re trying to be discovered I’d say try to get on these talent contests that are flooding the market now, like American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, Rising Star, because that seems to be one of the quickest, easiest avenues to get exposure. The other way I see it with this world of technology that we’re being sucked into more and more, get on YouTube or Facebook or whatever. Try to perform as much as you can for local things in your city, maybe clubs or little music festivals, just get exposure. That’s the only thing I can say. Don’t be quick to turn any opportunity down. I remember once a wise person said to me, “Sometimes something good comes in a small package.” It’s not always, “Oh, this is a big opportunity, you’re going to really excel with this.” I’ve done shows where the money was just enough to pay for my weekly grocery bill, or a play where you’re doing regional theater and the money really couldn’t support me, but you do it because it could lead to something bigger and better and it comes back to you four- or five-fold. And it also enriches you as an artist!
MR: Can you remember anything in particular like that? You’ve have both overtly big breaks and nice subtle relationship with people that led to something nice.
FP: Yeah, sure, I did a musical called Blues In The Night back in 1990. The salary was like, “Are you kidding me?” but I did it for the love of the music and the art and fact that it was muscial theater and I am an Equity member from having done a string of Broadway musicals on the road. It always led to something else. I did Blues In The Night and that led to me doing Jelly’s Last Jam here in L.A. before it went to Brodway, and then that led to me doing the first and only national company after it left Broadway and making much better money for a whole year. That’s what I’m talking about.
MR: When does Come Back To Me Love, Part 2 come out?
FP: [laughs] Well that’s up to the company! That’s up to Mack Avenue if they want me to do another one. I’m certainly hopeful that it might result in that. What do you think?
MR: If there isn’t another one by this time next year I’m going to write a protest letter.
FP: [laughs] Maybe you should let them know that, too.
MR: Well, I did mention that I liked the album
FP: You know what’s so funny, Mike? I’m getting this kind of response from people who know me from “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home.” I was thinking, “All these people who like those songs so much are probably into the R&B and pop stuff and they probably won’t really like this that much,” but I’m getting very positive responses from people. And although it’s a jazz album, I call some of these songs urban pop. The one I think could be a good crossover tune is “I Just Have To Know.” Another one I like is “Lately.” It moves nicely.
MR: There must’ve been other songs you considered that didn’t fit on the album. I bet when you’re performing this album there are a few others you sneak in there.
FP: Yeah, I do some more stuff. Actually, when I perform live I still do “Band Of Gold” and I may throw in some other standard tunes.
MR: This album is like, “Hello again, Freda Payne.”
FP: All right!
MR: Is there anything left to cover? I know we only touched on Broadway a little bit.
FP: When you think of Broadway shows I’ve done, I’ve done Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, I’ve done eight companies of Blues In The Night, I’ve done some plays by a playwright named Donald Welch, I did A Change Is Gonna Come. Most recently I did a film version of play called Divorce, strictly as an actress, there’s no singing involved. You can get that on DVD.
MR: I was going to ask you about that. Do you have an acting bug? Do you want to fulfill a little more of that, too?
FP: Yeah, sure, that goes along with the territory. Look at all the singers who are doing a lot of acting, now. Especially rap artists.
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