Monday, November 24, 2008

Walls Of Jericho frontwoman is a roar above the rest

Aggression. Anger. Frustration. All of these are very strong emotions. All come to mind while seeing Walls Of Jericho front woman Candace Kucsulain perform live. The band has a very hardcore sound and her vocal style is one more commonly known as "screamo", but she is a very intense individual onstage. I had a chance to interview Candace recently and was really surprised with the woman that I found offstage.
"I got into music early on. I loved going to shows in Detroit because back in the day, the hardcore scene was pretty intense. You could go to a different show almost every night and not see the same band twice. I was looking for something , anything that was different. I never got into this to become the next Korn or Limp Bizkit, I don't wanna be on the radio .I never really got into this to be a rock star," said Candace.
Candace is a very strong and powerful front person if you ever get to see the band live. She is somewhat intimidating and looks like she could kick some major butt and take names too. How does she come down from that after a show? "Well, we are still very hands on after the show , you know, tearing our gear down and everything, plus we like to meet the fans afterwards too. It takes a while to come down from that high of being onstage. It's fun meeting fans and it also blows my mind to have someone tell me that they know how I feel or that I have helped them with my music in anyway. Music has a way or reaching people when they feel like misfits or that they don't belong. I know it helped me when I felt that way."
The band has had a wild ride along the way since its inception. The bands' first EP was released in 1999 entitled "A Day and A Thousand Years" and a buzz started to grow about the band through intense touring. The band was signed to Trustkill Records that same year and released their first full release "The Bound Feed The Gagged" and hit the road again. Oddly enough , the band took a hiatus from 2001-2003 due to personnel problems and each member went their separate ways. Candace actually took up body piercing during her time off. The band got back together in 2003 and started touring yet again. They released a new CD in September of 2003 entitled "All Hail The Dead", which received rave reviews and actually catapulted the band to to opening for much larger, more established acts as Hatebreed and Sick of it All plus headlining their own shows.
2006 was a major year for the band seeing their CD "With Devils Among Us All" being released and the band was asked to join one of the biggest tours of the summer, OZZFEST. They also played the Family Values Tour that year where they met Corey Taylor from Slipknot and hit it off well. Corey said that he wanted to produce the band and they joined forces on an EP that was a major departure for the band. It was called "Redemption" and was released in April of 2008. It was all acoustic and showed that Candace had an amazing singing voice that is rarely showcased.
The band released "The American Dream" in July of 2008 which featured their more aggressive style of playing . They took part in the summer tour package Rockstar Mayhem Festival with Slipknot and Disturbed before headlining shows to support their new CD. When asked about a favorite song on their live set, Candace said, "My favorite songs to perform live would have to be "Feeding Frenzy" because the crowd really feeds off of that song, the really connect with it. I also like performing "The Prey", that's more for us because I really like how it vibes on onstage."

What are some of your highlights of your career so far? "I would have to say all of the amazing people that we have met so far. I still am caught off guard when a fan tells me that they were touched by me because they thought they were the only one who felt that way. Knowing that what I am doing made a difference in someones life is mind blowing. I guess the other highlight would be the amazing places that I have been to that I would have probably never had been able to see. I love Prague and Singapore, those are amazing places."
My last two questions are more on a personal level being a huge music fan myself. If you could meet any dead celebrity, who would it be? "Oh, without a doubt it would be Janis Joplin. What an amazing woman! She was a pistol, so full of life. Just imagine the stories that she would have."

My last question is my if you were on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would it be? " I can't pick just one, it's an either or choice. I would say Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits" because it is full of ups and downs and some of the most amazing lyrics ever written. It also conjures up such great memories for me. My other choice would be one that is a little less known. It's by Ray LaMontagne and it's called "Trouble", an amazing CD."
Our interview concluded and I must say that the intimidating, aggressive woman that I have seen perform on stage is so different from the woman that I spoke with that day during the interview. She still is a very strong, determined woman, but not so aggressive. Fans of hardcore and metal do need to pick up their new CD "The American Dream" and check it out. Standout tracks include "The American Dream" and "Discovery Of Jones" and the surprising acoustic closer "The Slaughter Begins."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Otto's Daughter offers erotic musical escape

What do you get when you mix the sound of Depeche Mode with Nine Inch Nails, the strong presence of Shirley Manson of Garbage, a sense or eroticism and alot of the color pink? Well, my friends, you have a group that is starting to make a roar all across the US right now.
They are called Otto's Daughter and they have been around for about ten years now in different variations. The one consistent factor after all of this time is the visually and vocally captivating Jacqueline Van Bierk.
Jacqueline, or JVB for short, was born in Germany and experienced a life unlike what we Americans grew up with. "I grew up under communism and we were not allowed to do alot of things. I met a friend who loved New York and we took a trip there. I could not believe all of the colors that I saw. I grew up in a world of black and white. There were so few options and choices there. When I walked into a store in New York and saw how many colors of nail polish there were, I was totally blown away. Back home, I may have had one or two and that was it. I knew then that I wanted and needed something bigger in my life," said Jacqueline.

I asked JVB how , when growing up in such a controlling environment, did she decide that she wanted to go into music? " I was an only child and I was always wanting to be the center of attention. I loved to dance and perform and entertain anyone so that I could have some attention. My dad was in a band and played drums and the sax and he played alot of festivals. I always went went him and watched. Everyone would always say 'There goes Otto's daughter', which is kinda how we got our name. I just knew that I wanted to perform for people. I came to America and started looking for a band. I found several, but they wanted me to look a certain way and sound a certain way and I wanted to be me."

This brings us to an interesting point in the career of Otto's Daughter. It seems as if there has been a revolving door for musicians since the bands inception. Each of their Cd's contain different musicians and it seems as if this band is JVB's baby. "Well, band members have come and gone for different reasons. Some guys couldn't commit to touring because of another job, some had egos and wanted to do things their way, some just didn't have the passion that I have. The lineup that we have now is pretty tight and we seem to be on the same page."
The early stage show of the band has certainly come along way. Early on, it more prop oriented and about shocking the crowd. "I did want to shock early on. I had baby dolls that I brought out on stage and impaled and I used to pour blood all over me. I didn't want to be sexy at all. After a while, I felt pressured to do those things and it felt like they were taking center stage. So, I stopped doing them. I know that we lost a few fans who were mad and wanted me to keep on doing it, but you have to evolve and I felt stuck."

You definitely can hear different influences in their music and see it visually. I wanted to know who her musical inspirations were. "I have so many different types of music that I love. I love Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. I also love Korn, early Marilyn Manson, Tori Amos and Alannis Morrisette. It really depends on my mood as to what I listen to. When I am pissed, I love to listen to Pantera. They have so much aggression and energy in their music and lyrics."

The state of today's music industry seems to be in turmoil with Cd sales declining rapidly. JVB told me that she felt the industry needs to adapt and adjust to it." As musicians, it will force us to make better Cd's so that people will want to own the entire project and not just a single or two."

Anyone who gets to talk to her will see that she is a bundle of energy and always working on something. What does she do when she's not out on the road? "Well, I am always working ti seems like. I am a vocal coach when I'm off the road and I am producing other artists. I am so high strung that I am constantly having to work on several projects at once. I unwind by watching movies. I love watching movies every chance that I get. I love Oceans 11-12-13 and The Usual Suspects. I also love the old Pink Panther movies too."

I ended my interview with my traditional question of if you were trapped on a deserted island and had to have one store bought Cd, what would it be? "Wow, that's a tough question. I am not sure, I would want something that would inspire me to be a better person and artist and I wouldn't want to lose faith either. I can't think of just one Cd that would provide all of that for me." Oh well, maybe it will come to her later. That was the first time I had ever stumped someone on that question.

I had the opportunity to see the band live in October at the Somewhere Else Tavern in Greensboro,NC. I knew nothing about the band, but was told by the members of another band performing that night, A Light Divided, to make sure and get there early to catch them perform. I was told that I would not be disappointed. Well, I wasn't, I was blown away. The band seems a little confined to a small stage like the one that night. JVB is a very powerful presence on the stage. She is a beautiful woman and that gets your attention immediately. When she gets it, she then proceeds to unleash her arsenal of energy and eroticism on you. The music is a cross of rock/rave/techno and it is a high energy show. The other guys in the band consist of Jim Robbins on guitar, whose face you rarely see during the show thanks to his "Slash" style hair that covers his face, "G" Gilbert Hererra on drums and "Ro" Roman Campbell on bass, who is from North Carolina. They provide a strong musical accompaniment to JVB's vocal presence.

I loved the show and got to met the band afterwards and talk to them. They are looking to come back out on the road in March of 2009. You can catch their dates on their MySpace. I encourage everyone to go there and check out their music. They have alot to offer fans of different genres of music and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed in them. Thanks again to Jacqueline for the interview and I can't wait to see you guys on the road in 2009.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Elliott Yamin wows the N-Club

American Idol has turned into a cultural phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of people audition each year for a chance to win , but sometimes it pays to lose. Look at season five for a very good example. Chris Daughtry came in fourth that year and look at his career! Let's not forget the man who came in third that season, Richmond, Virginia's own, Elliott Yamin. he released his debut CD on March 20, 2007 and it debuted at number 3 on Billboard's charts and sold 96,000 in its first week of release. It set a record for the highest debut of an independent release and most copies sold.

Sales on his CD slowed down and it took an appearance on his old show Idol to ignite a flame that quickly grew. Elliott appeared on the top three results show on 05-16-07 and sang his first single "Wait For You" and the reaction was amazing. Within two hours of performing the song, the single shot up 60 spots on I-tunes and the next week, it rose from #80 to #31 on Billboard's singles chart and the CD jumped from #67 to #20. All from getting just a little bit of exposure on his old stomping grounds.

Elliott began touring like a madman in support of his CD. He made an appearance in Greensboro,NC at the N-Club on November 2 ,2007. He was scheduled to appear at WKZL 107.5FM to host their all request lunch show. Thanks to Jose Paza, I was able to secure an interview with Elliott there at the station. He was suppose to be there early that morning, but because his blood sugar was low, he was running behind schedule. I waited around the station for about 2 1/2 hours for him to arrive. He actually made it later that afternoon and stayed for a quick on air interview.

For those not in the know, Elliott suffers from Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump because he hates needles.He told me of two programs that he is involved with concerning diabetes. One is Life For a Child which gets insulin to children in twelve underdeveloped nations. There are t-shirts and pins sold at the shows and 100% of the money goes to the program.The other is called Inspired by Diabetes. Anyone who has been moved by a story of anyone who suffers from diabetes can write into the website or his MySpace and send the story. winners are randomly chosen and prizes included free concert tickets and backstage passes.

I asked Elliott about any interesting road stories that he could share. "I was in Vancouver and I was feeling kinda down because my blood sugar was low. So, I drank a Pepsi right before I went out. It didn't pick me up, so I chugged another one down real quick. The good thing is it picked me up, but the bad thing is I burped during the first two songs! Oh yeah, at that same show, there was a drunk girl that got on stage during "Wait For You" and started dancing with me. It took a few minutes for everyone to figure out that she wasn't in the crew."

Luckily, neither of those instances were repeated in Greensboro that night. The show opened with an amazing set by Josh Hoge and the Last Goodnight performed a solid set and sounded very Maroon 5ish. Elliott came out to a roaring ovation from the crowd. He did covers of Dr. Hook's "Sharing The Night Together" and his idol Donny Hathaway's "little Ghetto Boy", which were both amazing. He played the majority of his CD and had the most incredible encore. Elliott and his keyboardist came out to do his encore which was another Donny Hathaway song "Song For You", which was his audition song on Idol. It gave me goosebumps!! He invited everyone to stay at the merchandise stand and that he would come out and meet with everyone shortly. There were probably about 100 people there and he talked to them and posed for pictures and signed autographs. He was very personable and actually listened intently to what you had to say.

I encourage everyone to try and catch Elliott live. His live shows bring so much raw emotion that is cleaned up in the production aspect of producing a CD. I want to thank Josie and everyone at WKZL for making me feel at home and welcomed as I waited for Elliott. Please go to his website of his MySpace page and help support his diabetes programs. I do wish Elliott the best in this very fickle music industry. He is a true talent and will be around for a long time.

KISS' Tommy Thayer excites crowd

The KISS Army numbers in the millions and not even a hurricane named Hannah could stop them from descending upon the KISS Coffeehouse in myrtle Beach, SC for the 2 year anniversary party planned for Saturday, September 6, 2008. The storm rolled through the beach early that morning dumping tons of rain and with swings that nearly blew all the sand off the beach! I decided to venture out early that morning from my home in Martinsville,VA as the forecast was looking promising. The storm was moving up the coast pretty quickly and the beach looked to be "storm free" by the time the activities were planned to kick off.

I arrived in Myrtle Beach at around 10:30 and the skies were the most amazing shade of blue that I have ever seen. There were no high winds and the temperature was steadily climbing. There were a few signs of a storm, but you could never tell that a hurricane had just blown through! I goofed off for a while checked out what was going on at the Coffeehouse. They were giving away samples of their new KISS Ketchup on french fries. There a small crowd forming and a few vendors setting up. I think the storm did delay a few travelers and actually scared some off from coming.

I made my way inside at just before 5:00 as the special guest was about to arrive. Tommy Thayer, KISS' lead guitarist was their guest for this years event and I had a one on one interview scheduled with him shortly after he arrived. The doors to the store were closed and all people were ushered out except for employees and special guests. Wow, I was a special guest! Tommy made his way in through the side door and greeted everyone. I was second in line to do an interview.

Let me give the readers a brief history on how Tommy got to be in the "hottest band in the world." He was in a band in the eighties called Black and Blue. Although they had a very loyal following, they never achieved the commercial success that less deserving acts of that time were getting. They released four studio albums and KISS bassist Gene Simmons produced the last two. The band called it quits after their fourth release. Tommy began writing and producing and actually worked behind the scenes for KISS in the nineties. He was asked to don the "Spaceman" makeup and outfit when original lead guitarist Ace Frehley left again in 2002. Tommy began touring with the band and became their new lead guitarist.

The first thing that I wanted to ask Tommy was how he got into video production.He put together the amazing KISS Second Coming DVD and produced their Pay Per View special along with the VH1 Behind The Makeup special. "Paul and I were working on commercials for KISS' convention tour back in 1995. Paul had to leave and told me that I could work on them if I wanted to. I started fooling around with the equipment and found out that I had a knack for it and really enjoyed it. I then began to explore other aspects of video production and editing and found out that it was alot of fun and I started to become very good at it," said Tommy.

Tommy has brought a freshness to the band and has allowed them to reach deep into their arsenal of songs and play tunes that they have either never played or live or haven't done in ages. I asked him if he could add any KISS song to the set list, what would it be? "I actually suggested to the guys to add a song from the "Lick It Up" album called "All Hell's Breaking Loose" The other guys are a little resistant to doing it, but it would be such a great song to do live!," stated Tommy.

Many fans know the basic history of the group and of Tommy. Is there something about Tommy that they may be surprised to find out? "I was actually a "band geek" in high school. I played the saxophone. He assured me that there would be no sax solos on the next KISS tour! He did tell me that they would be touring here in the US next year. The response for the European tour this past summer was overwhelming and more shows had to keep being added and that's why more US dates were not done. My last question is one that I like to ask to catch them off guard. I am a lover of all types of music myself, so I like to try to get in the head of a musician. I asked Tommy if her was stranded on a desert island and could only have one CD, not a mix CD but a store bought CD, what would it be? "Wow, that's a really tough question. I'm really not sure, never been asked that one before. I guess I would have to say the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" CD would be my pick." I would have to say that one a personal note, that is one of my all time favorite Cd's.

At the conclusion of our interview, Tommy shook my hand and told me that he couldn't wait to read the article and asked me if I would mail him a copy of it. I was floored by his request! I made my way back outside to meet up with some friends and stand in line with them for the meet and greet with Tommy. I made my way up the line and Tommy signed my KISSstory book, CD and picture and then posed for pictures. Everyone that I spoke to commented on how friendly he was to everyone he met.

The night concluded with two KISS tribute bands performing, Kissin' Time and Mr. Speed. In between sets, Tommy came out and performed an acoustic version of their hit "Forever" with the "Sing With KISS" contest winner. After performing, Tommy said that he couldn't leave without doing another number and proceeded to perform"Rock and Roll All Nite!"

My hat's off to everyone at the Coffeehouse for pulling off a great event. thanks to Brian for setting up the interview. The storm may have scared alot of people away, but those of us who took a chance and went got treated to a class act. Other bands should take a cue from Tommy on how to treat their fans with respect. It was truly an amazing event. Can't wait for next years celebration!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Light Divided

Every band has to start somewhere. I didn't use to be much on seeing local bands perform because all I was seeing was the same old song and dance. Well, that recently changed when I went to the Somewhere Else Tavern in Greensboro, NC to check out A Light Divided. They were at a show in Danville,VA that I attended at Plan B and I only caught two songs and it had me a little intrigued. I actually checked them out on MySpace and I really liked what I heard. I contacted the band and made arrangements to see them the following Saturday.

The band had been together for about a year and was actually members from three bands that combined into one. The show that i was attending that night was actually the first show for new bassist Mike Underwood and guitarist Eric Humiston. I talked to the band before the show to get a little insight into what they were made of. I asked guitarist James Lewis about where the name originated from. "Well, I actually came up with the name. It was the third thing that I had written down. Actually, nobody liked it at first, but we had to have a name that day. It's actually grown on everyone since then."

I asked lead singer Jaycee Clark how she met up with the band. " I was actually driving down from Jersey where I was staying and rehearsing and playing with these guys and then driving back home 3 and 4 times a week and finally moved here."

I was also curious as to the limitations or obstacles of having a female fronted band. Drummer Adam Smith said," There are lot of bands that we know who use it as a gimmick. I mean it has its advantages, but a gimmick can only last for so long. We play what we play because it's what we'd wanna hear if we were in the crowd. It's really hard to define our sound. Sometimes when you do so, you limit yourself as to who you can play with."

"I believe that we would play with just about anyone as long as they believe in us," responded bassist Mike Underwood.

The band's influences include a slew of artists ranging from the Deftones to Killswitch Engage to Atreyu. Those artists plus similar bands including Coheed and Cambria, Kill Hannah, Secret Lives, gaslight Anthem and Trivium are among there artists of choice when it comes to personal listening tastes.

Who would the band love to share the stage with one day? Jaycee was quick to respond with the Deftones! Other responses ranged from Sevendust to Killswitch Engage to Severe Your Ties. During the entire interview, Jaycee was constantly "abused" by her band mates. "Do you see how they treat me? It's tough being the only female in the only female in the band, but I can stand my own against them. They are constantly running around the stage, so I have to be on my guard or I will get run over."

Adam then told me that the band usually takes the month of December off and would be entering the studios hopefully in February of 2009 to start recording the followup to their first CD "Before The Fall" which came out in April of 2008. I did ask them my traditional question of being stuck on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would it be? Jaycee's choice would be Green Day "Dookie", to which I found out we went to the same show at the Cricket Arena and saw them on the American Idiot tour. Adam's choice would be the Smashing Pumpkins "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" CD. James' choice was GWAR's "13 Ways To Bleed Onstage" CD.

We then went inside as the guys started setting up their equipment. The band went on stage with a furry and quickly grabbed the crowds attention. Jaycee has great vocals that translate very well on the live stage. She is a very attractive woman who gets your attention visually, but she really does have the chops to back it up. I also have to say that James' personality on stage really gets the crowd involved. He can be a bit of a comic, but he really does lay down some mean riffs on the guitar. James is also in charge of "screams" . Adam worked up a fury on the drums as he was drenched in sweat by the end of the first song.

Adam told me that they like to keep their set short so that it leaves the audience wanting more. "There's nothing like being in the crowd and watching a band who drags out their set too long. You lose your audience's attention and they get bored. We don't wanna do that."

The band did hang around both before and after the show to pose for pictures and sign autographs. They had a merchandise booth with a tshirt and their CD and stickers available. I was lucky enough to see them again about 2 weeks later and the show was really hot. The new members definitely seem to have fit in really well. The second show that I saw was alot tighter and the band was really on their game that night.

You should go to their MySpace page and check them out. You can hear a few songs from their first CD there. If you like rock with an edge, you need to check them out. Having a female lead singer is not a gimmick for them, it's a element that works very well. I have to admit that my favorite tracks on the CD are "Just Like You " and "If You Don't Succeed", but their is not a bad track on the CD. I bought it at the first show I went to and it did not leave my CD player for days.

How would I describe their sound? Good question, I can hear different influences in their music. James does a little of the screamo stuff like on some early Hawthorne Heights.....R.I.P. Casey. I think they have a unique sound, it is kinda metal pop, but they can get a little hardcore if they wanna. They play all around North Carolina and you can catch dates on their MySpace. It is well worth the drive and money to catch these guys. I personally think that they are something special just waiting to break free. There is alot of potential there and they seem hungry. Only time and hard work will tell.