Author Archives: James Wood
October 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?
Two 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
Interview with Kotzen & Sheehan by Clicking Here!
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….
What’s in a name you say? Well, when I was growing up, there were certain words that – whenever spoken, always conjured up a feeling or an urge inside of you. Something that was more than just a rational, cognizant realization.
Let me give you a few examples from my own childhood to prove my point:
No, not Fred’s “Yabba Dabba Doo” buddy from The Flintstones. In my neck of the woods (on the south side of Easton, PA), Barney meant only one thing: The guy who made the best cheesesteaks this side of Philly. Although Barney’s been dead for nearly two decades I can still recall the days of eating his wares in his Steak Shop while trying my luck on the latest video games like Vanguard and Defender and listening to the Foreigner “4” album on the jukebox.
No, not the imaginary place or state of things in which everything is perfect (although some of the questionable paraphernalia they sold there may have you think otherwise). Utopia was/is a store in the downtown section of town where all of the teens would congregate in the 1980’s in order to purchase the latest AC/DC or Pretenders album and get concert tickets for Stabler Arena or the Allentown Fairgrounds.
I’m not talking about the chick that swiped the football out from under Charlie Brown. Lucy’s was the neighborhood candy store that served up the finest in Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls and Hostess Twinkies.
See how one word can easily trigger something deep inside you? And while we’re on the subject, let me give you a pair of words that does the same thing for me:
Whenever these two words are mentioned together it instantly reminds me of one of the scariest films I ever saw as pubescent teenager – “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
Sure, by the time that movie came out in 1984, I had already been covering my ears to the creepy intro music of “Halloween” and hidden my eyes from the inevitable pop up scare scenes in the closing minutes of the first two “Friday The 13th” movies. But there was something far more diabolical with Elm Street. For unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees – who at least early on were actual human beings, Freddy Kreuger represented something that was far more sinister – an unknown, malevolent creature who came to us in our darkest dreams.
Watching the scene where poor Amanda Wyss’ character, Tina, is standing in the alley way while Freddy’s arms grow and he pounces on her still gives me an uneasy feeling some thirty years later.
Back then, I wasn’t even aware of some of Craven’s earlier films like “The Last House on The Left” or “The Hills Have Eyes”. All I knew was from that point forward, anytime I saw the words “Wes Craven” before a film’s title, I knew immediately it would be scary and I would have to see it. And although some of his work was questionable in the years following NOES -“The Hills Have Eyes Part II” and “Shocker” immediately come to mind, Craven was back in top form for “Scream” in 1996. Single-handedly creating a film that (at least to me) rivaled Elm Street in terms of its originality and scare.
So hearing the news late last night that Wes Craven had passed away at the age of 76 was somewhat shocking. Knowing that there will never be another film that will give me that same feeling when I see the title. But whenever I hear those two words together – “Wes Craven”, I’ll always remember a man whose vision and memorable characters will continue to live on, both on screen and in dreams.
Back in 2014, Paul McCartney had a great idea for an album. He just needed a world-renowned guitarist and singer to make it happen.
Enter John Pizzarelli, whose musical interpretations of such legendary artists as Frank Sinatra, James Taylor and McCartney’s former band, the Beatles, have received critical acclaim. Pizzarelli even worked with McCartney on his 2012 album, Kisses on the Bottom.
McCartney invited Pizzarelli to delve into his deep catalog of post-Beatles material and take some of his lesser-known tunes and reinterpret them in a mellow jazz style.
The resulting album, Midnight McCartney (which will be released September 11), features “Silly Love Songs,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Coming Up” and other tunes from McCartney’s 45-year-long solo career—all tastefully done in Pizzarelli’s trademark style.
I recently spoke with Pizzarelli about the new album, his work with Paul McCartney, guitars and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How did this project begin?
I had worked on Kisses on the Bottom with Paul in 2012, and we promoted it the following year. We played “My Valentine” on the Grammys and he did a MusiCares event and a live iTunes concert. Then in May of 2014, I got this letter from Paul out of the clear blue sky. He said, “I have this crazy idea to run by you.”
The idea was that maybe I would do a record of some of his post-Beatles catalog as well as some lesser-known songs like “Junk,” “Warm and Beautiful” and “My Valentine.” He said if I liked the idea maybe I could call the record Midnight McCartney and include a dishy little picture of me against the Manhattan skyline [laughs].
I was like, “OK! Whatever you want to call it. Let’s go!” So I went in, did some demos, recorded the record at the beginning of this year and now here we are—Midnight McCartney!
For those of us who have never had the pleasure of meeting him, what’s Paul McCartney like?
I remember my sisters watching The Ed Sullivan Show, getting Abbey Road in the late Sixties and listening to all of the records and then following him through the Seventies and Eighties as well as the new stuff. Then meeting him and going, “OK. Now this all makes perfect sense!”
He’s a fine musician with amazing musical instincts and has done pretty much everything you could possibly imagine. I remember being in my twenties and going to William Paterson College. When he was in his twenties, he was getting off of a plane and there were 50,000 people screaming! Then he played Shea Stadium when he was 23.
To have all of that happen in his lifetime and then find out that not only is he a really great musician but he’s also a very down-to-earth guy—that’s what really stuck with me. There’s no mistaking that he’s Paul McCartney.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with John Pizzarelli by Clicking Here!
Those who know me will tell you that I’m one of those people who’s stuck in the Eighties.
Admittedly, I do love my hair metal and wish that I could somehow get inside of a time machine and go back to those carefree days of youth. To be able to use the confidence and knowledge I’ve gained through years of being an adult to make up for the lost opportunities I missed because of my shyness and lack of social interaction.
Some days I’ll take a trip to the Palmer Park Mall and remember all of those Friday and Saturday nights thirty years ago. A time when the only thing that really mattered was the usual excursions to Orange Julius, the arcade, Waldenbooks and topping it off with a visit to Listening Booth to check out the new albums by by Night Ranger, The Hooters and Bon Jovi.
But I don’t think I’m “stuck” in the Eighties. It’s just that every once in a while you need to go back to those times if for no other reason than to remember who you were.
Last night I had the chance to do just that.
Singer/songwriter Howard Jones – who many of us MTV nuts will remember for his big hair, monster songs as well as a multitude of synthesizers, performed an acoustic show at a local theater in town. What I thought at first would just be a typical trip down memory lane instead turned out to be something much deeper.
When Howard came out, gone was the arsenal of keyboards, the colorful fashion and the big eighties hair. In it’s place was a simple keyboard, a microphone and small MAC laptop. For the next hour, Jones performed many of the songs that a teenaged me listened to. Songs that were the soundtrack of summer pool parties, trips up and down the “Strip” on Northampton Street and background music in the Palmer Park Mall.
But it also felt different. These stripped down, acoustic versions of “Life In One Day,” “What Is Love,” “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is To Blame” took on a new meaning. Every nuance of every word resonated. It wasn’t just music. It was therapy.
For a moment, I was no longer the middle-aged man who worries about bills, health and his family’s future. Instead, I was the wide-eyed, shy boy hanging out at a record store in small town America.
And it was good.
“Significant Mother” is the new comedy series on The CW that tells the story of what happens after young restaurateur Nate Harlowe (Josh Zuckerman) returns home from a trip only to discover that his newly single mother (Krista Allen) has started a relationship with his best friend/roommate.
Originally intended to be developed as a web series, the show was so infectiously good that a nine-episode run was immediately ordered by the network in time for the summer season.
In addition to Zuckerman and Allen, “Significant Mother” features other amazingly talented actors like Emma Fitzpatrick and Nathaniel Buzolic. The series also stars actor/director Jonathan Silverman (“Weekend at Bernie’s) in the role of Nate’s father, Harrison.
With a unique premise, talented cast and a plethora of special guests set to make appearances, “Significant Mother” is the must see show of the summer.
AXS/Examiner recently spoke with Josh Zuckerman about the “Significant Mother”, his career and other upcoming projects.
AXS/Examiner: How did this series come about for you?
Josh Zuckerman: I had just finished a film called “Mind Puppets” and on the last day of the shoot I remember calling my manager and saying, “Ok. What’s next?” That’s when she told me about this offer for a new web series. I had already worked with Alloy Entertainment on a film called “Sex Drive” and they were pitching a show to the CW and wanted me to be a part of it. Once I read the script I just fell in love with it and knew it was something that I wanted to do. The CW was interested in the show but first wanted to test the waters by putting it on this incubation, web-type series. They had originally only commissioned three episodes but after they saw the first cuts they were so over the moon about it that they gave us a nine-episode order!
What was it about the script that attracted you to the role?
The storyline was already appealing but for me the huge selling point was the writing. Erin Cardillo and Rich Keith, who co-created the show, have done a tremendous job. Not just with the story but also in terms of the characters and dialog. It’s always surprising and laugh out loud funny. When something comes to life for you as you’re reading it, you just get excited about playing the scene. That’s what happened with this show.
How would you describe the premise of “Significant Mother”?
A young restaurateur returns home from a trip to discover that his best friend and roommate has developed a relationship with his mom. It’s about their revolving relationship and my character, who is caught in the middle trying to live his life.
What can you tell me about your character, Nate Marlowe?
Nate’s very business driven in terms of his career. He loves his restaurant and wants to be successful. He’s also a little on the straight and narrow. So when this unexpected new dynamic happens with the two people who are closest to him, it really throws him for a loop.
What was the chemistry like on set?
It was amazing. Everyone is just perfectly suited for their role. They’re always prepared and come to the table with ideas and that charm really comes off on-screen. As an actor, you always want to work with other actors who are talented, kind and generous and they fulfill all of the criteria!
What was it like working with Jonathan Silverman?
Jonny is incredible. He’s so funny and such a warm and kind person. He even directed one of our episodes so it was fun to have the chance to see him in that role as well. There’s even an episode where we pay homage to “Weekend at Bernie’s”.
Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment?
I went through a lot of phases when I was growing up. I really didn’t know I wanted to be an actor until I started getting involved in theater. Eventually, there came a point where it was all I wanted to do and I’ve been doing it ever since. It was a gradual progression.
Is there a bit of advice you can give to aspiring actors?
The biggest thing is to enjoy what you do. Remember that in the end, you’re not doing it to get the job or the money or the award. You’re doing it because you enjoy it. It really is about the enjoyment of the process. That’s the biggest thing.
You mentioned your upcoming film project, “Mind Puppets”. What can you tell me about it?
It’s a story about a hypnotist in New Orleans who’s doing a show in a park and invites volunteers up to the podium. He then hypnotizes them into being someone else – like an eight-year-old girl or the Messiah who’s here to save the world. But before he can take them out of the trance the hypnotist suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized. So the people who’ve been hypnotized are running amok around New Orleans under this comedic spell. My character is the ambulance guy whose job is to round up the hypnotized people and bring them back to him at the hospital. We really had a lot of fun with it!
What are you most looking forward to about the series release of “Significant Mother”?
Everyone did such a tremendous job and really delivered day in and day out and I’m excited to see how great everyone involved on the show is. We had a really great crew who accomplished everything on a very tight schedule. But the thing I’m most looking forward to is seeing people fall in love with these characters as much as we did. Adventure is something that I always look for in movies and adventure is what people are going to find in “Significant Mother”.
Significant Mother premieres Monday, August 3 on The CW.
To fans of classic rock and arena rock, it just wouldn’t be summer without the music of Styx.
For more than 40 years the band, whose hits include “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Come Sail Away,” has been delivering the goods the only way it knows how: through infectious live performances.
This summer, Styx—Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass)—are teaming up with Def Leppard and Tesla on what promises to be one of the season’s hottest tour packages.
I recently caught up with Phillips to ask him about the new tour as well as his time with Styx, the Babys and Bad English. He also gave me an inside look into his new album project, the final recordings of Ronnie Montrose.
GUITAR WORLD: What can fans expect from the new tour with Def Leppard and Tesla?
We’ve been wanting to work with Def Leppard again for quite some time. We did some dates with them around 2007 and it was a really good fit. If you’re familiar with Tesla’s catalog you already know that they’re a very aggressive, cool, no-frills band. They just come balls out and do it! Then we go everywhere from a little bit of prog to the guitar duo of Tommy Shaw and James Young to having three lead singers. Then Def Leppard come out with their big arena rock show. It’s a special package where fans will really have a great time.
You’ve been with Styx for more than a dozen years. What’s it like being part of such an iconic band?
The cool thing about this band is that everybody recognizes that what we have is really special. It’s rare to get a group of guys that gel as good as this band does. We all have a lot of strengths to lean on personally and musically. There’s a lot of fun and joking around to keep things entertaining, but once we get on stage it’s all business, which is a good time as well.
Has there been any talk of new Styx music in the future?
I can’t talk about it too much, but there’s certainly some stuff in the works. It’s going to happen. We’re just not sure when.
Let’s discuss a few of the other bands you were involved with. What was the story behind you joining the Babys?
I had always been a big fan of Tony Brock and John Waite and thought “Isn’t It Time” was just a masterpiece of cool rock. Shortly after I got to LA, a sound man for the band saw me play and tracked me down. It was around the same time that John had decided he wanted to front the band and not be weighed down by playing an instrument [Waite had also played bass in the Babys].
I was working in the music store across the street from where they were auditioning when the sound man came in and told me that I needed to go across the street and play. I remember pulling a bass off of the wall and (with the price tag still swinging from the headstock), went over and jammed with the guys for about 15 minutes. We played “Run to Mexico” and “Head First” and then Jonathan Cain and I harmonized with John on “Isn’t It Time.” After that, they all left the room and came back in with their manager and asked me to join the band. That’s how it all started.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Ricky Phillips by Clicking Here!
From her days performing her hypnotic blend of hook-laden music in Arizona coffee shops, it was only a matter of time before twenty-year old singer/songwriter Zella Day made the move to the larger pastures of the California music scene – and with impressive results!
Day’s debut album, Kicker is an introduction to Day both as an artist and person. Her hauntingly infectious songs personify the young singer as a cosmic force to be reckoned with.
Songs like “Hypnotic” and “Compass” lend themselves well to the self-conscious while tracks like “Jerome” offer up a revelation to the solace of home.
I recently spoke with Zella Day about Kicker, her music and where she finds her inspiration.
How would you describe Kicker?
This was such a big project for me and encapsulates so many elements of who I am and what I’ve been through. You really get a strong idea of who I am as a person by listening to this record. It’s very eclectic. There are elements of pop, ballads, outlaw country and even some desert gypsy rock.
What was the writing process like for you?
I have so many different voice memos on my phone and song titles in my notes. Sometimes I’ll have a chord progression that will be sitting around for a long time when the lyrics will suddenly hit me. Other times it may start out with just a title. It’s always different but I try to write a little something everyday. It’s important to keep your creative muscle strong and working. My most inspiring method though is just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and coming up with melodies. It’s what I’ve been doing nice I was nine years old.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Kicker. What can you tell me about the song, “Hypnotic”?
That song was actually written on acoustic guitar. I had my producer bring up a beat that I was really inspired by, wrote a progression and then did a little rap melody over it. That’s how it was born. The song sounds great acoustically, which is something that’s very important to me. Part of my roots are playing my acoustic guitar in coffee shops. So it’s important that these songs can be broken down to the basics.
“High” was written after I saw The National play a show in California. I was so inspired by that experience. I remember it was outside the Santa Barbara amphitheater and it was raining and the whole crowd was immersed in a blue light that they were shooting out from the stage. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. That’s where the line ‘blue line in the sky tonight’ comes from. I came home that night and wrote the song.
That song was written from a stream of consciousness. I like it when that happens. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say while I’m in the moment but later find out that I’ve either taught myself a lesson or got something off of my chest that I needed to. In this case, I had just moved from Arizona to California and the more I listened to it the more I realized that it was a love song for my hometown. “Compass” was my revelation song.
That song was placed #1 on the album because the song is about the woman I was named after. She was the wife of a coal miner in 1842 in Jerome; the town where my parents got married. I didn’t know much about her but I’ve always had this idea of who she was and what the ghost of Zella is and our connection to each other. I wrote the song about her and am essentially introducing myself by name.
What was the recording process like and working with collaborators like Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry?
I’ve worked with them for a few years now and we have a great chemistry. We really know each others strengths and know how to write together. By being able to push through the hard moments we’ve been rewarded with good songs. We’ve written a lot of tracks together and I’m so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.
Did always know that music would be your calling?
I’ve always played music because it just feels right and have been grateful for everything I have and the shows that I play. Even when I was playing coffee shops; it’s how its always been. Every day feels really good right now.
What excites you the most about Kicker?
I’m really proud of every song on this record. I’m not moving forward feeling doubtful or self-conscious about the creative decisions I’ve made. I’m fully behind what I’ve created and put out into the world. Whatever happens, I have that foundation and am really excited to tour the new record and connect with people. There are no secrets and as a new artist I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
Official Website: http://www.zelladay.com/
From her early days working with her brothers in the power trio Trampled Under Foot, bassist/vocalist Danielle Nicole has always found an outlet for her creative, blues-infused songs.
Collectively, Trampled Under Foot recorded five albums, with its most recent, Badlands, reaching Number 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums chart in 2013.
But as the band wound down after 13 years, Nicole decided it was a good time to branch out on her own. Her debut solo album, Wolf Den, which will be released August 21, represents the fruits of her labor and is a treasure trove of blues, funk and groove.
Produced by Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Anders Osborne—whose songs have been covered by the likes of Brad Paisley and Jonny Lang, Wolf Den is a collaborative, New Orleans-themed album buried deep in tasty, blues-based rock.
I recently spoke with Nicole about Wolf Den, working with Osborne, her gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: To someone who might not be familiar with your sound, how would you describe Wolf Den?
It’s an extension of the songwriting from my days playing with my brothers in Trampled Under Foot as well as some songs I’ve never had a chance to record. A few of the other tunes were ideas Anders helped collaborate on and develop with me. The album as a whole is a collaboration rather than all of the songs stringing together.
How does the songwriting process start for you?
Most of the time it starts with a bass line groove or melody, and then I’ll start writing lyrics to it. If it’s a specific instance or taken from experience, it usually starts with lyrics.
What can you tell me about the track “You Only Need Me When You’re Down?”
That was a tune Anders and I had written together. At the time, I was in a bad place in a relationship and had the line, “You only want me when you need me. You only come to me when you’re in trouble.” Anders came up with the groove and we started expanding it from that situation. That’s how it came about.
Read the rest of my
With Danielle Nicole by Clicking Here!