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!

Girl Power: G.R.L. Talks New Music, Tour Plans

It’s been more than three years since the ladies of G.R.L were first brought together by former Pussycat Doll, Robin Antin.

Originally created to be a reboot of the group Antin made famous, the women of G.R.L. (Simone Battle, Lauren Bennett, Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton and Paula Van Oppen) instead took on a life of their own – appearing in the video for Pitbull’s song “Wild Wild Love” as well as releasing several infectiously good singles of their own, including the track “Vacation” which featured former Spice Girl Mel B.

G.R.L.

G.R.L.

On July 29th, the long awaited G.R.L self-titled debut will officially be unveiled, giving the ladies their first taste of album exposure. Coinciding with the release of the EP, G.R.L will soon embark on a trip down-under to promote their new music.

The thing that sets G.R.L. apart from many of their counterparts (both male and female) is their ability to create infectious songs that become even more addicting on subsequent listens. Songs like “Show Me What You Got” and their recent single and video for the song “Ugly Heart” infuse hooky R&B and pop-rock grooves with positive, girl power messages.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the ladies of G.R.L about their new album, touring and their thoughts on becoming the model for the next generation of Girl Power!

How excited are you that the EP is going to be released?

Natasha: I’m kind of nervous, actually [laughs]. We’ve worked really hard on it. It’s our baby and we’re finally putting it out there for the world to see. We’re very excited to see what the response will be.

Lauren: There’s also a song on the EP that no one has heard yet, which is a bit different then what we’ve put out thus far. We’re excited to see how fans will feel about that new song.

How would you describe the new album?

Simone: It’s very charged, with a lot of girl empowering anthems. We have some R&B and some 90’s throwback jams as well as an electro, pop-rock song. Then there’s “Ugly Heart” which is unique in its own way. It’s a mix of a bunch of different vibes.

Emma: We love positive messages and songs that make us want to dance immediately. If something can make us move, then we know we’re really feeling it from the inside and we become passionate about it.

What can you tell me about the song “Ugly Heart”?

Natasha: “Ugly Heart” is a song about inner-beauty and about how you should never judge a book by its cover. Just because someone has a pretty face, doesn’t mean their inside will match. And if you don’t have inner-beauty, then we’re going to leave you far behind!

What are your touring plans?

Paula: We’ll be going to Australia at the beginning of August. We’re excited about that because “Ugly Heart” is doing really well over there. While we’re there, we’ll be doing a performance on X-Factor Australia and will be traveling to places like Sydney and Melbourne to promote the record.

You’re all involved with so many different aspects of a project. Everything from recording to choreography. Is there a part of the process that you enjoy more than others?

Lauren: I love getting cool outfits and dressing up. As a little girl, it was always fun to put on a fancy dress. Now, being an adult and being able to dress up and be on stage or in a music video is one of the coolest things for me.

Natasha: I love performing and meeting the fans. The performance and seeing everything come together. Just being able to express myself on stage and getting the fans to sing and dance along with us is awesome.

Simone: I love the creative process of it. Being in the studio until two or three in the morning until a song is finished. I love all of the aspects of it, but being in the studio is one of my favorite things.

What was it like working with Pitbull for the video “Wild Wild Love”?

Lauren: I was nervous, because we didn’t really know how things were going to go until we got on set. We had never met Pitbull prior to the show and after he walked in the room the director handed me this sheet of paper and said, “Ok, here you go. You’ve got to read these lines with Pitbull.” I remember being incredibly nervous, but he was so nice and professional. It went really smoothly.

Paula: He’s also a lot of fun to work with. I remember after we shot the video, we all went out on a boat and he showed us around. He definitely knows how to have a good time.

Mel B appeared in your video for “Vacation”. What was it like working with her and sort-of picking up the torch to be the next generation of Girl Power?

Natasha: We grew up idolizing The Spice Girls. I remember wanting to be Sporty Spice and having all of my friends dress up with me. Having Mel B being in our video and giving us advice was the coolest thing and a dream come true.

Lauren: Mel B represents one of the biggest girl groups in the world of all time. For her to be a part of our journey is one of the best things we could ever have.

What are you most looking forward to about the new album and what’s next for G.R.L.?

Lauren: We’re not really sure about where things are going to go. All we know is that we’ve waited so long for this moment and things are happening really quickly now. Australia is really picking up on the new record. I’m really excited that the ball is rolling!

G.R.L (Track Listing):

1. Ugly Heart
2. Show Me What You Got
3. Rewind
4. Don’t Talk About Love
5. Girls Are Always Right

Ted Nugent Brings Rock Revival, Spiritual Jam To Penns Peak

Guitarist, hunter and American advocate Ted Nugent is certainly no stranger to the backwoods of northeastern Pennsylvania. In fact, a recent stop at Penns Peak in Jim Thorpe a few years ago became the setting for Nugent’s 2011 live CD/DVD Ultralive Ballisticrock. Yeah, folks around these parts know that when Uncle Ted’s in town (like he was last night at Penns Peak) – attendance is mandatory!

Ted Nugent Bring The Heat to Penns Peak

Ted Nugent Brings The Heat to Penns Peak

Nugent’s live show is one part sermon, one part history lesson and one part spiritual revival. It’s a line drawn in the sand where (like most things) Nugent is either admired and solidified for the attitude, or despised for it. But Nugent says let the chips fall where they may. He believes in focusing on quality of life in all of those arenas, because quality of life comes from all of those issues.

Together with his killer band made up of Derek St. Holmes (guitar/vocals); Greg Smith (bass) and Mick Brown (drums), Nugent infused the senses with an arsenal of material at The Peak. Channeling the same blues masters that inspired his own guitar prowess, while continuing to wave the flag for a love of God and country.

In addition to giving the audience a master class in virtuoso musicianship, Nugent thanked the crowd for making his “Spirit of the Wild” the #1 hunting show in the world; took credit for being the most hated man in America by a President; instructed the crowd that the biggest duty of any American is to raise hell and even called upon the spirit of his longtime mentor and blood brother Fred Bear before launching into what Nugent calls the “greatest guitar riff of all time”- “Cat Scratch Fever”. Nugent even gave his fellow hunters and NRA members a dose of “Shut Up & Jam!” – the title track from his new studio album released earlier this month.

Ted Nugent and Greg Smith bring their message to the masses

Ted Nugent and Greg Smith bring their message to the masses

Ted Nugent is on the verge of playing his 6,500th live show. To put that into perspective, that would be like playing a concert a night (every night) for almost 18 years. But Nugent himself will tell you that every single one of those shows is the most important show on Earth. It’s why he continues to surround himself with others who are also masters of their craft, and why fans like me are so grateful.

Driving down the long hill that leads from Penns Peak back to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and to my home, I realized that even though the world may be in rough shape, our future is in good hands.

Ted Nugent Set List: (Penns Peak)

Gonzo
Just What The Doctor Ordered
Free For All
Turn It Up
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
I Can’t Quit You Baby (Otis Rush cover)
Live It Up
Queen Of The Forest
Need You Bad
Shut Up & Jam
Hey Baby
Fred Bear
Cat Scratch Fever
Stranglehold
Great White Buffalo

‘Begin Again’: Actress Shannon Maree Walsh Discusses New Film, Music

Shannon Maree Walsh

Shannon Maree Walsh

Shannon Maree Walsh’s introduction into the world of entertainment may not have been by conventional methods, but the champion gymnast turned actress is certainly making a name for herself in the new film, “Begin Again”.

Directed by John Carney (“Once”), “Begin Again” tells the story Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a struggling record label exec living in New York City. One night, while drinking at a bar in the East Village, he encounters Gretta (Keira Knightley), a fiercely independent young songwriter whose music captivates him. Walsh plays nerdy musician Rachel, a cellist in Gretta’s band.

Following its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 and closing this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, the film was released theatrically on July 2nd.

Walsh has been a national gymnastics champion four times, but recently shifted her passion to acting with great success. Her first role was in Wes Craven’s “My Soul to Take” and other credits include Law & Order: SVU and The Michael J Fox Show.

In addition to finishing up her degree at Georgetown, Walsh also currently finds time to play in Suite 27, a musical group featuring members of the band from “Begin Again”. The band recently performed at the film’s premiere and have future plans to gig in and around New York City.

I recently spoke to Walsh about her role on “Begin Again”, her music and what’s next for the aspiring young actress.

What attracted you to this project?

At the time of my audition I found out that Keira and Mark were already cast. I love period films and am a huge fan of both of them. I also happened to watch “Once” (John’s first movie) and it was insanely good. With that in mind, I knew immediately it was a project I wanted to be a part of.

How would you describe the story of “Begin Again”?

I think some people might go into it thinking that they’re going to get a rom-com [romantic comedy], but that’s really not was this is. It’s a story about how music develops relationships between people. The foundation of the relationships and romances between the best friends is music. The best part of this movie is that the comedy doesn’t just come from humorous lines that are written. It’s the situational things in life that make it spontaneously funny.

What can you tell me about your character, Rachel?

Rachel is the top of her class. A very nerdy cello player who is sick and tired of playing only classical music. She’s a bit skeptical about joining the band in the beginning, only because she has no idea who these people are or why they even chose her. Then she discovers that she really loves playing this music. It’s all original and nothing that she’s ever played before. It helps her come out of her shell, get loose and go somewhere that she’s never gone before.

What was the filming process like?

I have to say that this was the coolest set experience I’ve ever had. John [Carney] is hysterical and creates such a trendy and relaxed environment. From the first day, the atmosphere was like “Let’s just go with it and see what happens!” It was amazing and our band really bonded a lot. By the end of it, we had forgotten that the camera was rolling and it was just like hanging out with friends. The chemistry you see is very real.

You actually had to learn how to play cello for this film. What was that like?

I already had experience playing the violin, but I remember going in John asking me if I could learn the cello. So for the next four weeks, my journey of three-hour a day, private cello lessons began. It was challenging, but very rewarding!

Your band “experience” actually continued after filming was complete.

Yes, that was one of the coolest parts of the whole experience. None of us in the band had ever known each other before. We’re all people from different backgrounds and places who immediately connected. It’s the most hodgepodge mix of people with a huge age range.

After filming was complete, we all kept in touch and then this past spring one of the band members said, “Let’s make this a ‘thing’ and do some gigs together” – and everyone was immediately on board. So we all got together and just started playing. It was so much fun that we ended up playing at the premiere after-party. We’ve even launched a KickStarter campaign trying to get the band to play around the city and actually do what we did in the movie. We’re called “Suite 27”.

Can you tell me a little about your transition from gymnast to actress?

I was a gymnast from the ages of 3 to 17. I was always very competitive but once the time came to start applying to colleges I realized that my heart was just not into it anymore. I had run my course with the sport. I decided that I wanted to do something that at the time seemed like the opposite of gymnastics and for some reason, that thing was acting. I was a senior in high school when I started acting.

What other projects are you working on?

Right now, my focus is on getting my University degree. I have six more classes before I graduate. The plan is to get the degree and then settle in New York to concentrate on acting. That’s my number one priority!

Follow Shannon on Twitter : @shannonmaree22

‘Rockabilly Riot’: Brian Setzer Talks New Album, Gretsch Guitars and Future of Rockabilly

Rockabilly Riot - Brian SetzerFollowing last year’s successful Christmas tour with his 18-piece orchestra, iconic guitarist, songwriter and three-time Grammy winner Brian Setzer entered the studio to get back to his rockabilly roots — with incredible results.

Setzer’s new album, Rockabilly Riot: All Original, which will be released August 12 via Surfdog Records, is pure, straight-ahead rockabilly that features 12 new, original songs. Along with his trademark twang and fretboard fire, Setzer is backed by three musicians who are among the best at their craft — Mark Winchester (bass), Kevin McKendree (piano) and Noah Levy (drums).

The album, which was recorded in Nashville, was produced by Peter Collins, who handled those same duties for Setzer’s Vavoom! and The Dirty Boogie. The result is a cross-mix of early Stray Cats and Setzer’s solo records, with an emphasis on a fresh, modern rockabilly sound.

Setzer first captured the hearts of guitarists everywhere as founder and frontman of Stray Cats, whose signature songs “Rock This Town,” “(She’s) Sexy & 17” and “Stray Cat Strut” introduced the sound and attitude of rockabilly to a new generation of rock fans in the early Eighties.

I recently spoke to Setzer about Rockabilly Riot: All Original, his early days, guitars and what the future holds for rockabilly music.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe the sound of Rockabilly Riot?

To me, it sounds a little bit like a mixture of an album I had called Ignition and the first Stray Cats album. The production of it is straight forward, but it really is songs first. Then I make them into rockabilly just by me playing them.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoWith Brian Setzer by Clicking Here!

‘1000hp’: Guitarist Tony Rombola Talks New Godsmack Album and Side Project

Godsmack (Photo: Michael Chapman)

Godsmack (Photo: Michael Chapman)

Multi-platinum hard rock heroes Godsmack are revving their engines for their highly anticipated sixth studio album, 1000hp The album, which is set for an August 5 release, is the follow-up to 2010’s The Oracle, which debuted at Number 1 on Billboard’s Top 200.

Co-produced by Sully Erna along with Dave Fortman (Slipknot, Evanescence), 1000hp returns the band to their Boston-based roots. Even the album’s title track pays homage to the band’s journey from playing tiny clubs to packed arenas worldwide.

With a new-found thrashed-up “punk” energy, 1000hp is really about going back to basics. It’s old-school Godsmack, but with a new kind of twist.

Coinciding with the release of 1000hp,  Godsmack will also headline this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival, which kicks off August 14. Godsmack is Sully Erna (vocals), Tony Rombola (guitar), Robbie Merrill (bass) and Shannon Larkin (drums).

I recently spoke with Rombola about 1000hp, touring and his blues-based side project, the Blue Cross Band.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe the sound of 1000hp?

We wanted it to be straight forward and simple. I think that was the theme. There are elements of punk in some of the grooves that Sully brought in, and even in the selection of some of the riffs that I had as well. A lot of it is simpler, with some different feels.

What’s the songwriting process for a Godsmack album?

For me, it all starts with riffs Shannon and I put together and arrange into a demo. We’ll bring in a bunch of the material and Sully will go through it to get vibe for the record. He has great vision. He also brought in riffs for the songs “Something Different” and “Life Is Good”. Sully’s the one who picks the direction for the album and works on the lyrics. I’m more focused on the music. For me, it’s all about the guitar.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoWith Tony Rombola by Clicking Here!

 

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

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

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

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

But all of that is about to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can fans expect from your show?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other projects are you currently working on?

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

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

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

Do you ever foresee a Thompson Twins reunion?

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

What excites you the most about the Retro Futura Tour?

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

Retro Futura Tour 2014:

AUGUST

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

SEPTEMBER

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

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