Saturday, December 28, 2013

Prima Donna's Welcome To Cougartown Tour 2013

What do you get if you take one part New York Dolls, one part Iggy Pop, the grit of a garage band and some old school kick-ass rock and roll mentality? If you mix it right and allow it to marinate, then you are going to get a killer band from LA who go by the name of Prima Donna. What’s that? Did I hear someone say ‘who is that?’ Wow, if you were one of those people then you don’t really know what your musical world has been missing. Please, grab a beer, sit back and relax and allow me to educate you on this band. You and your iPod or MP3 player or stereo or whatever the hell you listen to music on will thank me.

Prima Donna consists of Kevin Preston on lead vocals and guitar, Davis S. Field on drums, Aaron Minton on sax and keyboards, “Lights Out” Levine on bass and Erik Arcane on guitar. The five of them came together back in 2003 and have never looked back. Europe may be a second home for the band as they have toured there probably more than here in the US. They opened for Green Day when they toured overseas and have become pretty buddy buddy with the guys. In fact, they used Green Day’s Jingletown Recorders in Oakland, California to record their newest album Bless This Mess. I talked to the band before their show in Charlotte, NC opening up for Adam Ant and they schooled me on all things Prima Donna.

JP: Hey guys, thanks so much for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I know you have to do your soundcheck and get ready for your show tonight, so we will try and make this as painless as possible.

Kevin Preston/Prima Donna: Hey Johnny, no, thank you for wanting to talk to us man, we really appreciate this opportunity.

JP: With every super hero or, in this case, great band, there is always an origin. How did the five of you come together?

Kevin Preston/Prima Donna: There are a couple of different versions floating around, but the jest of it is that Dave, Aaron and myself were playing in his garage a couple of years ago. We met Eric and Levine through rock and roll shows and all the cool things that we do and here we are now opening up for Adam Ant on this tour. That’s the abridged version of how it happened.

JP: Now, this lineup is the one that recorded the new album Bless This Mess, correct?

Kevin: Yes, this is the golden lineup as I like to call it.

JP: So on that album, you used Green Day’s engineer Chris Dugan to produce it. How different was it to work with him as opposed to what you guys have done in the past?

David Field/Prima Donna: I think the whole experience is different because we were living in the studio while recording as opposed to when we recorded After Hours. It took us a while because we had to do drums one week, bass the next week and then the guitars, so it took a long time. This time, we went in for about three or four weeks and we worked everything out. We stayed in there and focused on just recording.

Kevin: Chris is a vintage equipment expert, so it was one of those situations to where we wanted a specific sound and usually it takes some time to put our heads together to figure out how to make it happen. Now, when it comes to Chris Dugan, you tell him that you want the organ to sound like this or the guitars to have this kind of crunch and he tells you what you need to make it happen. That’s the kind of guy he is and we haven’t worked with anyone quite like him before.

David: The gear and equipment that we had access to was pretty incredible too.

JP: Did Chris push you out of your comfort zone any?

David: Oh yeah, especially on “Broken” and “Tryin”. He masterminded some of the things that we wouldn’t have necessarily thought we were capable of.

Kevin: Those are definitely two songs that, as a producer, he added things to the arrangements.

JP: Little Steven named “Devoted” as his #2 Coolest Song of 2010. How did you guys find out about that and what was your reaction?

David: I think people started emailing us and telling us that they heard us on his Underground Garage show. I don’t think any of us had satellite at that time. Then, somebody sent us a link showing us that we were named Coolest Song of the Week and then a link that we had been nominated for one of the Coolest Songs of 2010.  Yeah, it was basically our fans who told us about it all. It was pretty exciting; it was a really cool thing.

Kevin: Little Steven was really hot on that CD and we didn’t believe it at first, but then we started getting those emails from the fans telling us that they heard it on his show. We met him not too long ago and he plays the hell out of both of those albums.

JP: I guess that just goes to show you that even when you don’t think that people are watching you and paying attention that they actually are.

Kevin: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, you just never know.

JP: I had a fan on Twitter who wanted to ask about the tour that you are doing with Adam Ant. They wanted to know what it was like playing in front of a crowd of middle aged women?

“Lights Out” Levine/Prima Donna: I love it and they love us (laughs).
JP: Maybe it should have been called the “Welcome to Cougartown Tour 2013” (laughs). As for another tour that you were on, opening for Green Day must have been a surreal experience for all of you.

Kevin: 1994 was our 1964, they were like the Beatles for us, so getting a call from Green Day to be their opening act for six weeks in Europe and two in Asia was insane. You know, things like that, you’re just not prepared for them. We rose to the occasion although we still have doubts that it actually happened, although there is video to prove that it did.

JP: You guys have actually spent quite a lot of time touring over there haven’t you? How different are shows over there for you as opposed to here in the US?

Kevin: We’ve done five tours in Europe in the last eighteen months. I think the main difference is that live music is their main way to let loose. In the US, you may just stay at home and watch tv, but in Europe they go see live music before anything else. If you can imagine, their energy less is so intense and they’re more passionate somehow.

JP: Do they have the opportunity that we have here to see shows? I mean, depending on your city, you can walk down the street and there’s a club here and a club there and they all have live music.

Kevin: Yeah, we’re spoiled, just like you said (laughs). You open up your weekly and you may have 20 options tonight for live music.

David: I also think that a lot more bands tour Europe and not the US. I think the money is definitely over there, so there are a lot more options as far as bigger bands to see.

JP: You guys do something that I think is really cool and that’s releasing vinyl only music. The seven inch singles that you release have non-album tracks. Will those ever be available for digital download or will they remain vinyl only?

Kevin: We just released a new single called “Like Hell” and it’s just a seven inch vinyl single with two songs. When we do them for vinyl, we really want them to stay on vinyl, so we hope they don’t become available for download. Then again, you never know because the decision may not be ours. We’re all vinyl junkies, so we think it’s really cool. It’s the only format that has increased in sales over the last few years.
JP: Alright, here’s a fun question for you; what are you personal essential items when you are packing for a tour?

“Lights Out”: Bandanas, Old Spice and razors.

David: Boots, jeans and jacket.

Kevin: Yeah, those are pretty good, boots, jeans and jacket.

JP: I know you guys have to do sound check now, so we’ll wrap it up. Any message you want to throw out there for the fans who will hopefully be reading this?

Kevin: Yeah, please go check out the new video for “Sociopath” and our new album Bless This Mess. It’s brand new and the pressing is almost sold out.

David: Make sure to check out our website and stay in touch with us on our Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and all of that stuff. We love hearing from everybody and we like to see the same faces when we come back and visit some of the same towns.

An Intimate Talk With Ricky Phillips of STYX

STYX is a band that seems to slip up on many people who don't realize how busy these guys are, even though you don't seem to hear alot about them in the current music news. Yes, their name pops up from time to time, but they're not media whores like some others who seem to crave the spotlight. They tend to let their music do the talking and usually that's on-stage in front of thousands of happy fans. I got a chance to talk to bassist Ricky Phillips a while back who caught me up to speed on all things STYX. Here's my interview with him that I did for Rock Revolt Magazine:

STYX, Ted Nugent and REO Speedwagon Take Us On A Rock And Roll Nostalgia Show

Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent brought their nostalgia filled Midwest Rock and Roll Express to the civic center in Roanoke, VA recently. The rock and roll resume of this tour includes over a century of classic rocking and countless hits solidifying these bands contributions to the history of rock. Although the turnout for the show was somewhat light, less than 4000 in attendance, that didn’t discourage the band from giving the fans their money’s worth.

The Motor City Madman opened the show and quickly made an impact on the crowd. Ted is an artist who tends to make more headlines by what he says off-stage rather than what he does on-stage. He proved on this night that his Gibson guitar is like another appendage when he hits the stage. It becomes a piece of him and he just bleeds rock and roll. There were a few familiar faces joining him on-stage including Mick Brown of Dokken fame on drums and original Ted Nugent Band rhythm guitarist Derek St. Holmes.
Uncle Ted let the music do the talking on this night as he put most of his outspoken views on hold. He may not pack as many “hits” as the other two bands on board, but songs such as “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, “Stranglehold” and his signature song “Cat Scratch Fever” definitely fired up the mostly 40something crowd. He definitely knows how to get a crowd out of their seats and fired up at a show.

Styx took the stage next and displayed an infectious youthful exuberance that many bands half their age don’t have on-stage these days. There were some in attendance who shockingly did not know that Lawrence Gowan was handling lead vocal duties for the band. He’s been doing so for fourteen years now as founding member Dennis DeYoung has been out of the band since 1999. Gowan definitely has a style of his own as you don’t see many keyboardists who actually climb on top of their keyboards and use them as a perch to sing to the audience.
Long time members Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young really do shine when they hit the stage, especially Shaw. He is like a little kid jacked up on Mountain Dew as he is constantly running around the stage and entertaining the crowd. The band cranked out hit after hit including such staples as “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Come Sail Away” and “Renegade”. Bassist Chuck Panozzo, who has limited stage time due to health issues after being diagnosed HIV positive in 1998, did join the band for a few numbers.
REO Speedwagon closed out the night’s festivities as front man Kevin Cronin took the stage dressed in all black and sporting shades and a fluffy white hair-do that many commented on. The band was also missing several original members, but that did not seem to bother most in attendance as Cronin’s vocals sounded stronger than ever. The hits began to flow with such favorites as “Take It On The Run”, “Riding The Storm Out” and ”Don’t Let Him Go”  blasted from the speakers.
The band also proved that they still had the whole power ballad thing down pat. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” and smash “Keep on Loving You” saw couples embrace and lighters raised high in the air. Although REO played a set that was a balance of ballads and rockers, they didn’t seem to pack the punch that Styx and Nugent did. I think it would have been a better balance by sandwiching them in the middle of the lineup rather than closing the night.
Overall, it was a great night of music from all three bands. Yes, it was a night of nostalgia as many in attendance exchanged “I can remember when” stories that revolved around the bands. There was an abundance of air guitar being played on this night as well as swooning and drooling over Tommy Shaw’s mane of flowing hair and his tight leather pants. It may be called dinosaur rock by many in the industry, but the fun that the evening provided for all in attendance was far from prehistoric.

Goo Goo Dolls Frontman Has New Outlook On Life

The Goo Goo Dolls seem to have a musical formula that works well for them. Their latest album Magnetic, that was released earlier this year, has proven to be a fan favorite and has released two successful singles so far. I spoke with frontman John Rzeznik a while back about the album and his new outlook on life in an interview for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Eyes Like 20: One Of the Best Bands of 2013 That You May Not have Heard Of........Yet

Eyes Like 20 is a band that you don't just see and hear, you feel them down to your bones. They call their style of music "heavy groove" and you don't get it after one listen, then you need to go back to you manufactured pop flavor of the week regurgitated crap that you are used to listening to. Their 2013 release Magicada is one of the Best Albums of 2013 that you probably haven't heard about yet. Check out my interview with the guys that I did a while back for Rock Revolt Magazine:

A Huge 2013 For Eye Empire

Eye Empire has been put on the road touring and building their army of loyal followers. It's tough to find a band with so much passion raging inside of them for the art that they are creating. I got to sit down with lead singer Donald Carpenter before a show not too long ago and he explained the vision of Eye Empire. You can read that interview here at Rock Revolt Magazine:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Legendary Singer John Waite Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down

John Waite has seen many singers and bands come and go throughout his long career as well as many fads and fashions. There's one thing that never truly goes out of style and that is talent. Talent is one thing that John has an abundance of and he has proven it with The Babys, Bad English and as a solo artist. Although many people may expect him to show up on an episode of VH1's Where Are They Now show, he's still busy creating music. he released a new live album this year and I sat down to talk too him about it. Here's my interview with John for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Chris Jericho Talks Metal, Fozzy and Parenting

Chris Jericho is slowing changing from that wrestler who is in a band to that metal dude who also wrestles. His band Fozzy are no overnight sensation, although many here in the US seem to be just discovering them. Their latest album Sin and Bones really did help to solidify them here in the states as a band to keep your eye on. I got the chance to sit down with frontman Chris Jericho as we talked about old school metal, raising kids, KISS and much more. Here's my interview with him for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Mind Drop Unleash The Awakening

The Illinois based rock/metal band Mind Drop tapped into something special when they brought on-board new lead singer Shauna Lisse. If you don't believe me, then just take a listen to their newest EP entitled The Awakening. I had a chance to talk to Shauna right before their new EP was released and she educated me on all things Mind Drop. Here's my interview with her for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Indie Band Saucy Monky Raise The Bar With Latest EP

There seems to be multiple layers to the band Saucy Monky and the more you peel away, the more complex the band tends to get. They're a bit indie rock, a bit pop, a bit 90s alternative and so much more. The nucleus of the band consists of Annmarie Cullen and Cynthia Catania. I got the chance to talk to these two talented ladies in an interview that I did for Rock Revolt Magazine that you can read here:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Heaven The Axe Is Ready To Invade The US

Australia has given the world of music some pretty amazing bands and artists such as Men at Work, INXS, Crowded House and AC/DC. Well, get ready to add another name to that list; Heaven the Axe. Lead by the stunning Phoebe Pinnock, the band was once described as Cyndi Lauper gone metal. They deliver a powerful punch and their new single "Good Things Come To Those Who Hate" finds the band exploring new territory. You can read my interview with Phoebe for Rock Revolt Magazine here:

Mark Tremonti Reveals Big Plans For Alter Bridge

I got the opportunity to sit down with guitar great and Alter Bridge member Mark Tremonti right before the guys took off for Europe. It was shortly after their epic new album Fortress  was released. You can read all about it on page 16 of the new Rock Revolt Magazine:

Stryper Return With Epic New Album

The yellow and black attack is back with what many are calling their best album ever. Stryper recently released No More Hell To Pay recently and I sat down with lead singer Michael Sweet to talk about it. You can read my interview with him on page 36 of Rock Revolt Magazine:

Talking Rock And Roll With Lita Ford

There aren't many times when I get giddy as I am about to interview an artist, but I have to admit that I was that way right before my interview with the iconic Lita Ford. We talked about her last album Living Like A Runaway, new live album and her reuniting with Cherie Curry. You can check it out on page 22 of Rock Revolt Magazine:

There's Nothing QuiteLike A Chat With Uncle Ted

The only thing for certain when sitting down to talk to Ted Nugent is that you are definitely in for a treat. I had a chance to sit down with this icon in music and it was one of the most entertaining conversations that I think I have ever had. Check it out and see for yourself on page 40 of Rock Revolt Magazine:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Butcher Babies Release A Monster In Goliath

How many times have you looked through a magazine or on the internet and saw a band fronted by a sexy female and automatically went into Beavis and Butthead mode? Well, a hot chick and boobs will only get your band so far in the industry. The Butcher Babies have been fighting this stigma since their inception in. They know that the true talent tends to rise to the top and develop legs to help maintain a long career in music. Their debut album debut album Goliath is about to be unleashed on the world. Will it be a step in the right direction in the development of those legs? Let’s take a look, or should I say listen and see.

Lead singers Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd did garner a lot of attention early in the career of the Butcher Babies for their nipple tape and outrageous stage shows, but these two ladies have the brains to back up their beauty. Their self-titled EP was released in 2012 and word began to spread. The last six to eight months have seen several keys pieces of the puzzle of their career come together as they signed with Century Media and began work on their debut album as well being picked by Marilyn Manson himself to open dates on his tour earlier this year. The buzz really started to grow for this new album as the band announced that they would be performing on this year’s Rockstar Mayhem festival.

The album opens with “I Smell a Massacre” and goes from 0 to 80 in about three seconds as the riff starts and is accompanied by a huge scream that grabs you  by the throat lets you know you are about to get served. It’s a great lead-off track that sets the bar for what lies ahead.  “Magnolia Blvd.” is another healthy dose of in your face attitude and features a crazy mix of vocals that run the gauntlet from screaming to clean vocals to a bit of spoken as well. It also contains some pretty insane double kick drum from Chris Warner as well.

“C8H18 (Gasoline)” is one of my favorite tracks on the album as it brings together all the elements for the musical perfect storm. The riff is big chugs along and the chorus is catchy as hell with its use of clean vocals.  Another track that stands out is “Dead Poet” with its unusual arrangement, which begins and ends with sounds of a storm. In between those moments, the tempo goes from full throttle in your face to almost a complete stop with a short spoken passage before slamming the pedal to the floor again. It’s a very clever and unique arrangement that really makes this track standout. “Axe Wound” will also throw you completely off track with its acoustic guitar intro before tearing into some massive riffs.

Overall, I think the band delivers in a major way with this album. It’s intense, aggressive, and heavy and the riffs, provided by Henry Flury, are catchy and plentiful without sounding redundant. Carla and Heidi take the dual lead vocalist to a different level with their creative mix of screams and clean vocals. The rhythm section of Chris Warner on drums and bassist Jason Klein provide a strong, underlying layer to the Butcher Babies sound that may go under appreciated by some due to the two dynamic ladies garnering so much attention. Warner and Klein lay the foundation to which this might house of metal is built on.

This album was one of the most anticipated for the summer of 2013 and I think it delivers in a major way. I do admit that I wish “Mr. Slowdeath” would have been included on it. Hopefully, some of the haters out there or those with pre-conceived notions of the band will give this album a listen with an open mind; I think many will be converted over if they do. Then again, I don’t think the band really cares because as long as there are haters out there, then you know that you are definitely doing something right.

Pillbuster Bring The Noise To Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia may not spring to mind when you think about cities with awesome music, but all that's about to change. Most of Pillbuster may have relocated to that city, but they brought a wealth of musical expertise with them. Their self-titled album was recently released and I interviewed them for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Pistol Day Parade Burning Bright On New Album

If you get the attention of Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue and he chooses one of your songs for one of his Sixx Picks on his radio show, then you're doing something right. If you're a fan of his show, then you probably have heard of Pistol Day Parade already. If not, check out my interview with them for Rock Revolt Magazine and then go get their new album Burn  and crank it LOUD!!!

Trivium Delivers With New, Highly Anticipated Album

If you look on the list of Most Anticipated Metal Albums of 2013, just about every list contained Trivium. For those who didn’t, they were taken into the dungeon and given 40 lashes with spiked cat-o-nine tails and some actually enjoyed it. For the rest of us, we have been waiting somewhat patiently for Matt Heafy and the guys to unleash another metal masterpiece. They set the bar pretty damn high, some say evening destroying it, with their 2011 highly praised album In Waves. Would they be able to deliver the goods with their new album Vengeance Falls for a legion of metal hungry warriors?

There were many who collectively moaned when it was announced that David Draiman (Disturbed/Device) was going to be producing the album. The band’s no stranger to David as their paths have crossed many times including playing on the same bill of the 2011 Rockstar Mayhem Festival. Many wondered what impact that he would have on the band’s sound for this album, while others worried that he may soften up the brutality that the band delivered on In Waves. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised when I first listened to the new album at the results.

The album opens with “Brave This Storm” and it slams the accelerator all the way to the floor fast. The flurry of riffs and double kick drum is as if the band is shouting out “We’re back mother fuckers!” and they definitely mean business. This track is definitely a stand out on this very solid album. The lead-off single is “Strife”, to which the band has released a video for, and for the most part it has been met very favorably.

Yes, you can hear changes in the band’s ever evolving sound, which is going to be met with some resistance. I think the riffs are more creative throughout the album and are far from being repetitive. I think the biggest thing listeners will notice is Matt’s vocal delivery. He’s raised his own personal bar by growing and relying less on his screaming/growling delivery and developing a more, somewhat melodic delivery showing much more depth. This will probably upset the purists who want him to stay the same, but I tip my metal hat to him for showing growth as an artist.

“At The End of This War” begins with a somber acoustic intro and as Matt begins to sing, you scratch your hand wondering if this is going to be a ballad of some sorts. Well, a mere 45 seconds into it sees the band quickly change gears and start cranking out the riffs. This is yet another stand-out track on many levels. It’s really hard to listen to this album and immediately think, ‘oh yeah, this is a filler track’, because it’s very solid from beginning to end.

Overall, I think it’s a step up from In Waves because if their growth that’s shown throughout. It’s definitely intense and powerful and loaded full of amazing riffs. If you came in wanting it to sound like earlier, pre-In Waves Trivium, then you will be disappointed. If you are expecting In Waves Part 2, then you will be less disappointed. I hope people will have an open mind before they even put this album on for a listen. Judge it for the work of art it is and don’t compare it to past albums. Crank this new album to 11 and let the air guitar playing begin!

Edge of Paradise Raise The Bar On New EP

Perfect Shade of Black  is the new EP recently released by Edge of Paradise and it's going to shock quite a few people. If you think you know the band already, you may want to rethink that. Here's my review of their outstanding EP that I did for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Suicide Chords : A Lesson In Self Worth

Did you ever have one of those bands that just blew you completely away with just one song? It's like, from that point on, you knew that you were going to be a fan of that band for life? Well, that's what happened when I first heard The Suicide Chords. They're an up and coming band that deserves to be heard and you can read all about them. I did an interview with drummer Clay Hackett for Rock Revolt Magazine:

Sammy Hagar Gets By With A Little Help From His Friends

Sammy Hagar has been known to throw some pretty legendary parties at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. When you have an address book of peeps like Sammy has, you never know who might show up and jam with him. There’s nothing quite like an exotic getaway with your toes in the sand, lots of awesome live music, an endless supply of tasty adult beverages and clothing eventually becomes optional. Ok, now that I’ve caused most of us to drift off and day dream about those surroundings, it’s time to come back down to reality before we all get fired from our jobs.  

Sammy has been rocking the masses for almost four decades with Montrose, Van Halen, as a solo artist and most recently with Chickenfoot. He has just released his first album of musical collaborations in his illustrious career.  Sammy Hagar and Friends may not be the most creative title in the world, but when you have friends like Taj Mahal, Toby Keith, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Kid Rock  and Neal Schon of Journey making appearances I think the title nails it. The album features brand new material as well as creative re-works of some of Sammy’s favorite songs.

Let’s look at a couple of the new songs first and see what the Red Rocker and friends have to offer. “Not Going Down” is a song written specifically for Sammy by Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons. The nasty bass line that crawls throughout the entire song burrows into your head and hooks you from the start. The soulful backing vocals on the chorus along with the slide guitar add a bluesy element to the song that pops up more than once throughout the album. “Father Sun” has a feel of New Orleans to it complete with mandolin, accordion and lap steel. It this one doesn’t get you tapping your toes, then check your pulse please.

What about those guest appearances dude? Ok, ok, let’s talk about a couple of those now. “Knockdown Dragout” features the likes of Kid Rock on vocals, Denny Carmassi of Montrose on drums and a damn tasty solo from fellow Chickenfoot bandmate and guitar god Joe Satriani. It’s a high energy rocking number complete with the obligatory chant along chorus that screams rock and roll. “All We Need is an Island” slows the pace down to a mellower pace with a tropical feel and features the sugary sweet vocals of Nancy Wilson of Heart. Yeah, I’ll admit the song did transport me to a tropical island where Nancy Wilson was there waiting on me to join her for some yummy adult beverages; don’t you judge me.

Now, I know some people get turned off by cover songs, but I think these are more interpretations than covers. The Depeche Mode classic “Personal Jesus” takes a 180 degree turn in a hot, funky way with some nasty guitar work from the, still to this day, very underrated Neil Schon of Journey. Chickenfoot bandmates Michael Anthony and Chad Smith also make an appearance on this track. Holy HSAS reunion Batman! Well, almost but with Chad Smith taking the place of Michael Shrieve and Michael Anthony taking the place of Kenny Aaronson. Could Jimmy Buffet’s party standard “Margaritaville” get any better? Sammy and Toby Keith tackle this one and slow the pace down just a tad on it. They definitely add more of a tropical, calypso type of feel to it. A major thumbs up on the reworking of a song that many may have grown tired of hearing.

The deluxe version contains a DVD plus a bonus audio track entitled “Space Station #5”, which appeared on the debut album from Montrose. It features Denny Carmassi on drums, Bill Church on bass (both members of Montrose) and Joe Satriani on guitar and it was recorded live at a Ronnie Montrose tribute concert in This album could be the soundtrack to one of Sammy’s birthday bashes that he is known to throw at Cabo Wabo Cantina. The songs really do vary in style and composition, but I think that just adds to the overall atmosphere that it creates. 2012. The blistering guitar work featured on this album by both Neil Schon of Journey and Joe Satriani just may have many saying ‘Eddie who?’

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Browning: Fusing Music Into A New Sound

The Browning is a very unique band that has been bridging a strange hybrid of hardcore and electronic into something that you really haven't heard before. Well, they got the attention of Korn, who asked them to open for them, so I guess you can say that they're doing something right. I caught up with lead singer Jonny McBee and we talked about the history of the band, where they've been and where they're going:

The Dead Daisies Don't Let Broken Limbs Slow Them Down While Visiting The US

The Dead Daisies, who herald from Australia, recently stepped on US soil for the very first time as they took part in the 2013 Rockstar Uproar Festival. That visit, powered by the strength of their album Lock'N'Load, helped to grow their fan base here in the US tremendously. I talked to lead singer Jon Stevens as he took a break from rehearsing and he gave me the cliffnotes version of how the band got to this spot:

We As Human: Seizing An Opportunity

We As Human are definitely a band who makes the best out of any given opportunity. Whether it's a chance meeting with Skillet frontman John Cooper and an opportunity to pass off one of their CDs to him or an opening slot of the 2013 Carnival of Madness Tour, they seize the opportunity. I got the chance to sit down and talk to lead singer Justin Cordle as the band prepared to head out on the Carnival of Madness Tour:

Papa Roach : Still Swinging Despite Vocal Setbacks

Papa Roach has really come a long way since their major label debut album in 2000. Their sound has developed as well has the band's members as the road has proven to be a bumpy one at times. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix has fought personal demons along the way as well as vocal issues which have side lined him more than once. I caught up with  guitarist Jerry Horton before the band joined the 2013 Carnival of Madness Tour and he caught me up on all things Papa Roach:

Blue October Embark On A New Musical Journey

Blue October is one of those bands who come along and change your life. Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is one of the most passionate artists to ever grace a stage. I had the pleasure of talking to him as the band was about to embark on their latest tour to promote their new album Sway. As always, when you talk to Justin, he puts it all out there and doesn't hold back; just like with his music.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Five Finger Death Punch Deliver In A Major Way With New Album

Consistent is one word that can definitely be used to describe Five Finger Death Punch. The band has released three albums so far in their career and all three have been certified gold, meaning sales of 500,000.  Now, the word consistent can also apply to two different mindsets depending on which camp you belong to. If you are a knucklehead, a nickname for fans of the band, then it would be safe to say that you think the band has consistently delivered some of the best head banging music since their first album The Way of the Fist came out in 2007.

Then, there are those who would say that the band has consistently put out some of the most overrated music ever since the release of their debut album. It seems that the band has developed a huge following of haters, which usually means that you are doing something right. Would their new album The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1 convert some haters or just fuel their fire? Well, I think the answer to both questions would be yes. Let me dissect this new album and hopefully you will understand.

Ivan Moody and the boys open the album up with a track that has been all over rock radio, “Lift Me Up”, which features guest vocals by the iconic Rob Halford of Judas Priest. This is pretty damn near perfection for the boys. It has that chugging guitar riff through it that you associate with the band and it’s infectious as hell. Next up is “Watch You Bleed” and don’t let its acoustic guitar intro fool you because this is no ballad. It doesn’t take too long for Jeremy Spencer’s double kick drum sets in and takes over and it’s a full blown assault.

“You” is definitely a stand-out track and it provides one of the most intense, rapid fire vocal deliveries from Ivan Moody that I have ever heard.  “The Wrong Side of Heaven” is up next and it proves that the band has definitely perfected the modern age metal ballad. “Burn MF” is a tender, emotional, heartfelt song (insert heavy sarcasm). This should be another great song to perform live when the band hits the road, complete with a great sing-a-long chorus.

“Anywhere but Here” features a guest vocal appearance by Maria Brink of In This Moment. The two bands definitely have ties together that go back quite a few years. Ivan and Maria have also been trying to record a song together for quite some time now, but the suits got in the way a time of two. It’s a great song, but I kind of feel like Maria was underutilized on it. There are more guest appearances on the album including Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. One of the most interesting tracks would be the band’s cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out”. I was really looking forward to this when I read about it, but it just doesn’t blow me away. It features an appearance by Tech N9ne, but I think it would have been much cooler if LL himself would have been on it.

Ivan mixes up his vocals on here and delivers the lyrics just how you would expect him to. The riffage from Jason Hook and Zoltan Bathory may very well be some of their best work yet. Lastly, both certainly not least, would be the amazing rhythm section of Jeremy Spencer on drums and Chris Kael on bass, who seem to hold it all together and provide the underlying assault that sometimes gets overlooked and underappreciated.

Overall, it is definitely a very solid album and in time may prove to be their best one yet. It has a harder, more aggressive edge to it than their last album American Capitalist had. Will it convert some haters over to the land of being a knucklehead? I think it’s strong enough of an album to do so, yet it is definitely a huge dose of fuel for the fire for all of those haters out there. I don’t think there is much anyone can do for some of them because they are just always going to hate.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Heart Prove That True Talent Is Timeless

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart are the musical equivalent to a bottle of wine which just gets better with age. A prime example of that would be the band’s new tour entitled the Heartbreaker Tour. It made a stop in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 22. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience is on-board for this tour as the opening act as well as the special guest for the band’s encore.

Jason’s band definitely got the crowd out of their seats and energized as they their way through as energized set of Led Zeppelin hits ranging from “Whole Lotta Love” to “Babe, I’m Leaving You”.  A short change-over took place and Heart soon took to the stage, not losing the momentum already provided to them by Bonham and his crew. You know it’s going to be a special night when a band opens with one of their biggest hits and Heart did just that with a blistering version of “Barracuda”. That definitely got the rest of the crowd out of their seats.

The hits just seemed to be endless as “Heartless” was next and followed by “What About Love” and then “Magic Man”. Nancy took over lead vocals on a beautiful cover of Elton John’s “I Need to Turn to You” as well as a mandolin flavored version of their number one hit “These Dreams”, which was stunning. It was also very nice to hear some newer music from their latest work of art Fanatic performed live. “Alone”, “Even It Up” and “Crazy For You” also made an appearance on this particular night as well. “Walkin’ Good” and “Dear Old America” were included in their set, with the latter providing one of the more powerful and moving points of the night for those who were paying close attention to its content.

The encore saw Jason Bonham and some of his band mates join Heart on stage for a Led Zeppelin tribute. To kick it off, Ann and Nancy came out to center stage and performed an acoustic version of “The Battle of Evermore” which set the bar for what this encore was going to be like. It was beautiful and powerful with their amazing voices accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a mandolin. The rest of the band joined them for the rest of the encore which included a kick-ass version of “Kashmir” as well as an outstanding version of “The Rain Song” which provoked even more goosebumps.

The night closed with what I was hoping would be the closer, which I am sure wasn’t too much of a surprise for many who were there. Nancy plucked the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” and you could sense this was going to be something pretty amazing. I am sure lots of us have seen the clip of the Kennedy Center Honors where Heart came out to salute Led Zeppelin and performed one of the most amazing versions of “Stairway to Heaven” that many have ever witnessed. Would they be able to recreate that magic again? Well, they did bring a choir out on stage with them in Raleigh and although Zeppelin wasn’t there, it was as close as you could come to recreating that magic at the Kennedy Center.

It was an amazing night of music and a very powerful performance by all who were involved. For me, it was somewhat spiritual for me as you don’t go to a concert too many times and have church break out. Ann Wilson’s voice has not faltered a bit over the years and it almost sounds stronger than ever. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I have ever seen the sisters look or sound better. They seem to be so happy and alive on-stage as well. I have seen Heart quite a few times throughout their career and this particular stormy night in Raleigh, NC was hands down the best performance that I have ever by them. As a fan of music and great performers, I feel fortunate to have witnessed something so special that night.

Night Ranger Rock The Martinsville Speedway

There were many times as a teenager in the 80s that I would crank Night Ranger’s Dawn Patrol or Midnight Madness in my bedroom and have my own mini concerts. If you would have told me back then that the band would be playing a special concert in my hometown in 2013, I would have told you that you were completely insane. Well as crazy as it all seems, that actually did happen recently without the aid of Marty McFly or Doc Brown.

Night Ranger was announced to headline the Celebration 2013 event in Martinsville, Virginia on July 3. It was the first time that a rock act topped the bill as country acts were generally the star attraction. Mother Nature was not a happy camper early in the day as rain poured down almost all day long and posed a threat that the event may not even happen. I’m not sure if Mother Nature had an urge to break out her spandex and aquanet, but the skies cleared an hour or two before show time and the rain held off and it turned into a pretty amazing night.

The band came out to the stage a few minutes early to do a pre-show accapella version of the National Anthem. They returned a few minutes later with instruments by their sides and ready to show those in attendance that can still rock in America. The hits were plentiful as the evening progressed and the crowd loosened up and rose to their feet and began to have fun. Lead vocalist/bassist Jack Blades delivered such classics as “When You Close Your Eyes”, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and “You Can Still Rock in America” as the band really hit the stage running on all cylinders and never slowed down.

The twin guitar attack of original member Brad Gillis and Joel Hoeskstra (Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Rock of Ages) put on a clinic for the fans as their combination of blistering leads and outstanding showmanship showed those in attendance an element that is sorely missing in live shows today. Drummer Kelly Keagy is also a co-lead vocalist and he actually stepped out from behind the kit several times to take center stage to deliver some of his well known vocal contributions including “Sentimental Street”, “Sing Me Away” and of course, the power ballad “Sister Christian”.

There were a few surprises thrown in as well for the fans. Guitarist Brad Gillis played briefly with Ozzy Osbourne after the death of guitarist Randy Rhoades. To acknowledge that period of Brad’s career, a blistering version of “Crazy Train” was performed. The solo that Brad layed down was spot on and makes you wonder why he doesn’t get more credit for his skills on the axe. Also, Jack Blades was also in the spin-off project Damn Yankees which featured Ted Nugent, Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw and Michael Cartellone. The band performed two of their hits as well including “Coming of Age” and the power ballad “High Enough”.

Overall, it was a pretty amazing night of rock and roll. The showmanship and comradery between all five of these guys on stage is some of the best that you will see. The guys are definitely having a blast up there and it’s very contagious as you watch them. The 80s and the whole “hair band” period, which I don’t consider Night Ranger a part of other than being around during those years, seems to take a beating. You know, some of those beatings are justified as there was a lot of crap out there as the market became oversaturated, but the fact that these guys are still active and being creative after 30 plus years says something.

Night Ranger: Still Love Rocking The Masses

We’ve all been guilty of doing karaoke and breaking out some 80s classics, especially the power ballads. If you haven’t belted out “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger once or twice, then you better add that one to your setlist. Night Ranger was one of those bands who came along in the 80s as the whole “hair band” era was taking off, but they never truly fit into that category. They were more substance over style, but they were definitely staples of MTV especially when their 1983 album Midnight Madness exploded.

Lead singer Jack Blades left in 1989 and formed Damn Yankees and the band attempted to continue on but eventually folded, even though attempting to carry on with a new lead singer. Blades returned in 1996 and all five original members began work on a new album. After a few personnel changes, original members Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer Kelly Keagy remain and joining them are guitarist Joel Hoekstra (Trans Siberian Orchestra/Rock of Ages) and keyboardist Eric Levy round out the band. The band’s more focused than ever and having the time of their lives. I caught up with lead singer Jack Blades before a recent show and we reminisced about the past and looked ahead to their creative future.

Johnny: Just a few miles from here, I used to crank Dawn Patrol and Midnight Madness in my bedroom on vinyl and here you are in my hometown to perform a concert. This is just so surreal for me as a fan of the band. Now, of course, you guys are playing a Nascar race track tonight. Is this a first for you ?

Jack Blades/Night Ranger: This is actually our third one; we played Ontario and Richmond, Virginia. 

How different is it to do one of these?

Jack/NR: Oh man, I love it! Tonight is a little different because the other two were actually before the race or whatever and it’s been massively amazing. It was pretty wild! 

After being a fan of the band for 30 years, I finally got to cross you off of my concert bucket list last year when you played with 38 Special. Now, either all five of you deserve an Oscar for Best Actor or you are having a blast up there on stage.

Jack Blades/Night Ranger: Oh yeah, it’s the real deal man. At this stage of the game, we want this to be fun. We’ve proven who we are and we don’t have to prove anything anymore. We’ve been doing this for 30 years now, so at this point, you wither get out there and have fun or why even do it at all? You know what I mean? That’s our attitude right now and we actually genuinely have fun out there and how can you not have a great time? I mean, we look out at the audience and we see all those people singing along to all of our songs and they’re smiling and rocking out. It really makes for a great interactive evening.

It’s also very contagious from the fans point of view. I mean, if you’ve been having a crappy day and you come to a Night Ranger show.

Jack /NR: That’s the end of the crappy day! (laughs)

Exactly! Reality may come crashing down the day after, but one of your shows if definitely an escape from all the “stuff” that may be going on in their lives. You guys never seem to slow down, even when it comes to new material. I know a lot of bands from the 80s just do the whole nostalgia thing and don’t record new material, but not you guys. You put out two great studio albums so far in the 2000s with Hole in the Sun in 2007/2008 and Somewhere in California in 2011, plus the 12 Strings and a Drummer: Live and Acoustic release.

Jack/NR: Actually, that was 24 Strings and a Drummer.

Oh my god, I am sorry; I can’t believe I got that wrong.

Jack/NR: That’s ok, you were 12 strings off. (laughs)

Wow, I was only half on my game for that one. Well, what I was going to ask was if there are any plans on another studio album of new material?

Jack/NR: We’re actually in the middle of cutting a new album. We’ve got about twelve songs recorded and it will be finished by the end of the year and will be released the beginning of next year.

Wow, I had no idea that you guys were even working on a new one, much less that close to having it finished. I loved the last two and I can’t wait to hear what you have in store for this one.

Jack/NR: Thanks man, you know it’s really fun right now. I’ve always felt that you have to keep creating, whether you are an artist, photographer, painter or whatever you do, when you stop creating is when you start dying inside. You know what I mean? We’re just going to keep on creating until we can’t anymore. 

Earlier, you mentioned that you had been doing this for 30 years. In October of this year, Midnight Madness turns 30. (Note: This was a huge album in the band’s career and contained the hits “You Can Still Rock in America”, “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Sister Christian”) Are you guys going to do anything special to commemorate that?

Jack/NR: Yeah, we’ve thinking about doing the whole album. You know, maybe do a few special shows and perform the album in its entirety. That would be pretty surreal! Jack/NR: Yeah, I think it would be pretty cool.
Speaking of cool things, you guys are taking part on this year’s KISS Kruise. I know this is your first time on that one, but have you ever done any of the other rock cruises that are out there?

Jack/NR: We did a Monsters of Rock cruise last year or two years ago; I can’t remember exactly when that was. We’re looking forward to doing the KISS one; we know those guys and go way back with them. In fact, our first tour in December of 1982 was with KISS. They were still wearing the makeup and they had Vinnie Vincent with them on guitar. 

Oh wow, that was right near the end of the original makeup era.

Jack/NR: Yeah, you’re right; it was the Creatures of the Night Tour.

Speaking of that first tour, Kelly (Keagy) was the very first drummer who I ever saw with his drumkit turned sideways like that. How did that originate?

Jack/NR: We were an opening act and we didn’t have a lot of room on the stage. There were already the three of us up front and if we put his drums in front of the headliners drums, then we literally had no room up front to move around some nights. Since Kelly sings lead a lot for us, we thought why don’t we just put him sideways and put our keyboards at the other end. It really didn’t happen by design, it happened more by convenience and for expediency sake and that became our thing.

One last quick question because I know you guys have to go get ready. What’s the biggest difference touring now as opposed to back in the 80s?

Jack/NR: I think right now we’re having a lot more fun. Now, back then it was pretty crazy and pretty wild and stuff like that, but we’re a lot less severely medicated right now (laughs).I love it because we’re really experiencing everything this time around and really enjoying it.