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Actress Sara Castro Discusses New Film, ‘Christmas Crime Story’, Career

A botched Christmas Eve robbery leads down a destructive path for a police officer reconnecting with his estranged mother, a coming-apart-at-the-seams amateur photographer, his vindictive and murderous fiancee, her secret lover and a strung-out mall Santa…as they all converge in one explosive and deadly night.

“Christmas Crime Story” is a new film starring Eric Close, Adrian Paul, Scott Bailey and Neraida Bega that’s set in Los Angeles during the holiday season. The film revolves around multiple characters whose lives unexpectedly intersect before, during and after a liquor store robbery.

With a cool linear storyline and beautifully shot cinematography combined with engaging characters and systemic plot twists, “Christmas Crime Story” is not your typical happy holiday fare, but for fans of films like “Memento” and “Reservoir Dogs” it just might make the perfect gift.

Sara Castro plays the role of Kasey Edwards, the wife of a mall Santa and mother of a child suffering from cancer. It’s a role somewhat similar to the one the beautiful actress played with conviction in 2013’s “The Shift”. But here, we continue to find Castro’s development as an artist both emotionally engaging and refreshingly relevant.

I recently spoke with Sara Castro about “Christmas Crime Story”, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in “Christmas Crime Story”?

I had worked with one of the producers [Vince Lozano] on another film, “Halfway to Hell” and we stayed really good friends. He often said that he’d loved to work with me again and when this part came up he thought of me for the role. I went in for a reading with him and the other decision makers and everything went well. A month later, they called me with the news and we were off and running.

What was it that attracted you to the role

I’m really into unpredictable films and love challenging myself. This was a similar character to what I’ve played in the past but with a completely different backstory.

What can you tell me about your character, Kasey Edwards?

Kasey is a wife and mother who’s overwhelmed by everything that’s going on with her family. Both she and her husband have a lot of personal issues. Their daughter is dying of cancer and Kasey’s relying on her husband to help get them out of financial trouble. It’s a sad ending for her.

Kasey has such an emotional arc to her story. Is there anything you do to prepare for such a role?

I like to write a backstory on the character so I know where she’s coming from. I think you have to give a character some background substance to know where you’re heading. When I write a past it also helps me mold the character and give her colors. So, when I’m on set and do become the character, I’m able to embrace it and include a little bit of Sara in Kasey. 

What kind of a backstory did you write for Kasey?

I believed Kasey got married at a very young age and at some point her husband was a very important person in the world. Then their daughter got sick, he lost his job and it all just crumbled down from there and became a constant struggle.

What was the filming process like?

It was a pretty fast shoot over a two-week span. The diner scene was shot in downtown L.A. at an old diner that was actually closed, and they re-opened it for us.

How has he reaction been to the film?

It’s been great. It was picked up in September for distribution and has been out ever since. It’s a great indication that people are really connecting with it.

Have you ever given thought to getting on the other side of the camera at some point?

I think I’d love to direct one day. It’s another interesting and creative side of the job. It’s definitely something I’d like to pursue in the future.

What are you most looking forward to about this next phase of your career?

I’m looking forward to longevity. As long as there’s longevity and something new coming up I’m happy. The unpredictable and the unknown is also exciting, because it means anything can happen at any moment. Personally, I’d love to travel and be bi-coastal. I have family in Chicago and would enjoy going back and forth. It would give me the opportunity to see them and really be a dream come true.

Christmas Crime Story” is available now on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming services.

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Guitarist Hannah Wicklund Discusses Her New Album, Writing Process

Formed when their frontwoman was just nine years old and with a voice and guitar-driven swagger that instantly conjures up images of Janis Joplin and Susan Tedeschi, Hannah Wicklund and The Steppin Stones have consistently stood out as a young band on the rise.

The band’s self-titled, fifth album [produced by Sadler Valden and set for a January 26 release] draws from the guitarist’s classic rock influences, which range from Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty. The result is a fiery combination of blues-rock passion that pays homage to her musical roots while giving them modern, 21-century feel.

With her tasty fret work and tireless work ethic, Wicklund is a guitarist to watch for 2018.

Guitar World recently spoke with Wicklund about her new album, songwriting, gear and more.

How would you describe your style of music?

It’s raw but very authentic and genuine. It’s also a good representation of what the last year and a half of my life has been like. This new album is my most mature piece of work as far as sound goes, and an ode to my classic rock roots.

What’s your writing process like?

Honestly? It’s different every song. There have been songs that begin with a musical idea approach, where the riff comes first and is followed by forming a melody. Other songs could start from just a lyrical idea.

Something else I’ve been doing lately is taking a strong title and writing the song from there. “Shadow Boxes” is an example of a song I had originally written and then scrapped everything except for the title. Then there are songs like “Crushin”, which is more of a riff-based, bluesy song. I’d been playing that riff for a long time and developed it into a song.

Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the new album, beginning with “Bomb Through The Breeze.”

That’s a song that Sadler [Valden] and I co-wrote in one sitting. It started out with the riff and then we took cues from each other and built it from there. It’s a song about standing up for yourself.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Hannah Wicklund Here!

Collective Soul’s Ed Roland And Jesse Triplett Discuss New Live Album, the Origin of “Shine”

Photo by: Joseph Guay

Following the release of their ninth full-length album, 2015’s See What You Started by Counting, Collective Soul made the conscious decision to record more than 160 of their shows over the course of the next two years. The result is the band’s new album, the aptly titled, Collective Soul: Live.

Collective Soul rose to fame in 1993 with Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, a collection of frontman Ed Roland’s demos bolstered by the monster hit, “Shine.” Since then, the multi-platinum band have amassed an arsenal of #1 hits and album sales, while simultaneously helping to define rock with their guitar-driven attitude.

Guitar World recently spoke with Roland and the band’s guitarist, Jesse Triplett, about Collective Soul’s new live album, music, gear and more in this exclusive new interview.

What made the band decide to record a live album?

Ed Roland: Jesse joined the band about five years ago and our drummer, Johnny Rabb, joined right before that. After 24 years, I feel this is without a doubt the best line-up we’ve ever had and I’ve always said that once we caught the groove, we needed to get it down. So when we started to tour after our last album, [See What You Started by Continuing], we recorded every show.

How did you determine which live versions to include?

Roland: Of course, every night you want to do the best that you can, but some nights were better than others. Afterwards, we all came back and whittled it down to our producer/engineer/mixer, Shawn Grove. We gave him the weeks we thought were good and let him pick and choose. The only thing we made clear was that we wanted no overdubs. We just wanted what it was that night.

Jesse Triplett: Shawn came out and saw us at a few different spots during the tour. I remember during the first part he’d say to us, “You guys sound good” and by the end was like, “You guys are on fire!” There were so many shows that I sometimes forgot we were recording for a live album.

Is there any set of extra nerves knowing that you’re recording a live show and there’s no going back?

Roland: Jesse and I both like to move around on stage, so when we first started talking about recording we were concerned about how far we should take the showmanship and how much we should reel it back and make sure we we’re playing correctly. Jesse mentioned about forgetting that we were being recorded and I think that really helped with the mindset of doing the show without thinking.

Triplett: If you start thinking about it, it gets weird. It’s better to just get out there and play instead of trying to be technically sound.

Roland: Being a front man, you also have to play with a crowd and know how to entertain and bring them in and take them out. I never wanted to be withdrawn from that by having to think about singing something perfectly. It was more about letting it flow, catching the groove and forgetting about it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Collective Soul by Clicking Here.

Michael Sweet Discusses New Sweet & Lynch Album, Gives Stryper Update

Michael Sweet & George Lynch

Unified is the sophomore release from Sweet & Lynch, the collaborative partnership centered around the talents of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob).

The powerful combination of Sweet’s high-octane vocals and Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar work, along with the propulsive rhythm section of James Lomenzo (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums), gives Sweet and Lynch a unique musical palette. The result is an album of traditional heavy metal grooves, hook-laden melodies, tasty guitar wizardry and positive messages.

I recently spoke to Michael Sweet about Unified and working with George Lynch. He also gave me an update on the new Stryper album and their new bassist, Perry Richardson.

Before we begin, I’d like to get your thoughts on the recent passing of AC/DC guitarist, Malcolm Young. How much of an influence did he have on you?

Like any other teenager and aspiring musician at the time, AC/DC was the pinnacle. Not so much from the sense of me trying to sound like Malcolm or Angus, but I played those songs in cover bands and to this day we still break into AC/DC songs at sound check.

There’s just something amazing about their power and simplicity, and Malcom was the driving force behind it. He was such an incredibly tight and responsive guitar player. He didn’t make a lot of noise in terms of his persona or stage presence, but if you closed your eyes and listened you would hear Malcolm above all.

Let’s discuss the new Sweet & Lynch album, Unified. How does it compare to your first release, Only To Rise?

For this album, George and I branched out a little and tried a few different things. It’s got some songs on it that are stretched a bit more in terms of creativity, particularly with songs like “Walk” and “Afterlife”. There’s nothing like that on the first album. The first album was comprised more of three and a half to four-minute songs geared toward hard rock/metal heads and radio. For this one, we had less of that in mind and made the album we wanted to make.

Was the writing process similar to Only To Rise, where George would send you musical ideas to work from?

Yes. Once we got down to it, George would send me ideas that were music only. The first time around they were less complete, but this time it was a complete song from start to finish. George is a guy who writes with a melody in mind, so it makes it easy for me to find them. George wrote all the music on this one and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies. It was a compete co-write.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Unified, beginning with the title track.

That song is based on our world today and what we watch on the news. Whatever side you’re on. And that’s the sad part when I say that we have “sides”, especially in America where we’ve become so divided. It makes no sense to me, so I wrote a song about it. Keeping in mind the hope that it might bring people a little closer together. That’s the whole point of “Unified.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by clicking here.

Vixen Guitarist Brittany Denaro Talks Songwriting, Gear and New Music

Photo by; Tammy Vega

After being discovered performing in an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band, guitarist Brittany Denaro—or Britt Lightning—was invited to join the ranks of hard rockers Vixen.

Denaro’s impressive musical resume also includes performing alongside such artists as Alejandro Sanz, Rachel Platten and Jason Derulo as well as on television shows like Good Morning America and the finale of America’s Got Talent.

Vixen—which also consists of Janet Gardner (vocals/guitar), Share Ross (bass) and Roxy Petrucci (drums)—and whose hits include “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Wrecking Ball,” is the only all-female hard rock band from the 80’s to sell more than a million albums. The band is currently in the studio working on a live project along with their first new music together in years.

Guitar World recently spoke to Denaro about her role in Vixen, gear, songwriting and more.

Above video by Rokken Randy

How did the gig with Vixen come about?

I was playing with an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band at a pre-party for The Monsters of Rock Cruise. Coincidentally, the person who put it on also happened to be Vixen’s manager. He had known that there was some tension in the band and that they were looking for another guitar player.

After the show, he spoke to the girls and told them he thought I’d be a perfect fit. Ironically, around the same time Janet, Share and Roxy had been asking around and my name kept popping up, so they followed up. It was that simple.

What was it like for you getting together with them for the first time?

I was a bit nervous. Growing up, I had been in all-girl bands but there weren’t many of them to really look up to. I remember the first time I got together with them was without Janet. It was just the music and that took a little bit of the pressure off. Because everyone lived all over the country, the first time I actually met Janet was the night before we did a show together!

Read the rest of my
With Brittany Denaro Here

Actress Nicole Pacent Talks Career, YouTube Channel and Upcoming Projects

Best known for her portrayal of Aster on the hit web-series, “Anyone But Me”, Nicole Pacent is forging her own path in the ever-changing world of Hollywood.

The beautiful, multi-taleneted actress/singer/producer has a rich resume of work in film and television that’s second only to her extensive theatrical background and infectious personality.

Pacent hosts a successful YouTube channel where she discusses topics that affect many people but ones that are often difficult to discuss due to fear or social stigma.

In addition to the channel, Pacent has several other projects in various stages of production, including a short film as well as an adaptation of Donald Margulies’ “Time Stand Still” – a powerful play about changing relationships and social issues that she plans to stage in the Spring of 2018.

I recently spoke with Nicole about her craft, projects and more in this exclusive new interview.

Was having a career in entertainment something you aspired to do?

Absolutely. From the time I could talk I was intent on being onstage. I grew up an hour outside of New York City, so Broadway and the stage was everything. I started out in musical theatre and even though I didn’t get into “non-musical” plays until high school, I knew I eventually wanted to be in film. I got a great education and then went on to NYU Tisch for Drama. It’s always been the goal for as long as I can remember. 

What brought you to Los Angeles?

It was a combination of things. Primarily, it was because I wanted to go into film and I knew there would be more work here. I remember coming out to L.A. for a trial period and being overwhelmed by the fact that the whole city was built around the entertainment industry. There was a momentous amount of opportunity. I fell in love with all of the things I’d heard about and seen in pictures and in movies. It was only a matter of time.

What attracts you most to a project?

It depends on the project. Sometimes it might be the creative team or someone I admire and want to work with. Other times, the project may have a message that feels very close to my heart and one where I’ll have a way to communicate that message in a creative and honest way. Primarily, it’s a good project with great writing and a team that can make it be a good experience.

What are some of the challenges or things you’ve learned as an actress?

Whenever you tell people that you want to be an actor you’re always going to be told what to expect. What’s surprised me though was something that occurred to me as part of maturing. When I was younger, I had this idea of having to package myself and style in a certain way, but that really has been turned on its head. My experience has been to express yourself genuinely and trust that it will be enough. It’s not so much about L.A. or the business as it is about coming into your own as a person.

Was creating a YouTube channel another way to express your creativity?

At first, I tried bringing characters into it and doing interviews. I had started the channel only a few months after my sister passed away, and because of where I was at the time the channel ended up becoming an outlet for me to express what I was thinking about and going through. I started talking about things that were on my mind and people really connected with it. The channel has since become a way for me to process what I’m going through but to also connect with people who may be going through the same thing. The thread that runs through the channel is something that I put into practice during acting school: If I speak the truth then it gives other people permission to feel and speak theirs.

Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

I have two things going on in the immediate future. I recently finished a short film called “Pagg” that’s currently awaiting film festival reaction. It’s the story about a Sikh-American man who goes about his day on the 4th of July with his American wife and child. A bunch of micro aggressions happen against him that culminates with a major aggression that comes his way in a manner that destroys a lot of the identity of his heritage. I feel very strongly about the content of the film and its relevance to what’s happening right now.  It was written and directed by a dear friend and is very poignant and diverse and I’m really excited about it.

The other thing I’m working on right now is a play that will launch in the spring in L.A. called “Time Stand Still”. It was written by Donald Margulies and is a wonderful and timely piece about a wartime photographer and a journalist who are long time partners. 

What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

Getting out of the boxes that I’ve put myself into is what I’m most excited about. Opportunities I didn’t see coming and being able to spread my wings into other areas of film while wearing multiple hats. Instead of just focusing on one thing, embracing the multifaceted-ness of my own talent and what’s possible. It’s an exciting time. There are things I know that are happening and other things I’m not certain of yet but I’m ready.

Portugal. The Man Guitarist Eric Howk Discusses The Band’s New Album, ‘Woodstock’

Photo by Maclay Heroit

It’s been quite a year for Portland rockers Portugal. The Man.

Having spent the better part of three years working feverishly on a new album, the band abruptly decided to change direction and scrap everything after front man John Gourley paid a visit to his father in Alaska. The encounter led to the discovery of an original Woodstock music festival ticket and the realization that a pattern of events from that era was eerily similar to what’s going in the world today.

Led by the hugely successful “Feel It Still,” the band’s latest album—Woodstock—addresses those concerns and more. It’s also opened the door to cross-over appeal and a monster touring schedule, which will see them in places like Europe, the Dominican Republic and beyond.

I recently spoke with guitarist Eric Howk about the success of the Woodstockalbum, songwriting, gear and more in this new interview.

The band had been working on a new album for quite a while when they decided to scrap everything and start over. Having said that, how has the reaction been to Woodstock?

That happened right around the time I started touring with the band full time. When I came in, it was around the same time all of those other songs the band had written were going out. Ultimately, it was the right call. It’s a record with meaning and gravity and the songs are the best of the bunch. It was a good decision.

What prompted the sudden change in direction?

John Gourley’s father is a gruff, unsentimental Alaskan dude and one night when they were hanging out, John’s dad showed him an original ticket from Woodstock he thought he’d lost for forty years. That coalesced with the current American political climate that none of the previous songs addressed.

In a lot of ways, Woodstock was a reactionary event that came out of fear-based, xenophobic, Richard Nixon/McCarthyism, politically-driven America. It’s eerily similar to where we’re at now. It all panned out, so Woodstock it was.

What’s the band’s writing process?

The majority of the time it starts with a groove, but it’s really all about the feel and finding something in the pocket. Other times, there might be a lyric kicking around and you’ll try to find a way to shove that in. If we knew how the process works that would be great. “Feel it Still” came together in less than an hour while some of the other songs took seven or eight months.

You mentioned “Feel It Still”. Can you tell us how it came about?

We had been working on a completely different song when we took a break and John went in and started messing around with that bass line. It had a real Sixties, spy movie feel to it. Everyone thought it sounded cool so we threw a mic on the bass amp and recorded it. Pretty much an hour later all of the lyrics and everything else that you hear came together.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Eric Howk Here!

‘Peach’: Larkin Poe’s Megan and Rebecca Lovell Discuss New Album, Songwriting

What originally began as an album of all-original material from Larkin Poe (which consists of sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell) quickly took a turn when they began recording and posting traditional blues covers on various social media outlets.

The result was millions of views and an overwhelming demand for an album of traditional American roots music. This prompted Larkin Poe to return to the studio for Peach, a compilation of blues covers and original material that harkens towards their Southern musical heritage.

Tasty covers of songs like “Preachin’ Blues” (Son House) and “Black Betty” demonstrate reverence for the original versions but are fused with the ladies’ own unique style. The songs stand up equally against originals such as “Freedom”, “Wanted Woman” and “Pink & Red.”

The Lovell sisters are no strangers to musical attention having performed as part of the house band for the MusiCares 2017 “Person of The Year” event honoring Tom Petty and opening for the likes of Elvis Costello and Bob Seger. In short, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

I recently spoke with the duo about Peach, their songwriting process and their current setup.

Where did you draw inspiration for Peach?

Megan Lovell: We wanted to pay homage to music of the South and the Delta and make it into a very American roots rock record. It’s a culmination of all the Southern influences we’ve received over our lifetime.

Was there a certain theme you were going for when choosing covers for this album?

Megan Lovell: We’ve been making videos of covers for social media as a way to keep pushing ourselves and people have really responded to it. When the time came to make this record, there was a great demand for them, so we decided to choose our favorites from the videos. That’s what you get on the album.

Rebecca Lovell: We cover Sam House on the record [“Preachin’ Blues]. If you read the lyrics to the song written almost a century ago, they’re fantastic. It’s music that plays to a timeless human emotion. A raw questioning of soul and spirit.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Larkin Poe by Clicking Here!

Fozzy’s Rich “The Duke” Ward Discusses the Band’s New Album, ‘Judas’

Fozzy has always been a band focused on two things: a heavy groove and a good time. And when you have two high-energy performers like Rich “The Duke of Metal” Ward and Chris Jericho in the band, those grooves and good times come easy.

Ward is known for being one of the most prolific and underrated guitarists in rock and metal today. He’s created his own signature style of heavy riffs, melodic choruses and what’s become known as The Duke groove.

Fozzy’s new album, Judas—set for an October 13 release—is the follow-up to 2014’s Do You Wanna Start a War and reinforces the idea that the band is hitting its stride. Songs like the title track showcase Jericho’s enaging vocal delivery along with the infectiously familiar, in the pocket groove of Ward and drummer, Frank Fontsere.

Tracks like “Weight of My World” and the groovy “Drinkin With Jesus” follow a similar pattern, highlighted by the band’s inspiration and self-reflection.

I recently spoke with Rich Ward about the new Fozzy album, songwriting, gear and more.

How would you describe Judas in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of the band’s previous work?

I think the majority of people who hear it will see this as a big rock record with big guitar riffs and catchy melodies. The one strength about Fozzy is that we’re always able to stay relevant. We have an eclectic set of influences that make this band unique.

What was the writing process like?

We usually start with a blank sheet of paper and then Jericho starts sending us song title ideas followed by sheets of lyrics. I practice every day for a few hours and if I find something that seems interesting, I’ll record and catalog it based on something that would be influentially relevant to the sound I’m coming up with.

So, if Jericho sends me lyrics that have a dark, moody vibe I’ll go into my catalog to see if I can in a nice companion for it. Other times, it will be just us all in a room coming up with ideas collectively. A lot of stuff on this record was a real collaboration with our producer, Johnny Andrews.

We worked with him on a few songs on our last album. One of our goals going in was to have someone who was more involved in the process. Not just in creating sounds but also having a creative seat at the table. Johnny was the MVP of the studio.

Let’s discuss a few songs from the new album, starting with the title-track, “Judas”

That song has a great riff. As soon as I recorded it we all looked at ourselves and said if this comes off as good as it is right now, it will be the single of the record. It has such a classic, head banging groove and for us, that’s where we’re at our strongest. Our drummer, Frank Fontsere and I are at our best when we’re laying down pocket and that song plays right into the sweet spot.

Jericho really connected with the lyric in telling the story. The songs that stand the test of time are the ones where you hear an emotional connection in the delivery of a lyric. “Judas” is that song.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Rich Ward by Clicking Here!

‘Light In The Dark’: Doug Aldrich Talks New Revolution Saints Album

Photo by Johnny Pixel

For Light In The Dark, the sophomore album from monster trio Revolution Saints, we find Deen Castronovo (vocals/drums), Doug Aldrich (guitars) and Jack Blades (bass/vocals) once again teaming up with producer/songwriter Allesandro Del Vecchio for an infectious compilation of inspired songwriting and tasty guitar work, highlighted by Castronovo’s amazing vocal prowess.

Light In The Dark [which is set for an October 13 release] continues to build off the classic, melodic rock style of the band’s debut and their collective musical resumes (which includes Journey, Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, Dio and Whitesnake), but fans should also prepare for a more unique set of performances, as we all as a few surprises.

In this interview, I spoke to Aldrich about Revolution Saints, his gear and The Dead Daisies.

How does Light in The Dark compare to the band’s debut album?

It’s similar in that everything is representative. It’s a little bit heavier in some songs but it’s still got the melodic rock guitar sound and a real riff rock feel. Overall, it’s a little bit edgier.

I like it because we all had a chance to write on this one. I brought in a bunch of guitar parts and arrangements and Deen threw down an mp3 of him playing guitar that I got a few riffs out of as well. Jack also wrote on a few of the songs and Alessandro co-wrote pretty much everything except for one of the ballads.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, beginning with the title track.

That originally started out as a song that Allesandro had with simple, blocked down guitar parts, a verse and a chorus. I worked with him on an arrangement and started out by taking the guitars in one direction.

Once I got to Italy to record and started playing against the real drums I changed the riff a little bit to toughen it up. It’s right in the same vein of the last record and a good leadoff track.

What about “Freedom”?

I had brainstormed a song that was kind of our version of Phil Collins’ track, “In The Air Tonight.” That was the initial inspiration behind it. Deen had sent me an mp3 of a drop D riff he had recorded and I took a little piece of that and simplified it. In the end, it has a little flavor of “Separate Ways” by Journey with how the three of us played it.

“I Wouldn’t Change A Thing”?

That was a song written by Richard Page, the singer from Mister Mister. When I first heard it I was excited to see what I could do with it. Allesandro had done a rough demo where the guitar solo broke into a melody. I really liked it but when I picked up the guitar and started to play around it, I got a hit for a completely different melody that really set well with the vocal. I’m happy with how it turned out.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Doug Aldrich by Clicking Here!

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