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Author Archives: James Wood

Glenn Hughes Talks New Black Country Communion Album & Honoring Deep Purple’s Legacy

Photo by: Neil Zlozower

Black Country Communion, the Anglo-American rock group comprised of vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze), drummer Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin, Foreigner), Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol) and blues-rock guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa will release their highly anticipated (and long overdue) fourth album, BCCIV on September 22.

Like its three predecessors, BCCIV was overseen by producer Kevin Shirley, (Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Journey, The Black Crowes) and expands upon the progression that took place between the first three album with an abundance of heavy riffs, hook-laden grooves and of course, the spiritual, soulful sound of Hughes’ powerful vocals.

I recently spoke with Hughes about BCCIV, his upcoming tour honoring the music of Deep Purple, gear and more.

It’s been nearly five years since the last Black Country Communion album. How did this reunion all come about?

This is the way I remember it. I was in New York being inducted with Deep Purple into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 when I got a call from Joe congratulating me. He was full of love for the fact that I was inducted and asked if I’d like to get together for dinner when I got back to L.A., which we did.

During dinner Joe said, “How would you feel about getting the band back together to make a great record?” I said that would be fantastic, but we had to make an epic record that was capable and worthy.

What was the writing process like?

On the first three records, Joe had come to my home a total of maybe eight times. On this one, he came eleven days and I had never seen him so committed to writing. It was a glorious moment for both of us. We literally sat a yard apart in my studio facing each other and these songs just came right out one after the other.

By the time we got to song three, “Wanderlust,” and took off on that chorus, I said “Oh my god! We’re touching on a little bit of Abbey Road here! We’ve got this amazing groove and guitar thing!” I was in heaven and that’s when I knew that everything was going to be ok.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from BCCIV starting with “Collide.”

Joe’s always on time and we always started off early in the day. One morning, I saw him pulling in and I was in the studio writing the riff. I remember he walked in and said, “What’s that?” I looked at him and said, “I don’t know”. He just plugged in and we started rocking.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Glenn Hughes by Clicking Here!

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Guitarist Lindsay Ell Discusses Her New Album, ‘The Project,’ Touring with Keith Urban and Brad Paisley

Photo by: Ford Fairchild

Guitarist Lindsay Ell describes her debut album, The Project as what you get when you combine Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Keith Urban into one musical blender, which isn’t all that hard to imagine.

While Ell’s vocal style is reminiscent of Crow’s, she’s toured extensively with Urban and even used Mayer’s album, Continuum as a starting point for recording the album. The result is a tasty collection of guitar wizardry, inspired songwriting and heartfelt emotion.

Produced by Grammy-winner Kristian Bush (Sugarland), The Project is also the first group of songs Ell’s recorded where she says she feels like herself. I recently spoke with Ell about The Project, songwriting, gear and more in this new interview.

What was it like working with Kristian Bush on The Project?

It was amazing to work with someone who’s already been the artist, songwriter and producer. He understands so many different sides. I called the record The Project because it actually felt like a science project in trying to discover my identity.

Tell me how you used John Mayer as a pre-requisite for this new album.

In one of our first meetings, Kristian asked me what my favorite record of all time was. After I told him Continuum by John Mayer he said, “Ok, perfect. I want you to go into the studio and record that whole album. The only rules are, you only have two weeks and you have to play all of the instruments yourself.” So, for the next 14 days I recorded Continuum.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing but had enough faith and trust in Kristian to know that there would always be a purpose behind it. After two weeks, I handed over the CD and told him how much I had learned about the way John played guitar, about how I play guitar and most importantly, how I’d love to hear a band recorded in the studio.

That’s when he said, “Well, now it’s time for us to go in and record your album.” It was a crazy thing but really laid the groundwork for us in finding the sound for The Project.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It depends. Every song is so different but the guitar is a huge part of who I am. I’m inspired a lot by a guitar riff or musical idea first and the rest of the song will usually grow from that.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Lindsay Ell by Clicking Here!

The Darkness’ Dan Hawkins Discusses the Band’s New Album, ‘Pinewood Smile’

Photo courtesy: Simon Emmett

Fresh off touring with Guns N’ Roses and headlining European summer festivals, The Darkness have returned with their fifth album, Pinewood Smile (set for release on October 6).

Produced by Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse) the new album boasts glorious hard rock anthems like “All The Pretty Girls,” the emotional “Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry” and the groove-ridden “Solid Gold,” which finds The Darkness addressing the turbulent nature of the music industry and how they’ve enjoyed its flamboyant highs and spectacular lows.

In addition to the distinctive guitar tones of Dan Hawkins, Pinewood Smile also features the drumming and vocal talents of newest member, Rufus Tiger Taylor, the son of Queen legend, Roger Taylor.

I recently spoke with Hawkins about Pinewood Smile, songwriting, gear and more in this exclusive new interview.

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

I think it’s more urgent than some of the other albums and maybe a little bit edgier. It’s hard to sum up. It’s kind of like The Darkness on steroids.

What’s your writing process like? Does it begin with a melody? A hook? What inspires you when you write and create?

It depends and always comes in different ways. The first album was primarily written on acoustic where we’d be sitting around talking about things. Normally, I’d be in my own world making music and riffs and writing backing tracks while trying to pick up on the conversations that are going on in the room. This album was slightly different.

I wrote all of the music with Rufus in a rehearsal room at full volume. There are so many ways of getting around making noise these days with V drums and pods, and every fucker’s got their own studio these days. We wanted to get away from that and get back to it sounding good when you’re standing up playing it loudly. We wrote it in a very uncivilized way.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Pinewood Smile, beginning with “All The Pretty Girls”

The backing track was written in London and me, Rufus and Frankie had it recorded and demoed. Then Justin came in with this idea based on a line about how all the pretty girls love me for who I am, but only when I’m selling out stadiums. Basically, if you’re just a tight-jeaned, long-haired, ugly mother fucker no one really cares. But the second you’re doing well it increases your beauty in the eyes of a lot of people. It’s a funny observation.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Dan Hawkins by Clicking Here!

‘Mental’: Actress Julie Lake and Shirin Najafi Discuss New Web Series

Julie Lake & Shirin Najafi

There’s always been an infectious, creative chemistry between “Mental” co-creators Julie Lake and Shirin Najafi. Whether it’s their natural way of playing off each other in roles loosely based on their own lives or the fact that they’ve been best friends since high school.

Many already know Lake for her role as the unstable meth-head, Angie Rice on the Netflix hit-series; “Orange is the New Black”, while Najafi has found success as a standup comic and for writing and directing videos that have been featured on websites like Funny or Die.

Najafi and Lake are now releasing more of their “Mental” passion project. A web series of shorts that takes a funny look inside the lives of two friends and their struggles with anxiety and mental instability. The insatiable series; produced, written, directed and starring both of these amazingly talented ladies is a testament to their natural charm and creative prowess.

I recently spoke with Julie Lake and Shrin Najafi about “Mental” and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did the “Mental” web series originate?

Julie Lake: Shirin and I have been pretty much bouncing around this idea our whole lives. We both went to high school together and have been friends forever but have also struggled with anxiety and depression. It’s something we bonded over and laughed about. So we decided to make a series about two friends who struggle with mental illness and the funny interactions they have that’s kind-of loosely based on our own lives and relationship. But we wanted to show it in a comedic way. That’s how “Mental” was born.

Where do ideas for episodes come from? Where do you draw your inspiration?

Shirin Najafi: The writing process usually begins from a dramatic point of view. Like our first episode, “Palm Springs”.  Julie and I both went there for a weekend but had difficulties falling asleep in the same hotel room. It wasn’t anything too crazy; just a two-minute exchange, like “Can we turn on the AC?” and “Am I going to hear the rain machine through my ear plugs?” We were going on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation but ended up having this neurotic conversation. The next day, we both laughed about it. The irony of that situation made for a clear episode idea. Then what we’ll do is write and start talking out the dialogue, reliving the experience from the perspective of our made-up characters.

What can you tell me about the most recent episode, “Dr. Bleiffer is on Maternity Leave”?

Lake: There was a time where I had been on Klonopin as needed for anxiety. Klonopin is a symptom reliever and doesn’t really treat anxiety. But when I went to the doctor he wouldn’t give it to me because he said I wasn’t on an anti-depressant. Then when I went to Shirin’s house, I discovered she had been prescribed all of these pills. She told me that once you’re on an SSRI they’ll prescribe you anything. That led into this fantasy of what it would be like if Shirin went to the doctor [laughs].

Najafi: From a legal perspective, a psychiatrist has to be careful about issuing drugs. So if you come in and just have occasional anxiety they have to get you on a daily anti-depressant. But once you’re on one it’s no questions asked and you can get something else. The whole dichotomy is just ridiculous.

How about the episode, “Zoloft Brain”?

Lake: That’s another one that’s kind-of true to life. Shirin was on Zoloft and it was making her tired and forgetful. She really wanted to go off it but I was very alarmed, because I didn’t want to go back to the “Shirin before Zoloft” [laughs].

Najafi: A few years before I went on it I had been having this extreme, building anxiety that was getting worse and worse (which you see in the flashback scenes). There was even a time when Julie had to play a part-time therapist / caretaker. In the episode, my character forgets the code to her own building and in real life, I had once actually forgotten the code to the garage for my job. I drew a complete blank for something I use every day [laughs].. That’s when I texted Julie and told her I needed to get off Zoloft.

You both juggle so many hats with this series (writing, producing, directing, acting). What’s been the most challenging part?

Lake: There are so many pieces to the puzzle. It took a long time to do the editing, and then as we watched later we realized that we had to go through another round of edits. We had a super low budget and also had to produce, write, act and direct. We also had to move quickly, so it was a little stressful at times.

Najafi: The producing aspect was especially tough because of all the logistics. Especially when you’re trying to be creative and also having deal with lugging equipment, keeping track of when the sun goes down and wondering if everyone will be able to make it to the location on time. We had never done anything like it before.

What’s next for “Mental”?

Lake: We have two more episodes coming out. One is more like a short film and stars Emily Althaus, who plays Kukudio in “Orange Is The New Black”. She plays a crazy friend who comes into town from Orlando and is now a dominatrix. We also have another episode where Shrin and Julie are trying to pick a movie. Shirin wants to watch “Flight” with Denzel Washington and that triggers all of Julie’s anxieties about flying.

Did you both know that a career in entertainment would be your calling. Was it something you always aspired to do?

Lake: I always wanted to be an actress from the age of five. I initially started writing and creating as a vehicle for acting. Now, I really enjoy that part of it as well as directing.

Najafi: For me, I was doing a lot of writing and creating but ended up pursuing a few other things out of college. But then I realized that writing, directing and performing was in my blood, and something I’ve always wanted to do.

From a creative standpoint, what satisfies you the most about this series?

Lake: Just the fact that we did it. It’s hard to do something like this. It takes so much money, time and effort. I see a lot of people talking about what they’re working on and doing but they never seem to get it done. But we accomplished this huge undertaking with almost no experience.

Najafi: We’ve been talking about and actively writing scripts for a show like this since 2010. To finally make it all these years later was definitely an accomplishment. For me as a writer, being able to act was also an accomplishment. Acting is something I don’t do a lot of outside of “Mental”, but it’s a lot more fun!

Greg Howe Goes Back to His Roots for Blistering New Album

Described as his most personal work to date, Greg Howe’s new album, Wheelhouse—which will be released on September 1— marks the guitar legend’s highly-anticipated return to solo instrumental work.

Tracks like “Tempest Pulse” and “Throw Down” showcase Howe’s infectious tone and fretboard wizardry while eclectic tracks like “2 In 1” combine a funk-infused vibe with Forties swing. But perhaps one of the biggest highlights on Wheelhouse; and one that long-time followers of Howe’s career will certainly find appealing, is the track, “Shady Lane”.

A song originally written by Howe and his brother back in the early Nineties, on Wheelhouse, “Shady Lane” is given a 21st century spin with an emotionally charged vocal performance by Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big). Kotzen also complements his fellow Shrapnel alumni by contributing a blistering guitar solo to the track as well.

Wheelhouse is an album that will once again raise the bar for guitarists, and a fitting return for one of the genre’s most dynamically diverse artists.

I recently spoke with Howe about Wheelhouse and more in this exclusive new interview.

How would you describe Wheelhouse in terms of its sound and maybe as it relates to some of your previous work?

From a guitar perspective, I’d describe it as an almost higher quality of the type of tone I was getting on Introspection. It’s very clean and there’s a lot of gain behind it but it doesn’t sound like it. I was also getting a little more into single coils and more “Strat” kind of tones, so it’s a different kind of expression. As far as direction, I feel like it’s a little more honest.

I can get carried away in the studio sometimes, and then I’ll listen back to what I recorded and decide to scrap it and end up writing something that’s either really complicated or putting together solos that border on unrealistic in terms of what I would sound like. I really wanted this to be a lot of one-take stuff and the material to sound like something I would want to play over. It’s a very natural, honest record.

What’s your writing process like?

There isn’t really a process. It ranges anywhere from going through drum loops and finding something cool that inspires the riff to waking up in the morning with a song idea already in my head. Sometimes, if I’m searching for inspiration, it can come from just watching a movie, thinking about something or connecting to something that’s happening in my life at the time. It’s a starting point that inspires and triggers the creative process.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Wheelhouse, beginning with “Tempest Pulse”

That song was one of the first I wrote for the album and has a slight Latin feel to it. I went through a phase where I was listening to a lot of Michel Camilo and that opened up some of this Cuban influence. There’s also something really festive and sexy about not hitting on the downbeat.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Greg Howe by Clicking Here.

‘A Different Life’: Author Rhonda Nelson Talks New Book On Life With Little River Band

What’s it like to grow up as a small town Southern girl and marry a rock star, and then discover you have to share the love of your life with the band and thousands of their fans? That’s exactly what happened to Rhonda Nelson, whose husband Wayne Nelson, is the lead singer and bassist for the legendary Little River Band.

Together, Rhonda and Wayne have built a solid foundation of love while traveled across the U.S. Sharing a love of classic rock as well as seeking out their favorite wineries and socializing with new and old friends alike.

In her uniquely interesting new book, “A Different Life”, Rhonda pulls back the curtain on celebrity life. Offering readers a chance to hear stories and enjoy treasured family recipes and photos while experiencing all things pertaining to life on the road.

“A Different Life” is not a scathing tell all or a collection of recipes. It’s the story of one woman’s journey with an iconic band that’s sold more than thirty million albums over the course of their four-decade career, and one told from the heart.

I recently spoke with Rhonda Nelson about “A Different Life” and more in this exclusive new interview.

What made you decide to write “A Different Life”?

About two years ago, I wanted to start a blog, just writing about our life on the road. Then as I started working on it, the idea came about doing a book. I thought it would be a cool way for people to see some of the back things that we do. I think that when your name is attached to a band, people can sometimes get the wrong perception and think that it’s always glamorous and that you live inside of this bubble, but that’s not really the case. I wanted people to see that we share the same highs and lows that everyone else does.

What was the writing process like?

As I got to meet other authors and talk to people about writing, I realized that the way I did it was not the way most people do. I didn’t dedicate a certain amount of time each day to write. As I dug through old photos and memorabilia, stories would come back to me. The other interesting thing about the process was that no one really knew what to expect. It was never meant to be a tell all. It was meant to be something that people would enjoy about Little River Band and something they would have to treasure. 

Was cooking something you always intended to include as part of the book?

Cooking has always been a big passion of mine and I pride myself in what I do with it. Originally (and unrelated to the band), I had intended to write a cookbook, but then I realized I wasn’t a trained chef. So I thought I’d revisit that book a little bit down the road. But as I was doing this book, I realized there was a common denominator, which was food and beverage. That’s when I decided to give it a bit of a twist and throw that in as well.

What’s the toughest part about being married to a working musician?

In the beginning it was hard because I wasn’t used to the band being gone for three or four weeks at a stretch, and one of the things I really had to teach myself to work on was trust. All relationships require that but if you’re living this kind of life and you’re always questioning things it will eat your relationship alive. You’ve got to know that you’re on a firm foundation and believe in that.

What’s been the most rewarding part?

The best thing that’s come from it, and especially over the last four years or so, was when Wayne and I decided on an avenue to give back, and that avenue is Little River Band and LRB music. There are organizations all over the country we feel strongly about, and we support them by doing concerts or helping them organize their fundraisers. It’s been an awesome thing to do and we’ve been so blessed to be able to give back.

Was there anything you learned about yourself in writing “A Different Life”?

For me, it really was realizing that no matter how much you doubt about what your dream is, just continue to push and you can make it happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’d say to myself, “What am I doing writing a book? People will think it’s ridiculous.” But then I’d say, “So what?” It was a goal I had and something I wanted to do and be proud of. That was the biggest thing I walked away with.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

Last December, myself and some of the guys went out and did a “writers in the round” type of event where the guys played songs acoustically and I tell stories from the book. Right now, we’re working on putting another run together for December of this year. Wayne and I are also working on a similar motivational project about overcoming what life has dealt you and how to persevere and believe in yourself.

Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from reading “A Different Life”?

It all goes back to my reasons for wanting to write a book. I want people to know that we are real and experience the same highs and lows as everyone else. Whenever we meet you, we really listen to your stories. They resonate with us and touch our hearts. The other part; as you can tell when you read the stories, is that this is a path to the next project. Don’t give up on your goals and dreams. Just keep pushing through and live the life that you love. That’s the message I want people to take from it.

www.rhondaraves.com

For more on Little River Band: www.littleriverband.com

Live’s Ed Kowalczyk and Chad Taylor Discuss Remastered ‘Mental Jewelry’ Package, Reunion and Band’s Future

Photo by Douglas Sanders

The recently reunited, original line-up of Live: Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums, percussion) have recently announced they’ll mark the 25th anniversary of their 1991 debut album, Mental Jewelry, with a deluxe reissue digitally and physically on Friday, August 11.

The newly remastered package includes an unreleased studio track (“Born Branded”) from the original album sessions along with two songs from the band’s 1991 Four Songs EP as well as a previously unreleased, 1992 concert from The Roxy in Los Angeles.

I recently spoke with Kowalzyk and Taylor about the album package, their reunion and more in this exclusive new interview.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Mental Jewelry was released. When you look back on that album now with so much perspective, what thoughts come to mind?

Kowalczyk: What’s been most exciting about the experience is not only listening to the original album but also the second CD, which is a live performance from The Roxy that we did back in 1992. Just to listen to that and realize that we were not fucking around. We were nineteen and swinging for the fences from the minute we stepped out with that album and tour.

What was the songwriting process like for the band back then?

Kowalzyk: We usually did a mixture of riffs and ideas to jam out and others where I might bring something in that was more fully-formed that we would tear down and rip apart. It’s always been that hybrid and I think that’s even the way we’re approaching our writing now.

Taylor: Because we were so young when we were writing, there were obviously no rules. It was a process of self-discovery. I can remember having conversations with Ed with my perception of how difficult it must be to write lyrics, and then he would tell me he was having problems putting together chord parts. But we always pushed each other.

Kowalzyk: One of the other things that strikes me is how much that energy at its core has never left the band. It’s been a constant, intense and visceral approach to performing. We throw down hard every time we’re on that stage.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Mental Jewelry. What can you tell me about “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)”?

Kowalzyk: I remember sitting in the practice loft of Chad Gracey’s garage and Chad Taylor was there playing this rhythmic groove. I was following his rhythm and started doing a chant over that. There are only two or three more chords but there was enough to get an emotion across. Then you add Gracey’s drumming and how energetic the song is. We wanted a song that would grab people’s attention right out of the box. It definitely did that.

Taylor: At the time, I had no idea I was even writing a song. I remember Ed telling me to keep playing and then he started singing overtop of it. That’s actually my first memory of a collaboration with Ed. The other funny story about that song is because it was one of the first songs we had written, I remember telling our manager that I didn’t think it should be on the album. I have to laugh at that now because it came out of the box and was the signature thing that started to build the band. But again, we were young and blissfully unaware of the business and were just trying to put our best foot forward.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Kowalzyk and Taylor Here

Actor / Director David Rountree To Begin Work On 48-Hour Film Project

David Rountree

During the first week of August, actor/director/producer David Rountree and a team of other notable filmmakers will undertake the 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles, CA. Their mission? To write the script, cast the actors, shoot, edit, and hand in a completed film project in two days.

Rountree, along with his partner Jeremy Jordan have teamed up with James Blakeman, Ashley Ayre, Dustin Henderson and Shahriar Rahman (visual effects producer and supervisor, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, “Smurfs”, “Scandal)” to produce the top-quality short film in one weekend as part of The Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project and premiere it at the festival the following week. The Best Film will receive a grand prize of $5000 and move on to screen at The Cannes Film Festival in France.

David Rountree is no stranger to this blog. His feature-length feature film, “CUT!” — which he co-wrote, produced and directed, was voted one of the top five horror films of 2015. The multi-talented filmmaker has also received praise for work in his baseball themed film, “108 Stitches” (which, along with “CUT!” received a national theatrical release) as well as acting in the new horror film, “The Dark Tapes”. Over the course of his career in TV and film, Rountree has worked alongside such iconic actors as Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Rob Lowe, Amy Adams, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Garner, Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Davison and Kate Vernon.

Although it’s been seven years since Rountree last did this film competition, his team has won Best Film all three times its entered. This time around the team has rented out Air Hollywood studio, which where almost any movie having an airplane, including the original “Airplane” movie, was shot. The cast and crew of the film are all volunteers, but in order to continue to get the best locations and equipment, they’ve begun a fund-raising campaign.

Watch below to see one of Rountree’s previous 48-Hour Film Project films, “Life For A Life”.

For those who donate, there are definite perks, including film credits that would be given including digital copies of the completed film, signed scripts, invitations to the set and the opportunity to be a “featured background” actor in the film.

Check out the campaign and film above and consider being part of the team for one of the most creative people I know.

United We Rock: REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato Talks Monster Summer Tour with Styx and Don Felder

This summer’s United We Rock Tour features three juggernauts of classic rock: REO Speedwagon, Styx and former Eagle Don Felder.

These artists have provided rocking summer soundtracks for the past four decades—and they share a uniquely rich history; REO and Styx have toured together many times over the years and Styx and Felder just completed a five-night residency in Las Vegas. For United We Rock, Felder will open the show with a 45-minute set of Eagles classics along with a few surprises and special guests, while REO Speedwagon and Styx will alternate headlining sets.

But don’t expect the United We Rock triple-bill to be a “hits only” event; REO and Styx have added new material to their set, with Styx supporting their new album, The Mission, and REO performing their rocking new song, “Whipping Boy.”

I recently spoke with REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato about the United We Rock tour, his gear and more.

With a tour loaded with guitarists, I suppose the first question is, who gets to perform “Hotel California” with Don Felder?

Well, Styx recently did a residency in Las Vegas, so Tommy [Shaw] has the seniority [laughs]. Actually, Tommy said he was going to play with Don on “Take it Easy.” He plays a Strat for the first half of the song and then switches to banjo. It’s phenomenal. I still remember when Don first asked me to play “Hotel California” with him; I got goosebumps. I’m not as nervous about the REO set as I am about Felder, because you can’t screw up that solo!

How did REO prep for the United We Rock tour?

We had a few warmup gigs on the weekends for a few months and used those gigs to change the set list around, figure out how to transition into songs and try to do something different. After 28 years, it’s still fun challenging yourself.

Styx has a new album, The Mission, and there’s a new song in REO’s set as well, “Whipping Boy.” What can you tell me about it?

It’s always good to have new music to keep going forward. That was Kevin [Cronin’s] song, and we each added our own two cents to it. We worked on the song on the weekend gigs to get it sounding really tight. It’s actually not even recorded yet. We might record it sometime in the fall.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

Remembering High School- 30 Years Later

“How can it be thirty years?” I said as I was cleaning out the basement.

Looking into the gray, Stocker Brothers dairy milk crate, its frame still sturdy even after decades of sitting in dark silence, is actually what made me pose the question.

I had just spent the better part of the morning organizing the crawl space of my two-story colonial, a home I’ve been making mortgage payments on for as long as I can remember. During my tenure at this location, the basement had become a breeding ground for large, cardboard boxes of clothes, holiday items and various knick knacks, as well as six large boxes of comic books I’d collected as a kid along with my feeble attempts at Bob Ross paintings. The latter two categories being things I can’t seem to let go of — even after all of this time.

Time.

The thing inside the milk crate behind the wall of canvases is where I found it. There, along with the curious smell of old books and dust was a folded, paper program; kind of like something you’d get handed to you from an usher at a Sunday church service or a Broadway show as you entered the theater. It had obtained a dull, off-white color over the years but its red lettered appearance was still clearly visible:

Easton Area High School’s 131st Commencement: June 11, 1987 6:00 o’clock.

It can’t be, can it? Thirty years already? I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was roaming the halls of high school? Dreaming about being the next Bon Jovi? Longing for Friday night visits to the mall so that I could get the new Def Leppard album, read the latest Gross Jokes book in Waldenbooks, drink gallons of Orange Julius and then try to impress the girls by beating the high score on Pac Man and Galaga?

I slowly ran my fingers through the pages of the slightly weathered program and saw all of the people who stood by me that day. “Did they know where they would wind up?” I thought. “Would they remember and realize it’s been thirty years?”

Me, June 11, 1987

I remember that commencement. I remember wearing my class ring on my right ring finger and sitting in my cap and gown on an uncomfortable metal chair waiting for my name to be called, peeved once again at the alphabetical order of things and the fact that my last name started with a “W”. I still remember congratulating and hugging every classmate I met, whether I knew them on a “friend” basis or not. I can still feel the leafy stem of the flower against my bare hand after I accepted my diploma, and the sense of urgency I had for the final notes of the Alma Mater to ring so that I could toss my tasseled, red cap high into the air. It was the end game. The “so long”. The final, “see-ya-later” salute to thirteen years of education.

Who am I kidding? When I look back now it didn’t really seem like goodbye. Instead, walking out of Kirby Field House that night was just like any other night. It would soon be the start of summer, camping at the lake, amusement park visits and graduation/backyard parties. Heck, I even had one at my house where me and my buddy (and fellow graduate), Nathan Brown, played our guitars and drums as entertainment. Before long, September would roll around again and we’d all be right back together again in class, right? Just like it had always been for thirteen years in a row.

No.

Several friends went off to college to follow their dream. Others enlisted in the military, started families or immediately entered the work force. As for me, my own dream of becoming a rock star officially began June 11, 1987.

But that’s a story for another time.

As I continued to page through the program, I tried to see how many classmates I could remember and was thankful to discover I could still put faces to the names of most. Then I thought of Nathan, who’s own name I didn’t see listed in the graduating class and yet had attended graduation and received his diploma along with the rest of us. Had it have been another time, I probably would have called him up to ask him why he wasn’t mentioned in the list of graduates, but he died in 2014.

A lot can happen in thirty years.

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