Author Archives: James Wood

Interview: Colonel Oliver North Discusses ISIS, Election and Benghazi Committee

Colonel Oliver North and James Wood

Colonel Oliver North and James Wood

A combat decorated U.S. Marine who’s also served on the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan; LT. Colonel Oliver North certainly knows and cares a lot about military affairs. In fact, in addition to being the founder of Freedom Alliance, which provides scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed in the line of duty, North currently spends much of his time overseas as a Fox News contributor, where he’s been embedded with more than fifty U.S. and allied combat units.

North recently brought his vast knowledge and experience to Bethlehem, PA, where he spoke at a private event organized by The Veterans & Military Action Committee, a part of the 9/12 Project of the Lehigh Valley.

In his nearly hour long speech, North detailed stories of his recent work in the Middle East as well as his support of the U.S. military and time serving President Reagan – at one point, almost coming to tears while watching a video of his former boss delivering an emotionally driven speech about terrorism.

Although his talk dealt with the danger and uncertainty in troubled times as well as his frustration with the current administration’s failure to identify and offer a solid plan for achieving victory over terror groups like ISIS, North’s engagement left the audience of nearly 200 with patriotic enthusiasm and hope for America’s future.

Prior to his speech, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colonel North at length on a variety of topics affecting the United States and the world.

James Wood: We’ve seen a lot of ISIS attacks in recent days, most notably in Paris and Beirut as well as with the Russian Airline disaster. What are your thoughts on the current state of ISIS and President Obama’s reaction that the group has been “contained”?

Col. Oliver North: I’m not sure whether this President is just in denial or if they’re giving him bad information but he is living in a parallel universe. Contained? Are you kidding me? When we first went to war against ISIS they were in one place, and that was on the Syria / Iraq border. At that time, they were just thinking about a caliphate. Now they’ve got a caliphate, they’ve taken ground and they print their own money. They’ve got the city of Mosul, which is the second largest city in all of Mesopotamia and now stretch from Yemen and the base of Saudi Arabia all the way north into the Mediterranean. Every country along the southern coast of the Mediterranean has ISIS elements or people who are loyal to ISIS and say that they’re part of the caliphate. Just in the last few weeks they’ve downed a Russian airplane with 200+ dead along with 129 dead in Paris in six different suicide attacks. Then you’ve got Beirut, which was an attack on Hezbollah of all things. In the midst of all of this, our Commander in Chief said that they are contained. That’s a denial of the reality of what’s going on.

You can read the rest of my AXS/Examiner interview with Colonel North
by Clicking Here.


Steve Vai Talks Tony MacAlpine Benefit Show, Upcoming ‘Passion and Warfare’ Remaster and Next Vai Academy

vaiAs recently reported, guitar greats Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde and John 5, along with drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, are joining forces to play a benefit concert for guitar and keyboard virtuoso Tony MacAlpine, who was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year.

The show will take place December 12 at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

In addition to this extraordinary musical event, Vai, John 5, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Stevens, Paul Gilbert, Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani have all graciously donated a few of the their personal guitars to be auctioned during the event. MacAlpine’s gear manufacturers—Ibanez, Hughes & Kettner, EMG Pickups, Ernie Ball, Source Audio and Voodoo Lab—also have donated equipment to be raffled.

All proceeds will assist MacAlpine and his family.

Tickets for the show are available here.

For fans who are unable to make the show but still want to contribute, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up for MacAlpine. You can contribute to the fund here.

I recently spoke to Vai about the event—dubbed the Benefit Concert for Tony MacAlpine—and a lot more in this exclusive interview.

GUITAR WORLD: Tell me about your relationship with Tony MacAlpine and how you guys met.

Back in the Eighties when there was this emergence of virtuoso-style guitar players, there was this handful of guys that had extraordinary chops and were always raising the bar. Tony was a part of that movement in a big way. He made some excellent records that really showcased his tremendous guitar finesse and virtuosity.

So I had always known of him, but it wasn’t until years later that we actually met. I was putting a band together and needed a guitar player who could also play keyboards, and I had heard that Tony could play some keyboards. I also knew having someone like Tony in the band would bring everything to a whole different level. It worked out great and we had so much fun. Tony’s a lovely guy and it was such a pleasure to tour with him. Some people are just naturally gifted, and Tony’s one of them.

So when Mike Mesker [Tony’s manager] called me about the benefit, I was completely on board. It’s since snowballed into what’s going to be an absolutely incredible event to raise money to help Tony. There’s a tragedy in it, but there’s also the divine shining through from all the love and support he’s getting from everyone he’s worked with and who’s supported him.

Was there anything you didn’t already know about Tony that surprised you?

When we were on tour, we were at a venue where they had a piano set up in the back room, and I remember hearing this piano playing from around the corner. At first, I thought it was a concert pianist that had somehow been left over from the night before. But when I go around the corner there’s Tony playing this Chopin etude absolutely flawlessly. Just like an accomplished concert pianist with tremendous accuracy and emotional investment. It was something I never expected. After he had finished, I said, “What the heck was that?” He told me it was a Chopin etude. I asked him if he could play some more and that’s when he said, “Which one? I know them all.” [laughs].

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Steve Vai by Clicking Here!

Vivian Campbell Discusses New Albums by Def Leppard and Last in Line

VivianCampbellWe recently caught up with Vivian Campbell, who was eager to discuss Def Leppard’s new self-titled album and his more recent project, Last in Line, which reunites the veteran guitarist with his fellow Dio bandmates Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain. Their new album, Heavy Crown, is set for a February 2016 release.

You can check out the complete interview below.

GUITAR WORLD: How did Def Leppard approach recording the new album?

The first thing we did was to write, record and play live in the studio, which was something we hadn’t done since ’96 and the Slang album. The one thing I think really unifies all of the songs is the Def Leppard vocals. It makes us who we are. Although it’s stylistically a very diverse record, it also undeniably sounds like the band. That’s why we ended up calling it Def Leppard.

What’s the writing process like for Def Leppard? Does it begin with a melody, a riff, a hook?

All of the above. Sometimes, someone will come in with a completed song or someone might just have an idea and we’ll all talk about it. A lot of times on this record, we started off with a conceptual idea or an emotion, and a song was written to fulfill that notion.

What can you tell me about the track “Dangerous”?

Phil had a musical idea for that song and worked up a demo for it. It’s flashy and punky with a very immediate chorus. It’s very reminiscent of “Photograph” in a way, and it’s one of the catchiest songs on the album.

How about “We Belong”?

That’s a Joe [Elliott] song and one of my favorite songs on the record. Joe had that written just as we started working on the record. He also had a concept that the song would feature all of us individually taking turns on lead vocals. We’re known for our collective, group vocals and it was nice way to showcase us as individuals. That was a first for the band.

Read the rest of my

gw_logoWith Vivian Campbell by Clicking Here!

‘Get Up!’: Bryan Adams Talks New Album, Guitars and Working with Jeff Lynne

BryanAdamsGet Up!—Bryan Adams’ new album—finds the Canadian rocker reuniting with his longtime songwriting partner, Jim Vallance.

This is the same pair that composed many of the guitar-driven songs that became the soundtrack for the Eighties: “Cuts Like a Knife,” “This Time,” “Run to You,” “It’s Only Love” and “Summer of ‘69” to name but a few.

Although it’s his first album of new material in nearly seven years, Adams’ new Jeff Lynne-produced studio release feels more like a successor to his early catalog. From the late-Fifties-style rockabilly innocence of “You Belong with Me” and the Beatles-flavored “Don’t Even Try” to the upbeat groove of “Brand New Day,” Get Up! is a reminder of what made Adams one of the best-selling artists of our time.

I recently spoke with Adams about Get Up!, guitars and working with Lynne.

GUITAR WORLD: You’ve said Get Up! is an album you wish you had made 25 years ago. Why do you feel that way?

I look at You Want It You Got It, Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless as sort of a trilogy, and this record seems like it would have easily slotted in as the logical successor to Reckless. Only because it’s Jim [Vallance] and I really on top of our game again. There’s something between us that’s completely unique. Of course, working with Jeff Lynne has really brought a nice plot to the record as well.

What inspires you when you write?

Every song is different. For Jim and me, it’s about finding your way down a path you’ve never been down before. Musically, it’s about working out the most interesting way to make the song go forward. With all of the songs there’s definitely a guitar that’s in there somewhere pushing it forward.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Bryan Adams by Clicking Here!

Interview: EJ Roeder Discusses Debut Single, ‘Pleazer’

EJ Roeder

EJ Roeder

18-year-old EJ Roeder is perhaps best known for his dynamic athletic prowess at Bethlehem, PA’s Moravian College. A freshman who’s majoring in management, Roeder has been playing football and basketball his entire life.

But while his work on the gridiron may make him recognizable, it’s Roeder’s musical acumen that’s really starting to make waves. As evidenced by his infectious debut single, “Pleazer”.

Written by Roeder along with songwriting partner, Flashy, “Pleazer” is not only the young musician’s first foray into the music world, but it may also be a foretelling of the creative genius that’s yet to come.

I recently spoke with Roeder about “Pleazer”, his writing process and more in this exclusive interview.

Tell me a little about your background. Was music something you always wanted to pursue?

EJ: I’ve always liked music but never really thought about pursuing it. Making my first song has inspired me to make more music and see what else I can do as an artist. I want to pursue it now more than before.  I want people to hear what I have to say and understand what I think and feel.

How did this track come about? Does it begin with a beat, an idea or a story line? What inspires you?

EJ: The track really came about when I was hearing beats. This was one I kept coming back to because I really liked it.  The way it sounded made sense in my head and I could vibe to it right away.  Coming up with the lyrics was second nature when I heard it. My homie, Flashy, who’s also featured in the song added some great lyrics as well.

What’s your writing process like?

I’ll usually start by writing lyrics. They just seem to pop in my head at random points throughout the day.  

What was it like recording your first song?

EJ: I’ve never recorded before so it was something that I won’t ever forget. I want to record more because of how fun the whole process is. 

Do you plan to eventually release more singles and  have live performances? What’s next for you?

EJ: My plan is to make more songs and go from there.  I have a lot of ideas. Now they just need to be made into songs.

What excites you the most about this new single? 

EJ: Seeing the feedback and then thinking about what I can do better to improve my future work.

Is there a message you’d like people to take away from listening to “Pleazer”?

EJ: There really isn’t a clear message. I just wanted the first song to be catchy and something you can get hype to. Me and Flashy really wanted to make something that people would remember. 

Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Morrison Talk New Single and Black Sabbath’s Final Tour

Billy MorrisonLast week, U.K. musician Billy Morrison—who plays in guitar for Billy Idol—released a solo album, God Shaped Hole, via his own King Mob Music label.

On the disc, Morrison is joined by Idol bandmates Steve Stevens and Erik Eldenius, plus Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and none other than Ozzy Osbourne, who sings lead vocals on “Gods,” which he co-wrote with Morrison.

In this exclusive interview, I spoke with Morrison and Osbourne about the new track, Morrison’s album and, as you’ll see, a lot more.

GUITAR WORLD: Ozzy, How did you and Billy get together for “Gods”?

OSBOURNE: Billy’s been a longtime friend of mine. He called me up one day and when I asked him what he was doing he said, “I’m making an album.” That’s when I said, “Well, I’d love to sing on your album!” So we got together, worked up a couple of melody lines and it literally took us half an hour to write.

Billy, when someone like Ozzy tells you he wants to sing on one of your tracks, what goes through your mind?

MORRISON: If the Prince of Darkness says he wants to sing on your record, you don’t say “No,” now do you? I remember Ozzy sent me a text that said, “Do you have a ballad?” and I said, “Yeah!” But of course, I didn’t! [laughs]. So I wrote the music and took it down to South America when we both went and we literally wrote it in about 20 minutes. It was amazing watching him write those lyrics.

OSBOURNE: And I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass when I say it came that quick. I even remember saying to Billy, “You know? I don’t think we wrote this song. I think it was given to us by someone.” Because you can literally sit in a rehearsal room for months and not come up with anything. But then there are times when you just strike gold, and it’s a great feeling when you do something like that. It’s like giving birth… but without the pain!

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Ozzy & Billy Morrison Here!

‘The Wayside’: Guitarists Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford Discuss the New Shakedown EP, Gear and More

TylerBryant-ShakedownTyler Bryant and the Shakedown have been setting the music world on fire with their soulful writing and tasty guitar work—and for good reason.

Bryant, the band’s singer and guitarist, spent the better part of five tours with Jeff Beck, often jamming with the legend during encores. Meanwhile, guitarist Graham Whitford is about as close to rock royalty as you can get; his father, Brad Whitford, is a founding member of Aerosmith.

On the band’s new EP, The Wayside, which will be released November 13, we find Bryant and the Shakedown—which also features Caleb Crosby (drums) and Noah Denney (bass)—continuing their trend of penning roots-infused melodies and riffs, tightly woven with an alternative, psychedelic mystique.

I recently spoke with Bryant and Whitford about the new EP, their gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe The Wayside?

BRYANT: It’s the first body of work I can say was a complete band endeavor. Every song was crafted by the band. Everyone brought their own personality to the songs and we took some chances we’ve never taken before. It’s a more mature record than anything we’ve ever done. We crafted a record around the songs and a vibe we were all inspired by, which was edgy rock and roll.

What was the writing process like for the new EP?

WHITFORD: A lot of times it starts with a guitar riff, but sometimes we’ll get together and one of us will have a general lyrical idea or a guitar part we think is cool, and we’ll start to dig deep on it. It’s always a different process. There’s no one method to songwriting.

BRYANT: When Graham and I get together, it normally starts with a riff. I also collect lyrical ideas every day and am constantly writing lyrics or thoughts that can turn into something. We jam, sing and talk a lot of trash to each other and before you know it, there’s a song!

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford Here!

Birthday Reflections at 46

BirthdayCakeOctober 5th, 2015. My 46th birthday.

Hey! Wait a minute…. You mean to say that I’m 46-years old young today? Impossible. I’m a Count Chocula connoisseur. An Ultraman geek. A comic book nerd. A PS4 dork. I couldn’t possibly be a middle-aged man.

And yet, I’ve grown accustomed to listening to the creaks and cracks of getting out of bed every morning and the inevitable gray hair I see whenever I look into the mirror. Reading glasses have become the norm for me now and summers are often spent resisting the urge to tell young children to get off my lawn.

Seriously, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was the youthful teenager driving my beat-up, old Toyota to the mall on Friday nights after school? Pouring my lawn mowing allowance into video game cabinets at the arcade while drinking Orange Julius and wishing I could muster up the courage to go talk to the cute girl who stood with her friends in the record store?

Wasn’t I the one who could go to rock concerts and then stay up to the wee hours of the morning talking to his friends about what would happen when we took on the world and made our dreams came true?

This song always makes me stop in my tracks whenever I hear it.

You’re only given a certain amount of time on this bouncing ball. My goal now is to try to make every moment count.

But I’m not here to bum you out on my birthday. Because in addition to being the one who drove to the mall and went to rock concerts, I was also the one who consistently laughed at his parents for being in their 40’s while I regaled in teenage glory.

There’s a sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still and you’ll never be as old as your parents. But then you take a nap and wake up in that role.

What was it they said about karma?

Winery Dogs Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan Talk Gear and New Album, ‘Hot Streak’

HotStreakAlbumTwo years after taking the world by storm with their infectious self-titled 2013 debut, the Winery Dogs are back with a blistering new album dubbed Hot Streak.

On the new album, which is set for an October 2 release, we find the power trio of guitarist Richie Kotzen, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy once again firing on all cylinders, not to mention expanding their horizons while staying true to their roots.

Whether it’s the blistering guitar attack of “Oblivion,” the Eighties-rock feel of “Captain Love” or the hauntingly beautiful “Fire,” Hot Streak shows the evolution of the Winery Dogs as artists and songwriters.

In conjunction with the release of Hot Streak, the Winery Dogs will embark on their first-ever world tour. Stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, see what Kotzen and Sheehan have to say about Hot Streak, their gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: What was the writing process like for Hot Streak?

SHEEHAN: We approached this album a lot like the first one, without any planning or discussion. We all just got in a room together and started playing to write. The only thing we brought in differently was the experience of having done 100-plus shows on stage together.

KOTZEN: We all had some down time this past January and decided to get together at my place to throw some ideas around. Before we knew it, we had about 15 musical “skeletons,” as I like to call them. I sat with them for a few months and out of nowhere started hearing melodies and lyrics. Then I sent them to the guys and said, “Hey, I think we have a record here!” Everything was fresh from the very beginning. It’s a true representation of what we do together.

Did you take any chances musically on this record?

SHEEHAN: “Ghost Town” is a track that people find appealing. It has spooky, distant lyrics and an unusual breakdown in the middle. “Spiral” is a real wild one that came from an arpeggiated bass line that’s going to be an arm buster to play live.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Kotzen & Sheehan by Clicking Here!

A Tribute To Gary Richrath

Photo by: Ross Marino

Gary Richrath (1949-2015) – Photo by: Ross Marino

I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the passing of guitarist, Gary Richrath….

When I took my first guitar lesson back in the spring of 1985, one of the things I told my guitar teacher was that I wanted to learn as many songs as I could from REO Speedwagon’s album, “Hi Infidelity”.

My teacher, a musical genius as well as an astute professor in the art of all things Hendrix, Zeppelin and Sabbath, took one look at my long blond hair and started scratching his head.

“Uhm, you mean you don’t want me to teach you how to play ‘Purple Haze,’ ‘Stairway To Heaven’ or ‘Paranoid’?” he asked.

“Nope.” I replied. “I want to learn how to play ‘Take It On The Run,’ ‘Keep On Loving You’ and ‘Shakin’ It Loose’.” I then presented him with my copy of the Hi-Infidelity album to prove my intentions were valid.

Little did my instructor know was that just prior to that first guitar lesson I saw REO Speedwagon perform in a college gymnasium on the south side of Bethlehem, PA. Getting to witness a guitarist at the top of his game was a spiritual awakening. It became one of the main reasons I decided to pick up the guitar and start playing.

And so for the next few weeks, in addition to learning chord basics and scales, my teacher and I dissected songs written by Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath. Immersing ourselves in the sweet sound of a Les Paul guitar while studying every nuance of the power ballad.

Gary Richrath was an inspiration to me as a guitarist and writer. His tasty songs not only included “Take It On The Run,” and “Shakin’ It Loose” but a plethora of others the band still regularly includes in their set. “Golden Country,” “Like You Do,” “Only The Strong Survive,” “Son of A Poor Man” and of course, “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. A track the band closes their show out with each night and one that will now have extra meaning.

Although Gary left REO Speedwagon more than 25 years ago, he joined the band in 2013 for a surprise performance to help raise money for tornado victims in the Midwest.

This is how I choose to remember Gary Richrath. As an artist who used his time and talent to help others and in the process, left an invaluable mark on the music world as well as a teenage guitarist who first learned his songs thirty years ago.

Oh, and in case you don’t believe my story, I did keep all of my material from those early years of guitar lessons….

REO Lesson

Godspeed, Gary.


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