Category Archives: Music

Ricky Phillips of Styx Talks Def Leppard Tour and Ronnie Montrose’s Final Recordings

styxTo fans of classic rock and arena rock, it just wouldn’t be summer without the music of Styx.

For more than 40 years the band, whose hits include “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Come Sail Away,” has been delivering the goods the only way it knows how: through infectious live performances.

This summer, Styx—Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass)—are teaming up with Def Leppard and Tesla on what promises to be one of the season’s hottest tour packages.

I recently caught up with Phillips to ask him about the new tour as well as his time with Styx, the Babys and Bad English. He also gave me an inside look into his new album project, the final recordings of Ronnie Montrose.

GUITAR WORLD: What can fans expect from the new tour with Def Leppard and Tesla?

We’ve been wanting to work with Def Leppard again for quite some time. We did some dates with them around 2007 and it was a really good fit. If you’re familiar with Tesla’s catalog you already know that they’re a very aggressive, cool, no-frills band. They just come balls out and do it! Then we go everywhere from a little bit of prog to the guitar duo of Tommy Shaw and James Young to having three lead singers. Then Def Leppard come out with their big arena rock show. It’s a special package where fans will really have a great time.

You’ve been with Styx for more than a dozen years. What’s it like being part of such an iconic band?

The cool thing about this band is that everybody recognizes that what we have is really special. It’s rare to get a group of guys that gel as good as this band does. We all have a lot of strengths to lean on personally and musically. There’s a lot of fun and joking around to keep things entertaining, but once we get on stage it’s all business, which is a good time as well.

Has there been any talk of new Styx music in the future?

I can’t talk about it too much, but there’s certainly some stuff in the works. It’s going to happen. We’re just not sure when.

Let’s discuss a few of the other bands you were involved with. What was the story behind you joining the Babys?

I had always been a big fan of Tony Brock and John Waite and thought “Isn’t It Time” was just a masterpiece of cool rock. Shortly after I got to LA, a sound man for the band saw me play and tracked me down. It was around the same time that John had decided he wanted to front the band and not be weighed down by playing an instrument [Waite had also played bass in the Babys].

I was working in the music store across the street from where they were auditioning when the sound man came in and told me that I needed to go across the street and play. I remember pulling a bass off of the wall and (with the price tag still swinging from the headstock), went over and jammed with the guys for about 15 minutes. We played “Run to Mexico” and “Head First” and then Jonathan Cain and I harmonized with John on “Isn’t It Time.” After that, they all left the room and came back in with their manager and asked me to join the band. That’s how it all started.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Ricky Phillips by Clicking Here!

‘Kicker’: Singer/Songwriter Zella Day Talks New Album, Music and Inspiration

ZellaDay_KickerFrom her days performing her hypnotic blend of hook-laden music in Arizona coffee shops, it was only a matter of time before twenty-year old singer/songwriter Zella Day made the move to the larger pastures of the California music scene – and with impressive results!

Day’s debut album, Kicker is an introduction to Day both as an artist and person. Her hauntingly infectious songs personify the young singer as a cosmic force to be reckoned with.

Songs like “Hypnotic” and “Compass” lend themselves well to the self-conscious while tracks like “Jerome” offer up a revelation to the solace of home.

I recently spoke with Zella Day about Kicker, her music and where she finds her inspiration.

How would you describe Kicker?

This was such a big project for me and encapsulates so many elements of who I am and what I’ve been through. You really get a strong idea of who I am as a person by listening to this record. It’s very eclectic. There are elements of pop, ballads, outlaw country and even some desert gypsy rock.

What was the writing process like for you?

I have so many different voice memos on my phone and song titles in my notes. Sometimes I’ll have a chord progression that will be sitting around for a long time when the lyrics will suddenly hit me. Other times it may start out with just a title. It’s always different but I try to write a little something everyday. It’s important to keep your creative muscle strong and working. My most inspiring method though is just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and coming up with melodies. It’s what I’ve been doing nice I was nine years old.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Kicker. What can you tell me about the song, “Hypnotic”?

That song was actually written on acoustic guitar. I had my producer bring up a beat that I was really inspired by, wrote a progression and then did a little rap melody over it. That’s how it was born. The song sounds great acoustically, which is something that’s very important to me. Part of my roots are playing my acoustic guitar in coffee shops. So it’s important that these songs can be broken down to the basics.

“High”.

“High” was written after I saw The National play a show in California. I was so inspired by that experience. I remember it was outside the Santa Barbara amphitheater and it was raining and the whole crowd was immersed in a blue light that they were shooting out from the stage. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. That’s where the line ‘blue line in the sky tonight’ comes from. I came home that night and wrote the song. 

“Compass”.

That song was written from a stream of consciousness. I like it when that happens. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say while I’m in the moment but later find out that I’ve either taught myself a lesson or got something off of my chest that I needed to. In this case, I had just moved from Arizona to California and the more I listened to it the more I realized that it was a love song for my hometown. “Compass” was my revelation song.

“Jerome”.

That song was placed #1 on the album because the song is about the woman I was named after. She was the wife of a coal miner in 1842 in Jerome; the town where my parents got married.  I didn’t know much about her but I’ve always had this idea of who she was and what the ghost of Zella is and our connection to each other. I wrote the song about her and am essentially introducing myself by name. 

What was the recording process like and working with collaborators like Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry?

I’ve worked with them for a few years now and we have a great chemistry. We really know each others strengths and know how to write together. By being able to push through the hard moments we’ve been rewarded with good songs. We’ve written a lot of tracks together and I’m so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.

Did always know that music would be your calling?

I’ve always played music because it just feels right and have been grateful for everything I have and the shows that I play. Even when I was playing coffee shops; it’s how its always been. Every day feels really good right now. 

What excites you the most about Kicker?

I’m really proud of every song on this record. I’m not moving forward feeling doubtful or self-conscious about the creative decisions I’ve made. I’m fully behind what I’ve created and put out into the world. Whatever happens, I have that foundation and am really excited to tour the new record and connect with people. There are no secrets and as a new artist I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

Official Website: http://www.zelladay.com/

‘Wolf Den’: Trampled Under Foot Bassist Danielle Nicole Talks Debut Solo Album

DanielleNicoleFrom her early days working with her brothers in the power trio Trampled Under Foot, bassist/vocalist Danielle Nicole has always found an outlet for her creative, blues-infused songs.

Collectively, Trampled Under Foot recorded five albums, with its most recent, Badlands, reaching Number 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums chart in 2013.

But as the band wound down after 13 years, Nicole decided it was a good time to branch out on her own. Her debut solo album, Wolf Den, which will be released August 21, represents the fruits of her labor and is a treasure trove of blues, funk and groove.

Produced by Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Anders Osborne—whose songs have been covered by the likes of Brad Paisley and Jonny Lang, Wolf Den is a collaborative, New Orleans-themed album buried deep in tasty, blues-based rock.

I recently spoke with Nicole about Wolf Den, working with Osborne, her gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: To someone who might not be familiar with your sound, how would you describe Wolf Den?

It’s an extension of the songwriting from my days playing with my brothers in Trampled Under Foot as well as some songs I’ve never had a chance to record. A few of the other tunes were ideas Anders helped collaborate on and develop with me. The album as a whole is a collaboration rather than all of the songs stringing together.

How does the songwriting process start for you?

Most of the time it starts with a bass line groove or melody, and then I’ll start writing lyrics to it. If it’s a specific instance or taken from experience, it usually starts with lyrics.

What can you tell me about the track “You Only Need Me When You’re Down?”

That was a tune Anders and I had written together. At the time, I was in a bad place in a relationship and had the line, “You only want me when you need me. You only come to me when you’re in trouble.” Anders came up with the groove and we started expanding it from that situation. That’s how it came about.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoWith Danielle Nicole by Clicking Here!

‘Dirt Road’s End': Sugarcane Jane’s Anthony Crawford Talks New Album, Touring with Neil Young and More

DirtRoadsEndSugarcane Jane have amassed an extremely loyal following by performing what they like to call, “organic music at its finest.”

Anthony Crawford and his wife, Savana Lee, are both virtuosos. Crawford is a songwriter who plays guitar and mandolin while Lee alternates between rhythm guitar, tambourine and snare drum.

Sugarcane Jane’s new album, Dirt Road’s End, provides a rich, homegrown brand of Americana that draws deep from a well of influences, including country, jazz, rock and gospel. The album was conceived and co-produced by legendary Americana/roots singer-songwriter Buzz Cason.

Dirt Road’s End, which was recorded on a classic Otari MTR-90 tape recorder, traverses a spectrum of moods and stories, including the autobiographical “Ballad of Sugarcane Jane” which features Anthony’s driving guitar work, and “Heartbreak Road,” which steams with rock energy and bluegrass spirit.

I recently spoke with Crawford about Dirt Road’s End, recording “old school” and what it was like touring as a member of Steve Winwood and Neil Young’s bands.

GUITAR WORLD: To someone who might not be familiar with Sugarcane Jane, how would you describe your sound?

“Saving the planet one good vibe at a time” is our slogan. Savana and I are energy pushers and write songs that make people feel good. Although we have songs in our repertoire that have deeper meaning, the lyrical content for Dirt Road’s End is more light hearted. Savana and I are in love with each other, and that shows in our music. Ultimately, it’s energetic Americana that’s positive and light hearted.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Anthony Crawford by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Jim Peterik Discusses Ides of March’s 50th Anniversary Box Set, New Music and More

PeterikTo many Eighties music fans, Jim Peterik will always be the maestro behind classic songs like “Eye of the Tiger,” “I Can’t Hold Back” and “Burning Heart.”

But prior to launching Survivor in 1978, Peterik was the front man for another successful group—the Ides of March—whose signature 1970 song, “Vehicle,” is still played regularly on the radio and in TV shows and films.

This year, the Ides of March are celebrating their 50th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, Peterik and company have released a new five-disc set, Last Band Standing: The Definitive 50-Year Anniversary Collection.

The box set includes four Ides albums: Vehicle, Common Bond, World Woven and Midnight Oil. Also included are early singles like “You Wouldn’t Listen” and “Like It or Lump It,” plus random tracks the group recorded after reforming in the Nineties, not to mention three brand-new songs.

The fifth disc is a DVD that features a 2014 Ides show from the House of Blues in the band’s native Chicago. It features songs that span the band’s career, plus re-arranged versions of Survivor songs and hits Peterik wrote with 38 Special and Sammy Hagar.

I recently spoke with Peterik about the Ides of March’s 50th anniversary box set, his new project with Marc Scherer and more.

GUITAR WORLD: When it dawns on you that this is the 50th anniversary of the Ides of March, what comes to mind?

There are so many thoughts. We always used to think we had an identity crisis. I remember we started out as a British invasion wannabe band, emulating bands like the Kinks, Zombies and Beatles. Then we got enamored with brass and started a Memphis/soul thing.

Then the big moment came when we had the whole brass section and went in and cut “Vehicle” and toured the country with groups like Cold Blood and Janis Joplin. We threw out all of these different incarnations. When I listen to it now as a whole, it all hangs together. There’s a group personality and a positivity that really shines through the music.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Jim Peterik by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Joel Hoekstra Talks ‘Purple,’ Whitesnake’s New Deep Purple Tribute Album

Shortly after Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord died in 2012, Whitesnake vocalist—and former Deep Purple frontman—David Coverdale reached out to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore about the possibility of working on a project together in Lord’s honor.

WhitesnakeGroup

Although both musicians were on different pages creatively at the time and couldn’t come to an agreement, the two former Deep Purple members were able to find closure, bury the hatchet on past grievances and move on.

Then Coverdale’s wife, Cindy, suggested that David pay tribute to Lord with Whitesnake. Now Whitesnake is about to unveil Purple, a new studio album that puts insanely good spins on Mark 3 and 4 Deep Purple classics and tastefully pays tribute to one of the pioneers of progressive rock.

Purple, which will be released May 19, also marks the debut of Whitesnake’s new guitarist, Joel Hoekstra, who recently replaced Doug Aldrich. Hoekstra’s resume includes Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

These days, Whitesnake includes Coverdale (lead vocals), Reb Beach (guitar), Hoekstra (guitar), Michael Devin (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums).

I recently spoke to Hoekstra about Purple and what it’s like being a part of Whitesnake.

What’s it been like to work with David Coverdale?

Working with David has been great! He’s rock royalty with all of these great stories about working with Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore. He really understands music and was very gracious in the studio in allowing us to play what we wanted to play. Now, we’re gearing up for the other aspect—playing these songs live. You talk about songs that lend themselves well to live performance? These songs were written in live performance. It’s going to be exciting.

How did the Purple project begin?

The project actually began before I was even in Whitesnake. Shortly after Jon Lord passed away in 2012, David reached out to Ritchie. He just wanted to touch base with Ritchie and thank him for helping to jump-start his career. The two of them then went into discussions about doing something together in memory of Jon, but [as I hear it] they were on different pages. It was David’s wife, Cindy who then suggested that David do it with Whitesnake. It was a great concept and a total honor for me to be a part of.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Purple, starting with “Lady Double Dealer.”

That was actually my audition for Whitesnake. I remember when I went out to Reno to meet the guys, that was the song they pulled up. They asked me what I would do for a solo. So I laid down a solo and then in the next section they started taking about a harmony solo and asked me to come up with something. So I wrote the solo that actually ended up making the record. Afterwards, they pretty much said, “Well, dude, come jam with us! Let’s do this!”

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview With Joel Hoekstra By Clicking Here!

Richie Kotzen Talks Tech 21 Signature RK5 Fly Rig, ‘Cannibals’ and Dog Camp 2015

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen

We always love talking to Richie Kotzen. This time, we decided to talk tone.

Kotzen played a huge part in developing the Tech 21 Signature RK5 Fly Rig, which happens to play a major role in how he gets his signature sound.

While Kotzen primarily uses his RK5 live in conjunction with his standard amp rig, this compact unit embodies an entire rig on its own. At its heart is the all-analog SansAmp, which makes it possible to go direct to a PA or mixer. For effects, you have the essentials: a reverb, a delay with tap tempo, a powerful boost and Kotzen’s Signature OMG overdrive.

Below, we discuss the RK5, the Winery Dogs his new solo album and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How did your relationship with Tech 21 begin?

They had sent me a few of their delays and other pedals to try out. I took a liking to the delay and started using it as my primary one. During tours with my band, I found myself doing these fly gigs where I would fly in, do a show or two and then fly out. I really wanted something compact and easy to deal with.

What I wound up doing was combining their delay pedal with the overdrive I was using at the time and then added a foot-switch mechanism for my amp and put it all into one little box. It was crude and wasn’t always super reliable, but I showed it to Andrew Barta at Tech 21 when he was in LA and he agreed it was a great idea. It took a good six months in developing until it was exactly right.

Was there a lot of trial and error involved in the process?

The delay was simple because I already knew what I wanted. The overdrive was a little trickier. I learned a lot about circuits by comparing things but relied a lot on my ears. It went through several variations until Andrew came up with a design that’s just right. I can put that pedal in front of any amp and still get a good sound.

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

Guitarist Mick Mars Talks Final Mötley Crüe Shows, New Music and More

MotleyCrueMötley Crüe recently announced the details of their final round of North American dates.

The tour—Crüe’s last, ever—will conclude on New Year’s Eve in their hometown of Los Angeles, the same city where they began their career more than 34 years ago.

Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee first announced plans for their two-year-long Final Tour last year, when they signed a “cessation of touring” document. It was an agreement that solidified the end of their touring career.

To celebrate their legacy and thank their fans, Mötley Crüe are offering exclusive VIP packages for their final tour dates; these packages include opportunities to meet the band and offer up-close-and-personal views of the show from a newly designed stage setup.

In addition to accumulating worldwide album sales in excess of 80 million units over the course of three decades, Mötley Crüe also have garnered three Grammy nominations, four best-selling books and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I recently spoke with guitarist Mick Mars about the final Mötley Crüe shows, new music and more.

GUITAR WORLD: With these last few tour dates in LA being announced, has it begun to sink in that this is the last go-around for Mötley Crüe?

Yes, absolutely. This is it. We’re done after this one. I think ending in LA is kind of like coming full circle. Although the place we actually started in, [the Starwood] is torn down and the venues we’re playing now are a lot bigger than when we started! [laughs].

What will you miss about not touring with Mötley Crüe?

It’s a bittersweet thing, but all four of us are still in business together as a corporation. So we’ll still see each other. And even though I may not see the guys on stage, I’ll still be touring myself.

What were some of the challenges the band faced coming up in the LA scene?

From what I recall, a lot of the LA bands that were going around at the time were trying to copy Quiet Riot, who were already signed. So it really came pretty easily for us because we came out with a different look and sound. We were something that was different.

You can check out the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Mick Mars By Clicking Here!

‘Peace Out’: Guitarist Gunnar Nelson Talks New Nelson Album, Guitars and ‘After the Rain’

GunnarNelsonTwenty-five years ago, two long-haired blond twins set the world on fire with their debut album, After the Rain.

At a time when glam metal was giving way to grunge, Nelson touched a nerve with the album’s hook-laden title track and “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection,” a Number 1 single.

Today, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson are still going strong. They perform full-band shows as Nelson, pay tribute to their father with their Ricky Nelson Remembered shows and take part in all-star Scrap Metal performances across the country.

While Nelson’s upcoming album, Peace Out [set to be released May 19] might be considered the rock band’s swan song, it might also be their best album, ever. Peace Out is an infectious collection of songs showcasing the maturity of the songwriting as well as Gunnar’s guitar prowess.

Next year, Gunnar and Matthew will begin a new duo project focusing on guitars and vocals. So if Peace Out truly is the end of the rock version of Nelson, Gunnar and Matthew are certainly going out in style.

I recently spoke with Gunnar about Peace Out and his gear and got his thoughts on the 25th anniversary of After the Rain.

GUITAR WORLD: How does Peace Out compare to some of Nelson’s previous records?

Honestly, if I were to recommend a Nelson record to someone who has never heard the band before, it wouldn’t be our first record [After the Rain]. It would be this one. This one features the best of the songwriting, guitar work and vocals. Most of all, the theme of the record is positive, and that’s what this band is 25 years in. When most everyone else is trying to be tough and rock, we want to make people feel good about listening to music.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Gunnar Nelson by Clicking Here!

Moody Blues Bassist John Lodge Talks New Solo Album, ‘10,000 Light Years Ago’

John Lodge210,000 Light Years Ago is the superb new studio album by legendary Moody Blues bassist John Lodge.

It’s Lodge’s first album of new solo material since 1977’s Natural Avenue.

The album contains some of Lodge’s most personal songs and even features guest performances by former Moody Blues members Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder.

I recently spoke with Lodge about the new album and some highlights from his career with the Moody Blues.

GUITAR WORLD: It’s been quite a while since your last solo album. What spawned this project?

I’ve been thinking about making an album for a few years now. It was based on a thought process I had where the future is always in reach but the past is gone forever. But I didn’t want to make an album that was retrospective. I wanted to make one that was about who I am today.

How would you describe the album as a whole?

I always look at the song “10,000 Light Years Ago.” When I wrote that song, I knew that’s what the album was going to be called. Then when I looked at the lyrics, it really told me what I wanted to write about. Standing there fearlessly and thinking about what’s going on in the world. To me, it’s an eclectic collection of songs that all end up 10,000 light years ago. Everything from the past has made me what I am today.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, starting with “In My Mind.” How was that song conceived?

I remember I had a flute line going through my head along with chords that kept getting bigger and bigger. I wanted the keyboards to create this audio/visual universe and for the guitars to run through it all. Then I wanted it all to easily come back down into a very easy, close lyric and twelve-string playing away and then building back up. It was a visual image in my mind.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with John Lodge by Clicking Here!

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