Monday, November 9, 2009
I had a chance not too long ago to witness a truly gifted artist perform. Her name is Amanda Abizaid, a singer/songwriter transplanted from her home in Beirut, Lebanon at the early age of ten. She had garnered quite a bit of attention as of late for her theme to the The 4400, Lifetimes Odd Girl Out and a few movie songs.
Beirut to the US at ten years of age had to be a tough move. “It was a pretty big adjustment for me. I had an accent and kids made fun of the way I talked. I had to stay back a year because the educational system in the US is ahead of Lebanon. My dad stayed in Lebanon and my brother and I were home schooled by my mom as we lived with my grandma not knowing when we were going back to Lebanon or if we were going to be staying in the US in New York.This went on for three years until my parents got divorced and decided to have my mom stay in the US with me. My brother and dad stayed in Lebanon and we got a house and then things started to become more normal, I guess you could say. I never realized the impact of war on me until recently as an adult being married and learning about myself and my personality. I am very happy now and have let a lot of stuff go to leave behind (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). I never realized that I had been living my life as if I was temporary and in a survivor mode. Now, I am living in the present and have grown past this experience and embrace life here in the US,” commented Amanda.
Her newest CD, “In The Loop”, is a step back for her on a line more typical of her beginnings. “My last CD, The Great Plan Volume II”, was about four years of my life, an 11 song story of what I was going through. I was really depressed and was trying to find a plan to get out and survive this life. As a solo artist and with my new success of “The 4400” and not knowing what to do about all of the fans around the world and internet stuff that was going on about me. “In The Loop” was mainly recorded to drum loops instead of the normal way of recording which would be live with my band mates playing all of their instruments. I was experimenting with protools and looking for a new sound and finding out what I could create to try a new vibe. It is an eclectic EP which talks about peace instead of war on many levels.”
Amanda’s fear of singing actually led her to dabble in hair dressing and modeling. “I have fought my fear of singing my whole life. I will always be singing now and I actually do hair and makeup here in LA and have a personal clientele as well as cutting and coloring. Modeling ended when my music career began at the end of the runaway during a show in Miami when I almost started to sing. That’s when I knew I had to move to LA and pursue my music. I am an artist and I really want to be respected as one and now I embrace my two artistic talents and hope to inspire others to pursue theirs as well.”
Your lyrics are full of so much feeling and emotion. How do you approach song writing? What kind of process do you have or do you even have one? “I sometimes dream my songs or someone has an effect on my life and a song starts happening for me that way. Sometimes I am just hanging out strumming a cord and an idea comes to me. It is kinda random like that. I basically am able when I feel that a song is coming on, it feels like a wave in my brain, a sort of numbing feeling where I can’t do anything else for however long it takes to get it out. The most important thing to do at that time is be able to get it down no matter what time it is even when I wake up at 4 am and record and then go back to sleep three hours later. That’s fun!”
You and Stephanie Erdel had a very successful LA Woman summer tour. Do you have any interesting road stories to share with our readers? “Well, Stephanie’s guitar breaking in Ellenville, NY was bad. That was the worst I guess and losing her keys in Nashville, which we found $60 later from Fed Ex that I had to pay for. Yucky! The best would be in Decatur, GA where we had a show and no one showed up. This was a first. It was a lesbian bar and right as we were packing up to leave, these two women came in and said they were there to see us. So, I said sure, let’s just do an unplugged version of six songs or so for them. The women sat in two chairs in front of us and between songs asked us questions about our tour and what we were doing and how we able to afford it and how it was going. When we were done, we sat at the bar and one of the women came up to me and said that she was a writer and that she had given up on her dream but now that she was so impressed by my dream and courage to pursue it that I had inspired her to write again. She thanked me so much for this inspiration and said ‘Here I want you to have this’. It was a folded up check and I thanked her. I didn’t open it until later and I thought that she probably gave us &50 or something. I opened it and thought I was losing my eyesight. It said $500…..never judge an empty room.”
So, with all of this touring and recording, how do you spend your down time? Or do you even get any? “I hang out with my husband on our “date night” and our two cats. I hike and walk a lot. I am a Buddhist now for the last year and a half so I chant in the morning and evening and am active with the community and am a Unit leader. I go out and support other artists with their gigs too. I love to go to Trader Joes and food shop. I like to say hi to people and smile a lot too and save animals whenever I can.”
Any guilty pleasures that may surprise your fans? “Well, I love the Chipmunks Christmas CD and listen to it every Christmas. I am like Snow White and I always talk to the animals in the park when I hike. I say “Hello Mr. Squirrel, how are you today?” and to the birds too. I also eat Rocky Road ice cream out of the container and chocolate ice cream too and load it with whip cream. HE! HE! Those are my secrets!”
Amanda has a personality that is very captivating. She just radiates positive energy to those in her surroundings. Her performance that night with Stephanie Erdel was very thought provoking. With a mixture of styles and influences ranging from Crosby, Stills and Nash to Dido to Kate Bush, she is not your typical flavor of the week in our stagnant music industry. Check out her music at www.myspace.com/amandaabizaid or at www.amandaabizaid.com.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Today’s music industry seems to be full of "flavor of the week " bands. It’s as if they are here one day and gone the next. It needs a shot of adrenalin to gets its heart beating fiercely again. Along comes a tight five piece unit from Danville, VA that does just that and with a vengeance.
Sloburn is the band’s name and they are the heralding in a new era of redneck metal. They just released their first full length self titled CD on Dark Harvest Records. The band consists of lead vocalist Shane Milam, Sly also on vocals, Sam Smith on lead guitar, Creepy on bass and drummer Brandon King. I spoke to them before a show recently to get some insight on the band.
"This new CD really captures our sound and what we’re all about. We had recorded a demo about two years ago, but we had only been together about five to seven months," said Shane.
"I think our sound has a definite eighties influence on the guitar and bass, but at the same time it has today’s styling on the vox and drums," mentioned Sly. The bands influences range from Pantera to Slayer to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Sly and her stage presence are heavily influenced by the Stones.
The band prides itself on sounding different from track to track on their debut CD. "Bands today all seem to sound the same, they all have the same vocal style. On our CD, not one song sounds like the next," said Creepy.
"I think it’s pathetic how most of these groups sound all the same. They’re all just followers. I also think that they are out there for all the wrong reasons. They’re not true musicians putting out good music. They’re doing it because they think it’s cool," said Sam.
So, does having married husband and wife vocalists in the group present any obstacles? "I think it has many advantages. We get to spend time together and do something that we both love. I don’t get jealous of the girls, he can sign whatever they ask him to because I know he’s mine," said Sly.
"I think it’s great seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they hear her on stage. She has one hell of a growl. Most people can’t believe it’s her," said Shane.
I always like to ask the band being interviewed a question to find out about their favorite CD. If you were trapped on a desert and could have only one store bought CD with you, what would you want to have?
Shane – "That’s easy, Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power."
Sly – "Definitely the Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash."
Sam – "Dokken’s ‘Back For The Attack’, I love that CD."
Creepy – "I’d have to go with some Creem, ‘Strange Brew."
Our interview ended with the band preparing to take the stage and show the crowd how the rock. The band is definitely more substance over style onstage. They have a backdrop with their logo on it and they keep it pretty simple onstage. It’s all about the music and the intensity that they bring along with it.
One of the things that I really like about the band is their use of Sly. She is a very charismatic entity on the stage, but they tend not to overdo it with her. There are a great number of bands that use a female front person as a gimmick. Sly is not shoved down your throats to the point that she seems like a gimmick. Yes, she is without a doubt, a very beautiful woman and her style onstage is a cross between Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett/Lita Ford. She also possesses one of the most intimidating growls that I think I have ever heard from a female artist and actually some men too.
The band stays focused onstage and there is great interaction between them and the crowd. Their music does make that difficult transition to the live stage with a fury. Shane’s vocal stylings bring a complimentary mix between melodic tones and piercing screams.
Their debut CD is a great look into bigger things to come for this group. The opening track, "Dark Fortress", has that Pantera influence from the opening notes. Shane and Sly have a very interesting dual vocal prowess on tracks such as "Bloodstains and Papermache" and a personal favorite of mine "Stuck."
A live crowd favorite "Country Boy" is a hard driving song in which Sam shows off his shredding skills on one of his many intense solos. Creepy and Brandon show why they are a very tight rhythm section on "Don’t Belong". This band is a very cohesive unit with each member bringing to the table a piece of this puzzle that, once all are firmly put in place, showcases why they are one to keep your eye on.
If you are a fan of hard driving rock in the vein of Pantera or Slipknot, then you need to check Sloburn out. Their Myspace page is
www.myspace.com/sloburnband. Stop by and check them out now and say that you were there from the early stages. Line up and allow yourself to get burnt!
I like to think that life is sometimes like the toy surprise in a big box of Cracker Jacks. It’s always a surprise as to what you are going to get, some are good and some happen to be bad. You just never know what to expect.
My latest box of musical Cracker Jacks contained a surprise in the bottom by the name of Vicki Blankenship. I met Vicki for the first time at The Binding Time Café in Martinsville, VA during a performance by Indiegrrl artist Broda. I wasn’t familiar with Vicki, but I was told that she was a musician who performed at the Café from time to time. I got to her perform a short time later at an Indiegrrl festival in Spencer, VA that she put together. For those who do not know, Vicki took over the reigns of Indiegrrl from creator Holly O’Reilly in October of 2005.
Vicki invited me to The Binding Time Café on August 14 for the release party of her newest CD entitled “Blue Flame Trance”. She did perform a few of the songs solo that night and gave us a small taste of what was included on the CD. She had a strong turnout to support her that night.
I took home Vicki’s CD and it did lay around for a few days before I got the chance to pop it open and give it a good listen. Vicki is a very talented musician, without a doubt. You immediately get that when you see her perform live. The part that I didn’t realize was how good of a lyricist that she is.
The title track to her CD is an ode to that good old tradition through these parts of Virginia known as bootleg. One test of the equality of bootleg occurs when it is lit. Now, the really good stuff burns a blue flame. Henceforth, the title of the song. It’s a great toe tapper of a song that really gets cranked into overdrive as Vicki screams out “Yeehaw” midway through.
If you are a native of this area and if the song “Southwest Virginia” doesn’t do something for you, then you need to pack your bags and move. There are so many references to landmarks such as Mabry Mill, the Blue Ridge Mountains and even Martinsville is mentioned.
The biggest surprise for me is how emotionally charged a number of these songs are. My two standout cuts would be “Moonbeam” and “Coming My Way”, both equally as moving as the other. Vicki manages to put more emotion and feeling into these two songs than most artists put into an entire CD. “Moonbeam” is a reflective song about looking back on a love and the regrets that you may have. Now, not every track is all about happy love. “Love Went Six Feet Under” is a great song about love just doesn’t work out.
Another outstanding and emotional track would be “I’ve Waited For You” which has touring buddy Sonya Heller on background vocals. It tells an emotional journey of love coming and going, but never giving up on that love without putting up a fight to keep it.
Vicki has a bunch of extremely talented musicians backing her on her CD. She also played acoustic and electric guitar on all songs, wrote all the tracks and produced the CD. This woman can do it all!!
I think it’s very hard to pigeonhole Vicki’s music to just one label. She mixes country, folk, bluegrass and other elements into a blend that is like musical sugar to your ears. You can purchase her CDs at www.spottedkivaproductions.com . You can also learn more about her at www.myspace.com/vickiblankenship.
Are you in the mood for some toe tapping music that actually tells a good story? Unlike a great deal of today’s standards, these songs actually tell the listener a story. I guarantee you that if you take the time to check out Vicki, then you too will find out that the prize in the bottom of these Cracker Jacks is one of life’s greatest surprises.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
How many times have you heard the first single from a band and thought the band was an overnight sensation? Now, some bands do get lucky and break it big right out of the box. In the case of Pennsylvania’s Halestorm, this is the furthest thing from the truth. I was fortunate enough to see the band on their tour with Shinedown, Chevelle and Staind a while back and caught up with lead singer Lzzy Hale as the band was traveling on the road .
“Yeah, most people don’t realize how long we have been at this. We’ve been doing this for like 15 years now. I was 13 and my brother Arejay, who is our drummer, was 10 when we first started the band. We would play wherever they would let us,” said Lzzy.
Now, most girls that age are not thinking about being the next Lita Ford or Joan Jett. Most are having slumber parties and talking about boys. “You’re right, it was very hard finding young kids that shared our passion for music and succeeding at it. Most didn’t want a career in it or they lacked the drive or parental support that is needed,” replied Lzzy.
The band’s leadoff single from their debut self titled CD is entitled “I Get Off” and about the time I saw the band back in July, it had just begun to blowup. “Oh my god, it has just been amazing. We have the opening slot on the tour and a lot of people have not gotten to the arenas when we are playing our set. I have noticed though, that the crowds are getting a little bigger for our set. I can look out and see people with our t shirts on and they are singing our songs word for word. It’s a very humbling experience,” stated Lzzy.
“I also like the different reactions that “I Get Off” is having with guys and girls. It’s funny because the guys see it as a very sexy and naughty song. On the other hand, girls see it as a very powerful song for them. It’s like they are saying ‘I’m in control here and I am calling the shots”, so it’s pretty funny. I guess it’s great that a song can have different interpretations like that,” stated Lzzy.
So, who does Lzzy draw her influences from? “Well, it’s very flattering to me because I have been compared to some of the greats. I mean Joan Jett, Heart, Janis Joplin, it’s amazing. I have to say that some of the girls from my generation, no offense to any of them, but they just didn’t do it for me. They didn’t have enough power for me. In this gendra today, it shouldn’t be seen as a gimmick when a woman is in front of a band. It’s not a rock band fronted by a girl, it’s a girl fronting a rock band,” said Lzzy.
The band’s CD has a definite old school 80s metal feel to it. The catchy hooks on songs like “What Were You Thinking” and “Dirty Work” show elements of that. There’s even the 80s staple power ballads in songs such as “Bet You Wish U Had Me Back” and “Familiar Taste Of Poison”, on which the aqua net just radiates from your speakers!
The second single, as of the conducting of this interview, had yet to be determined. The CD is very deep in material and probably could go at least 4 singles deep if not further. That kind of feat is almost unheard of given the state of the music industry today. Just recently, the second single and video were chosen for the song “Love/Hate Heartbreak”.
So, does Lzzy have any guilty pleasures that may surprise her fans? “I actually am a pretty good seamstress. I like to make out stage outfits. I take different articles of clothing and try to see how many different outfits that I can make it into. So, yeah, I spend my free time sewing,” said Lzzy. My last question was my question for all bands/artists that I interview. If you were trapped on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would you want there with you? “It would definitely have to be some Black Sabbath. I seem to be going through this re-appreciation of their music. It’s some powerful stuff,” stated Lzzy.
Check out their debut self titled CD and you will not be disappointed. It is a little retro 80s but still modern sounding. I told Lzzy in our interview that she had a great mix of sexuality and innocence. She can look at you and make you think she wants to jump your bones and then give you a look like she is going to rip your throat out. She is a multitalented front person and she and the boys are serious about their rock. They are still burning up the road and show no signs of letting up. Brave the storm and see what all the fuss is all about. You will not be disappointed!!!
Friday, September 18, 2009
The Vans Warped Tour celebrated its 15th anniversary this summer. Southern California’s In This Moment decided to help celebrate by taking parting the annual summer ritual. The band was kind of out of their element, but they soon found out how well they fit in. "These kids are very receptive to music, it’s like they are hungry for something new," said guitarist Chris Howorth.
The band took part in the entire nine week tour and could not be happier with the outcome. "The crowds have been great and we have made so many new fans. We’ve also got to meet so many great bands. It’s been very a lot of fun and a lot of partying," said lead singer Maria Brink.
The band reissued their CD "The Dream" before the tour. How did that come about? "We wanted to do something special for our fans to coincide with the tour. We decided to re-release ‘The Dream’ and put some unreleased tracks on it and some video footage. Our manager also suggested that we do a cover song to include on it. We had done some in the past, but we wanted to do something a little different this time. So, we chose to do ‘Call Me’ by Blondie. The response has been amazing and we’re getting a ton of airplay with it also," commented Maria.
The band’s set that night that I saw them in Charlotte, NC was only 5 songs long, but they drew a big crowd on the Ernie Ball stage. That show was their first attempt at "the pit" during "Daddy’s Falling Angel" and it was a special moment. Chris, Jesse and Blake went out into the crowd at the beginning of the song and Maria and Jeff stayed onstage. The song began and the crowd swarmed around Chris and Jesse and Blake went back to play on the stage. Maria ventured out to the guys and made the crowd form a mosh pit circle around them and run. It was pretty intense to say the least!! Footage posted on You Tube the next morning and pictures were posted online and the buzz was overwhelming. The band continued it each night of the rest of the tour.
Chris and Maria told me that day on their bus that they would be taking two months off to write material for their next CD to hopefully be out in early 2010. There was going to be a major announcement for the fans in the near future. It ended up being posted on their My Space that in November, the band would venture out on their first headlining tour until before Christmas. The set list will be much longer with several surprises thrown in for the fans. Revolver magazine has jumped on board as a sponsor for the tour, which is major news. The band will take Christmas off and then head into the studio for about two months and record.
The band that I met on Ozzfest back in 2007 just keeps continuing to grow. I was in Walmart a month or so ago and up on the Walmart network in the electronics department was, you guessed it, In This Moment. It was part of their Warped Tour Sound check and they talked to the band about the tour. It was kinda surreal for me to look up and see the band.
This band is going to just blow up big really soon. Their headlining tour should prove interesting to the fans that have been along for the entire ride plus their newly found fans from Warped. It should be very interesting next year to see what happens after they release their new CD next year. The road ahead for In This Moment is one full of promise and opportunity.
American Sixgun were out of their element this summer. Instead of being in a smoke filled bar, they decided to take part in the Vans Warped Tour. "We definitely do not fit in here! The crowds have been great, they’ve been very receptive; actually a lot better than we expected," said lead singer Zach Neil.
I saw the band play in Charlotte, NC on the Warped Tour and spoke to them shortly after their rain filled set. "Yeah, this is our fifth show as a band. We seem to play right about the time a rain shower is coming along. We’re kind of like the underdog on this tour. It’s like us and Shooter (Jennings), the great American musicians who are not being produced right now. We want to work with Shooter and maybe go out on the road. We’re working on him about that. Each night we end up smoking his pot and he drinks our whiskey!" said Zach.
The band plays a style of rock that is sorely missing in music today. " We’re going back to the rock that we grew up with. We’re influenced by Zepplin ,Sabbath, Guns and Roses, Motley Crue and pretty much all rock between 1968 and 1989. The rock show seems to be missing these days. There are a lot of sissy bands on this tour and a lot of bs going on. We’re the rock and roll militia and we’re here to show this kids how to rock," responded drummer Mike Lucchetti and Bassist Tim O’Grady.
The band’s name definitely does not in any way resemble a sissy band. "We wanted something badass, an American badass name. Switchblades were associated with gangs in the fifties. It just paints a picture of who were are about," said guitarist Josh Bodwell. Shortly after this interview, the band was forced to change their name to American Sixgun.
Their debut CD is entitled "The Devil In Your Bones" and it is pure testosterone driven rock and roll. "Let It Ride" is one of my favorite tracks and it has a sort of sixties feel to it. "Friends And Lovers" has a Guns and Roses meets Buckcherry groove. "All For Lovin’ You" is a tongue in cheek song with very insightful lyrics. The entire CD is showcase for this up and coming band.
If you are hungry for some "ballsy" rock and roll that has more substance than style, then these are your guys. They put their main focus on writing great songs and performing them live. These guys are putting the swagger back in rock and roll. Go to their My Space and check them out and relive your glory days when rock and roll actually did rock.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Aroarah, the all female rock band from Sacramento, California, is out to prove to the industry and to the narrow minded world that testicles are not needed to play great rock and roll. The group consists of Lydia Gavin on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Chelsea Baker on bass and backup vocals and sisters Mackenzie and Morgan Knoester on percussion and lead guitar. The release of their first full length CD "The Big Package" will help their stance of female driven rock. I recently spoke to the girls about this and much more.
Aroarah- "Well, it’s been four years since we released our EP and we are very excited about our new CD. The preorders from places like Switzerland and Germany were great."
Johnny- "Let me make sure that I have the history of the band correct. You ladies got together during high school for a talent show and non of you had ever played an instrument?"
Aroarah- "Yeah, that’s true! We were determined to prove that we could do this. We tied for second place and at that point, we knew that this was what we wanted to do."
Johnny- "Your live show has really turned a lot of nonbelievers into fans. I am sure that you must have some great road stories."
Aroarah- "One of the funniest was in Boise, Idaho and it was Mack’s birthday. We went downtown to a party and afterwards we were walking back and literally "bumped" into a cab. The driver got pissed at us and got out and came after us with mace. Also, once in Billing, Montana the roof literally came crashing down on us!"
Johnny- "Here’s a little different type of question for you. I met a deaf person at a club a while back and had no idea that they were deaf. With help from a friend , I spoke to him afterwards and he told me that he could hear the rhythm and the beats, just not exactly like you and I hear them. So, if I was deaf and you had a blank canvas in front of me, how would you paint a picture for me to describe your sound?"
Aroarah- "Very cool question……hmmmm, well, it’s bright, upfront and in your face, hard and moving, lots of grooves, great beats, colorful yet contradicting and a drum snare that you can feel. How’s that?"
Johnny- "I would say that is very interesting! Speaking of interesting, I am sure this answer will be. Do you feel there is a double standard in the industry for women?"
Aroarah- "Oh hell yeah!! Some people see us as a novelty act and they don’t take us seriously. Then, when they do see us perform live we suddenly become an anomally and they don’t know what to do with us. We do get a lot of negative attention but we’re not a bubblegum act. We play real rock and it really takes people by surprise."
Johnny- "So, who are some of your musical influences?"
Chelsea- "Mine range from old school to new school. I love Zepplin, the Beatles, Creem and CCR and then newer stuff like Incubus, Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins."
Morgan- "Everyone is my influence! The Deftones, Ani DiFranco, Mike from Incubus, it’s a long list."
Mackenzie- ""Everything but classical music influences me."
Lydia- ""Mine would be the Foofighters, Chris Cornell and Soundgarden."
Johnny- "I always like to ask this question in all of my interviews because it’s fun to get inside of the mind of a musician. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only have one "store bought" CD, what would
you want there?"
Lydia- "Mine would be Journey ‘Greatest Hits’."
Mackenzie- "That’s easy, Led Zepplin 2."
Chelsea- "Classic choice…Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side of the Moon’."
Morgan- "Tool ‘Undertow’."
Johnny- "Another fun questions for your fans. Do you girls have any guilty pleasures that are printable?"
Aroarah- "Ha ha! Partying and drinking alcohol!! I’m just not sure if we feel guilty about it!!"
We ended the interview as I was slowly drowned out by the wave of laughter that followed their response. Let me tell you, these girls may like to party and have a good time, but they take their music very seriously. To hear the progression from their EP to newer songs such as "Hey", which has a great riff from Morgan that grabs you by the throat at the beginning and won’t let go. Then their is "Unfold" on which Lydia shows that behind that gorgeous face is a talented woman with some amazing vocals that have great range to them. The rhythm section of Mackenzie and Chelsea are not to be overlooked either as they pull this group together making it a very tight sounded band.
Their new CD can be purchased off their official website
www.aroarah.com, I-tunes and DF Jams. If you get a chance, go check out their EPK (Electronic Press Kit) that was put together after their EP came out in 2005 by none other than Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down. It is pretty amazing! These ladies are proof that the preconceived notion of balls to the wall rock and roll is just an outdated cliche. These ladies rock harder than alot of the male bands out there and definitely have more substance behind them.
Monday, August 3, 2009
You ever go to a club to see a band perform and you have to sit through several "lame" bands to get to the one you wanted to see in the first place? Well, I had that mindset a while back when I went to one of my favorite clubs, the Somewhere Else Tavern (SWET) in Greensboro,NC. I went to see some friends of mine play and I didn't know most of the other bands on the bill. I missed the first band and was waiting for band number two to finish setting up.
Well, the next forty five minutes proved to be a very rewarding experience to me. The second band was Redshift out of Washington,DC. From their opening song, you could tell that there was something a little different about these guys. They were serious and they meant business. The band was very tight and cranked through song after song. Songs such as "Bleed Me Dry" and "Satellite" showed that the band combined the best of driving rock and roll, catchy hooks and a sound that demands your attention.
I spoke with the band after their show and lined up the following interview that was very revealing.
JP: Let me start off by telling the readers that the band consists of Jake Mimikos on vocals and guitar, Pete Torres on bass, Shawn Battle on drums and vocals and Ron Cruz on guitar. So, where did the name Redshift originate from?
Redshift: We were looking for a name that would sum up our music, energy and what we were trying to portray as a band. Redshift first caught our attention as a good sounding word. The meaning of Redshift hit everything that we felt we were trying to convey. It means a large burst of energy that shifts the light spectrum to red, one example was the birth of a star.
JP: So how long have you guys been together?
Redshift: Originally, we started about three years ago. Over that time, we got Paulo playing bass about a year and a half ago and then Ron about five months ago. So honestly, we feel like we have a new beginning, the lineup was finalized when Ron joined the band. We feel like we are one cohesive unit now. We just recently had Pete Torres take over duty on bass.
JP: Funny you should say that. I was going to comment on the fact Ron joined the band after you recorded your EP "Into The Oblivion". Do you think that he has changed your sound any?
Redshift: Yes, we feel he has changed the sound slightly. he comes with more of a classic rock feel, so his sound will put more of that element in our songs. I don't think it will change the sound drastically, but it will fill in alot of space in songs. Sometimes music can be too precise, Ron brings that almost psychotic, unorthodox attitude to the band. It gives it an edge that is missing in today's rock. More importantly, Ron brings an energy that is unmatched and has brought our live performance to a new level.
JP: I do have to admit that after seeing you guy splay live at the SWET, Ron is alot of fun to watch onstage. In between songs, he is constantly riffing bits and pieces of songs. I kept hearing Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" that night when I saw you.
JP: Who do you guys sight as your musical influences?
Redshift: We all take influences from different rock eras. mainly heavy, driven rock and roll. Jake's influence came from 90s grunge and new metal era bands like Pearl Jam, Audioslave, Muse and Coheed and Cambria to name a few. You can see a heavy influence of Van Halen, Led Zepplin and late 70s early 80s rock in Ron's style. Shawn grew up on Motley Crue and played in hardcore bands. He loved the straight forward pounding style of Tommy Lee, which gives Redshift its hard rock groove. JP: At your shows, you mention the Jagermeister is a sponsor and you give out freebies from them. That's a pretty major score for a new band. How did you hook up with them?
Redshift: We first contacted them and told them that we loved Jagermeister and of course we pestered them for a while and sent them our music. They finally responded saying that they liked our music and that they would put us on a trial period where they send us Jager merch and we had to prove we were worthy. We ended up putting together videos and slideshows of our performances showing us promoting the product on stage and at shows and sent them to our rep. He ended up loving them and we were sponsored within two weeks.
JP: You guys seem to love to play live. What are you best and worst road stories?
Redshift: Well, we love being on the road and checking out new places. Anytime we drive hours away and find ourselves in good company and playing in front of a large crowd, it's always a positive experience. We especially love being able to stop at a Waffle House on the way from a show. Our worst experience was finding out our show was cancelled after we had promoted it and driven half way there. Of course, it never helps driving long distances when Ron has to take a leak every five minutes!
JP: What's it like trying to get this dream going when the music industry is in such a time of turmoil?
Redshift: It certainly makes it more of a challenge and that's how we look at it. It pushes us even harder though. The industry is going through some changes now and that's fine with us. We are going to make music regardless of the status of the industry, even if we have to do all the work ourselves. This is the path we've chosen!
JP: So, tell me ...do you guys have any printable guilty pleasures for your fans?
Redshift: Ha ha! Well, Shawn loves 80s hair bands and spandex and rocks out with them all the time. Ron sings Michael Jackson songs really well without warning and Jake used to love Madonna...and still rocks out to her!!
JP: You guys probably don't get alot of down time. In that rare chance that it does happen, how do you like to spend it?
Redshift: Shawn hits the river by his house and goes fishing on his canoe all by his lonesome self. Ron sleeps because if its a day that ends with Y, he probably hasn't slept at all. Jake usually hits the gym or cries himself to sleep.
JP: Quick, one word to describe each other...what would it be?
Redshift: Jake: zany, Shawn: idiotic, Ron: screw loose!
JP: I like to ask this of all my bands that I interview. If you were trapped on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would you want to have there with you?
Redshift: Jake would want Guns and Roses "Use Your Illusion 1", Shawn would want CCR "Greatest Hits", Ron would want Van Halen's first CD.
I have to add that the interview was done before Pete Torres took over on bass and i apologize to pete for not having his input on the answers. The band is currently burning up the road and playing every place that will let them plug up an amp. You most definitely want to catch these boys live. Anyone can record a CD, but the real proof is in their live show and these guys do not disappoint. The mixture of Jake's commanding vocals and Ron's intricate guitar guitar work along with the back beat of Shawn on drums and Pete on bass, this band is one strong cohesive unit. You mix in some catchy tunes that have you rocking along within minutes and you have a deadly combination. The band has opened for bands such as Def Leppard, Thriving Ivory,Candlebox, Lifehouse and Poison. You can catch them now or read about them later when they're in the big time!
Monday, July 20, 2009
“Play That Funky Music White boy” was a huge hit for Wild Cherry back in the seventies and still gets major airplay today. Little did we know how appropriate of a song it would turn out to be for Richmond’s Elliott Yamin. Most of you know Elliott from American Idol Season Five where he came in third place. He recently released his sophomore CD, not counting his holiday CDs, entitled “Fight For Love”.
Elliott was in Roanoke,VA on July 17 to perform a special concert at the opening ceremonies for the Coventry Commonwealth Games of Virginia. The games are for male and female athletes of all ages and is similar to an Olympics type competition. I was fortunate to sit down with Elliott backstage before the show to ask him a few questions.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far. I love coming back to Virginia to perform. I have met a lot of great kids here too. I’m a diabetic and I met several kids who are also. It was great to share stories with them since we have that in common. Exercise definitely helps out with your diabetes. I love playing basketball myself,” said Elliott.
I asked him how the reaction has been to his new CD “Fight For Love”? “We’ve been very happy so far, given the landscape of the whole industry and the economy itself from the release of my first CD, we have been very pleased. It’s harder in the market being an independent artist, but I’m very satisfied with the response from radio and the fans.”
It has to be tough figuring out what songs to release to radio. How do you determine which ones? “We do a lot of testing at radio and we also listen to what the fans have to say on the websites. In Japan we released “You Say” as the first single because it tested so well, where here in the states we released “Fight for Love” as the first. I think we’re going to release “Can’t Keep on Loving You” as the next single here. We’ll send it to AC (adult contemporary) radio and see how it does,” responded Elliott.
Speaking of singles, I asked Elliott what happened to a song that I viewed on YouTube of he and Jermaine Dupree called “When I’m Gone”? “That is actually on the Japanese version of my new CD as a bonus track. I loved working with Jermaine. We got along great and the chemistry was awesome. To me, it’s an honor to be able to say that I actually got to work with him.
You know, Jermaine and I actually started working on a second song together but we never finished it. So, I can’t wait to get be able to work with him again.”
Elliott is a very busy man these days promoting his new CD. He had a gig in Modesto, California the day after his appearance in Virginia. He will be singing the national anthem at the WNBA All Star game. He also told me that he will be heading out on tour the day after Labor Day for six weeks with the band Thriving Ivory. “Their lead singer Clayton has the most amazing voice. It’s so unique. I’m looking forward to going out on the road with them,” said Elliott.
I always like to ask two questions of all artists that I interview to give a little insight to their fans. I asked Elliott if he had any “guilty pleasures”, if printable, that would surprise his fans? “Well, I don’t get a lot of down time, but when I do I just like to lay around and do nothing. I have a Shitzu named Buster and I like to spoon with him on the couch.” My other question was if you were trapped on a desert island with only one store bought CD, what would you want to have there with you? “Only one? Oh, without a doubt, it would have to be “These Songs For You Live” by Donnie Hathaway. I have worn that one out so many times. I love it!”
Elliott’s show that night was an acoustic set with his keyboardist Joonie and Russell Ali on guitar. He played a mixture off of his two CDs. Newer songs such as Can’t Keep on Loving You” and “You” and “You Say” translated so well acoustically. Elliott also mentioned that that show was the first time that they had performed “You Say” here. The stripped down arrangement combined with Elliott’s emotional vocals actually gave me goose bumps several times. An artist who is willing to play acoustically is very brave for it exposing one’s vulnerability. Elliott pulled it off flawlessly in Roanoke that night.
For those wanting to know, the set list consisted of : “Free”, “Know Better”, “Find a Way”, “One Word”, “Can’t Keep on Loving You”, “You”, “You Say”, “Fight for Love”, “Wait For You” and “Movin’ On”.
Elliott hung around after the show and signed autographs and posed for pictures with his fans. Being accessible like this really has a big impact on his fans. He’s such an amazing performer and human being. He listens to his fans and loves communicating with them. He is genuine and sincere and it shows. Elliott may play the N Club in Greensboro, NC on his tour. He is definitely worth the short drive down to check out. My thanks go out to all of his people who were so nice to me and the people involved with the games. A special thanks to all of the Etrain members that have contacted me and shown so much love and support. Thank you for welcoming me to you family. Thanks Covie for the amazing clip that I included on here from Roanoke.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
One part sex, one part attitude, one part determination and one part talent. If you put all of those together and blend carefully you come up with one delicious combination. That would be one way to describe Rachelle Ramm: delicious. She is a treat to all of the senses. First off, it would be hard to look at her and not notice that she looks like a model. She definitely knows how to milk sexuality out of the most uncommon elements. Secondly, there is her voice. It's a mix of the rock attitude of Pat Benatar and the emotion of the Wilson sisters of Heart.
I spoke with Rachelle recently after discovering her on MySpace. Her first Cd “City Of Sin“ has been out for a while and Rachelle has been gaining a building a following with her aggressive take no prisoners attitude and amazing vocals. I asked her how long she had been performing. “Well, when I was very young, I had a small tape recorder. All of my neighbors knew that I loved the movie Grease. I think I was like 3 or 4 years old and I was so into Olivia Newton John. I would sing 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' for them over and over. My poor neighbors! I really loved to perform for anyone who would listen. My family was also very into music. My mom was into the Doors and Hendrix and my dad loved Stevie Wonder,“ said Rachelle.
Rachelle does have a wide array of musical tastes and influences. I asked her who her influences were and what I would find in her ipod. “I have so many influences, where do I start? I absolutely love Heart! I also like alot of rock such as Metallica, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Guns And Roses, Hendrix, I could go on and on. Now, when I chill out I like to listen to Cat Power or Sting. I like to mix it up. As far as what's in my ipod? I have a wide mix in it now. I have some Cat Powers, Kings Of Leon, early Chris Cornell, some classic Janis Joplin, Zepplin and alot of others.“
Rachelle aggressive attitude and determination may be traced back to her love of extreme sports. “I am a very active person and I am very hyper. If you give me coffee late in the day or at night, you better look out! I have swam competitively since I was six years old and continued through college. After that, I got into wake boarding. My true passion is snowboarding. I also enjoy mountain climbing, anything that pushes myself.“
Given the fact that this woman is in excellent shape, I had to ask her if she thinks that there is a double standard in the industry as far as women are concerned? “Well, I think there is, but I don't work out and eat right because of the media. I do this because it's a healthy lifestyle that I choose. I mean, I do want to look my best but I like to push myself and challenge myself. The whole double standard thing, yeah, it's sick and twisted I guess. I call myself healthfully insane because of the challenges I like to take on.
Let me tell you people, after five minutes with this woman, you can see that she is on full throttle. Most people would kill just for an ounce of her energy. She is truly a dynamo!
So, with all this passion and energy, how does she channel that into songwriting? Is there a method to the madness for this energetic lady? “Most of my lyrics come off the top of my head unless I am playing around with the guitar. Then again, maybe something is inspiring to me and I run with that. I ask myself 'how it can relate to people?'. Sometimes, Hank Shermann will give me a riff and I will play with it. It strikes me sometimes late at night, there may be a situation that I am going through in life and I will write about it. I have so many little scraps of paper and napkins and anything that I could find to write on when an idea came to me.“
So let's talk a little bit about your CD “City Of Sin“, can we? “You better believe we can! I had so many ideas that I wanted to try on this CD that we could have done two full CD releases. It was a “DIY”, do it yourself CD. Next time, maybe it would be wise to get with a label so that they could help with advertising. I would love to be in the situation to have financial backing for another CD. It's on its way though, don't worry. We did record a new single not too long ago called 'Asphalt Lucky Lust'. It was quick and easy. Hank and I created the idea in one day!“
Her CD “City Of Sin“ is a great tool for her to showcase her amazing voice. It also has a bit of a mix of styles on it also to show her versatility. “Not Ordinary“ has a punk/pop kind of feel to it while “Animal Attraction“ is a slower tempo song yet not quite a ballad. I told her that I would love to hear her slow it down and sing a real ballad on the next CD. “It's funny that you say that because I have been feeling that too lately. I want to record a very sultry, powerful and emotional ballad soon, “ said Rachelle.
So, for a woman who cannot stand to sit still for a long period of time, what are her long term goals for her career? “First and foremost, I want to be happy and share my passion for music. You should never start in this business to become rich or to just do it for the money because it will make you miserable. I think my biggest goal right now would be to tour around the world. I want to perform live for as many people as possible and inspire happiness. What a feeling to look out and see that you're making people smile and feel it with you.“
My last two questions were more about what makes her tick. One was what is your guilty pleasure, if printable and the other was if you were trapped on a desert island and could have only one store bought CD, what would it be? “My guilty pleasure? Well, I guess it would have to be Absinthe alcohol. As far as the CD goes, that's difficult. In this moment, I'd say Guns And Roses 'Appetite For Destruction', I have extreme fond memories during the time it was released.“
I have to tell you that my interview with Rachelle was so refreshing and entertaining. She is like a whirlwind spinning in every direction! You should check her out at www.myspace.com/rachelleramm or at her official website, www.rachelleramm.com. She has a powerful voice that will reaches out and grabs you be your neck and demands your attention. Check her out and see what all the fuss is about.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Mama always told me never to judge a book by it's cover and man is that so true. I first saw pictures of Alissa White-Gluz in Revolver's Hottest Chicks In Metal. I have to admit that she is a very striking woman. A pure natural beauty, whose hair is a wild combo of purple and blue. So, I decided to check them out. I picked up their first Cd entitled "Only Once Imagined" and popped it in my player and was shocked. I knew they were a metal core band but it was Alissa's vocals that caught me by surprise. She has the amazing ability to go from a growling type of screaming to singing in this very melodic tone.
I saw them a while back at Volume 11 in Raleigh,NC and shortly after go ta chance to talk with Alissa.
JP- "Hi Alissa, let me start by thanking you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me."
Alissa- "No problem! We have been very busy on the road touring to promote our latest CD 'Lullabies For The Dormant Mind'."
JP- "I'm curious as to when you first decided that this was what you wanted to do with your life, take off on the rock and roll journey?"
Alissa- "In 2003 I was in my first band called Dream Theater. We were a progressive metal band. I always performed in school programs and plays."
JP- "Now, I saw where the band was first called Tempest and then changed its name to The Agonist. How did that come about?"
Alissa- "We were called Tempest until Simon joined. That's when we found out that there was another band with the same name. There were some legal problems, so we decided to change our name to The Agonist. I really didn't think the old name fit us very well. This one is more appropriate."
JP- "Your vocal styling is very amazing. I was blown away when I saw all that power and emotion coming out of such a small person. I can't get over how you go from growling to singing very melodically. How do you accomplish such a feat?"
Alissa- "Well, thank you. I have to take care of my voice to make sure that I don't strain it. I have to watch how much I use it before a show and I even have to watch what I eat."
JP- "You are such a creative person that I am sure you must have a wide range of influences?"
Alissa- I am actually inspired for songs from painting. I love Salvador Dali. I am also inspired by Gwen Stafani, Poe, Freddie Mercury and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I also love Angela Gossow, who I know, of Arch Enemy. I think she is just amazing."
JP- "The lyrics that you write are not typical in this day and age. Your lyrics do have somewhat of a serious tone to them. You have very strong beliefs that you express through them."
Alissa- "That's true, my lyrics are a mixture of things, but mostly I write about what I believe in. This is entertainment and it's art. I know that people who listen to our songs may not share my beliefs but I would still want them to listen to what I have to say. If they don't share my beliefs they can still enjoy our music. I don't try to shove it down their throats or anything. I just want to share a different look on things."
JP- "So, what are your best and worst road stories?"
Alissa- "I have so many great road stories, not many bad ones. We just get to meet so many amazing people out on the road. we crash at alot of peoples houses while we are touring. We actually got to crash at Bam Margera's house not too long ago. We found out that he is a huge fan of the band. That was very cool."
JP- "Do you have any guilty pleasures , if printable, that may surprise your fans?"
Alissa- "I love Vegan ice cream, I could eat a whole tub of it. There is this cappuccino flavor that I just love"
JP- "On your new CD, at the beginning of '....And Their Eulogies Sang Me To Sleep', it sounds like a vocal slip. Was that a blooper or what?"
Alissa- "That is so funny, you are actually the first person who has asked me about that. Our producer Christian Donaldson likes to keep all of the tape of my exercising my vocals and all the bloopers that may come along. When he's mixing the finished product, he likes to sneak those slip-ups in and see if anyone catches them. I actually liked that one and we left it in."
JP- "One last question, if you were trapped on a desert island and could have only one store bought CD, what would you want there with you?"
Alissa- "Wow, I would probably want to have something by Arch Enemy or 'The End Is Begun" by 3."
The Agonist is definitely a standout in the growing genre of metal core. Musically, they are a tight unit. Lyrically, I challenge you to find a band who has more to say in their lyrics. You can check them out at www.myspace.com/theagonist.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Scarlet Sins burst onto the metal scene with a vengeance with the release of their self-titled debut CD in September of 2007. The band, consisting of lead vocalist Sylvya NuVynska, guitarist Cristina Bishop, bassist Tanya Nicklaus and drummer Elie Bertrand, made the industry stand up and take notice. These ladies rock just as hard, if not harder, than most of the male dominated industry with Sylvya having a vocal style that in hands down one of the most amazing ever heard. I recently spoke with the ladies about their assault on the music industry.
JP: "I'm curious, you ladies definitely have a very seasoned sound, how long have you been playing?"
Sylvya: "Well, I have been singing since I was a little kid. I started taking vocal lessons at 13 it's something that I have done ever since."
Cris: "I started playing keys when I was 5 and have pretty much played any instrument I could get my hands on since then, but I fell in love with playing guitar in my early teens and haven't looked back."
Elie: "I've been playing drums for 14 years."
Tanya: "I've been playing an instrument for almost 10 years. I started off with guitar and switched over to bass about 3 years ago. As for singing, I've been doing that since I was a little kid."
JP: "Do you know the moment that you decided you wanted to pursue music?
Sylvya: "Music has always been in me. I knew it was something that I've always wanted to do from a really young age. Going to concerts with my older sister solidified it even more. I never had that specific moment; it was just always there.
Cris: "I can't remember. Music has been there my whole life, like eating and sleeping, so I am not sure."
Tanya: "I remember being cast as the main character in a school play when I was about 10 years old. I was dressed up in this little peasant dress and was sweeping the floor as I was belting out this song...I felt like I was on top of the world!"
Elie: "For me, there really wasn't a moment, it was always what I wanted to do. As far as I can remember, I never wanted to do anything else than rock the world."
JP: "Who are your musical influences?"
Cris: "Mozart, Metallica, A Perfect Circle, Alice In Chains and more recently Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God."
Tanya: "I have so many influences but mostly all within the hard rock and metal genres. Some of my favorites include Tool, Deftones, Alice In Chains, Marilyn Manson, Lamb Of God, Korn, Black Sabbath and Arch Enemy."
Sylvya: "I grew up listening to hard rock and metal. Bands like Guns n' Roses, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Skid Row, AC/DC, Alice In Chains...the list goes on."
Elie: "I listen to alot of different styles of music from funk to metal to pop to house and I'm inspired by alot of drummers. Definitely Daniel Adair, Tomas Haake, Denis Chambers and John Bonham are direct influences to my style."
JP: "Do you think there is a double standard for women in the industry?"
Tanya: "I wouldn't say it's a double standard but it's definitely harder to be taken seriously as a woman in the hard rock/metal genre. People often assume that you suck before they even have given you a chance or even listen to your music, but I think we're slowly changing peoples perceptions, one person at a time!"
Elie: "It's part of the game. We deal with it and we have fun doing what we do."
JP: A very interesting choice to cover Depeche Mode's 'Strangelove', what made you do it?"
Tanya: "Cris and i were driving one day and we heard Depeche Mode's version the car. As soon as the lyrics 'I give in to sin' came up, we looked at each other and knew we had to do a remake of this song."
Cris: "At the time. we were toying around with the idea of throwing a remake on the album, but we didn't want to do a rock song. 'Strangelove' was perfect because we had so much room to play with it and it came together really fast."
JP: "Can you tell me a little bit about the following songs?"
"Drown" - Sylvya: "It's about someone that is falling apart and doesn't realize it, but the chorus is positive. I wrote it for a friend and just wanted that person to know that no one is ever alone in their problems and that i would never let them down."
"Reborn" - Sylvya: "This song was written by Cris and myself. To me, this song is about losing someone very close to you and they're not coming back to take you with them." Cris- "The lyrics I originally wrote for this song were about meeting your dream person while being stuck in a bad relationship and hoping for strength to make the right choice."
"With You" - Sylvya: "When I first heard Cris' guitar parts, I fell in love with them right away. As she played the riff, the words just poured right out of me. I wrote all the melodies and words in less than half an hour. It's a love song and when you're in love, it's o easy to write about it. At the time, that's how I felt.
JP: "What inspires you to write? Is it impulsive? Do you purposely sit down and try to write?"
Sylvya: "For me, I write best on impulse. If I have to sit there and think about it, I'm never really happy. My best writing just comes out of nowhere."
Cris: "Same goes for me. I get ideas at the oddest times or in the oddest places, like right when I'm waking up or when I'm on the subway."
JP: "What would you be doing if you were not playing music?"
Sylvya: "I'd be a drummer..LOL! I would love to design a rock and roll clothing line for tall people. I hate shopping because nothing ever fits me."
Cris: "Writing music instead?"
Tanya: "HA ha, I think Would be working at a boring office job for the rest of my life!"
Elie: "I would be miserable!"
JP: "Any chance of touring the US this year?"
Sylvya: "We would love to! Do you know any great booking agents that want to set up a tour for us?"
JP: "What animal best describes your personality? I know, it's a strange question!"
Sylvya: "I'd say an eagle. They are strong and independent and free. How amazing it would be to always see the world from above."
Elie: "A goldfish because I forget alot and I live in small places, i.e. my place, teh rehearsal hall, the van..ha ha!"
Tanya: "I have no idea what to reply to this! I've never compared myself to an animal. I've compared other people to animals though mind you."
Cris: "Hmmm, maybe a tiger?"
JP: "Is there someone that you would die to play live with?"
Sylvya: "There are so many bands that I would love to play live with. If I could only pick one, it would have to be Metallica."
Cris: "Metallica all the way!"
Elie: "Lamd Of God, Meshuggah and Guns -n Roses."
Tanya: "Probably Tool, I love their sound and they're amazing live. Just their lights and laser show alone is worth seeing them live."
JP: "Last question ladies: If you were stranded on a desert island with only one storebought CD, can't be downloaded or a mix CD, what would you want with you?"
Sylvya: "Scarlet Sins of course!"
Cris: "Metallica- 'Master Of Puppets.'
Elie: "'Nothing' by Meshuggah
Tanya: "Hmm, tough question, but I would probably choose Alice In Chains 'Dirt' because it's a phenomenal album from beginning to end."
The girls have had quite a run so far in their early careers. They have supported such acts as Buckcherry, Cyprus Hill and April Wine. They were also chosen from 600 Sonicbids to open for Motley Crue. They are currently in the studios writing material for their followup CD. These girls prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the metal genre is not just for the boys. Their sound is tight and very mature to be such a young band. Cristina definitely can lay down some heavy riffs on guitar while Tanya provides a driving bass line throughout their songs. Elie is just a beast when it comes to pounding the skins. Then, there is Sylvya on lead vocals. Her voice contains so much raw power and emotion that she grabs you and demands your attention. Check them out for yourselves at www.myspace.com/scarletsins or at their official web page, www.scarletsinsonline.com.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Tiffany Shea probably wrote her first song inside her mother’s womb. It seems as if just seconds after birth she had booked her first show. I’m pretty sure that she got her first standing ovation from the visitors looking at her in the hospital. You see, Tiffany is more than your flavor of the week artist. In an industry of manufactured artists, she is definitely a breath of fresh air. She has the personality to win over the most unruly crowd and the spunk and determination to make her dreams come true.
Tiffany last stormed through Greensboro in 2004 when she played the SWET. "You know, I think that it was one of the coolest club shows that I have ever done. All of the kids were really close to the stage and they were really listening intently to what I was expressing. It was kind of like pouring a glass of water. As opposed to pouring it out all over the floor, each kid there was a glass and they were full of the water that I poured out by the end of my set. They really absorbed it and took it all in. It was really cool," said Tiffany in a phone interview we recently conducted.
Tiffany is not a stranger to the music scene as I soon learned. She has been performing since 1997, first solo and then with her band in November of that same year. She has released an amazing 13, yes 13, CDs in that amount of time. I think the only artist to put out more CDs on that time frame would be Tupac, but he doesn’t count since he’s not touring anymore.
She was born into a musical family with her dad being a drummer and her mom was a piano teacher. She then moved to singing in church and later community theater. Her love for the arts also extends to art and her love of painting. "When I was 19 years old, I went to see Sister 7 who were out of Austin, Texas. They were a power, passion funk/rock band. I knew the minute that I saw them perform that was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s kind of funny, Patrice Pike was in that band at the time and she and I will be touring together later this summer."
Tiffany’s sound, both vocally and musically is very unique. Imagine taking the over the top personality of Cyndi Lauper, add a little Pat Benatar, a touch of Tori Amos and sprinkle in some Ani DiFranco and put them all in a blender and process them and you get a touch of what this women is capable of. If someone were deaf and she had to paint a canvas to describe her sound to them, how would she do it? "Wow, that’s an amazing question. Well, you know I love to paint. I think all of my art is an extension of who I am. I think the canvas would have lots of bold colors and it would be multimedia with tons of textures so that they could touch it and feel all the differences. It would be abstract yet evoking a feeling that’s universal at the same time. My music is raw, human emotion. I think I capture that where it’s not cryptic or so black and white that it’s boring." I can say for certain, that boring is one word that has never been used to describe this young lady.
The music industry has been in such turmoil the last few years and yet Tiffany is determined to keep marching on just as she has done for over ten years now. I was curious as to what keeps her going? " I have been doing this since 1997. I have funded all but two of my CD releases, they were on independent labels. In the summer of 2005, I had a major career letdown and I crashed and burned. I was burnt out! I mean, I had been doing all of this by myself: I booked my own shows, I was my own graphic designer, I was funding my CDs, it just got to be too much on me. I just walked away from it and tried to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I tried working in a office and quickly found out that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I went to audio engineer school and I constantly found myself wanting to be on the other side of the glass. I went to art school and I was constantly drawing about music. The songs just kept coming into my head and I had to get them out. It’s then that I figured out that, music, it’s not what I do, it’s who I am. It’s my gift and I have to be diligent with it."
Her 2003 release "Phoenix" garnered her praise from all over and numerous awards. What was it about that CD that registered with people? "I think it was the first album that really captured the sound and the feeling of me. It was also super high quality. We really took out time and we wanted it to be right and not just do it to do it, you know what I mean? The power of the music on that CD really did shine. Actually we just re-released a new version called ‘Phoenix II’ this year. It’s been re mixed and edited. There are a few songs that were left off from the original release and some stuff added to it. It’s like ‘Phoenix’ on steroids!"
On a personal note, do you have any guilty pleasures that you can share with your fans. Well, as long as they are printable? "Ha ha! If they’re not printable, I think I will keep those to myself. I guess my one big one right now would be chocolate chip ice cream....I sure am glad you didn’t ask me that question ten years ago!"
One more question as a more fun one for your fans. I always ask everyone that I interview this one. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only have one CD, it has to be a store bought CD, what would you want to have with you? "Oh that’s easy, it would have to be U2 ‘The Joshua Tree’, without a doubt. There are other favorites that I would also love to take such as Tori Amos ‘From the Choirgirl Hotel’ or Heart’s ‘Greatest Hits’ with their eighties stuff on it or Sting ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’."
Again, Tiffany’s performance at the Somewhere Else Tavern is on Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 PM. If you have never seen her perform live, this will be a treat for all. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take us five more years to get her to come back and visit.
I believe there is nothing like a true appreciation for the arts, whether it’s painting, theater, music, poetry or what ever format that it can take the shape of. Well, just recently in our back yard of Spencer, VA this took place. On Saturday, May 30th locals and a few out of towners were treated to our first Indiegrrl Festival. The festival was part of the new library dedication at the Spencer Penn School.
Now, I know some of you may be scratching your heads wondering "What the heck is Indiegrrl?" Well, it’s an organization that was created back in 1998 by songwriter Holly "Figueroa" O’Reilly. In October of 2005, the wheel was turned over to Martinsville’s own Vicki Blankenship and she began her drive. Now, for the what is it part. It’s a non-profit organization that creates an opportunity for women in the arts, whether spoken, music, painting, comedy, authors, etc., to showcase their talents. It also creates a type of social network for them and creates an opportunity to educate their own communities. They have festivals all across the country to help share their gifts with others.
The festival in Spencer was the first for our area and was scheduled from 10:00am until 6:00pm. There were over 25 vendors selling their arts and crafts and some delicious food also. Vicki had lined up some great talent for the show, which offered a wide variety from blues to newgrass to acoustic americana. Each artist was given one hour to entertain the crowd. The day kicked off with Broda, from Farmville,VA, who performed songs from her "Spiral Staircase" CD. She included such favorites as "Rosemary’s Picnic" and "Mulligan Game". She also played "Don’t Sell Yourself Short" which was submitted and included on a sampler by OG Magazine to be given out on the West coast at different events. Now that’s some major exposure right there! "This is actually my second event that I have been a part of and I am just as honored to do this show as I was the first one. I couldn’t be more excited," said Broda after her performance.
Next up was Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Leslie Berry who performed songs from all of her three CDs. She offered songs with very powerful lyrics including "Story of You" from her latest CD "Was It Blue" which was dedicated to all the grandmothers in the crowd. Leslie has such a gentle, yet powerful voice that really takes you by surprise. "I think shows like this one are a great networking opportunity and helps the musicians out by helping us get signed or helping us make our CD. It’s the spirit of Indiegrrl, that’s what it’s all about," responded Leslie.
The Near Misses from Charlotte,NC were next. They are 3 very talented women who have the most amazing harmonies that I think I have ever heard live. Their sound is somewhat country/newgrass. They played a set consisting of songs from their two CDs including "Pretty Enough" from their newest CD "Marigold". They were in great spirits joking around during their entire set. "Everyone here has been really sweet to us and this is such a good cause. We think it’s a very cool event and the vendor support is awesome. We just wish that the community would have come out a little stronger to support it," said the ladies as they packed up to head back to another show that night in Charlotte.
Melissa Reaves from Boone,NC was up next and performed a set that included some amazing effects using a seven second delay foot pedal. Her set was a mix of blues and rock and included a slowed down version of AC-DC’s "You Shook Me All Night Long’ which was amazing. She closed her set with a touching acoustic version of John Lennon’s "Imagine". "I’m excited to be a part of this event. We need all the help and support we can get from the community. It’s not uncommon for the first event like this to have a small turnout, but hopefully we can build on it. It’s a tough time right now, but something like this can only enrich your community," said Melissa.
Next up was the show’s organizer Vicki Blankenship who performed a short set of very emotional and heart felt songs. There’s nothing like watching a performer who genuinely gets into their music like Vicki does. Her set did include a couple of tracks from her upcoming third CD "Elements" which is due out in August. "Blue Flame Trance" was an incredible song done by Vicki solo but will include a full band on the CD.
We were treated to Norfolk, VA’s award winning musician Julie Clark as the show’s closer. She has won the Virginia Music Award for Folk/Acoustic Artist of the Year. She was armed with her acoustic guitar and sung us songs from her two CDs. She, like all of the artists that appeared, have an uncanny knack for telling great stories. They don’t sing just to sing, they invite you in and have you sit down and they tell you a story with each and every song that they sing. "Feel Free" is a perfect example of Julie sharing with us problems she had with her mom as she was growing up. She closed with an unbelievable cover of "People Get Ready". "I just love the small town aspect of this plus the library dedication was very nice too. I’m a big library girl and that part was extra special to me. I just love it here, the scenery is just so beautiful," said Julie.
I spoke to Vicki afterwards about the day’s event. "The vendor turnout that we had was amazing, I just wish we would have had the community come out in stronger numbers. It’s hard to pull off an event like this without their support. The people who did come out really loved it and they did support the vendors. The artists that were here did a great job too. We tried to include different types of music to entertain the people. We had alot of talent here and award winning talent too. Broda and Leslie are actually board members of Indiegrrl. It is hard to pull these off and not go in the hole because we still have to pay the artists. I am excited to have Binding Time Cafe behind us and supporting us."
For those who did attend, you know what you were treated to. For those who didn’t, it was a day full of amazingly talented women who performed their hearts out. It was close to 90 degrees and these women were pouring their souls out under the beating sun. The turnout was low and that was a disappointment for many. It was such a positive event and a missed educational opportunity for many to show the young girls in our community the power that the female body and mind is capable of. Hopefully, there will be a second festival next year and we as a community can turn out and support a little stronger.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Italian alternative/metal rockers Lacuna Coil have been busy the last few months. We have seen them burning up the road as part of the Music As A Weapon tour with Disturbed, Killswitch Engage and Chimara. We also saw the release of their newest CD "Shallow Life". I got to talk to Andrea "Andy" Ferro, co-lead vocalist of the band, backstage before their show in Charlotte,NC on April 13.
JP- "Well, let me first thank you for taking the time to talk to me Andy. I'm a big fan of the band and it means alot. My first question is dealing with your trademark of having duel lead vocalists with Cristina and yourself. How did that come about?"
Andy- "In the beginning, I was playing bass and singing, we were mostly deathmetal and hardcore with some melodies, but mostly heavy music. Then in the early nineties, we started listening to goth metal and alot of European bands and we loved their style. So, we started playing slower and slowing down our melodies. We decided to add an extra vocalist in the practice room. We found Cristina working in a store and she wasn't singing professionally, she was only singing karaoke and asked her to sing some background vocals. We knew she could sing and when we heard her sing with us it sounded awesome. We knew it was making a difference. We were not sounding like any other band with the addition of a second vocalist. So, we added her as a second lead vocalist, I mean it was a shame to use her for only background stuff. That's how we started because it sounded different from everything that was out there. It gave us more space and added to the atmosphere. Some people do that with keyboards, we thought with vocals it would be more original."
JP- "On your new CD "Shallow Life", you chose to use producer Don Gilmore, who has worked with Good Charlotte, Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne to name a few. Did you guys choose him or did he come to you. How did all that work out?
Andy- "Our management approached many different producers. We had worked with the same producer from our first album through our fourth. We thought that we had done enough with him. I mean, it's not a marriage, we need to refresh ourselves and work with someone else. Plus, the way that our songwriting was going with more rock sounding songs and more in a rock vein, our last producer had not worked with rock bands, just mostly metal bands. Out of all the names we considered, Don was the one who really wanted to do it. He really liked the demo that we gave him of the songs. He wanted to work with the band and he was available at the right time. We decided to go for it and we met him and wanted to see he was as a person. He came down to Milan for a couple of days and we went out to dinner to get to know him and it was immediately a good relationship. He was a simple guy to talk to even though he had sold millions of records with Linkin Park. He was very down to earth and easy going. The next day, we took him to the rehearsal room to listen to other demos and he loved them and offered some opinions of the music. We then kept in touch by email and his ideas worked very well.
JP- " I listened to the CD that you streamed early on your MySpace page. I really loved the different sound on some of the songs like "I Like It", did Don bring that out in you guys?
Andy- "The songwriting and main structure of the rough version was done by us, Don contributed on arrangements and he cut parts that were too long or he simplified parts. He didn't change or write anything musically. The song is exactly how we wrote it. We've been very open musically to do what we want. If we want to do a ballad, then we do a ballad. We didn't care about the cliche of the band. We wanted to refresh our sound and the only way we could would be to go anyway possible and see what fits and what's out of the picture. We ended up with 20-25 songs, alot were too extreme or too much out of the picture of where we were going. Some songs we didn't change that much but so we really went out of our way to be not so ordinary. We wanted to find a new, fresher sound and still make it interesting. Many bands just repeat themselves and sometimes that's good. For AC-DC, it's good for them to repeat themselves if that's what you do but for us, we try to change a little bit with each album. We're not the kind of people who want to make exactly the same record but at the same time, we're not going to do a techno or rap album either. That would be too much out of our way. We do want to experiment as much as possible within the spectrum of rock and metal."
JP- "I like to ask a few personal questions that are more for your hardcore fans. Do you and the band have any guilty pleasures that might surprise your fans? Is it something that we can print?"
Andy- "Ha ha! I think most people think we just listen to metal but sometimes when we are on the road, we have a dance part and listen to ABBA or the Bee Gees or crazy seventies music. I mainly listen to rock but it's good not to limit yourself."
JP- "One last question for you. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only have one CD, it has to be a store bought CD, what would you want to have with you?"
Andy- "Wow, one CD is very limiting. I guess maybe a sampler of metal with Alice In Chains and Metallica and other rock/metal acts. Maybe Bob Marley would fit the atmosphere of being on an island better. You know, drinking and being on a beach."
Our interview was then over and ventured back outside. Lacuna's set was first on the bill that night in Charlotte. They came out to a great response from the crowd and opened with "To The Edge" and the crowd, although small, was really into the band. They followed it up with "Fragments Of Faith" and "Spellbound", which got a great pop from the crowd. An incredible version of "Swamped" as next followed by "Not Enough" and the band closed with "Our Truth". Their set was limited to thirty minutes but it was a tight set and it was surprising how into the band the crowd was considering they were there mainly to see Disturbed and Killswitch.
It seems that I will get my wish to see a longer set as the band has just announced headlining dates here in the US. That was the only problem with a thirty minute set, there was so much more that I was dying to hear. My only other complaint was not getting to meet Cristina as she arrived at the venue late. Oh well, maybe on one of their headlining dates. My thanks to George at Century Media for the tix and photo pit pass and to their tour manager Gus. Everyone, especially Andy, was a class act.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
When I was three years old, all I wanted to do was play, eat dirt and try to constantly get into the kitchen cabinets. I guess you could say that I was a typical toddler. Sammy Allen, now she was a bit different. You see, at the tender age of three, she was putting on full stage productions of herself starring in the Strawberry Shortcake Story. She would sing her heart out! The seed was planted back then that grew into a promising singing career.
"My mom and my grandfather were both singers. My mom, Lorraine Allen, has got to have the best tone in the world. I simply adore her voice. I just knew that was what I wanted to do, sing. When I was eleven, my goal was to be in Les Miserables on Broadway. I moved from Virginia to New York on my quest for stardom. I had one small problem, I couldn't act or dance, but I could sing. So, I worked at karaoke bars and I was also a singing bartender. I made lots on contacts on those two jobs and actually met my manager there too," said Sammy during a recent interview that I had with her.
Sammy ventured to Los Angeles where she got a break when a couple of musicians who were looking for a vocalist to front their band. Sammy became that vocalist of the rock band was Seven Stitches. She continued singing for them for about three years before deciding to venture out on a solo career.
She recorded her first solo song entitled "Torn" and ended up getting a big break from a connection with her former band. "Jim Schramm, a distributor for the movie 'Vice', got in touch with me. He wanted to use one of Seven Stitches' songs in the movie. Well, I told him that I wasn't in the band anymore but I had just recorded my first solo song. I told him that he could use on of Seven Stitches songs or mine, it was up to him. Long story short, he chose my song and even got Michael Madsen, who starred in the movie, to act in the music video with me," Sammy said.
Sammy's newest single "I Can See Into Forever", which is a duet that features Hypnogaja, also has a tale within a tale associated with it. "My manager, Amanda Cee, was working with Hypnogaja. I recorded 'Torn' with Jeeve who is in Hypnogaja. Mark, also from Hypnogaja, and Jeeve took me under their wing and are producing my EP for me. It's not as confusing as it sounds."
Sammy has recording sessions booked throughout April and hopes to have everything done in early May or June. "I am dying to get out on the road and perform. I did lots of shows in LA when I was with Seven Stitches, but we never did a full tour. I really wanna get out and play for people. Hopefully, with the help of my manager Amanda, it will happen. I have been in L.A. for four and a half years now and I am very lucky to have her as a manager and a business partner."
The music industry has gone through some changes since Sammy started to focus on her singing career but one thing that has stayed the same is the double standard for women. "Oh yeah, there certainly is. I have encountered that anytime in front of the label. They ask me how old I am and if you are over 22 they would rather throw you to the garbage like you are useless. They tend to be very superficial. I have learned that when I go to meet with producers to take a guy with me. The producer says he wants to talk and then I go into their office and they start putting the moves on me. Yeah, the industry is definitely changing buy the minute. The labels seem to be hanging on by a thread. They need to give the music back to the artist and let them have more control."
Well, there is one thing about Sammy that she does not lack and that is personality. Her fun and sassy attitude came across in volumes during our talk. It seems that Sammy has a guilty pleasure that involves reality television. "It's true, I love just vegging out and watching people that I don't even know, even though I know all of their first names, get totally trashed and hurt themselves. I do have to balance it out and watch a few hours of the Science Channel so that I don't totally rot my brain out!"
I asked Sammy what CD she would want to have if stranded on a desert island by herself? "I would have to say Sarah McLachlan's 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy'. I really love her sound. Her music just speaks to me."
My talk with Sammy was very entertaining and within minutes, you could tell that this young lady is like a can of Red Bull: full of energy, but way more sexier. She has a powerhouse vocal styling that has been compared to Ann Wilson of Heart, which is one of Sammy's influences. She's also been compared to Pat Benatar, which was one of my first comparisons that I also made being a longtime Benatar fan myself.
You can check out Sammy's music on www.myspace.com/sammyallenmusic. Her single "I Can See Into Forever " is available on i-Tunes. This dynamic young lady with two first names is someone to keep your eye on. She has got mad vocal skills and the drive and originality to stand out in overcrowded music scene.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Wendy Moore has been grinding away at her music career for over ten years. She gained alot of notoriety in the music world for writing her book "Into The Void ...With Ace Frehley", which chronicled her exploits with former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Wendy became Ace's personal assistant after a chance meeting at the Cathouse in 2008. Her book details a great number of crazy stories about Ace along with his abuse of drugs and alcohol.
I spoke with Wendy recently to get caught up to speed with what's going on in her career. "Well, my second book, 'Out Of The Void', is about to come out this summer. It's a followup to 'Into The Void'. I had so many fans asking me questions after they read the first book so I decided to answer them in the new book," said Wendy.
How did the first book come about? "I was in a bookstore reading 'KISS and Sell' and there was a contact number in the back and I got in touch with them. I thought to myself,heck I can do that. I wrote the book in three months and after it was published I hit the KISS Conventions to promote it. The new book took a little longer. That took me over a year to write."
Her band Venus Envy has a 5 song demo that is available at www.myspace.com/venuswendy or www.myspace.com/girafeass. Wendy has a very unique vocal styling. It is a little reminiscent of one of her main influences Stevie Nicks. It is very raspy at times yet still delivers a great amount of emotion in its delivery. "Strangegirl" sounds like it could have been an outtake from Fleetwood Mac's legendary 'Rumors' release. Another personal favorite of mine is "Vibrate Me" on which Wendy's vocals shine. "We recently had Bill Aucoin (KISS original manager back in the seventies) send out a guy to LA to see us perform. He really liked the CD and we hope that he will manage us. He does want us to re-record our demo and bring out the vocals a little better so that you can understand them easier. I think that we will wait to be signed and then record it professionally," said Wendy.
Wendy's influences can be heard throughout her bands demo CD. "I love Neil Young. His melodies are incredible. I also love Joni Mitchell for her lyrical content. She can cram so many words into one sentence. Janis Joplin for her raw emotion and Fleetwood Mac for the entire package deal," said Wendy. She is also a part of an internet radio show every Wednesday night at 7:00 PM PST with Greenman at www.glxe.com. She discusses her book, her music and just about anything else that comes up. Fans are encouraged to send in questions and request songs too.
Wendy is also busy finishing up her first screenplay. "It's called 'Timeless' and it is about something that has never been written about so far.I am really excited about it. I can't say too much about it right now other than I am shopping it to Rob Reiner," Wendy said.
Wendy seems to be all over the radar these days. She was also on a recent segment on the E! networks True Hollywood Stories: Rock Wives where she told about being Ace's personal assistant and about overcoming her heroin addiction. There is a very emotional part of the scene where Wendy breaks down about her addiction.
Our talk concluded with my trapped on a desert island with only one CD what would it be question? "Most definitely Stevie Nicks 'Belladonna'. It's my favorite album and my favorite song. I also have two Stevie tattoos."
Wendy is such an amazing person. She has been through her fair share of hardships along the way, but she just pulls herself up by her bra straps and marches on. We had a great talk that night about everything from some of her favorite movies, 'Foxes', 'Little Darling' and 'Valleygirl' to 'We Are The World' being her first single ever purchased to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' being her first album ever purchased. I wish Wendy all the best in her numerous endeavors and I hope that she finds her "Randy".
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Christen Sawyer is not your typical college student. Well, when you look at her, she may blend in with the average college classroom. Blond, very attractive with an innocent smile, but she leads a double life. No, she's not a secret agent and even if she was, I couldn't tell you that. She is a very talented country singer/songwriter from Sugarland, Texas.
Christen attends Texas A&M where she is double majoring with her major in Economics and her minor in Business Administration. If that wasn't impressive enough, her single "Crazy" is currently in the Top 20 on the Texas Music Charts. Oh yeah, she's also a self-professed dork. More about that later!
I spoke with Christen recently about her budding career. "So far, it's been amazing. I actually may take a semester off from school because of how 'Crazy' has taken off at country radio, plus my classes are getting harder too. I feel really lucky for the response to the single, even though I was really embarrassed the first time I heard myself on the radio. I just couldn't believe it, I'm such a dork," said Christen.
I asked if she ever considered trying out for American Idol because she really seems to fit the format of what they are looking for. "I have had so many people tell me on my YouTube account that I need to audition for Idol and that I would be great on there. Actually, I thought about it but I was in school every time the auditions were near here. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Oh, I'm also terrified of Simon!"
Christen has a 3 song demo out that really showcases this young woman's vocals and songwriting talents. One listen to "Crazy" and you can imagine Sara Evans doing her own version of this great song. "Better Off Broken" sounds like something right up Martina McBride's alley. "I'm Already Gone" is also a great example of her storytelling ability. Her vocals have alot of emotion behind them and she knows how to convey an image to the listener of what she is saying.
"I have been singing forever. When I was little, I did ballet and gymnastics and it lasted about a month. Then, I started singing and it stuck. It just didn't feel like work to me. The more I sang, the more I began to believe in myself and now, here I am. I have met so many great artists along this journey. I went to a music seminar and met Jack Ingram, which was amazing," said Christen.
Our talk concluded with asking her what cd she would want to be trapped on a desert island with? "Wow! That's a really tough question. I have never been asked that one before. I guess I would have to say my Benji Davis Project CD. They have so many different styles on it and I don't think I would grow bored of it."
Christen is writing material for her full length CD which she hopes to have out by the end of the year. She is busy traveling all over Texas doing radio shows and performing acoustically on the air live. Fans of Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood should check her out at www.myspace.com/christensawyer or at www.christensawyer.com. This young lady has her plate full with all of her endeavors, but I don't see her that plate becoming too clean anytime soon.