MELODY CHEBRELLAN

>>>>> What was your first instrument and when did realize you could sing? Are you classically trained?  My first instrument was definitely my voice. My mother always said that I was singing before I could talk. When I was four, we were living in San Francisco and she brought me along to an audition for Beach Blanket Babylon’s twentieth anniversary show. She was auditioning but I apparently told the director I wanted to audition too and he ended up creating a role for me. I was little Snow White and sang “Let Me Entertain You” in the San Francisco Opera house to a crowd of about 3,000 people. I’ve basically been performing ever since; doing musical theater, a cappella, and singing in bands.

>>>>> Who were your favorite artists growing up and whose on your island cloud today?  Again, my mother was so influential in developing my musical taste. She was the lead singer in an alt-rock band called B.B.M.T in the early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by musicians, artists, and eccentrics, and all of their eclectic listenings. I was surrounded by so much music that I still love today, from Beck to John Coltrane, Billy Idol, Nina Simone, Queen, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, the Gypsy Kings, and Joni Mitchell. Having just moved to Austin, I have been exploring local bands like Matt the Electrician, Shinyribs, Dana Falconberry, Shakey Graves, and Little Mazarn.

>>>>> Did you plan to release a full-on record when you started recording the songs featured on Comets & other drifting bodies?  Yes and yes …I began this project with the intention of doing a full record. I had released two shorter EP’s in 2016 and 2016, one by myself and another through a side project called Little Hermit. I was writing feverishly at the time, but wanted a bigger production, so I started looking for collaborators. I submitted “Often Unrequited” to a database for sound engineering students at dBs Music School Berlin, which I wasn’t sure would amount to anything, but a few weeks later I got an email from a student named Joao Fronesco. This was the start of a great friendship and fruitful collaboration that resulted in Comets & other drifting bodies. Once I got Joao on board the project took on a life of its own and we spent the next few years writing, recording, assembling session musicians, re-recording, both of us moving continents (me to Austin and Joao to Hong Kong), then mixing, mastering, and finally releasing the album!  It has been a long, arduous labor of love.

>>>>> The production on the disc is stellar, at times sounding like a multi-million dollar major label effort:  how did you do it?!  I have to give full credit to my amazing sound engineer Joao Fronesco who recorded the full album and to the very talented Erik Wofford at Cacophony Recorders who mixed and mastered it. When I started recording I had zero budget for studio time or to pay an engineer, so I specifically looked for talented students who might be interested in my music. Joao was perfect because he is bright, focused, and wanted to produce an LP as his master’s thesis. He also knew a ton of musicians with whom he was often trading favors. It was totally symbiotic. Once we were in the studio, my main role aside from performing was recognizing who was really talented and giving them opportunities to explore their creativity.

>>>>> You cop a lot of different but notably comfortable feels on the album, from minimalism to wisps of jazz:  are we hearing your band or are there several line-ups of musicians on the album from song to song?  Haha yeah! As I said, I love all different types of music and the muses were pretty generous during this period. I brought the best demos to Joao, who was excited to work on a myriad of different genres and flavors. He was instrumental to transforming my rough demos into what you hear. We approached each song individually and tried to make each track the best it could be. Then we brought in friends and fellow musicians (bribed with favors and trades) and encouraged them to bring their own flavor and talent to the song. Berlin is super international; our session musicians came from Bolivia, Israel, Germany, the Philippines, Portugal, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Everyone was invited to add their own styles which added a great deal of texture and variety to the tracks.

>>>>> How does a song begin for you?  I wish I knew the formula but every song begins differently for me. Some I have to really muscle through to finish, while others like “I’ll Never Fall Apart” seem to fall out of me whole. With that song, I was walking around my neighborhood singing to myself and when I got home, I hit record on a tape recorder and it was all right there, scat included. A few years went by and I didn’t know what to do with the recording; then one day I played it for Joao and he thought of his friend Adriel Bote in Hong Kong, who is an outstanding jazz pianist. We sent him a recording and he sent back the amazing piano part you hear on the album! It was like magic.

“Losing Touch” was a collaboration with my friend Ben Pfister who is also a talented pianist. He had a chord progression stuck in his head for months and I wrote lyrics and a melody on top of it. We actually recorded that one in the studio twice, because we couldn’t get the right rhythmic shuffle on the chorus. It was sitting half finished when two session musicians picked it up and ran with it, the guitar part was created by Hannes Petri and the drums by Roy Salmon. The two of them really took the song to the next level. I think my best songs sort of strike like a bolt of lightning, but there’s this great Mary Oliver quote that I love about how you have to show up for your muses.  I lean heavily on writing practices that pull me through stretches of writer’s block and put me in a receptive place for inspiration.

>>>>> What song on the disc do you think best represents what you are about today, musically & otherwise?  After shepherding this project for so many years, I am thrilled to have what feels like a clean slate. I don’t know what direction my music will take and that’s very exciting for me.

>>>>> You lived for years in Berlin before moving to Austin: how do you think that experience there informs your music or approach today?  Berlin is edgy and has this sort of dark disco grungy techno vibe. It also is nestled in Europe, so I was exposed to a lot of international indie folk/rock music like First Aid Kit, Angus and Julia Stone, and Mighty Oaks. As an expat I enjoyed this tinge of never quite belonging, which meant I could live and work a bit outside of convention, both socially and artistically. I have always been a rule follower by nature, but in Berlin I felt free to experiment and this intense drive to do so. I flagrantly disregarded the rules and guidelines about what music is, how a song should be structured, notes that go together, ideas about cohesion and meter and genre. Some of the songs I wrote in Berlin were downright strange. Now living back in the US, it has been challenging for me to keep up this fertile subversiveness. But I am still a bit of a foreigner in Texas, so that helps.

>>>>> The video for “Upside Down” does a great job of matching your energy in a fun visual, did you direct it? Thanks! I am really proud of that video. “Upside Down” is the most upbeat, fun song on the album and I thought the dense imagery in the lyrics would lend itself well to video.  I met Aaron MacCarley, another dBs student in the film school and it was his idea to make it a stop-motion adventure. I’ve loved stop-motion animation and claymation since I was a kid, so I was immediately onboard. We spent a few months in pre-production (brainstorming, story-boarding, creating backgrounds and assembling props, and testing the sequences).  I had no idea how much work goes into a stop motion film, especially a no-budget operation like this one. We tye-dyed the backgrounds, the props consisted of my books, instruments, and Aaron’s roommate’s samurai sword. We hand painted the fish and the planets and drew and cut out each letter of the credits. Aaron found a plank of wood in the alley behind the studio, drilled a hole in it for the lens of his camera to rest in, and we suspended plank and camera across two hanging fluorescent lights. The shoot took four full days, during which I laid on the ground moving incrementally and tensing various body parts for 3500 different frames. It was exhausting and exhilarating and I’ve never been so sore in my life.

>>>>> Since you point out on the record that you’ve taken into account the earth’s wobble on its axis, where does sci-fi figure in to your worldview and did we really put a man on the moon?  I play with sci-fi in both “Upside Down” and “Signs” to explore the absurdity of existence. I always come back to this idea that our primordial experience of life is so ridiculously improbable, for example: how lucky we are that Earth wobbles clockwise around the sun. I was thinking about regret and that naive desire to go back in time, and I remembered that old comic of Superman spinning the earth counterclockwise to physically turn back time. And then that led me to thinking about Benjamin Button, born old and dying an infant. I like writing like this, following my train of thought from one idea to the next and just seeing where it will take me. I’m fascinated with science and the limits of science’s ability to explain reality as we experience it, which is reflected in some of the more sci-fi lyrics in “Signs” about “mitochondrial cults” and “life undermining scientific paradigm”.  If you can’t tell, I love to free associate when I write. As for the moon, I can’t wait to go!  – MelodyChebrellan.com

DEANNA DEVORE

>>>>> How was your disc release show at Schuba’s  for Half & Half, your 3rd release?  It was a super great show! The turn out was really good and so we had lots of energy on stage.
>>>> What is your live format in terms of instrumentation? has that evolved over time?  The live instrumentation is electric guitar/vocals, backup vocals, bass/synth, wurlitzer/synth, live drums/electronic drum pad and a laptop playing some tracks from the recordings. It has evolved over time…I had a hard time over the years recreating the sound of the recordings live and my current live arrangement does just that. I’m really happy with it.

>>>>>> How do you get in the right head-space to perform? do you have a ritual at this point?  Alcohol… kidding. I try not to over think it, because it’s when I do that it causes me to second guess things. I have so much to think about while I perform – between playing guitar, singing, pedals, live looping etc. It’s hard to not get in my head.

>>>>> What’s the biggest high for you:  writing, recording or playing your stuff for an audience?  I’d say the writing/recording process. Playing is great too, but writing is really where my passion lies. When I record, it brings the songs to life, and I like seeing how the song transforms from the bare bones where I started, to the song after production.
Did you have a goal in or specific approach to recording the new songs?  This album is called half and half because it features two different production styles and a spectrum of sound – from electronic to acoustic. Half the songs are more electronic, while the other half are more acoustic. 
>>>> The production on each track is stellar and concise: how do you know when a song is done?  Production is a big part of what I do in the studio since I’m mostly self-produced (some tracks from the new album had additional production, but most of them were produced myself). It depends on the individual song, but sometimes the song goes through different production/directions until I get the right vibe from it. That’s usually the case when it’s a song that was written on guitar and then I end up making it more synthy/electronic in the end. Other times, I know right away what sound I want from the time I’ve written it. Production is fun because it can really make the song come to life.
>>>> With the file sharing as the life blood of social media, and the widening gap between talent and compensation, what drives you to do this? Things have definitely changed over the years, but it’s important to keep up with the times. I just want to get this new music out into the world.
>>>> Today artists are in a way forced to see each tune as an island onto itself that can stand alone as a promotion: do you think of the songs as individual pieces or as part of an overall statement that is the album?  Hmm I’d say both. I think they can stand alone but also be heard in the album as a whole. I had released 3 singles previously, before the album came out, so maybe that’s why I feel that way.
>>>>>> What were the first few albums you picked up as a kid? are they essential to who you have become as an artist?  I remember my first albums as a kid were Ace of Base and Green Day, but I don’t think there’s an overlap there haha. My taste has definitely changed since then.
>>>>> If you envision yourself on stage in an arena sized venue, what role do you think theatrics would play in delivering your music?  I think there could be something cool in a visual component being added to the live sound – especially at such a massive venue. Not saying dancers etc but I mean more in terms of a screen with images being shown, tying in with the music.

SARAH VOS’ w/ DEAD HORSES

>>>>> Most musician’s early influences are in some way tied to family in some way, is that true for you too?  Absolutely. Both of my parents are very musical; they both sing and play piano and organ. I grew up in the church so there was a strong emphasis on hymns and psalms and singing in general. I was also in a handbell choir in middle school! The choirs taught me about music theory and performing with others in time and in dynamic. ​

>>>>> As kids, many creative types often flounder a bit until they find their muse as it were; was this true for you at all?  I’m still floundering in many ways. There was, however, a definite switch for me during adolescence where music naturally became central to me over any of the other activities I was involved in. It wasn’t until my twenties when I decided to pursue music fully, and that helped me feel a lot of fulfillment. I had spent my college years trying to figure out how I could play music instead of what I was doing. 

>>>>> What singers did you try to emulate when you first started singing / writing / playing and what was the first tune you learned to play and sing on guitar comfortably enough to play for others?  I never consciously tried to emulate anyone while singing or writing or playing. When I first got a guitar- around ten years old or so- it was a vehicle for me to write songs. I taught myself how to play by looking up guitar tabs to songs I knew online. I’m really not sure what the first tune was that I played and sang in front of others, but I think one of the first times I played in front of others was at an open mic that I asked my mom to take me to because I wasn’t old enough to drive yet. I remember being pretty terrified but excited because I always knew while writing that I wanted to share too.

>>>>> What was your first album purchase and concert viewing respectively and how do you think they may inform your music or general approach today?  My first album purchase was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” by the Beatles. So epic! I bought it on cassette, and I would listen to “A Day in the Life” over and over again. It’s interesting how that’s two different songs melded together. I’ve done the same thing in my writing many times.

>>>>> Some who hear Dead Horses may find the songwriting, beyond folk, as decidedly southern: where does being from the Midwest & Milwaukee figure in to that mix you think?  I think it might be related to how I grew up listening to old gospel hymns. 

>>>>> How does the songwriting process work for you and Dead Horses; has it evolved or do you have a tried and true formula at this point?  No real formula per se. I usually have the skeletons (or more) to songs and I bring them to Dan and we work on them together. It’s always evolving and I welcome that.​

>>>>> How do you get in the right mindset pre-show or is that not a concern for you day to day?  Funny you should ask, as I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. It’s so important to be flexible because you never know what you’re going to have to work with from show to show or festival. Maybe you’ll have a quiet place to warm up in, maybe you won’t. A couple of weeks ago we drove five hours to a festival, got out of the van and immediately took a golf cart to do a session on a porch, and then we rode back to our stage where we played a full set

I am curious about how it might help to spend time getting in touch with body before a set- meditating, stretching, breathing. ​Some of the best advice given to me were “Use your nerves.” I really appreciate the nerves I get before most shows, because they serve as a source of energy and a tangible recognition by my body of what’s about to take place. 

>>>>> The ‘Critically Acclaimed Album’ seems to remain the spark point in the Americana scene for artists looking to make it to bigger stages: How do you manage / ignore the pressure to ‘one-up’ your prior release?  I feel that I’m at the beginning of my career and that there are many records to come. I think there will be ups and downs in how people perceive our work and also how I will feel about it. I think it’s great that anyone is paying attention to the writing because it’s one of the most fun parts for me.

>>>>> Could you ever see yourself doing a big Nashwood-type presentation were you to headline the Sheds soon? Is that a fear as you’re name grows; preserving what you have without compromise to keep climbing?  I do definitely have a strong attachment to this desire to stay “authentic.” I have been asking myself what that really means, as it has caused me some inner conflict. I think you have to do your best; decisions are often not black and white. Things that we hang onto with our whole being are often ego-based, but a level of integrity is so important- especially in this field. 

>>>>> You encounter a lot of great young, new artists on the road: when you meet those you really believe in, do you engage them? and what sort of advice do they tend to seek form you?  Definitely! If I can. Today someone was asking me about how to get rolling with music. He’s a great player but doesn’t play out ever. I told him it’s a community and you’ve got to get involved! Find some people you want to play with who are playing music you’re interested in.

RON WEIMER @ BUCK LAKE RANCH

——— How did you originally get the rock & roll bug? What music did you hear in the house growing up?  My Dad listened to Bluegrass & Country. The Statler Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Johnny Cash, Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys. Watched Hee Haw! My Brother listened to Kiss, ELO, BTO, Foghat, Peter Frampton.

———— What was the first record you ever bought and how does it grab you today? Boston, Don’t Look Back. Still love it but it is considered Classic Rock now.

———- Since you don’t actually play an instrument or sing (outside of the beer tent or car), how do you explain your love affair with ‘Outlaw Country’ to new friends?  Just love Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson style more than ever because Nashville has always dissed them thus become the “Outlaw” term. Today, Nashville created Pop Country thanks to Scott Borchetta and changed Country music. You either love Pop Country or hate it. The hatters love Outlaw Country. I really love the new Outlaw Country artists Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, Jamey Johnson etc.

——— Who is on your shipwrecked island playlist today?  Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Marcus King, Billy Strings, Government Mule, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

——— Was your first concert experience really Alabama at Buck Lake Ranch?  Yes, I went with my Family in 1982. I remember every moment so well and even still have pictures from my photo album.

———– You’ve spent a good deal of time & love now revamping Buck Lake Ranch, once the ‘Nashville of The North’. What color can you share on the lay of the land for Midwest promoters in 2018?  Cut throat more than ever. People just do not realize the cost to put on a show these days. There are a couple big promoters who keep driving the costs up to try and keep small guys out. They buy massively which keeps their costs down.

———– You cut your teeth as promoter of the highly successful, annual BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Festival in St. Joseph MI over the last 5 or so years, how does that experience inform your belief in and approach to the revival of Buck Lake?  Well as any promoter knows, it takes 3 years to build something out and become profitable. We are so excited for Buck Lake Ranch because of the Rich music history it already has. It has been awhile since Buck Lake has had anything going on so 2018 is going to be the “ Come Back” year. We have over 75 local, Regional & touring bands booked for the season. We have created our “Jammin in the Bowl” Series to be held every Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We have Blessing of the Bikes & Abate biker rides to The Ranch. We created the Americana Music & Arts Festival & many more events to come.

————- What new artists are you keeping an on eye for future festival plays who you’d love o see at Buck Lake someday soon?  First and foremost, Jake Kershaw. The kid is another amazing Blues artists who will be on everyone’s radar real soon. As you know, I have been following Marcus King to stardom and Jake is right behind him. Jake has a new CD “Piece of my Mind”, everyone should go buy! Also, a young lady Erin Coburn who also has a new CD “Queen of Nothing”. These are two very amazing young artists who you will see on the legendary Buck Lake Ranch Bowl Stage real soon. 

———— If you could book a dream 3 band bill, to be broadcast worldwide, dead or alive, who would be on the bill and what’s the ‘theme’ as you see it?  Well right now it would start with the Eagles. I am a huge Glenn Frey fan God rest his soul, but I just am also a huge Vince Gill fan and I love the current sound. Next would be Stevie Ray Vaughn, a man who had a relatively short career in just 7 years but made a massive impact on musicians worldwide. Third would be Hank Williams Sr. To most it may seem like a strange lineup but it goes with my love for versatility. As a promoter & music fanatic, I love many styles of music. So I love to bring in different styles from Blues, Classic Rock, Southern Rock, Outlaw Country to Indie, Progressive & Traditional Bluegrass, Folk & Jazz.

————– If you ever did become a musical artists, what would you call yourself and what song do you cover your first time on the Grammys?  That is a tough question to answer. Music is written about life experiences, tragedies, heart breaks, failures, successes and so on. So thinking along those lines, I would name my band Gullible. I have had a life full of challenges because I was over trusting, deceived, believed if someone gave me their word they would stand up to it. Not so anymore, you can trust no one except for a few closest to you. As for a song, Chris Stapleton is my favorite song writer. I would sing “Tennessee Whiskey” on the Grammys. Also, “Nobody to Blame” by Chris as well.

THE NEW ZEITGEIST

——- Duo musical couples seem to be rarer and rarer these days, was the potential to work together on music part of what brought you two together? 

Eddy: The first night we met was at a singer/songwriter open mic in Wrigleyville. Jen was expecting to meet a friend. That friend never showed and I eventually offered her my guitar so that she could perform after she noticed me performing and turning her way from two feet away over and over. After some good conversation, I offered her a ride to the train station downtown since I lived close to there. I mentioned that we should make some music together sometime and she gave me her MySpace card. The rest is history.

Jen: Strictly…at 1st J Eddy also possessed the alluring quality of a man of culture. I wanted 2 things in a man that were not easy to find:  1.) Finding a rock star to do music with 2.) Marrying the musical rock star

—————- Your personal musical influences seem as incongruent from one another as possible yet they find a comfortable balance with The New Zeitgeist, did it take time to develop its cohesion or was it immediate? 

 Jen: Ha, really?  There was immediate chemistry, yet as we explored places we had never been between his twangy-blusterous grit and my tailored velvet, our songwriting individually wandered untested roads, and our sound became more intimately entwined.  I suppose what helped our unlikely and risky launch is the somewhat later exploration in my 20’s of my personal music taste and, therefore, probably the largest genre evolution out of the two of us.  For me, mostly Church Gospel songs to uh, rap and punk in middle school, then indie folk, and finally, what we identify loosely as roots/Americana now.  I was definitely at a point in my music where I wasn’t being challenged creatively and feeling a musically plateau as a solo artist just before we met.

Eddy: Jen had such a remarkable natural ability to sing amazing harmonies. When we met, I was asking her to accompany me on my old material and she made it ten times better! She was working on her sound at the time and wasn’t sure she wanted to abandon that and start a new band. We started the first album in the summer of 2103 and released it in December of 2014. That was The New Zeitgeist. We met as acoustic artists but she had encouraged me to return to playing electric guitar and, I couldn’t have been happier getting back to my rock roots on our second album which was released in summer of 2017.

————— How does the writing process work for you? does it vary song to song? 

Jen: I’m really great at listening for arrangement and structure (Evaluating Eddy’s songs), but Eddy’s also greatly improved the musical riffs of my songs. I’m currently trying to expand my writing process beyond waiting for the inspiration of that flaky muse, but traditionally it’s very lyrically dominant for me and the melody drives the song.  The voice creates the music and the instrument, many times comes later.  Since my main instrument is my voice, I feel if you have a strong melody you have a strong song.  We’re also opening up our songwriting experience to collaboration in smaller ways, but not necessarily co-writing.  We’re both very dominant songwriters and I think it’s an intimate and personal experience for each of us.

Eddy: I am not at all disciplined as a songwriter. I listen for the music in my head. Either I will find a hook or a riff that I like, or stumble across one while practicing guitar. It may be a thought or an idea. I think choruses are meant to connect with. If I find one, then I try to write a song around it. I do enjoy using a word processor, using word documents to create a poetic structure, and then filling it in around the hook. I still will write down a phrase on a piece of paper if it comes to me. When I was at NIU in the late 80’s, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop with the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks. I read a song of mine to her and she responded with something I have taken to heart until this day. ‘Revise, revise, revise.’ I try to practice that.

————— Is there a tune of yours that you feel is the quintessential representation of who and what you are?   

Jen: Definitely “Desert Rose,” since it’s the most original on lyrics and music, and a classic sappy love tune. I never wrote a personally real or convincing love song before that, and also pushed myself to write outside my genre zone of comfort—an ode to classic country. 

EddyOf my songs on our recent album, “Myths and Mortals”, I have a difficult time choosing one.  I think it has to be “Lack of Linear Thought”. It is my 60’s dream pop song. The cast of characters playing on this track includes Alton Smith on the Farfisa, whom I think takes it over the top! I was playing though a sweet little vintage Supro amp on most of the album and made the most of it on this track, too!

—————- The New Zeitgeist has a lot in common with the late 60’s folk movement in terms of lyrics and messaging: were your parents hippies? What did you grow up listening to in the house? 

Jen: My Dad was definitely a “Jesus Hippie”!  Definitely no for my mom!  They were opposites musically as he would have the oldies playing in the car and he was especially a lover of classic folk like Dylan while my Mom preferred Italian opera.

EddyMy dad was definitely not a hippie, but he did appreciate the pop music of the 60’s era. His favorite groups were The Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, The Ventures, and The Animals. He would say that once The Beatles went to see the Maharishi they became too “out there” for him. I remember my parents having Elton John’s Greatest Hits, Jim Croce, and the red and blue vinyl Beatles Greatest Hits. The blue album, which included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, was my favorite, of course! My mom and dad listened to the radio with us a lot throughout the 70’s and the 80’s. My mom wasn’t a hippie, either. She liked to dance to good music and we would watch American Bandstand. Her favorites included Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. On a further note, my grandfather was an accomplished accordionist and he performed with my father on drums at VFW halls around the SW suburbs. We would hear them practice often and that would include hearing a lot of polkas and waltzes. I loved it! Hearing that made me want to make music, too!

—————- Would you guys ever consider expanding the presentation to include a full band and, if so, what would be your instrumentation wish list?   

Jen: Oh, yes! The recent album Myths and Mortals (2017) was the real creative impetus for our dream instrumentation at every turn.  The opportunity to work with some really great Chicago musicians, including Gerald Dowd (drums), John Abbey (bass), Alton Smith (organ), Nora Barton (cello), and Austin pedal steel extraordinaire Lloyd Maines, strengthened us to be tighter musicians and more intimately entwined as a duo.  A lot of those songs inspired Pedal Steel, Bass, and Percussion to be added to our duo’s mandolin, acoustic, and electric, but I can see also stripping it down to an even more simple roots package with an upright, chains/rattles, and dobro.

EddyFor me, there is nothing like playing in a great band situation. Jen was very conscious of the different sounds she wanted when planning ‘Myths and Mortals,’ and those included a rhythm section. She insisted on the pedal steel and after hearing the initial takes in the studio, I was convinced of almost every idea she had. Playing with the truly great musicians that performed on “Myths and Mortals” was a dream come true and I would wish to bring them together again in the future if possible.

——————— What were the first 3 albums (for each of you) you purchased as a kid? Which is the best? 

Jen: I probably didn’t purchase my own music until I was 12.  My very 1st, ahem, (cassette!) was The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” with the cartoon cover…I mean, hey, I grew up in Florida. J Then to CD’s, Grammatical Revolution (1999) by Christian hip hop group named Grits, and definitely my most memorable album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek (2001) from punk-rock band Reliant K, which is very worn and whose several albums really motivated my learning of guitar chords.

EddyThis has been challenging to remember. My parents were in the habit of occasionally purchasing a new album. I remember receiving as a gift the album ‘Double Vision’ by Foreigner in what must have been the Christmas of ’78. In the following year with my own money for the first time, I must have wanted to buy a Kiss record, but my parents “encouraged” me to buy something else first, so I bought the first Foreigner album and then the Ace Frehley solo album! I think the third album I bought was ‘Double Platinum’.

——————– What do you guys like to listen to together these days if you are going to pop on an ‘album’?

Jen: Hmmm…it’s not that easy!  It depends on mood, flexibility, and activity—like driving, or…other things!  I think Zep has done us no harm, some Johnny Cash, some Neil Young, or even U2, but usually it’s nothing newer than the 80s or 90s. J  I’m embarrassed to admit how much we just listen to our album!

EddyIn the car, Zep is our go to, or 93.1 WXRT. At home, it’s U2.

—————- What’s the best thing about Chicago and ‘our scene’? 

Jen:  I’ve found that it’s sometimes the less appearance-driven and smaller profile neighborhood dives that have the strongest music influence because they operate more at a community grassroots level and are not caught up with ticket sales or official advertisement.  While we greatly respect some of the finest names in Chicago’s music scene, some of the best recent times for us have been the meaningful connections we make up-close like Lizard Lounge’s 2017 Ugly Sweater Party singing ‘Silent Night’ to be followed by an outstanding woman just from Ireland jumping on stage to belt a cappella a traditional tearjerker.

EddyI really enjoy all the different little bars and the different music scenes at each one, especially those places that haven’t changed much since the 90’s or at which no more that ten people regularly attend! Also, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the singer/songwriter scene there has been really important for us, and we really appreciate all the great people and musicians that we’ve had the pleasure to get to know there. We attend a lot of shows that the people we’ve met at the Old Town perform.

A new show bubbles up in which musical duo couples compete for the affection of millions of young Americans. In the finals, you are forced to dress up like and perform a couple classic couple duo number by Donnie & Marie, Captain & Tennille, Sonny & Cher, Paul & Linda McCartney, John & Yoko, Stevie & Lindsey, Ike & Tina or any other of your choice, what songs do you chose and which do you think you could pull off best?  

Jen: That sounds like loads of fun…well, my 1st instinct is to be our real-life heroic couple, Piggy and Kermit.  However, there’s a history behind the song “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher being played at a party in our pre-dating hangouts which really sparked the idea of getting romantically involved with Eddy.  We also walked up the aisle to that song. J

Eddy: It was at my long-time buddy Jeff’s birthday party singing karaoke in the summer of 2011 at which Jen and I sang “I’ve Got You Babe”. I think that would be the one!

DAVE GROSS w/ BLUE PLATE SPECIAL

—– What were your favorite bands in high school and how do you rank them today?  I was into The Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, David Bromberg, Poco. New Riders of the Purple Sage in high school, but when I would listen to The Allmans I would say “Who is this Robert Johnson?”, and look him up. I was heading towards roots music as a teenager. When The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” it had a major impact on me and my friends. That is how we discovered Doc Watson,  Vassar Clements, and Merle Travis. Doc became my sign post to all that followed. He had such great taste and style. From blues, bluegrass, swing, Doc had it all. Then Garcia, Grisman and Vassar released Old and in the Way, which also led us towards Bluegrass. New York radio had great non-commercial radio that featured bluegrass, Irish, jazz and blues. That was my education.

—– You started out as a drummer – what’s your first recollection of the mandolin and when/how/why did you pick it up?  I started playing mandolin because there was one in my house. My Dad played violin and mandolin (all by ear). Mandolin seemed like a good idea because everyone played guitar.
I played drums from 4th grade through high school.

—– What do playing drums and playing Mando have in common for you?  I think it helps inform my mandolin playing because mando is percussive and plays on 2 and 4 in bluegrass.

—– Did you take Mando lessons or are you self-taught?  I taught myself mandolin at first, but eventually studied with Barry Mitterhoff. (Skyline, Hot Tuna). I still study and take lessons from various people via skype.

—– I assume there are go-to guys that Mandolin players hopes to emulate – who were they for you initially and who are you in to today?   To discuss influences, any bluegrass mandolin player must mention Bill Monroe. I love Sam Bush, David Grisman, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Skaggs, Jethro Burns and the list goes on. Although I am sure I am influenced by many people, I don’t think I emulate anyone because mostly I learn from other instruments, like guitar (Django) fiddle and even piano or horns. I have recently become obsessed with the music of Django Reinhardt sometimes called Gypsy Jazz. I released a CD called Mandology and lead a band of the same name.

—– What is your Mando of choice and how did you settle on that as your ‘ace’ of choice?  I play an instrument made for me by the great builder A. Lawrence Smart. It is modeled after an F-5 Gibson.

—– How did Blue Plate Special come together and how would you describe the bands dynamics on stage, and off?  Blue Plate Special started in 2001 after Tom Wise (Bass)  and I were playing together for a bit. After kicking around a few band configurations, Tom’s wife Jay Friedman began playing fiddle and man can she sing! (Who Knew?) The three of us started learning some tunes and we all began to write. We added some musicians who have come and gone. Fortunately, about 7 or 8 years ago, we hooked up with some amazing young musicians James Hempfling (guitar) and Dan Whitener (banjo).
At this point we are all best friends.

 

—— Do you guys feel you part of the Nu-Grass movement or are you more traditional?  I wouldn’t say Blue Plate Special is a traditional bluegrass band. Bluegrass is an ever evolving and growing genre with some bands keeping it really traditional and others taking liberties. This has been true now for decades. I feel like we do what feels right, what the song tells us to do.  Sometimes that means keeping it traditional, sometimes not. We play swing, blues and some rock covers. What ever feels like fun and sounds good. What characterizes our band I think, are the arraignments. I really don’t like to cover a tune without making it our own. We work very hard to find a sound for each song often with three part harmony.

—— How does the writing process work in BPS?  When someone comes in with an original song idea, we arrange very carefully. It is really fun to see a song evolve in that fashion. When I write a tune, I sometimes hear the music almost fully formed. Maybe with a word or two or a concept. The lyrics usually follow.

—– Blue Plate Special are to perform at the CMAs in the ‘honorable mention; Bluegrass” category, what tune do you guys do, what do you wear, and how would the choreography work?  If we were to perform at the CMAs we would dress up in our finest clothes(I would have to go shopping) and try to smile a lot.

ARMAND DOUCETTE

—- How did you get hooked on rock & roll as a kid?  Well, I wasn’t into Rock and Roll I was into Jazz (as my father wanted). I wanted a drum set and he bought me one with conditions that I learned how to play jazz for a couple of years. Then on one Christmas I was like 15 or 16 he bought me Led Zeppelin 4 and Rush’s “All the Worlds a stage”...changed me forever!

—- Who were your top few musical heroes as a kid and why?  Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Smith and Stuart Copeland. Because they all played as who they truly are and offered something in drumming to me that I needed and wanted.

—- What was the first record you ever picked up and does it make the playlist still today?  Benny Goodman Live in Belgium and yes it would because of sing, sing, sing. (It could be a killer rock song today)

—- Who is your favorite drummer and what is it about their that fascinates you so?  I don’t have a pure favorite drummer because they all offer something. But if I had to pick 2 I would choose Bonham and Gadd.

—- What are your three favorite rock drum tracks of all-time?  Rush 2112 (The whole thing), Steely Dan, Aja and Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain”.

— It’s often said that no two drummer are alike — do you believe one drummer can duplicate another’s feel or parts perfectly without technology?  No and Technology would make it worse

—- If you got the call tomorrow, what band could you sit in most comfortably with without freaking out too much?  I would freak because my chops are not perfect because I have to work for a living. But once I had those screaming I could and would love to play for Seal and/or Peter Gabriel…Possibly Adelle!

—- You’re bit of a drum collector and aficionado — does the brand and year really make that much of difference once you get past materials used etc.. ?  I don’t know, for me it is just the sound and feel of the kit. I have many kits from many makers. I LOVE mid-60’s Rogers and Late-60’s / Early-70’s Ludwig!

—- What part of your personality do you think comes through / translates best / helps in your role as a Financial Advisor?  Creativity, Technicality and Empathy.

—- You are not sure if you are dreaming but suddenly you are thrown in to a heavenly Moby Dick drum jam with Bonzo and Mooney, a third kit awaits you. How do you approach the sudden rush to join the fray and hold your ground?  I see my Craviotto “Big Drum” kit….I honor the masters and hold my ground just fine because …I am prepared and I can play.

LYLA JUNE

Photo by Priscilla Peña

———– What role did music play in your upbringing in the Diné tradition?  In the Diné language (Diné Bizaad) Hataałii means both “singer” and “doctor”. Also, in our language Sodizin means both “song” and “prayer.” So in my upbringing, music was all about deep intention to make the world a better place. Music was seen as a healer and singers were viewed as doctors. I was born into a world of struggle, as Native Americans continue to live in post-war conditions after the Native American holocaust. There’s a lot of work to do to improve our communities. I was raised by strong people to live my life deliberately and to view every one of my creations as an opportunity to heal my people, all people.

———– Were you discouraged at all from getting into American pop music and it’s culture as kid?  
I was never discouraged from this. In fact, society encouraged me to listen to this because it was “cool” and it was the only thing on local radio stations. I drank the Kool-aid for a lot of years and went along with the programming of American children. There was a time though, around age 10, when I actually stopped drinking soda and I stopped listening to mainstream music. I started to see that mainstream music often times was part of the problem of keeping the public ignorant and distracted.

———– What artists / songs got through to you early on and how did their music, vibe and lyrics influence you and your outlook on your place in the world?  The Beatles were a heavy influence growing up. My father was born in 1954 so he brought a lot of his music from the 60s and 70s into my life. When I picked up the guitar, the first songs I started to learn were Beatles songs and I think that continues to influence my song structures today. Other influences from all different genres included System of a Down, Lauryn Hill, Shania Twain (I know… funny right?), Blackalicious, Rage Against the Machine, India.Arie, The Glitch Mob,  Led Zeppelin, Ulali and others. These artists showed me that music is a powerful launchpad for bringing joy, inspiration, hope, education and unification to the oppressed. None of these artists were Native American because it seemed at the time there weren’t a lot of Native American role models in the music world for me. There was Buffy Saint Marie but I never really got into her music. Myself and a number of others are trying very hard to generate a new genre of Indigenous music that inspires the youth.

—————— You have a track record for winning poetry jams at a statewide, and nationwide level, when did music become an extension of your drive to share your message?  I was always a writer. I remember reading poetry in public places as early as 4th grade. I remember winning writing competitions that early as well, for whatever that’s worth. When I stumbled upon spoken word at age 14, I was an instant fanatic. I travelled all of the world in my teens performing spoken word. I also started picking up the guitar in earnest at that point. So my poetry and my music development started around the same age, but I was slower to become a decent musician, whereas writing and speaking came more naturally. I didn’t feel confident in my music enough until very recently, perhaps five years ago, to really include it in my public performances. But since then, it has come to be appreciated as much as my poetry is.

—————— What was your musical life like while at Stanford?  I think that a lot of the drug addiction and sexual abuse I was experiencing in high school and at Stanford muted my musical confidence. I didn’t feel worthy as a woman to do much of anything because I felt like a bad person. I didn’t realize that just because bad things were happening to me, didn’t mean I myself was bad. But because of that, I was very creatively stunted for a long time. It wasn’t until my junior year of Stanford that I started to heal from the rape, get sober and pick up my guitar again. At that point the songs started flowing through me all the time. I didn’t feel comfortable releasing them at that point, but now I do!

———— How does the song writing process work for you and what does it take for you to feel a song is finished and ready to be performed or recorded?  Everything is in prayer. Like my ancestors, I treat life like a ceremony. So first thing I do, unless I’m being rushed and careless, is I pray. Maybe go outside and offer some corn pollen to the earth and ask her to give me some good words. One of my mentors has a prayer that he says every morning: “May you help me help at least one person today.” That is a very beautiful prayer to me. So I pray that with each song it can help at least one person. I don’t have a real unreachable standard for when a song is finished. I try to be laid back and allow a song to go out even if it’s not perfect. I used to do that and I would never publish anything because it wasn’t flawless. Now I kind of rest in my imperfection and do my best and be happy with that. I’m often pleasantly surprised with what “my best” ends up being.

————- In a way what you’re doing harkens back to the late 60’s folk rock peace movement – do you feel any affinity with those artists and their music today?  I feel very connected to this movement, even though there aren’t a lot of highly visible Native American’s in that movement. I feel like even though it was mainly a White movement, it still had some very good messages and was trying hard to generate a new way of seeing things. I pray to further that movement by grounding it in Indigenous rights. I feel that before this country can have peace it must contend with its “original sin”: the fact that this country is founded on the genocide of Indigenous Peoples. Until we give lands back to what little Native people are left, and until we make serious efforts to uplift these communities on their terms, then we will always be a farce of justice.

—————– What do you do to get in the right head space before playing (or speaking) to an audience? Do you have a day-of-show ritual?  Again, prayer is the first thing I do. One of our old songs says, “Great Mystery, first I pray to you. Because of this, I will live well with my people.” This song reminds me that prayer is the first step to any process. I used to say a little mantra I’d say to myself before stepping in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. I would say, “I am always confident, calm, humble and strong before I speak to the people because I know I carry a message of truth, love, healing and peace.” I would say that all the time. But now I think it’s woven into my being so it is understood without being spoken.

—————– How was your experience last year at the Newport Folk Festival?  I loved being in Newport and not just for the seafood! I remember my set was sandwiched between a lot of amazing musicians on one of the side stages. I was the only woman in that section, the only person of color and definitely the only person who identified as Native American. So in many ways I was an anomaly. A lot of people in the audience were not expecting to hear an Indigenous activist/musician. They were overwhelmingly grateful for the set I brought and bought a lot of albums, the proceeds of which I donated to Lakota youth projects. These audiences often don’t know what to make of me, but they are always pretty moved by it and describe my set as a cathartic process.

————– You are asked to perform a song on The Grammy’s to further ‘First Nation’s’ causes / pride. You are to be allowed a brief introductory sentence or two and then to play a cover song of your choosing — what do you say to and play for America?
First of all, I should say, I try to refer to this land as “Turtle Island” and not as “America.” Because that is the original name given to this continent by its original peoples. But, I hope this day comes, not for the sake of my fame but to bring my people’s message to those who might not hear it otherwise. If I were in that position, I would say, “My people are busy working to revive languages and land stewardship techniques that were brutally destroyed by the processes of Manifest Destiny. We can no longer destroy what we do not understand. The systems of my people are not savage, but incredibly sophisticated and have the ability to bring solutions now, to a world in crisis.” And then I would sing an old song of my people, a song of overcoming called, “Shi Nishaa.” This song is the song that the elders sang when they saw their southern sacred mountain for the first time in four years. They didn’t see it for so long because they were being held in a concentration camp by the US military from 1864-1868. It is a song of joy and resilience. Not even the US military can stamp out this medicine. We are here to bring it to everyone, even those who tried to wipe us from the face of the earth. This is the unconditional love that my elders told me was the deepest medicine. – LYLA JUNE

Visit Lyla June on Facebook or her official website at www.Sodizin.net

ADRIAN DYER w/ MOON TAN

—————- How did you get hooked on rock & roll?   I’ve always been drawn to music that has either a really catchy melody or something that gets me pumped up. Back when I was younger the iTunes library at the house was riddled with tons of classic rock bands from my sister and brothers tastes (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Hendrix, Beatles etc.) so before I even had my own music player these guys had been priming my brain. I think the major turning point was when my brothers friend Eric had popped by the house and pulled up the music video “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 2006. That ended up dragging me down the rabbit hole of music and becoming a musician, and I can honestly say I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t discovered RHCP.
———- What’s your favorite live album of all-time?  I haven’t listened to too many live albums, more so watching live concerts on YouTube. I’ve probably clocked a few hundred hours of watching live Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts, so if I had to pick one (which is tough) maybe I’d say “RCHP Live at Slane Castle”, “RCHP Live at Pinkpop 2006” or “RHCP Live at Pinkpop 1990”. In terms of CD’s, Iron Maiden’s “Flight 666” is pretty solid. Brady and Nick introduced me to Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous” which I also thought was excellent.
———- Is there anything about the band that could have only emanated from Winnipeg? or Canada for that matter?  A crippling fear of being attacked by a bear, a large wolf, or a pack of coyotes whilst leaving the jam space. 

——— Was bass your first instrument?  Years back my brother had a guitar laying around the house that I would pick up and mess around on. I’d actually watch RHCP’s “Live at Slane Castle” on my computer and try to learn certain licks by ear and play along. Later that year I asked my parents if I could rent a bass, to which they replied “they’d think about it”. At Christmas there was a bass starter kit under the tree, and my mind was blown.

————- How did Moon Tan come together?  The band originally emanated from Nick Knock’s desire to start a cover band along with another singer at the time. I heard about the band from a guitar player who I had jammed with a couple times. I auditioned along with him, and I got in, but he was not selected. Nick’s Dad (who is a music teacher) knew the music teacher from the city of Gimli, which is about an hour away from Winnipeg, and that music teacher recommended a guitar player from Gimli High School – Brady. Brady auditioned and was selected. Eventually we decided that we wanted to do original material, and ended up parting ways with the original singer in the process. After a few years of enduring a revolving door of Kijiji-sourced singers, I decided to take on the task of singing. We’ve been truckin’ ever since.
———— Originality aside, did you guys have a vision for yourselves a definable brand or is it all natural?  I can only speak for myself, but the main thing I’ve always focused on is creating music that I actually like listening to. That’s the most important thing to me. Everything else is secondary. The live presentation developed from us wanting to make our shows more of an experience, and in turn THAT has naturally led to us developing into more of a definable brand. In my opinion people go see shows, watch movies, play video games etc. to de–stress /  have a good time / seek inspiration / escape reality, so if you can do a good job of providing an opportunity for this with your brand then you’re well on your way. We have some interesting ideas for live production we would like to experiment with in the future. 
————— What do you think Moon Tan fans have in common socially?  They’re all heavily into Baccarat. Other than that, lots of them seem to like Rush, prog, sci-fi, be musicians themselves, or have a genuine love for rock n’ roll.
————– What gets you off more — writing, recording, or playing live?  1,000,000% writing. Sitting alone with nobody around, my laptop & Garageband open, and just freely creating with 0% judgement but my own.
————— Since you have a prog rock thing going on, is there any pressure to do shorter numbers for more airplay or a ‘hit single’?  It’s interesting, because in all honesty I don’t really see Moon Tan as a prog band, but people who watch us tend to categorize us in that way. I guess that brings forth the question: “What is prog?” Maybe I don’t even know.. haha. I find my natural songwriting style is actually in a pop style format, perhaps disguised by the odd time signature here and there or a flashy lick from one of us. Circling around to the question with all that in mind, you need to give the song enough time to mature and finish, and if can we find a way to do that in 17 seconds, we will.
————- You guys won Indie Week last year in Toronto and got to play in Manchester as part of your bounty: how did it go in England?  England was fantastic. It was our first international gig, and we received tons of great feedback from everyone over there. I think I ate a whole margarita pizza every night for six nights straight, and Brady and Nick we’re hooked on the fried chicken. We are definitely planning our return as we speak, so fans of rock – and vendors of margarita pizza & fried chicken – beware!

ANDY DUNNIGAN w/THE LIL SMOKIES

How would you describe the inner-band dynamics of The Lil Smokies?  Does it work the similarly off stage as on or do roles change some between the two? I’ve always firmly believed that one plays his instrument like he lives his life. This is certainly true for our band. That said, as much as it is a collaborative effort on stage, it is off of the stage, as well. Between interviews, conference calls, long drives, and loading up the van, we all try to do our share. I would like to tip my hat to our bass player, Scott Parker, and our banjo player, Matt Cornette, for being the primary drivers. Thank you, gents.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys this year?  I think there are some secrets better left on the road. Talk to me after the show, in the alley in hushed tones.

How do you think being from Montana inform your music and vibe?  Indicative of Montana is space and serenity; my favorite of the vast catalogue of its great attributes. I think we’re able to appreciate that space and let that permeate into our music. Bluegrass, at times, can be incredibly fast and frantic. I think incorporating space can slow the song or set down and be quite effective.

How do songs come about for you and The Lil Smokies?  It definitely varies song to song. For myself, it’s the constant battle between perspiration and inspiration. Usually, I tend to think there needs to be inspiration before the perspiration, but lately I’m trying to find the inspiration inside the perspiration. Once a song is ready to bring to the band, it can take a couple rehearsals to arrange it or months of coming back to. It really varies from tune to tune.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  Yeah, my father is a musician for a living. He’s a singer-songwriter, guitar player, and multi-instrumentalist. I definitely grew up inundated with the music of James Taylor, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs and the Beatles. Over time, even as much as I rebelled against it, there was no escaping the power of osmosis.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  In high school, I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and was completely floored by the enormity of the festival. I think seeing Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ set that year (2005) was a really monumental moment in my musical career.

What was your first personal public performance?  My first public performance was playing guitar with a jazz pianist at a fancy restaurant, my freshman year in college in 2006. It was all simple instrumental jazz standards. My jazz knowledge is incredibly poor. We got through it somehow. I was, personally, yelled at for playing my stratocaster too loud though. Victory.

How do you feel about playing covers? any personal fail-safe campfire goto’s?  I love playing covers. We try to do at least one cover a night. I think it’s important to have a thread of familiarity with audience members that aren’t versed in your own original material. I think as long as the cover is special and authentic, you can make it your own. The Punch Brothers are an incredible example of embracing cover tunes, even with an extensive archive of their own originals.

What singers / songwriters are on your Mt. Rushmore?  In no particular order: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Taylor Goldsmith, Chris Thile.

What advice do you give to a young musicians & artists seeking their path?  Play because you want to play and because it’s fun. That is the golden rule, which can be applied to writing and performing and touring and all the other subsections of the music industry. Also, be authentic and humble. People will really resonate with humility and authenticity.

The Lil Smokies are granted a wish by a NASA Genie in which you can time travel back to open for any show / band / concert in history — what are your coordinates?  I’m not a Deadhead at all. Neither is the rest of this band, but I would think opening for The Grateful Dead in Egypt in 1978 would be one hell of a night. Plus, it’s on my bucket list to see the pyramids.

DAVID LINES w/ THE LOST MILLIONS

What’s your favorite thing about the recordings you guys have done for THE LOST MILLIONS debut ‘101’ now available on iTunes?   They are all really good songs on this album and they don’t sound like anything else out there to me. We are proud of it and can’t wait to see how they go over. For all I know there’s a whole genre built around bands that sound like us, who knows. We’re nobody but represent millions. We’re just four more dudes playing rock in a band. Everytime we get together it seems like someone in the group says quietly in passing “the ‘lost millions’ are kind of a big deal” LOL..

How does the writing process work for you guys?   The bulk of material on this album was written by Matt Westfield and Heath McBurnett in what has become a prolific partnership.  Generally, the songs begin with a riff or progression in a jam situation and develop from there.

Did you go in to the recording process with a vision for the sound over all or is it more of a sum-of-the-parts / songs-as-they-happen dynamic?  There wasn’t any preconceived overall sound we were shooting for on this one. We just started building on the framework with the gear we had and what we thought the song dictated.

What is your go-to set up?  In the studio, I mainly used a Fender Blues Jr., although an Orange and a BF Bandmaster were used as well. Effects-wise I used a Ibanez ts808, MXR phase 90, and a Big Muff. For guitars I used a Strat, Les Paul, and an Angers 12 string. I played the Wurlitzer through a SF Champ. There wasn’t much food involved.

What was the first record you ever bought and how do you feel about it today?   The first record I ever bought was Elton John “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player”. It still stands up. Great melodies, great lyrics and a killer band.

Can you recommend any guitar solos young guitarists should sink their teeth into?    That is a tough question. There are so many different approaches and tones that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Usually what inspired you to pick up a guitar in the first place will lead you on your own journey.  Some of my favorites for sure were played by Mike Campbell, Johnny Marr, Brian May, Billy Gibbons, David Gilmore, George Harrison, Joe Walsh and of course ‘Ace’ Pagey’. 

Do you still listen to LP / CD’s or are have you embraced music via the computer and phone with platforms like Spotify?  I still prefer listening to LPs. It is a ritual. Dropping the needle, checking out the cover and credits, flipping it over, it’s an interactive experience. Plus, I just think it sounds better. That said, I do listen on the phone and computer. I’m a music junkie but can’t always be near a turntable.

Outside of the SXSW bonanza, what can you tell us about the scene in Austin for bands looking to make in-roads in town or visitors looking to go pro for a night?  Austin is struggling to find itself musically as the tech sector takes over. The cost of living has forced venues to close and musicians to move. We are just beginning to navigate the inroads of the new landscape and we will keep you posted on how that goes. For those from out of town looking to play for a night and make some money …good luck.

If you had to make a list, has your favorite music come from England or here in the US of A?  My top ten is probably dominated by English bands but American bands would make up most of my top 100.

Through a series of unforeseen events you wind up at the Pearly Gates with a guitar and, as folks settle in, Saint Peter nods your direction and mouths “do something good!!”  …. What do you go with?  I imagine it would be a large and diverse crowd there so I would keep it instrumental. Perhaps “Bron-y-aur” or a Nick Drake inspired tune I’ve been working on. Chill, non-offensive, and hopefully impressive to the powers that be. Maybe they’d let me play with some of my heroes if I pass the audition?

NATHAN DOUGLAS

What got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid?  Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Those powerful vocals of Ronnie Van Zant drew me in.

What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today? Jakyl opening for ZZ Top! I was 17 years old and the energy of that show was overwhelming!

What was your first public performance? how did it go?  Well my dad (Oliver Smith) was a southern gospel bluegrass singer and performed in different churches so I would say my first performance was more than likely with him at one of those churches. As far as the first real performance that I remember; I was in the 5th grade and performed Lee Greenwoods “God Bless the USA” for a school program. There is a video of that out there somewhere …lol

Musicians are funny about their instruments, sometimes even superstitious — tell us about your relationship with guitars over the years; what is your stand by go-to 6-string today?  I’ve never really considered myself a guitar player. I’m more of a vocalist but a good guitar is key in having a good performance. I played a Taylor guitar for a while and I beat it to hell playing the honky tonks in Nashville. When it was time for a new one I went with the Seagull that I currently play. It is a great sounding guitar without the hefty price tag.

How does the song-writing process work for you? has it evolved over time or do you have a tried & true formula you try to stick with?  I haven’t really been writing that much the last few years. Just a line or two here and there but when I was writing consistently it was just a matter of what I was feeling mostly. Occasionally someone would say something that would spark an Idea and I would use my corny sense of humor to write something like “Nothing but your snuggie on”

Do you have any advice (cheap tricks) for your artists looking to connect more with the audience when playing live?  Be true to who you are as a musician and you are going to connect with someone or a group of people. Don’t be surprised if someone asks you to sing something that just doesn’t fit you and if you can bare to sing it then sing it and get right back to what you love. They will appreciate you for it.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?  The craziest thing that ever happened at one of my shows other than having the drummer bring a dancing Zombie Doll on stage would have to be being interrupted by Jermaine Jackson while playing at Legends Corner in Nashville so he could promote a tv show that he was filming.

Given your experience as a finalist on CMT’s Can You Duet in 2008 , what advice would you give to a young artists looking to take a shot on a similar live contest like American Idol or The Voice?  I would say if you’re gonna go for one of shows just be prepared to take some criticism and don’t let a “no” answer stop you from moving forward with your career. Sometimes being true to who you are isn’t always what they are looking for so you just have to keep on keeping on.

Some artists hate the question but who do folks liken you too most and how do you feel about it? You know it’s been a while since someone has compared me to another artist but I use to get Billy Dean a lot when I was in Nashville. I’ll take that as a compliment.

What are you working on and what’s your view of 2018 from here?  Right now I’m just working on being a better performer and trying to gig as much as possible. I’m working with a group of great players and we call ourselves the Douglas Fine Line. I would like to play more with these guys this year and get into some bigger venues and festivals. Right now I’m just working on being a better performer and trying to gig as much as possible.

JON LANGFORD’S FOUR LOST SOULS

What’s Four Lost Souls all about to you as you look at it now?  It was about my relationship with America and more specifically, the South. So much of what I love about this place came out of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Nashville, and New Orleans – yet the history and legacy of the South looms over everything since Trump’s election.

It’s a good ride from Wales: how was your Alabama Shoals experience and what are a few of your favorite things?  We worked with Norbert Putnam, the great ‘60-‘70s Muscle Shoals/Nashville producer, and David Hood, who’s been on so many great records. We had a lovely time in Alabama – very efficient, very creative and very different. The music community down there is very fluid and open to ideas.

Did you hold any tunes or recordings back or is the full salvo from the heady proceedings?  I think everything we did is on the record. We only had four days to record and the songs were specifically written for the record. They all told a little story that I wanted to be included and everything worked out great, so it seems no point leaving anything out.

What did you learn this time out and will you ever recover?  I like to change things up with every recording situation. Working with a real producer was definitely an education. And I didn’t play guitar on the record and I really like that.

What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today?  I want to see Procol Harum  in the Bristol Colston Hall in 1973, when Grand Hotel came out and I love that show and I still love the band. It was a really different time and we were very young and the crowd was full of hippies. I kind of thought of it as someone else’s music, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t until punk came along that I felt THAT was my music.

What was your first public performance?  Singing Gilbert and Sullivan in the school pantomime.

Musicians are funny about their instruments, sometimes even superstitious — tell us about your relationship with guitars over the years; what is your standby go-to 6-string today?  Mostly I’m playing acoustic on the gig supporting this album; as I said, I didn’t play any guitar on the album. I find guitars need constant stroking and attention, much like people. The guitar I play in the “Snake Behind Glass” video is a really old Martin that belonged to Marty Stuart and was once played by Porter Wagoner in his “Parkview” video. It’s a prized possession. When I play electric with the Waco Brothers I use a couple of customized strays.

Do you have any advice (cheap tricks) for your artists looking to connect more with the audience when playing live?  Lots of stupid banter between the songs.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?  I really don’t know where to start.  Possibly the entire band attacking the soundman half way thru a Sally Timms gig at the Khyber Pass in Philadelphia many years ago. Don’t diss the Timms. That really stands out because there’s been so little violence over the last 40 years and that was one of the quietest gigs we ever played.

You are to take a 4 hour dune buggy through the desert with anyone on earth, who do you choose and how do you strike up the conversation?  My wife Helen because she drives the buggy while I looked out the window – do they have windows?

MARIANA QUINN-MAKWAIA w/ SMOKE & SUGAR

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  I’m very blessed to be working on a few different projects that satisfy my multi-genre fancies: The Kai Lovelace jazz trio. The Sibylline is a folk duo with my ethereal composer of a sister Alice Quinn-Makwaia. VibeMosaic is an electronic neo-soul project with the magical Brad Morrison. Finally, Smoke and Sugar which is how we met at The Bitter End! We’re really excited to be putting out our first EP of neo-soul / alt-rock music called “Mindings” on Friday, October 6th. For any fans or explorers in the NYC area come join the celebration at Downtown Art in the East Village.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  Yes, my Dad’s a musician and composer as well as a voice teacher. My Mom is an actress and acting teacher. Actually most of our family friends are artists of one form or another. My sister and I grew up singing together. Sometimes my family would go on a walk and realize we’d been lost in some daydream and all four of us had been humming different tunes at the same time.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  I went to a concert of my Dad’s friend Paul Silber when I was about nine. He was singing jazz and blues standards with piano accompaniment. It was such a simple arrangement but he made me fall in love with those songs, with the call to improvise that exists in jazz and with that beautiful porous boundary between performer and audience.

What was your first public performance?  My first public performance was in preschool. I played a fly in an adaptation of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I made it to the front of the stage and then burst into tears. I went through a very intense shy phase in my youth.

How do songs come about for SMOKE & SUGAR?  I love this project because everyone involved is a composer and a musician. We tend to start with a seedling from one of us, and then allow it to fill out as we bring it to the rest of the band. First with melody and mood or lyrical theme. Then add counterparts maybe break up sections or embellish parts and lay out the lyrics.

Do you have any day-of-show (or pre-show) rituals that help you get in the right mindset to perform live?   I tend to channel all of my nerves or excitement into my hair and the set-list. The first lets me fuss over minute details in an internal headspace until it’s time to get onstage and the second lets me fuss over the flow of the evening with everyone in the band.

Who is on your musical Mount Rushmore? Lianne La Havas, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone. The Beatles, Stevie Wonder is a prophet.

What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York right now?  I love how many New York musicians want to build community rather than compete. It can be so hard being an artist in a world that finds creative thought dangerous. Of course we’re all stronger when we uplift each other.

Last minute, you are asked to perform on a new version of Soul Train but they want you to do a 70’s cover — what tune do you chose for the band?   Oooh we already do a cover of “Master Blaster” by Stevie Wonder! But since that’s a 1980s single I’d go for “Ebony Eyes”. My favorite secret tune from Songs in the Key of Life.

You are granted special access to a time machine called ‘The Day Tripper’ in which you can go backstage and hang at any concert in history: what are your coordinates and what happened?   This may not be very original but I’d give a lot to be able witness what happened in Woodstock in 1969.

MARC DOTY w/ AUTOMATIC-GAINSAY

How did you get hooked on Rock & Roll?   It’s interesting to be asked that, as people seem to have pretty much forgotten about Rock & Roll, but I still describe myself as a “rock keyboardist,” in regard to music.  As a synthesizer enthusiast, these days, the assumption is that I’m all about various electronic genres… and while I do enjoy a few, that’s not what I do.  I think initially, I liked pop.  But my brother was inclined towards heavier music, and played a lot more Rock-oriented music.  I think I connected with it intuitively, but it was that exposure that made it happen.

Do you have a favorite go-to album of all-time and how have your feelings about it changed at all over the years?  My favorite albums are too numerous to name, but I do have two albums that I would say are my favorite albums of all time… truly my “go-to” albums.

Out of the Blue– Electric Light Orchestra.  When I first heard this album in 1978, it was everything I wanted music to be.  It had a great Beatlesque vibe, but also explored a lot of different genres, production styles, instrumentation, and technology.  It was where I first saw the name “Moog.”  My perception of it has changed primarily in that as I have gotten older, had more education, more experience, etc., I’ve been better able to hear the instrumentation, recognize the production techniques, and understand everything “underneath the hood.”   My love of it has not wavered at all.

The Beatles– The Beatles.  I probably don’t need to say anything about this, but I will say that the weird combination of exquisite production and raw messy production along with the combination of amazing songcraft and unique musical exploration basically made me who I am today.  I think I love it more every time I hear it.

What was your first public live performance and how did it go?   If I exclude piano recitals, my first musical performance was in high school… in a band where we dressed up in punk clothes and performed Country music.  I was just plunking out chords on a piano, but it was incredibly exciting, and it pretty much set everything in motion.  My first “public” performance was probably this one time in a bar that I was too young to be in (but there were provisions for under-age musicians).  I felt confused and out-of-place, but very excited to be playing in public. And in a bar.

What you gives you the biggest high as a musician?  I have been obsessed with creating music since I was nine years old (the age I started writing music at).  I have been intent on learning to express myself and create compelling music.  So, I guess I’d say that… but I also enjoy performance, and have often chosen performance over writing.

How does the song writing process happen for you ? (Is there a Marc Doty riff graveyard?)  Initially, it was me sort of imitating the music of my idols.  Then, I went to college and got a degree in composition.  During that process, writing music became essentially an opening of the floodgate in my brain, and a desire to make every idea into something interesting.

It depends largely on what the intent is… what I’m writing for.  But in general, most of my music starts with either messing around on a piano, or having an intense emotion that I vent by spontaneously creating lyrics and melodies.

I do a lot of synthesizer demonstrations on YouTube, and when I’m writing the themes for these demonstrations, I often let the unique strengths of the synthesizer I’m writing with inspire me to create theme music.

And yes, if I never wrote anything new ever again for the rest of my life, I have enough ideas lying around to probably carry through the rest of my life!

What’s your philosophy on drums and getting the right drum take?  The most inspirational song for me in regard to drums was “Louie Louie,” if you can believe that.  Louie Louie had a drum sound that really reached me on an emotional level, and I realized early-on that it was because it is natural and expressive, and because the vibration of the drums in the room lead to the timbral aspect of the drums.  That is to say that drums sound best and most expressive as a person who is experiencing them there, and experiencing them there is an aural experience of how the vibration of the drums interact with the room they are in.

Recognizing this led me to recreate the drum production of some in the past… and I found that a great way to record drums was with a single mic sensing the vibration of the room.  I LOVE the sound of single-mic recorded drums.  And most of my songs feature acoustic drums captured with a single mic in a room.

I’ll admit that I do often boost the bass drum, or record it separately with a different mic arrangement simply because placement of a mic in order to capture snare, toms, and cymbals often results in a baseless bass drum… but still.

I loved drum machines when I was young, but I got tired of them.  Even when I do electronic stuff, I tend to sample live drums and create loops.

Will rock & roll continue to boast bands whose careers span decades or have folks attention spans shrunk too much for a new band to sustain such success?  It’s hard to imagine Rock surviving what is happening in music right now.  It has become a business first and foremost, and the music has been reduced to its most selling aspects.  It’s no longer about expressing what you personally feel and having another person identify with it, it’s about pandering directly to musical aspects and lyrics that invoke immediate feeling in the listener.  It’s not so much communication as it is manipulation at this point.  I wonder what the future will hold.

Your speaking at KnobCon here in Chicago this week, what sort of stuff do you plan to get in to?  Well, I have somehow generated a world-wide following in regard to my synthesizer demonstrations and education, and I look forward to any opportunity to teach people about how vast, deep, and long the history of synthesizers is.  At Knobcon, I’ll be doing a presentation on a synthesizer inventor that most people haven’t heard of… which is sad, because he created many of the aspects of synthesis we attribute to others!  It’s an awareness campaign.  It will also be fantastic to interact with synthesizer pioneer Tom Oberheim, and my friend Michael Boddicker, who, in addition to being an amazing keyboard player and synthesist, was responsible for SO many of the session keyboard parts for musicians like Michael Jackson.

Synths almost killed rock in the 70’s with prog, tried again with new wave in 80’s and today seems to have found a new host in EDM: Is this just another occupational hazard or will it have longer legs the ‘keyboardist’ as it were?  Ha ha, yeah… it’s hard to beat keyboards back, sometimes.  But the fact is, there is a balance that can be had with the synthesizer and Rock… it’s just that it’s easy to go too far.

What advice would you give to a talented young artist wondering how the fuck to get from A to B and make a real go of it?   Well, I spent 12 years desperately trying to get a record contract back in the 80s and 90s.  I worked my ass off trying to do what was expected.  I tried to write songs that would appeal to audiences and A&R people.  I tried to get that stuff heard.  I had a manager in L.A., and interest from labels like Geffen and Interscope… but it all failed.  And I think largely, that was because I was shooting for an idea as opposed to doing what I loved.

Conversely, I started demonstrating synths on YouTube, and suddenly, my work was spread all over the world, synthesizer companies started asking me to demonstrate their products, I got hired at a historical synthesizer foundation, met all of my idols, and have tens of thousands of people hearing my music every month.

I really think the key isn’t to try to be something you want to be, but to try to show people what you are.  Don’t make your art some sort of bartering for something that has nothing to do with art, delve deeper into your art and live it, and opportunities will come to you.

GREGG YDE w/ BLACK LAUREL

How did you get hooked on rock and roll?  It was unavoidable in the house I grew up in. I had four older siblings who were all into music. My brother Mike played drums and my brother Mark played guitar. We had the jam room in the basement with tapestry covered walls with Mateus bottles everywhere. Illegal ashtrays. This was the 70’s and everybody who came into my orbit had long hair and KISS or UFO shirts on. I was baptized into Rock and Roll and have been a devout follower ever since.
What was your first public/live performance like?  It was probably sometime around sophomore year in high school at our local community center in Libertyville Illinois. They hosted a weekly open mike. I don’t remember much about it except I played solo acoustic. I don’t remember being nervous. I rarely get stage fright and when I do it is usually for smaller crowds. The intimacy of playing to a handful of people can be intimidating. Throw me up in front of a packed room and I’m ready to go.
Favorite albums growing up?  The first truly great record that entered my world was the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. The J5 were still a young outfit and pre puberty Michael. Such a great album when Motown was still on top. Around the same time my Sister brought home the Beach Boys Greatest Hits and that really struck a chord with me. The first album I bought with my own money was around 4th or 5th grade. The Beatles Revolver. My brother Matt who was a couple years older bought the Rolling Stones Black and Blue on the same outing. By the time I was in 7th grade you could find most Beatle albums, some ELO, Chicago, Queen and the Who in my young collection. I also had that Steve Martin album with King Tut on it…..but don’t tell anybody.;)
 
Do you hear their influences still in your new stuff?  Sure, it’s all rolling around in there. I’m trying to push out the pre Jackson 5 / Osmand Brother period and I think I’ve been successful.
How did Black Laurel come about?  I was new to New Orleans and looking to get back in the game after a long sabbatical as a family man. I just started asking around for like-minded musicians. My buddy and co worker at the hardware store I worked at in the Quarter played, so we got together, wrote some songs. When we felt we had a set, we went to Craigslist to find a rhythm section. The rest will hopefully be history. Of course, I’m the only original guy left. It has been addition by subtraction ever since.
Did you have specific goals for the recording sessions for debut EP?  We just wanted to capture our sound as economically as possible. The EP is just us playing live with a quick overdub session for vocals and some doubling of rhythm guitar and solo’s. It was produced by Rick Nelson of Afghan Whigs at Marigny Recording Studio, just down the street from my house. The next one we hope will be more relaxed, but money for diy bands is always tight.

Were the songs all new or were there some that you had been sitting on for a while?   Two of the songs were written by our bass player, Rade Pejic and I’m assuming are current. Of my five songs, all were newer, with the exception of ‘Set Your City Free’ which was written awhile ago. The line “were gonna march into your town. Knock all your statues down” was about the invasion of Iraq but in New Orleans, everyone thinks it’s about the removal of Confederate monuments.

How would you compare Chicago and New Orleans in terms influence to Black Laurel’s music?  New Orleans references are sprinkled  throughout our lyrics. Not so much musically. Chicago had a great rock scene when I was active there. Jesus Lizard, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Boom Hank, Veruca Salt, Red Red Meat. New Orleans is a Jazz and R&B town. There is a nice underground rock scene starting to bubble to the surface, but the tourists don’t want anything to do with it. I will say that living in New Orleans has been great for my playing as there are so many unbelievable musicians everywhere. Shake a tree and a great musician will fall out……along with some beads and discarded crawfish shells.
Songwriters often say they think of their songs as almost like their children — how do you feel about the old Nurv material when you hear it now?  Some need to go to their rooms without supper. Some deserve to go to College.
You go down to the crossroads, your rider by your side and come across the Devil  listening to “Judy Brown. He wants to strike a deal — he wants your guitar; what do you ask of him? 
Depends on the guitar and what Trump…..er…Lucifer is offering in return.

RICH KLEVGARD w/ THESE PEACHES

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?   I went in the studio with the point of releasing an EP. Kind of a bridge to carry over from the debut album, Almost Heard the Ocean to my second album. I was in the studio last week and tracked a brand new song. Then it seemed like maybe this should be its own album. So now, that is what I am pretty much working on. The band is on hiatus for the time being. We lost a few members to distraction and lack of focus.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  My parents were classical music people. So a lot of concerts that they attended, I did too. It was always on in the house. In my room there was a lot of Kiss, The Beatles, Boston, pretty much ‘70’s rock. When I went off to boarding school my range of music appreciation began to grow Dylan, Stones, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and after heading to college I became exposed to the blues- Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Elizabeth Cotton, and also into jazz music as well — Art Blakey, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Willem Breuker Collektif. Classical performances were at the beginning but not without ironically Hank Williams, “Your Cheating Heart” around the time I was 3 or 4 years olds.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  I think seeing a Bob Dylan show seemed to really show how tight a band can be but at the same time so very loose, authentic and unscripted as well. Giving the sense of spontaneity always impressed me, that and the connection of the artist to the audience.

What was your first public performance?  A group of friends playing together on and off as Surf Jazz Kill and The Uninvited Guests showed up at a party and using the house bands instruments tore it up. Talk about loose, unscripted and spontaneous!

How do songs come about for you?  Certain cadences of words arrive. Sometimes with a melody, sometimes not. I write everyday but don’t always play guitar everyday. Basic song structure comes through exploration and discovery-one my talent on guitar isn’t that great, but I have taught myself to create moments where the melody embraces the lyrical direction pretty easily.

You’ve been around the Chicago music scene for nearly 30 years now, in different roles, what’s the (your) state of the union?  This is an extremely difficult business. That in of itself is an incredible detractor from the act of making music. The task of making yourself the center of attention is a guilty pleasure it seems. I don’t like being in the spotlight, but once I am there it feels unreal. I’m lucky to have my own songs to play and to not be spending time and energy covering everyone else’s stuff. In Chicago there is an incredible community of caring and generous artists without a doubt. In the land of performance there is a whole lot of hurt going on. It’s where most bands usually seem to fall apart trying to get from one gig to the next. The recording process is time-consuming and expensive. Manufacturing even with the return of vinyl is on the way out. Digital streaming and social media savvy is where it seems to be. Performing is the only way to make money but it is also an extremely arduous path to navigate. People like to hear bands and unless you are established with a fan base over 1000 people locally, you are not going to be actively sought after to headline someone’s club.

Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?

Miles Davis- spirit, creative genius, longevity

Bob Dylan- words, music, reinvention

Vivaldi- summer, fall, winter, spring

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?   Play anywhere and everywhere you can, surround yourself with people who are kind, generous and honest.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  In Chicago, The Flat Five, Cardinal Harbor is cool, Big Sadie is as solid as they come!

You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind?  I always thought it might be some sort of graphic design tome of visual delight that would be remarked on and celebrated for all time. Now, maybe one or two songs and a story about how we aren’t who we think we are — maybe something much more…

HAMID SAMI w/ TELECRAZE

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?   I am working on Telecraze LP. i want to release it in late 2017 or early 2018 and, it is going to be the first time i release an LP officially. I am working on film music and instrumentals as well, mostly focused on my works with my friend Jon Meyer, a film director in Portland I have been friend with since 2009.he did this doc called “thanks for checking in” featuring one of my instrumentals, which is now mostly set for awards and festivals before being released.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  No, I grew up listening to music secretly, carrying my cassettes whenever I went out and listening to them before sleep. I received copies from friends. my cousin introduced me to a lot of music, Pink Floyd mostly notable, the Iranian 70’s era had some good music, and some of the more contemporary musicians did some good songs, but I think the darkness of the world kept me more towards western music. I grew up in nature, and then in 8 I had to relocate to town, right in the capital, and it was so rugged, so rough, I started to realize why did some of the songs I listened to when I was 4 were so dark, later I found out those songs were Kraftwerk.

What was your first public performance?  It was in 2008, in Tehran Art university, we had a band called Font and the students had this ceremony to introduce contemporary music to the students of the university.it was ok.

How do songs come about for you and Telecraze?   Uh, sometimes I am playing an instrument, and then it resonates with a part of me, I just happen to let words come out and little by little they paint a picture of what this is pulling the strings on  ….in Telecraze, I worked with the members on my finished songs or just an intro I didn’t know what we were doing, it was mostly to let it work for everyone, we did one song we all worked on from beginning to the end, drummer was a bit hardcore so which ever direction we would take things would come out a bit aggressive.one time our bass player had a very bad experience in streets, he saw a man on a wheelchair came right in the middle of street and put himself on fire, and wouldn’t let anyone get close to him, Mehdy was traumatized, wanted to make a song about it, so I went working with our drummer and did it little by little. I made the vocals to the last part of the song in rehearsals. We called it Burning Alien, recorded it alongside 4 other songs to include in our EP, Knockout Mice. but the recording went bad , so when the finished work was in our hand it didn’t sound like what we wanted so it never came out. From all those songs I released only 4 of them on our SoundCloud.

How would you describe the new music / live scene for bands in Iran and how do you feel it’s different from what you know about the states?   The scene here is a pop, funk, rock and singer song writer on major scene, and noise, ambient, electronic on a very smaller scale. There is hip hop underground going on.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal fail-safe go-to’s?   I don’t cover much. I did a Grizzly Bear cover with Telecraze for our live show, the song “Yet again”.i did  Radiohead’s Creep and NIN’s Hurt for myself. And just recently played Kesson Delef of Aphex Twin on the piano, I don’t feel like doing covers on live shows, I go on places when doing covers which I won’t go naturally.some times it’s easier for me to do a cover than my own songs, I do them better  I can’t go fail-safe. there is no life in it when it is not to help you reach your deep subconscious areas, and subconscious is very chaotic.it could change everything upon reaching, the feelings may not lay a place for all elements one deals with in their world.

Who are your favorite songwriters / bands?   Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Sigur os, Boards of Canada, Nine inch Nails, The Doors, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Nick Drake, Loscil, Damien Rice, Kendrick Lamar, Farhad Mehrad, Brian Eno & Harold Budd, Zbignew Preisner,

Your instrumental music was in a documentary which is now being set for awards and festivals, what’s it about?   It’s about a man Ian Stout.who started filming himself and uploading these clips every day ,as a remedy to help himself reach tranquility and peace,face his insecurities every day and talk his heat out as much,Jon Meyer the director been following him and decided to do a documentary on him using the videos on the anniversary of the beginning of these uploads..

You’re time machine is set for the 70’s, what concert do you go to?  The Doors, that is the kind of world I have never experienced.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases over there that we should know about?   There are a couple of ambient and electronic musicians i enjoyed  listening, Siavash Amini, Umchunga, Tegh, Idlefon, singer/songwriter Soheil Nafisi, Iranian traditional music Kamanche Master, Keyhan Kalhor.

 

DAVID SAFRAN

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?  I finished a novella called “Fenichel” last October. I hope to get this published soon. Beyond that, I’m co-writing a musical, “The Hotwife of Hyde Park,” gruelingly in development since 2014.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  A bit, yes. My mother listened to sixties folk music. The genres my father admired are better left unsaid.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  In 2001, John Cale played a pub in Evanston. I had a ticket but, because I was underage, the pub (Tommy Nevin’s) wouldn’t let me into the showAnyway, I unhappily roamed downtown Evanston when, suddenly, I spotted Cale and his people leaving Pete Miller’s Steakhouse. I approached him, explained the Nevin’s issue, and mentioned I saw him live a few years earlier at the Knitting Factory—and no one at that venue cared I was a teenager. “Well, aren’t you a little recidivist,” he said, snobbishly dismissing me. His entourage chuckled. I felt incredibly stupid, but still asked Cale to sign a copy of “Fragments of a Rainy Season” I had with meUsing a needlepoint pen, instead of a signature, he drew various squiggles across the disc. After rigorously scratching my CD—making his music unplayable—the old Welsh rocker in the neon orange hoodie and baseball hat departed down Sherman Avenue.

What was your first public performance?  I can’t recall my first public performance. But I remember my last one: I performed with a friend who, in addition to songwriting, is a Chicago television journalist. Before soundcheck, he mentioned Rahm Emanuel would be at our show. This rumor swirled around the venue for an hour or two. In the end, of course, Rahm didn’t appear. I played to a small crowd utterly indifferent to my music, and a room smelling of calamari. A pretty typical David Safran gig.

How do songs come about for you?  At the moment, my songwriting process means fighting the urge to write songs.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal fail-safe go-to’s?  I’ve never really played covers before. It’s a beautiful skill I seem to lack. But a few years ago, for Valentine’s Day, I recorded Lou Reed’s “HookyWooky” and sent it to my girlfriend, Emma.

What songwriters are on your Mt. Rushmore?  After my John Cale encounter, I stopped carving human beings into a rock.

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?  My advice? Be sure that alongside your career path there is a revenue stream. The best advice, though, comes via my maternal grandmother, Hilda. Many years ago, my cousin was in the middle of his bar mitzvah, and flubbing it. He couldn’t remember the Hebrew bits. Aware her grandson was panicked, Hilda called out from her seat, “Just keep going—it’s not like we have any idea what you’re saying.” Really, that’s my only advice. Just keep going—it’s not like we have any idea what you’re saying.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  Actually, I was about to ask you the same question. I’ve been listening to the same five songs for the last twenty years.

Your time machine is set for the 70’s, what recording session do you sit in on and what suggestions might you offer to slightly alter rock & roll history?  Recording is a horribly boring activity. A studio is the last place I’d send my time machine. That said, I own a Smithsonian Folkways record called, “Calypso Awakening from the Emory Cook Collection.” I wish I could travel back to, I think, the 1950s and watch Small Island Pride record a song called “Taxi Driver.” – David Safran

JOHNNY IGUANA w/ THE CLAUDETTES

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  Right now, I’m writing, writing, writing. The Claudettes already finished our third full-length album (our first two albums and EP are here), which will come out later this year. It was produced by Black Keys/Old 97’s producer Mark Neill. It’s something special, I can’t wait for people to hear it. But I’m so inspired by how the four-piece (two-singer) lineup of the Claudettes has come together over the past 12 months that I’m now really dialing in how to write for THIS assemblage. That’s the ticket to the best music right there: not just having songs and parts you write just to be writing, or because you have ideas that excite you, but also knowing the musical strengths and sweet spots of the musicians and singers who are actually in the band with you RIGHT NOW. I like to quote Duke Ellington, who said he scored all those hits because he always asked himself, “What do THESE guys do well?”

Did you grow up with music in your family?  My mother listened to a lot of classical music, but loved rock music, too. My uncle played and worked in music, and still does. I never stopped playing after I started classical lessons at age 8 (continuing to age 13, at which point I had bands for the rest of my life).

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  The aforementioned uncle was a road manager and significant creative influence for the Cars. I went to see them in Philly, where they opened for Foreigner. Seeing Ben Orr backstage with a feather boa, sunglasses and a woman on each arm…even at age eight, I said to myself, “That looks cool. I want that.” As of now, my personal record is one woman. But I’m working on better and better songs all the time.

What was your first public performance?  I remember playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” at a piano recital, and I messed it up badly. The demon in my head kept asking, “Hey, buddy boy? What’s the next chord? I bet you’ll forget it and blow the whole thing.” To this day, live performance for me is still a contest with that demon. As long as I don’t provoke him into asking me those questions, all goes beautifully…but it does happen sometimes, at which point I just smash all the keys and proceed with anger at myself as my primary motivation.

How do songs come about for you?  Very often, I have words in a notebook that develop from a single lyric to a full song. Sometimes, I then write music to accompany those words. Other times, I spontaneously come up with new music (often by just happening on one unusual or even accidental chord change), then go upstairs to flip through my notebook and see if I’ve got something that seems like a match.

Do you have any day-of-show (or pre-show) rituals that help you get in the right mindset to perform live?  Truth be told, I like a couple drinks. My drink is two drinks: a bourbon and a beer. It puts me just right. There is DEFINITELY such a thing as too much, and it turns me into a sloppy player. There’s good sloppy, as in the best blues, but then there’s just messy. I do like to remind my band mates to not worry about perfection…it’s much, much, much better to put your whole heart, soul, joy and sadness into this performance than it is to get all the parts and changes right. That kind of perfection without a wellspring of emotion is boring to the audience and it’s especially boring to me.

Who is on your musical Mount Rushmore?  My teenage musical heroes were Junior Wells (the blues band I was in at age 16 in Philly took 2/3 of our repertoire from Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”and “South Side Blues Jam” albums and his other recordings), Mike Watt (of Minutemen and fIREHOSE) and Joe Strummer (The Clash, of course). I managed to join the Junior Wells band soon after I finished college (I met him in NYC, then moved to Chicago when he asked me to join the band) and I got to tour with him for three years, and record with him, too. My band oh my god ended up opening for Mike Watt at the Double Door and his band mates told me that we were the best band they’d played with on that tour (which was probably around 70 dates). Mike and the band slept at my house once (on another occasion, when I just went to see them at Double Door). Mike stayed up late with me, talking about music, Minutemen and D. Boon. I gave him bad parking advice (I found out that night that the Ford Econoline is a bit taller than the Dodge RAM; as a result, they had to park on the street), and their van was ticketed and was just about to be towed when Mike walked over to the van to check on it. Great job impressing your heroes, dufus. And oh my god was on the short list to open up for Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros when I was driving home from the dentist and heard a Clash song. Then, I changed stations…and heard another! “Yes!” When the third station I flipped to was playing the Clash, my heart sunk…after the song, they announced that he had just died at age 50. I was so, so sad that he was gone, and that I didn’t get to complete my triumvirate of wished-for hero experiences.

What advice do you give to young musicians seeking their path?  I’m not qualified to offer advice, ’cause I’m not satisfied yet myself. Just practice a lot, record the practices and know that those practice recordings don’t lie. If the Jimi Hendrix Experience made a basement tape, guess what? They wouldn’t be saying, “Oh, you can’t really hear the bass, that’s why this doesn’t sound that good.” Nah, the best artists sound spectacular, no matter what the mix. To sing or play the best, you need to do it a lot. Ray Charles practiced scales when he was 65 years old…daily, so he said.

You are to perform at the Grammy’s but they want you to do a cover, what tune do you choose and why?  I don’t know. I feel like I’d promise a cover and then switch over to my most demented instrumental…you know, Elvis Costello SNL-style. I think this cover-song culture we’re in is weak and lame. People singing “Superstition” on “Vermont’s Got Talent.” “Oh, he’s WON-DA-FUL!” The world needs a new crop of songs and singers…get to work…

You and a friend are given to access to a time machine called ‘The Day Tripper’ in which you can attend any concert in history — what are your coordinates and who do you bring with for the ride?  I’d probably set the machine for ‘Pedro in the early ’80s and see the Reactionaires evolve into Minutemen, and talk to D. Boon a lot after the sets. I wouldn’t need to bring anyone with me, I’d just go talk to the band about tones and chord changes and influences and great records.

STEVE KARRAS

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  Currently am involved with The Mourners, putting a 2017 spin on Chuck Berry and other beloved Blues and Soul artists and getting people to stop gazing at their navels. Also collaborating with Detroit-based muso and personal heroes Robert Crenshaw (Marshall Crenshaw band) and enlisting the great Don Dixon to produce and play on it. The two played on my 2015 demo Brady Lane.”

Did you grow up with music in your family? There was always good music playing throughout my childhood. Between the 50’s-era fare and a steady flow of great country music – everything from Eddy Arnold to the New Riders of the Purple Sage – my dad liked a lot. Then there my brother’s own evolving musical tastes that included Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, which really made an impact. My love of new wave and SKA came from my best friend’s older brother Rick Goldman.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  Going to Blues Fest in Chicago exposed me to Dr John, Robert Cray, Willie Dixon, Lurie Bell, Lonnie Brooks was terribly important. There’s a toss-up between Los Lobos/Dave Alvin and the 1986 UIC Pavilion show featuring REM and Camper Van Beethoven as my life’s seminal show going experiences. After hearing REM’s first four releases, including the EP “Chronic Town,” I felt part of a movement of indie-minded youth. If you met an REM fan, circa 84, there was an instant mutual admiration society in the making. I was also blown-away by Elvis Costello’s Spike Tour I got to see at Poplar Creek, outside Chicago.

What was your first public performance?  Aside from playing open mics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my first professional show (where I got paid) occurred in Chicago at a club called At the Tracks. It went ok but I was far from where I wanted to be. My first bon-a-fide show in a band was with my group Sourball, opening for Living Colour’s front-man Corey Glover.

How do songs come about for you?  For me they come SLOW but they always start with some kind of hook and melody in my head. Thanks to iPhones I quickly record the idea with the voice memo app. The lyrics either come quickly or I go to a note-pad and mine words from the stream of consciousness drivel I regularly jot down.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal go-to’s?  I love covers but ones most would call “deep-cuts” (I hate that phrase almost as much as the word “iconic”). There are amazing tunes out there to snag.

Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?  This is tough but I never stray too far from Elvis Costello for his clever word-play and infectious melodies. The same goes for Richard Thompson who is not only my favorite guitarist but tunesmith. Sam Cooke (with or without the Soul Stirrers) hits an emotional place, deep down in my soul. Shit, only 3 artists? There’s a lot more. The Band is probably number 4.

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?  In the words of famed Texas football coach Darrell Royal, “Dance with the one that brung you.”

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  I really like the Irish artist Hozier. The song “Someone New” has all the great qualities you’d find in Paul Weller and Graham Parker. There’s something about Europeans and the way they can infuse R&B with pop.

You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind?   Probably Duke Ellington’s Jazz take on the Nutcracker Suite just to show the universe what mankind was capable of creatively and how a descendent of slaves could transcend race with genius.

JEREMY STEWART

img_166188012454254-1When did you first discover you could sing?  I began singing at a very early age. I was in several talent shows in grade school, as well as being part of the school choir in junior high.  It was after discovering my parents record collection in the basement, and finding such bands as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra, etc. I began learning all the classic rock stuff and singing along was part of the deal.
What was your favorite band or album growing up?   Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado 1974.  My mother purchased the album at a garage sale and played it frequently while I was growing up. It is still my favorite, and can sing every song by memory.
Who are your favorite 3 singers of all-time?   David Byron, Uriah Heep.
Ian Gillian, Deep Purple.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin.  Although this list could go on indefinitely.
How long have you been holding down the Karaoke fort at Sidekicks and how did the relationship begin?  Going on 4 and a half years. I had just moved to Chicago and a friend took me there to sing and it turned out that I was in need of a job, so however more perfect could it be.I had the job that following week.
You’re also a musician with a rich rock & roll history — can you take us down the long & winding road?  Been playing various instruments since I was 14, started to get serious at 16 with my first electric guitar. Formed my first band shortly after, Fantasy Kitchen, and went on to play with various formations of the band until 1992. FK sadly came to an end after endless member changes and lack of interest in the project. I went into a time of nothingness for a while afterwards until my younger brother,  who at the time played in a band of his own called Thinner, who had just lost a bass player, asked if I could join the fold.
Stage 2 had begun. I bought a used bass guitar, hung up the 6 string, and joined up as a bass player to a new unit which was re-named from Thinner to Full Cast Crown.  I played with this outfit in various forms and names until 2007. Recorded in several different places, but ultimately ended up releasing a first album with a stable lineup known as Wish. Cd’s are still for sale on CDbaby reviewed as “a very progressive and heavy album”… I still have hundreds of copies for sale personally. It really is a great album. Get one! Wish sadly dissolved with the departure of a key member in 2006.  After Wish I floated around from band to band, released 3 more albums, privately pressed of course, but 3 nonetheless.
1146482_678656012177806_1538213147_n-1On top of all this I decided to go to college at the same time. Eventually college took over and I graduated etc.. Shortly after I joined a Waterloo Iowa based band called Burning Eve. We eventually hired a female vocalist from Chicago, Ania Tarnowska, I Ya Toyah and hit it off on a 4 year escapade of ups and downs until finally moving to Chicago, playing many prestigious shows including The House of Blues, The Abbey, etc.. Unfortunately like many others. Burning Eve came to an end in 2011, just around the time I started working at Sidekicks…About 6 months later I was approached by another band, which after listening to their music and getting a feel for their sound, Phaedra was born. I had become fairly progressive at this point playing in bands, utilizing more of a vast array of prog rock instruments including: Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, Mellotron, Bass Guitar and Bass Effects, as well as being no slouch on backup vocals and harmonies.  Phaedra ended up being one of the most unique sounds coming out of the Chicago music scene in a long time.  Unfortunately due to inner member turmoil, the band ended abruptly after the release if the first EP.
After Phaedra’s demise, I decided to take a break from bands due to my recent rapid development of psoriasis arthritis. It makes it hard to play for long periods of time anymore. No more bands for me, unless the unthinkable happens and Mick Box from Uriah Heep asks me to play bass or be lead vocalist for them someday… haha.. These days I just do the Karaoke gig, and run an open jam on Wednesday nights. It’s the only day I play anymore after my illness. But, I try not to let it get in my way too much. I still play my heart out and do my best to entertain people.  I’ve been focusing on my vocal skills. Granted, I have been singing for most of my life, but fine tuning and honing the art is challenging and rewarding. I have a feeling that my voice could grant me access to more options in the future,  such as voice overs, studio vocals, cartoon characters etc.. Even though I am now disabled physically, I still have the voice. Karaoke is a good thing for me.
What’s so great about progressive rock that many of us just don’t get?  Good question. There are so many facets and sub genres of prog rock that it makes this question difficult. My personal favorite seems to be symphonic  prog rock due to its primary use of the legendary Mellotron.  To answer your question, typically my response is that most folks these days have very short attention spans and just can’t handle 20 minutes of epic complexity in one sitting, let alone a whole album. I learned that from experience.
What is the % of ringers verses amateurs on the weekend and can you tell the difference even before they hit the stage?  It’s roughly 50/50. And no, you really can’t tell until they get up there. That is why I love the job. The total randomness of it all. It keeps things interesting.
Are there any songs that keep getting picked that you wish were perhaps never written? 
Oh of course, hmm, this shouldn’t be too difficult..
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
Love Shack, B52’s.
Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf.
Picture, Sheryl Crow & Kid Rock,
Among many others, too many to mention.
What are your go to tunes when it’s time for you to show folks how its done? I tend to gravitate towards difficult songs with lots of high notes. Kansas, Styx, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, etc..  It’s a pretty rowdy scene in there sometimes and great fun —
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened on stage there?  That would give away too much censored information haha.. i call it the best unknown secret in Chicago (but) as far as rowdiness, it has gotten much calmer in there.  I am also now running an open jam on every Wednesday night where musicians come in and play. I have a full back-line of instruments, guitar, bass, keyboards and drums are all supplied. All musicians and vocalists of any caliber are most welcome.
Only you can answer this question – what are the Top 10 Karaoke cuts for the Chicagoan? 
All That Jazz, Catherine Zeta Jones.
Come Together,  Beatles.
Killing Me Softly, Fugees.
Wannabe, Spice Girls.
Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars.
Shake it off, Taylor Swift
I will survive, Gloria Gaynor.
F#*k You, Cee Lo Green.
Creep, Radiohead.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey.

CAM MAMMINA w/ SLIM GYPSY BAGGAGE

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What got you hooked on rock & roll?  I would have to say my dad and mom were really influential on me musically starting from a really young age. My parents had an awesome record collection and there was always music in the house. Besides the stand-bys of  Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. I really loved listening to The Stray Cats. Brian Setzer is definitely one of the reasons I was drawn to play guitar (even though I play nothing like him!) At a young age, my parents would also take me to see shows. My dad took me to New Orleans Jazz Fest when I was 10 and I got to see Counting Crows who were one of my favorite bands at the time. My aunt Jenna (Mammina) also was hugely influential. She’s a very accomplished jazz singer and always was playing with great guitarists beyond the music my parents were listening to and the shows we went to, my dad also played guitar and got me started with that from a young age, I think he got me my first guitar when I was 7 or 8. From there, I was exposed to a lot of different styles of music and bands by my guitar teacher who I started taking lessons from around age 10.

Do you recall what bands you were you listening to at 16 when you first got your driver’s license?   My favorite band at 16 was definitely Brand New and they’re still my favorite band to this day. About that time was when my favorite album of theirs came out and I literally listened to it non-stop. It was on when I was driving, sleeping, eating, doing homework… I also listened to a ton of Modest Mouse, Manchester Orchestra, and Minus the Bear which I still listen to often. At that age I was going to a bunch of metal shows and listened to quite a bit of that; my favorite metal bands at the time were probably Mastodon and Between The Buried And Me, they still get a bit of rotation too.

How did Slim Gypsy Baggage come together?  I first met Morgan (our singer) when I was around 16. Her Fiancé (now husband) Dirk and I became really close friends and hung out all the time at his tattoo shop so I met her through him. She was playing out a bit at that point and sometimes would play with our bass player Matt. I ended up meeting Matt when I was 18. Dirk was officiating his wedding and Morgan was one of his wife’s bridesmaids. They wanted someone to play some light music before the wedding and Dirk and Morgan recommended me to them. After the reception the three of us (Matt, Morgan, and myself) sat around and played Grateful Dead tunes. A couple of years later I saw Morgan and Matt playing at a bar in town and we started playing together shortly after that.  After going through a couple of drummers, I met Scott (our drummer) through surfing on Lake Michigan. He quickly became one of our best friends and started playing with us.

How do you guys approach songwriting?   We take a pretty collaborative approach to writing. Normally it starts with a riff or chord progression I’m messing around with and then between Scott, Matt and I we flesh out an entire song. Then Morgan normally starts working on a vocal melody. Sometimes Morgan will come to us with a skeleton of a song with all the lyrics done and we’ll work out the music from there. Recently, we’ve been writing out all the vocal parts together as well as the music with some great results. We’ve been really excited about the songs we’ve been coming out with.

What is your go-to onstage guitar and what amps are you playing live?  My primary stage guitars are a Collings 360 LT-M, a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster that’s been re-finished in a kind of ugly Daphne Blue, and a National Resolectric. The Jazzmaster was my main guitar for the last few years and then I played the Collings and had to buy it. Recently, the Jazzmaster has taken a bit of a back seat to the Collings but it still gets taken out from time to time. The Resonator is used on a handful of songs, normally the ones with a bit more of a country or deep bluesy vibe. For a couple of years it was the only guitar I’d play live but the lack of a tremolo makes it a bit less appealing.  I’m pretty effect-driven in some of the songs we play and I love playing with pedals (possibly more than playing guitar). My pedal set-up has been:

Guitar > ABC Switcher (for ease of changing guitars)>Moog Ring Modulator>Matchless Hot box Preamp/Vibrato> Clean boost> Overdrive> a tube overdrive that my friend made>Wah>Fuzz> Stereo harmonizer> Stereo Delay> another Stereo Delay> reverb> amps. My amps have changed around a bit for the last few years but I pretty much always have an Orange Rockerverb 50 on one side with a rotating cast of amps on the other. Recently, it’s been either a Matchless DC30 or a Vox AC15 HW but I’ve used a couple different Fenders there as well. As long as my amp has two channels and preferably a reverb, I’m pretty happy.

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Does SGB spend any time crafting a live show as such or do you guys prefer to change it up night to night?   We try to pick our sets based on the type of crowd we’re going to play for as well as the length of our show. We play a wide range of venues and try to stay busy playing as much as possible so sometimes we’re not going to play for crowds that know our music well. In those instances, we try to do a slightly mellower set and maybe throw in some covers to keep everyone happy and interested. In a perfect world, we’d be playing for hundreds of screaming fans every night and be able to play whatever but we try to be conscientious of who’s in our crowd and make sure they’re having a good time and liking what they’re hearing. We’ve been known to do totally stripped down acoustic shows to fit the venue or be super loud and raw… Just whatever makes sense that day.

Do you, or the band, have a routine pre-show to help get in the right head space for the gig?  I can’t say we have any specific pre-show ritual but we normally all get a drink and walk through the crowd if we’re not playing first. It’s cool to see how an audience is at a show and you never know who you’ll meet or run in to.

What was it like to jam on stage with blues legend Buddy Guy?  Playing with Buddy was a crazy experience. We had Just played the BBQ, Blues, And Bluegrass festival in our hometown and Buddy Guy was set to headline the event. After we got done playing, we were all hanging out backstage having a couple drinks and watching the band that was after us. I ended up getting invited in to Buddy’s trailer and met him and then he offered me to possibly play. I kind of freaked out at that point. It’s not something I had really ever thought of to do and I was really intimidated by the whole thing but I was down to do it. So I watch him play for an hour or so and he calls me up and I am literally shaking. There’s about 10,000 people in the crowd with another 10-15,000 sitting on top of the bluff in St. Joseph, MI watching. I just kind of zoned out the whole time and tried to not mess up. Afterwards, I listened to a recording of it and I played pretty well through the whole thing although I don’t really remember it, it was just that huge of an adrenalin rush. It’s a pretty cool experience and the fact that I got to have that happen in front of my friends, family, and band was so amazing.

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If you we’re to do a 5-song-EP that was in essence a ‘best of’ of your first two discs, DiveBomb and UnderCurrents, what cuts would be on it and what’s the track order?  Interestingly enough, we actually have two more discs we recorded during each of those sessions that we haven’t released; there’s a bunch of songs on those that I really like. Also, we haven’t gotten into the studio this year so there’s quite a couple new songs that I would put in our “best of” over some of these. but If I had to do it based on what we have out and as a concise 5 song that follows a certain feel, I think it would go: “Underwater”, “Wheels”, “Rewind”, “Break Through It” & “Witch Pill”

It’s crazy how much those songs have changed over time, a lot of the songs on both of those CD’s rarely get played live anymore and the ones that are have so many things changed. Hopefully we’ll be getting back in the studio soon to record some of our newer stuff and we’ll probably be releasing one of the other records that we’ve been holding back sometime soon.

What advice would you give to a kid just picking up the guitar?  Keep practicing and try not to get frustrated! It can be difficult at times starting out but just keep at it. Practice your scales religiously to get your dexterity up and try to get some basic understanding of music theory. It will definitely help you out in the long run and make you a better player. Most importantly though, have fun!    —- visit SlimGypsyBaggage.com

13 ANGELS

This time we forgo the 10 question interview in lieu of some post-show backstage hi-jinx with 13 ANGELS at Live Wire Lounge in Chicago. The lads share their inception story, drunk calls from Shannon, their favorite albums and plans for world domination one skate park at a time …long live rock.

 

 

 

WILL KOSTER w/ TROUT STEAK REVIVAL

Will-KosterWhat were the first few albums you ever bought with your own money and do you still enjoy them today?  I remember really grooving to Michael Jackson at an early age and buying the cassettes “Bad” and “Dangerous.” I would crank my boombox and try to do the moonwalk. MJ is still the King. The compositions, performances, and production on his albums are still among my favorites.

How long have you been singing and what artists did you like to emulate most as a kid?  I started singing when I moved to Colorado in 2005. I started singing a lot of blues songs and wrote songs occasionally. Casey our bass player and I lived in a mountain cabin for a while and we dove into a bunch of artist’s musical catalogues. We would end up learning a lot of the songs we were jamming out to. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Neil Young to name a few. 

Trout Steak Revival are helping lead the charge for the ever-growing ‘new grass’ movement and yet for so many it’s a brand new experience; What do you feel Trout Steak’s brings to the genre or are you more purists than anything else? I feel like a huge part of new-grass and bluegrass music is the strong community vibe. We love being a part of the bluegrass family. I hope that what we are bringing to the genre is honest and full of fun and love.

Did you grow up with bluegrass or was it an acquired taste?  I heard of bluegrass music my freshman year of college. I went to Indiana University and a friend from West Virginia who plays fiddle, invited me to Louisville, KY for the IBMA’s. It was quite the introduction to bluegrass watching the greats perform and witnessing the organized chaos of thousands of musicians hanging out in a hotel. My first bluegrass jam went pretty bad because I only knew how to play blues solos… a new friend told me I should get a Dobro because I liked to bend notes so much….. and so I did.

Would you like to sing more lead with the band? is that something you have to fight for being in an outfit where everyone can sing so well?  Sharing is caring.

What’s the bands approach to songwriting? (how do you come up with songs? you guys had mentioned you were a democracy when we me that night at BK) We approach songwriting in a very honest and collaborative way. We typically start working on a song when someone has some lyrics, a melody, and some chords. We will start playing around with the ideas and see how the band can support the song the best. We usually will add a few chords, come up with instrumental melodies, figure out harmonies and things of that nature, as a group.

In terms of lyrics, do you feel you guys have a message (ie – what are you guys really about?) Lately our songs have been pretty uplifting and positive, but who knows….we may go through a dark phase at some point? Mostly, we just want to sing songs that we feel and that are true to us.

Any tips on what it takes to stay focused, fresh and sane on the road?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. don’t drink hotel water
  3. drink good coffee
  4. shower when groovy
  5. pack clean socks and undies for at least a week
  6. to boost moral: come up with famous peoples names to replace everyday words. For example: Can you pick me up a Gregory Alan IsaCoffee? (Gregory Alan for short) or Russels! meaning please turn on the Courtesy Lights (Kurts) in the bus…. It sounds strange, but it helps.
  7. Go swimming whenever possible
  8. grow to love burritos, hummus, chips, and veggietrays
  9. always order the meatloaf
  10. be excellent to one another

Trout-Steak-Revival-Band-FeatureWhat are you guys listening to on the tour bus this year so far? (any surprises?)  The Wood Brothers, The Lowest Pair, Elephant Revival, Fruition, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Deer, Kendrick Lamar, Prince, Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mandolin Orange, My Morning Jacket, Ry Cooder, and Magnolia Electric Company are the ones that come to mind first. Surprised?

Do you think smashing a fiddle on stage would be cathartic, desperate or downright wrong?  I may differ to Bevin on this one. I would cry big tears.

BEN TAYLOR w/ BEECHERS FAULT

 

 

20160511 - Beecher's Fault at Mercury Lounge 0016
photo by Gustavo Mirabile

What was the first album you ever purchased and how do you rank it today?   Not sure what the first one I bought with my own money was but the first CD I was given was Queen’s Greatest Hits 1 & 2…the double disc. My parents gave it to me for Christmas when I was maybe 7. It’s still one of my favs to this day. So many incredible songs.

20160511 - Beecher's Fault at Mercury Lounge 0020
photo by Gustavo Mirabile

Was guitar your first instrument? and what was your first guitar?   First instrument I played was actually piano. My parents bought an old electric organ from a neighbor in England for me to practice on. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 13 and my first guitar was a black and white Stratocaster. I was really into Clapton at the time so I think he inspired that choice.

What do you play these days and do you use the same gear on stage as in the studio?   I’m really not much of a gear guy. I like to keep it as simple as possible so I play an American Telecaster for its simplicity and versatility. I own several guitars (most of them gifts) and I’ll occasionally switch it up but the tele is my go-to for studio and live. My amp is a Budda tube amp and I love that thing.

You’ve moved around a lot geographically, how do you think those contrasts of place & time have impacted your music or approach to it?   Well being from England and having English parents who love music has definitely had a huge impact on me. I grew up listening to all the English greats (Beatles, Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Floyd, the Police, Bowie etc…) I think my time in Texas allowed me to gain an appreciation for country music. I’m a HUGE Jerry Jeff Walker fan. But just in general I’ve always used music as a medium for making new friends in new places. Everyone loves music so it’s a great thing to talk about when you’re in a new place.

What’s your favorite part about being in a band; writing, recording, or playing out? I love all of it but writing is probably my favorite part. I tend to write in quick spurts. I’ll get an idea for a song and finish writing it in a day or two. I love it when it all happens at once like that.

What do you think is the tightest Beecher’s Fault elevator pitch (or did I just blow the interview?) “Wilco and Passion Pit had a baby named Beecher’s Fault”

Take us behind the scenes: what is the bands dynamic and how does that vary pre-show verses post?   Ken and I tend to run the show. We are the main songwriters and founders of the band so we are the most intense and bossy. The other three (Lauren, Serge and Max) are awesome musicians and great friends so it’s really easy to work with them. They do a great job of tolerating us. Pre-show I’d say we are generally relaxed but a little intense and focused. Post show we all like to hang and have a good time. Beechers-Fault-full-band-photo

You’re a Wilco aficionado of sorts — what are your favorite three Wilco albums? “A Ghost is Born” is definitely my favorite. I was introduced to it and Wilco in my first week as a student at Colgate University. It just really resonates with me and I think the songs are some of Jeff’s most expressive and personal. After that I’d have to say “Being There” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Both of them are just packed with amazing tracks that I can listen to hundreds of times and never get tired of.
What advise would you give to a young artist or band getting ready to really ‘give it a go’? It’s way harder than you think. Don’t expect anything from anyone and make sure your band-mates are your favorite people in the world because years from now you’ll still be in the “struggle” with them.
You’ve been asked to do a tribute on the Grammy’s: who is the artist and what is the song do? Wilco, “The Late Greats”.

CHRIS EUDY w/ THIRD COAST GUITAR

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Who would you say is most to blame for your having come down with rock & roll pneumonia?  My folks were only 16 years old when I was born in 1970 so I had a pretty good record collection growing up. I would have to say Led Zeppelin was my first rock and roll love affair, but it was The Police who made me want to play guitar and be in a band.
What are your 5 favorite guitar solos of all-time?
Buddy Holly-“That’ll Be The Day” …Jimmy Page-“Whole Lotta Love”….Robert Quine-“Girlfriend” (Matthew Sweet …..Jim Babjak- “Girl Like You” (Smithereens)…..David Hidalgo/Cesar Rosas- “Mas y Mas”
What was your first guitar and what is your axe of choice these days? Do you collect at all?  My first guitar was my mom’s Yamaha FG acoustic, but I guess my first solely owned guitar was a Yamaha SBG200, kind of like an SG Special copy. Great guitar! My number one these days is a guitar built at our shop by Robert Daniel. it is a 1959 copy of a Les Paul Junior but with an ebony board, stainless steel frets and in cherry red. I don’t really collect guitars, I only have about 5 guitars that I play regularly and a few mutts lying around.
Outside of the household name brands, any new guitars on the market that have caught your eye at Third Coast Guitars?  My favorite right now are the Wild Custom Guitars. They are out of France and they have a really classic look with a twist and they are remarkably built.
Is the guitar ‘set-up’ still the life blood of the business or has that changed over the years? 
That has change a bit over the years. We’ve become more nationally known for our restorative work and for doing higher end repair. We do a ton more vintage restoration these days, but fret levels and set ups are still a big part of what we do every day.
What is the strangest client request (in terms of guitars) that you’ve ever had?   We get weird requests all the time! The most recent one is taking a Parker Fly guitar, putting in a Sustainiac, and acoustic Piezo pickup and a midi driver. It is going to look like an aircraft carrier inside! We have folks request to make their vintage guitars look like new a lot as well. I never have understood that but, as we say in the shop, “it ain’t my guitar”.
Music fills the air 24/7 there in the land of the cobbler: what 5 bands would you say have gotten the most shop air-time over the years?  With the advent of Internet Radio, we listen to all sorts of different stuff these days and rarely listen to stuff over and over again these days, but if you count the years of cassettes and CDs…
Yes (unfortunately for me, I hate prog rock)
The Darkness
UFO
Thin Lizzie
David Bowie
Gooey_DD-240Would you ever consider a Third Coast mobile app and, if so, what might it do?
I have thought about it! I think it would have a tuner, a few maps of guitar anatomy (like what each part of an electric and acoustic guitar are called, people get things like bridge and saddle mixed up a lot), maybe a chart of things to look for when buying a used or new guitar.
What Gooey record is the bands St. Pepper’s? …any plans to finish the White Album?
We are actually getting ready to release a new album called “Rodgers Park” We are going to release it for free on the interwebs and press vinyl for sale at gigs. Vinyl is cool again.
If you could smash any guitar what would it be and why? (have you ever smashed a guitar?)  We actually smash broken, useless guitars all the time! Manufacturers have us smash cheap guitars that have twisted necks and what not a good bit. There are some pretty good photos and a video of us playing “guitar baseball” on or Facebook page. We try to keep it light most of the time, it’s just guitars, it’s not like we are doctors in an ER. You have to be careful when you smash Ovation guitars since they are made out of that composite. It can bounce back at you and smack you in the head. It’s always nice to smash the Keith Urban guitars they sell on Home Shopping Network. Those guitars are such crap and they have Keith Urban’s Picture on them.
Can you provide a ‘state-of-the-union’ for the Floyd Rose tremolo?   The Floyd Rose is still strong! There is still no unit that really provides the tuning stability of a Floyd if you really want to get your whammy on. The Kahler is really good as well for that but Floyd Rose still reigns supreme. Coupled with the GraphTech saddles, there just isn’t anything that comes close.

RICH EXPERIENCE

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How did you become Rich Experience? was it a choice or just an occupational hazard?  I developed a love for the synthesizer listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer and Electric Light Orchestra as a kid.  Specifically Keith Emerson is my music hero.  I traded in my High School Band clarinet for my first synth a Korg Poly 61M when was 16 and started recording music with my friend Derek Wu (of Recent Photo) under the band name “Food”.  15 years later in 2002 we were roommates in Wicker Park, Chicago and I was bored out of my mind constantly watching him perform the Open Mic at Innertown Pub.  I started shooting my mouth off about performing the open mic on a keytar because I said that playing keyboard behind a stand would be “lame” and finally set a date to do it.  I wanted to do something that I would like to see and was completely different from the standard open mic fair.
Procrastinating until a few hours before the show, I ripped the guts out of an old electric guitar and velcroed a small keyboard to it creating a make-shift Keytar – connected to a massive Yamaha EX5 keyboard/synth for sound.  (I still to this day use the rack mount version, Yamaha EX5R as a sound source)
After hanging out at the Open Mics for so long, I knew that the best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  I also wanted songs to be short and to the point to avoid what I would consider being “boring”.  I quickly wrote “Happy Cheese” and “Skateboarding” then rushed to the open mic.  I signed in as “Rich X” which evolved into “Rich Experience” because I continued to write songs about my experiences.
What was your first concert experience and what about it is most vivid to you today?  I never went to see shows when I was young.  Most bands I liked were prog rock from the 70’s and no longer touring.  I saw Yes for the first time “in the round” at the Rosemont Horizon for the “Union” tour in 1991, that blew me away, they had 8 band members on stage.
I saw Midnight Oil in their final US tour at the House of Blues.  Peter Garrett was one of the greatest frontmen of Rock in my opinion.  The guy sweats profusely looking like he is covered in oil.  His stage energy was off the chart.
RICHexpWhat instrument did you start on and which one do you today feel most comfortable playing? I started playing clarinet in High School band, I never really liked that instrument.  I started playing keyboard specifically synthesizer when I was 16 and started writing songs with my long time friend Derek Wu in a 2 person band called “Food” which much later became “Mant”.  Mant played a few gigs, notably we had a great show at Lounge Ax in 2000 a week before it closed.  In Mant I had 3 keyboards, a drum machine and a sequencer on stage (very Keith Emerson like), with Derek on Bass and vocals.  We were playing electronic alternative before it became cool.
When I started playing Keytar and singing as Rich Experience I was done with sequencing and drums machines.  The additional electronics seemed to be more limiting than without.  If I could not play it with my fingers I did not want it on stage, I wanted to be a minimalist. Not locked into a drum machine or a band, I found I could use “time” to accentuate the songs.  Being able to slow, speed up, or pause on stage at will, was very freeing and connected me with the audience.
I love playing keytar.  Keytar has obvious disadvantages over a horizontal keyboard like stability, maximizing playing with both hands, and easily looking at the keys while playing.  Advantages of keytar are mobility, and easy access to pitch ribbon and modulation controls.  Mobility is huge for me.  When I perform in my other project “Lisa Lightning Band” I run all over the stage and even jump on a trampoline while playing.
Additionally in 2005 I saw the flute scene in the movie “Anchorman” and thought “I can do that!”  So I bought a flute and taught myself to play.  I dig the all metal construction and the fact I can put it in a backpack to bring to parties.  I play flute in the “Flabby Hoffman Trio” occasionally.
Lie detector test in play: where would you say your musical heart truly lies? BZZZZT  BZZZT  Ouch!  You would think from my music I was into “They Might Be Giants” or something similar.  But I’m a 70’s prog guy at heart which is kind of the opposite of minimalist.
What is your philosophy on life and how does inform your music? I performed gymnastics in college as a pommel horse specialist.  I trained for the olympics for a while, working out 8 hours a day.   I loved competing, but there were a lot a sacrifices.  After it ended, I never wanted to put that much of myself into anything ever again. I just wanted to take it easy and enjoy life with as little effort as possible and focus on my friends.  I’m currently re-evaluating “taking it easy”.
What advice would you give to a young artist struggling to pen their first song or two? The best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  Find and take that then distill it to its bare essence.  Add a catchy tune then smack the audience over the head with it relentlessly with no fear or mercy.
For me it’s cats, cheese, reptiles, science, crawl spaces, work and skateboarding.  I try to see myself from the audience’s point of view and don’t be boring.  ;)
Who are your 5 favorite ‘hard rock’ bands of all-time, and why? Emerson Lake & Palmer – 1970’s Keith Emerson, my keyboard hero, attacks the instrument without fear, literally with Knives and Fire.  I love his style and attitude.  My dad bought “Pictures at an Exhibition” on 8 track cassette at a garage sale.  That album scared the hell out of me.  I could not stop listening to it.
Electric Light Orchestra – Jeff Lynn songs with Richard Tandy on keyboard making some really out there sounds.
Yes – A collection of some of the best technical musicians ever.  Proof that there is no time travel that all their shows were not sold out.
Midnight Oil – Their early stuff was really hardcore in your face with Peter Garrett’s clean politically charged vocals.  Their later stuff became more melodic and pushed the envelope in many ways.  The local band “Depravos De La Mour” reminds me of them.
Underworld – Hey I dig techno also.
Your #50 on Reverb Nation for Chicago Artists; that’s saying something: Is that a function of effort, sheer staying power or the cream just naturally rising to the top? Ha!  It helps to be in the “Folk” category.  ;)  Although I did get a really cool letter from a cancer center that stumbled on my music by accident: “Dear Rich, I just wanted to Thank You for the experience. We are Case Managers at City of Hope National Research Cancer Center here in California. We work directly with Leukemia Cancer patients and arrange for their Bone Marrow Transplants and needs for when the come in and go home. Anyway, we just wanted to Thank You. One day, we were totally having a stressed out day, and for some reason, I typed in “Happy Cheese” into my URL. I don’t know if it is because we are a Research facility or what, but up you came, and off we listened. The rest is history. I forward your link to as many cancer patients as I can that I think can handle the humor of it all. My co-workers needed to have a bit of humor, , too. Thank you, Rich.
M’lissa Buckles RN”
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If you had a slick agent working the illuminati fringes for the ‘big break’, what might their Rich X pitch be? “This guy is like nothing else.  I’ve had this “Happy Cheese” song stuck in my head for 3 months now.  I wake up in the middle of the night and I can still hear it.  I think I may be going insane.  The audience either love his music or their brains explode trying to figure out why he is allowed on stage.  This “Maybe I Step on You” song makes me giggle like a little school girl and I don’t even know why.  It’s not even really funny.  And that “Happy Cheese” is about him losing his job and turning to drugs to ease the pain.  Why are they laughing and singing along?
There must be some kind of mind control device hidden in that crazy keytar.  All I know is if we can tap into whatever this is for product sales we will make billions!  We have our best men working on it.”
In an alternate universe, you are oft portrayed as a beloved sub-plot character on the Jetsons, arriving in a shimmering hovercraft to great aplomb …what did the producers choose as your theme song? Dude, how much hobbit leaf did you smoke when you thought up this question? ;)

GILLIAN ROSE

GillianRose4When did you realize you enjoyed singing?  For as long as I can remember, singing has been something I’m passionate about. If I were to try and pinpoint a starting point, it would probably be one of the many times that I sang through every song in Avril Lavigne’s Let Go album for my parents and their friends (with the TV clicker as my microphone of course).

Who did you grow up listening to?  Growing up I was heavily influenced by the music that my parents were listening to, so I’ve always found comfort in artists from the 90’s and early 2000’s like Norah Jones and Sheryl Crow. Billy Joel has also stood out because his song “Vienna” resonated so strongly with me from such an early age.

What was the first song you ever learned to play on guitar and sing at the same time?  The first time I picked up a guitar it was with the goal of singing along, so I started teaching myself song by song. I’ve mentioned Sheryl Crow, and her song “The First Cut is the Deepest” was the first one I learned as a surprise for my Mom’s birthday. It was rough to say the least, but she shed a few proud tears so I’d call it a success!

What was the first concert you ever attended and what impression did it leave on you?  I’ve been going to concerts since a very young age with my family, but the first one I can really remember was seeing Avril Lavigne when I was probably around 10 years old (the height of my obsession with her). The second she came on stage I started crying, and have cried at almost every concert I’ve attended since. I think it’s a combination of overwhelming admiration for the artists, and a longing to experience what they’re feeling on stage.

Can you describe how the writing process works for you?  My writing process is pretty inconsistent. Some of my songs, like “Already Miss You”, I finished in under an hour because I was so emotional at the time and it was really the only way I could find to deal with those feelings. But other times I find myself coming up with a chord progression and the first verse of a song, then hitting a wall and leaving it for a while in hopes that I’m more inspired the next time I work on it. That is definitely the most frustrating thing as a writer; to feel like you’ve had a great start and a song has potential, but you just can’t seem to find where it’s supposed to go. I’ve probably started and abandoned a hundred songs by now. 

Do you think living abroad has informed your music, or love of it, in any way?  Absolutely! Music has always been a constant in my life. Whenever we moved, it felt like I was starting over, reestablishing who I was each time. My guitar was one of the things that I could always bring with me and be reminded that that piece of me was still there. Having lived in three different countries, I am a strong believer that your surroundings influence your views of the world quite heavily. My experiences have shaped who I am as a person and a songwriter, and intensified the love that I have for music.

As a 19 year-old, what is the most daunting thing to you about embarking on a career in music?  The uncertainty is very unnerving to me. I will forever be happy performing for crowds of any size, and sharing my music with whoever will listen. But to earn a living in music, that all has to be on a much grander scale. With so many talented musicians out there it’s unrealistic to just assume that I will become a popular name, so it helps that I focus more on using music for personal expression. It has also been incredibly reassuring to me when fans reach out and tell me how my music has effected them, or how they enjoy it. I am also attending DePaul as a full-time student so that I will have additional opportunities available to me outside of music.

Gillian Rose (PaulNatkin)
Photo by PAUL NATKIN

 What’s your perspective on shows like The Voice and American Idol?  Like many, I grew up watching American Idol, pretending to be a contestant on the show during commercial breaks while my sisters judged. I think those programs have given many singers a lot of hope, and do a great job of inspiring individuals to pursue their dreams. They have also produced a number of great role models and talented professionals. Though at one time in my life I would have loved to be on those shows, currently I am pursuing my music career in a different way. I am hoping that my small population of loyal fans continues to gradually grow so, rather than a quick rise and possible fall, I can be heard for many years to come.

If you could open up for anyone on a Midwest run of dates this Spring who would it be?  John Mayer! I absolutely love his music and I respect that his live performances are even better than the recordings (which I didn’t think was even possible). He is incredibly talented and I would love the opportunity to learn from him.

The genie nods: your wish has been granted …in a puff of smoke Bob Dylan appears in your dorm room and you may ask him one question …what say ye?  I swear I’ve dreamt about this scenario… Once I regained consciousness from fainting, and the tears had subsided, I would ask him what his favorite decade was for music. And since there is already a genie present… I would then wish to go back in time to that decade with him! – GILLIAN ROSE

JAMIE OLDAKER

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What was the first album you ever bought and what’s your favorite track on it today? I don’t remember the first album I bought, but I do remember one of the first albums that I remember hearing as a young kid. My dad played me the 1937/38 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and the great Gene Krupa…..He is still my hero and my favorite drummer!! My dad also played me John Phillip Souza marching records as well and told me to listen to both and I would be allright….Ha !…I listened to Joey Dee and the Starlighters along with Chubby Checker with my parents……then the Beatles came along…favorite song was “Love Me Do”…great cymbal crash in that song.

Who were you favorite drummers as a kid? Growing up , I had a lot of drummers that I listened to….never tried to copy anyone…My favorite to this day would have to be Gene Krupa.

What groove, or musical style, came most natural to you at first? I started playing to records that I heard on top 40 radio…Beach Boys, etc. until the British invasion came to America…I still enjoyed the loose feel of Gene Krupa with the Goodman band….He seemed to play the way he wanted to…no rules. I am a huge bebop fan….1960 jazz from New York.

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Looking back, was there a pivotal first ‘big break’ for you as it were?  Playing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1971 was cool and my first semi rock star tour and album was with Bob Seger and I recorded the album Back in ’72 which contained the original version of ”Turn the Page “…  As you know, my career then started to go forward!!

Of all the kits you have owned and played, what is your all-time favorite?  Well, I have had a few…one was an old Camco kit which I wish I still had and my first Ludwig kit my Dad bought me when I was first starting out….Today, I am playing Sakae Almighty maple kit…..I left Yamaha after a 40 year relationship and endorsement with them….My favorite Yamaha kit would be my Maple Customs which are no longer available……Sakae made all Yamaha drums for 50 years.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to recording?  Recording is a personal preference, but I will say that it is different than playing live, so I would recommend to any young drummer to learn how to do both…I did, and it was beneficial in my career.

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How important is your mind-set before going on stage and what do you do to get ‘ready’? Going on stage is still frightening to me…Their is always that split second thought before I go up on stage that I question if I really know what I am doing….Ha ! We are all insecure……But once the music starts, everything comes back to you and you feel comfortable ……I will walk around by myself before I go up on stage and think and say a few prayers to help me have a good show and remember the songs!!
Of all the studio material you recorded with Eric Clapton, which drum track are you most proud of today? I don’t really listen to myself after I have recorded an album….We spend enough time listening to tracks back in the studio, that by the time it is released, I don’t want to hear it anymore!!! probably “I Shot The Sheriff”, “She’s Waiting”, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Double Trouble”, “Motherless Children”….They are all pretty good I think. No real favorites.
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What is the scariest moment you ever experienced on the road or playing live? Private plane with Eric going through bad weather was no fun, splitting my head open at Pine Knob with Eric, still played the show with a nurse holding a towel over my head….21 stitches after show….Military chaos with Peter Frampton in South America…..Held hostage by government for a few days…. more of this in my book!!
What 3 albums make your deserted island play list? Miles Davis…Kind of Blue, The Tractors…Christmas Album, Novabossa….Novabossa. – Jamie Oldaker.com

MATT FEDDERMANN

FeddermannHow did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.

What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.

When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.

You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ?  My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..

What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.

Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game?  If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.

Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.

In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann

HANK & CUPCAKES

When did you realize you were a musician?

Hank > When I was 18 and about to be incorporated for the IDF (It’s mandatory in Israel which is where we’re from…). I was confronted with the thought of not playing my bass for 3 years and realized that thought was unbearable.

Cupcakes > I was always interested in performing arts whether singing, playing piano, acting or dancing but honestly when I met Hank I was inspired by his complete dedication and I started to focus in on music.

What was the first album you purchased and how do you rank it today?

Hank > My parents gave me Abbey Road when I was about 13 and it’s still is one of my top 5 today.

Cupcakes > I think it was an Israeli artist called Eviatar Banai, I haven’t heard it in years so I’m not sure where it would rank today but in my memory it’s pretty good!

How did you two come together to form Hank & Cupcakes?

We had just come back from a long stay in Havana Cuba in late 2007 and decided to wrap up our life in Israel and relocate to NYC in late 2008. We had a full year of limbo and were bored silly, to the point we actually said let’s jam together and see what happens. And then all these songs started coming and it was fun and made sense!

What’s your role in the songwriting with the ‘band’?

Hank > The songs are written by Cupcakes, usually on a piano and I contribute on the arrangement / productional side. I also started writing recently so maybe we’ll have some of my songs on the next record.

Cupcakes > Some of the songs have come about from jamming together in the studio, some from combining ideas (like in the song “Cocaina” for example, Hank came up with the chorus first and I later wrote the verses) and many from the piano as Hank

Do you write music for the iphone, walkman or the live performance?

Hank > We make no conscious effort to write for anyone, just try to have fun and keep it real.

Cupcakes > I never used to confine myself when writing but recently I sat down at the piano and asked myself “now what would I want to be playing on stage?” and a really groovy high energy song came out which we’re both super happy about so I might continue to “lead” myself that way!

 

What are your musical differences?

Lets see… We argue during rehearsals sometimes, it’s usually some stupid argument about a part or something of that sort that gets blown out of proportion because we are so emotionally intertwined… It’s not so much about the differences but more about the amount of passion invested meeting the occasional frustration.

What are your earth signs and how do the movement of the moon n’ planets affect your ability to work together as a team?

Hank > We’re not heavy on astrology… I’m Scorpio and Cupcakes is Virgo, I phoned the moon but got the answering machine…

Cupcakes > Yup, not strong on the star signs… I try to let my inner voice lead my actions. As far as working as a team, it’s really about knowing how to communicate, listen to each other and always remember that we’re both striving for the same goals.

If you had to choose, what are your personal & band theme song(s)?

Hank > “Enter The Ninja” by Die Antwoord

Cupcakes > hmmm…that’s a tough one, all I can think of right now are really cheesy 90’s songs.

Whats the best / favorite gig you have ever done?

Hank > I don’t know about best / favorite, we don’t look into the past with longing… We had 2 amazing shows this weekend at Nashville and St. Louis Pride events right after the supreme court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. It was very emotional and we felt lucky to be a part of these events at this time in history when progress and justice were glorious.

Cupcakes > Yeah last weekend at Pride was amazing. I also love the show where people start taking their clothes off and throwing them on stage. We tend to encourage releasing the beast within!!

Your next album goes all the way to #1, whats your essential backstage rider wishlist include?

A helium container, two full body rabbit costumes, mini golf, live flamingos, 4 palm trees w/ 2 hammocks (Parallel) and a Magician. Thank you! – Hank & Cupcakes

ROXY SWAIN

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photo by ROB GACZOL

What got you hooked on rock and roll?

Matt > I was a 3-year-old kid living on Long Island in 1977. One day, my 16 year old babysitter Donna (who I was utterly devoted to) shows up with a copy of Alive II by Kiss and has me sit down, listen to it, and puts that iconic gatefold picture in front of me. I had no chance! For the next ten years, there was no other band but Kiss for me. I wanted to be a rock and roll superhero.

Rachel > I think I was always destined to love rock & roll. My parents met each other in a band and music always filled my home. But, when I was probably 4, my dad showed me how to use the old record player. I listened to a lot of Rolling Stones and I remember the first time I ever watched Mick Jagger perform. I was hooked. I loved that it was dark and exuberant, free and alive. All my first crushes were rock stars, Mick, David Bowie, Jimmy Page. It was just part of who I was from a very early age so I grew up idolizing people who made music. I was performing from about 4 on and it was a drug. I always felt most alive when I was making or performing music and rock & roll was always my first love.

How close is Roxy Swain to the band you wanted to create and how have you guys evolved?

Rachel > I mean, this is a hard question to answer. I think in terms of the democracy and the co-authorship of the music, Roxy is really strong. We all bring something to every song and I love that sense of community. That is definitely a long process that we improve upon with every song and every release. However, I think there’s always room to grow. I would hate to think that we ever reached the point where we were done and we’d reached some kind of ideal band. To me evolution is all there is – when you stop evolving, you’ve peaked and I never want to peak.

Matt > Roxy Swain has changed so much since we first started. Rachel and I have been working together since 2006, but when we were looking to do a band, we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. The initial version of Roxy Swain was an outgrowth of a Chicago power pop band named Loomis, and much of the band’s first wave of songwriting was based on the influences Tom Valenzano, our first lead guitarist) and I shared. Our first album The Spell of Youth was written as an extension of the style of Loomis: a lot of late 70s-inspired power pop and rock and roll. I believe through a series of lineup changes and examination of our strengths we are very close to what we want to be doing now.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?   

Matt > Our philosophy on recording is to capture the band organically. We prefer classic tones, simple (but purposeful), dynamic arrangement. We try to highlight the biggest strengths of the band – Rachels amazing voice and sense of melody, and the band’s overall performance and treatment. Generally speaking, we like to let the songs speak for themselves, as tracked. We shy away from a lot of digital processing and an abundance of compression. That being said, we aren’t necessarily wed to a particular process, nor do we think the band should sound exactly the same in the studio as it does live.

Rachel > I’m probably the least experienced with recording. I would say that I like to take a lot of time away from recordings to formulate opinions and I am very feel oriented. In other words, I will often fall in favor of a track that isn’t technically perfect but has a lot of spirit, character, and quirk. I also really refuse to listen seriously to anything I’ve recorded under bad conditions (crappy computer speakers or earbuds) because I know I will be frustrated and hyper critical. I like to walk away from a recording for a week, come back to it in the studio and make a judgment. I’m just a strong believer in the feel or the vibe of a performance over total proficiency. I don’t think I’m even capable of taking a track that feels totally perfect anyway. If recordings are too perfect, too massaged, they end up sounding robotic and they lose something intangible. I want to feel passion in a recording and I think sometimes passion and perfection go in opposition. Not always, but sometimes.

How does the songwriting process work for Roxy Swain?  

Rachel > Typically, one of us will start with the skeleton of a song, bring it to the band, and we will build it as a group. I’ve become increasingly aware that each of us have a really important role in this band when it comes to songwriting. Chuck Harling is a master arranger, Jeff Altergott‘s bass lines are so crucial because they are so interesting and organic, Matt’s lyrics and sweeteners make our sound ours, and I think my melodies come together with the other parts to create what has become our cohesive band sound. I don’t want to elevate us to be something that we aren’t, but I’m really proud of the ways in which we’ve honed our craft as a group. We work together well and we each add something unique and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of about the band.

Matt > We currently have four accomplished songwriters and arrangers in the band, so everyone has ideas. In the initial phase of the band, Tom Valenzano and I came in with complete ideas, and we dictated those ideas to the band, which was all we could do at the time, but that approach didn’t optimize the band’s talents sonically. Now that all of us are involved in the writing process, our songwriting is rarely one person with a finished idea, and more often two, three or four people collaborating on a piece. On our forthcoming album there are instances of Rachel writing with Chuck, of Rachel writing with me, of Chuck and I doing a song together, and of all four of us collaborating. It’s really exciting to be in a band with a bunch of songwriters collaborating, because many of my favorite bands feature that. As we transitioned into the lineup we have today, the style of the band has really changed into an amalgam of Chuck, Rachel and I’s separate influences, which include my power pop, but also Rachel’s soul and blues, and Chuck’s rock, roots, swing and modern indie. As we have progressed, I believe that our songwriting blend has emerged as a distinctive hybrid sound that now fits all of us like a glove. There’s an aspect of all of us in there. Even though Jeff does not typically have the initial ideas, he puts his writing stamp on the songs with the incredible bass lines he comes up with. The most fascinating thing about it is that it’s continuing to evolve and push us in unique directions we never expected, which is evidenced by the sound of our third album. We are definitely getting weirder, and I like it.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?
Rachel > It’s really sad, but I grew up watching so much live music that I can’t remember my first real concert. My dad’s band played constantly and growing up in Texas, we attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year where I saw a ton of live music. I guess it’s kind of tragic that I can’t remember, but I think it was so present that I can’t pin point the first ever. I do remember seeing some big bands at a really young age and looking around at everyone singing along and thinking, that’s what I want. I want people to sing along and dance to my music. I was probably seven when that translated into writing my own songs (terrible, terrible songs) and performing them on my front lawn with my sister and neighbor for the other kids on the block.

Matt > I actually didn’t attend a concert until Junior High School, and that was an odd bill. My parents took me to see 80s Chicago radio personality Jonathan Brandmeier and the Leisure Suits at the Rosemont Horizon. A strange entry into concert experience, to be sure. My ears really just hurt the whole time! I had never seen anything that loud. By the end I was enjoying it, despite feeling rather deaf. I followed that up with seeing Rush at Alpine valley a couple years later. That was really cool.

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photo by MOLLY KATE LANE

What is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? 

Matt > My approach to playing live is to try to stay in the moment. My mind set pre show is often meditative as I try to pull myself into the present tense.

Rachel > Playing live is my favorite thing in the whole world. Honestly, I’m excited and often I just want to get up on stage. I don’t get nervous because I’ve been doing it for so long. I just want to get up there and I get really bummed when we get to our last song. I want every show to be memorable and I want to see people having a good time. I mean, half of playing music for me is sharing my art but the other half is sharing a moment with people, whether they are friends or strangers. When I see people dancing, singing along, smiling, it makes me feel honored and privileged and happy. Being on stage is a privilege and I just feel like every show is a blessing and an honor and I want to share a good time with the audience ….my approach to playing is live is to make try and give every performance and every audience all I have.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why?  

Rachel > I don’t know, I have so many friends that I would be honored to share a tour with, I can’t really see myself picking a big band. I guess if I’m being honest, I admire my father’s musicianship so much that I would probably want him along on the tour. Also, other projects of my band-mates’, both Roxy and other projects I’ve been involved in, like The Ye-Ye’s. I think I would surround myself with local bands because I think support of your fellow local musicians is really important.

Matt > In terms of currently touring indie bands, I would love a shot at opening for The National. Their songwriting has been a big influence on both Rachel and I. In terms of all time faves, this an odd answer, but probably Yes, if they ever went out with their 1973 lineup again. I love those guys. It would be a terrible fit stylistically but I would have fun just watching those guys play every night.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  

Matt >  King Crimson – Red, Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans and The Wrens – The Meadowlands

Rachel > David Bowie – Station to Station, The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers, The Replacements – Let it Be
Whats the best live performance you have seen by a local Chicago band?  

Rachel > My friend Heather Perry was in a band called Bring Your Ray Gun that absolutely killed every time I saw them play. I’ve always felt honored to be associated with her because she was one of the first women I saw leading a band as a songwriter and musician. She was the first person to make me think, I can do this. I didn’t have many female role models in the local scene before her. Anyway, seeing her play live has always inspired me. Plus she looks so cool on stage playing insane bass lines without breaking a sweat. They were a really tight band and I loved seeing them live.

Matt > Sludgeworth, final show of the original run, January 11th, 1993, McGregors in Elmhurst. The single best concert I have ever seen.

You two are separated in a horrible ship wreck, stranded on adjacent island and forced to leave messages in a bottle for one another: what does your message say?
Rachel: “At least we will have a lot of good experience to write from if we ever get off this island”

Matt: “I love you. Here’s the lyrics to our next song, “Stranded”” ~ ROXY SWAIN

 

DORIAN TAJ

dorian_D.D._editHow did rock & roll reach you? 
As a city of Chicago toddler I had a brother and sister about 10 years older. They would baby sit me with a soundtrack of classic rock and the times were ripe for that type of consciousness. So I started licking S&H Green Stamps to fill enough books to get an acoustic guitar so I could feel a part of it.

Are songs more real than reality to you?  Well on the first Dorian Taj record The Puppet Record it could not get more real in terms of songs from a basis of what the realty was at that time in my life. If reality is truth then I was just copying it to songs for that release. Have been trying to get away from that since then but I do find that even so the songs still become more of you than what is actually happening and can shape you who are.

Is music still the best way to send a message?  Music can send a message still but on the most part I always though it was about sending a “feel” in total that all could understand. There could be no direct message but you know something is going on and you want to be part of it, against it, learn about it, discard it, it could give you an upset stomach or simply make you want to dance.

What is your favorite track on the new record Giant today and why?  Today it is “Rocket” because I want the energy feel. I’ve had days when it was “No Future” but you cant go on thinking those words for too long so then I will hate it for a bit. “Janitor Song” makes me feel “nice and sweet” and works for most days. 

How did you feel (this time) when the record was “in the can” and what did it take for you to reach that point comfortably?  Well we did the basic tracks at Pieholden in Chicago and then took a little time coming up with parts to add to the songs. At this point I was sure that we had the right 10 songs for “Giant” and felt it was “in the can” even though it was no where near done as something who could here (except for in my head). We then went to Austin to do the overdubs but at that point we were all comfortable with it.

For the kids and late bloomers: what’s the best way to write your first song?  Melody is the key. Forget about your computers and phones and take a walk, ride a bike, get on a train or bus and look at things around you. Then let a soundtrack happen in your mind. Put in words that happen to in your thoughts at the time to the melodies and you’re on your way. Then arrange what you got with your technology.

1430995072_11203129_863476210390242_8206459690216717649_nIf you could record a duet this Saturday with anyone whom would it be with, why, and what tune might you try together? I think it would be the best to do a duet with the Dalai Lama. I would love to grasp on to that energy of body, soul, and mind mixed with music. The song I hear in my head of us doing is “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Take us behind the scenes with a producer: what makes your relationship w/ Alex Moore work on this record?  I have known Alex for some time. He actually played drums for me during the “Tobacco Record” time. His drumming was very essential to that record and his sense for music was very evident. Being a drummer makes one a great future producer because who learn to listen to everything and Alex became one. We worked well because he knew my stuff from the past and what I was about. We could bounce ideas and both play them quickly to see if they would work.

When are you happiest: on stage or in the studio? I definitely am a live animal. The live switch in me is always working at any spot in time. This is when I am at my best with a clear mind and a good feeling all around. That switch can turn on whether at noon or 3am.

Your guitar is entered in the ‘Indie Rock Legends’ section in a new wing at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and you are asked to contribute a single line quote for the exhibit….how does it read?  Sorry for pawning you that one time but you know without you I wouldn’t be me. ~ Dorian Taj

ANNA P.S.

houseshow_jameskornphotographyWhen did you get the music bug ?  I don’t know if it started as a bug.  My parents made my siblings and I all take piano lessons and we had to play a band instrument as well.  I think I started piano when I was around 7 years old, and I started playing flute when I was in 5th grade.  I don’t remember not being able to read sheet music, that’s how ingrained it feels in my life.  I went through certain ages where I was mad at my parents for making me take lessons and making me practice, but I’m grateful that I’ve always had music to fall back on when I’ve had nothing else, or no one else.

When I was in college, I found myself pretty miserable when I didn’t have time for music, so I figured out how to make time for it.  I was probably better at it then than I am now.  I took a few classical guitar lessons when I was in college.  It’s something that I have always wanted to play, but always thought would be too challenging.  It still is challenging, but that’s probably good for me.

Who are your ‘core’ favorite artists ? Maybe it’s just because I feel like I need role models, or I’m trying to emulate them, but I really love women who are singer-songwriters.  Corrine Bailey Rae, Eva Cassidey, Lisa Hannigan, Abigail Washburn, Tracy Chapman.  I also love folk and bluegrass, which I never thought would happen, but when I started to run sound for folk bands, the musicianship blew me away and I was hooked.

These probably don’t influence me as far as writing goes, but I really like Ratatat, Beats Antique, Sufjan Stevens and Noah Gunderson, to name a few. I grew up in a pretty conservative home and we weren’t really allowed to listen to music (kind of ironic, I know).  I grew up listening to the Nutcracker and Psalty the Singing Songbook.  I’m still discovering music that my peers listened to years ago.

What was your first concert and what strikes you about it now?  I’m not sure if you want me to tell you about all of the band concerts my siblings played in.  I was pretty young and I fell asleep a lot, ha.  I often was more interested in playing then I was in listening.  The first show that I went to as an adult was to see the Flaming Lips in the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.  Marnie Stern opened for them, another great role model.  What comes to mind is that it was like magic, and I don’t know how else to describe it.  I think that’s what it is, when it comes down to it.  We go to musical shows because we want to feel the magic that is part of this world; we lose a hold of that sometimes when we’re distracted with living our everyday lives, at least I know that I do.

What was your first public performance and how did it go?  As an adult, my first public performance was as a senior in college.  You could put on an event called an Hour After.  It was a sit down affair; students would dress up, drink coffee and eat dessert.  It was a really amazing experience because I had never collaborated with that many people before, or led something like that.  I think I got together 10-12 people, some of who were good friends, and some of who I barely knew.  I didn’t know anything about putting together a show, orchestrating music, or asking people what to do musically.  It was a blast.  I think people enjoyed it, but I don’t really remember now.  I wish I kept better track of those things, because it feels important now.

Anna 2What perspective does being a pro sound man (woman) and working with so many acts live contribute to your feelings or /philosophy about ‘the stage’ as an artist in your own right?  The biggest impact it’s had on my mentality is to always be kind to your sound people/stage hands.  They are usually trying their hardest; the ones that aren’t won’t be working for long anyway.  I try to be kind to people anyway, but I have run into many musicians who are downright rude, and don’t treat you like a person.  If you treat me like that, I am not going to help you sound good.  That said, the majority of musicians I’ve had the chance to work with have been really gracious and appreciative of the work that happens behind the scenes for their show to go smoothly.  In short, kindness will always get you further than a bad attitude, or bossing people around to try and get their respect. Also, I would much rather be backstage than onstage.

Side note:  I refer to myself as the ‘sound guy’, because that’s who people are always asking for.  I was called ‘the sound lady’, affectionately, while I was running sound for the metal/hardcore scene in Goshen.

How do songs ‘happen’ for you as a songwriter?  The best songwriting has worked for me is when I’m doing it everyday.  I write a lot of crap songs, but I believe that quantity leads to quality.  Always, if inspiration doesn’t find me working, then I’m not going to get a good song out of it.  That said, I should practice what I preach.  The hardest part for me is finishing songs.  I get a lot of ideas and have many more finished songs than I do finished ones.  I used to journal a lot and I’m trying to get back into it.  A lot of the time, I jot down thoughts, or feelings that I’m struggling with, and sometimes they later develop into lives of their own with songs of their own.

What’s up with your band Shiny Shiny Black these days?  I played with Shiny Shiny Black for about three years.  We dubbed it ‘coffeehouse rock and roll’, mostly because we play electric guitars, but quiet enough to play in a coffee shop.  SSB has definitely been a big part of my musical experience.  It got me on the stage, even when I didn’t want to, got me playing my electric guitar, when I wasn’t sure that’s the guitar or kind of music I wanted to play, and gave me an amazing group of people to collaborate and create with.  I didn’t do any writing for SSB, that was all Nate Butler.  I refer to it as ‘Nate’s band’, because it is.  It’s his vision, his dream and his songs.  I feel as though there is little better than helping other actualize their dreams.

I toured with Nate and Amber, and their toddler to Nashville, St. Louis and back again.  They took a break to add another little when, and when they returned, it made sense for them and for me to not continue being part of SSB at this time.  It’s a little sad when I hear songs play on the radio, or that I don’t get to hang out with Nate and Amber every week, but it’s giving me the time to work on my own projects, both musical and visual art, as well as giving more time to developing as an audio engineer.

How is the approach different writing for sway them versus your own ‘voice’?  I’m honestly afraid to collaboratively write.  Maybe it’s just because I haven’t really tried it.  I’m a very private person, which I find slightly ironic.  It’s hard for me to get up on stage and share because it’s not an act for me, it’s just who I am.  Therefore, what I write is really personal.  It’s taken me awhile to become comfortable with sharing my music, but they few people I have shared it with have asked me to, so I’m trying to do that to a wider audience.  I think I’m afraid that someone will hear one of my songs sometime and realize it’s about them.

houseshow_posterpossibilitySo many artists pigeon-hole themselves by clinging to tightly to an indie image / vibe to appear sufficiently counter-culture enough to be have credibility with hipsters but are you comfortable with being a huge, national pop star?  If there was an image I wanted to uphold, it would be authenticity.  For me, playing music isn’t really about how many people come out to hear me play, where I get the opportunity to play, or who I’m getting to play with.  The reason that I started writing music is because I felt alone, and unseen.  That’s not really something I struggle with right now, but there are a lot of very human things I struggle with constantly.  What I want when people listen to my music and hear me play, is I want them to feel that they are seen, that they are not alone in their struggles, that there is hope in this often dark world.  Maybe that sounds idealistic, but I’m pretty sure that’s the point of art.  I never thought about being a huge, national, pop star because I think that people don’t want that much honesty in popular music, in a popular stage presence.  I want to be who I am on stage and I want to invite everyone who listens to be who they are, fully, and accept that.

You are offered one wish from a legit Genie with actual powers but it must involve your music career: You consider carefully and offer her the following humble request:  I want my music to have meaning.  I want it to speak to people.  I want it to invite people to dig a little deeper, to have hope, to pursue dreams.   ~ Anna P.S

BRAD PETERSON

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photo by KIM SOMMERS

How did you come to fix on the Fleur-de-lis as moniker / title for your new release? It seemed to same itself at the last-minute of the last recording, which is atypical from my previous works. Last autumn, I had a couple of songs that I had recently recorded before I came to California for a respite from the Chicago winters: Vale of Tears, and 45.  I played them for an old friend, Peter Bowers, who has been in the music and film world for decades and, in my opinion,  is someone with a unique perspective and proven good taste. After listening to them while we were winding through the serpentine roads near Topanga, he was clearly excited and asked if I had more new songs; I said yes, but they’re in a crude state. He tacitly gave me the go ahead and I proceeded to play for him: Rock Fight, and minor. Being a musician himself, and no stranger to hearing potential in a demo recording, he promptly suggested I finish the work for, at the very least, posterity (and for whatever opportunities that may bring). It was just the encouragement I needed to set up a barebones recording outpost in his garage/office in the beautiful canyons nestled betwixt the Santa Monica mountains, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure at which point the idea developed to add an additional track, but I half-heartedly presented my least favorite and hardly developed of the bunch: Fluer-de-lis, for which the title lyric had yet to be written. I acquiesced in its procession but as the spirit moved me, and I reconnected to the moments of its inception, those words just came through: “Fluer-de-lis” – like they were always supposed to be. Ureka! The song finished itself. The counterpoint in the last verse was the very last thing recorded and almost has a feel of a reprise-medley trope at the end of an epic film from the late sixties. When I listened back to it, I felt that it was divinely gifted; I had just participated in its revelation as the title of this work.

What was the most difficult thing about making Fleur? The most difficult thing in anything, is the discipline or faith to work in the face of doubt and negativity that plague me every day. The ultimate goal is for me to share what I do and connect with other souls. The periods between such moments are long and dark in which I often wonder if what I do is folly and meaningless.
 
Do you see it as a continuation of your other releases, an update, or something unto itself? Depending on context, it could be any of those; it could even be a prequel, chapter, or a supplemental. In literary terms, I think of singles as anecdotes, albums as books, and EPs as short stories. But I think in most cases, to say: “the Fluer-de-lis EP” would refer to something unto itself.
Why did you decide to do a EP this time versus a full album? Albums take a while and I didn’t want to wait. Full disclosure, there’s a part of me that would be happy to just release singles from here out. If I had the resources, I think that’s the direction I’m heading.
fdl-tour (3)How does the song writing process work for you? The evolution of every song is different but the most rewarding songs come in the form of everything-at-once. Melody, lyrics, chords, feel, and arrangement pour over me in a torrent of inspiration. Those are also the songs that tend to get finished.
Describe your head space when playing live in front of an audience?
How the hell am I supposed to pull this off? Because I thrive off of the symbiosis of all who participate in a live performance, it’s quite vitalizing and I experience the joy of communion. However, there is always a delta between what I want it to sound like and what I’m able to produce. I’m figuring out that “not to try” is the trick for all involved.
Did you like to sing as a kid or did you begin playing guitar and start singing later on? I always sang for as long as I can remember; maybe before I could talk.  But, it was when my aspirations for being a drummer were squelched by mom (who didn’t want that sort of racket going on in the house) bought me my first acoustic guitar, that I became the defacto singer/rhythm guitarist at about age fifteen.
Many artists talk about ‘the album’ that changed their life, is there one for you? Yes. From all accounts, in the spring of 1971, my older brother and father were listening to music in the living room of our old farmhouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Mark was around thirteen and my father was a bit of an audiophile with an impressive sound system composed of mammoth Bozak speakers, Scott amplification, and Ampex reel-to-reels. They put on a store-bought reel of the Beatles’ Revolver and it boomed throughout the house. That was the moment I became sentient and aware. To describe the experience using my abilities in the English language that I have since learned, I’d say I was in awe and asked: “what is this wonderful thing?” as I crawled on the carpet. I don’t know what it was or who it was but I’m certain that it was a pivotal moment in my relationship with music and my development as a human being. A few years ago I wrote about this earliest memory of my life called “Crack and Boom”:
What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today?  For my first large rock concert, it was either Billy Joel or Roger Waters with Eric Clapton. Both of them were at the Rosemont Horizon when I was around thirteen years old. My opinion then, is as it is now: that is sounded horrible and I would have maybe preferred to stay home and listen to the recordings. The highlights of each were the improvisational element where I gleaned variations of expression in the arrangements of the musicians. I do enjoy live music but I gravitate to smaller venues or living rooms.
If you could take a time machine to any one moment in history (rock or otherwise) what would it be and what would you do once you got there?  It would probably be to a moment that I’ve already experienced, perhaps one from my childhood when I was near my family who I love very much. And, it would be simply to live it again with greater appreciation and notice every little detail. – BradPeterson.com

Continue reading “BRAD PETERSON”

LISA HELLER

How did you choose “Life On The Run” to be your first iTunes single?  I chose to release “Life on the Run” as my first iTunes single because I think it is a good representation of who I really am as an artist. As the first thing I’m really putting out into the world, “Life on the Run” is kind of saying I’m going to be myself, and march to my “own beat of the drum.”  I think it is an inspiring song to people who want to strive for a dream and don’t know if they can do it.  I think you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough.

You are in a unique position releasing material at such a young age: do you ever worry that you may look back later in your career and go ‘OH NO!!”?  I don’t think that releasing material at such a young age (my 19th birthday to be exact) would make me look back and worry. It’s all a learning process and you have to learn who your audience is and feel for what they like and don’t like and work from there. If I never put my songs out into the world, how would I know if people would fall for them? I also think an audience likes to see an artist evolve over time and I plan to continue to grow.

How do songs take shape for you typically ? For me, my songwriting varies from song to song- sometimes I am driving on the highway and have to pull over because I get this one phrase stuck in my head and I have to scribble it on my coffee cup before it goes away. Other times I sit down and start playing different chord progressions on my piano and guitar with varying rhythm, and once it sounds right to me I start humming along until I find a suiting melody, and the words just kind of flow from there. Each song is such a different experience- with some it takes an hour to write the root of the song while with others I could spend 6 months on it just to find the right words.

What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or playing live?   Wow that’s such a hard choice! Can I say all three? They are all so different it’s difficult to compare. Writing is something that has been a huge part of growing up for me. I write down the experiences that I’ve had or are new to me, then I compare them to ones I haven’t yet had a chance to experience. But recording is also amazing because it’s like I’m taking all of these ideas that are kind of jumbled up in my head, and they’re put into real solid music. I really get in such a deep zone when I’m recording that I can’t explain. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and that other people are there listening while I sing into the mic. And lastly, performing is such an amazing experience. The second I step on stage it’s like I feel this connection with the audience that they understand me. It’s like we’re all one, and as I sing about the adversity I’ve faced, as many others have, I’m singing for them, not me. I want to tell them it will all be ok, empowering my audience as well as myself.

What do you want your audience to see or feel when you are in front of them?  When I’m in front of my audience, I want them to feel welcome. There are so many opportunities for people to feel excluded or doubt themselves. But when I’m in front of people I want them to feel like it’s ok to be themselves, and feel empowered.

If you could open for any artist or band on a spill of east coast dates this summer, who would it be?  There are so many artists that I aspire to open for.  Of course Taylor Swift comes to mind, as such a dynamic player in the music industry.  She flawlessly switched from Country to Pop, a task no artist has surmounted with such supportive fans. I also would love to open for Christina Perri – her song “Jar of Hearts” was one of the first songs that I ever performed live and it really inspired me to write down-to-earth, relatable music. Sara Bareilles is also an amazing headliner – she is an artist I emulate and aspire to be like with her words of empowerment without a hint of cliche. Of course I would also be thrilled to open for bands with whom I am connected, such as Waiting for Henry, a group of great guys who have been supporting my hard work from the beginning.

How did you pick up guitar and what advice do you give to others who want to learn how to play?  I taught myself to play some simple chords on the piano which is how I started songwriting. After a while I really wanted to play guitar too so I started looking up how to play chords on google images! This really jump-started my ability to write songs, before I started taking lessons. My advice for someone learning to play guitar is to look up chords if you don’t want to pay for lessons, and keep repeating them until your fingers bleed. After a week or so you will stop hurting and your fingers will just remember where to be placed. From there, you can start writing songs! And for piano, you just need to learn the basic triad structure and go from there!

What were the first few albums you ever bought and what do you think of them today?  The first few albums I ever bought were from my parents, which definitely had a huge impact on my choice of music. As a young child I would listen to Dave Matthews and Coldplay in the car, so it really made me appreciate the deep music where the words had so much meaning and the instrumentation that was so captivating and complex. The upbeat party music was always fun too but that never really affected me the way that songs like “Yellow” by Coldplay did.  U2’s “Beautiful Day” was a perfect song when I needed to appreciate the little things in life or get motivated.

What’s your favorite song of all-time?  I would probably say “Fix You” by Coldplay – It was the song I resorted to throughout high school and it brought so many different emotions each time I listened to it. “Fix You” has this certain indescribable power to heal and unite people.

If you could have an alter ego performing in an alternate universe, what might she sound and look like?  If I were given the chance to be someone else, I would still choose to be me. There are billions of other people in the world but only one me, so if I’m not me then who am I? ~ LisaHeller.com

NICHOLAS BARRON

media_slider-39730022You started as a youngster busking on the streets of Chicago: is there a telling memory that still informs you today?  I just wrote a song that’s on my new CD called “When The Fat Lady Sings” about following ones heart and dream. There is this line:  “dudes in 3 piece suits telling me they wished they was me cause I was following my heart and living my dream”. That’s a true story. That and playing the mostly southbound Black el stops and having it feel like Baptist church. I learned to sing  Black music from Black Folks singing with me and playing Electric Blues every weekend in the summer with my band on State street in downtown chicago and the huge crowds! That spark and immediacy are rare and profound!!!

What is your favorite new Nicholas Baron song and why? “When the fat lady sings” is my new “I’m not superman” which is the song I’m known for. It’s a true story. I found a way to be honest and poetic at the same time. It’s got a direct feel from Van Morrisons “Domino” and Rickie Lee jones “Chuck E’s in love”. It finally expresses my truth and is like a quick bio. I love language and beat poetry and this has that feel.

How do songs manifest themselves to you? They happen either effortlessly like  they were waiting for me to catch them like butterflies or intellectual endeavors where the words are like math and science. It happens all possible ways. Words or chorus first or music first or just chords.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?  All my records have been somewhat different.  I like it to be organic and sound and feel live but have a sheen to it as well. I have to have a relaxed and honest environment.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you? I heard Jimmy cliff when I was 10 with my hippie parents at an outdoor concert. I remember the sky and the feel of it being live and soulful and folks dancing up a storm.

What is your approach to playing live and what is your vibe pre-show? It has recently changed and evolved . I am working on total relaxation and letting the audience come to me. I’ve been trying not to be big the whole time or loud. I’m going for a range of emotions and dynamics even in one song. I have the ability to be mellow and soft and then rise up like Otis Redding or James Brown. I warm up a bit vocally but mostly everything’s changed because I’m relaxing my mind and body when I play. It’s magic!

IMG_1424-BW_filtered_FWhat are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks , John Martyn’s Solid Air, Joni Mitchell’s Blue

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist? My dear friend Wes John is insanely great and has great songs and his band destroys!

Out of nowhere the Empress of the Universe beams you on board her ship and demands you write a song for her on the spot — any ideas?  All my songs are about the same things disguised as different characters. Love in all its forms, integration, and working through suffering to find resolution. World peace through the microcosm which is self love. Relax yourself before you tax yourself. – Nicholas Barron

SCOTT MADDEN

Madman MaddenYou have probably played more gigs in the last decade than anyone in Chicago: is that why your known as ‘Madman’?  The nickname Madman comes from my days in the Record Biz when cohorts liked to call me that instead of my last name, Madden. Now I have to live up to it.

You have worn a number of hats in the music business, what’s the state of the union?  I’ve gone back to my roots, playing live music. Folks don’t support recorded music like they used to or should.

If you could reset and meddle with history, what rock era would go by the way-side?  Is there a Rock Era today?

What was the first concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?  Badfinger played @ my high school field house. It was also the first time I saw people smoke the kind bud.

How do you feel deep down about smashing guitars and the like?  I did that twice in school but felt bad because that is somebody’s livelihood and sometimes a piece of art.

IM000324.JPGWhat are you listening to at home circa 2015?  Davie Allen & the Arrows, “Blues Theme”(60’s biker music)

If you could tour with any artist in a time machine who would it be?  Cream: they taught me how to jam and to sound full for a 3 piece.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  More of the Monkees, Sgt. Peppers, Wheels of Fire.

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist or band?  Heavy Manners ….

Jesus appears in front of you and graciously asks for a custom 5 song set, in what do you play him? “Porpoise Song” (The Monkees), “A F Wittek” (Madman), “Talk Talk” (Talk Talk), “Well Allright” (Buddy Holly), “I Need You” (Fab Four).

JONAS FRIDDLE

U2tUN19rQUtqTmsx_o_old-mother-logo---jonas-friddle-the-majorityAre you happy with how Use Your Voice turned out?  Absolutely. Working with John Abbey at King Size Sound Labs we were able to really capture the sound of our live show.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording? Philosophy is a strong word for it, but we definitely strive to maintain our personality in the recording process. It can be very easy to make decisions in the recording process that trim away character in the pursuit of perfection.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album or is it all about the single mp3?  I believe in the album. I love albums.  If songs are telling a story or expiring a feeling then it has to be true that the artist has more than one take on the same idea they want to present.  On the other hand…if you’ve got a great single there’s nothing wrong with letting it stand alone.

How does the songwriting process work for you?  I like routine.  Days in a row of uninterrupted time so when the ideas start coming then you can use them right in the moment.  I read an interview with Neil Young where he says that’s the only way to do it. If you store ideas for later you can forget why you had them in the first place.

Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  It feels like they just happen, but I’m sure that’s because something has been stewing for a while.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did  it have on you?  I can’t say for sure what the first one was…might have been George Winston.  I saw Jackson Browne a couple of time solo and that was amazing.  He played for hours taking on request after another.

c927e37cd6502ca7ec57575619efe3eaWhat is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? Playing live is the pay-off so we try to enjoy it as much as we can.  As and independent band it takes a lot of work to book and prep all aspects of a show. So it’s important to press the reset button and lose the stress before playing.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why? Paul Simon.  I saw him perform with his band and I can only imagine how fun the dressing room jams must be.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky, Paul Simon: Rhythm of the Saints, John Prine: John Prine.

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what would it be? Well with that prompt wouldn’t it have to be Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”?

Please visit JonasFriddle.com

ALYSHA BRILLA

 

IMG_7620 (1)What is your favorite personal single recording (or song) and what about it makes you happiest?  My favourite single is “Womyn”. I love it because it is an empowering song for anyone, especially women; musically, it draws from some 70’s African Jazz, which I am crazy about.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album over the single?  I believe in albums, yeah. The reason being that they are pretty acurate portraits of an artist and sort of logs their growth chronologically. I love making records. I don’t care what the internet says.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to recording?  My philosophy when it comes to recording is; to capture a good vibe. A good vibe from myself, from the musicians and the engineer. I am super aware of the energy of spaces and so I have to feel the studio vibe is right; you can have a studio with $100,000,000 in gear and unless the energy is right, you won’t get a good recording.  

How does the songwriting process work for you?  Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  (The) Songwriting process for me is all about inspiration. You couldn’t pay me to sit down and write a song under pressure. Literally- my old label tried to do that with me in LA and it doesn’t work. I am so inspired by this amazing and flawed world. I tend to get song ideas when a) I am emotional b) I am walking/biking/on a bus c) I am travelling.        Right now I am in India and am sooo inspired. Writing everyday!

0What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?The first real concert I attended was…Christina Aguilera/Justin Timberlake. Yeah, I know. Stripped  was such a good album for 11 year old me. So empowering thematically.

What is your approach to playing live and what is your mindset pre-show?  My approach to live performance is pretty dedicated. I take it seriously; in that…I am so serious about letting go and establishing a sense of release for myself and the audience. I am very playful and jokey on stage. I think that helps. My mind set pre-show is excitement and a bit of healthy nervousness. Mostly excitement.

If you could tour with any artist next year who would it be and why?  If I could tour with any artist next year it would be…Sam Smith. I think we would blend well. I am in love with him and his music.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  My three favourite albums of all time are:

  1. Back to Black– Amy Winehouse
  2. Blue– Joni Mitchell
  3. Everything Bob Marley has ever released

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded by anyone) in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what might it be?   The song I’d put in the time capsule as a gift to our cosmic neighbors would be… “Svefn-G-Englar” by Sigur Ros

Please visit AlyshaBrilla.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIKE PATTON

3pd1How did you get hooked on rock & roll?

Guns N’ Roses.  I was in grade school, and had a passing interest in music – just whatever my folks listened to or what was on the radio.  Then my dad bought Use Your Illusion I (either trying to find “Knockn’ on Heaven’s Door” , or “November Rain”) and hated the rest of it.  So I got a hold of it, and that was the beginning of the end.  They swore!

Who were your heroes growing up? 

Musically, it’s run the gamut over the years, from GnR (see above), to Bowie, Ginger Wildheart, Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Keith Richards & the Micks (Jagger and Taylor)… Michael Jackson and the Beach Boys when I was younger… I don’t know that they really count as heroes, but I sure as hell looked up to them (and still do).

Otherwise… Fuck, I don’t know.  I was honestly a pretty apathetic kid for the most part.  I don’t remember caring about or being inspired by anyone enough that I would call them a hero.  I mean, soldiers and firefighters and whatnot fit the bill, but I can’t honestly say that I cared while I was growing up.

What was your first instrument? 

The first instrument I learned to play was the piano (not counting kazoos or whatever), but I was just borrowing my folks’.  The first instrument that was MINE, was a trumpet.  Which was great, because when I got hassled by some older kids after band practice one sunny afternoon, I was able to smash them in the face with it and run off.  Don’t know what happened to it… Might’ve been a rental actually?  Next was a horrible blue (with black stripes?) Jackson guitar… sounded and played like crap, but man did I have fun with it.  It got lost when my folks moved while I was in college, which I’m still pissed about.

What was your first rock concert and what was its impact on you?

Technically the Beach Boys when I was like 5, but I was just along for the ride with my folks.  My first show with friends… Probably either Pantera, Alanis Morissette (I know), or Smashing Pumpkins/Garbage?  I’m honestly not sure.  And probably the biggest impact on me was Pumpkins/Garbage – because Garbage opened and put on a killer show, and the Pumpkins went on and were lifeless and boring, even though I liked them more.  That firmly cemented the importance of “the show” rather than just playing.

3pd2When did you start writing songs? did it come naturally or do you have to work at it?

Elementary/middle school… I think my first song was a catchy track titled “Field Trip to Hell.”  It came naturally, but that doesn’t mean I was any good at it.  I definitely have to work harder at it these days (for the most part – sometimes I get in the groove and it just spills out, which is really the best feeling this side of sex but I still don’t know if I’m any good at it.

How did you guys choose the songs for the debut EP?

‘Cause they kick ass.  Why else? Honestly, while PLS was becoming 3 Parts Dead, there was a lot of bullshit going on for JC and myself (the PLS remnants).  Once we started playing with Fitz and Ramon, we were all just having so much fun, and these songs sort of happened, and we were just so stoked on them that we put them out right away.  I mean, we had been playing together for maybe 2 months when we went into the studio.

Any plans to release a full-length follow-up?

Definitely.  We’ve been writing since we put out the EP, and are looking forward to showing everyone what we’ve been working on.  We’ll get into the studio soon, but we’ve been keeping busy playing out around the country in the meantime.  Fingers crossed for late spring/early summer.

Would you consider recording one cover to bring more attention to the band like VH did and, if so, what might be strong candidates for you guys to do?

I’d love to, but that’s definitely a secondary priority to writing our own tracks.  We do some live covers, both obscure tracks and more popular ones.  I guess if we were gonna do a cover for attention we’d have to pick some top 40 track that we all abhor.  But I’d rather do something by the Wildhearts, or the Stones, or the Distillers, or… You know, something else that really speaks to me as a fan and we can just have fun playing.  But that kinda defeats the “pop appeal” aspect of it.  Maybe doing “Do You Love Me” (a la the Heartbreakers cover) would be a good middle ground.

As 3PD you’ve already shared the stage with a number of luminaries as a solid opener, what’s the secret?

We never thought we were a “local band”, and we never acted like one, and so those opportunities have always just kind of fallen into our laps.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we work our asses off to pursue them, write (we think) catchy tunes, and have managed to get a ton of support from some really amazing friends and fans that have helped push us to that next level.

If you could go out on tour with any band this year who would it be and why?

Haha, why, do you know someone looking for an opener?  Seriously though, that’s a tough question to answer.  As a fan, I’d love to hit the road with the Wildhearts, or the Supersuckers, or any of those bands that never seems to leave my cd player.  As a professional musician, I’d probably want to hit the road with someone like Nickelback, or Hinder, that’s packing shows, to get in front of some new faces that would dig what we do but might not hear us otherwise.

I hear Motley Crue is doing a “farewell” tour, so maybe that’s the sweet spot in the middle…  Nikki Sixx, if you’re reading this – give me a call if you need an opener!

GAVIN DUNAWAY

libel_matchless21What got you hooked on rock & roll?
 
105.9 WCXR – the main classic rock station in DC during the 80s. My father blasted it in the car wherever we went, and I fell in love with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, etc. Mainly stuff with badass guitar work – I knew by the age of six I wanted to be a guitarist just like my idol George Harrison. You couldn’t imagine how upset I was when I found out Eric Clapton actually played the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
 
But yeah, they turned me into a rock addict at a young age, and I haven’t been able to shake it after all these years.
 
Was there ever a time in which you imagined you may be cured or give up? 
 
Honestly, in 2008, my band The Alphabetical Order lost its fourth drummer (sequential) and I’d tired of the sound and the DC music scene. I was pondering graduate school, writing a novel (still working on that one), maybe even teaching overseas. But I couldn’t shake it – I still wanted to rock, play guitar loud as shit and make at least a few more albums. A good friend explained that Brooklyn was the place to fulfill these dreams, so I packed up my equipment and never looked back. Well, except to visit friends… And family, if I have to.
 
What essentially makes Libel tick so urgently?
 
A fair deal of angst, discontent and disillusion – possibly some very hot overdrive pedals. Certainly the espresso IV bag hooked up to my left arm, which is easier to play guitar with than you might imagine. 
 
My initial goal with Libel was to blend my love of post-hardcore – e.g., Mission of Burma, Fugazi, Shudder to Think, Jawbox – with my affection for Bowie’s vocal stylings (he taught me how to sing, whether he knows it or not!) and songwriting prowess. And then, yeah, I wanted to layer in some heavier shoegaze atmospherics a la Swervedriver and Ride. I was influenced by very intense music, so it’s all I know how to make.
 
Seems like NYC projects break-up and reform under new banners if they don’t pop quick, or did you already?
 
Nope – we’ve been flying under the Libel flag since 2009, when we released our first EP, “The Prolonged Insult,” though the lineup has changed over the years. Pop culture memories are super short, so there’s a huge push to appear fresh and new (although it’s our fourth release, we do market “Music for Car Commercials” as our “debut LP.”) I think many people that re-brand constantly like you suggested are trying to chase the popular sound, trying to keep in step with what’s hip, which is definitely not my philosophy. 
 
There are plenty of great bands that didn’t get a lot of attention at first (maybe they didn’t have the hot sound of the moment) who eventually broke through, and people were then blown away by their back catalog. But, those bands stayed true to their ideas and evolved organically, not at the behest of the latest sonic trend. They’re the ones we remember.
 
How / where does the writing process seem to work best for the band? 
 
The magic songwriting window opens right after falling off the bar stool and right before vomiting and blacking out. It’s a short nirvana, so the process must be repeated regularly.
 
No, it’s more like this: I’ll come up with an idea – a lot of times just fumbling around with the guitar while watching TV – record it via Logic, and then build other ideas on top of it over a while until it seems like a sketch of a song. I’ll record bass, program (basic) drums, throw on some extra guitars and maybe keyboards, all the while working out draft lyrics. 
 
When I feel the tune is far enough along and is worthy of their ears, I’ll send off an MP3 and get feedback from the guys – while hearing what I was thinking, they’ll bring their own (better) ideas to the table when we jam on it. Nothing is set in stone – parts will disappear, parts will be added. I say that I provide the skeleton of a song, and together we develop a body for it.
 
What’s first for you in terms of material: a feeling / vibe from the music or the subject matter?
 
A lot of times they’re not even connected. I used to have notebook upon notebook with random lyric ideas, while now I keep them all stored in my iPhone (notes are great, save trees), which in turn gets saved to iCloud. You can tell I embrace the tech. While we’re writing a song, I’ll just sense that such-and-such random verse would be perfect and build the rest of the lyrics from there. Or it could go the other way around – I’m constantly humming works in progress to myself, and on the train something may click. Not to sound too hippy dippy, but often my musical ideas and lyrical subject matter just seem to find themselves in my head. Must be some kind of holy function…
 
libel_coco035Your bio mentions imaginary tours from a past age; do you really feel that out of place?
 
At first I was going to say, “Oh yeah, I wish I was in the 90s!” We probably would have seemed among peers 20 years ago, but in the current landscape, it’s nice being unique and difficult to classify. Other 90s-throwback bands getting attention sound a lot like one particular act – Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, vintage Weezer. But our influences are pretty mixed, and they’re not groups that really roll off people’s tongues, although they have loyal followings – bands like Jawbox, HUM and Swervedriver. We’re not lonely – we got a lot of Brooklyn peers with raucous sounds – but standing out in the current morass is gratifying, 
 
What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or performing?
 
Ugh, must I decide? Performing is certainly the most exhilarating, leaving you tingling for hours – maybe – days afterwards. Performing offers the quickest gratification, but writing and recording an album gives a sense of accomplishment that cannot be matched.
 
You wanna know the biggest low? Marketing – trying to convince people your music is special, especially when their senses are saturated by media. “Well, my mom likes it!”
 
What’s your philosophy (if any) when it comes to playing live?
 
As rabid fans of the great German group Autobahn, we practice nothing but nihilism. Emphasis on nothing.
 
A spaceship lands on your roof, a small gray humanoid emerges with a vinyl record he knows you will approve of as a first offering / means to an end: what (most likely) is it?  
 
Though it may sound cliche, I think there’s only one record that could be in his hand: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” This starman has come down to meet us because he doesn’t think he’d blow our minds. Basically, he’s telling us not to blow it because he thinks it’s all worthwhile. Let the children lose it, let the children use it, let all the children boogie.
 
However, that LP better be a first printing, or it’s galactic warfare up your ass, buddy.

DEMIR DEMIRKAN

imgresWhat was the first rock record you fell in love with?

Deep Purple – Machine Head

When did you start playing guitar and who is your main influence?

I have two guitar players that influenced me majorly: David Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. I started playing at age 14. First song, like many others of our kind, was Smoke On The Water but I then I went more into bluesier stuff like Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale and some singer/songwriters like Paul Simon and Tom Waits.

How did you and Sertab Erener hook up and was it musical to start?

We fell in love while we were making music together. She asked me to produce a demo to present to the great Arif Mardin. We cut 2 songs in about four days. And something happened during that time, I mean there was something before that but studio can be a very dangerous place for potential lovers :) After that we wrote many songs together some of them being big hits. I produced 4 albums for her and some singles, all in a state that I can’t really tell if it’s making love or making music.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago Issue, your latest release as PAINTED ON WATER?

One of my favorite things about Chicago Issue the sound; pulling in elements from different styles like rock, electronica, dance and blues.Also, I like the way we combined electronic elements with the played instruments. It’s usually not this seamless but I think we got it on this.

How did you two end up in Chicago? and what do you tell folks back home about the city?

We re-located to Chicago for a musical theater project that we’re composing for. It is a very long-term project so we thought we might as well move here. It’s a beautiful city. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York but I think Chicago takes you in more than the others. I believe Chicagoans are very warm, sincere, no b.s. and socially evolved people which makes this city the most livable place for me. We also have a home in Istanbul, which is also a great mega-city. They are both very very different though, which creates a diversity in my cultural soul.

How does the writing process work for you guys?

Do we fight? Of course! :)  I think creativity is born out of clashing of differences rather than compliance of equals or the alike. In the end there is only one winner: The Song! If it’s good for the song and the music it does not matter whose idea it is really.

Do you guys perform live with a full band or just as duo?

We have been performing with a full band but now we are moving towards a trio format where two of us will be fronting and one more member controlling the sequences, keyboards and computers. I will also be playing some keyboards and some electronic stuff aside from guitars. Also musically I am more inclined towards the electronics domain because of the freedom it provides in sound. As a composer, there comes a time when the conventional sound and the playability of the known instruments is not enough to put out what’s in there in you. Synths and digital audio opens many doors to new creative ideas and inspirational ground.

You are known for taking musical left hand turns: is it important to your relationship as a couple for the music to evolve?

I think when individuals have the intention to change and evolve, they do with everything else around and related to them, be it the relationships or music. I and Sertab, we both have this intention to change and renew, constantly. Stability is good until it fulfills its use, then you have to know when and how to realize its time for change and which direction to take. It takes hours of meditation, thinking and observing. And of course there are these accidental blessings happening sometimes. All of a sudden you slip and make a mistake which puts you on a track that you’d never think of. That could also be a subconscious decision which you might be perceiving as a mistake, but this is a whole different subject to talk about :)


So few Americans know anything about your homeland, Turkey: is there anything you guys hope most to convey with your music n’ lyrics?

I believe if we plan and do this deliberately, the music will not come out sincere enough. We think our music has the codes in its DNA that belongs to our homeland and whatever we play, sing or compose it’s there. Honestly, when we listened to our EP all through after it was finished you know, objectively, we thought it was western music. This did not last too long because as soon as we’d hear our American friends commenting on it, we realized that it still sounded a little foreign, unique and different, which we believe, is a good thing. Lyrically, we want to maintain a subjective point of view which again would be of two individuals’ from Turkey. So in short, whoever listens to our music will be breathing in the molecules of our homeland, our life-stories, and like I said this is not we want to consciously implement into the songs. I see this as natural cultural evolution because we mix and renew with Chicagoan cultural codes as well.

Should Shakespeare be looking for royalties from you?

:)) The verse lyrics of Why Do You Love Me are based on some love quotes of W. Shakespeare, but they are sung from an opposite point of view. Sertab is singing them to the person who is saying those words. W. Shakespeare, I think he has a way of not using clichés but still making things sound familiar and with full intent. Having studied English literature an humanities in college and being into rock and roll, it’s not possible not to be influenced by the Bard himself and his work.

JIM COOPER w/ HIP CAT RECORDS

JimCooperWhen did your first fall in love with vinyl and records?  Oh at an early age…. I can’t even remember; it’s part of my genetics I guess.

Do you recall the first records you bought or had as a kid?  It was probably some Disney or childrens records back when I was like 2 years old, that’s my earliest memory. and the album covers. I used to get a big kick out of….I was big on cars & trains.  So an album that had cars or trains on it I could spend hours just looking at the cover.

How has record sales going by & large over the last few years?   They are there, they could be better, they could be worse but I see a lot more young people getting into music via records which is a good thing. They have an enthusiasm for ‘the records’. They’re more consumer friendly. You don’t need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics like you do for the lyrics from the booklets for the little CD’s.

So how long has Hip Cat Records been in business?  We opened in November of 1987.

How did you come up with the name Hip Cat or is that all you?  I had a cat who I nicknamed  ‘hip cat’ but the name also comes from the Pink Floyd song named “Lucifer Sam” ….their  original guitar player and songwriter Syd Barrett wrote they lyrics “be a hip cat, be a ship’s cat, somewhere, anywhere”. I was a big Pink Floyd fan so I just ran with the name ‘hip cat’; it just seemed a natural name for a store.

When did you move to the new location (3540 Lake Ave, Wilmette) and how is it going? Well we moved to this location in June of 2006 and its been a good, plus it’s nearer to where I live so the commute is a lot shorter.

Do you guys have a website or is it all word-of-mouth?  No, it’s pretty much word of mouth or customers who have been coming here for a long time.  I’m not computerized. I’m old school. Somebody did set up a website at some point but i don’t what happened with it (laughs).

I imagine you’ve had some interesting Chicago musicians walk through the door? Well we’ve had Ben Weasel come in before. He probably didn’t know I recognized him. When a known musician comes in I never acknowledge that I know who they are. I just treat them like some regular customers,  I don’t give them any preferential treatment, they can just be a regular Joe looking through records. and they seem to like it that way.

What are the DMM stickers on some vinyl re-issues and what do we need to know about records today?  DMM stands for ‘direct metal mastering’  and it actually encodes more information from the original recording so it’s going to sound better. The recordings done with 1/2 speed mastering make the biggest impact improving sound. Another ingredient for better sound is the deeper grooves in (some) records. So they might be advertising different vinyl weights like 180 gram heavy weight vinyl or 200 gram audio file vinyl but the real jist of it is  the fact that the  grooves are deeper. The industry has decided to hype the weight; They aren’t going to tell you on the sticker that it has deeper grooves, they are going to tell you it weighs more.

You’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve seen a lot of records come through and leave the door, who are the top 5 that still move records?   Definitely Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and of course The Beatles. But we also do really well with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. On the blues side it’s probably Muddy Waters and then Buddy Guy… he puts a new album out every year or so and they re-issue some of his older albums every now and then. He does great.

ADAM MITCHELL

adam_gold_recordsWhat music grabbed you most as a kid?

Well, the first actual “rock” record I ever heard was “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. At age 12, I couldn’t verbalize why it was great. I just knew it made me feel glad to be alive! The next record I heard after that – and I was still living in Scotland at the time – was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley. Then we moved to Canada and boom, it was rock ‘n roll all the time. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis. My parents, like most parents at the time, didn’t approve – they thought Lawrence Welk was the height of musical sophistication  – but they weren’t too hard ass about it.  But from then on, yeah, it was rock ‘n roll every moment I could get.  Then, of course, Dylan and the Beatles changed not only my world but the world.

What was the first song you ever wrote and what do you think of it today?

Don’t remember the actual very first song I wrote but one of the early ones, right after the Beatles had first come out, was a Christmas parody I wrote called “God Rest Ye Hairy Gentleman”.

Did it ever make the light of day in another for form?

No, no way, but it was pretty funny!

Artists have so many different approaches to writing, what is your general philosophy?

Strive for excellence. That’s it. And do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Trying to do that, even when I didn’t know what I was doing, is the only reason I can think of to explain the career I’ve enjoyed.  Strive for excellence. No one buys average.

Great songs give people a certain feeling: is that one of your barometers in determining whether a track is ready to be recorded or is that reserved for the listener? 

Learning to be a songwriter is learning to be a bridge builder.  A good songwriter builds bridges of understanding between himself or herself and the audience.  it might be emotional understanding, it might be intellectual understanding, but that’s the whole deal.

You have written with a whose who of international talents from Linda Rondstadt to Waylon Jennings to KISS: which collaboration, or collaborations, were the most challenging?

Well, the collaborations that turn out to be most  “challenging” are generally those that, in the end, don’t work – and consequently, are ones that don’t produce work that lasts or you’ve even heard of.  If you’re working with another writer, especially a writer who’s an established artist, every song you come up with has to get a thumbs-up from a lot of people before it makes the record; the artist, the record company, the producer, the promotion department and so on.  Did I mention striving for excellence?

You offer personal song-writing coaching online @ AdamMitchellMusic.com: how does it work and do you end up sharing a writing credit if it’s really good?

Really, the best way to think of this is as one-on-one, song aid.  Personal tuition. And no, since it would be a work for hire, I would not take part of the song. Anyone who’s interested should contact me at info@AdamMitchellmusic.com.

The industry has changed radically in the last two decades: do you think it is harder today for a songwriter to break in with major artists to get
songs out?

I think in some respects it’s much harder to be a songwriter now because, unlike in previous times and even up until very recently, publishing companies very rarely now give a writer, particularly a new writer, a substantial enough draw – that is, advance against future royalties – to live on. In my own particular case, when I moved to Los Angeles, Warner Bros. was paying me to write songs for them and it was a paltry amount but I could get by. But by the end of my first year, so many artists had cut my songs that WB decided to renegotiate my contract and suddenly I was making about ten times what I had previously. I’m not sure you can do that now.

On the other hand, in many respects it’s much easier now. You can do great demo recordings at home, the Internet puts the whole world at your doorstep and I still believe that excellence prevails in spite of all difficulties. Everyone gets a break, sooner or later. The trick – the key thing – is to be ready when it happens. All the breaks in the world won’t help you if you’re not prepared.

a-mitchellWhat advice would you give to aspiring artists in regard to refining their craft or brand of music?

Join me at SongCoachOnline.com. Great songs are at the heart of everything in music and I’ve helped many people improve dramatically in that respect. It’s what I love to do and you’ll get a lot of other information about recording, common career mistakes, great gear and so on. Remember, when you’re trying to get somewhere in music, it’s a competition, like anything else. And the most prepared – and those willing to work hardest – will win. It’s a cruel logic I know, but it’s true.

 Jagger once famously sang “it’s the singer, not the song”, was he being ironic?

With all due respect to the His Majesty, the Prince of Darkness, I say “Bollocks!” The song is the most important thing by far in any performance. Look at it this way…You can have the greatest singer in the world singing a crap song and what do you then have? Zero.  A well polished turd. Here’s an absolute, universal, once – and – forever, truth. If you don’t have a great song at the heart of what you’re doing…a hundred times nothin’ is still nothin’.

In a recent interview you said ACDC’s *Back In Black* would make it to your island playlist: would it have been even better with Bon Scott?

Not in my opinion. I think Brian Johnson is phenomenal. It’s very rare for a singer to do a great job replacing an original guy but I think Brian has done it. He and Bon are both incredibly good.

MURPH DANIELS w/ WOOD SHAMPOO

MURPHY's lawYour new record as Wood Shampoo is a greatest hit of sorts; must be great to get 17 songs off your chest?

If feels like we just won the WBA title against Mike Tyson and we even have the bite marks to prove it.   We took some of the best songs we had written in the last couple of years that no one has ever heard and a few new cuts as well and we started up the band’s Lear and headed up to Gateway Mastering Studios in Maine to see the master himself, Bob Ludwig. After Bob performed his magic, we were all systems go.

It seems so few records these days have a sense of humor unless it’s tied in with a band’s gimmick overtly, where does Wood Shampoo fit in that spectrum?

Our motto is simple: we have nothing to lose, so let’s have so fun for crying out loud and try to put a smile on our fan’s faces. Life’s tough enough, so we want to give everyone an outlet to escape from that. Anything goes in our writing: from sexy girls, vampires, aliens, the crazy world of the stock market, dead rock stars, crack, cover girls, gambling – you name it, we probably have a song about it and if we don’t, then we will for the next album.

Do you think being from New York gives you some sense of entitlement when it comes to rocking (hard)?

That’s an interesting question. Would you be able to make that a multiple choice question and give me a wink when I am near the right answer (that used to work for me in my high school French class)? I think there is so much top-shelf quality homegrown music here thrown in with the greatest bands in the world always stopping by to make NYC an extremely competitive market. You just cannot survive in front of the NYC fans unless you are at your best because they will not settle for anything less. They’ll take you out in stretchers if you’re off your game – they’re that sledgehammer tough. Even my own family throws rotten tomatoes at me in those cases, so use your imagination.

WOOD_SHAMPOO_coverWhat are your favorite cuts on the disc and which is your least?

Every track on the disc was picked by a panel of experts in the field using our proprietary analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. In other words, we like all the cuts. That being said, some of the ones that stand out for us are Wanna Be A Dead Rock Star, Top of the World, She’s So Fine, Cover Girl, Where’s the Party Earthling?, You Suck (Mr. Vampire), Ticker Tape, One More Chance, and of course our title track Crack, Crack Heart Attack. They just have a certain je ne sais quoi.  They are packed full of radio friendly hooks on every level and that’s how we like them. You’re lucky enough to get one or two on an album and here you are getting a lifetime supply. Go to our website, WOODSHAMPOO.net and hear them for yourselves and you be the judge and leave us a comment while you’re at it. We like to read them at breakfast.

I would say the cut that’s our least favorite is Three Cheers because it doesn’t fit into the format as well for this album, but we put it on there due to popular demand. It’s like early Bruce Springsteen meets Lou Reed and they decide to take a walk on the wild side. There’s great sax on that one from Frankie Tee.

What’s the story behind Crack, Crack Heart Attack the tune? I understand the CIA was involved?

What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth (writer’s note: be aware Murph Daniels is currently wired up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and has been connected to a Delco car battery by a couple of independent contractors who work for a nameless agency. They are also wearing cheap suits.). We were in the studio and one of my producers, who also happens to be a guitarist on the record, Eddie Martinez, asked me to play him the day’s songs I had written for the session. Turns out nothing caught his ear that day and we just don’t waste our time with a song that doesn’t make that first cut, so he suggested a song I had done on a Murph Daniels’ solo record that he really loved, but thought we could do it much better now. That song was Crack, Crack Heart Attack and everyone at the session knocked in out of the ballpark that day. On a crazy side note, when I get a bad headache, I have found if I play this song really loud in the car, it will cure me after a play or two. Try it for yourself, I’m not kidding. JJ Cale had been an inspiration for me with the writing of this song because I thought if he could have a hit with the song Cocaine then why couldn’t someone have a hit song with the drug crack. He just passed away and will be missed.

WoodShampooThere are some monster players on the album: how does one assemble such a line-up without a major label budget?

Well, without getting into the budget, because the accountants are watching me 24/7, it’s really quite simple. You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on studio costs, so why not get the greatest musicians alive to come down and do it right in one or two takes. Co-producers and guitarists Tommy Byrnes and Eddie Martinez are masters at their craft. They also put a crack (excuse the pun) team together. We not only captured Wood Shampoo at its prime, but had fun doing it. I called up Gateway Mastering and sent them the tracks and Bob Ludwig and team thought it was something they could definitely work with. They brought out sounds from the mix I had never even heard before. Bob is a genius and just an all around great guy. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I learned from working with him. And let’s not forget our fifth Beatle, Rich Gibbons. He was our engineer and mixer on most of the tracks and always had Wood Shampoo’s back. Rich fits in so great and I think part of the reason is that he is a Senior Producer at The Howard Stern Show and with that job comes a great sense of humor.

How does the writing process work for you and how do you know or feel a song is complete and ready for recording?

I usually hear or read something that catches my attention and knocks me off my feet. I then use that phrase as a building block for the rest of the song. Other times I come up with a catchy riff first and the lyrics follow somehow as I play the riff over and over again on guitar. I take the songs to my producers, which usually is Tommy, and they continue the process. Inspirations for some of my songs have been from hearing someone saying “you suck” to their parent and wanting to find a funny way to use it in a song which turned out to be You Suck (Mr. Vampire), to having my best friend ask me for years if he could have my guitars when I die and that one later turned into My Best Friend Died (and Left Me His Guitar).

What’s the first album you ever bought and the first you ever tossed out in a disappointment (if any?)?

I think the first album I ever bought was Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” I was truly amazed by the musicianship. I think I probably traded the albums I didn’t like for the ones I wanted at a local store so I never actually would throw one out.

Gun, or billy club, to your head: what are your favorite three albums of all time?

I’m a huge music fan and I really love a mix of everything from Talking Heads, The Clash, Guns N’ Roses, Elvis Costello, Nirvana, Otis Redding, James Brown, Johnny Hallyday, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, The Jam, Al Green, Joe Williams, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Roy Orbison, Hoodoo Gurus, Moby Grape, Toots Thielemans, and Johnny Hallyday. Stop me when I pass three okay?

If you had put out a Wood Shampoo double-live opus in the 70’s, what would it have been called and how were sales?

I think we would have called it “Wood Shampoo: One Lump or Two?” and it would have been a limited sold-out run of one million copies in blood red vinyl. 

CHRISTIAN SBROCCA

ChristianWHAT WERE THE FIRST 3 RECORDS YOU BOUGHT AS A KID?

I can’t find 3! The first two I remember wanting to buy…but that my parents bought for me were vinyls: John Cougar Mellencamp (Hurt So Good), Joan Jet and the Blackhearts (I love Rock n roll) and on tape the first two I bought for myself were Michael Jackson (Thriller) and Men Without Hats (bought with my Brother) for the song Safety dance. Other tape (records) bought a little after that:  Appetite for Destruction (Guns), Tesla, Bon Jovi, Ozzy, Def Leppard..

AND HOW DO YOU RANK THEM TODAY?

Classics! Really good songs still.  I’m not the type of person who got “trapped” in the 80’s…but I have to admit that the quality of songs during that decade is phenomenal. We turned our backs to 80’s music in the late 90’s until recently.  When we look at the top 40 from 1980 till 1989, we realize that a lot of those songs are still “up to date”.  Especially the “New wave music” and the “Rock” music…but no so the Hair metal bands..

DID YOUR FASCINATION WITH MUSIC, LIKE SO MANY ARTISTS, BEGIN IN THE HOME WITH FAMILY?

Absolutely.  MY father was an italian immigrant from Rome Italy.  He came to Canada with a plethora of music styles as he was also a musician himself.  The Beatles, Elvis, Southern American music, Italian classics etc, played continuously on our turn table but also “Live”.  Parties at my house were legendary…My father was one of the best “entertainer” I’ve ever seen…

As he (my dad) fell in love with the french Canadian culture (The Quebec Culture), he also learned a lot of folk music form here.  As you can imagine, mixing the Beatles, italian classics and french traditional folk would rock any party, in any country!

Those were fine days….  I started playing with him at the age of 12-13.  Started with some back vocals and easy rythms.  Things moved forward pretty fast though, as I was really passionate about it.  By the age of 14-15, I was playing at parties (with my buddies trying to impress young girls!), camping trips etc…at the age of 17-18, I played my first “bar gig”

My father passed in 2002… We played hundreds of times together at our house or at relatives for Christmas, Easter, New Years, name it.  Since he passed, I’ve never played a single note at a home party again.  It was his kingdom…he did it so well.

WHEN DID YOU START ACTUALLY WRITING SONGS AND CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE WRITING PROCESS FOR YOU?

My first melodies (with bad lyrics) were written between the age of 15 and 18.  Although I do not consider them as “songs”. My first real song was written in College at the age of 19.  The song is called “Unexpected”.  This song followed me for quite some time since it was kept on my first english album in 1999.  It was written after a young hockey player, Travis Roy, at Boston University (I was also a player at UMass, Lowell), became quadriplegic during a hockey game. This accident really moved me.

After that song, it took me a few years to write again. As for song-writing itself, it always has something to do with emotions as far as I’m concerned…  Self doubt, happiness, love, death, anxiety, substance abuse etc… are all topics I have sang about in my career.

It usually starts with what some of us here call “yaourt”.  A melody with no real lyrics… It can, or almost sounds like real words but they aren’t.  They are just there to guide you to an emotion that will end up leading you to real words.  Once the melody starts to take form, then real words come naturally….

I wrote strictly with the acoustic guitar for 10 years…  The first song I’ve ever written on the piano is a song about my dad called “Un monde sans mon père”. ( A world without my dad).

Today, I’d say that 60% of the songs I write begin with the piano, the other 40 is with the guitar.  Same deal….Most of the time, melody, then lyrics.  I have also done the opposite (lyrics first) since I write for others quite often.  I love it….  Completely different dynamics, but challenging.

Writing is a full time job for me…and although I do it more with my “head” then with my “soul” lately, there is always a way to put “heart” and honesty into it… Obviously, i’ts different when the writing is for my own material….then soul comes first.

IF YOU WERE TO HAND A DISC TO MR. BIG IN AN ELEVATOR LIKE IN THE MOVIES WITH ONE TRACK OF YOURS ON IT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

It’s very difficult to answer…I’ll say: “The Choice Is Yours“. It’s a song I have not yet released…. but:the track pretty much sums up everything that I am as a human being, an artist, a singer song writer.

Christian2HOW DID YOUR RECENT EUROPEAN DATES GO?

Very good…  the most important show I’ve done in France was in a 13th century Castle in the French Alpes… What was really for about that experience is that 16 of my faithful fans from Canada made the trip to Europe with me !  They followed me on tour for 10 days and on the 10th day, we played a sold out concert in the Tallard Castle.  On top of the 16 that made the trip, about another 15 french Canadian fans joined us on the last day to attend the Castle concert…..  One word : Magical!

IT’S BEEN A FEW YEARS NOW SINCE YOUR LAST FULL LENGTH RELEASE, L’OPNION DES AUTRES, ANY PLANS FOR A NEW DISC?

The french canadian market (95% in the Province of Quebec) is pretty Small…..only 6 million people.   In order to have a great quality of life, one has to find multiple ways to make a living.  As far as I’m concerned, in the last couple of years, I have found ways to position myself (and my studio), in great position.  Lately, I have been writing for other artist that are much more « commercial » and « popular » then me !  Interesting copy rights come along with that.  Also, I have been hired to write « thème songs and « music » for many TV shows.  Some of then are « daly » shows.  Interesting copy rights and publishing rights come along with that as well.

As for my own material, It’s been too long LOL. Textbook story :  Since my last full length CD « L’opinion des autres », I have lost a little bit of momentum.  I’m now on my own with no record label, no manager and no bullshit.  My last record deal experience was brutal.  I’m excited about doing things slowly and on my own.

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF FIRST AND FOREMOST TODAY: A PERFORMER, A SONG-WRITER, A SINGER OR A PRODUCER?

Probably the most “unanswerable” question ever! But let’s be honest here… I ain’t “the producer”, but I’m pretty good at it. I’m not a “singer”.  I’m a singer–song-writer that can sing…but I’m not “the singer”! I think I’m a “performer” and a “song writer”….that produces music and sings his heart and soul out.

CANADA’S OBVIOUSLY HAD SOME GREAT ARTISTS OVER THE YEARS: WHAT’S THE CLUB SCENE LIKE IN QUEBEC FOR NEW MUSIC THESE DAYS AND ANY ARTISTS GRABBING YOUR EAR?

The club scene is very healthy for new upcoming bands.  But unfortunately, it’s hard to make a living playing “clubs” with original material.  That being said, Montreal is probably the best “stepping stone” in all of North America for “indie music”. I’ve been an “Arcade fire” fan for years… So cool to see them do so well.

Patrick Watson, Malajube (french), Karkwa (french), Stars etc….There are also other “main stream” bands or singers that do really well, and although it ain’t my type of music, it’s fun to be able to appreciate other’s talent and success (Celine Dion for example)

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG ARTISTS RECORDING THEIR FIRST DISC?

Cliché stuff but so freakin true:  Be yourself.  Don’t let the “web”, “youtube”, “instant star’ bullshit syndrome get to you. IT  DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ARTIST AND IT WILL NOT GIVE YOU A CAREER OF ANY KIND. Write your own stuff cuz that’s how real careers are built.  If you do not write your own stuff, then find the right songs for you.

Work. Dedicate yourself….Work…Never give up….  Cuz if this is really what you want to do, there will never be any other options anyways!  You might as well work.  Oh yeah…have fun along the way!

WHAT PITFALLS NEED AMERICAN BANDS BE AWARE OF WHEN VENTURING NORTH TO PLAY DATES IN CANADA (OR QUEBEC?)

No too many…. Be polite.  Be open… Be respectful. Yes, a little cliché but…..Break the stereotype: Show us that you “understand” that although “America” is a great country, that you “ain’t” different then any of us or any body else for that matter. We love that especially in Quebec!  We are a nation of our own…we speak French, we have a different culture, we have a different back ground, different traditions……Know a little bit about us (Canada or Quebec) before you head up here…it’ll show that you “care”.   Do the same in Europe and anywhere else your music brings you! ~ Christiansbrocca.fr

DAVID KEMPER

david_manns

What was the first album you ever bought and how do you rate it today? 

It was either:

a)    Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill

b)   Kiss, Alive!

c)    Thin Lizzy, Nightlife

I was a very mixed up boy.  As for the rating part…

a)   Aaa  (Moody’s doesn’t go any higher, or I would, too.)

b)   C (Moody’s doesn’t go any lower…)

c)    A2

What does your 8-track collection look like?

It looks like a poltergeist taking a polygraph (as observed by seven blind pygmies from Paducah).  The only time I ever saw 8-track tapes in person was when we went to visit some distant cousins in Wisconsin – Sonny & Cher Live, Bobby Sherman, that kind of thing.

Was bass your first instrument or an evolution?

It happened all at once.  I awoke one morning to find myself transformed in my bed into a giant, grotesque, bass fiddle.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  My family and all the neighbors shunned me as the sickening vermin I’d become.  Those snooty violinists and cellists wouldn’t play with me.  All I could do was lay there, staring at the ceiling while sawing away on pithy quotes from Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben.  Very weird.

Bass is my only real instrument, actually.  I often do “play” other instruments on my recordings, however the word “bad” has to be appended to the front (Badguitar, Badkeyboards, Badmelodica, etc.) to get an accurate description of the kinds of sounds I tend to make.

Does being the guy holding down the low end frequencies inform your personality in any way outside of music?

Hello, cowgirls.  I like being on the bottom.

What came easiest to you early on, playing or writing?

The only writing I did when I was young was in the sand traps of certain North Shore country clubs I won’t name.  We used to jump the fence late at night, run around wild on the fairways, throw all the patio furniture into the deep end of the pool and steal all eighteen flags from those immaculately manicured greens – but not before using them to write “ZZ TOP” really, really BIG in all the sand traps.  That’ll show ‘em, eh?

So…I guess the answer would be: Playing.

What’s Brahms’ 3rd Racket all about and is it true you have an affinity for concepts?

Brahms’ 3rd Rocket is all about the concept of having an affinity for calling all God’s creatures (inanimate or otherwise) by the name of which they truly, in fact, are, and should forever be, including (but not limited to) calling kettles Kettles, calling pots Pots, and calling my band by its correct name, which is Brahms’ 3rd Racket.

(Editors note: David was kind enough to catch my error…. “It’s RACKET not ROCKET!!  But don’t sweat it.  I hear even Yoko was in the habit of repeatedly referring to her husband’s band as “Beatles” (“Beatles this, Beatles that”- errantly omitting the “The” every time).  So “Rocket” I can understand.  Hell, I used to know this one guy who kept calling it “Brahms’ 3rd Reich.”  I’ll take “Rocket” any day”)

What’s more enjoyable for you, writing a good pop song or developing the picture music you create for tv n’ film?

I like it all.  I don’t distinguish.  Do I write pop songs?

Sometimes just a simple twist in the arrangement of a song can make a huge difference, is that tinkering part of why you enjoy the role of producer or is it a more technical fascination for you?

I’m an arranger, basically, a collage artist, making sound mosaics.  This inevitably encompasses many different sub-disciplines: composing, performing, scoring music, recording, setting up mics, pushing “Record,” buying beer, asking very nicely for the drummer to hit harder, etc., etc., etc.

That said, I couldn’t give a shit about “technique,” “technical”-anything, or any other derivation of that cold and lifeless word.  Ever try kissing a dead fish?  It’s a means to an end.  I’m not infatuated with methods or systems or techniques.  And I really don’t think of myself as a “Producer,” either.  I used to think it was cool to call myself that (“Yo, bro, didya check out that one young chick that I produced?  Man, did I produce her!”)  I used to like it.  Not anymore.  “Producer?”  Yuk.  Let Bob Rock have it.  Sounds like a guy with nice hair who sells insurance.

Since you aren’t famous drummer David Kemper, do you think this is a good time to challenge him to bass n’ drum throw down to stop all of the chatter between camps?

I don’t want to stop the chatter between camps.  Perish the thought.  I just sent off a four-page letter in response to some lawyer dude in San Francisco who mistakenly emailed me some kind of artist agreement (complete with royalty breakdowns) for the “live” Jerry Garcia Band album they’re going to be putting out soon.  Four pages.  Arguing for a better % (the drummer plays four times as many notes than the bass player, etc.)…PowerPoint charts and graphs in support of this theory…bogus legalese…more prissy rock star demands than Van Halen in the dressing room…in short, pure balderdash!  I had that lawyer dude doing figure eights around the page, revealing only in the last paragraph that he had sent his little agreement to the wrong David Kemper.  Stop the chatter?  Hell no!  If all the chatter were to suddenly stop – and I no longer had a reason to write goofy letters like that – whatever would I do with all the empty hours?

If you could be the first artist to perform a song on the moon, on behalf of mankind, what song would you choose?

I wouldn’t perform it myself.  Assuming – since I’d been selected for this great honor on behalf of all mankind – that I would then have the full financial and technical resources of Planet Earth at my disposal, I would graciously defer and instead use those combined resources to have Andrea True exhumed and resurrected so the Andrea True Connection could do “More, More, More” on the edge of the Aitken Basin while Evel Knievel (since money is no object, right?) jumps back and forth over it riding a giant neon dildo.

Get the action going…get the cameras rolling…holy, shit, can you imagine that on the fucking moon?  But…hey…realistically…if the resurrections didn’t work out?  In that case I’d just get Carl Douglas to do “Kung Fu Fighting” and be done with it.

ANTON FIG

figWhen did your love affair with the drums begin?

I don’t remember ever deciding to play drums. I was always interested and drawn to the sound of them as far back as I can remember.

Who were your heroes growing up and do you still listen to them?

Earl Palmer – though I did not know it was him at the time Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Ringo, Keith Moon, John Bonham – English Invasion guys

Tony William, Elivin Jones, Jack deJohnette  –

Just to name a few – and yes I still listen to them

What was your first full kit?

My grandfather bought me a snare and bd at age 6 and every year added a drum – so I had a full set by the time I was 9 but it was a mutt of a set

Did the playing the drums come naturally to you or does one have to work hard at it to get to your level?

It came pretty naturally but when I work at it it pays huge dividends. There are periods in my career when I practice more than others and that always pays off.

What’s your kit of choice these days?

I endorse Yamahas – they are very consistent and good. I don’t use the same set up each time – especially in the studio – and enjoy changing the configuration to suit the music or just give myself a different perspective on things

What is the greatest drum track of all time?

Impossible to answer but anything by Tony Williams

I also love Mirolslav Vitous’ version of Freedom Jazz Dance – Jack de Johnette is the drummer

frehleyWhat’s your favorite thing about being in the “The World’s Most Dangerous Band”, and now The CBS Orchestra for all these years?

Steady work with great musicians and guests, high visibility, great hours – a dream job and life changer

Is it me, or is Dave even more into your musical guests these days than ever?

Dave is a very keen listener and appreciative of the music. He is very supportive of our band  – which is great for us

You guys are also the house band for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, any favorite magic moments so far?

It’s always great playing with the originals. You see how good they are up close and why they were groundbreakers and have endured through the years

You’ve worked with Ace Frehley as far back as 1978 when you played on his first solo album, did you guys have fun getting back together to track Anomaly in 2010?

I love that first album and have worked with Ace and maintained our friendship over the years since then. It was great to be back in the studio with him again. It’s always good to see him. – ANTON FIG

JIM VALLANCE

JimVallanceWHAT WAS THE FIRST TUNE YOU LEARNED TO PLAY ON THE DRUMS?

It was a very long time ago (1965?) but I think the first song I played on drums was “Little Red Riding Hood”, by Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs.

DRUMMER JOKES ASIDE, IT SEEMS THE BEST ARTISTS (AND PRODUCERS FOR THAT MATTER) CAN PLAY SOME DRUMS, OR IN FACT BEGAN ON THE DRUMS: HOW DID UNDERSTANDING RHYTHM HELP YOU AS A SONGWRITER AND PRODUCER?

There’s this presumed orthodoxy that everything begins with piano … learn to play piano and the rest will follow.  That’s why so many kids are forced to take piano lessons.  If it were up to me, I’d say “start with drums and the rest will follow”.  Rhythm is the most basic musical building block.

I took piano lessons like every other kid of my generation — except the ones who took accordion lessons! — but it’s drums that taught me how to play music with feeling.  Even now, when I play guitar, I play like a drummer.

WHAT WAS THE ALBUM THAT GOT YOU HOOKED ON ROCK & ROLL AS A KID?

I wasn’t aware of albums when I was a kid.  It was all about singles, 45 RPM vinyl disks.  The first ones I bought were “She Loves You” by The Beatles and “Glad All Over” by The Dave Clark Five.

RodneyHiggsHOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE STAGE NAME ‘RODNEY HIGGS’ WHEN YOU WERE IN PRISM AND DOES HE, AS AN ALTER-EGO OF SORTS, EVER PAY VISITS TO YOUR MIND SET?

I live part-time in London … I have an apartment in Kensington. I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes, that whole Victorian-era thing.  Rodney Higgs sounded like a character from a Sherlock Holmes story.

DID BEING FROM CANADA MAKE IT HARDER TO BREAK INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AT LARGE OR DID YOU SEE IT AS AN ADVANTAGE?

I’ve always wondered if it made a difference.  There were hundreds of bands in Los Angles, all of them within walking distance of the big label offices.  Whether it was Devo from Akron or Nirvana from Seattle, I think there was some novelty attached to bands that were from somewhere other than LA.  So yes, I think it helped to be from Vancouver.

IN YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH BRYAN ADAMS, HOW DID YOU GUYS WORK ON SONGS TYPICALLY? DID THE APPROACH CHANGE AT ALL OVER THE YEARS OR DID YOU HAVE A FORMULA TOGETHER?

No formula, but certainly a democratic approach to writing songs.  There’s no ego … the best idea wins, no matter who came up with it.  We both write melody and we both write lyrics.  We can bounce lyrics and melodies back and forth until the best idea becomes apparent.  Sometimes I’ll play guitar, sometimes bass, sometimes piano.  It depends on the song.  Bryan usually plays guitar when we write, although he’s actual a very good piano player.

Cars_JimVallanceYOU HAVE WRITTEN WITH A NUMBER OF MAJOR ARTISTS OVER THE YEARS, WHICH WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU AS AS SONGSMITH?

I’m 60.  I’ve been writing songs since I was 16.  You’d think it would get easier, but it doesn’t.  It’s hard work.
Every song, every artist, comes with its own set of challenges, the main one being, you want to do the best job possible.  I admit I was nervous the first time I wrote with Steven and Joe from Aerosmith — same for Ozzy or Alice Cooper — but you get over that quite quickly.  Then it’s all about focussing on the task, spending the time — hours, days, whatever it takes — writing, re-writing, honing it until you’ve got it right.
Honestly, every song is a challenge.  There’s nothing quite so daunting as staring at a blank piece of paper waiting to be filled with lyrics.  Somehow it just happens. There’s that great story about Andrew Loog Oldham locking a young Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in a room, threatening not to let them out until they’d written a song.  That’s kinda what it’s like.  That’s what it takes.
ONE OF YOUR CURRENT ‘PET PROJECTS’ IS JOHN LENNON IN GERMANY FROM 60-62: CAN YOU SHARE A PEARL FROM THE YOUNG TOUGHS DAYS IN HAMBURG?

An interviewer once asked Lennon to divulge the secret of the Beatles’ success.  Lennon replied, “We were a really good band!”.  And they were.  Listen to their recording of “Kansas City”, which is straight from their Hamburg set-list.  That’s four guys in a studio, singing and playing at the same time.  No ProTools or overdubs, just a really good band taking their Hamburg club show into a recording studio.  That’s where they got good, playing eight hour sets at the Top Ten Club and the Kaiserkeller.  There’s no substitute for that kind of apprenticeship.

 HOW DO YOU RATE RINGO AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OF HIS DRUM TRACKS IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE?

Ringo is one of the best rock drummers, ever. Bonham may have been heavier, and Stewart Copeland may have had more finesse, but you won’t find a more tasteful drummer than Ringo.  Plus, he basically invented the drum fill as we know it.

My favorite  Ringo tracks include “Lovely Rita”, “Carry That Weight”, “Ticket To Ride”, “Rain”.  For that matter, he played great on everything.  Never the same feel twice.

DO YOU STILL PLAY ‘SONG DOCTOR’ AND DO YOU MAKE HOUSE CALLS?

I don’t like the “song doctor” label.  It sounds like all I do is fix other people’s songs, or contribute the last 10% to fine-tune the song for radio.  I might have done that a few times over the years, but 99% of the time I start from scratch, sitting in a room with Bryan Adams or Steven Tyler, blank page, no clue where things are headed, and somehow you come up with a song. That’s a great feeling.  That’s what I love about my job … creating something from nothing. – JIM VALLANCE 

MELVIN TAYLOR

L1010246_3bwWHAT WAS THE FIRST GUITAR YOU EVER OWNED AND WHAT WAS THE BEST THING YOU RECALL ABOUT IT?  

My very first guitar was given to me by my teacher, Father Duffacy at Saint Francis Cabrini.  I was 13. It was a white Kingston and he also gave me an amplifier. I couldn’t believe it – my family could not afford to buy me one.  What a wonderful, generous man.  I loved that guitar.  I polished it, slept with it… The best part about the guitar was that it was my very own.

ANY GUITARS YOU’VE HAD OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU WISH YOU STILL HAD NOW?

One guitar I wish I had now was a cherry red Gretch Country Gentleman. It was a reissue of 1967 Chet Adkins model.  I lost it when my basement flooded in 1998. I was on the road, out of town at the time.  It was completely ruined by the time home.

IN TERMS OF PLAIN OLD FEELING GOOD, DO YOU PREFER PLAYING GUITAR AT HOME ALONE, IN THE STUDIO OR LIVE ON STAGE?

For me there is nothing like performing live on stage.  I feed off of the energy the audience puts out and I throw it right back to them.

WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO MAKING NEW RECORDS? DOES THERE NEED TO BE A MUSICAL THEME FOR A GIVEN RELEASE OR DO YOU PREFER THE FREEDOM TO CHANGE IT UP THROUGHOUT?

When I started out I recorded for a label – my first 6 CD’s were done that way;  the producer sets the approach and theme for a release. The music turned out great but financially it did not work well for me.

melvinMy most recent CD’s, Beyond the Burning Guitar (2010), Sweet Taste of Guitar (2011), and Taylor Made (2013) I composed, recorded and produced on my own.  It gave me the freedom to record and present the music the way I want.  It had been almost 10 years since my last CD so there was lots of discussion with my management about how to proceed.  BTBG is all instrumental, 23 original songs plus my arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth (Melvin Meets Beethoven).  The CD covers several styles of music including, jazz, latin, blues and classical. The idea was to feature my guitar playing.  I love ALL kinds of music and I’ve been blessed with my talent. I’ve never had a guitar lesson, no one taught me how to play; I would just hear a song and could play it.

Throughout my career I constantly heard producers, music critics, other musicians say, “pick one style, just one, and stay with That”.  I thought the idea was absurd and could get very boring. I did not want to limit myself.

Basically I created my own sound by combining elements from many areas of music and I think I have done it well. Once again with my latest release, Taylor Made (2013), the theme is exactly that.  The title explains the music on the CD – All kinds of music is who I am.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO PLAY GUITAR FOR A LIVING AND THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK?

Around age 11 or 12 I began performing on Maxwell Street in Chicago.  I would play with my Uncle Floyd and his friends. I did not even have my own guitar so I would play my uncle’s Fender Mustang. When people started crowding around us and throwing money in the tip jar – I knew right then there was no turning back.

WHAT’S THE BEST BLUES GUITAR SHOWDOWN YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN OR WITNESSED LIVE ON STAGE?

I think this answer will surprise you – the late 1980’s – I believe 1987, George Benson and Earl Klugh at Carnegie Hall of all places.  Fabulous blues by two exceptionally talented guitarists.

HOW DID THE HABIT OF TURNING YOUR AMP BACKWARDS ‘TO THE WALL’ COME ABOUT?

Good music and sound levels go hand in hand.  Lots of people think the louder the music the better – not true! Inexperience with sound engineering can ruin a show.  Sound levels of each band member need to blend.  Whether it’s a 3 piece band or a symphony orchestra.  When playing in a smaller club I often turn my amp to face backwards or away from the audience.  I don’t want to shatter their eardrums.

MelvinTaylorWHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE GUITAR(S) FOR THE CLEANER, MORE JAZZ INFLUENCED MATERIAL VERSES THE BLUESIER, MORE ROCKIN’ BONZO BLUES STUFF?

My personal favorite guitar is my Ibanez SA200.  I can play everything on this guitar – jazz, blues, rock. Now let me add that I modify ALL of my guitars, amps and pedals.  If someone goes out and buys the same brand names of equipment they will not get the same sound that I do.  Recently I’ve been beta testing ceramic wire for a company in Japan. Some day I hope to market my own line of guitars and equipment.

WHAT EARLY BLUES RECORDS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU AS A YOUNGSTER AND DO YOU STILL LISTEN TO THEM TODAY?

Freddie King –  Hide Away. Jimmy Reed Shuffle. These 2 are at the top of my list. Remember I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s – EVERYTHING was going on. Motown, James Brown, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder.   It was funk/soul, rock, jazz – an absolutely amazing time to be growing up and soaking in all this music especially for a young guitar player.

DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE BLUES TO PLAY THEM OR IS IT MORE A WAY OF LIFE THAN A STATE OF MIND?

When I think of guys who put blues on the map I would have to name Albert King, Pinetop, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) and Willie Dixon as major forces. The blues is a “feeling”.  Broken and in pain, sadness and misery. Unfortunately it WAS a way of life for these people. Many people have come to me to teach them to play the blues – I can teach them blues chords and blues licks but the real blues comes from deep within….MELVIN TAYLOR

NATALIE MISHELL

NatalieMishellWhen you think about the new disc Goodnight Stranger in general terms, what’s it about?

Hmmmmm, well that’s a pretty loaded question… or more so a loaded answer, lol.  This was a really hard and personal record for me to write and even harder for me to listen to now.  In a nutshell I would say that when I was writing these songs I was in a very dark and confusing place in my life.  I felt I had lost a lot of my spirit, peace and the happiness.  I sort of became this person that I didn’t know.  When you listen to the record you hear a recurring theme in the lyrics of unfamiliarity and loss of one’s self…  and so the title “Goodnight Stranger” is referring to me as the Stranger.   I felt the title suited this chapter in my life…

How was it working with producer JP Bowersock?

From the moment I met JP I knew I wanted him to producer my record.  Not only was he a pleasure to work with, but he’s energy really helped bring such an emotional record to life. He kept the vibes positive and made sure I was always happy and comfortable.  I learned so much from him and Mark Dann (engineer) on the production side of things and in turn I feel like my ear is better because of them.  They really kept me apart of the whole process, and let me, the artist, make all the final decisions in the studio.  JP had a way of giving my songs the roots and character I wanted but at the same time keeping the sound “up to date” per say.  When we talked about how we wanted the record to sound we decided that we wanted it to have an old school 70s vibe, with a modern Americana sound.  I think we nailed it!  JP and I were both thrilled with how it turned out.

How was your approach to the studio this time different than when you recorded your debut EP In My Shoes a couple years ago?

So this is the first record that I have funded myself.  That being said, we were on a TIGHT budget lol!   Everything was carefully planned out as to not waste any studio time because every minute costs.  Believe it or not we got all the basic tracks recorded for this record in one twelve-hour day!   It was crazy and stressful but we did it!  JP had set up some rehearsals with the band prior to the recording session so we were prepared and super sharp for the recording.  You could technically say this is a live album because all the basic tracks were played together as a band and mixed in a live room instead of each musician recording separately.  That being said, we did have overdub sessions and of course I went in to do most of my vocals separately.  One of the greatest things about this record is that I have a stellar band now that I have been playing with for the past two years and so we naturally vibe together which I think you can tell from the recordings.  On my first EP, I didn’t even really know the musicians that played on the record and every track was recorded on a separate stem.  It’s not to say one way is better than the other for the listener but from an artist point of view I definitely dig recording with my band that knows me and my songs.

What do you feel are the high points (or best moments) on new album?

Well lets talk about some songs first…I think everyone’s opinion is and will be different but for me I love the song “My Peace”  That songs has some really raw and honest moments…I’m sure that’s not going to be my “hit” per say but I think that song best plays out my life during the writing of “Goodnight Stranger”.  On a lighter note, “Blue Moon” is a solid track, and it’s kinda of a break from more of the moodier stuff on the record.  Everyone seems to think that that song is going to be well received and as a band we all vibe really well together on that track!  And finally, one of my favorite moments on this album is the slide guitar in “Muela West”.  It’s the first thing you hear when you start the record and I think it’s interesting, strong and beautiful.  It really captures your attention and makes you want to keep listening…

Mishell_GibsonNYCHow did you track the vocals?

There were a couple of songs that I actually used the scratch vocals on.  “My Peace” being one of them.  But for the majority I came in separately from the band and tracked my vocals with just JP and Mark.

Who plays on the record and what do they bring to the personality of your band / music?

Neil Cavanagh, Billy Grant, Tony Oppenheimer and Neil Nunziato.  I had been playing with these guys for a while prior to the recording and I have to say that their time and devotion to this project gave me the confidence to put thing this down.  These guys were all so positive and talented and if it were not for them, these arrangements would not exist.  They all pretty much had creative control over their own parts and I never really needed to worry about it “sounding good” because they are killer musicians.  All of us were super honest, supportive and professional and that’s what makes a successful band.

Which tunes of the record are you playing live and which of them seems to go over best?

We have played most of them live at one time or another but the ones that seem to always be on the set lists are, Blue Moon, Never Really Tried, Between the Lines, Bag of Bones, Muela West and Riding the Wind.  Blue Moon is always a favorite of the crowd.

Does your background in acting inform your live performance as a singer / musician?

Absolutely!   I think my experience with acting gives me the confidence and personality to get on stage night after night and at least look like I know what I’m doing hahah:) Also, something that I learn in acting is how to be vulnerable which is really hard for humans to do in general.  As a musician though you have to be because you are always trying to communicate and relate to your audience and if you can’t “let them in”…what’s the point?

Socially, how is New York city different from where you came from in California? 

No where is like New York.  New York is its own animal and I think about this all the time.  My life socially here is an adventure everyday, filled with twist, turns and surprises, giving me more inspiration to write, experience, and love.  I like to think that I have a “New YorK” family as well as my real one.  The people that I know here have brought such joy and positive energy into my life and I think that’s because this city just has that effect on people.  I’m not a world traveler so I can’t say that this is the only place in the world that has this effect on people but I find myself falling in love with my life here in new york more every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my home and where I come from in Southern California but for me my environment is so important and this cities people, culture and life brings me experience every day…and that’s what people strive for…”the experience”.

In a strange twist of fate, you are hooked up to a lie detector by angry ASCAP agents …you are surprised when the question they ask you is simply “What are your three favorite albums of all-time?”.

Don’t make me do this!!!  Well these are certainly not the best records of all time but it’s 3 of which I can’t live without…I had about 15 and then did eeny meeny miny moe and this is what I got….

Radiohead- The Bends, Joni Mitchell- Blue, Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker

.NatalieMISHELLAre you happy with how your debut Natalie Mishell EP, In My Shoes, has been received so far?

When I was in the studio recording “In My Shoes”  I was overwhelmed, being that it was the first time anyone had taken my songs and gave life to my music.  I feel like the end result was more than I could have asked for at the time.  I have a product I am proud of and I feel, for my first record, it did pretty well with fans on both the east coast and west.  The feedback I get from people has been very positive. I do wish, however, we got to put more songs on it:)

Did you have specific goals going in to the studio?

Really my only goal was to learn as much as I could.  I was new to it…this was my first time in a major studio in NYC and I had no idea what to expect.  Rich Paganowho produced it, was a pleasure to work with and kind of guided me through the whole process. As I got more comfortable with him and the process I started coming in to my own. One thing that I was really picky about was my vocals sounding too “clean”; I really wanted there to be a lot of feeling behind the lyrics and I think that comes across when the vocals are “true”, without auto tuning, or effects, things like that.

You did a solo east coast tour this summer in support of the disc, how did it go and is it scary playing solo?

I was a bit nervous you could say lol.  I didn’t have a band backing me up.  I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be enough to portray the songs like the record cuz’ there is definitely a lot going on instrumentally.  I thought the people that had heard the record but never seen me live might be disappointed but thankfully I was wrong. I had a great response and some fans even preferred me live, alone on an acoustic – that was a great feeling!  I had a lot of support from fans on this tour and it made me a better, more confident musician. But, at the end of the day, I love having the energy of a band behind a song.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to performing live or anything you hope to get across to the audience?

Hmmmm, I don’t know if I would call it a philosophy…for me, I guess it’s about sharing myself with the audience.  If I am connected to the song, if I am “in the moment” and really feeling what I’m saying, then I feel that comes across to the audience and they connect with me.  So to do that I actually have to forget they are there while in a song and focus on what I’m singing.  And then when a song is over I immediately try to re-engage the audience, so they know I am present there with them, and not in my own la la land. lol.

What songs (or artists) had the biggest impact on you as a kid?

As I kid I grew up on all the greatest… Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel,  Joni Mitchell, etc.  My parents were pretty hip you could say haha. Well, at least I thought so. Classic rock and folk music was huge in the family.   The songs that told a vivid story, with a voice I could actually feel were my favorites.  Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin were probably my top favorites growing up.

What came first for you, singing or the guitar?

You probably won’t believe this but I started singing at 8, taking voice lesson regularly.  My dad bought me a guitar when I was 13 and didn’t pick it up until I was 20!  It’s terrible, I’m actually really pissed at myself for waiting so long to start playing.  I could have actually been “good” at it? But all kidding aside, I’m so glad I at least picked it up finally. Changed my world as a songwriter and performer.

What was the first song you ever wrote and what was the inspiration behind it? 

The first song that I ever wrote using the guitar was, “Without You” when I was 20.  My inspiration came from what every young girls goes through at one point; a broken heart.   I had been playing about a month and knew like 4 chords.  The song just sort of wrote itself.  I actually love this song and I don’t have any professional recordings of it, but lately I have been thinking it might be kinda of cool to put it on my next record as a bonus acoustic track… Maybe :)

How does the song writing process start for you, with a subject, a guitar line, a melody?

I could write for hours on this but as to not bore you I’ll try and sum it up.  The process for me is pretty much always the same…First of all, I can only write when I am in the mood.  It has to be totally organic.  I used to try and set aside time for writing and that was a huge mistake, I only wrote bad songs and got frustrated with myself.  I find music comes to me when I don’t force it.  When I’m mentally ready to write something I just feel it.  I’ll stop whatever it is I’m doing, lock myself in my room and write.  It starts with the mood I’m in and one chord and everything else just falls into to place.

What’s your favorite thing about the scene in New York City?

Oh god, what is there not to love about this city.  This city has everything to offer someone and more.  I can’t just pick one thing. The culture, the creative artists, the food, the seasons…  I really could go on about this.  So, the best thing I would say, is the opportunity.

What ‘guilty pleasures’ might one be surprised to find on your deserted island playlist?

HAHAHAH…Well this is funny.  Snoop Dogg :)

REBECCA FRAME w/ ESQUELA

Rebecca FrameHow did Esquela come together?

John ‘Chico’ Finn and Keith Christopher have a long history together. And so, when John wanted to start his own band, it only made sense for Keith to be his partner in crime. While recording Esquela’s first album, “The Owl Has Landed”, I was invited to do some backing vocals. Soon thereafter, Chico asked me to take over lead vocals. Todd Russell, a friend of Chico’s from high school, was a perfect fit on drums for the evolving band. Chico asked me if I would be interested in playing mandolin, which would have tricky since I have never played this instrument.  But, my friend Matt had.  So, enter Matt Woodin. At some point it was evident that we would need a fill in guitar player, since Keith was busy with other projects. Enter Ira McIntosh and Brian Shafer. Early on we had some other players from the city, who were great guys, but it just worked out better for it to be upstaters.

How does the song writing process work for you guys? 

Chico gets inspired by either a funny story from a friend, an article he’s read, or a documentary he has seen, and of course life experience and puts a pen to paper. Sometimes, with the help of Keith, he records a rough draft and sends it my way. I usually stick to the melody he had in mind, but I get to play around with it a little. Later the band gets together and fleshes it out.

 

Esquela has a late 60’s vibe, what’s Esquela about to you?

Does it have a 60’s vibe? That’s cool. Esquela is about getting together and being free to create in whatever way we see fit for each song, and have a good time doing it. Maybe that’s how they did it in the 60’s too.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to singing and what do you hope to put across personally?

I guess I just want to do justice to the songs. And try to convey the feel as best I can.  I wouldn’t say I have a philosophy, I just love to sing.

Esquela_cover (2)Where can producer Eric Ambel’s influence be heard most on Are We Rolling? versus the debut, The Owl Has Landed?

I can’t really say anything about the Owl. I just showed up at the studio in Oneonta and laid down the vocals and the rest was up to the fellas.  But with are we rolling it was awesome to work with Eric in a more intimate way. He took more of a directive role. He’s smart and kind of sneaky. hahaha. example: Eric knows that I like to belt out songs, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s a little much. so for take one he would tell me to give it all I got (just like I like to). then for take two he would ask me to take it easier and softer, which was a little challenging for me because that’s not how I usually “attack” a song. I think we ended up using more of the second takes. They sounded better. He was right. But, he was cool about being right. It was a good learning experience for me. Also, we have a lot of guitar players in the band. Brian, Ira, sometimes Matt…..so I think Eric helped sort out the chaos of who would do what when. Honestly, while they were doing their thing I was bullshitting with Chico and Todd, so who knows what REALLY went down.

What was the first record you ever bought and what’s your favorite thing about it today?

The first album I bought was the Body Guard Soundtrack. I mean, Whitney? come on! she is (was) incredible.  her voice can move you in a way that no one else’s can. simply beautiful and strong.

Who are your musical heroes?

Chico. he just goes for it. I wish I has his courage when it comes to sharing his work.  you want a famous hero? too bad. I stick with my decision.

When did you realize you could actually sing?

Hmmm…when I was in grade school, my friend had a recorder and we sat on my living room floor and sang “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna, which is funny because we were soooo young but we were sooo dramatic about it. then we started our make believe band and would use picnic tables as our stage. I guess the dream was there early. but I guess high school was when I found that I actually had some talent for real.

Was there someone early in your life that encouraged you?

I don’t know if encouraged is the right word. influenced works better for me. My father played the piano every night while I was falling asleep, all the women in my family sing, my sister showed me the awesomeness that is classic rock, and also looked the other way when I stole her SWV and En Vogue tapes. My mom would tolerate me playing her Beatles albums over and over…and over again. I had a wonderful teacher in high school who called me ‘songbird’. that’s encouraging….

It’s said singers get better with time; how do you separate the best from the rest? 

I’m not sure if i agree with that totally. i mean, refining your skills, takes work and time, and yes, you get better at it the more comfortable you are with what you are doing. but, when you are starting your musical journey there is so much enthusiasm, and hope, and drive, and passion. and those things can kind of fade. i think what separates the”best” from the rest, are those who can hold onto the passion that they had at the beginning.

DAVE SLOMIN w/ WAITING FOR HENRY

SlominPunchInWhat earlier Mr. Henry record has the most in common with your new project Waiting For Henry, Ghosts & Compromise?

Man, I hope it’s not a cop out to pick two… but I think Ghosts falls somewhere between the first couple of Mr. Henry albums.  It has the grit and new-band-energy of As Good as the Ground, but I feel like it also has the song strength of Jackhammer.

You took a brief-to-longer-than-expected hiatus from playing live, recording and touring until now: does the material and lyrics on the disc tell any part of that story?

Yeah I did and yeah it does.  Story’s in the title song…  “Let’s raise a toast, to everybody’s ghost.”  For me, so much of this album is about coming to terms with the reality that a lot my life is now to be looked back on.  But it’s also about not being scared of the related ghosts – in my case, musical – that won’t disappear.  Doing the ‘band-thing’ once more is really like a born-again experience.  Like I had this phantom muse, packed into the closet with all the backup guitars and broken amps… and somehow it came back to life.  Musicians are like wolfmen… once you’re bitten it’s in you.

Elevator pitch, in one sentence: what’s your favorite thing about how the disc it turned out?

I always feel like a it’s a success if I come up with a recording that sounds like something I would buy myself… and I think I’d buy this one.  Or at least bootleg it.

Why did you record down in Freehold, NJ when you live so close to so many great studio’s in New York? 

Definitely the food.  They have awesome take-out Chinese in Freehold.  No, actually it’s kind of a cool story… for me at least.  We set out trying to work with Josh Jakubowski, who recorded the first Gaslight Anthem album “Sink or Swim”.  It’s the best and best sounding punk album of the past decade.  The tracks are beautiful, but bombastic.  Kinda like The Replacements’ “Tim.”  Anyway, our schedules couldn’t connect, but through the Josh search, we connected with one of his old partners in crime, Joe Dell’Aquila at Exeter Recording in Freehold.  First off, we were blown away by Joe’s sounds and mixes on his website samples.  We knew, even before seeing the studio that he was the guy.  Went in sight unseen and Joe rocked it.  Then, to ice the cake, we thought the whole ‘ghost’ thing of recording in the same town where Springsteen grew up, couldn’t hurt the vibe.  And it didn’t.  Was great.

Man, Hurricane Sandy …..what a nightmare.  Jersey’s known for bad hair and really bad McMansions, but not  hurricanes.  And it wasn’t just Sandy, in the 18 months we were recording down by the Shore we also got hit with Irene.  Thankfully, the studio – and our tracks – survived.  My house just lost some roof, although I have friend whose roof lost its house!

Anyway, a coupla weeks ago, I was with a group doing volunteer clean up work in Lavallette, a town that got mauled, and came up with the idea of turning “Here Comes the Rain” into a video fundraiser.  Working on that now.  We’re gonna donate all the proceeds from related downloads of “Here Comes the Rain” to Restore the Shore related charities.  Hope to have it up on the website this summer.  There’s a lot of folks who still need help and will for a long time.

You have amassed a nice guitar and amp collection over the years, what did you play on the new record?

Yeah, a nice collection of beaters from the guitar shop on the Island of the Misfit Toys.  Main electrics were a ’67 Epiphone Riviera 12-string, run as a six and an old Gibson SG Junior.  They’re always my go-tos, gritty but super warm.  Acoustic was a rebuilt Gibson dinosaur from the 50’s that I adopted from Texas.  Sounds amazing.  Ampwise, the main criminals were an ’82 JCM800, ’65 Fender Vibrolux, a Goodsell and a Samamp.  The Marshall saw the most action, since we were trying to put a big Buffalo Tom guitar sound into an Americana setting.  I think it worked.

Any rules you try to follow when writing a song or are they all ‘works in progress’?

Main rule is, when it comes grab it.  Otherwise you’ll be haunted for years.  Most of the songs on the album were one-shot deals.  Something sparks at 11pm and by 3am there’s a song.  Then there was Here Comes the Rain, which I started 15 years ago and never grabbed it.  Took a recession and Hurricane Irene to reignite the muse and find the lyric on that one.

Is a return to the road or the drive to play events like SXSW again on your radar or ‘in the rear view’? 

Would love to, but you’ll have to talk to my wife about that.

What is your fondest single memory from touring with Mr. Henry?

Too many to pick one.  But up there would be opening for Iggy Pop at Birmingham, AL’s City Stages, playing with Counting Crows at the Beacon in NYC, our first SXSW and of course all those nights humping gear into a motel room at 4am.  Then there was the day we couldn’t get out of the motel parking lot in Jackson, MS, cuz the innkeepers were cooking nan bread on the hot asphalt.

What’s the first record you ever bought and what’s the best cut on it? 

Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  Best cut, definitely “Border Song.”  “Holy Moses, I have been removed.”  It’s the song no one knows.  Have no idea how it made it to his Greatest Hits album, but thank God it did.

What’s the best concert you ever attended and what strikes you most about it now? 

There’s two.  As a kid I got into see The Clash at one of the famous Bond’s Casino shows in NYC.  One of the dates was an all-ages matinée.  Me and my friend Dan pushed our way to the front and were getting crushed against the stage.  The roadies pulled us up before we got killed, and rather than throwing us out, they left us onstage and we got to sing into the mic with Joe Strummer.  Even have one of Joe’s broken guitar strings from that gig.  Was magic.  The other was The Replacements at the old Ritz in NYC in ’85.  Was one of Bob Stinson’s last shows.  I never heard them before that show, but my buddy got tix.  Was totally awestruck.  Left knowing I had just seen the greatest rock band ever.

JESSE BREWSTER

jessetieguitarblazin_nobkWhat is your favorite moment on your last record Wrecking Ball at the Concert Hall?

That’s a tough one. The theme of that record is big sounding Americana tracks countered with heartfelt ballads. I think working on “God Fearin’ Man” was a blast, but there were some really tender moments too, especially on songs like “Sometime” and “Sorry Ain’t Enough”.

You’re taking a new approach to your latest release March of Tracks, it must be liberating in some ways and yet daunting in others?

Man, it’s a departure as far as the process of making a record goes. On the last album much of it was tracked live, with the same 5 people. Now I’m using a multitude of players, studios, engineers and gear, and it’s been incredible. I’ve been hand picking my favorite West Coast players for each song that plays to their individual strengths. Being able to focus 100% on one song at a time is so refreshing. There is the ever present and motivating factor of my own self-imposed deadlines (new song released 1st Tues. of every month) which can be a little stressful. But it’s also a response to the demand for single songs- don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of albums and will make more in the traditional way in the future, but this time I want to get my music out there in the most effective way, and have gotten a great response so far. What was daunting was the idea of starting work on a 12 song album that people wouldn’t be able to hear any of for 6 to 9 months. Ah the world of instant gratification!

How’s it going so far; do you already have the future tracks mapped in order?

Right now I do have a rough order, and am trying to be conscious of the tempo and style of each release. I want to be sure to mix it up and not, for example, release all the big up-tempo stuff up front so that all I’m left with is ballads. The other struggle is that any time I’m recording (and I think many artists would agree with this) I hit a creative stride with new material. So who knows, some of the stuff I’m writing right now could still make the record.

When you start writing a song, what comes first for you?

As a guitarist and sideman for years before I starting performing and touring as a lead singer/songwriter, that’s where things usually begin. I’ll find a progression that inspires me in some way, and 90% of the time the feel leads me to the subject matter. That being said, on occasion I do start with a theme and work from that side.

How do you know when a song is done and ready for recording?

That’s a great question, and something I think a lot of songwriters struggle with. As I’ve self-produced most my songs, I usually have a pretty good idea of when they’re ready to track. For songs that I send out to my players I try to give them a decent demo without getting to specific, because I like to allow people to approach their own parts creatively. But working with a producer is also a great way to finish that last 15% of a song, and something I hope to do more of.

JesseBWhat’s the state of rock & roll in California?

I think there’s a ton of amazing music out there, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I discover new incredible bands who are miles from where I live. So from that standpoint it’s as prominent as ever. From the industry side that’s a different story, I think with the internet era, people are less drawn to genres now than they are to good (sometimes not so good), catchy songs. That’s why every 15 year-old has 1000 songs on their iPhone from 1000 different artists. The way we as artists make out living has also changed, with an emphasis on licensing and placements becoming a more the norm.

Is there anything left of San Francisco of the 60’s?

Yes, and they’re all still performing! Every band who had a hit in the 60’s is still doing it, and they’re drawing all the same folks that came to their shows way back when. The boomers are the demo that can consistently afford to go out and see shows. Overall here though there’s a great collective support system in place of local artists, not as dog-eat-dog as other markets I’ve seen. I think it’s a great place to live and to foster your creativity, but I don’t see much opportunity here. I can’t think of many bands who have gotten really huge coming out of SF since Counting Crows or Train.

What were the first 3 records you ever bought and how do they rank today?

I’m not sure if they were the first 3, but I remember getting vinyl of Bob Marley Live, Willie Nelson and The Eagles.  All of which still measure up pretty strong compared to the music of the last 30 years

When did you start playing guitar and what was the first song you really got into to the point where you owned it?

I had a couple of false starts. At 7 or so I learned a couple chords, then again at 9 I picked it up again and went through a Bob Dylan songbook and learned “Don’t Think Twice”. I had a pretty good foundation when I kicked into higher gear at 12

By an amazing breakthrough in technology, you are to be awarded a role as a rock & roll deity with an expanded life span of 250 years (congrats) but, as a condition, you are forced to choose between electric or acoustic guitar from here on: would you be able to face the anguish?

That would be tough. I think I’d have to go with the acoustic, because that’s where 80% of the songs I write begin. Even the hardest hitting, slamming electric guitar driven tunes were usually started in my dining room on an acoustic. Also then if I’m still alive and kicking after the next major war or calamity, I won’t have to worry about finding a place to plug into in the post-apocalyptic hellscape!  :)

DONALD DUCOTE

url1.0 – Labels aside, the music on Tracks is hard to pin down, is that part of your vibe as a dude?

I don’t think so.  Maybe more now than the years previous.  We started recording Tracks in 2010 and you could take one look at me and figure it out.  Recovering hipster/pothead and you can bet the farm he started off in the suburbs.  Is that what you’re asking?  I have an aloof card that I can play pretty well, and I have, but lately I’ve been trying to shut that down; it’s boring.  I don’t think anybody wants to be easy to pin down.

2.0 – It sounds as if Ancient History has, ironically or not, been a real organic evolution of sorts; how did it come together?

I met Jim Smith, Austin Lemeiux and Paul Johnson while managing a cafe off the Morgan L stop in Brooklyn. They were all regular customers. I got to know Jim because he recorded the final record of my previous band.  He was also roommates with a friend of mine.

Paul lived in my building and we had been wanting to play together for a while.  Once things got situated with Jim he was the first person I called and we worked out the first couple tunes in his living room.

I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but whatever, it’s funny, I asked a co-worker with which customer she would most like to copulate.  She said, “The earl grey guy with all the tattoos that looks fucked up every morning.”  That was Austin and I can’t imagine there being a better-suited lead guitarist for my songs than that guy.  The next time he walked into the coffee shop I asked if he was a musician.  He said that he was a guitar player and he listed Jeff Buckley as his first influence.  We clicked immediately.  The first song we cut was ‘She Gave You the Keys’ in a basement art gallery in Dumbo and it was just the four of us, Jim was behind the board.  I believe we got it in about 3 takes and I remember us listening back and just being very pleased with what everybody was bringing to the table.

3.0 – Is understanding your sound as simple as the mix of your southern roots embracing the indie biosphere of Brooklyn?

I’m not convinced my roots are southern. I think, if anything, it’s the other way around. When I was in 4th grade I had a Garth Brooks tape and a Trisha Yearwood tape, but as soon as Nirvana showed up I was out.  I’ve always appreciated a sturdy song and I’ve always respected country music for being such loyalists to songcraft, even at the expense of any significant experimentation, but I think for me it’s always been the songcraftier end of my indie influences embracing whatever genre has a documentary streaming on Netflix.

4.0 – How did you approach the recording process for Tracks?

I had recorded with Jim Smith on my last project and he approached me about wanting to record some songs without a full band.  We put our heads together and decided to buy an old tape machine and record another record.  We didn’t want a clock ticking over our head and we didn’t want to record in a sterile studio environment.  That was it really.  We were going for natural reverb and mic placement.  We wanted to use tape and we wanted it to be warm and ambient.  We didn’t want a band album. We made a rule that we couldn’t use a drum kit and we wanted to focus our energy on a song by song basis.

Jim found the machine he wanted and he drove it from Detroit to NYC and we just hacked away at it whenever we could.  It took about two years.  I can’t tell you how important Jim was to this record. He’s amazing at what he does and because of it he is very busy, so there were long stretches between sessions, months at a time, to prep the songs and figure out over-dubs.

AncientHistory5.0 – As trippy as it gets at times, the tradition of story telling seems an important feature to your stuff; to what other artist, or artists, might you attribute the influence?

Storytelling is something that comes very naturally to me.  Anybody that knows me will tell you that I love a good story.  As a musician I’ve sometimes felt that I should’ve spent more energy trying to repress the urge to over-indulge my personal experiences but still, love and heartbreak are not topics that I write about very often. On the three records before TRACKS there are probably only 4 or 5 songs between them that are about romantic relationships. When it came time to write for this record I just said, “Fuck it.  Here’s all the shit I’ve been saving.”  Not sure I’ll ever endorse such straight-ahead narrative ever again, not because I think the record suffered for it, but because nothing I have left to purge is anything that anyone wants to hear about. Regarding influences, I’ve always been drawn to the more subtle characters of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith. I like songs that can capture ordinary moments and infuse them with something unordinary, but at the same time Pedro the Lion’s Control and Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker are two desert island records for me.  I don’t know, I have an undying admiration for Jeff Mangum and the words he writes. Lyrically speaking, I would like to adopt a more abstract state of mind going forward.

6.0 – What tunes on the disc are you digging most now that it’s done?

Hmm.  I love four-leafed.  It’s a song that had been brewing a very, very long time.  My buddy PJ (Michael Poulton) played lead for the first half of the song.  I recorded him in my bedroom in the middle of the night.  I remember we were drunk and he was playing slide with a beer bottle.  It’s one of the few songs that isn’t about a female.  And it’s fun to play.  Clover Honey is a sentimental favorite.  I love Austin’s guitar on that one, when it hits the high note halfway through.  He nailed it in one take.  We were working on Subway Dream and I remember telling Jim that I didn’t want lead guitar on the song.  He said ok, then Austin gave me some weed and I went to smoke in the hall.  When I came back Jim and Austin had finished Austin’s guitar part: that warm, burning distortion that just rolls through the song until it spikes into the breakdown.  Jim just smiled at me.  It took them five minutes and it made the song.

7.0 – How do songs come to you: more as ideas or feelings that lead to ideas?

Lyrics are always last.  Melody happens when it happens.  The riff is always first, the progression, the picking pattern, whatever.  The initial musical idea is what puts the key into the ignition.  To turn the engine you’ve got to grab that change, that switch from verse to chorus or chorus to bridge or whatever.  That’s what excites me.  Great changes.  When it comes to lyrics, I draw from the past, which is something I hate about myself.  I wish I could lose the documentarian in me and endorse a sense of fiction, but I find it very difficult to separate myself from what I’m writing, especially if I’m gonna be asked to sing the words over and over again.  I’m still trying though.

8.0 – What was your favorite 3 records in high school?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is not a very culturally diverse place.  If you were in your early teens in the late nineties in Phoenix you didn’t have a lot of access to underground music.  Thankfully, there were a few people that knew how to find it and they ended up saving me my junior and senior year, but early high school was alot of Weezer.  Pinkerton changed my life.  Other than that my buddies and I listened to whatever radio hits we heard on the bus ride to school.

I was working as a prep cook in Scottsdale when I was 16 and one of the line cooks gave me Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  It took me a while to absorb Modest Mouse but Jimmy Eat Word, being from Phoenix, was instant love.   They were a favorite for sure.  Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel were all bands that I listened to in high school but they didn’t really do their damage until I left home.  I remember the line cook saying that he listened to ’emo’ music.  That was in 1998 and I had never heard the word ’emo’ before.  It sounded exotic!  It opened my eyes and got me searching for music, as opposed to just buying whatever I heard on the radio.

So yeah, my favorites in high school were Weezer’s Pinkerton, Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and probably the second Weakerthans LP.  A buddy introduced me to Left and Leaving right when it dropped and for years it never left my side.  My first week of college was 9/11 and I remember being in my car driving to community college when the first tower fell, and ‘Everything Must Go!’ was on the stereo.  Since then ‘Left and Leaving’ has always reminded me of good ol’ high school and pre-9/11 America.

9.0 – What was the first concert you ever attended? did it leave any lasting impression on you today?

I wish I had scalped my tickets.  My second concert was Rancid opening for Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins and I wish that was my first concert.  My first show was important though.

Earlier I talked about my love for songs with good musical changes; the first concert I ever went to was Cheap Trick opening for Meatloaf at what used to be America West Arena in Phoenix.  I’m not sure I’ve ever said this out loud, but I remember watching Cheap Trick play ‘The Flame’ and I remember the changes in that song blowing my mind. First when he breaks into the ‘i’m going crazy/losing sleep’ part, then the way it pounds into the ‘wherever you go’ part.  I fucking loved it.

As you can probably guess, I’m a sucker for ballads.  “The Flame” really got me, the way the parts worked together to form these really heavy moments.  Those are the moments I look for in music.  Those are the moments I want to create because those are the moments that can change the way a person feels.

10.0 – If you were Grammy level stars what you tour stage design look like? 

Whoa. No clue. But pyrotechnics for sure.

PAUL BOLGER w/ MR. BLOTTO

MRB hi rez cropped1.0 – It’s quite an amazing accomplishment to be a leading live act in Chicago for 22 years now, what’s the secret to getting along well enough to stick together?

It’s definitely a trick keeping it together. The biggest part is that the members all have to share a dream. That way no matter what you are up against, it’s still worth it. It’s still worth fighting for. It’s us against all comers. Getting along is easy because even if you are arguing or pissed or disappointed and blaming each other etc, that moment comes when you hit the note and have a great live show or write a new song and you’re all back in. That’s the payoff, the battery re-charger. As long as we are creating, we hit a re-do or reset many times a month.

2.0 – A big part of your success has been your shrewd booking acumen and relationships with promoters, how has the festival scene changed over the years? 

Chicago is a easy hang. People here are very unpretentious including promoters (for the most part). So you don’t have to cow tow to them or “work” them, you can just be yourself and let it happen. We as a band are fairly organized so I think we had an advantage in that promoters knew early on that if we were headlining the gig, it would go off on time and with no glitches. The way the fest scene has changed is that it used to be a neighborhood contracted a promoter, gave them a budget and left it up to them. as a result you got great regional bands that weren’t the same at every fest. Now you have neighborhood committees all sitting in a room and all 7 people are starting their sentences with…”well i think we ought to……” So they all know off the same couple bands and that’s it. Better to have a promoter who knows hundreds of bands and chooses them according to the vibe the neighborhood wants. Also there was more nudity back in the day.

3.0 – What’s on tap for Blottopia 2013? 

Blottopia has become a phenomenon and we ride it like a crazy bull that our hand is cinched to with a rope. It’s the most fun weekend of the year and it’s always a surprise in one way or another. We always encore Saturday night with a surprise album so that’s really fun to do. Look for it the last weekend of July.

4.0 – When do discussions of the choice for encore begin and have you ever had to filibuster to get your way?

A filibuster won’t work in a band. If you win, it’s like convincing an unwilling lover. Not as fun as you had hoped. Music is very dependent on the vibe so you can’t destroy the vibe to get your way, and then hope it’s going to be magic. It’s like winning the battle but losing the war. We don’t always have a setlist and rarely call the encore until we’re in it.

5.0 – Any plans to record new material for a studio release, or is Mr. Blotto now a strictly live proposition?

We are mixing down our 6th album right now. It’ll be out by summer. And we should have done it long ago. It’s just such a pain in the ass to do. But we have sworn to each other to do an album a year from here on out.

6.0 – Of your personal gear, what is your favorite acoustic guitar and do you play it live? 

I’m fairly monogamous when it comes to my instruments. I have several acoustic and electrics. For 15 years I played a Martin Shenandoah with maple back and sides. It finally gave up the ghost and lost it’s tone. I now play my Martin D35 which I love love love. It was my spare before and now it’s my main axe. I use a Highlander pickup under the saddle.

B13 wide stage7.0 – As with your line-up, Mr. Blotto’s esteemed and well traveled PA system has evolved over the years: is it approaching perfection yet?

It’s virtually the same. We’ve only had to replace about a half dozen speakers in 20 years! It’s because Bob Georges designed it to have more headroom and power than it would ever need to use so the system is never stressed. It’s become a part of the band. We play it like it’s an instrument.

8.0 – What advice do you give to young musicians looking to make a living at playing music?

James Taylor said “play everyday and keep your overhead low”. That’s great advice. We haven’t kept our overhead particularly low but we all play all the time. I tell young cats to get their promotional ideas together and treat them with the same importance as the music. They aren’t as important as the music but they think they are. You need a place to gig. You need an audience. You need exposure. If that all works, then you can play music for a living. It’s a different promo game now. We had a 6000 name mailing list that we labelled and mailed once a month. That’s like the dark ages now but we did it because we wanted this life. Now there is a wide open field for promo that is just being discovered and actualized. It’s ideal for the creative minds that are in bands.

9.0 – What was the first record you bought as a kid and are you still listening to vinyl?  The first album I ever bought was Brick “Good High” because of the song “Dazz”. The rest of the album sucked! So I began buying 45’s from that moment on, with some exceptions. The first 45 I bought was “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. Ha! That’s a little embarrassing. I still listen to vinyl and have about 4 crates and a Luxman. It sounds great through my Infinity RS6000 speakers (geeking out now sorry).

10.0 – If Jimi Hendrix miraculously appeared next to you on stage, what Blotto stand by would you launch into to bring Jimi back to life for one more extended jam?

I would love to hear Jimi go to town on something like “1977” or “Rattle My Cage”. He would just take off into the blues stratosphere. I just hope at the end he doesn’t trash all our gear. Maybe he could just hump a feedback drenched screaming amp which 9 months later would give birth to a full blown whopper of an hallucination that would explode into a rainbow of flowers and guitar picks… but then again we don’t need another mouth to feed. Got to keep that overhead low.

DAHLIA FATALE

SONY DSCWhen did you begin performing live?  I can’t really remember a time in my life when I was not performing. I was introduced the stage as a ballerina when I was 3, and it has been a love affair ever since. I began publicly  performing burlesque in the summer of 2010 with the Urban Bombshells Burlesque Show in Seattle, Washington.
 
How did you chose your stage name?  Research, research, research. I sat down and defined the qualities I wanted in a name. It was important for it to be memorable, easy to say and feminine without being too clean. I spent lots of time looking at name books and historical figures while Googling my potential identities to make sure they were not already in use. Finally I took a spin of my former pin-up name The Lady Fatal and added a flower with a less than bright connotation in modern society the ‘Dahlia’.
 
How would you describe the burlesque audience? A rowdy mixture. It varies show to show from people who have never seen burlesque before and are just curious to the super-fans who can be seen at every event to the occasional observer. In general it’s just people looking to have a good time with some fantastically different entertainment.
 

Who is your favorite all-time burlesque artist?  Midnight Martini from Colorado. Her movement is so engaging and sexy while still being silly and incredibly creative.

 
Do you have to be into rockabilly to be a burlesque dancer?  Definitely not. While many performers are fans of rockabilly, there are also performers who are strictly metal listeners, some punks, some dub-step fans, rock and rollers and many eclectic individuals. Rockabilly is an important side of the burlesque world, but it is not the only one.
 
Music is a big part of the presentation: what tunes do you like to perform to?  Every act that I do picks its own song. I do a lot of dance focused choreography, and my acts vary from super serious and contorted to fun-loving and free. Probably my three favorite songs I have acts to are I Believe In A Thing Called Love- The Darkness, Idlewild Blue- Outcast, and Ice Ice Baby- Vanilla Ice.
 
What’s the nexus between what you do and punk?  The nexus lies in the DIY spirit and creativity. Both burlesquers and punks frequently design their own costuming, create their own art, and aren’t afraid of offending their audience or causing some out-of-bounds thought. Although I do think the punk communities would agree that we should keep the glitter and sequins on the burlesque side.
 
What was your favorite band growing up?  The Clash. I have been rocking out to “Straight To Hell” since I can remember.
 
What are you listening to today?  Literally everything. Over the course of yesterday I listened to Missy Elliot, James Brown, Prince, Streetlight Manifesto, Bad Brains, Muddy Waters and Fantomas. I find that the more music I listen to the more styles of music I have to pull from for new acts.
 
Where would you go if you could time travel?  100 years in the future….just to see what kinds of fabulous costuming and music we have yet to come up with!

SUGAR BLUE

cd_sugarblueportraitWhat’s the first song you recall moving you as a kid?  The first song that I remember moving me was a tune by Lester Young called ‘PC Blues’, I heard it at home on my mothers HiFi. When she saw that I liked it she put on a tune by Lionel Hampton called ‘Flying Home’, from that moment I knew I wanted to play music!
How did the harmonica become your musical weapon of choice when so many others were picking up a guitar instead?  My aunt gave me a harmonica when I was about 12 or 13 years old and I loved it from the first. It was a friend that succored me in times of strife and a joy in happier times. It seemed that everybody and their brothers were playing guitar in the sixties, I wanted an instrument that was melodious and full of the warmth that only the breath can bring to the music. Harmonica is like the voice in that it can bring the pathos and passion to a piece of music like no other instrument can, it can set a mood so beautifully.
 
You have your own voice on the harp, was that something that came easy early on for you or did you have to work to develop it?  When I began to play I wanted to sound just like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Rice Miller but I was also very much moved by cats like Miles Davis, Lester Young, BB King and Charlie Christian. It seemed to me that the thing these players had in common was a mellifluous fluidity combined with a meticulous sense of time and gifted phrasing. I have tried to emulate and not imitate these masters. A great drummer, Michael Silva ( band leader for Sammy Davis Jr. )  told me that If you don’t sound like yourself you bring little or nothing to the table and you won’t get invited to dinner a second time!
Is there a simple, helpful trick to playing harp that first timers miss when attempting to play it for the first time?  The only ‘trick’ for lack of another word that is useful in learning to play harmonica or any other instrument is to listen to the masters, memorize, internalize, recreate and…. listen, listen, listen! Practice creatively, play passionately and if the music is in you it will come out.
Do you find yourself adding harp to everything you hear and, like cowbell, should there be more of it?  There are some tunes that need harp and some tunes that need more harp….than cowbell!
Of all the records you have played on or released yourself, what tracks or performances are you most proud of today?  I enjoyed playing on Mr. Willie Dixon’s Hidden Charm‘s recordings very much, the recordings with the Stones, Dylan, Brownie McGhee, Stan Getz, Hiram Bullock, Lonnie Brooks, Son Seals… As for my own recordings, I am very partial to a CD I cut that’s distributed by Alligator Records called In Your Eyes, I think that there are some great tunes there that are cutting edge still today though they were written and tracked in the 90’s. Code Blue is one of my more recent efforts and the material on it has been critiqued as classic from the first track to the last. I also like very much Threshold and Raw Sugar. If you have an inquisitive ear and progressive taste you will enjoy the aural journey these recordings will take you on and I believe you will enjoy the trip! I didn’t mention Blue Blazes above because it includes mostly cover tunes but I do like it as well.

When you think about the long history of the blues, do you have a favorite decade in terms of releases?  I love this music called The Blues, from Charlie Patton to Charlie Parker, from Miles Davis to Muddy Waters and all that came of the nameless progenitors that were before them and all that will come after. Because it is the history and voice of Black American art and experience which I am exceedingly proud and privileged to be a continuation of. I think that Willie Dixon may have said it best, “The Blues are the roots and the rest of the music are the fruits.” From The Blues to Jazz, through Rock to Reggae, from fusion to hip hop and music around the world that has been sired and inspired by those three supposedly simple chords, I love the Blues, every facet, every movement and every moment. It is the sound of the soul and spirit of my people.

Did the advent of funk and then disco in the 70’s have an influence on you or the Chicago blues scene overall?  Disco ain’t nothin’ but a shuffle turned inside out baby and we have Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie to thank for that, one of the great drummers of our times! Funk was around and being played a long time before it was called funk, a recombinant of jazz and blues with an urban swagger, struttin’ and cuttin’ like a straight razor!
SB%20&%20Keith%20RichardsHow did your relationship with the Stones come about when Mick Jagger was already considered a bitchin’ harp player in his own right?   In actuality I met the Stones indirectly through a recording I did with Louisiana Red called ‘Red, Funk and Blue’ that Keith Richards had heard a year or two before the Some Girls sessions in Paris. Keith told me that I was the most precise and skillful harp player he’d heard on record in recent times, so when we were introduced in Paris he’d already heard me play. When we hit in the studio the music flowed like a river in one take and it was in the groove , the rest is rock and roll history as they say!
If you could hop in a time machine to any day in your life, where might you revisit as a fly on the wall to relive a memory?  I would revisit the day at the Salle Playel theatre in Paris, France where Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald were playing. They invited me to join them on stage to play C Jam Blues with them, it was the one day in my musical life that I didn’t bring an instrument with me! I always, always carry an instrument with me now no matter where I go!!!.
Please visit Sugar online at www.Sugar-Blue.com

FRED STUCKY

FredStucky1.0 – What is it about rock & roll that makes people feel good?

For me its the feeling I got when I heard Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side” on the radio when i was a boy has never really gone away. It made me love rock so much. I was probably 8 or 9. The song was so exotic. Such a trip far from my world. I was so hooked on this thing that came out of the radio. “Jumpin Jack Flash” on an AM transistor radio in Philly in the early 70’s was pretty magical.

So its escape and energy and fantasy and freedom for 3-6 minutes when tuned in. That feeling is hard to beat.

2.0 – How did you catch the roots bug?
As a kid. I heard Jerry Reed singing “Amos Moses” on the school bus for a few months. The song just pulled me in.  A little later “Tumbling Dice” was a hit. I knew I loved these songs and tones. The way they melded country and blues and their souls all together. It was clear to me they had something, some magic,  that no one I knew had. I wanted it.  It took a while but I melded them all to my satisfaction.

Also–In the early to mid 70’s all I listened to in my fathers old Jeep were 8 track tapes of, Willie Nelson live, Ernest Tubb, Charley Pride, And Hank Williams.

3.0 – Is there an artist that sets the barometer for you today?

Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and the mid period Rolling Stones

They wrote songs so honestly.  “Swinging Doors” what a brutal song. “Black Rose” is hard to top. “Let It bleed” is an amazing release as is “Beggars Banquet”.

The Stones from that 69-73 period is hard to get around. I think all of my songs have a taste of “Torn and Frayed” in them.

4.0 – Your new GAS MONEY disc Untethered is incredibly authentic, is that function of maturity now as a band?

Thank you.

I think just did not care how honest and sincere I was. It was my goal to get it right like Merle Haggard done on his classics. Every song is a true story on Untethered. With that it was easy to to be free to let the songs come to life.

I was also very tuned into the detail of the pedal steel and acoustic guitars. The levels and accents of both made it sound the way it does. All of this comes with getting older and being more patient and relaxed.

Many things on this recording were done on the spot in the studio. It was very organic you might say. And with that I let go and let people do what they do best. Very rewarding.

Untethered5.0 – What did it take to get the sound you were looking for on the record?

I knew it in my head.

I had a clear vision of what it was I wanted and but at the same time it was not letting that idea take control. The Stones song “Let It Bleed” and that LP  was the basis for the entire release production wise. The instrument selection along the way was fun too. Some of my old guitars & mandolins & banjo’s would just step right up and say this song is my song.  I then focused on the acoustic track and the snare.

6.0 – What took so long for the sophomore effort to the debut, 22 Dollars?

I had a family. My Son was born right after 22 Dollars came out. We had a daughter two years later. So life was busy for me just that simple. In  2011 we moved from an old stone house built in 1926 to a new townhouse.  No house maintenance and the kids being older was a real treat. The songs just poured out that summer.

7.0 – What’s your attitude when it comes to your gear live and/or in the studio?

Simplicity and tone.

My live gear is very basic. 59′ Grestch 6120, 58′ Fender tweed deluxe amp and a early 70’s Echoplex. That’s it.

The studio is a real treat. I have been collecting vintage instruments since the mid 80’s when I was in college. Nothing is more fun than bringing these old guitars, mandolins, banjos, steels and amps to life. I want them all to be used and to sing. Let the instruments do their job. I’m just strumming.

8.0 – How does a song usually start for you, with a riff? a title? a progression?

Typically its a title or a key line in a song and I build on that. The song “Every Empty Bottle” was originally called “Reinvent The Feel”. I came up with that line one night in my garage and wrote it on the side of a box with a sharpie pen. I looked up at that box for over a year. Then I used the phrase in the song. The idea of reinventing a feel stuck with me. The song wrote itself after that.

“High water” was written during the hurricane we had in august of 2011. The amount of rain was used as a parallel to a past romance I had. The song just spun naturally out with using the vision of a big flood and a tough breakup. The riff was much more rock as I was using barre chords. I changed the feel using the first position voicing.

9.0 – Is it true rockabilly is a way of life where, if you don’t buy in full-on, you are an outsider?

I have always been somewhat of an outsider with the rockabilly scene. Gas Money was described once as The Replacements of Rockabilly“. We have never really been embraced as a rockabilly band per se. Nor did I want to be.  We play lots of rockabilly but there was something a little wrong about the way we played it in the 90’s.

I have a deep love for rockabilly and I always will. The shit that comes along with the music however is somewhat silly. I have had an odd relationship with the genre for a long time. The music is magic but the scene surrounding it makes me a bit uneasy. Those big rockabilly shows are like Halloween parties.

Playing live now however we do three sets of classic honky tonk and rockabilly. The bars and clubs we play are interested in dancing and drinking not original music. We don’t get paid playing our tunes. The classics are really fun and ya know who else in Philly is playing George Jones “You’re Still On My Mind” with a pedal steel player on a sat night. No one. I think in a way it helped my song writing with playing classic honky tonk songs.

10.0 – Is it possible that certain guitars may contain magical properties?

It is true. I have a few pre-war Gibson flat tops,  50’s Gretsch hollow-bodies as well as some pre-war Gibson mandolins and banjos. Each one really is unique and has its own voice and character. As a player I can pick up a guitar at a friends house or at a vintage guitar show and just “feel” it.  Especially the pre-war mandolins and banjos. They want to talk and just don’t get out like they used to. yeah old wood is magic without a doubt. It’s intoxicating if you get hooked on it.

JOANNA CONNOR

JoannaConnor1.0 – As a kid, was it the blues or rock & roll that grabbed your attention?

The first record I remember vividly was Louis Armstrong singing “Hello Dolly”… I can still remember trying to sing like him.  It was a hit on the radio.  The craziest thing is that I did the math and realized I was 2!  The first two albums to grab me between the ages of 4 and 7 were Taj Mahal’s Giant Step/The Ole Folks at Home and Sgt. Peppers.  I also loved Beethoven, Fiddler On The Roof, and James Brown.  Later came Hendrix, Zep the Rolling Stones. I saw Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells when I was 10 in 1972… . It blew me away.

2.0 – What was the first record you ever bought and how did it make you feel?

I don’t remember the first record I bought. I was poor growing up.  I remember the first one I stole… a 45 of Billy Preston… Nothing From Nothing… Ha! I loved the radio then. I loved soul and funk and Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell and jimmy Cliff and all kind of stuff.  Music was my escape, my world.  I spent hours every day dancing, singing, and playing air guitar in front of my parent’s Zenith stereo.

3.0 – What was your first guitar and do you still have it ?

My mom bought me a Sears classical guitar when I was 7.  I asked for ballet lessons. She gave me guitar lessons. Lord knows what happened to it.

4.0 – What was the first actual blues lead lick you learned, from what song?

I took blues guitar lessons from an amazing guy in Worcester named Ron Johnson when I was 14.  I played acoustic.  He turned me on to the early delta, piedmont, ragtime and slide stuff.  I think the first blues lick I learned was a Mississippi John Hurt tune.

5.0 – What’s the blues scene like today in Chicago versus when you originally moved here?

The blues scene now is still jamming in terms of the clubs being packed and bands performing but it is a pale 3rd string version of when I first moved here talent and skill wise.

6.0 – As a blue guitarist, are there still classic ‘showdowns’ that determine a pegging order among and between the players?

It’s a boys club. It’s like high school. The cool table in the cafe.  They are all peacocks.  The king in my opinion right now is Carl Weathersby.  There are always battles here.  Each guy thinks they are the champ!

7.0 – How do you retain vitality playing a form of music that is nearly a hundred years old, if not older?

I always played the blues in my own way when I went on my own, mixing all of my influences in what I did. I was never a purist. It always stays fresh for me that way.

JoannaConner8.0 – Which release of yours do you feel is most representative of what you are all about?

Big Girl Blues.

9.0 – Do you enjoy writing lyrics and titles or is that ‘work’ part of the song writing equation?

I almost always  hear the groove first. With Big Girl Blues I wrote the words first.  My second love in life is literature.  I have been a huge reader my whole life. I have written a lot of poetry. I find song writing a chore however and only write for projects… I don’t know why.

10.0 – What gets you off more live: when you know you are singing really well or playing guitar at your best?

Playing the guitar is my passion. It takes me out of myself and also drives me into my soul.  Singing can be cathartic but I have to sing 4 to 5 hours a night and it is physically very taxing, and more of a chore.

See Joanna Connor’s 2013 tour schedule at SongKick

GREG KIHN

ImageIs there an album or song that got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid? 

Yes, I remember hearing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis on the Juke Box at YMCA summer camp and I noticed all the girls loved it.  Later, when I got a guitar and started to learn folk songs I saw the effect guitars had on girls.  By the time the Beatles came along I already knew the basic chords.  I was too shy to meet girls any other way.  But music turned out to be the best way.  As far as an album that shaped my life I would have to say “Freewheelin’” by Bob Dylan because it got my whole generation writing songs.  As far as life-shaping events go, I’d guess I’d have to say seeing the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan.  It blew my mind, it blew all our minds.  You had to be there.

What was the first complete tune you learned to play and sing at the same time?

That would be “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio.  I can still remember how proud I was to get up on stage at a coffee house and play it.  I learned the 3 basic chords of life and I found out later it fit 90% of all the songs on the radio.

With the revival of Americana and roots music is it difficult to resist the temptation to return to your folk roots and put out KIHN FOLK?

Oh, you wicked, wicked man.  The “Kihn” puns just won’t die!  The only times I didn’t use the “KIHN” puns for GKB album titles- “Glass House Rock” and “With the Naked Eye” both albums stiffed, so we went right back to the KIHN formula for success.  I try to hide ‘em, but my folk roots stand out like Nicki Minaj’s hair color.

How did you get your first break in the music biz, or was it a confluence of events?

Matt Kaufman and Allan Mason were two law students in Baltimore when I was still in high school playing gigs at local coffee houses with names like “The Foghorn” and the “Crack of Doom.”  Allan later invited me out to California and let me crash on his floor.  Allan wound up working for A&M Records and Matthew started Beserkley Records.  When I first came to California I used to play on Telegraph Ave for spare change.  I did pretty good, too!  About 40$ a day!

What is, hands down, your favorite Greg Kihn record and why?

My all time favorite Greg Kihn song is The Breakup Song because it’s always fun to play, has a great guitar riff, and the lyrics “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh translate into every known language.  That’s why today I can walk down the street in, say, Lithuania or Tasmania and people will point at me and shout, “There goes that uh-uh guy!” 

You have found a new home today on radio in San Francisco; is it strange being on the other end of the mic or was radio always something you could see yourself doing?

You know, my ego is so freakin’ huge I don’t care which side of the mic I’m on, as long as the mic is ON!  Radio is a wonderful way to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people every hour.  I love it!  Plus I can do the show in my underpants and nobody would ever know!  They can’t see me!

If you had a classic fake radio DJ name what would it be? any suggestions?

When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, DJ’s had names like Fat Daddy and Commander Hot Rod.  Maybe I should change my on-air name to Beef Jerky or Greasy Cheeks or Dash Riprock.

As a horror writer now with several acclaimed books out, have you ever considered writing tunes to accompany your novels on the expanding digital landscape or in your audio books?

Actually I started out trying to do just that.  The result was the “Horror Show” CD in 1997.  It was supposed to serve as the soundtrack for the novel “Horror Show” and possibly a movie score but I only got 2 songs finished before I drifted off in another direction.  The 2 songs were “Horror Show” which you can see on You Tube, and “Vampira” which has no video.  Eventually I’ll make the movie of “Horror Show” and write the rest of the soundtrack.  By the way, let me be the first to announce the release of my new novel RUBBER SOUL published by Premier Digital Publishing in the spring of 2013.  It takes place in Liverpool in the early 60’s and has the Beatles as the main characters in a murder mystery.  It follows their meteoric rise to fame and culminates with assassination attempts in Manila in 1966 after snubbing the Marcos Family.  As far as I know it’s the first historically accurate truly fictional BEATLES NOVEL.  I hope you check it out when it’s released in early 2013.  I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve read before.

ImageWhat are your fondest memories from touring with the Rolling Stones?

Hanging out backstage with the Stones.  Mick was very nice and gave me packs of cigarettes (Marlboro Box) whenever I asked, but the guy I most enjoyed talking with was Charlie.  He is a very interesting man- knows about history and is an expert of the Civil War believe it or not.  He’s got jazz roots.  Keith and Ron just played guitars and never said much.  Bill Graham introduced me and that did the trick.  I was one of the inner sanctum after that.  I’m sure Jerry Hall, Mick’s wife at the time, was checking me out.  Or maybe it was the drugs…  I’ve forgotten.  I’ll never forget the rush of walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people!

What are Greg Kihn’s “Ten Commandments of Touring”? 

1.    Never get separated from the band in a foreign country.

2.    Never leave the hotel with a chick who says she’ll take you to the airport in the morning.

3.    Never drink in the hotel bar alone, nothing good can happen.

4.    You’re better off smoking a joint alone in your room and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island than going to a local club with some chicks you just met.

5.    When singing the National Anthem, start low and sing fast.

6.    Never drink from the mini-bar in your room.

7.    Never poop in the lavatory on the tour bus, peeing is OK, but defecation is not welcome.

8.    Never drink the other band’s beer, steal their women, or smoke their stash, it’s bad karma.

9.    Always treat the roadies with respect; they can really make you look bad if they want.  Remember, they have their own secret credo from which they never vary- (I’ll tell you but don’t say you heard it from me.)  The Roadie’s Credo- “If it’s wet, drink it, if it’s dry, smoke it, if it moves fuck it, if it doesn’t move, put it in the truck.”

10.  Pace yourself, it’s a long tour.

Visit Greg online at GregKihn.com

SCOT COOGAN w/ACE FREHLEY

ScotCooganWhen did your love affair with the drums start?

I was about 5 years old, went to my Uncle Frank’s house and saw a real drum kit set up. The Beatles “White Album” was on, guess I didn’t see any sticks around, so I picked up a Barbie Doll Leg and a Lincoln Log. I started hitting the drums in time with the music, after that, all I wanted to do was play drums!

What was your first full kit? 

When I  was 11 yrs old, my dad bought me a used mid 70’s Butcher Block Maple Ludwig Kit. I still have the kit, it’s very sentimental to me. I use it for recording sometimes. It’s in mint condition.

Which band was ‘the one” for you growing up, or were there many? 

Hands down, The Beatles.

What’s it like playing now with someone like Lita Ford versus say Sinead O’Connor?

Besides hairstyle, nothing compares to… lol. Ok, seriously, they each have a completely different approach and style to their music. Sinead is a melodic pop artist, Lita Ford is the Queen of Metal, her tracks are more guitar driven. Interestingly enough, I performed with both artists during a time in their careers when they were making a come back of sorts. Sinead’s “Faith and Courage” was her first original release in three years. Lita’s latest effort “Living Like a Runaway” is a return to her rock and roll roots. Both women are very empowered by their music. They both pour their heart and soul into their songs and performances. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with each of them.

How did your gig with Ace Frehley come about and what was your favorite part about working with him? 

I flew to New York for the audition with Ace 2007 and he offered me the job immediately. Besides having the opportunity to perform and interact on a regular basis with one of my childhood hero’s, I would say singing lead vocals while playing drums for a good part of the set list was my favorite part of the gig.

Drummer jokes aside, do you have an overall philosophy that you bring to the table as a musician?

Yes, music for me is about feel, emotion and personality. Whether I am writing music on  a piano or an acoustic guitar, I find that creating a melody, which moves over chord changes, while establishing a proper drum groove is the foundation for a song.

SCOTDRUMSVOCALSDo you have a pre-show ritual to get you in the right frame of mind for a show?

Before a show I stretch, warm up by doing rudiments on practice pad, perform vocal exercises and drink hot throat coat tea with honey.

“Moby Dick” aside, what are the three hardest Led Zep tunes to get on drums?

I would say these are the most challenging:

1. “D’yer Mak’er” because there is no consistent or repeating pattern.

2. “The Crunge” because it’s one of a few Zeppelin songs that changes from an odd meter, 9/8 to 4/4 time.

3. “Fool In The Rain” because it’s one of Bonzo’s sickest shuffle drum grooves next to Bernard Purdie and Jeff Pocaro.

What advice would you give to a younger player joining a veteran touring act?

It’s a great opportunity to work with veteran artists, you can learn a lot by LISTENING and use this experience to further your career. Have a positive attitude, perform your best at each show, be respectful of space on the tour bus and BE ON TIME.

You are given one free time-travel-ticket to any concert in history, what are your coordinates Scot?

January 26, 1969 Led Zeppelin at the Boston Tea Party in Boston, Mass. It was the last of four nights at the venue. They only had an hour and a half of music to play, but they performed four and a half hours. They played their set twice and then did music by The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Epic Concert!

Visit Scot online at, you guessed it, ScotCoogan.com or say hello on Facebook

PHIL ANGOTTI

phil_angotti-people_and_places1.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the new disc People And Places ?

The fact that I think it’s my best work yet and that each song has its’ own sound to it. I used 4 different drummers, and that makes a difference to the basic feel of the songs.

2.0 – So it’s not true you play all the instruments on it?

No…I do almost all of the guitars and singing. I love over-dubbing guitars and vocals! I played bass on 2 songs, and some percussion.
I play 3 different ukuleles on the song “Whatever Happened” and bass. Joel Patterson played pedal steel on “Same Ol We”
Jacky Dustin from the August sang harmony on that song. The drummers are Brad Elvis, Mike Zelenko, Jim Barclay and Tommi Zender. Carolyn Engelmann played piano and she sang on some backrounds with me. Chuck Bontrager played violin and violas – Martha Larson played cello on “My Old Records”.

3.0 – Are all the tracks new or some oldies looking for their 5 minutes?

These songs were all new songs written for this record, except for “Broken baby Doll House”– that one was around for awhile, 2 songs were written as I was wrapping the album up: the last song “Parting For Awhile” was a tribute to my dear friend Carlos Hernandez-Gomez ,who had recently passed away from cancer, He was a Political reporter for CLTV and a huge music fan. I also wrote “National 36” days before we recorded that – we barely knew it when we went in to do it-its a simple rocker so I like that its a bit loose.

4.0 – Did you have a sound in mind before you began recording or did it evolve?

I intended each track to sound different than the next- using different instruments and overall approach to the sound – I wanted this to stand out from my previous records. Its natural to fall into a comfort zone, and to stay with what you do best – or to keep “your sound’ going – I wanted to change that, and I think I succeeded.

5.0 – There are some cinematic feeling pop passages as per usual but also some Nashville twang creeping in too, yeah?

I have come a long way as a musician – and i did try to show that off a bit. The Nashville thing has always been a part of me, I grew up listening to country music, I just never really incorporated it in my own songs-so I really went for it with ‘Same Ol We”  Even the lyrics are country-like, and having Joel on pedal steel and Jacky on harmony vocals really pushed it all the way.  As for cinematic- I did a cd years ago called ‘Juliet Foster” which followed story-line (I called it a film soundtrack, though there wasnt a film) so I do write that way at times.  The songs “Whatever happened To” and “Sorry About the Accordian Jill” sound like movie songs, and I wanted it that way. They are also the 2 songs on the album without drums.

6.0 – What do you find most rewarding these days: writing, singing, or playing live?

I’d say singing first –  because though I always had a certain sound  ( poppy-and from the Beatle/60’s school) I never recorded with much soul and recklessness- which I do live pretty well.  I am very experienced and natural at singing and stacking harmonies-  but I still think my best singing is when I sing live. I have a richer voice now than I used to- and alot of years of doing it so I’m a very confident singer on stage and I think it comes through more these days. I‘m also a much better guitarist these days-so i love playing guitar live.  Writing is still fun, but I’ve been doing it since I was 17 years old and it feels like work sometimes, and kinda normal-so its nowhere near as fun for me as playing live.

Angotti7.0 – Is there a seminal moment in your life that got you officially hooked on rock & roll?

I loved music as a child- my mom bought me Beatles and Monkees records, and I listened to country music with my dad
and anything they listened to, and I was glued to the radio….one memory that got me really hooked to rock n roll was this:
2 doors away from my house (I was around 9 years old) there was a family whose oldest brother played bass in a band –
they’d practice in their basement and you could hear it from my backyard. I snuck over there one day, and actually walked in on their practice and just stood there watching as they jammed – it was loud and exciting and I knew I wanted to be in a band right there and then!

8.0 – If there is time for nostalgia…..what is your all-time favorite Chicago rock n roll moment?

I went to the Granada Theater in 1980 w my best friend and band mate (in my first band, the Fleas) to see Cheap Trick. The opener was Off Broadway. We had great seats and I remember that show really grabbed me – it was great and it really inspired me. It was cool to see that these new bands (at the time) were so 60’s influenced, it made me feel like we were on the right track, and I was always a huge fan of that eras  power pop bands. I hated all those hair bands and metal and guitarists who played as fast as they can – so this was refreshing and inspiring.

9.0 – what advice would I offer to young players who show promise?

To work hard. Improve your craft. Don’t be lazy.

10.0 – As the 2012 apocalypse approaches you tuck a few artifacts in an iron drum for posterity: what items have you included?

Maybe some lyric sheets I’d written down of an old song I wanted to do – handwritten, because now guys have ipods on their mic-stands, I still hand-write my notes and lyrics!  Some flat-wound guitar strings (nobody uses them anymore, I do!) and the guitar pick I caught from that Granada show flung at me by Rick Nielsen!!!!

SARAH FIMM

1.0 – What’s the best thing about BARN SESSIONS

Perhaps that it’s real, it’s live, and you can see a mouse suddenly appear behind John’s lovely head in the “Hiding”‘ video.  That’s just my personal opinion.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

It was more of a feeling I wanted people to remember.  The entire landscape of music has gone through drastic changes.  I wanted to do a live experiment with talented people to see how the variables would change the result.  It evolved as things do, once my team of amazing artist friends helped it become what it is.  The sum of their talent and personality, combined with other elements, created the sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

When I found a wooden hard drive to go with the Barn Sessions package I was pretty pleased.  There is an overall aesthetic that is particular to each project.  I liked the wood because what people receive is the same material that shaped the acoustic environment where the music was created.   I am a creature who tries to be consistent.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs (originally) and what was your first?

This is a good question.  I would have to say if I really go back in time, I was writing in my head constantly, and piano melodies near my mother’s lap at 3 or 4 years old.  I remember listening to her voice when she would talk to people.  I remember thinking that her kindness created music in people.  I would play things that fit the scene of the room.  I would play to the moods of the people inhabiting the room.  I became aware of the power of simple observation, and began to understand how music was a doorway to change people’s emotional states.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

Stop thinking so much. :)

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

There’s nothing like it at its best and its worst.

7.0 – How did you catch the folk bug originally? 

I didn’t know I had it!  I came from rock. (Older brother-you know:)

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally, or both?

-I work all the time at all aspects of everything I do. My friends tell me I really need to get out quite often luckily.  Playing music, and trying to survive as a musician, are two different things.  They both take extraordinary amounts of discipline and work.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

That’s the hardest question.  If I had to choose, Brian Eno and Harold Budd. It brings me to a state of absolute serenity.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and how did it impact your life? 

I think the first time I was truly impacted was either Tool, NIN, or Tori Amos.  It was all within the same week.  It really changed up the playing field.

RANDY BERGIDA

1.0 – What’s the best thing about The Letter Yellow’s WALKING DOWN THE STREETS?

I really connect to these songs.  They were extremely natural to write
and being that the majority of the songs were written one after the
next in a span of a few months, there is a continuity that weaves
throughout all the different feels and colors of Walking Down The
Streets.  I also love the freshness of the songs on the record in that
we had never performed prior to recording tracking.  The idea was that
the songs had a well rehearsed touch, but they hadn’t been
overanalyzed and over structured.  If a section wanted to extend
through the live tracking portion of the record, we went with it.  The
spirit is in the recording and beyond all the fancy things you can do
post production, it’s the spirit that lives in the performance that
I’ve always connected to on a record.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

The sound of the record was largely inspired by the 8×8 studio we
rehearsed in.  It’s hard to imagine 3 people and all our instruments
in this room, but it’s possible.  The limiter on the iphones was also
something that evolved our sound.  Hearing everything in a tiny room
with a big limiter compressing the music to the point that everything
sounds good gave us much hope.  When we were tracking with Quinn
McCarthy at The Creamery, we went ahead and recorded all the vocals
through the voxac30 as we would rehearse.  In the end, Joel Hamilton
at studio G took the clean mike and gave the essence of the amp with
his military grade compressors (no joke).

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process?

I think of it more as just letting your personalities come out.
Pretty much the same way I think with clothing.  It’s superficial yes,
but at the same time it’s nice for people to have an idea of who you
are just by looking at you.  All I want is for the music and the image
to be an honest representation of us. I would give credit to image
being a part of the artistic process much like when I write, I think
about how the songs will translate live.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs and what was your first?

My first!  oh my, I try to forget those songs, hahaha.  I started
writing when I started playing the guitar around 10 or 11.  I wasn’t
writing the same way I do now.  I was just trying to get better at
playing the guitar and I wasn’t so fond of playing other peoples songs
quite yet.  Plus I was so curious about theory that I would write
something and then try to analyze it.  So I wrote little things that
challenged me.  I never performed them.  I think my first official
song I wrote was called “One/People Get Ready”.  Of course both Curtis
Mayfield and Bob Marley have a song with that title and I’m honestly
not quite sure if they are the same.  That always confused me.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing?

Yes, when it comes grab it.  I have these moments of creativity and I
just know that these are my good songs.  But I have to be organized
and make sure to write things down and record ideas.  I have to
complete the lyrics before I can move on as coming back to lyrics
never works for me.  They are there in that moment and it’s my job to
write them down then and there.

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

I love it.  It has always fueled my well being I feel.  And it’s addictive.

7.0 – How did you catch the roots bug originally?

I suppose growing up in Indianapolis, it was a bit stagnant, but
getting out into nature was always fun and always lifted my spirits (I
never knew something like NYC would have the same effect on me).

8.0 – id you have to work at it or does it come naturally, or both?

Overall music came naturally, but I certainly have and still do work
very hard.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

That’s the heavy question.  As I’m playing through my music library on
shuffle, all these great songs are coming on “Side with the Seas” off
SKy Blue Sky by Wilco, Curtis Mayfield, Live at Bitter End...The Best
of the Wailers 
(which is not a compilation oddly enough)…And then
theres my Billie Holiday Collection on vinyl that just blows my mind.
Nonetheless, if you were going to leave me with only one of these
songs/albums with the trapped on an island metaphor, it would have to
take the The Best of The Wailers.  I’ve known those songs my whole
life and I still get happy every time I hear them.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and how did it impact your
life if at all?

The first concert I ever saw was John Mellencamp…he’s Indiana born
and bred like me.  It was actually pretty awesome.  After all, it was
my first concert and the venue, Dear Creek, is a really special venue
as it’s outdoors and country all around.   I think this year was the
year of my favorite concerts…I saw Radiohead which pretty much blew
my mind…I’m usually ready to let my ears rest at the end of a
concert, but after there 2 hour plus performance, I wanted more!

BRYANT LEE

1.0 – What’s the best thing about your latest release, the new The Pear Traps EP, Elsewhere

It’s different than our previous EPs.  The first 2 were home recordings that we did by ourselves which is mainly why they took on the lo-fi sound.  Elsewhere is our first “studio” recording and although we kept it uncomplicated, it’s easy to hear the difference.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

We completed the songs before actually recording them and knew how we wanted them to sound through our amps/drums/etc, but did not have any idea how it was going to turn out after recording.

we did the recording and mixing ourselves on the early recordings, so we had total control of the sound.  This time we had someone else (Jamie from Carterco here in Chicago) do the recording, mixing and mastering on legitimate equipment (as opposed to our karaoke microphones) and it was definitely a change.

We finished recording in 2 days and then Jamie spent another day or so mixing. During the mixing process Jamie was definitely leaning towards a cleaner, more professional sound and then when we heard the early mixes, we were always like “put more effects on that, make it more lo-fi!”  I think in the end it actually did evolve into a very happy medium and we could’nt be happier with Jamie’s help and input to give Elsewhere its full sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

In my opinion branding and image are part of the business process, not artistic.  If you know us or have seen us play a show it’s pretty easy to see that we put zero effort or thought into branding and/or image.  We are 5 friends playing music together because it’s fun and we like playing.  Not to try and make money or get big or anything like that.  Probably because we’re old enough to realize that we do this to have fun at practice every week and play out.  If we ever decided to start focusing on our image or try to be anything other than what we are, I think the enjoyment of us being in this band would go down dramatically.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs and what was your first?

I started writing about 3 or 4 years ago, right before we became a band.  I’ve always been a guitar player and never really thought about singing or writing songs – I actually prefer just hanging out and playing guitar in the background.  But over the years I’d come up with ideas for songs that I thought were OK, run them by the singer and nothing would ever come of them.  After not playing in a band for a little while and not finding anything that I was very interested in I started trying to complete ideas for songs by myself and eventually started singing.  I figured out how to program drums, record/mix audio, and just started messing around with songs in my apartment.  My first finished song was called “Ways to Doubt.”  It’s actually not that terrible and the thought of giving it a shot with The Pear Traps comes up every once in a while.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

No, not really.  If I’m ever at home not doing anything I’m usually messing around on my guitar.  If something happens to sound all right I record it.  Or tell myself I’ll remember how it goes but then usually forget about it.  If I come across the recorded guitar parts again (sometimes days or weeks later after I’ve forgotten I recorded anything) and it sounds decent I’ll try to put lyrics to them.  Very little effort or thought goes into the lyrics.  To me vocals are primarily just another melodic part to the music.  Ideally the lyrics end up clever or interesting but as long as they don’t seem extremely contrived or cheesy I’m usually OK with what comes out.

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

Stage presence is another thing we don’t really put too much effort into.  It’s kind of the same thing as image, if we ever had to try to act or be a certain way on stage that wasn’t natural to us, I don’t think we would want to play out.  We have fun playing shows together so I imagine that comes across to the audience, which is all I would really hope for.

7.0 – How did you catch the rock & roll bug originally? 

Possibly a little cliché but it was when I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  I think I was in 4th grade and had always really been into music but when I heard that guitar intro it just blew me away.  I think my actual logic was that if I learned how to play guitar I could learn those songs and then I could hear them whenever I wanted to instead of waiting for them to come on the radio.  My dad was very musical and supported my interest in learning an instrument but we didn’t have much money so he made a deal with me that for every chore I did I got a dollar saved towards my guitar and after 100 dollars were saved up he’d buy me one.  Couple months later I had myself a very cheap, used white electric guitar and I was ecstatic.

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally?

I was not natural at all, it took a lot of effort for me to be a passable guitar player.  I’m just very stubborn.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

Possibly another cliché but I’ve honestly got to say The Beatles’ White Album.  It was kind of funny because when I was younger I literally went through my Beatles phase in chronological order.  At first I really liked the poppy mop top love songs even though it was completely dorky and my friends would give me shit for it.  Then heard Revolver and thought it was just amazing.  Then got my hands on an Abbey Road tape and would listen to it on repeat.  Then one year for Christmas my mom bought me the White Album.  I remember listening to it lying in bed and feeling disgusted at how perfect everything they did was- no matter what genre they played in.  I actually remember hearing Dear Prudence for the first time and wanting to quit guitar because I knew there was never any way I could play something that great.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and what do you remember most about it today

This one is not so cliché.  My dad liked country and about the time I was listening to Nevermind over and over he took me to a Randy Travis concert.  I actually had tears in my eyes because I hated it so much.

CHRISTMAS DAVIS

1.0  – How did you catch the rock & roll bug?
Ha ha, “Catch” is funny word. I believe that my fever was congenital, and my condition is probably genetic. Connie’s definitely is. There were no “rockers” in my family, but my great-great-grand father used to play a single string gourd instrument at local dances in the turpentine towns of north Florida. According to some accounts he was the only musician at these events, which would make for a pretty strange dance party. My father had the hi-fi on all the time, mostly big band stuff. It made an impression. The first time I saw a rock band it was at a school assembly to promote a talent show. They brought my elementary school class in to fill some seats. It was the first time I saw an electric guitar in person. I think the older kids in the band were playing Skynyrd, but I can’t be sure. I was hooked though. That was it for me. Connie definitely has music deep in her, and she was absolutely born with it. For her music is like an extra limb. It’s just a part of her. Her dad played sax in bands her whole life. He’s an amazing guy. Connie grew up in music. I had to go exploring.
 
2.0 – What was the first guitar you ever owned?
When I was 12 I borrowed a guitar from a friend who’s father had an old harmony acoustic, the jazz kind with f-holes and painted on “wood grain.” The action was terrible, but I bloodied up my fingers and tried to learn some chords. The older kids on the school bus used to ask me why I played such a big violin. Then a kid up the street sold me a terrible no-name electric. It was plywood painted candy apple red and shaped like an SG.  The action was even worse than the harmony – a real archery set – and to sweeten the deal the bridge had sharp screws sticking out of it. I had resolved myself to guitar playing being a painful sport.  But that was my first guitar, bought the old fashioned way – with money from my paper route.  I was glad to have it.
 
3.0 – What was the first song you learned to play well?
Play well? I’m still working on that. But the first song that I got up enough confidence to play in front of anybody was “Tangled Up In Blue,” the Bob Dylan song.  We were cruising in a friend’s car in high school. My friend and his girlfriend were up in the front seat and the radio was busted. I was too young to drive so I was in the back seat alone with his guitar. “Tangled Up In Blue” was the only song I knew all the way through so I played it while we drove around. They didn’t seem annoyed. They were very kind.
 
4.0 – When did you start writing songs?
When I was 15 I started a punk band with two other kids from my high school, and we needed some original songs. As far as song writing goes, I didn’t think anything of it, we needed songs and somebody had to write them. So I wrote 12 songs in one week – all power chords and shouting – just so we’d have something to play. Nothing seemed unusual about this. Back then I figured anybody bored enough could write a dozen songs. Only one of them was any good though, and it was only good because it was funny. I think it was called “Vomit Omelet.” Yup, funny stuff. I don’t think that I ever really wrote a song that I was satisfied with until I started writing for Connie and The Tall Pines. Hearing her sing the songs that I write makes them feel real to me.
 
5.0 – as your style changed much over time or did you find your thing early on? 
It always changes. It has to. Tall Pines Music is just a mash up of everything that Connie and I have ever loved. You can make collages forever if you have enough material,and they should all look different. We’re always looking for material. Your style is just how you combine and present the things that you’ve always loved anyway.  
 
6.0 – How long have you been playing with Connie Lynn Petruk and how did you meet?
Connie and I have been playing together for a few years. We dated for a while before we started making music together. She is such a great singer – really incredible – and I had all of these songs that I’d started writing, so we just began to put things together one night and found that we really enjoyed collaborating on music. We met because I was a huge fan of a band she sings with in New York called The Losers Lounge. I used to go see them all the time, and because I had a huge crush on her I would try to “accidentally” meet her at the shows and around town. Unfortunately my efforts to casually cross paths with her all resulted in failure. She is a truly elusive person. At one point I expressed my frustration to a mutual friend – Sean Altman, who founded the group Rockapella – and he said he’d set me up on a date with Connie if I promised to be a gentleman. I did not want to be “set up” and I told him to forget it. But, he set us up anyway and we’ve been together ever since. Thanks Sean.
 
7.0 – Is it a challenge writing tunes for a female singer in terms of perspective or attitude when it comes to lyrics or titles?
Sometimes.  Some songs I just write from a male point of view and then change all the gender based words when I give them to Connie. “Always True” and “Because I Love You” are like this. Other songs I write for her, but more for her as a “female character” than for her as the real person that I know. That makes it easier. I have been accused of writing songs for her that are sexist or that praise the man in her life a little too much. Bill Bragin from Lincoln Center called me out on this after he heard “Good Woman” and “Love You Better” from the Campfire Songs record. He’s a friend and we had a laugh about it, but I felt like a bit of a jerk because I’d never thought of the characters in those songs as being Connie and me. As strange as that sounds, I had written both songs about other people, and I almost always think of the couples in my songs as being like two characters in a film or short story that I made up, but not us. Now that I’ve had this pointed out to me, I realize that I may be on to something. How many guys can get their lady to sing their praises – literally – into a microphone every night? Thanks Bill.  
 
8.0 – You just re-recorded Howlin’ Wolf’s “Wang Dang Doodle”, is that branding by association or did it come about more innocently?
Connie and I host aincredibly fun monthly jukejoint party in New York City called “The Tall Pines Review.”  “Wang Dang Doodle” is hands down one of the all time greatest songs ever about throwing a party. We’ve always loved it and wanted to cover it, even played with it some at rehearsals a long long time ago, but we never had a reason to do it before. Once we started putting on our monthly “Tall Pines Review” parties we wanted a theme song that represented what we were doing, and all of the great characters that come out of the wood-work when people have a good time. No song does that better than “Wang Dang Doodle.” We usually hang up a picture of Howlin’ Wolf on the side of the stage, but we also have a picture of Koko Taylor which we swap out from time to time. Heroes.  If you’re ever in New York on the third Thursday of the month you should come by. We always have a great time, “…all night long!
 
9.0 – What song would you say captures the quintessential essence of what The Tall Pines are all about?
There are a few, “If The Devil Knows You By Name,” is our choice at the moment. It’s about redemptioneternity, and the dark and light sides of human nature, which are some of the recurring themes in our songs. Also because it rocks live, we love playing it, and because we both get to sing together. We have some new songs that we’re working on now which I hope will change this answer, but for this interview, “If The Devil Knows You By Name” is the one.
 
10.0 – Are you ever torn by the struggle to experiment and yet be a relative purist?
Experimental and Pure don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I don’t think about things in those terms.  I just write songs that come from an honest place and that feel like something that I would like to hear and share with my friends.  Connie let’s me know if what I’ve come up with is worth working on, and then we take it from there. I may write the songs that we do perform, but she’s the arranger, and the editor in charge of what we don’t perform. I can be hard headed, so she’s got a big job too.

NATALIE GELMAN

1.0 – Are you happy with how the new EP, Streetlamp Musician, has turned out?

I am! The songs are great to start with and the production and players performing on it are top notch. It has a diverse range of songs and I think I’ll be performing all of them for a long, long time.

2.0 – What are your plans if any for the release?

I’m taking it slow to make sure I’m doing everything right. It will be a soft release  and I’m going to start touring it towards the end of this year and more next year. I am hoping my friends and fans love it enough to share with their circles of friends so it finds a home in a lot of peoples music collection.

 3.0 – Which song on it do you have the strongest emotional relationship with, or are they all dear?

It changes over time. They all have been close to me at one point or another. The most emotional song for me is “One More Thing” but the one I have strong love and respect for is “Most The While”.

 4.0 – Do you have a formula when it comes to writing or is it more free-form? 

A melody and some lyrics will come to me at first and then its my job to uncover what the song is about and focus it moving forward. I also try not to give up on the song or judge it prematurely. I don’t have a formula exactly but I do try to capture everything I think is interesting and inspiring in notebooks and in files on my iPhone. I’ll refer back to those often when I’m looking to write and when I’m looking for a spin on a song I’m already writing. I work really hard on my lyrics to try to be as clear as I can in saying exactly what I mean to and honoring the message of the song. That process is tedious and involves a lot of revision most of the time.

 5.0 – What were the songs that you recall impacting you as a kid? 

I don’t have too many songs that impacted me as a kid because I grew up studying classical violin and piano and my mom played classical music at home. I did eventually get a Lisa Minnelli CD and Madonnas Like a Virgin album and listen to those repeatedly. I also started listening to the hit radio station in NYC and liked musical theater like Gilbert and Sullivan and Disney songs that I was studying musically when I started singing.

 6.0 – What was the first song you learned to sing and play on guitar at the same time, by who?

I was already writing songs when I decided to learn Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. I had only been playing for a few months at that time and I learned the plucking, the harmonics and everything. I still cover that song at shows.

 7.0 – Is there an influencing artist that you consider your ultimate muse?

For a long time early Jewel was my primary muse. I’m now really inspired by Patty Griffin. I think she writes stunningly beautiful songs and stories and sings them amazingly. She’s an underappreciated gift.

 8.0 – Why led to your leaving NYC for California? 

I left for a variety of reasons, a lot of them too personal to mention in this interview but definitely available in the songs on my record. NYC, and the people surrounding me there kind-of broke my heart. I also had an opportunity to record out here with a great team and it just made sense to get out to Los Angeles and dive into it. I came out thinking I might be back by the Fall but the record took longer then expected and then one thing lead to another and now I live here and love it. I still get back to NYC a lot and miss it so much sometimes. It will always be my home and I love the energy of the city. I’m so proud to have grown up there.

 9.0 – You recently performed in the subway in New York; has that experience changed at all from when you started out busking in the West Village or is that what Streetlamp Musician is all about anyway? 

I didn’t start busking in the West Village. I actually started in Times Square and tried to avoid ever playing too close to home. I didn’t really want to run into people I knew though I always do when I play – usually quite a few folks actually.

Anyways, it has changed because it’s become more crowded. And, as I get older and as the economy has changed people are less likely to tip artists down there now. I still think it’s the best way to hone your chops and start to build your fan base as a young artist. I’m lucky to have made it into the MUNY program that’s run by a part of the MTA who manages the subways. They give you permits for bet spots and times as well as the right to amplify your music. It’s a great community to be a part of and it feels more like a legitimate thing that we’re doing together to make the subways more interesting and special. The buskers and street artists are so vital to the city and it’s spirit.

Streetlamp Musician is about the West Village changing in the past few years as much as it’s about me wishing more people would listen to me when I’m laying my heart out on the line. The city has to change but I wish the West Village was more of the neighborhood I grew up in with artists and bohemians. It’s way too expensive for interesting characters to live there anymore and all the mom and pop shops that had been there for generations were pushed out because rent got too high. My godmother blames the Village getting too popular on Sex and the City and I think she’s right.

10.0 – What’s the worst gig situation you have ever found yourself in? 

The worse ever was at a place called The Guitar Bar in Savannah, GA. I set up a show there for their opening night while on my first tour. Everything sounded good from the owner in follow up and checking in a week before the show right up until I got to the venue the night of the show and the owner told me that they weren’t going to be opening that night. My drummer was from Savannah and we were expecting a lot of people so we rescheduled for the next night and now were co-billing the show. We called 30 people to tell them about the switch and ended up playing a house concert that night instead.

The next day we went to the venue and they were complaining that they still didn’t have their liquor license and hustling to finish painting, put things away etc. I saw painters tape all over the floor moldings that needed to be removed so I started helping with that and got to the moldings in the bathroom when I realized they had no toilet paper. I asked the owner if they did and he was overwhelmed and said no so I offered to get some thinking he would pay me back. I went across the street (aka highway) in the dark to get some at a deli and loaded it into the bathroom.

The place opened that night and a ton of our friends came out. The show was amazing right up until I went to go take care of being paid before leaving. We had worked out a 50/50 split of the door deal and I had brought out 30 people at $10 a person. So the band should have made $150.

He handed me maybe $20 or $40 and said he was sorry, they didn’t have their liquor license blah, blah, blah. I quickly found out that he needed all the money from the people I brought in to pay the other act who was a friend of his who has flown in from CA when he paid the other guy $250 right in front of me. The other act hadn’t brought out anyone. I told him that wasn’t okay, we had still driven for hours to be there, had helped them out so much and brought in a lot of people and had a fair contract, yes, the payment details were in writing and it was signed. After a ton of arguing I ended up just leaving and just was so mad that he was making this my issue and just left.

I just looked them up and that place is finally closed. I can’t believe they actually stayed open for 4 years or so. What a nightmare.

MICHAEL McDERMOTT

Are you happy with how your new release Hit Me Back (Rock Ridge Music) has turned out?  Couldn’t be happier. Took a wee bit of a different approach than the prior albums….for example….there were certain artists we couldn’t reference….it was out of bounds so to speak…to reference some of the artists that most singer songwriters. Mkight refer to …you know a  ” you know how on that Dylan record they did that thing with the keyboard?” Those types of statements were forbidden….. you know the line….”.if you always do what you always did, you will always get, what you always got .” That was kind of our launch pad.

Who is it for?  The whimsical, the unwanted, the mourners, the isolated, the desperate, the devilish, the defeated, the kick-starters, the matador’s, the penniless poets, the dogged, the lovers on morning trains, the searchers, the seekers, the outcast, the count, the clown, the mistress, the widowed, the forgotten.

Where did you record it? with whom?  CJ Eiriksson …who is fucking brilliant! I worked with him a few years back. Then on tour in Italy, I was in the back of a car and leafing through the U2 record liner notes and noticed CJ”s name all over the place…..I was thrilled for him. I figured he had graduated to a different level and would no longer work with low lifes like me…My wife Heather told me if i didn’t write him, she would…i still had his email address and i wrote him….and he was on the road with U2 for the 360 tour but it was wrapping up soon and I pitched him….

How does it relate in your mind to your previous record, Hey La Hey?  It’s quite a departure. Songwriting is songwriting…at least mine is……but it’s really just what colors you use from your palette. We approached that record (HLH) with a band in the studio……this one…..it was me and CJ for the most of it.

With so many records under your belt, does one develop a philosophy when it comes to going into the studio, or is that called ‘the budget’?  HA….well that certainly is a factor in the equation….truth be told it’s as confusing as ever…..we did this record with the help of Kickstarter so we did have it planned we had a certain amount of time and come hell or high water…..it had to be done….so our philosophy was…….work quickly !

michaelmcdermott_hitmeback_cover-2Did you have sound or general attack in mind going in for Hit Me Back or did it evolve as the material took shape?  I think the songs really dictate what you do. I had a batch of songs that I thought were ready and then I sent them to CJ and he started working on loops from Texas and we kind of molded the record over the internet……then he came to town and we did it in 8 days.

Is it all new material or did any older, previously unrecorded songs bubble up to the surface as well?  There was one song, ” She’s Gonna Kill Me “, that we recorded for Hey La Hey and weren’t quite happy with it……so that one kind of stuck around…..another song ” Scars From Another Life” was a few years older….and one we would play live…..but when I sent CJ 40 songs or so…..he gravitated to that one…..he rearranged it and it came out amazingly well……it’s really having trust in your producer that he knows what he’s doing…..and you gotta be willing to walk the plank with him.

Do you have a favorite track (or tracks) on the disc or should we assume that’s the ‘titled cut’?  That’s certainly one cuz it’s probably the most ” fun ” song I’ve ever done……we thought we could hide it on the record and start it with more serious stuff but, wanted to come out with a smile…..I wrote that song in the car on the way to and from the hospital to see my dying mother….worst time in my life…..so for the sheer sake of my sanity i wrote a pretty funny and light hearted tune.

Any new influences reflected on the disc that you hear as the author?  Being referential to an earlier question…….we tried to use female influences more than male references……we put to rest all the old ” Gods ” the old ” Legends” and would be more influenced by Sinead, Dido, Florence, Sarah, then say Dylan, Bruce, Waits, Van, U2

Is ‘Hit Me Back’ a threat? kinky chatter? the facts of life or just a text message? what does it mean to you?  Great question…..well it was strictly a lyric in relation to my hangover that my head was hurting so bad it felt as if the bottle literally hit me back. But just those three words have a very ambiguous connotation which i love……it’s the masochist the fighter, the lover, the loser……all things which I know quite well.

 Are your earliest musical influences the most pervasive or do others break through along the way?  The early ones in the formative years are still the Mount Rushmore for me of songwriting….but there certainly have been people that have shown up in recent years that can influence you. Things constantly influence me……the train outside my window, to the man at the counter in a diner…..songs are everywhere….you just sometimes go looking for them in different places.
Where do songs arts for you, with the lyrical content or the music?  Totally varies, sometimes it’s a riff on guitar or a piano melody. Otherwise you get a lyric idea and then try to meld that into a song or melody. They are just different colors, and you need all of it to make a great painting so it matters little which comes first.  You’re going to need all of it if you want the song to sing on it’s own.
What is the first song you ever wrote, do you still like it? did it resurface anywhere else down the line?  The first song I wrote was in high school, and we named the band after the song – “Missing In Action / MIA”.  Nothing of that song ever reappeared, for good reason LOL.
How does “Hey La Hey” differ from your past releases?  It’s a far more restrained album. Which i like. The songs breath in a completely different way. Part of me misses some of the frenetic energy of the past albums, but i think it was a big step with not getting in the way of the song too much. Sometimes you try and do too much with a song and you end up kind of choking the life out of it……this album each song breathes on its own.
How did you approach going into the studio for the record?  I never usually have an approach….i’ve learned whenever i go into the studio thinking its gonna sound like one thing….it ends up sounding nothing like i thought it would. i’ve learned to let the song take you….and i just go along for the ride.
What is your favorite song on it?  That’s a tough one……if i had to have Bob Dylan hear one song….i’d pick Forgotten…….its a song thats spooky and has elements that make me uncomfortable. Its a song i havne’t heard in quite sometime…..because of the way it makes me feel. There’ something other worldly about it…..and i’m not sure if its a world i’d wanna be in.
If you had to make an “Introducing Michael McDermott” EP, what 3 songs would be on it?  Forgotten, Charlie Boy, The Silent WIll Soon Be Singing (unreleased song).
What’s the best part about playing Europe?  The people are the best thing. Besides my fascination with Europe as a whole…..the people and how they listen to music is the most inspiring thing. Europe has taught me about myself, its taught me how to love and approach life in a different way. I love it.
What advice would you give to young artists getting ready to tour for the first time?  I had a blast as a young man on the road. But maybe too good of a time. I’d say be moderate on the partying. That time of my life nearly killed me and i still have the scars to prove it. Have a great time….but ” dyin’ ain’t no way to make a livin” ( Clint Eastwood)

DIDA PELLED

1.0 – When did your love of jazz begin and with what artists / records?

I began listening to jazz when I was fifteen years old, at The Thelma Yellin High School (Israel). I didn’t listen to jazz at all before that. As a guitar player (I didn’t sing at all at the time) I loved listening to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and to other instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Miles David, Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal and many others.

2.0 – Were you singing before you picked up an instrument?

No. I began playing music only as a guitar player, and did only that for a few years. I played many gigs as a guitar player only before starting to sing, and at the time I wasn’t even thinking about singing. After High school, I went to the army (like everyone in Israel), and I was chosen to serve as an ‘outstanding musician’, so I played in the army band. In that band I started singing a little bit, and I fell in love with it. A year after, when I moved to New York, I began singing on my gigs too.

3.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

In the beginning I didn’t sing jazz so much, and I was mostly fooling around with singing some Israeli songs, Nirvana songs, or something in that vibe, I don’t remember :) So I guess those were the first songs I sang and played at the same time. I think that the first standard that I’ve learned to sing an play at the same time was “Like Someone In love”.

4.0 – It seems so few female guitarists gravitate towards improvisation but rather use it as a vehicle for songs: did that come naturally to you or was it something you had to work at a bit?

It came very naturally, because I started as a guitar player, so improvisation was what I was mostly working on. When I played a gig, many times with another singer, I was only playing guitar, and improvising was my way to express myself. In that sense, I think that I’m happy that I started singing late, because starting with the guitar gave me a point of view of an instrumentalist first, and of someone in the band. Starting to sing after playing guitar and improvising, and really knowing the songs and the language helps a lot.

5.0 – How was your experience like at Berkeley School of Music?

I was there only for 5 weeks, so I don’t really know how it is like to be a student there.:)

6.0 – What led to your decision to ultimately go for it as a musician in the states versus your home of Isreal?

I had a dream about moving to New York even before I started playing music. My older sister and brother were students in NY and I wanted to do the same since I was very young. Later after I got serious into jazz, I had no doubt that NY is where I want to be!

7.0 – Do the early 50’s rock’n’roll pioneers have any influence on your sensibility as a player?

Sure :)

8.0 – What do you enjoy most: playing live, writing or recording?

Playing live!

9.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in New York?

I don’t know another city in the world where you can go out every night and find a few very good options of different music to listen to, and to be inspired by the best musicians in the world.  I am back in NY at The Living Room on August 27th.

10.0 – If you could sit in with anyone, anywhere, anytime, past or present, for just one night….who and where?

Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles?  It’s a hard question! ( Visit Dida online at DidaMusic.com or on Facebook )

TIM BURNS w/ AVENUE N GUITARS

When did your fascination with guitars begin and Is it curable? I recall as a kid having an interest in guitars long before I knew how to play one. I have a vivid memory of dragging my poor mom into a music store and gawking at a hanging row of shiny new Gibson Firebird’s. There is a disease associated with guitar lust. It’s commonly referred to as GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome). So far I have not heard of a cure.

Do you still listen to the same players that turned you on as a kid?  Absolutely! You never quit learning from your mentors. It’s like watching a favorite movie 100 times and every time catching something you didn’t notice before. To this day I’m always fascinated listening to Jimmy Page, Brian May, Freddie King, etc.

What was the first guitar you ever owned? do you still have it?  Ok, disregarding the plastic banjo (prop) I had for my first public performance at around age 4, my first guitar was a lovely Hohner dreadnought, you know, the $99 variety. It had a skinny neck and never would tune properly. The coolest thing about it was the faux denim chip board case it came in. After all, it was the early ’70’s, baby. I gave that guitar to a student sometime in the late ’80’s. I was trading guitar lessons for kick boxing training.

It seems as if your timing and location were right on the money: how is Wicker Park treating you guys today?  Wicker Park is still one of the most vibrant and artistic communities in Chicago. I think we fit in here well. It has a great central location relative to the rest of the city. Good public trans., etc. Close to some good clubs, too. We see a lot of local and touring musician’s. Our starting time could have been better (right at the beginning of the economy bubble burst), but we’ve made the best of it.

How do you feel Avenue N Guitars is different than other musical equipment retailers in Chicago?  Certainly there are other great ma and pa music stores in the Chicagoland area, but, and this may sound cliche, I think the one thing that sets us apart is at the heart of it, we really do care about music and the people that make it and play it. Our main goal is to support that. We don’t have any gimmicks here, no slick sales pitches. We stand by everything we do. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a long and intimate history with vintage guitars and that market not to mention our guitar and amp service dept’s are one of the best kept secrets in Chicago.

How do you turn a walk-in new customer into a repeat offender? Again, by expressing our concern, going that extra yardage and providing the best customer service we possibly can.

How has the internet, ebay and the like impacted the guitar biz over the last decade? Huge impact. eBay has made a big dent in competition for small retailers. On the other hand it is useful for sales and a handy price comparison tool. Having a website can also be a great sales tool even if only used as advertising. A lot of people have developed retail businesses solely on eBay and websites. The ones that hustle have done very well although ebay sales have slipped over the last few years with the economy the way it is. Overall, the internet has been a game changer and mostly for the best, however, it’s not without negatives for small retailers. For example, it’s nearly immpossible to compete with corporate giants such as GC who not only sell on their own websites at grossly discounted prices (because that can buy from vendors in bulk at great discounts), but also sell on other internet sites they own as well such as American Music Supply, Music 123 and Musician’s Friend to name just a few.

Who do you think are making the best new electrics on the market today? any hot tips? The best new electrics, of course, come from the hands of custom builders and generally with a premium price. If we’re talking the big dogs (Gibson, Fender, etc.) and mass production, it’s hard to say. There has been a lot of scrambling going on it recent years. All the big companies keep producing more and more new models in every possible price point. In doing so, I feel they keep slipping further and further away from their roots as quality guitar makers. They seem to have no clue about their own history. Integrity and quality has long ago taken a back seat to profit margin. My question is this: if you are going to spend $3000 of your hard earned money on that Les Paul Custom you always wanted, would you buy the brand new plastic looking CNC machine made one or the cool old vintage one?

What’s is the strangest request you have received from a customer?  As a tip for good service, I once had a customer ask if I wanted to ‘light one up’ right at the front counter of the store. It was about one in the afternoon and the store was full of customers.

Should smashing guitars be made legal too?  For some guitars it definitely should be legal!

RICHIE SCARLET

When did you first fall in love with the guitar?

The day I heard “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Who did you first try and emulate when you picked up the guitar?

Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.

What are your favorite five guitar solos of all-time? 

1) “Child in Time”, Richie Blackmore- Deep Purple

2) “Theme for An Imaginary Western”, Leslie West – Mountain

3) “Machine Gun”- Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsies

4) “Dazed and Confused”, Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin

5) “Shapes of Things”, Jeff Beck – Yard Birds

How has 2012 been treating ‘The Emperor of Rock & Roll”?

2012 has been an extraordinary year. Between playing out in the North East with my show. Playing lead guitar on Rockabilly Legend Charlie Gracie‘s new single, “Baby Doll” which went to umber one. Appearing in Dee Sniders latest video “Mack The Knife”, Producing Dez Cadena of the Legendary Horror/Punk/Cult Band The Misfits. Playing all guitars on legendary Rock and Roll Chubby Checker’s newest single. Started to record my new CD. Due out October 2012. Also, I have been doing many other studio projects. It has been very creative year. The icing on the cake was joining Ace Frehley on stage in NYC with Anton Fig, after 10 years.

How did that come about?                               

Ace invited me down and my wife Joann spoke with his people. The next thing was Ace asked me to join him on stage. It all happened very quickly….”AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL THING”.

Did you read Ace’s book, “No Regrets”?

Yes I did…. I enjoyed the first 3 chapters the most, before Ace was in KISS. Overall, I enjoyed the entire book.

You’ve been working with Dez Cadena w/ Black Flag and The Misfits, how’s that going?

It was a blast with Dez. We are still working together.

Which track on your recent disc “Fever” is your fav and which ones do fans gravitate to? 

My favorite track is “Radio Dreams”. Fans seem to be drawn to “I’m No Good” and “Standing in the Rain”.

What was it like playing with Leslie West? learn any new licks from him? 

I was able to tour the world for 8 years with Leslie West & Corky Laing of Mountain. I already knew the Licks (LOL)

Is there anyone you haven’t jammed with that you would like to someday? 

Jeff Beck …..and many more.

JOHN NORRIS

1.0 – How did you get your start in the music business?

I played with bands in the late 1970s/early 80s in Ireland, wound up in Hamburg, Germany in the mid 80s and started working as a crew member on tours. I toured with a variety of acts including Devo, Rory Gallagher, Nick Cave, Einstürzende Neubauten

2.0 – Peterson has quite a long and rich history, when did you first become aware of them and how did you ultimately become involved with the brand?

I used Peterson strobe tuners on the road always, no self-respecting roadie should be without one. All my peers used them. The challenges onstage during a show are many and varied, and you need to arm yourself with the very best tools to excel. Sometimes I see guys trying to get by with a needle/LED tuner and struggling with things like tuning acoustic instruments in deafening conditions, which is no problem with a mechanical strobe. It’s just about having the right tools for the job. I started repairing the older models for colleagues and through contact over the years with the factory in Chicago, built up a relationship with Peterson that led to the offer of a job in the U.S. a dozen years ago.

3.0 – The Who’s-Who of real touring artists know Peterson is the gold standard,  is it difficult finding ways to bring that message to new, less established musicians?

It can be harder because of the nature of the product; a tuner is a functional piece of gear. There are those who value an effects pedal like a chorus or delay more than a high end tuner, but they forget that tuning is crucial. It’s the building blocks of tone, because harmonic content is a vital part of tone, and the only way to influence it is by tuning as precisely as possible.

4.0 – Do you find it ironic that most of the early live recordings of folks like Hendrix & Zeppelin are often grossly out-of tune?

People sometimes say that but it’s not entirely true, people don’t realize that strobe tuners have been around since the mid-1930s and it was the advent of recording and the “Talkies”, not Rock ‘n’ Roll which spurred interest in tuning properly, by that I mean the first time attention was paid to overtones and harmonic content.

Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and even the Sex Pistols and the Ramones  had strobe tuners in their arsenal of gear.

In those days when actual Rock Stars walked the Earth maybe they didn’t always use them or were maybe too out of it to do so! Nevertheless, those artists did have an innate sense of what is “in tune”.

Being “in tune” is also open to interpretation, dissonance is as much of a sonic tool as consonance is, listen to any epic guitar solo and it is peppered (and sweetened!) with both. The trick is to be aware of which is which and why.

5.0 – In terms of live concerts, what’s the hairiest artist-related situation you have ever had to deal with? 

Let’s see, dismantling part of a building in Moscow in order to “procure” instruments (scrap metal) for German industrial noise band Einstürzende Neubauten with the KGB style officials breathing down my neck or maybe doing a gig with a scantily clad Nina Hagen in a maximum security prison would probably count.

6.0 – I imagine you have fielded strange requests from artists over the years as a roadie and at Peterson? 

As an ex-roadie my lips are sealed (Ancient Order of The Road forbids it :-).

At Peterson, plenty of strange requests, a tuner for chemical silos to indicate how much material was left inside (existing systems are apparently not very good!).

A request for a tuner for suspension bridge tensioning (!)

Tuning the Peterson Bottle Organ.

At the recent Royal Diamond Jubilee in the UK, the eight bells adorning the prow of the Queens barge were tuned using a Peterson Strobe Tuner.

7.0 – You have quite a guitar collection, any favorites you could never part with?

I have a 1977 Gurian JM that I’m very fond of, and a 1956 Gibson LG1 that’s got quite a charm to it, I also have a couple of ‘70s Guild twelve string guitar that I like. At Peterson, we use a wide range of instruments when creating our sweetened tuning presets and we often include our own personal instruments.

8.0 – If you could program Star Trek’s Holodeck with a couple concert settings you lived, what would the menu look like?

Leipzig, Germany Oct 25th 1989: On tour through East Germany (or GDR as it was known then), with a bunch of artists. The lead singer of one of the bands coyly wishes the audience “all the best for the future”, and is met with silence, then one handclap, then two, then three, erupting into a standing ovation. A few days later, the Berlin Wall falls.

Hamburg, Germany March 31st 1990:  Standing beside Jerry Lee Lewis after delivering the “piano du jour” for him to warm up on, when Jerry Lee says “boys, this is a fine piano, some day when I got the money, I’m gonna buy me one o’ these”. My crew buddy Jed glances at the stacks of dollars in the room which JLL insisted he be paid in and pipes up “the money lying around here would do fine as a down payment”. Happily we got out alive without JLL taking umbrage.

Hamburg, Germany Oct 24th 1990:  Dizzy Gillespie sits down beside me at the back of the stage by the dimmers, looks at the band, looks at me and says “Ain’t that a heck of a band?” It was his own band who he often allowed to “stretch out” by leaving the stage to them, a generous guy.

Paris, France 18th Dec 1992 Rory Gallagher playing up a storm, blows his amps up, which trips a circuit breaker taking out the entire PA. Rory switches to acoustic guitar and plays unamplified to a hushed crowd, until some unfortunate individual exits the restrooms via the very squeaky door, cue the entire crowd looking around to see who the heretic was!

Osaka, Japan July 8th 1993:  Explaining to a frightened stage manager that no, I didn’t need any hi octane fuel to power the tuned jet turbine used on the set of Einstürzende Neubauten and no, we didn’t need to set the stage on fire like last time……………

9.0 – How do you feel about the auto-tuning phenomenon?

I think it has its place, but there are so many people using it without any knowledge of or regard for proper intonation and temperament theory (you cannot tune everything as you would a guitar) and that’s why it sounds so artificial even when used sparingly. If you’ve ever tried to make a keyboard sound like a horn section, the same problem arises.

I can always hear it, it’s very easy to detect and differentiate from naturally in-tune recordings.

I guess I should say I’m more a fan of the preventative (tune and intonate properly when recording) rather than the curative (fix it later).

10.0 – Sound analysis is crucial in testing architectural stability for the world’s most ambitious structures and it has been postulated that sound was the secret to the building of the pyramids; is sound the most powerful force in the universe?

I would say that sound is all pervasive.

MIKE CLIFFORD

1.0 – What led to the decision to release Day Dreamer, an EP, as a follow-up to the 2007 full-length self-titled debut, Mike Clifford?

Money was a big factor.  I invested all of my savings into recording
the LP.  I hired great players and rented studio time, including a few
days at The Magic Shop.  That added up very quickly.  Following up with an EP-fewer song to record and mix-made sense financially.  But I also like the format of an EP.  Pick a few songs that you feel really solid about and put them out there.

2.0 – How do you think the material and delivery on the new disc vary in comparison?

Production value.  I couldn’t afford a pro studio to track drums on
this one.  All of the tunes on the EP were either recorded in my
bedroom or my friend and mixer/engineer/producer Zach Berkman’s bedroom using Protools and a few mics.  We didn’t labor a lot over sounds or complicated arrangements.  Instead, we focused on getting workable sounds and good, honest takes.  Like a lot of other songwriters I tend to think that a great song ought to hold up whether it’s performed by a voice and a single accompanying instrument or a full band with all of the bells and whistles added on.

3.0 – How did your band come together?

Different band with the exception of Leo Marino on guitar.  He played guitar on the LP and the EP, along with switching between guitar and bass in my live band for years.  Lately I’ve been performing with Leo,
the great Anton Fier on drums, and Brett Bass on bass.  It’s the best
group I’ve played out with.

4.0 – Would you describe yourself as a Day Dreamer; are you nocturnal?

Nope.  But I had terrible ADD as a kid.  The song “Day Dreamer” provides
a spot-on description of what it was like for me to space out in
school.

5.0 – What comes easier to you, writing on guitar or piano?

That depends on the tune.  I’m more proficient on the guitar, but I’m
likely to come up with more interesting chord-voicings and
progressions on the piano.  Sometimes I’ll develop a song idea by
switching between the two instruments.  If I’m lucky, trying the tune
on the piano might give me an idea of how to approach it on the guitar
and vice versa.

6.0 – Can you describe what it feels like to have written a song you believe in?

It’s very cathartic.  Especially if the song comes out quickly with
little editing or ‘crafting’ on my end.

7.0 – How do you know when a song is ready for recording?

I’ll demo it up on Protools and play it for a few people whose opinion
I value.  If the feedback is good I’ll try it out live.  If it goes
over well and I still like singing it, than the song is ready to go.

8.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

I’m pretty sure it was “About a Girl” by Nirvana.

9.0 – Who or what got you hooked on rock & roll?

It was in the first grade.  I was hanging out with my friends Joe,
Scott and JP in JPs TV room.  Joe put on Appetite for Destruction and
started rocking out on air guitar.  He told us we were in his band and
assigned instruments.  Of course he got to be lead guitarist AND lead
vocalist (Slash + Axle…Slaxle?).  I got stuck being the bass player.
I didn’t even know what that was.  Either way, I was hooked for life.

10.0 – How was your recent return to NY’s The Living Room in June?

Great.  I love that venue.  You can rock out hard on one tune and
follow it up with something really quiet and the audience will stay
with you.  It all works in that space.

CRAIG ELKINS

1.0 – How long did it take you to write, record, and finally mix the new disc, “I Love You”?

Most of the songs on “I Love You” were written over a 3 year period -2008-2010 where I was struggling in every conceivable way. I’ve always struggled. But the walls were really starting to collapse inward financially & relationship wise. Los Angeles is an expensive ride and we literally didn’t have enough money to get a tire fixed.

Most of the record was recorded at the Pass (RIP) in Studio City, CA (a studio once owned by Tom Jones!) in 2 days. 99% of the vocals are live. All of the rhythm tracks are live. My friend Rynne came in and did some background vocals for us (she’s now in the band), Marko, our bass player and producer/mixer of most of the tracks on the record, had his 11 year old son play tuba on “Most of the People”. Mixing was a slower process because it took us a while to figure out that Marko was going to mix the whole thing (or most of it – Zeph Sowers, who works with TV on the Radio mixed “Gravel”, and Todd Solomon recorded and mixed “This House”). Then it was a matter of fitting it in around the daily minutia of middle aged white-guydum.

2.0 – Did you have a vision for how the album should sound before going in or did it evolve?

It evolved – pretty quickly. My friend Jason Karaban, who I wrote “Tumbleweeds” and “Tell em My Story” with (he’s got his own version of “Tumbleweeds” coming out on his record this summer as well) is friends with a handful of super great, generous musicians – Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello), Dave Immergluck & Charlie Gillingham (Counting Crows) and Niel Larsen (Leonard Cohen). We had no idea how it was going to sound, I don’t think, until Niel played the piano solo on Gravel – then everything sort of started to take on the same flavor. Later on, I brought in Dr. Steve Patt – family practitioner to the stars and ridiculously talented musician – to play pedal steel and we ended up with a kind of mid 70’s Merl Haggard record.

3.0 – Did you approach the record on a strictly tune-by-tune basis or were there themes you wanted to get across?

I wrote these songs during a tumulteous time in my life and so everything fits nicely together theme wise. I didn’t set out to write an album of 9 melancholy songs about middle aged angst but I wasn’t writing about anything else either so, yes & no.

4.0 – Which tracks are fans and friends gravitating to so far?

The ones where I get the girl or where my lady does me wrong and I exact revenge by buying a nice car.

Craig-Elkins-Band-Color-hi-rez5.0 – It’s been over a decade since the Huffamoose Billboard Hit, “Wait” (#34, 1998), and yet the new stuff maintains the dry wit that was a hallmark of the band, where does it come from for you?

hmm – well, I’ve spent most of my life in music pretending to know what I’m doing. I never had the intellectual staying power to really dig into song crafting, the language of songwriting, etc. I barely listen to music- so maybe that’s how I can muster up just a smidgen of originality –  I sort of found my way to my own voice in this ass-backwards way. I know my dad and I like to laugh at the same things. So do my daughter and I.  The other members of Huffamoose seemed to share this sensibility too.  I know that I’m extremely attractive and attractive people tend to be really creative and fun to be around.

6.0 – Has living now in California impacted your music or outlook on life in any way?

Well, I’m not sure if it’s California, but I certainly have had my toughest years here. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have written these songs in Philadelphia, but who knows. LA can be this amazingly gorgeous prison. You look outside at the wonderful sunshine and the air smells divine but you can’t go out and enjoy it – you’re too busy trying to make your rent – at least that’s been my experience – no mortgages in my present or near future. That’s another odd thing about LA…I feel like I’m the only one who struggles. Everyone else just drives to and from meetings at Starbucks in their BMWs.

7.0 – What got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid?

The way the towel looked on my head when I was pretending to be a rock star in the bathroom mirror. That and the Bread song “Guitar Man.”

8.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

9.0 – What three 70’s albums should be in every music lovers collection?

1. Presence – Led Zepplin

2. Tapestry – Don McClean

3. Something Anything – Todd Rungdren

10.0 – Is it really true that you “Can’t Stop Being A Dick”?   

It is 100% true. It is an absolute truth. I literally wake up every moring with the best of intentions and by the time I shuffle out into the kitchen and ignore my wife or yell at one of my 5 cats, I’m back.

ALYNDA LEE SEGARRA w/ HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF

Does the name ‘Hurray for The Riff Raff’ reflect a personal or band philosophy of sorts?  I would say the name comes from my love and feeling of camaraderie for the underdog of all walks of life. Growing up in New York City exposed me to people who live on the fringes of society and sometimes go unseen yet they have so much unique energy they give the city. The homeless subway singers, the runaway teenagers from middle america, the gender benders, and the Puerto Rican Poets of the lower east side. I felt at home with this lot of folk right away.

Do you have a favorite track on the new release, Look Out Mama?  I’d say my favorite track is “Ode to John and Yoko”, it was really fun to record and mess around with. Andrija Tokic really helped me bring that song to life. I had the song and some ideas but him and Sam Doores had a lot of great ideas about how we could use Beatles-esque recording tricks etc to make it what it is. Dan Cutler is the man when it comes to vocal arrangements, so with the help of the whole team this recording came about and I couldn’t be prouder.

How did the relationship with the HBO show ‘Treme’ come about?  Treme has been awesome about wanting real New Orleans musicians on the show, the crew really respects New Orleans artists and they want us to benefit from the success. I was just lucky enough they decided to use us.

Could you have become the artist you are today had you not run away from home and the Bronx at 17?   I’m sure I’d be an artists of some sort since i’ve been making art since childhood, but I think everyone has a path and a purpose in life and great things come to you when you follow your path. It’s not always easy but it’s rewarding. It was very hard for me to leave and the life was not easy by any means, honestly I wish I could have some of that time back to connect with my family. But it was what I think I needed to do to come to the place I am now mentally and artistically. It brought me to New Orleans and to the musicians who taught me how to play, in that respect I am so grateful I took the plunge and now have this outlet.