Category Archives: 1980’s

‘Blisland’: Katrina Leskanich Brings New Album, Hits to Retro Futura Tour

Katrina Leskanich

Katrina Leskanich

Singer/songwriter and Grammy nominee Katrina Leskanich continues to ride the wave.

Shortly after signing a world-wide deal with Capitol Records in the 1980’s, Katrina And The Waves’ signature song, “Walking on Sunshine” became a breakthrough smash and a staple of the MTV movement. The success of the band’s debut would be followed up with whirlwind tours and other hits including ‘Do You Want Crying’, ‘Sun Street’, ‘Love Shine A Light’ and ‘That’s The Way’.

As the innocent, feel-good music of the 80’s transitioned into the grunge and alternative sound of the 90’s and beyond, Katrina kept busy by recording and performing at festivals and shows in the UK and all over Europe – never quite making it back to the U.S.

That is, until now.

For U.S. fans eager for the return of Katrina’s signature voice and songs, the wait is over! Katrina will be joining fellow 80’s alumni Howard Jones, Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Midge Ure (Ultravox) and China Crisis for this year’s Retro Futura – a tour that will take the artists all across North America, celebrating the music that defined a generation!

Coinciding with Katrina’s first U.S tour in nearly twenty-five years is the release of her brand new studio album – “Blisland” [release date: August 19th]. An inspired collection of infectious songs and tasty guitar work that also includes a live, “Borderline Blues” version of “Walking On Sunshine”.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Katrina about the upcoming Retro Futura Tour, “Blisland” and what made the 80s so great!

How did you get involved with the Retro Futura Tour project?

I had worked with Rick Shoor [Paradise Artists] back in the day when he worked with Frontier Booking International. When they were setting up the tour he remembered me and thought it was worth the call. I was all in. I intend to have loads of fun and catch up with a lot of people.

When was the last time you toured the U.S.?

The last time was probably somewhere around 1989. We had a little bit of success with a song called “That’s The Way” and went over to do some shows, but it wasn’t like it was a proper tour. Doing this tour is going to be a lot of fun.

What can fans expect from your set?

For sure, I’m going to play “Walking On Sunshine”. I’m also going to play two songs off of my brand new album, “Blisland” as well as a few other Katrina and The Waves songs. One of the songs I’ll be doing is my own version of our song “Going Down To Liverpool”. The reason the band got signed in the beginning was because The Bangles actually did a version of that song. I feel we have The Bangles to thank for initially getting us signed to Capitol Records. Mostly, I’m just going to bring my Fender Telecaster to rock out and have a good time!

What inspired your new album, “Blisland”?

I wasn’t expecting to make a record. It’s actually been ten years since I released a new studio album, but once I got invited on this tour I decided to go for it. It felt good to express myself and get some things out that had been bottled up. The album was very much influenced by a place in the world that I always tend to be attracted to – the southwest. In the southwest of England, there’s a place called Cornwall and it was there where I discovered a little village called Blisland. I thought that was such a great name, so I decided to pull over. They had a fantastic pub called The Blisland Inn and about four hours later [and four-pints] I made up my mind that I was going to make a record and call it “Blisland”.

It’s based on the genre of music that I had grown up listening to. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mama Cass Elliot and bands like The Raspberries and Rare Earth. I even wrote a song with ZZ Top in mind [Texas Cloud]. There’s also a fun song with country influences [Farmer's Song] that was inspired by my parents living out on a farm and not having a clue about anything that was going on in the world.

Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the new album:

Blisland.

As the song says, “Blisland” can be anywhere, as long as you have a heart. I’ve lived in about twenty-five different places in the world and ended up here in London. It’s a song about how anywhere can be home and a reflection of how the southwest makes me feel.

Sun Coming Upper.

I had a few bad years in my life and it was a bit of a nightmare time. It’s talking about loss and wondering when I was going to get a “high”. It was fun to think of the idea of the sun coming up as a kind of drug – a sun coming “upper”.

Every Step.

That’s an out and out love song. It’s about falling in love with somebody, taking every step with them and then looking back and remembering that every step with them was love. It’s as simple as that.

What can you tell me about your musical upbringing?

I was one of six children who grew up in a Catholic family and every Sunday we were trotted off to church, which usually involved a lot of singing. Whenever my parents would set us down for meals in the evening, they would have us sing holy songs before we ate. So there was always a lot of music in the home and my parents encouraged us to play lots of instruments. It grew from there. My parents eventually bought me a guitar and when I was in high school, I remember sitting around in a circle with friends singing Carole King, Carly Simon and Cat Stevens songs. I loved the idea of singing early on, and still do.

“Walking On Sunshine” is such an iconic song, but when you first heard it what did you think?

Originally, we felt it was something that was a bit uncharacteristic of the band. We had always thought of ourselves as being similar to bands like The Velvet Underground or The Ramones. So when Kim [Rew, songwriter/guitarist] came in with the song, it was something that was on the lighter side of our repertoire.

In the beginning, I remember whenever we played it; people would literally flee the dance floor [laughs]. It wasn’t until we sent out a demo of four songs to a bunch of DJs that everything started to change. We were thinking about going with the song “Do You Want Crying” as our first single but all of the DJ’s said “No, we want the song that starts out with the drums and the “OW!” [laughs]. Even our bass player (Vince de la Cruz) didn’t really care for the song but would often say to Kim, “You know that song, Walking On Sunshine? Well, I can’t get it out of my head!” We took that as a good sign. So we persevered with it, Capitol records stuck it out and the rest is history!”

What do you think made the 80s so great?

The music from the 80’s was very melodic and identifiable. It was so clean and very easy to listen to. When people come to these shows and see someone like Howard Jones play, it’ll be easy for them to feel the beat. The other thing about the 80’s is that it was a time when people were really able to express themselves eloquently through fashion and dress. It was also pre 9/11 and all of the other really scary stuff we have to live with now. The 80’s were such an innocent time.

What are you most looking to about Retro Futura?

I’m so happy to be back in America and being able to play some new material as well as a few of the old songs. I’m also excited to be a part of a tour with other musicians that I really love and respect. Our itinerary has us all over the place. We even a two-day drive from Chicago to LA. Make my day! I’m happy! It’s going to be the tour of a lifetime.

Katrina Leskanich Official Website: http://www.katrinasweb.com/

Retro Futura Tour Dates

Aug. 21: NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22: Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23: Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25: Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center
Aug. 26: Toronto, ON – Koolhaus
Aug. 27: Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29: Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30: Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery *
Aug. 31: Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino **
Sept. 03: Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 04: San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 05: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 06: Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 08: Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre @ Grand Prarie
Sept. 10: Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live @ Universal CityWalk

‘Fragile’: Midge Ure talks Retro Futura, new album, Ultravox and the 80s

Midge Ure (Photo: van der Voorden Photography)

Midge Ure (Photo: van der Voorden Photography)

After many years of being out in the wilderness when it came to playing in America, Midge Ure is back!

With a vast career of accomplished guitar work from his days with Rich Kids and Thin Lizzy to the synth sounds he utilized with Visage and Ultravox, Ure will be teaming up with fellow 80s giants Howard Jones and Tom Bailey for this year’s Retro-Futura Tour. A jam-packed show that will cross the U.S and also features China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves).

Coinciding with Ure’s visit to the States will be the release of his brand new studio album, ‘Fragile’ (coming August 19). It’s Ure’s first new studio album in more than a decade.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ure about Retro Futura, “Fragile”, his first taste of America with Thin Lizzy and how he helped change the world with one little Christmas song.

How did you get involved with the Retro Futura tour?

I had been away from America for quite a long time and about a year and a half ago decided to go back and play clubs and just enjoy the feeling of being there again. I had a fantastic time. This year, I was thinking of doing some more acoustic shows when my agent told me about the tour. He told me about Howard and how Tom would be doing Thompson Twins material for the first time in years and about the other artists. I thought it was a great idea and jumped at the chance. It’s a fantastic package.

What can fans expect from your set?

I think the answer can be found in the title of the tour. It’s looking at the old hits and playing the soundtrack of people’s lives. So I’ll be doing the hits: a few Ultravox things; maybe a few Visage things and a few solo songs as well.

What made the 80’s so great?

I think the Eighties were very similar to what it was like in the early Sixties. It was a time when The Beatles came along and a musical revolution was happening. The revolution involved fashion and teenagers having their own music and not just something that was a hand me down from their parents. There were also some really diverse songwriters and bands that came out of the Eighties. On top of that, there was a technical revolution happening where synthesizers and small four-track recorders came into the mainstream. All of these things came together to form a fantastically creative period that still resonates now.

MidgeUre-FragileHow would you describe your new album, “Fragile”?

It’s a culmination of influences from the day I was born – and not just the musical ones. It’s the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read and the things I’ve experienced. All of the stuff that makes us who we are. For instance, I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mick Ronson’s guitar playing back in the early Seventies, or if I hadn’t been a fan of Thin Lizzy. I want people to put this album on at the beginning and play it straight through til the end. Not just cherry pick tracks. Just listen to the entire thing and let it take you on a little journey.

What is your songwriting process like?

I see an album as a diary where you write about the things that affect you. The good, the bad, the things that you’re happy about. Life is a rich pallete of colors. I usually start with a seed of an idea and then sit down and add little bits of music to it. It’s almost like building a jigsaw puzzle. You put the elements together and start seeing it all come together. The more pieces you put in, the bigger it gets. It may take weeks or even a few years but eventually, you know that it’s finished because you’ve got a completed picture.

Will you be touring the new album here in the US?

Yes. My plan is to come back to America in January for a few weeks and do an acoustic show featuring a substantial amount of the “Fragile” album. Then I’ll come back again sometime in March to cover more of the country.

After Gary Moore abruptly left Thin Lizzy, you were asked to fill in for the rest of the tour. Can you tell me how you got the gig?

I was a fan of Thin Lizzy from the first album. They actually derived from another band called Skid Row, a three-piece Irish band who had a 16-year-old Gary Moore playing guitar for them. I was a big fan of them. And then I heard about this other guy, Phil Lynott who fronted his own band and I went to see them when they came to Glasgow in Scotland. Phil was such a great writer, singer and charismatic front man.

One day, I remember bumping into Phil walking around the streets of Glasgow. This was before Thin Lizzy became really big. I was driving my band’s van at the time and drove Phil to my parents’ house where my mother fed him – because she thought he was too skinny [laughs]. Phil and I became friends and met up in London after I had joined the Rich Kids in 1978. We just started hanging out together and I did a few sessions with him.

I was actually in the studio putting the finishing touches on the Visage album and had just joined Ultravox when Phil called. He told me that the band was in Arkansas and that Gary wasn’t in the band anymore. Then he asked me if I could hop on a plane and come out and finish the rest of the tour with them. It was an unbelievable experience and my first taste of America.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Band Aid project, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” What was your original goal with that song?

Our big goal was to see if we could get a #1 record at Christmas in the U.K. We originally thought we could raise £100,000 ($200,000), but no one in the industry saw that there would be this massive media machine surrounding it. Once the record company said they were going to donate their profits, the pressing company said they would donate theirs and then the dealers did the same thing. So instead of £100,000 we wound up raising £3m on that single!

At what point did you realize the real impact the song was going to have?

When we had all of those artists come in on that day to add their strength, we knew we had something special. But the moment I remember most is driving home at the end of that 24-hour period. After having recorded all of the vocals, Phil Collins’ drums and completing all of the mixing, I remember being completely exhausted. Just before I turned into my driveway, I heard Bob Geldolf on BBC Radio 1 with a cassette and they played the song. Literally, an hour after I had finished mixing the song I was listening to it on my car radio. I had never experienced anything like that before and it was spectacular. Radio 1 didn’t play anything that was unsolicited, but they played that cassette every hour on the hour. It was then that we knew something big was happening.

Are there any other memorable highlights of your career you can share?

The great stuff that happens to most musicians is the stuff you don’t see or don’t recognize. For me, one of them was sitting one on one with Eric Clapton playing old blues tunes. There was no one there to witness it and no photographs or recording of it exists, but I know that it happened. Then there’s doing a duet with Kate Bush. How cool is that? Going into Kate’s studio to hear what she had sung on my song. Figuring she may have spent ten minutes knocking off a vocal when it turns out she must have spent days multi-tracking all of these choir-like vocals on my song. It was so incredible. Stuff like that is just as powerful as the big stuff the world sees. It’s the little things in the big picture that are the big picture for me.

What are you most looking forward to about The Retro Futura Tour?

I love the idea of coming back to America and getting to places that I might not get to play on my own. There are a lot of people out there who still remember and appreciate this music. I also remember going out with Howard back in 1989 when I was touring the “Answers to Nothing” album. So, we’re kind-of completing the whole circle by going out with Howard again. I’m really looking forward to it.

Retro Futura Tour

Aug. 21: NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22: Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23: Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25: Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center
Aug. 26: Toronto, ON – Koolhaus
Aug. 27: Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29: Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30: Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery
Aug. 31: Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino
Sept. 3: Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 4: San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 5: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 6: Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 8: Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre
Sept. 10: Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live

Tom Bailey Talks Retro Futura, Thompson Twins and The 80’s

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Fans of 80’s new wave music may find it hard to believe that it’s been twenty-seven years since the Thompson Twins performed their final show in August of 1987.

In the years since, lead singer, keyboardist, guitarist and songwriter Tom Bailey has kept himself busy with several other successful musical projects, with no real inclination of ever revisiting his former band’s catalog again.

But all of that is about to change.

This August, Bailey (along with synth pioneer Howard Jones) will co-headline the Retro Futura Tour. A jam-packed show that will also feature sets from Ultravox’s Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves). In addition to it being an amazing evening of live music, fans will also witness an historic event, as this tour marks the first time Bailey will be performing Thompson Twins hits live in nearly three decades.

The Thompson Twins (whose classic line-up consisted of Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway) had huge hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid-eighties; with songs like “Hold Me Now”, “Doctor Doctor” and “Lay Your Hands on Me” providing the soundtrack to many people’s lives. In 1985, the band even performed at Live Aid at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia to a crowd of over 90,000 and an estimated global TV audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations.

For the Retro Futura Tour, Bailey will be joined on stage by a backing band consisting of Amanda Kramer, Angie Pollock and Emily Dolan Davies. I had the pleasure of speaking with him about the Retro Futura Tour, his current projects as well as some of his best Thompson Twins memories.

How did you become involved in this year’s Retro Futura Tour?

My musical pursuits have taken me elsewhere for a long time and it’s actually been twenty-seven years since I’ve sung a Thompson Twins song. I guess I was getting used to the fact that it was just never going to happen. But then a few things changed that. Towards the end of last year, I was doing some work with a Mexican artist named Aleks Syntek. I remember we were writing a song together and Aleks encouraged me to sing on it. After not singing a pop song in all of this time, I decided to step over the boundary and take a risk with it. To my pleasure and surprise, I really enjoyed it.

It was also around the same time that Howard Jones [who had already been out on this tour last year] said that he’d like to do it again this year with me, but I still wasn’t totally convinced. To look at it honestly, I really needed to re-engage with the music. So I decided to re-record some of the songs to give me the opportunity to sing on them again. It felt so good that I knew the answer was going to be yes!

What can fans expect from your show?

Everything that I’ll be singing will be from that era of big, successful Thompson Twins. Originally, I had thought about going out and doing different interpretations of these well-known songs. Although it would be interesting, it would also be undermining because what the fans really want is an enormous whiff of nostalgia. At the same time though, that gives me the permission to do a few of the songs in a new way.

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Your band is made up of female musicians. Can you speak a little bit about that?

I take that as a positive sign of the times. Back in the eighties, we always tried to seek out a balance for the band in terms of male and female and it was very difficult. This time, it was very easy to find that the greatest players were women. It’s a completely different dynamic. The other thing about it is that we all come from several different generations of musicians. I’m 60 now and our drummer, Emily Dolan Davies wasn’t even born when these songs were written [laughs].

In your opinion, what made the 80’s so great?

It was a change in the sound of the music – and that was partly because of technology. It was a time when we were beginning to use keyboards and synthesizers to make entire records rather than just use them as a flavor. Then of course, there was the effect of MTV. An entire channel dedicated to music videos. There was nothing like it before and it changed everything.

The Thompson Twins performed at Live Aid in 1985. What was that experience like for you personally?

It was the most enormous thing. Especially when you’re told that you’re walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people but then realize that number is really small compared to the number of people who were actually watching it live around the world on TV. Joining together music with what it means to be alive in pursuit of a good cause really felt like the crowning glory for our generation of musicians. It was the most magnificent day.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Thompson Twins’ “Into The Gap”. What are some of your best memories about making that album?

It was a very endurable process. By that point, we had become more confident and mature in our songwriting and arranging. We weren’t quite so “pure synth” with that album. We were using other instruments like guitar and piano and the vocal arrangements started becoming more complex. It was great fun. The other thing was that we had already finished the first single before we had even completed the rest of the album. So we had the excitement of watching the song “Hold Me Now” go up the charts while we were finishing up the rest of the record.

Can you tell me the origin of the song “Hold Me Now”?

I can’t remember exactly, although I know it was probably very real in the sense that perhaps Alannah and I had some kind of argument and reconciled. Then we decided to write a song about the process of getting back together again. Although it’s not something that actually occurred, it’s a song about how good and sentimental it feels to realize that the argument has passed and how great it is to be back in love.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’ve been very busy with several projects. I’ve got a dub electronic band called International Observer, a north Indian classical group called The Holiwater Band and a teaching science through art astronomy project called The Bailey-Salgado Project, which I do with an astronomer in Chicago. We make films and music about the night sky and the universe. It’s a fun, educational thing we treat as art.

Are there any other moments in your career that stands out as most memorable?

There are lots of big gigs but I think more about the times where you feel the giddy sensation of “taking off”. The moment when you go from hoping that you’re doing something well to not believing how well it’s going to do. Those are the moments that you never forget, because they only happen once. It’s a crazy roller coaster ride that’s almost feels otherworldly. I treasure those moments.

Do you ever foresee a Thompson Twins reunion?

I can’t see that it’s likely. Joe and Alannah are both happy that I’m doing this tour, but are not interested in pursuing it themselves. When Thompson Twins split up, they both moved on into other areas of activity almost immediately; whereas I haven’t done anything else but music since. For them, it would be an enormous responsibility to become a musician again.

What excites you the most about the Retro Futura Tour?

It’s not about just going through the motion of what you were doing thirty years ago. I wouldn’t be interested in doing that. For me, it’s a completely vital experience. It’s profoundly emotional to sing these songs again and it brings back all sorts of memories. I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces from people who were there the first time around as well as some people who weren’t. I’m so lucky to be able to do this.

Retro Futura Tour 2014:

AUGUST

21 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
22 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theater
23 Brookhaven, NY Pennysaver Amphitheater
24 Boston, MA Wilbur Theatre
25 Cleveland, OH Performance Arts Center/The Cleveland Masonic Auditorium
26 Toronto, ON Koolhaus
27 Chicago, IL Ravinia
29 Los Angeles, CA The Greek Theater
30 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
31 Sacramento, CA Thunder Valley Casino

SEPTEMBER

3 Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
4 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
5 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay
6 Sandy, UT Sandy Amphitheater

‘Retro Futura’: Synth Pioneer Howard Jones Talks New Tour, The 80’s

Howard Jones (Photo: howardjones.com)

Howard Jones 1985 (Photo: howardjones.com)

Fans of 80’s new wave music, rejoice! This summer’s star-studded Retro Futura Tour promises to be one epic proportion! Kicking off this August, the co-headlining tour will feature synth pioneer Howard Jones and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey as well as sets from Ultravox’s Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves). In addition to it being an extraordinary evening of live music, Retro Futura 2014 will also mark the first time Bailey will perform Thompson Twins hits live in nearly three decades!

Howard Jones first burst upon the scene in 1983 with his inspired songwriting and engaging synthesizers. His first album, “Human’s Lib” reached #1 in the UK and featured the hits “New Song” and “What Is Love?” Jones would follow-up his debut with 1985’s “Dream Into Action”, an album which quickly became a platinum best-seller in the United States with smash hits like “Things Can Only Get Better” “Life In One Day” and “No One Is To Blame”. To date, Jones has sold more than eight million albums worldwide and continues to make new music and tour the world.

I had the chance to speak with Jones about the upcoming Retro Futura tour, his music as well as some of his best 80s memories.

How did the idea for this year’s tour with Tom Bailey begin?

Last year, we tried out the idea of doing the tour and did ten dates, mainly on the west coast. Everyone had such a great time that we started thinking about who we would like to do it with this year. That was when the idea of Thompson Twins came up. I’ve known Tom for a long time, so I called him up and told him that it would be a great time. I guess it was my job to go and “persuade” him to come out – and he agreed.

Howard Jones 2014 (Photo: Duncan McGlynn)

Howard Jones 2014 (Photo: Duncan McGlynn)

Having played these songs for so many years, what do you do to keep things fresh?

I’ve always been able to do these songs in different ways and have also been evolving my set up. Our set does change and I also try to throw in some new things as well.

You’ve often mentioned that music from the 80’s faces a continuous struggle. Can you elaborate more on that?

Eighties music has had a bad rap for so long and as a result, it’s formed its own sub-culture. We now have huge festivals here in the UK every summer. I’m not sure if it’s the same in America, but we’re trying to change that!

What makes the music from that era so timeless and special?

I think that Eighties music really combined the arts and fashion more. Back then, everyone was thinking in a more visual way – especially with videos. It brought about a change in culture that wasn’t really so “rock n roll” as much as music in the 60’s and 70’s had been. That’s why it’s unique and why people who grew up during that era are very loyal to it.

Let’s discuss a few of your 80’s moments. In 1985, you performed at Live Aid. What was that experience like?

It was an amazing experience and a lot of money really did save people’s lives. I was obviously very nervous, because there were 100,000 people in Wembley and a billion people watching it on TV. I also performed solo at the piano, which was something people weren’t really used to hearing me do.

I came out and sat there and played the song “Hide and Seek” which is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I remember when I got to the chorus, everyone joined in and supported me and started singing at the top of their voices. It was a profound experience and something that I’ll never forget. It was probably the most important event in my life during the eighties.

Can you tell me where you came up with the inspiration for the song “No One Is To Blame”?

I was doing some radio promotion with a record company guy in San Francisco. I remember he said to me “So, Howard? What do you think of all of the amazing women we have here in San Francisco?” I said “Yeah, they’re fantastic! But I’m really happily married to my wife Jan. We’ve been together ever since we were young, so I’m good in that area.” That’s when he said “Well, you can look at the menu but you don’t have to EAT!”…. That was it! That was the spark! I guess I should really thank him for it! [laughs].

Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

Music has been in my blood ever since I was two years old. I started playing piano at the age of seven; was in bands at fourteen and got signed when I was twenty-eight. It’s really been music all the way. But even if I didn’t have music, I’d still be happy with who I am. If you were to take it all away I’d still feel good about life.

What other projects are you working on?

I’ve got a new project that I performed last November called ‘Engage’. It’s written as a live piece that integrates contemporary dance, ballet and cinematic soundscapes. It’s everything that I love, along with some philosophical themes. It’s a big project I’m in the final mixes of that will be out next year.

We spoke about your performance at Live Aid but are there any other moments from that era that stand out to you?

There were actually two. I remember one of them was doing the Grammy awards. I’ve never won a Grammy, but I was in something that was just as good. I was in a band with Stevie Wonder, Thomas Dolby and Herbie Hancock that performed together at the show. It was such a great moment. The other thing was getting to play Madison Square Garden, which was something that I had always dreamed of doing as a teenager. I got to do my own show there and it was absolutely amazing.

You took a lot of heat back in the 80’s for being a keyboard and synth pioneer. What are your thoughts on that now?

It’s amazing how much things have changed. Today, people have that stuff in their bedrooms and can even make records at home. I see it more as a badge of honor now, especially with the way music has evolved and developed and with the way people use technology and really see it for what it is. Back then, I didn’t want to be like the status quo. I wanted to do something that was different and unique. That’s why I was always drawn to technology, because it gives you the chance to do something new.

For more on Howard Jones: www.howardjones.com

Retro Futura Tour 2014:

AUGUST

21 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
22 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theater
23 Brookhaven, NY Pennysaver Amphitheater
24 Boston, MA Wilbur Theatre
25 Cleveland, OH Performance Arts Center/The Cleveland Masonic Auditorium
26 Toronto, ON Koolhaus
27 Chicago, IL Ravinia
29 Los Angeles, CA The Greek Theater
30 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
31 Sacramento, CA Thunder Valley Casino

SEPTEMBER

3 Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
4 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
5 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay
6 Sandy, UT Sandy Amphitheater

REO Speedwagon Rocks Penn’s Peak In SOLD OUT Performance

REOSpeedwagonIt didn’t take long for REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin to make the announcement. After completing the band’s third song of the evening – the monster hit “Take It On The Run” from their ten-million selling “Hi Infidelity” album – Cronin took to the mic to announce that the band had recently been self-anointed the Kings Of Classic Rock.

Although obviously made in jest it’s hard to argue the fact, based upon the evidence that was presented at last night’s SOLD OUT show at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.

REO Speedwagon has always been notorious for bringing one of the most magical, high-energy shows around, but the band’s performance last night seemed more like a musical revival than a typical rock concert – and REO preached the gospel as fans were treated to music spanning the length of the band’s 40+ year career.

Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom. (Photo by REO Speedwagon).

Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom (Photo by REO Speedwagon).

Front man Kevin Cronin’s vocals never seemed to waver – singing the same songs he’s been performing since the mid 1970’s with both gusto and perfection. For a man who has written an arsenal of classic rock favorites over the years, he’s still at the top of his game.

Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!

Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!

Guitarist Dave Amato, who just celebrated 25 years with REO is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he make fellow guitarists (like me) drop their jaws at his playing and collection of Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters, but he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

A dapper Neal Doughty performing 'Roll With The Changes'

A dapper Neal Doughty performing ‘Roll With The Changes’

Keyboardist Neal Doughty remains the sole member of the band’s original line-up since its formation in 1967, and one of the most magical moments of the evening came when Cronin introduced him before Doughty began playing the opening intro to their smash-hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.

Drummer Bryan Hitt doesn’t miss a beat – literally. Whether he’s playing the intro to “Don’t Let Him Go” or wailing away on the gong while surveying the landscape, there’s no one who can deliver the back beat for REO better than Hitt.

REO is also well-known for unleashing its classic rock heavy artillery towards the end of the set and last night was no exception. Following an audience participation request by Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall took to the mic for the anthemic “Back On The Road Again”.

Bryan Hitt shows 'em how it's done.

Bryan Hitt shows ‘em how it’s done (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

Following another staple of 70’s radio – “Roll With The Changes”, the band came back for an encore of their first #1 hit (“Keep On Loving You”) followed by Cronin’s infamous “Last song people” announcement before launching into a rousing finale of “Ridin’ The Storm Out” – complete with sirens!

I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than a dozen times since the mid-80’s. From small-town college gymnasiums and theaters to large outdoor theme parks and music festivals. Each time, they just seem to get better and better. But last night’s show at Penns Peak was more than just another sold out, high energy performance by classic rock royalty. It was a kinship of music lovers celebrating the career of a band they love – and one whose songs have helped them through both good times and bad.

As one of the 1,800 loyal subjects who surveyed the REO Speedwagon kingdom last night, I am pleased to report that our future is in good hands.

Long live the kings.

REO Speedwagon Set List (Jim Thorpe, PA)

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
Take It On The Run
Keep Pushin’
Golden Country
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Tough Guys
Like You Do
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (Acoustic)
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Again
Roll With Changes

Encore:

Keep on Loving You
Ridin’ The Storm Out

A Father’s Day Thank You

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

It was a warm June day in 1984 when I again asked him the question..

“Dad? Can I PLEASE go with Bones to the concert?”

Bones was my brother –  two-years my senior and someone who was already becoming well versed in the concert ‘experience’. I mean, here was a dude who had already seen The J Geils Band and The Doobie Brothers perform at the Allentown Fairgrounds and The Kinks at Stabler Arena. To say that I was a little jealous for having been relegated to just listening to vinyl records is a bit of an understatement and to be honest, I half expected Dad to tell me “No” — just like he did the last time.

The previous summer, I asked begged my father to let me go with Bones to see The Kinks. After contemplating it for several minutes (along with listening to my brother’s very vocal protest against me going) Dad made it very clear — “No.” Now was not the time to let his 14-year-old son attend his first concert.

But this was now 1984. NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FREAKING-FOUR MAN!!!! I was going to start high school in the fall — and quickly becoming a man of my own. Heck, I had even started showing interest in playing guitar, and what better way to learn than by seeing how its done first hand, right Dad???

“So Dad? Can I go to the concert with Bones?”

Much to my brother’s chagrin, he had to accept the fact that on June 16, 1984 he was going to have to chauffeur me to the Allentown Fairgrounds to see The Scorpions and some up and coming band calling themselves Bon Jovi.

As luck would have it I was familiar with Bon Jovi; having already bought their debut album with my saved up lawn mowing money. At the time, they were mostly known for their song “Runaway” which was getting quite a bit of airplay on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.  But that wasn’t the song that really appealed to me. As a soon to be 15 year-old boy there was only one song on that record that I could immediately relate to. It was the third song on the album: “She Don’t Know Me”.

I can’t even begin to tell you the countless times those lyrics came into my head during my adolescence. Especially in certain situations where the female persuasion was involved — I’d always find myself thinking: “If only she would look my way…. but She Don’t Know Me.”

It’s kind of ironic (well, actually no surprise) that the first two songs I learned on guitar were “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by Scorpions and “She Don’t Know Me” by Bon Jovi. The other thing that’s kind of cool is that Richie Sambora is playing the same guitar I had in this video…. :)

Over the subsequent thirty years I’ve seen a plethora of concerts. Some of the best include: REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Night Ranger, RATT and Mötley Crüe — all of which had huge albums and were at the TOP of their game. I saw Bon Jovi several more times along with shows by Bryan Adams, Whitesnake, Firehouse and Vixen. Then there’s the classic rock giants Boston, Foreigner, Styx and Journey. I saw AC/DC perform at Stabler Arena (a rinky dink college gymnasium) and Def Leppard twice on the Hysteria Tour. So many GREAT shows.

Although I could ramble on dozens of more examples I like to think that first show was the one that laid the foundation for my life as a music lover and metal head.

So, on this Father’s Day I would like to say a special thank you to my late father for the “Yes” answer he gave me thirty years ago.

A day I will never forget.

They Deserve The Right: Madam X Returns With New Single, Reunion Show

Mx-1

It’s been more than twenty years since the four original members of Madam X performed on stage together and thirty years since their debut album, “We Reserve The Right” was released. That’s a literal lifetime for metal head fans like me.

And even though they’ve individually gone on to other successful projects over the years; guitarist Maxine Petrucci, drummer Roxy Petrucci, vocalist Bret Kaiser and bassist Chris Doliber still occasionally entertained the idea of doing something new for diehard Madam X fans. But for whatever the reason, the timing just wasn’t right and the stars never seemed to align.

Until now.

Madam X will soon release a brand new single: “Another 80’s Rock Song (The Party Never Ends)”. Recorded at Metro 37 Studios and co-produced by Kevin Sharp the new single (written by Chris “Godzilla” Doliber and Greg Stryker) is an anthemic stadium rocker and marks the first time the classic line-up of Madam X has reunited since 1992!

Click Here For A Sneak Peak of “Another 80’s Rock Song (The Party Never Ends)”

In addition to the new song, Madam X has planned a full-fledged reunion show which will take place on May 4th at The Diesel Concert Lounge in Chesterfield, MI. From there, they’ll embark on a trip overseas to perform at this year’s Sweden Rock Festival!

While they haven’t committed to anything long term beyond Sweden, the band does acknowledge it has a few more surprises in store, but fans will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, it doesn’t get much better than experiencing new music from one of the best bands to come out of the 80’s. Welcome back Madam X!

I spoke to the band about their new single, reunion shows and what excites them the most about the return of Madam X.

I suppose the first question to ask is what sparked the Madam X reunion?

Roxy Petrucci: I was performing at Firefest in England last year and during a meet and greet session I noticed a lot of Madam X stuff coming across the table: records, pictures, things from European magazines. It was a nice surprise to see that the Madam X fans were still there. So when I came back home, I asked Max about the possibility of releasing a new single for the fans. We called up the guys and discovered that they were both on board with it too!

Maxine Petrucci: Our original intention was to release something new just for the fans. We never had any intention of playing live. But once we posted about our plans for a new single, it started leading to more things – including an invitation to perform at the Sweden Rock Festival!

Bret Kaiser: Everyone thought the idea for a new single was a great one, so we started putting our heads together. That’s when Chris came up with this song that’s going to be a huge!

Madam X (l to r): Chris Doliber, Maxine Petrucci, Bret Kaiser, Roxy Petrucci

Madam X (l to r): Chris Doliber, Maxine Petrucci, Bret Kaiser, Roxy Petrucci

What can you tell me about the new single, “Another 80’s Rock Song (The Party Never Ends)”?

Chris Doliber: I‘ve always been writing and have years of music stuck in my head and my heart I knew I had a purpose for. It’s a song about loving the 80’s and about not going out without kicking and screaming. It’s definitely a Madam X style song. Bret recorded his vocals at The Salt Mine studio in Mesa, AZ and we got Ted Jenson from Sterling Sound in New York to do the mastering. It’s a great big stadium anthem and a song that the audience can chant back. I feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the band’s ‘We Reserve The Right’ album. Looking back now, what thoughts come to mind?

Bret Kaiser: We were ahead of the curve. We all had it in our minds that we were going to go to LA and get a record deal. And after all of the hard work we did traveling back and forth from the east coast to the west, playing six nights a week and sometimes as many as four sets a night – we did it!

Maxine Petrucci: I think we were rushed when we recorded that album. At the time, our record label [Jet Records] had so much control over us that we often felt we were hurried along just to get it done. We didn’t really have closure with it.

What’s the origin of the song, “We Reserve The Right”?

Chris Doliber: Back when we were recording the album, we used to go to this little Asian restaurant. There was a sign hanging in the window that said “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” One day I went in and there was this little oriental lady who refused to serve me just because of the kind of shirt I was wearing. When I asked her why, she said “We reserve the right to refuse!” I remember going back to rehearsal and in my frustration just started playing and singing the line that eventually turned into the song.

Why do you believe there’s been such a resurgence of great bands from the 80’s?

Maxine Petrucci: I think people are a little tired of the dark sounding, fabricated music that’s out now. They want the fun time from the 80’s back, which was more about partying and having fun. People can relate to that and that’s what those bands recapture.

Roxy Petrucci: The shows and the music stand the test of time. For many years the question was always, “Where’s the rock and roll?” or “Where’s the entertainment factor?” People really missed that. So whether the radio wants to play it or not, rock and roll will never die. There will always be a demand. People want to go to a show and hear great music and that’s really what it’s all about.

Chris Doliber: Everything comes full circle. Our demographic may have evolved and grown up but now they’re able to take advantage of being an adult to satisfy their quest of reliving their youth.

Brett Kaiser: The music is like a time machine that brings you back to a time when you didn’t have to worry about things like paying bills or picking up the kids from school. People naturally feel at ease with that. You never forget that feeling. It may lay dormant for a while but once you get hit with the rock and roll disease, you never lose it!

MadamX

What are you most looking forward to about this Madam X reunion?

Chris Doliber: For the last decade, we would occasionally get calls asking us to play, but in every case we weren’t all on the same page. For whatever reason, all of the stars are now aligned. I’m very excited about playing with my friends again. This show is not only for the fans, it’s just as much for us.

Roxy Petrucci: I love playing with Maxine. We’ve been playing together for so many years and have a natural bond. Whenever we get in a room, there’s just a feel that we both have together.

Maxine Petrucci: The passion that everyone has for this project is incredible so we’re going to go along for the ride and see where it goes. No matter what happens, it’s going to be awesome closure.

Bret Kaiser: This whole experience has been uplifting for me and given me a whole new outlook. Even though we took an extended hibernation, we’ve never lost our stride. We just click together so well. Of course, it won’t be the same hair reaching up to the sky but who knows, maybe it will! It’s like I’ve always said: The higher the hair, the closer to God!

Will there be more Madam X stories to tell when you return from Sweden?

Roxy Petrucci: There will always be Madam X stories. Some of the good ones though are saved in the vault and we still have more to write. Right now, we’re just going to enjoy being on stage together and taking things a day at a time. “X” marks the spot!

For more on Madam X be sure to check out their Facebook page by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Dave Meniketti Discusses Y&T’s 40th Anniversary

Y&T (Photo: Jill Meniketti)

Y&T (Photo: Jill Meniketti)

You’d think a band that’s been around for 40 years might just be going through the motions at this point.

But for Dave Meniketti and Y&T, that’s hardly the case.

The band’s current lineup — Dave Meniketti (guitar/vocals), John Nymann (guitar), Brad Lang (bass) and Mike Vanderhule (drums) — continues to bring its own unique blend of hard rock to legions of fans around the world.

Since finalizing their first lineup in 1974, Y&T have performed more than 3,000 shows, released 18 albums and three greatest-hits packages — and they’ve sold more than 4 million units. Many of the biggest acts to come out of the Eighties became popular by opening for Y&T, including Metallica and Mötley Crüe.

Add years near-continuous touring and songs like “Mean Streak” and “Summertime Girls,” and it’s no wonder fans say that Y&T sound better than ever.

With another steady year of touring ahead and talk of more new music, Meniketti and company show no signs of slowing down in 2014. I recently spoke with him about his playing, the band’s anniversary and a few surprises they have in store to celebrate the occasion.

GUITAR WORLD: What are your thoughts when you think about Y&T’s 40th anniversary?

It’s an odd feeling when you say it or stick it on a piece of paper. Throughout our career, we never looked past a year in advance wondering what we were going to do. So it’s a little weird thinking I’ve had this gig for 40 years. But it still feels great to be in this band and play songs for crowds who are always so cool to us. Why would I ever want to stop doing that?

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Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Dave Meniketti
By Clicking Here!

Better Days Comin': Reb Beach Talks Guitars, New Winger Album and More

After forming in the late Eighties, Winger soared to success with their self-titled debut, a platinum-selling disc that included the hit songs “Madalaine,” “Seventeen” and “Headed for a Heartbreak.”
Winger (l to r): John Roth, Rod Morgenstein, Reb Beach, Kip Winger

Winger (l to r): John Roth, Rod Morgenstein, Reb Beach, Kip Winger

Their followup album, 1990’s In The Heart of the Young, maintained the momentum with the successful singles “Can’t Get Enuff” and “Miles Away.”

But the advent of grunge and changes in the musical climate, coupled with being the target of two notorious cartoon characters (Beavis and Butthead) eventually led the band to go on hiatus.

In 2001, however, Winger reunited, and they haven’t looked back since. They repeatedly win back fans and critics through their relentless touring, strong musicianship and inspired songwriting.

Winger’s new album, Better Days Comin’, which will be released April 22, is another testament to the band’s legacy and perseverance. Guitarist Reb Beach — who also plays with Whitesnake — and vocalist/bassist Kip Winger have put together a collection of songs that combine tasty riffs, infectious grooves and unique arrangements. The band is rounded out by John Roth (guitar) and Rod Morgenstein (drums).

Better Days Comin’ is available for pre-order now (See the link below), with a deluxe edition that includes a bonus track and a DVD that features a “making of” documentary and videos for the album’s first single, “Rat Race,” and the title track.

I recently spoke with Beach about the new Winger album and his early years and session work. He also gave me an update on his next solo album.

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Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with
Reb Beach by Clicking Here!

I Wanna Go Back

Me“I wanna go back and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know.”

“I Wanna Go Back” was a song written thirty years ago by Danny Chauncey, Monty Byrom and Ira Walker for their band Billy Satellite. It was the band’s debut single and peaked at #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

But it wasn’t until two years later when Eddie Money covered the song on his 1986 platinum album “Can’t Hold Back” that a then seventeen-year old boy man finally stood up and took notice.

On a side note: I recently asked Money why he decided to include a version of the song on his album and he said “Because I recall hanging out on Friday night. The first slow dance. Hoping that I’ll get it right…C’mon, you can’t get a better lyric than that!”

For me though, the song resonated about innocence lost and the longing for the impossible: a return to a much simpler, less complicated time. Of course in 1986, I had no experience in such matters and absolutely no desire to return to anywhere. Every day for me was new and exciting.

Here’s what a typical week for me was like in 1986:

It was the summer when I got my first real car. A 1973 Toyota Corona. A laughable clunker when I think about it now, but it was my Rolls Royce then.

Weekly guitar lesson: Shredding on everything from AC/DC to Zeppelin.

Dreams of being a rock star: Heck, it even says so on my yearbook picture!

High School: Which started out every morning with Concert Choir and also included Music Theory and Art in addition to the mandatory English and Math.

“I recall hanging out on Friday night”

Friday always…ALWAYS meant going to the mall and perusing through the latest album releases at the record store. I’ll admit, I was also one of those habitual bachelors who passed by the Orange Julius in hopes of seeing a gaggle of cute girls. Then using the last fifty cents of my lawn mowing money trying to obtain the high score on Centipede in the arcade and if I was lucky, one of those “out of reach” girls would be playing a game right next to me. {SIGH}

“Back then I thought that things were never gonna change”

So, thirty years after Billy Satellite originally released it, what was it that made me think of the song this morning? I suppose it was the culmination of everything that’s been going on in the world in recent days. Here are just a few examples. Take your pick:

1. Russia escalating the crisis in Ukraine.

2. Elected representatives voting their party rather than the people they’re supposed to represent without fear of repercussion.

3. Terrorist attacks throughout the world.

4. The media’s never-ending quest to fear monger the weather and make the slightest storm out to be doomsday.

5. Neglected and abused animals, women, children and veterans.

But despite what your local newspaper, talk radio or favorite extreme Facebook group might say, the real problem with this world isn’t the fault of one particular country, political party or extended forecast. Rather, the real problem is we, the people. We’re the ones who are to blame for the mess that we’re in. And nothing showcases this example better than The Walking Dead. Yes, that’s right. The zombie show.

In a post-apocalyptic world where it’s just humans and undead walking around, the humans can not seem to overcome their own desire for power and greed in order to survive. Instead of pulling together for a common purpose (like finding out what caused the apocalypse or better still, how to cure it), they’d rather build loyalties and fight skirmishes with both humans and zombies in order to pillage whatever they can and gain an advantage. The undead themselves are actually just pawns in their cruel game. Is it too far-fetched to believe that if this happened it real life, that’s the way we would react?

The answer to fixing our problems is so simple, so why can’t we do it? It all starts (and ends) with US.

People often wonder why I still have a fascination with 80’s music, Godzilla and breakfast cereal and I could ramble off a dozen reasons about how it’s cool, or how delicious a bowl of Lucky Charms is. But perhaps the best reason of all is because it reminds me of a much simpler time. A time when I didn’t have to care. At least, not as much as I do now.

Sure, I know now that things will never be the same… but I wanna go back.

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