Vocalist and guitarist Janet Gardner is ready to “Rev It Up” again. The blonde beauty whose tenure with the band Vixen brought us the hits “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” is back with a vengeance with JSRG; a band comprised of 3/4 of the classic Vixen line-up.
Gardner, along with bassist Share Ross and drummer Roxy Petrucci had been in discussions with guitarist Jan Kuehnemund for several years about the possibility of doing a full-on Vixen reunion. But after several unsuccessful attempts to reunite due to timing issues, the trio recruited guitarist Gina Stile (who, coincidentally had worked with Gardner and Petrucci on the mid-90′s Vixen project, ‘Tangerine’). In order to avoid confusion but still offer fans the “Vixen” experience, the band decided to use their names and become JSRG.
Gardner’s own story is a journey from the high school choir and small town club scene to the biggest stages in the world. She’s shared the stage with some of the biggest rock groups in music history; including Scorpions and Deep Purple. Hers is a tale not only of hard work paying off, but also one of dreams coming true.
Fresh off a successful run on the Monsters of Rock Cruise and M3 Music Festival, Gardner and the rest of JSRG now set their sights on recording new music and performing at this year’s Firefest.
I spoke with Gardner about JSRG, Vixen, songwriting and more!
What was your experience like at M3?
It was a blast! Everything was so well done. It was such a cool vibe and all of the bands were great! There’s still some confusion over who we are, but people are starting to catch up with it.
Are you working on new music?
Gina and I have been tossing a few ideas around and we’re planning on getting together over the next few months. We’re also coordinating times with Roxy and Share to write and record some rhythm tracks. Our hope is to get it done this summer.
What’s your writing process like with Gina?
Gina and I have written a lot together over the years and in many different ways. Back when we were working on the Tangerine album, we had written somewhere in the range of fifty songs. Sometimes she’ll have a guitar idea or a chorus and we’ll hammer it out together. Other times, she’ll play guitar and I’ll play bass. Then we’ll discover some good melody parts and work on lyrics.
Tell me about the origin of the song “Rev It Up”.
Share had been working with Ron Keel. He had a different set of lyrics for the song at the time and Share was the one who came up with the “Rev It Up” idea. She got together with me, and I worked on the melody for the verse.
Video: Randy Gill
How did you get started in music?
My mom was a pianist and the organist at our church and I would go turn pages for her. I eventually started taking piano lessons myself, but by the time I was twelve I remember really wanting to play guitar badly. My parents finally got me one, and that was the end. I was hooked! The piano was OK, but it was nothing compared to when I was playing the guitar and singing.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a singer?
Growing up, I was actually really shy and would never sing alone in front of anyone. When I would sing, it was always alone up in my room. But I remember it was when I was in junior high school; I was in the choir and no one really wanted to audition for any the solos. Then one day, the director said “Ok, everyone’s going to sing along and I’m going to come around and listen.” As he walked by me he stopped and said, “You’re it. You’re doing it!” and I nearly freaked out. But little did I know, he created a monster! [laughs].
How did you get involved with Vixen?
The cover band I was in was playing a club one night when some girl came up to me and said she knew of a band that was looking for a singer and that I’d be perfect for them. So I gave her my card, but really didn’t think much of it. Then a few days later, I got a call from a manager who gave me a little more info and said he wanted to come down and see me play. So he came out and after he saw me perform said that he wanted to introduce me to the band. So I started looking around for the conspicuous looking guys with long hair. You know, “musician” guys. But then he says, “Oh, they’re over there at the bar.” I look over, and it was a bunch of girls. I had only ever been in bands where I was the only girl, but after meeting them and learning a few of each other’s songs, that was it. Everything just felt right.
What did you find different about being in an all-girl band?
The beauty of it was that there was no weird tension. There’s also less chance of getting involved with someone and screwing up the chemistry of the band. Also, when you’re the only girl in a band with a bunch of guys, there almost always comes a time when somebody’s wife hates you, or a girlfriend wants to beat you up! [laughs]. It was refreshing to not have any of that. Share, Roxy, Gina and Jan are the sisters I never had.
Tell me about making the first Vixen album.
It was an amazing time because we had a major label deal, but as soon as we got into the studio the pressure started to mount. All of a sudden, there were people with their own opinions on what songs we should do, what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. People wanted a say in the matter where before, it was just us. We were just girls from Minnesota and Montana who loved playing live, so it was a bit of a rude awakening.
How were songs chosen for the record?
We originally had a whole bunch of material; a full 90 minutes worth of originals that we had played live. Some of it was a little heavier and maybe not as radio friendly, but the record label had the idea of back loading the album with ten possible singles instead. So a few of our really good songs, ones that we should have fought for, wound up not making it. At the time, we did what we had to do. Having said that, I loved “Edge of A Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” from the first time I sang them.
Let’s discuss that first tour.
It was amazing. We started out touring with Eddie Money, which at the time seemed like an odd pairing, but it worked. We played a lot of colleges and were very well received. Then we did the Scorpions tour in Europe and it was “Welcome to the Big Leagues!” [laughs].
Were you ever intimidated being a girl band on the Scorpions tour?
Not really. Everyone was actually cheering for us. We were a little afraid of how we might be received with their audiences, but we worked hard to win them over. Sure, there were some nights when we walked out there and during the first few songs you could tell the crowd was checking us out and probably thinking, “What is THIS? Who are these chicks?” But by the end, pretty much every night we got them.
What would you say are the highlights of your career thus far?
The first show we played with Scorpions in Copenhagen was a great moment. I remember the lights came down and you could hear the roar of the crowd. It was incredible! Then there was the first time I heard “Edge of A Broken Heart” on the radio. It was on KLOS, the premiere rock station in Los Angeles. I was driving down the street and the radio station I had been listening to for the last six years while living in LA had played it. I just about flew out of the car. I was so excited, I couldn’t even drive. I had to pull over and just listen to it. That was a big moment, because I had spent my whole life listening to music on the radio and now, the coolest rock station ever was playing us. Those were both once in a lifetime events.
For more on JSRG, check out their Facebook page by clicking here!
Former Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm pulls no punches in his new autobiography, Juke Box Hero.
In the book, which was co-written with Scott Pitoniak, Gramm leads readers on a journey from his humble beginnings in Rochester, New York, to the biggest stages in the world. He recounts his stint with Black Sheep, plus the ups and downs of working with guitarist Mick Jones in the band that made him famous.
From the diagnosis that nearly took his life to his solo career success and fascination for muscle cars, Gramm’s book is an honest portrayal of self-reflection from one of the greatest voices in rock history.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Gramm to discuss Juke Box Hero and get his thoughts on being inducted with Jones into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 13th.
You Can read my complete Guitar World interview with Lou by Clicking Here!
With an incredible catalog of songs accumulated over the course of his life, Michael Jackson’s music was something that transcended many different styles and influenced a generation of listeners. Growing up, I remember not only being glued to the television watching the Jackson 5 cartoon show, but also being on the front lines for the “Thriller” and “Bad” album phenomenons (the former still ranks as the biggest selling album of all time).
People just couldn’t get enough of his music; and many a child of the 80′s will tell you (albeit, secretly) that they regularly paid homage to Jackson by imitating his moonwalk or wearing the same jacket and glove style he made famous.
Like me, Grammy winning jazz guitarist Norman Brown never had the opportunity to meet the King of Pop, but his work on the new BWB album “Human Nature” channels the connection Jackson had between himself and his music in a cool and powerful way.
Fans have lamented that more than a decade has passed since Brown and BWB (with fellow jazz greats Kirk Whalum on sax and Rick Braun on trumpet) released their last album, “Groovin”. With “Human Nature”, not only has the supergroup reunited, but the reunion also allowed them the opportunity of putting their own unique spin on eleven Michael Jackson classics; including tasty renditions of “Billie Jean”, “Beat It” and “Man in The Mirror”.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Brown and discussing “Human Nature” and more in this exclusive Guitar World interview.
Human Nature will be released on June 18th, 2013
For more on Norman Brown and BWB, check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/normanbrownfans
Whether it’s writing, producing or recording straight ahead jazz records for himself or for other artists, Fabrizzio Sotti has done it all. But when it comes to his latest album, “Right Now”, Sotti does something completely different from anything he’s ever done before. Included among six brand new, original tracks are songs that have inspired the jazz guitarist from his youth. Classic songs that have been re-worked into mesmerizing jazz-pop gems, including Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” Bob Marley’s “Waitin’ In Vain and ” U2’s “One”.
Among many guest artists, Sotti is joined on “Right Now” by R&B powerhouse Melanie Fiona, reggae superstar Shaggy and hip-hop icons Ice T and M-1 of Dead Prez. The album’s cohesive sound stems from the band, which is made up of Sotti on electric, acoustic and classical guitar, Tony Grey on bass and Mino Cinélu on drums and percussion.
I spoke with Sotti about the new album and more in an exclusive Guitar World Interview!
Gina Stile has been involved in several successful projects over the years including the 80’s bands Poison Dollys and Envy. She’s opened for Aerosmith on a string of dates, had an album produced by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and her current all-female project, Thunderbox is generating a lot of buzz in the New York area. In addition to all of her success, she’s also one hell of a guitar player.
In the mid 90′s (and after the break-up of the band Vixen), Stile began working on a new project with drummer Roxy Petrucci and singer Janet Gardner. Although never intended to be labeled ‘Vixen’ because of its heavier edge, the new music nevertheless became known and was toured as the “Tangerine” album.
In 2012, Stile was already busy with Thunderbox when she was again approached by Gardner, Petrucci and now former Vixen bassist Share Ross about forming the new project, JSRG. With the line-up intact, Stile is performing with Petrucci and Gardner for the first time in 14 years. I spoke with her about the new project as well as her playing and her other heavier edged group, Thunderbox.
Read the full Guitar World article, see pics and watch the new Thunderbox video by Clicking Here
For more info on Gina Stile and her current projects:
Since the formation of their partnership in the early 1970s, Daryl Hall & John Oates have gone on to become the most successful duo in rock history. Together, they’ve sold over 80 million albums; scored ten number one records; amassed more than twenty top 40 hits and have toured the world over for decades.
John Oates’ latest solo project, “Good Road To Follow” gives the guitarist the opportunity to branch out and work with musicians from many different genres. Oates plans to release a new song every month for the foreseeable future and not be bound to the demands and restrictions of making a traditional album. Having this creative control also allows him to create music that will appeal to a wider audience. The project’s first single, “Stand Strong” is already receiving attention, having introduced the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway this past March.
I spoke with Oates about his new single and “Good Road To Follow” project as well as his playing, songwriting and future plans with Hall and Oates.
You can read the entire interview by clicking here.
Since the release of their debut album and #1 breakout smash “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”, the husband and wife team of Thompson Square (Keifer and Shawna Thompson) have been setting the music world on fire.
In addition to a run of sold out shows in tour support of Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, Thompson Square has earned over 25 major award nominations in the last two years including winning back to back ACM Vocal Duo or the Year awards and being recognized by the Grammys, American Music and CMA Awards. The duo is currently out on the road supporting their new album, “Just Feels Good”.
I sat down with guitarist Keifer Thompson to discuss the ACM award, the new Thompson Square album and what he believes makes country music so special.
You and Shawna [Thompson] recently won your second consecutive ACM Award for Vocal Duo of the Year. What was that experience like?
It was just amazing and complete euphoria. Many of the artists that we’ve looked up to all of our lives were out in the crowd watching. The first year I think they were probably thinking, “Who the heck is this?” because they didn’t know who we were. This year, it seems like we’ve become more solidified in our country music family. It was cool; especially now that everyone knows who we are and that we’re not a ‘fly by night’ thing.
Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Keifer Thompson by Clicking Here!
It was the right song at the right time.
Since leaving the band Driveblind, singer Terry McDermott says he looks for any opportunity to make music, and often writes just for the sake of the craft. But when the opportunity came to collaborate with friend Todd Burman on a few songs, there was only one thing that could stand in the way.
McDermott first met Burman when Driveblind was on tour with Burman’s band Juke Cartel, and the two struck up an immediate friendship. But as people in touring bands often do, the pair eventually went their own separate ways. It was a mutual friend who would later reconnect them, but the reunion would be short lived as McDermott was already gearing up to compete on NBC’s ‘The Voice”.
After finishing second on the show to Cassadee Pope, McDermott once again reached out to Burman to complete the hook-laden single, “Pictures”; a song well worth the wait and one which immediately rose to #1 on the iTunes Rock Singles chart less than a week after it was written, recorded and mastered. With a second single already waiting in the wings to coincide with an EP and European tour, McDermott shows no sign of slowing down.
I spoke with McDermott to get the inside scoop on “Pictures” as well as his time on The Voice and what the future holds.
How did the song “Pictures” come together?
Todd had sent me a few pieces of music to introduce me to his style of writing [he was already aware of mine from my bands Driveblind and Lotus Crush]. On one of the pieces he sent, I heard something that really pricked my ears. But by that point, I was already committed to going on “The Voice”, so I told him we’d need to back track for a little bit and then meet up after it was over.
He was a big supporter while I was on the show, and the first thing I did when it was over was call him, and we picked up right where we left off. We went to his house in Hollywood and sat there with a guitar and solidified everything really quickly. I remember we both had a similar vision of what we wanted the song to be about, but from different angles. I was looking at it more from the point of a lost love or girlfriend, and Todd was looking at it as more of a family member.
How did you get on The Voice?
I was looking forward to doing a summer tour with Lotus Crush, but found out that Candlebox also had planned a summer tour that year. [Members of Lotus Crush included some who were also involved in Candlebox]. So I was looking at a seven-month gap where touring wouldn’t be possible. Around that same time, I got a phone call saying that my name had come up with a producer asking if I’d be interested in being on the show.
What was the process and blind audition like for you?
There were a lot of layers of performing to go through before you actually get to the blind audition round, but one of things I remember most about the live round was that no one turned around until the very last second [laughs]. I was actually looking into the air holding a note and the last thing I saw was that none of the chairs had turned. There were only a few seconds to process it, but by that point I remember being resigned to the fact that I was going home. But then I looked down and there were three people facing me [Adam Levine, CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton].
There’s something special about the whole process of the show. It’s a serious business and can build careers, but there’s also an element of fun about it. It was exciting. For me, regardless of what happened I knew there was a set amount of time before the roller coaster ride eventually came to an end. So I was determined to enjoy every step of it. From the moment the chairs turned onward.
Was there a reason why many of the songs you performed on the show were classic rock?
That style of music is what inspired me growing up and made it very easy for me to enjoy my time on the show. Many people were also excited to hear that kind of music so it was great to go out and perform songs that I love so dearly.
Cassadee Pope went on to win the competition. What was your relationship like with her?
Cassadee and I became fast friends very early on. Our musical backgrounds are pretty similar, so we had a lot in common. She came from a signed rock band that had toured extensively, and once I heard her sing, she instantly had my respect. She has a great work ethic and the right attitude to succeed.
Was singing something you always wanted to do?
When I was young I really wanted to be an astronaut. I always was (and still am) passionate about space. My father and mother were both in the Royal Air Force and I used to think about how someone from the British Royal Air Force could wind up in space.
But then I heard The Beatles’ Sgt Peppers album for the first time and began having “terrestrial” dreams as opposed to “extraterrestrial” ones [laughs]. Once I started thinking about music and it got under my skin, there was no turning back.
What’s next for you?
I’m heading off to do a European tour next month and will be releasing an EP. We also have another track that’s been completed and we’re going to tie the release of the single with the launch of the tour. My new band has David Rosser (Afghan Whigs) on guitar; Eric Bolivar on drums and British bass player Alex Smith (World Leader Pretend). It’s a killer four piece. My goal is to take the band and go out and impress people, and much like ‘The Voice’, the only way to do that is to get in front of them and perform.
It’s milestone Monday, and this one is a doozy for sure. Raise your bottle of Zima and break out the Bon Jovi! Twenty-five years ago this very day was my first EVER gig with a band.
On April 29th, 1988 my band, “Silent Rage” competed in the Bath Firehall Battle of The Bands. I know this not because I have a perfect memory (hell, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast some mornings), but because I was smart enough to keep a journal of my musical exploits.
I actually formed Silent Rage in March of 1988, and can remember vividly how much we busted our asses. Sometimes we would rehearse four nights a week for hours at a time. Eventually, we got our very first show.
It was an under-21 Battle of The Bands gig in the town of Bath, Pennsylvania and needless to say, with my band’s first gig now officially booked, I was stoked. Although I honestly don’t recall who won that night (it wasn’t us), I do remember the names of the bands we competed against: Lethal Tender, Cobalt Blue, Mizery and Detour.
But as I sit back and remember this day, I do recall a bull-headed, 18-year-old guitarist who thought he knew everything. There would be a lot of growing pains for me over the next twenty-some-odd years. Pains that began that very night. For while in full rock and roll mode, I neglected to realize that timing was everything. So when we were approached by the promoter asking if we wanted to go on last, I jumped at the chance. I thought “Now THIS is a rock and roll dream!”
With the 8pm start rapidly approaching, I remember being downstairs proclaiming to anyone who’d listen how WE were the headliners that night, and how WE had that coveted final spot. Little did I know it, but my hasty decision likely led to our own undoing. For by the time we went on to perform, it was already well past midnight and most of the under-age crowd had already headed for the exits.
In true Hair Metal fashion, this was our set list that night. The first set list I ever played:
1. Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)
2. You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
3. Talk Dirty To Me (Poison)
4. Pour Some Sugar On Me (Def Leppard)
5. I Can’t Drive 55 (Sammy Hagar)
6. I Won’t Forget You (Poison)
I liked the idea of “I Won’t Forget You” at the end. Kind of made the whole thing sentimental, in a rock and roll sort of way.
Here is the journal entry I wrote after the show was over.
4/29/1988: Well, the Battle’s history. We didn’t win. We were on last and I think that was the biggest factor, because everyone was gone. I think we did extremely well and I was sweating my ass off under the lights. The songs really sounded good. The sound man even told us that ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ sounded great. I threw out all of my picks. We had fun. I remember looking out and seeing people singing along to the first three songs we did: ‘Crazy’, ‘Shook Me’ and ‘Talk Dirty’.
I was so nervous until we finally started ‘Crazy’, then all hell broke loose. My guitar solo was great. Even though we didn’t win, I’m so happy to have done it. Winning is shit, I did what I do best; I want to do it for a living.
I learned a lot that night about what to do and when to do it. I also learned the importance of group decisions when it comes to being in a band. One member shouldn’t speak for all. And I believe that had I asked what the others had thought about going on last, the outcome that night would have been different.
In the end, it was one of the best nights of my musical career. For with that killer opening guitar riff to Crazy Train, my rock and roll dream began.