‘Agency Of Vengeance': Actress Brigitte Kingsley Discusses Dark Rising Series

AOVActress/producer Brigitte Kingsley and writer/director Andrew Cymek’s original intention was to create a horror film. Instead, the creative team came up with a Sci-Fi comedy that’s taken on a life of its own.

Since its original Canadian release in 2007, Summer Vale and the Dark Rising series has developed a cult following that’s continued to grow – as evidenced by the latest U.S release of the Dark Rising series, “Agency of Vengeance”, which is now available on DVD and all On Demand platforms, including iTunes and Amazon Instant.

“When the “Rising Dark Agency,” a black ops division of the Government headed by Colonel Haggerd (Michael Ironside), suspects that a sudden surge of supernatural activity and violent attacks on Earth are the work of an evil Demon-God, it must call upon the services of super soldier Summer Vale (Brigitte Kingsley) to solve the mystery and prevent the coming apocalypse.”

“Agency of Vengeance” stars Brigitte Kingsley, Landy Cannon (American Psycho, Catwoman) Michael Ironside (X-Men: First Class, Total Recall, Top Gun), Julia Schneider (American Pie Presents Delta House) and Angel Williams (aka Angelina Love) of TNA Wrestling fame.

Written and directed by Cymek and produced by Kingsley, the film (with the Canadian title “Dark Rising 2: Summer Strikes Back!”) was nominated for two Canadian Comedy Awards: Best Film and Best Female Performance (Kingsley).

With exquisite cinematography and special effects, “Agency of Vengeance” is one in a series of Sci-Fi comedies created by Kingsley and Cymek that also includes “Bring Your Battle Axe”, “The Savage Tales of Summer Vale” and “Warrior of Worlds”.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Brigitte about “Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising”, her career and a few of the new projects she’s currently involved with.

What can you tell me about your character, Summer Vale?

Summer is a Warrior Princess who has a good heart, but grew up in a demon dimension. She doesn’t always understand how the world works and tends to punch first and reason later [laughs]. She’s a killing machine but in the world of love and life, she still has a lot to learn.

Brigitte Kingsley (Summer Vale) & Landy Cannon (Jason Parks)

Brigitte Kingsley (Summer Vale) & Landy Cannon (Jason Parks)

How would you describe the story of “Agency of Vengeance”?

I like to describe it as the story of Summer Vale and a group of misfits who bind together to try and save the world from imminent doom.

What was the filming process like?

We shot up in a small town in northern Ontario with a group of people who really enjoyed working together. Our team has worked together quite a bit, so there’s a lot of good chemistry. Everyone does a little bit of everything on set and we all trust each other. Andrew [Cymek] did an amazing job. In addition to writing and directing, he was also the cinematographer and was involved in the editing, color timing and special effects (along with Doug Lentz). He spent a year and a half making this film look pretty in post-production.

You wear a lot of hats on your projects (actress, producer, crew member). What are some of the challenges you encounter?

One of the real challenges about wearing multiple hats is that you don’t get to sleep all that much [laughs]. You’re always running around doing everything. So when something like a piece of wardrobe is missing, you’re the one driving to the mall in full make-up and costume during your lunch break to pick things up. You’re always solving problems as you shoot but because our team is so collaborative, everyone wears multiple hats. It’s one of those sets where it really was a family. It’s challenging and very difficult at times, but also a lot of fun.

Brigitte Kingsley (Summer Vale)

Brigitte Kingsley (Summer Vale)

What other projects are you currently working on?

We’ve just finished work on an original psychological thriller called “Night Cries” that’s now in post-production. It has a lot of the same creative behind the scenes people in it and also has Colin Mochrie, Mishael Morgan and Angelina Love involved in it as well. It’s an interesting and beautifully shot film that tells the story of a man’s journey to find his wife in a post-apocalyptic world.

This fall, we’ll start work on a country musical called “Country Crush” starring Jana Kramer. Then in the New Year, we’ll be launching a completely new franchise called “Rayven Rose”. It’s in a genre that’s very similar to Dark Rising.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an involved in entertainment?

I think so. Even as a kid, I remember begging my parents to let me go out and do it. They were always extremely supportive of me and would drive me around to auditions when I was in high school.

I went to University for theater and once I graduated I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to just be handed my dream job or a lead role in a TV show. I knew that if I really wanted to do these cool projects I was going to have to work hard and produce them myself. So that’s what I did. I spent the next several years figuring out how the business worked by hopping on a lot of planes and knocking on a lot of doors. I got a lot of rejections during that time but if you wake up every morning and keep knocking on doors, eventually you’re going to get your movie made. That’s how it all came into play. It was a passion for acting that eventually got me into producing.

Be sure to follow Brigitte Kingsley on Twitter @beekingsley

Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising

Genre: Sci-Fi / Comedy
Writer / Director / Cinematographer: Andrew Cymek
Producer: Brigitte Kingsley
Exec. Producer: Mihkel Harilaid
Produced by: Defiant Empire Corp. and Black Walk

F#CK: Buckcherry Guitarist Keith Nelson Talks New EP, Signature Les Paul

Never a band to play by the rules, Buckcherry have made a career out of pushing the boundaries — and buttons — of conventional rock while doing things their own way. It’s a strategy that has paid off with successful studio albums and singles over the last decade.

Keith Nelson (Photo: Matt Christine)

Keith Nelson (Photo: Matt Christine)

Buckcherry’s boldest and perhaps most controversial release to date might be Fuck, a new EP that unapologetically rattles the speakers as much as it will the censors.

The new EP, which will be released August 19, consists of six hook-laden tracks that feature guitarist Keith Nelson’s gritty riffs and vocalist Josh Todd’s sharp-tongued lyrics — including an unconventional yet tasty spin on Icona Pop’s hit song “I Love It,” which the band has (naturally) renamed “Say Fuck It.”

Buckcherry — Josh Todd (lead vocals), Keith Nelson (lead guitar), Stevie D. (rhythm guitar), Xavier Muriel (drums) and Kelly Lemieux (bass) — will soon team up with Godsmack, Seether and Skillet for this year’s Uproar Festival, which kicks off August 15 in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Nelson has contributed “Louis,” one of his original 1959 Les Pauls, to the Gibson Custom Shop, where the staff has painstakingly analyzed every detail of the guitar’s look, sound and wear to create a near-perfect replica for Collector’s Choice #17. You can see a photo of Gibson’s version of the guitar in the gallery below.

We recently caught up with Nelson to discuss the new EP and the process behind the making of his “new” Les Paul.

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

‘The Stories We Could Tell': Super Group Mr. Big Returns With New Studio Album

MrBigAlbumAfter forming in 1988, Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums) immediately began to solidify their place in music history by combining inspired songwriting with trademark “shredding” and awesome vocal harmony.

Now, hard rock’s original super group Mr. Big is back with a vengeance and a new album, ‘The Stories We Could Tell’. The band’s eighth studio album is slated for release on September 23rd via Frontiers Music SRL.

Over the course of their 25 year career, Mr. Big has produced songs that have traversed the spectrum of rock genres – be it ballads, heavy metal or blues rock. Their hits, including “Alive and Kicking,” “Just Take My Heart” and the chart-topping ballad “To Be With You” propelled the band to international success and multi-platinum record sales.

On ‘The Stories We Could Tell’, the original lineup returns with some of their strongest material to date. The new album is the follow-up to the band’s 2011 release ‘What If’, another critically acclaimed album that marked the band’s return to their signature hard rock sound.

The new album was produced by Pat Regan, known for his work with bands like Deep Purple, Warrant and Keel.

Mr. Big

Mr. Big

In sadder news, Mr. Big recently announced that drummer Pat Torpey has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the diagnosis has left him unable to perform his normal drumming duties on the band’s upcoming World Tour. Mr. Big intends to announce a drummer in the near future who will handle most of the band’s drumming duties on tour and expects Torpey to jump on the drums on suitable live songs as well as participating in the group’s acoustic set.

“To me, this is the album that we’ve threatened to make decades ago” says Eric Martin. “A classic, groovin’, blues-rock record with the spirit and spark of our Rock & Soul idols from the 70’s. Whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or are just starting, you’re going to dig where we are coming from and where we’ve been.”

The track listing for “The Stories We Could Tell”:

Gotta Love The Ride
I Forget To Breathe
Fragile
Satisfied
The Man Who Has Everything
The Monster In Me
What If We Were New?
East/West
The Light Of Day
Just Let Your Heart Decide
It’s Always About That Girl
Cinderella Smile
The Stories We Could Tell
Addicted To That Rush (Live – Exclusive Bonus Track)

‘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

‘When Times Get Ruff': New ‘Doodle’ Book Benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities

WhenTimesGetRuffIt’s hard to believe that we’re already on the third installment of our Doodle Dog Book series. What started out as a dream by two high school friends has turned into something bigger than either of us could have ever imagined.

But Michele and I both believe that the real fulfillment in accomplishing a dream comes from giving it a purpose – and that’s exactly what we’ve done, by donating 100% of our profits from sales of our first two books to worthy causes.

In keeping with this trend, all personal proceeds from sales of our brand-new book, “Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, a non-profit organization which provides a home away from home for families with seriously ill children staying and receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

“Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” tells the story of Chloe, a young girl who faces uncertainty when her younger brother Christopher becomes ill. With help and love from both family and friends, Chloe is able to overcome her fear.

If you’re already a fan of the first two books you’ll notice the return of a few familiar characters, but with an added twist. You may also discover a few “easter eggs” that have been hidden somewhere within the text as well.

As an added bonus, from now until December 31st, Michele and I will be donating all future profits from sales of our first two books, “Doodle” and “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” to RMHC of Central Ohio as well.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mackenzie Schuler, the Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, to find out more about her job and what goes on at RMH. We hope that after reading this interview with Mackenzie and seeing all of the good work that she and the rest of the staff and volunteers at RMHC of Central Ohio do for their community, you will consider purchasing a copy of our book or helping us spread the word!

Ruff

How did you become involved in non-profit work?

I grew up in Iowa with a family full of outdoors men. During my senior year in high school, my Grandpa was sitting up in a tree stand when it suddenly gave out. He fell fifteen feet and broke all of the vertebrae in his neck and back; completely shattering his spine. While he was in the hospital being treated my mom, grandma and aunt would all take turns staying either in his room or in the hospital waiting room. I remember they would be there for days on end and I got to see firsthand how draining it was for them to be in that environment and not have any break or an oasis to get away from it. I had originally intended to be a journalism major but that experience shifted my focus to non-profit work. I had two great internships while I was in college and fell in love with it.

RonaldMCdonaldWhat’s the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio?

Our mission is to serve the families of seriously ill children in central Ohio and we create, find and support programs that do just that. When a family checks in, we don’t ask them to pay anything. That means we have a large gap that we have to makeup through fundraising. 

People may already know what the Ronald McDonald House is, but we also have a number of other things – including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile which is basically a traveling, pediatric doctor’s office that goes around and visits kids who may not be able to get access to healthcare otherwise. It travels north to Mansfield all the way down to southern Ohio.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Well, there is no “typical” day in a non-profit setting [laughs]. We get to wear many different hats. I remember one Saturday I was here and we were all unloading head boards. We don’t hire anyone to do it for us. We do all of the work ourselves. So one day I might be meeting with a family to talk about their experience at RMH and the next day, I might be moving furniture or reupholstering chairs.

My main focus here though is being the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I do all of our social media as well as all of internal and external communications. I also work directly with families to tell a story each month for our electronic newsletter. I’ll work with our Family Services department to find a family who would be willing to talk about their experience and then tie it back to everyone who helps give their time, money and effort to the Ronald McDonald House.

What can you tell me about the recent expansion at RMH?

Currently, we have 80 guest rooms and have just added a 42-room expansion. With 122 rooms, it makes us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. It’s really exciting. In addition to the rooms, we’ve also added things like a roof-top garden and a salon area. We have lots of common spaces for families to spend their time together and keep their lives as normal as possible in not so normal circumstances. We’ll be having a Community Open House on Sunday, Sept 14th from 1-4pm. We want to use this opportunity to thank people for all of their support and want them to feel like they’re a part of the project as well.

What are some of the ways people can help?

There are a number of ways you can get involved. When you visit our website you’ll find a tab there that says “How You Can Help”. It can be anything from volunteering regularly to making a meal or even collecting pop tabs.

StoriesOfHope

Is there something that people might not know about RMH that you think they should be aware of?

One of the things people might not be aware of is that we rely 100% on donations from the community. We also have a very small staff, so in order to keep our facility running we have volunteers that are here from 9am – 9pm every day of the week. Our volunteers also help us save money. As an example, since we don’t have a hired cleaning staff, our volunteers are the ones who keep our house spotless. It’s because of their hard work that we’re able to save over a million dollars a year.

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many great stories that are told every day here at the Ronald McDonald House. I love the mission and how no one is ever asked to pay. It’s an amazing service provided to the community. One where the only thing the family has to be concerned about is helping their child heal. They don’t need to focus on anything else. Only on what’s important.

 For more information on
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio – Click Here!

Click here to Order a Copy of Doodle: When Times Get Ruff

Steve Morse Talks Deep Purple History and U.S. Tour, Plus New Flying Colors Album, ‘Second Nature’

Deep Purple’s latest album, 2013’s Now What?!, marked the opening of next chapter in the band’s 46-year career.

Deep Purple

Deep Purple

Blending the spirit of classic Seventies Deep Purple with modern production and a progressive mindset, the album reached Number 1 in several countries, including Germany and Russia, and gave the band its first British Top 20 album in 20 years.

Guitarist Steve Morse is celebrating his 20th anniversary with Deep Purple by joining the band for a month’s worth of U.S tour dates that will take them from Washington state to Florida — and pretty much everywhere in between.

The band’s current lineup is Ian Paice (drums), Ian Gillan (vocals), Roger Glover (bass), Steve Morse (guitar) and Don Airey (keyboards).

I recently spoke with Morse and got an update on the Deep Purple tour, his gear and the new Flying Colors album, Second Nature, which is due for an August 30 release. In Flying Colors, Morse is joined by Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson.

GUITAR WORLD: How has reaction been to Deep Purple’s Now What?!?

It’s been really good, and I credit that to Bob Ezrin [producer] for keeping the energy and focus of the band and for getting that little bit extra out of everyone. There was a heavy emphasis on pre-production for this album, and Bob really worked hard behind the scenes — even before we had recorded a single note.

What can you tell me about the musical influences that inspired the track “All the Time in the World”?

Don Airey is a big fan of American-style music. He can just pick up and start playing any Booker T. & the M.G.s tune or any jazz standard. He’s really eclectic in that way. Then there’s Ian Paice, who was into R&B, swing and jazz even before he came into Deep Purple. We all have our different influences. That particular song has a Motown, rhythm-and-groove kind of feel to it.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Steve Morse by Clicking Here!

My Rock Star Moment

Me - August 6th, 2004

Me – August 6th, 2004

Even though it happened ten years ago, it still feels like it was yesterday.

I was standing alone in my upstairs bathroom. An introverted thirty-four year old man looking at himself in the mirror — and shaking like a leaf. It was 3 pm and soon I would have to muster up enough courage to drive over to South Bethlehem for sound check.

August 6th, 2004 is a day I will NEVER forget.

I suppose it’s best to give you a little bit of a back story before I continue on with this tale. So here goes..

From the first day I picked up my grandmother’s hand-held potato slicer, pretended it was a guitar and did my best Ace Frehley interpretation, it’s been my dream – shredding my guitar on a huge stage while staring out into a sea of people. And so began the days of callused fingers, long walks downtown to the music store for weekly lessons and countless hours spent practicing Mel Bay scales and Metal Method licks.

Unfortunately, my new found interest in music, repetitive practice and Les Paul guitars also brought along with it the constant torment and ridicule by my siblings and their friends. Many of them telling me (in not so many words) that what I was doing would never amount to anything. But rather than wallow in denial and self-pity, their words only served to reinforce my passion. So while other kids of the MTV generation played sports or hung out with friends after school playing Atari, I spent most of my afternoons trying to figure out how Eddie Van-Halen got his Kung-Fu. I was so sure of what the future held that I even wrote entries into my journal describing all of the things that were going to happen to me after I had officially “made it” as a rock star.

on a side note, I’m still waiting for the hordes of women to chase me down the streets of New York City.

The crowd

The crowd

Yes, I had dreamed about this moment forever…. and suddenly, forever was now!

On August 6th, 2004, my band was going to be the opening act for Clay Aiken at Musikfest – on the biggest stage of them all! Yes, THE Clay Aiken!

OK, before you start giggling uncontrollably, remember this. Clay Aiken had just placed second in season two of American Idol and was almost on the same level as Justin Bieber, One Direction or any of those other boy bands. That is to say, people were going absolutely bonkers for him. It was the fastest sellout in the festival’s history (6,000+ people) and we had the greatest singer ever in our arsenal who had gotten us the gig…..

…but here I was, standing in the bathroom…a complete nervous wreck!

To this day, I’m not sure how I held it all together. Somehow, my “Rock Star Moment” was here, and I wasn’t about to let it slip away. Grabbing my Les Paul and blue-flamed do rag, I slowly made my way to Bethlehem.

The rest of that evening was a bit of a whirlwind for me. There was time spent setting up gear in front of the stage, testing guitar levels and watching the thousands of people standing in line waiting to get in. Then there was the anticipation of going out there and feeling a rush that no drug could ever deliver.

Prior to August 6th, the most people I had ever played for was maybe 40 in some smoky bar at two in the morning. And even though I was fully aware that they weren’t there to see us, I got to taste the experience of walking out on stage in front of six-thousand people!! Finally looking out, instead of always looking in.

I liked what I saw.

mu

I’ve never had that kind of experience since and most likely never will again. It was through the love of music, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck that the cosmos aligned for me that particular summer night – and it was the beginning of a special journey we would all share together as a band.

As a seven-year old boy imitating his guitar hero on a vegetable slicer it seemed like such a far away dream. But just the idea of having a dream – no matter how small it might be or how long it takes you to achieve is something that doesn’t fade after the lights finally go out and the music stops. When you realize that dreams do indeed come true, the magic becomes a part of you forever.

Tell me, what are some of your rock star moments?

‘Rock Your Face Off': Kix Guitarists Ronnie Younkins and Brian Forsythe Talk New Album

Two decades can be a long time to wait for a new studio album, but Kix prove the wait was certainly worth it.

Kix

Since reuniting in 2003 and adding bassist Mark Schenker to the lineup, Kix have experienced a resurgence in popularity—as well as a passion to create new music. Rock Your Face Off, which was released today, August 5, is the band’s first new studio album in nearly 20 years. It also continues in the band’s high-energy tradition.

Produced by Taylor Rhodes, Rock Your Face Off is a collection of blues-inspired rock that combines catchy hooks and tasty riffs with the inspired musicianship and party atmosphere Kix are known for.

Kix consists of Steve Whiteman (vocals), Ronnie Younkins (guitar), Brian Forsythe (guitar), Jimmy Chalfant (drums) and Mark Schenker (bass).

I recently caught up with Younkins and Forsythe to discuss the new album, gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe Rock Your Face Off?

Younkins: It’s high-energy rock and roll with hard-driving guitars and bluesy rock solos. Every instrument is present and in your face, and Steve’s vocals are better than ever. I’m so proud of this album.

This is the first new studio album from Kix in nearly 20 years. What sparked this project?

Forsythe: When we first reformed at the end of 2003, our intention was to just have fun. We never realized it would take off like it did. But after several years of doing shows around the Baltimore area and expanding out into the country, people started asking us about a record. We knew it was time.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Forsythe and Younkins by Clicking Here!

‘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

‘Museum’: Former White Lion Vocalist Mike Tramp Talks New Music, Guitars and Touring

TrampFor former White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp, it’s no longer about filling arenas, selling T-shirts or playing the old songs. Today, Tramp focuses on one main thing: following his heart.

It’s why he’s spent the better part of the past two years touring the world with just a guitar, playing everywhere from sports bars to small hunting lodges deep in the Pennsylvania wilderness, places where Tramp says he feels right at home.

And although there have been glimpses of Tramp’s inner-self in his White Lion past (“When the Children Cry” comes to mind), perhaps there’s no better reflection of Tramp’s soul than his new album, Museum, which will be released August 18.

From the Seventies vibe of songs like “Down South” to his own frustration (“Trust in Yourself”) and personal healing (“Better”), Tramp’s pain, love and frustration are on full display. Listening to Museum, one quickly discovers the bloodline that is Mike Tramp. There’s no makeup or make believe. Just plenty of truth.

I recently spoke to Tramp about his new album, gear and the satisfaction he gets from his vagabond touring lifestyle.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe this new album as a whole?

It’s a true reflection of me as a songwriter and about not being controlled by the “image” anymore. It’s knowing that the guidelines, doors and walls that surrounded White Lion back in the Eighties just don’t exist for me anymore. I’ve taken a step to try to create something that’s recognizable and has connections to my past, but is still part of the future.

Why the title Museum?

I fell in love with music when I was growing up in the late Sixties and Seventies, back when so many bands would just record an album and not worry about whether or not it would fit in with the other songs they’ve done before. I remember being in the studio and saying, “This is like being inside of a museum in its own time.” These are displays of songs that represent who I am.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Mike Tramp by Clicking Here!

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