Category Archives: 1980′s

Original MTV VJs Alan Hunter and Nina Blackwood Talk New Book, Van Halen, Ozzy and the Eighties

VJCoverIt was 12:01 a.m. August 1, 1981.

The music business was in the toilet when a fledgling channel named MTV hit the airwaves to start the engine again.

Throughout the decade, MTV became one of the biggest things on the planet and revolutionized the music industry with a new medium — music videos.

Viewers would regularly host their own MTV parties, tune in for Friday Night video fights and experience unprecedented musical events such as Live Aid. The MTV phenomenon was so big that Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler referenced the channel, incorporating its “I want my MTV” slogan in the band’s massive 1985 hit, “Money For Nothing.”

Four of the original MTV VJ’s — Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, Martha Quinn and Mark Goodman — have written a book about their experiences, VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave.

The book, which is co-written by Gavin Edwards, is a narrative-driven oral history of MTV, complete with behind-the-scenes tales and anecdotes as told through the VJs’ own voices (NOTE: JJ Jackson, the fifth original VJ, died in 2004).

From stories on how each VJ landed their job, the channel’s historic launch, the changing dynamic and their eventual departure, the book details the triumphs, pitfalls and everything in between. Today, in addition to acting and producing their own syndicated radio shows and films, the four original VJs can regularly be found on Sirius’ ’80s on 8.

I recently spoke to Hunter and Blackwood about the book and their days at MTV. They also discussed their favorite guitarists and other projects they’re working on.

gw_logoYou can read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with
Alan Hunter & Nina Blackwood By Clicking Here

Beautiful Colors: Author Andrew Golub Discusses Unique Duran Duran Book

BeautifulColorsAuthor Andrew Golub is not your typical Duran Duran fan. Over the course of three decades, the Pacific northwest native has amassed a rather impressive arsenal of band memorabilia. It’s a collection that includes everything from rare articles and artifacts to carefully restored posters and prints that document every chapter of Duran Duran history. Selections from Golub’s archive have already been showcased in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as well in an A&E Biography, two film documentaries and several public exhibitions.

Golub’s 260-page book, “Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran” presents an interesting perspective of the band’s career as well as his own fandom. Through the use of full-color posters from 1978 to the present, Beautiful Colors documents the band’s evolution through vintage artwork and stunning photography by Christine Born.

The book has received overwhelming praise from members of the fan community as well as from Duran Duran themselves, with keyboardist Nick Rhodes contributing a touching forward. Beautiful Colors is a book for any fan of Duran Duran or those with a penchant for 80′s nostalgia. Moreover, the book is a true testament to the power of music.

I spoke with Golub about the book and his fascination of all things Duran Duran.

Golub3What was your primary motivation behind the Beautiful Colors book?

A book was always a possibility given the breadth of my collection and I’ve received many gentle urgings to produce something like this from friends and fans over the years. From exhibitions to my website, I strived to make my collection more accessible to the global fan community as well as the band. Due to their sheer size, posters tend to be the most dramatic category in the archive and the type of memorabilia I feel most proud of. So the concept behind Beautiful Colors felt like a natural decision.

How did you determine which pieces to include?

Since the collection is bursting with treasures, selecting posters for inclusion was a challenge. But once I decided to focus only on official promotional posters (from record companies, concert venues, etc), the choices became clear. Posters are designed to capture attention and ignite the imagination. They represent memories and milestones, for the band as well as the fans. I feel as if I’m working to preserve history through a medium that would otherwise be lost in time. My book may commemorate Duran Duran’s history, but the memories on each page belong to fans around the world.

When did your love of Duran Duran begin?

The first strains of Fab Five Fever nestled into my DNA when I was 13 – the later part of 1984. The combination of charismatic photo sessions, captivating videos, and spectacular, memorable music was all it took to activate my inner Duranimal. My days were soon filled with trips to supermarket magazine racks, brainstorming on how to fund purchases of DD material and of course, taking good care of the items in my growing collection. Hard to believe there was a point when my whole collection fit inside my bedroom. A fortunate thing since my mother refused to build an annex on to the house for memorabilia maintenance [laughs].

What was it about their music that really interested you?

Nick’s soaring keyboard arrangements against Roger’s rock-solid beat, John’s velvety funk-infused bass, Andy’s electrifying guitar licks, and Simon’s lush, wonderfully cryptic lyrics. Every song offered something fresh and exciting with each new listen. “Seven and The Ragged Tiger” was my first album, launching a full, swift occupation of my senses. The synthesized rapture of “The Reflex” captured my imagination first, followed by the harmonized bliss of “New Moon on Monday,” and the rest of the record overwhelmed with awesome. I found Duran Duran’s music stayed with me long after I stopped listening, and I felt myself yearning for more—discovering other albums, learning about the members, and essentially assembling a portrait of the artists behind my favorite tunes. The music was my gateway drug.

Golub hard at work, peeling off layers of excess paper from the back of a rare poster.

Golub hard at work, peeling off layers of excess paper from the back of a rare poster.

What made you decide to start collecting pieces of Duran Duran memorabilia?

Being attracted to Duran Duran’s strong visual style, acquiring memorabilia seemed like a natural direction. Photos offered glossy, handsome images and magazine articles were often accompanied by fan-friendly, full-page pin-ups. But posters took Duran Duran’s exciting, photogenic persona to an even higher plane. While I’ve enjoyed filling out the archive with many odd and fascinating artifacts, the posters have always been the heart of my collection and the clearest visual representation of Duran Duran’s professional history.

How do you acquire pieces for your collection?

Much of my effort revolves around careful networking, reaching out to those within the concert promotion industry and building credibility with my archive. The biggest challenge comes with every new tour, when the whole world becomes a potential harbor for poster production. That is also when I become most aware and appreciative of all the wonderful friends and fellow fans keeping me in mind across the globe!

Do you have a particular favorite?

Without picking a single, most prized item, I would highlight the posters I’ve been able to find from the band’s earliest chapters. Whether testing new material in Birmingham clubs, cutting their teeth as a support act or exploring their New Romantic roots, Duran Duran’s formative years remain the most elusive to document through posters. I have moments of quiet incredulity and deep pride when I look at the first chapter of my book, populated with more posters than I ever expected to include.

Have you ever gotten to meet the band?

I have met the band on several occasions and each encounter has been intensely meaningful and ingrained as a life highlight. Every time I am fortunate enough to meet Duran Duran I am reminded of why I do what I do, why the band deserve nothing less than absolute lifelong celebration and I walk away with renewed commitment to my archival work.

The entire band captivated by Golub's poster in 2005!

The entire band captivated by Golub’s poster in 2005!

What’s your favorite Duran Duran song? Album?

I was introduced to Duran’s sound through the Ragged Tiger album, particularly “The Reflex”. That record and single will always occupy a premium spot for me. However, Rio is bursting with some of my biggest faves. Especially “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, “Save A Prayer” and “Hold Back The Rain”. Timeless classics which never fail to elevate my heart rate, tap my emotions, and transport me to a very happy place. In the band’s recent years, All You Need Is Now is nothing short of crazy-awesome, having re-captured the same visceral, joyous feel that got me hooked in the first place! “Runway Runaway”, “Blame The Machines” and the title track are pure brilliance that I enjoy down to the molecular level.

What has the band had to say about your book?

The band has been incredibly supportive through Twitter and Facebook, and after a recent trip to present the book to Duran’s management in New York I learned the band assessed Beautiful Colors as “magnificent.” It was important to create something that both the band and the fans could be proud of. In addition to charting the band’s history, I set out to honor the bond between the band and their faithful following as well as my own connections within the global fan community. This passion is a powerful common thread we all share, and I feel blessed to be part of something so special, enduring and so much bigger than myself.

For more information on Andrew Golub and
Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran Click Here!

To See Golub’s portion of an American Collector’s documentary
(38 minutes in): Click Here

Guitarist Matthias Jabs Talks Scorpions MTV Unplugged

ScorpionsSince forming in Germany in 1965 the Scorpions have become one of the most successful international hard rock bands of all time; selling upwards of 75 million records worldwide while playing more than 5,000 concerts in over 80 countries.

Known for colossal hits that include “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” “No One Like You” and “Wind of Change”, the band was ranked #46 on VH1′s “Greatest Artists Of Hard Rock” special, while “Rock You Like A Hurricane” came in at #18 on the channel’s list of “Greatest Hard Rock Songs”.

In 2010 the band announced a final studio album, “Sting In The Tail” that would coincide with an epic Farewell World Tour. It’s a tour that to the delight of fans has been going on for more than three years. Late in 2012, just as the band was finishing up their final show of the year, they were approached about doing an intimate, all acoustic project they had never done before. The result: Scorpions MTV Unplugged.

Taken from two dynamic acoustic performances from the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens, Greece, this deluxe CD + DVD package and Blu-Ray features new acoustic versions of the band’s best-loved classics as well as five brand new songs.

Scorpions (Photo: Torsten Hilse)

Scorpions (Photo: Torsten Hilse)

The Scorpions is Klaus Meine (vocals/guitar), Rudolf Schenker (guitars/vocals), Matthias Jabs (guitars), Pawel Maciwoda (bass) and James Kottak (drums). Additional musical support on MTV Unplugged includes contributions from Swedish musicians and producers Mikael Nord Andersson (guitars, mandolin, lap steel, vocals) and Martin Hansen (guitars, harmonica, vocals).  The duo is also responsible for the arrangements on MTV Umplugged.

I spoke with Matthias Jabs about MTV Unplugged and got an update on the band’s current activities. We also discussed the 30th anniversary of the band’s monumental album, “Love At First Sting”.

What made the band decide to undertake an unplugged project?

It was something that we had never done before and something that we had missed out on in the 80′s because we were so busy. Now that we had the time, we went to Stockholm and worked with Swedish producers. They’re also great musicians and ended up being on stage with us.

How was it arranging the songs into an acoustic format?

In some ways it was easy, but for some of the songs that everybody knows it presented a much greater challenge. We also chose some songs that we had never performed live before. We really wanted to make it special for the fans with the acoustic guitars and classical orchestra. The end result is quite good. It’s interesting and different, especially with all of the guest musicians.

Did you find it more challenging performing songs this way?

Playing in an acoustic setting is very unforgiving and the arrangements were done in such a way that you couldn’t just pick up one guitar and play the entire set. There were many different tunings and capos that we used. And the deeper we got into the project, the more instruments and tunings would come out. We ended up adding piano, mandolin, accordion and even a harp. We also had close to 56 acoustic guitars on stage with us!

Why did you choose this particular venue?

MTV originally wanted to release the album in the late fall before Christmas. Summer is always vacation time in Europe so to be outside in September, we decided to go to Greece. They have the best climate and great audiences. The temperature was so perfect you didn’t even have to think about it. The amphitheater actually sits on top of the highest mountain in Athens. From the top, you can look down at the city and see the millions of lights below. it’s almost like looking down into Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills. It’s a stunning view.

Is the band planning any U.S. tour dates this year?

Yes, we’re working on playing some U.S. shows maybe in late summer.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of “Love At First Sting”. When you think about that album, what comes to mind?

We knew we had something special. Even though “Blackout” was very successful and our first major success as a headliner in the U.S., “Love At First Sting” topped it. Songs like “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Still Loving You”, which became a big hit in Europe. “Big City Nights” was another song that was played on the radio a lot. There are so many good songs on the album that made it so strong. I remember it was a bit hectic recording and we almost missed the deadline, but once we heard the first mixes we had a very good feeling about it.

How did Rudolf come up with the riff for “Rock You Like A Hurricane”?

Rudolf and I were actually talking about it before hand. I had told him to try to find riffs that used pauses and accents. Not ones that just play continuously through all the time. So we talked about it, and that’s when he came up with that riff. At the time, I remember being more concerned about writing the lead guitar intro for it, which was something I had already done for “No One Like You”.

What was the process like for building the intro?

The rule was find a riff, then put a melody on top and then play it in harmony. I still remember the first time I played it for the producers and band when we were in the studio. I played the first line and then the harmony part and everyone went, “OH, YES! HERE COMES THE SUN!” [laughs]. We knew we had something great. I felt the exact same way with “No One Like You”. It instantly sounds like a hit, even when you hear it for the very first time.

In the 80′s, new bands like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi supported Scorpions before making a name for themselves. What was your criteria for choosing them?

Good songs are what made the difference. All of the bands you mentioned that supported us, starting with Def Leppard in 1980, Iron Maiden in ’82 and Bon Jovi in ’84 all became huge, but we chose them because we liked their song material and attitudes. That’s what was the deciding point.

What can you tell us about the band’s new album of unreleased 80′s material?

While we were digging into the archives we found a lot of unfinished songs that we didn’t use for various reasons. Mostly material from the Blackout and Love at First Sting era, which was our most creative time. We now have 12 basic tracks down that we’ll finish recording sometime this summer and maybe even include a few new songs as well. The ideas are from then, but the album’s from now. We’re hoping to release it next year.

Matthias Jabs

Matthias Jabs

What are some of the biggest highlights of your career?

The US Festival in 1983 was amazing because it was so unexpected. All of a sudden, we were coming out of the studio to play in front of 300,000 people. Then there was Rock in Rio in ’85, the Moscow Music Peace Festival, Monsters of Rock in ’89 with Van-Halen and Metallica. There are so many highlights, it’s hard to find a dull moment. But I think the biggest highlight is that we’re all still together and are still friends after creating this great career. We’re still having fun making music both in the studio and playing live. That’s the real highlight.

In retrospect, do you think that “Sting In The Tail” and The Farewell Tour might have been a bit premature?

The original idea was that this was going to be the last studio recording. For the last 35 years we’ve been recording an album, going on the road for 2 1/2 years, coming back home, recording an album…. It’s become routine, but we never wanted to stop making music. We just wanted to scale it down a bit. We also said that we’d be open for special projects, like MTV Unplugged and digging down for older, unreleased material. Those are things we don’t do everyday. The fans love it, and that’s reason enough to do it.

For more on Scorpions, check out their official website by Clicking Here!

Look What I Found: Rocker’s Profile – February 8, 1989

529223_10151534435774339_780686317_nI’ve decided to start a new series here on the blog called “Look What I Found.”

I’d like to use this topic whenever I stumble upon something cool or unique from my past. Not only will the nostalgia of finding these treasures remind me of a much more innocent time, but writing about the things that I discover will really help put in perspective what my goals in life were at the time.

During the mid to late 80′s I kept semi-regular journals describing what was going on in my life as well as the things I had in mind for when I made it to the big time. One of the things I often liked to do in my journal was pretend that someone was doing an interview profile of my life for my fans to enjoy.

This one was from ironically enough, 25 years ago today. A journal entry from February 8th, 1989. In it, I ask myself questions and answer them. Enjoy!

Rocker’s Profile 1989

Rocker’s Name: James Edward Wood

Age: 19

Birthdate: October 5th, 1969

Instruments: Guitar, Vocals, Piano

Years Playing: 3 years

Date Started: May 24, 1985

Favorite Guitarists: Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Randy Rhoads, Van-Halen

Favorite Bands: Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon

Unfavorite Bands: Slayer, Megadeth, One hit wonders

Favorite Songs: Dust In The Wind (Kansas), Armageddon It (Def Leppard), All of Hysteria & Pyromania, Too many others to list

Favorite Album: Hysteria, Pyromania, Blizzard of Ozz, (Ozzy Osbourne), Appetite For Destruction (Guns n Roses)

Favorite Food: Cheese Fries, Country Club Melts

Band Experience: Silent Rage Mar 11, 1988 – July 6, 1988

Favorite Guitars: Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Explorer, Fender Stratocaster

Hobbies: Songwriting, Teaching Music

Current Goals: Become respected for music

It’s interesting to see how much things have (or haven’t) changed in a quarter century. Obviously, you could tell that I was (still am) a huge Def Leppard fan. It’s also worth noting that at the time this interview was taken I had only ever been in one band. As of today, I’ve been in six. And in 2006, after more than twenty years of waiting, I finally was able to purchase my very first Gibson Les Paul.

But if you were to ask the dude being interviewed if he ever saw himself working a 9-5 job in the 21st century, I’m sure he would have laughed in your face. Because the truth is, all I saw at the time were gold records, tour buses and a sea of women calling my name. Responsibility? HA! That was the furthest thing from my mind in 1989.

Such was the naivety of youth.

Metal Method’s Doug Marks Talks “Speed and Accuracy for Lead Guitar”

DougMarksSince its beginnings in 1982, Doug Marks’ Metal Method has become one of the most successful rock guitar courses of all time.

What started out as a supplement to help him achieve his own dreams of rock stardom, Marks’ lessons have taught guitarists everything from fundamental shapes and barre chords to improvising leads and writing songs.

From his early days of snail-mail cassette tapes and booklets to today’s digital downloads, Marks continues to inspire and make thousands of guitarists better players.

I recently caught up with Marks, who told me about “Speed and Accuracy for Lead Guitar,” his first new lesson in years. In the program, Marks uses his easy-going teaching style to present rapid-fire three-note-per-string patterns that increase essential skills. Marks also discussed his Hawk project from 1985, which was associated with some very familiar musicians.

GUITAR WORLD: What prompted this new program?

Last year, I started giving Skype guitar lessons. It was the first time I had given actual private lessons since I put together Metal Method. As I watched students work through the course, I was able to see first-hand one of the biggest struggles most students face: lack of precision due to a lack of focus. It was working with students through Skype that really inspired me to get to work on something new.

gw_logo

You can read my complete Guitar World interview with Doug Marks and see a demo for “Speed and Accuracy” by Clicking Here!

Keyboardist Geoff Downes Discusses New Dance Orchestra, Asia

GeoffDownesDo you remember where you were when you first heard it? I do. It was June of 1982 and I was sitting in seventh grade music class during one of the last days before summer vacation.

The school was one of those two-story brick structures that had no air conditioning and by mid-morning temperatures in the classroom had risen to almost unbearable levels. The open windows and portable fans that circulated hot air throughout the classroom provided little relief to a bunch of teenagers waiting for that final bell to sound.

As a sort-of end of year gift to the class, the teacher allowed students to bring in some of their albums to listen to while we cleared out our desks. That was when this kid named Danny put it on the turntable. As needle met vinyl and the crackling hum and hiss began, it was the first time I heard that now infamous guitar riff and opening line:

“I never meant to be so bad to you. One thing I said that I would never do …”

“Heat of The Moment” became the coolest thing ever to me on that apropos day. The day I joined the eventual 8 million other people who bought the band Asia’s debut album.

Since then, I’ve been a fan of keyboardist Geoff Downes. Not only for his experimentation of all things keyboard, but also for his songwriting ability. In addition to having the best selling album of 1982 with Asia, Downes also holds the coveted distinction of being part of the very first video ever played on MTV (Video Killed The Radio Star).

Today, in between his work with Asia and Yes, Downes finds time to work on other projects as well. His most recent, New Dance Orchestra’s “Electronica” features the phenomenal vocals of Anne-Marie Helder (Panic Room, Mostly Autumn) and utilizes sounds from the latest computer technology. The result is a collection of virtual orchestrations that defy standard definition. Blending elements of classical, new age, pop and electronica, Downes uses rich textures to take the listener on a journey of spiritual enlightenment.

I spoke with Downes about Electronica as well as the forthcoming Asia album Gravitas, which features founding members Downes (keyboards), John Wetton (bass) and Carl Palmer (drums) as well as new guitarist Sam Coulson. He also tells me about some of the most memorable moments of his career.

NDOElectronicaHow would you describe the sound of Electronica?

It’s a good combination of a lot of the influences I’ve had over the years. From my time with The Buggles to session work and some of the other projects I’ve been involved with like Yes and Asia. It’s a nice variety of music and an amalgamy of many of the things that I’ve been through over the course of my career.

How do you approach songwriting for a project like New Dance Orchestra as opposed to one for Asia or Yes?

When I create songs for New Dance Orchestra, there’s a lot of experimentation that I like to do. Some of the material comes from me tinkering with the latest sounds on computers. I’m very much into the technical aspect of the keyboard and like to experiment a lot with them.

How did you connect with Anne-Marie Helder?

I had worked with Anne-Marie on the Icon project I did with John Wetton. She came in and did vocals on a few of the tracks. She’s one of the top prog-rock vocalists and is very much in demand. 

To listen to samples from Electronica, Click Here

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

When Steve Howe announced his retirement as guitarist for Asia, was there ever a moment where the band thought about slowing down?

The rest of us always felt that it was worth continuing. Steve has his reasons for wanting to move on and concentrate more on his solo material. He’s pretty much been on the road for the last seven years doing solo material and his trio in addition to having the extra pressure of Yes and Asia. He felt it was time to try other things, which is fine.

We brought in Sam (Coulson), who was recommended to us by Paul Gilbert. He’s a different type of player from Steve and brings with him his own sound. The actual emphasis was never to change direction but to evolve.

What can you tell us about the new Asia album, Gravitas?

We finished the album just before Christmas and it’s going to be released the last week of March. The cover was once again designed by Roger Dean. It’s another Asia album with songs written by myself and John Wetton.

What’s the writing process like when you and John get together?

Generally, we’ll both come in and open our ‘war chests’ of musical ideas. Whenever we get together in a session, it’s rare that we don’t come out of it with at least one or two songs.

Can you tell me the origin of “Only Time Will Tell”?

That one started off with what became the chorus part. It was something I had actually written for a jingle company. I had the basic idea for what became the chorus and I played it for John. That’s when he said “Hey, I think I’ve got something that might go with that” and started playing me the first verse. Originally, the song was going to be called “Starry Eyed”.  It was a very in-depth collaboration with a very proggy, sentimental arrangement. It’s one of my favorite pieces that we’ve ever done in terms of Asia’s history because it has such depth and texture to it.

When The Buggles released “Video Killed The Radio Star” did you have a feeling of how special it was going to be?

We knew that it was a great song and a great record when we finished it. Trevor Horn and I both thought that if we were ever going to have a hit, this one would be it. I remember we presented it to Island Records and they were a bit skeptical. They didn’t even really like the name “The Buggles” either, but it ended up being our first major hit in the UK.

Have you ever given thought to writing a book chronicling your life?

I’ve been thinking about that recently. It really has been an amazing journey and is something I’ll definitely be looking into… when I have the time [laughs].

With all of your success with The Buggles, Yes, Asia, New Dance Orchestra and all of your other projects, is there anything that stands out as most memorable?

There are so many. Obviously, you have to look at the first Buggles album because it was the one that introduced me into the business. The Drama album is very satisfying because more and more die-hard Yes fans can relate to that album as time has gone by.

Then of course there’s the first Asia album.

I’ll never forget sitting in the car with John Wetton. We had just arrived in the States shortly after the album had come out and “Heat of The Moment” was playing on the radio. I remember we changed the channel and at that exact moment another station was playing “Only Time Will Tell.” To have those tracks both playing simultaneously on two different radio stations in the same city was surreal. At that moment we both knew what we had was going to be something really special.

For more on Geoff Downes:

Geoff Downes Official Website * ASIA Official Website * Yes Official Website

Stryper Frontman Michael Sweet Announces Solo Album / Autobiography

sweetMichael Sweet, frontman for the multi-platinum rock band Stryper, will release a new full-length solo album, I’m Not Your Suicide, and his first autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, on May 6, 2014, via BIG3 Records.

Sweet is best known as the singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer for Christian rock pioneers Stryper, selling over 10 million albums worldwide. In addition to Stryper, Sweet has had a successful solo career, and he served as the guitarist and co-vocalist for the legendary classic rock band BOSTON from 2007-2011.

The future remains bright for a man who has endured heartbreaking tribulations throughout his life and career, including the 2009 passing of his wife of more than 22 years, Kyle. In 2010, Sweet remarried to Lisa Champagne-Sweet, a woman he describes as “a Godsend and the one who fits perfectly by my side.”

Sweet continues to record and tour with Stryper, as well as touring and recording as a solo artist, all the while making frequent trips to Nashville where he is writing with some of the biggest music writers in the business.

“After 30 years in this business, I feel honored and blessed to be able to continue doing what it is I love, making music,” said Sweet. “I’m extremely thankful to have the greatest fans in the world. God has blessed me with this talent and I plan to continue on this path as long as I can draw breath.”

Fans can get a sneak peak at the album courtesy of the all-new lyric video for the song, “The Cause” below:

Sweet’s autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, chronicles an amazing 30-year career and includes endorsements from Eddie Trunk, Dave Mustaine, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeordie White and Chris Jericho. Among the topics covered are:

  • How Michael Sweet formed the first Christian rock band to hit #1 on MTV, paving the way for an entire genre of music.
  • First-hand stories of the Sunset Strip, with never-before-told stories that include friends and musical peers such as Poison, Motley Crue, RATT, Whitesnake, Metallica and more.
  • How Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker played a role in Michael’s life.
  • The temptations and ultimate low-points of a notable Christian rock star.
  • Never-before-revealed stories of life behind the scenes in Stryper.
  • Why so many people have declared Michael Sweet a significant influence on their lives; from Larry the Cable Guy to professional wrestler Chris Jericho to Haitian musician and politician Wyclef Jean and more.
  • Losing his wife to cancer and re-marrying shortly thereafter.
  • An honest look at Sweet’s often tumultuous family relationships.
  • The unlikely relationship between Sweet and national radio personality Don Imus.
  • What led to the decline and fall of Stryper in 1992, and subsequent reunion and re-birth in 2001.

The new Michael Sweet website has also launched with a free preview of Chapter One of the upcoming book.

With the upcoming and long-overdue solo album, Sweet is finally delivering the project fans have been patiently waiting for. Self-produced, I’m Not Your Suicide includes special appearances by Tony Harnell (TNT), Kevin Max (dcTalk, Audio Adrenaline), Chris Jericho, Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), Electra Mustaine (daughter of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine) and Stryper bandmates Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines. Legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff played on the record as well. Track Listing for I’m Not Your Suicide:

  • Taking on the World Tonight (featuring Tony Harnell)
  • All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)
  • The Cause
  • This Time (featuring Kevin Max)
  • I’m Not Your Suicide (co-written with Blair Daly)
  • Coming Home
  • Miles Away
  • Strong
  • How to Live (featuring Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines of Stryper)
  • Heart of Gold
  • Anybody Else (featuring Chris Jericho and Doug Aldrich)
  • Unsuspecting
  • Heart of Gold (featuring Electra Mustaine) **Bonus Track

You can read my most recent Guitar World Interview with Sweet by Clicking Here!

For more information on Michael Sweet visit www.MichaelSweet.com.

My Thoughts on The NFC Championship

SeahawksLogoI wanted to write this post well before tonight’s NFC Championship; lest anyone think that I might be one of those phony bandwagon fans who only jump on board when a team is doing well and then disappears when the wheels fall off the bus. That’s hardly the case with me. I’ve been an east coast Seattle Seahawks fan for thirty years.

That’s right, I said thirty years.

It all began back in the early 80s. I was one of those disappointed Philadelphia Eagles fans lost in the wilderness and looking for a new home after a bitter, painful defeat at the hands of some dude named Plunkett and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Ok, I’ll admit I was one of those creeps who ditched the ship when it sank, just like the ones I opened this post talking about. But in my defense, I was only twelve years old at the time and didn’t know any better.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

CenturyLink-MeIt was a cold Monday night a few years after that Super Bowl when I first saw the Seattle Seahawks on television. At the time, I had absolutely no idea who they were. They had some left-handed quarterback (Jim Zorn), a wiry, fast as lightning receiver (Steve Largent) and this rookie running back from Penn State named Curt Warner. A “hometown” connection.

I couldn’t even tell you the team that they played that night. All I remember is that the Seahawks lost the coin toss and started the game out with an on-side kick. An on-side kick!!! Something almost unheard of in the NFL.

The Seahawks wound up getting the ball and scoring on that drive….and the seed was planted.

As you can imagine, the 1980′s were a time before the Internet and satellite football games became common place. So getting to see my new team was nearly impossible. About the only time I ever saw them on TV was when they played against the Eagles or New York Giants, and considering that the Seahawks were in the other conference at the time, those games were even rarer.

The Seahawks actually almost made it to their first Super Bowl the first year of my fandom, but lost to (ironically enough) the Oakland Raiders in the conference final. But this time, instead of ditching I stayed a fan. Reading updates in the newspaper about loss after loss. Some years good. Some years, very bad.

In 1992, we were so bad that we were awarded the #2 overall pick in the NFL. A time when we were in dire need of a quarterback. We wound up with a bust named Rick Mirer, while the New England Patriots got this guy named Drew Bledsoe (the “parent” QB to Tom Brady).

More years of mediocrity would follow, but I stood tall.

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I was there when Seahawks owner Ken Behring tried to move the team out-of-town to California in the dead of night. That attempt failed and Behring would eventually sell the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. With Allen on board, the team hired Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren and a slew of other talent, planting the seed for a run to greatness that came to fruition in 2005.

SeahawksHatDuring my time as a 12th man there has only been one low point, and that was Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As any fan of the NFL will tell you (and even Steeler fans too, if they’re honest), the referees decided that game. For me, it was stinging. Imagine waiting 23 years for a shot at a Super Bowl and then being cheated by a bunch of turds in pinstripes.

The thing is, in the NFL there are no guarantees and the days of dynasty left once the salary cap was initiated. You only have so much time to make a run before players and coaches leave for other pastures. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to my team following that “defeat”.

It’s taken eight years for the Seahawks to get back to the NFC Championship game. Eight long, often-times miserable years. But I never lost hope. I watched as Marshawn Lynch caused an earthquake with one of the greatest runs in NFL history and knew that the stars were aligning again….

I even took a weekend 2,856-mile trip to Seattle by myself two-years ago just to see them play the Atlanta Falcons. The first time I was ever a part of the 12th man.

They lost.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this game. I’ve even been having dreams at night this past week where the game is on and I am sitting around checking the score. Every time I looked, the score was changing. Thankfully, we were winning.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s all over. Hopefully, dreams do come true. But all I can ask is that the refs let it be settled on the field. And may the better team then kick the sh$t out of the Patriots or Broncos.

Go Hawks!

Sign In, Please: Guitarist Steve Lynch Discusses the Return Of Autograph

SteveLynch1It’s been nearly 25 years since the members of Autograph completed their three-album deal with RCA records and mutually decided to go their own separate ways.

For guitarist Steve Lynch, that departure also meant the opportunity to get more involved in writing, teaching and hosting guitar clinics. Eventually, Lynch made his way back to his native Seattle and opened the Federal Way School of Music, where he continues to demonstrate, among other things, his legendary two-handed technique.

After a long hiatus, Lynch and bassist Randy Rand have reunited Autograph in 2014. Together with new singer Simon Daniels, the band plans to tour extensively — with shows that already include the Monsters of Rock Cruise, M3 and Firefest — before returning to the studio to record new material.

I spoke with Lynch about the reunion, his music and Autograph’s unique first gig in 1984.

GUITAR WORLD: It’s been 25 years since we last saw Autograph. What sparked this reunion?

In 2011, I saw Randy down at the NAMM show, and the two of us started kicking around the idea of doing a reunion. We saw a lot of bands out doing a “weekend warrior” sort of thing, and since I run a music studio and teach during the week, I thought it would be a great way to do it. We got our original drummer Keni Richards involved in early rehearsals, but he had to back out due to health issues.

Steve Lynch

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Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Steve Lynch by Clicking Here

Singer-Songwriter Tim Butler Talks Nazareth Show And New Music

Tim Butler performs in Nazareth, PA on Jan 18th

Tim Butler

Guitarist Tim Butler’s love of music goes back much further than the twenty years he’s been performing in the Philadelphia area. From his early years singing in boys choirs, to his stints in high school musicals and teaching himself to play the instrument he loves, Butler is the pure definition of singer songwriter.

His catchy, hook ridden original songs have received lavish praise and his tasteful renditions of songs by such artists as Crowded House and Mister Mister have been pleasing audiences for more than two decades. But the thing that really makes Butler unique is that he’s just as comfortable performing solo as he is with a full-band; both of which being a must see.

Butler took a bit of a hiatus in 2013, but will return to his native Lehigh Valley for a show at the Nazareth Center for the Arts on Saturday, January 18th. In addition, he’s also been working on a CD of brand new material that’s expected to be released in February. I spoke with him about both and more in this exclusive interview.

Tell me a little about your upcoming show.

The show will feature 2 performers. Opening will be a musician by the name of “Not for Coltrane.” He’s local to the Lehigh Valley and has a very cool alt-folk-rock type of sound. Due to some of the constraints of the venue, I will not be playing full-band and instead will be doing a duo performance with my long time bass player, Rick Delana.

How would you describe the sound of your music?

I have really been described as many things: rock, pop, alt folk, alt country, folk rock, it goes on an on. Hearing that entertains me, but it also makes me realize that listeners can hear a lot of different things. I will tell you that I cut my teeth on pop and rock. Structurally, most of my songs are pop tunes. I love hooks and big choruses! But there is definitely a “rock” sound to many of my tunes, especially when I’m playing with the full band.

What are your thoughts on performing cover material?

I’m primarily an artist that does original music but I do enjoy sprinkling in some covers. Sometimes I’ll play something because someone asks me to, but 90% of the time the covers that I do really mean something to me or sometimes its just because I like the song or band.

Can you give us an update on your new CD?

It’s likely the new recording will be ready to drop by early to mid February. Most of the tracking is completed. There’s still some lead guitar work that needs to be done and then we are on to mixing and engineering.

Is there a particular song from the new CD that excites you?

One of my faves from the new CD is a song called “We’ll Be Happy.” It comes from a place that is my bread and butter: pop, with lush harmonies. It may sound a little “Beach Boys”, but I’m ok with that. I went in that direction with the instrumentation and harmonies. I didn’t fight it at all. In fact, with this CD I decided at the outset to just let the songs go wherever they wanted to go. Every song on this release I just let happen.

What’s your songwriting process like?

I am primarily a music first kind of guy. Sometimes a song will start with just a riff or a chorus structure or sometimes it might just be a “sound.” From there, I usually work through melody lines, etc. By that time, I’ve typically created a theme in my head and create lyrics based on that. It’s really worked well for me.

When did you first get bitten by the music bug?

I started singing at a very young age. I was in a touring boys choir starting in 5th grade and sang in choirs and in stage performances for a very long time. I took piano lessons for a short while and didn’t pick up a guitar until my senior year of college.

Tell me a little about your music experience in high school.

I have a lot of very fond memories of high school. It was there that I decided that I wanted to stick with music. It solidified that I would have music in my life in some organized fashion even if I didn’t major in it in college.

Coming into EAHS [Easton Area High School], I was actually all “choired out” and avoided singing all together. I remember people were always trying to get me involved, but I just wasn’t into it. Then one day, Ed Milisits [EAHS choir director] tracked me down and “drafted” me. I remember he was very persuasive about it and I ended up joining the Concert Choir and also being in a few school musicals. Those years were a big part of my life.

What are you most looking forward to in 2014?

I have been doing this pretty much non-stop since 1994 and last year decided to take a bit of a break (although I did perform a few random shows and at fundraising events). I discovered that I really missed making music, so getting back in the studio was GREAT!  I’m very excited about 2014. Although I won’t be setting out onto a full-fledged tour, I will be doing more shows that give me the opportunity to share some music. For me, I’m blown away with everything I’ve been blessed with over the years and am just so thankful! Musically, I hope to continue to do something that I really love to do. If someone likes it, loves it or it can mean something to them, then that’s a huge win for me.

Tim Butler Will Perform at the Nazareth Center for the Arts
30 Belvidere St. Nazareth, PA 18064
January 18th, 2014 @ 7:00pm
Tickets are $8 in advance / $10 @ door

For more on Tim Butler, check out his ReverbNation site by Clicking Here!

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