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: