Category Archives: A Conversation With

‘The Caretaker’: Actress Meegan Warner Discusses Supernatural Thriller

thecaretakerWritten by Jeremy Robinson and directed by Jeff Prugh, “The Caretaker” is a new character-driven thriller that tells the story of a young woman who returns home to care for her gravely ill grandmother.

The film stars the beautiful Meegan Warner (Mary on AMC’s critically acclaimed series, TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Mallorie, an empathetic young woman who wants to do well by her grandmother. But in the process of staying in her grandmother’s vast Victorian home, Mallorie encounters bouts of sleepwalking and envisioning spirits, all while uncovering dark secrets about her family’s past.

“The Caretaker” was an official selection at Indie Horror Film Festival where it took home three awards, including the Director’s Choice Award. The film was also an official selection at FilmQuest, HellaCon, Gasparilla and the Fantastic Horror film festivals.

I recently spoke with Warner about “The Caretaker”, the final season of TURN, her career and more in this exclusive new interview!

How did this project come about for you? 

It was a pretty standard procedure. My agents sent me the script, I went in and taped with the casting directors and was later asked to come in for a chemistry read with [co-star] Sean Martini. Then a few weeks later, we were all on set!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

I remember coming in for the chemistry read and workshopping the audition scenes. It was the first time I met Jeff [Prugh], who was completely open to improvisation and suggestions. Meeting everyone and seeing how passionate and determined they were really drew me in. I just remember walking out of the room really wanting to be a part of the project.

How would you describe the story of “The Caretaker”?

“The Caretaker” is a character-driven thriller about a young woman named Mallorie who returns home to care for her sick grandmother only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. 

What can you tell me about your character, Mallorie?

Mallorie was such a gift to play because she had so much going on. She grew up with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her and her grandmothers health is deteriorating, She also struggles with her own mental heath problems and sleep disorders. I liked that she wasn’t your typical damaged horror movie girl though. She has great relationships outside of her family life. 

Meegan Warner (left) and Sean Martini in The Caretaker

Meegan Warner (left) and co-star Sean Martini in The Caretaker

What was the filming process like?

The whole experience was amazing. It was one of those projects where you didn’t want it to end. Jeff and Jeremy were awesome to work with. So open to ideas and encouraged improvisation. It was a very creative set to be on. The house we shot in was incredible and definitely added to the film. I remember Jeff saying something like he wanted the action taking place downstairs to feel like a drama and the events taking place upstairs to feel like a thriller. He really wanted the upper level of the house to have a dangerous vibe.

What do you think makes horror such a great genre? 

I think like any genre, it’s that escapism –the thrill and adrenaline. I love horror movies. If I’m choosing a movie to watch I usually gravitate towards horror. When you think about it, scaring yourself is a pretty strange thing to enjoy!

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

The thought of being an actress never really crossed my mind when I was a kid. That whole world seemed so far removed from my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided acting was something I wanted to do. I did the school play and just loved the whole experience. I don’t remember the exact moment when it went from being a fun thing to do to a career option, but it happened quickly and from that point on I was pretty determined to figure out how to make it work.

What are you most looking forward to about with the final season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”? What can fans expect from the show and from your character, Mary?

I’m really excited and curious to see how the writers will wrap it up: if we’ll have time jumps and finish the war or if we’ll just continue on from Season 3. I know absolutely nothing, so I can’t tease anything! But I can’t wait to read the first script, and I hope Mary continues to surprise!

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

TURN will start filming soon, so over the next few months I’ll be working on that. After we wrap, who knows? That’s the exciting part about this job. You never know what’s next! I’d also like to give a shout out to another horror film I did in Australia. It’s called “Scare Campaign” and it’s getting a U.S release later this month. So please keep a look out!

“The Caretaker” is available now in multiple formats.

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Actress Amanda Wyss Talks Powerful Short-Film, Other Upcoming Projects

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Actress Amanda Wyss has built an indelible legacy with her eclectic body of work. Whether it’s her role as Tina Gray in the horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; her dramatic portrayal as Rabbit Layton in the 1989 Sundance Award-Winning film, “Powwow Highway” or even more recently, as a psychotic killer in television’s CSI, Wyss has a earned a reputation for portraying deep, emotionally-driven characters that progress the story forward.

One of Wyss’ most important projects to date may be filmmaker Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short, “It Happened Again Last Night” . A film that tells the story of a woman named Paige [played by Stone], who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make. Wyss portrays Paige’s mother in a flashback sequence but much like every role she plays, brings about an extra layer of honest creativity.

2016 has certainly been one of Wyss’ most successful years. In addition to her involvement in “It Happened Again Last Night” she was recently awarded Best Actress honors at the Santa Monica International Film Festival for her work in Paul Santana’s horror short, Oct 23rd. She’s also received high praise for her recurring role as Kat Cooper in the TNT series “Murder in the First” as well as the lonely woman caring for her domineering father in the upcoming thriller, “The ID”.

I recently spoke with Wyss about “It Happened Again Last Night” as well as her other upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

Gabrielle Stone is such a smart, go-getting, incredibly talented young lady. She wrote and directed this film along with Roze and they asked me to be involved. I play Gabrielle’s mom in flashbacks. It’s an important story about domestic violence and not being able to choose who you love and about having to take care of yourself.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Still from ‘It Happened Again Last Night’ – Photo by: Chris Heck

As an actress, what attracts you to a script?

Obviously, it’s the story and about being challenged. But I also ask myself a lot of questions, like is it a role I can do justice to and will I be able to use the character to help move the story forward. With this role, I really loved the story and the people involved. Even though it’s a small part, it’s a very powerful moment where you get to see Gabrielle’s character become who she is. It was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

What was it like working with Gabrielle on this project?

She’s fantastic. Gabrielle and Roze both knew exactly what they wanted and had the story so well thought out. We all had time to really go over the script together and talk about these characters and about why we were doing what were doing. Even though it was such a heavy piece, it was a fun environment to be in and everyone brought their “A” game.

Can you give me an update on another film that’s been creating a lot of buzz for you – “The ID”?

It’s going to be released at the end of October on Blu-Ray and then in November on digital. It was such a good role and the reviews for it have been really great!

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman and her father and the interesting dynamic of what happens between two people who are in a caregiver relationship. They’re both trapped in the past and trapped in their home—each with their own reasons for not leaving. How do you cope with that and how does your psyche interpret that information in order to create a better world in your mind than for what is actually happening? It’s definitely not a recipe for success—or for the faint of heart! 

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

I’ll be going to New York in a few weeks to start work on “The Watcher of Park Ave” where I’ll be playing a retired, hard-working detective. Then in the spring I’ll be doing a movie called “Catch A Fallen Star” that we’ll be shooting in Nashville. It’s another really good script where I’ll be playing Dee Wallace’s [character’s] sister. I love country music and am really excited about it.

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

I just love making movies, creating characters and digging deep into interesting people. So I’m looking forward to getting more of this joy. It’s been so fun getting to work with such young, enthusiastic filmmakers who have such wonderful projects going on.

Follow the progress of “It Happened Again Last Night” on Twitter.

Actress Alex Lynn Ward Discusses ‘It Happened Again Last Night’, Upcoming Projects

AlexLynnWardBorn and raised in New York City, Alex Lynn Ward grew up in a place that had plenty of resources to feed her acting bug.

She was accepted into the Drama Program at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts at the age of thirteen where she began honing her craft.

From there, her passionate work ethic led to conservatory and making her way to Los Angeles where she landed multiple film and television roles in addition to being part of national tour and hitting the stage in London.

Although well-versed in both drama and comedic genres (she’s also a stand-up comic), the beautiful Ward has recently taken on perhaps her most important role yet in Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night” — a film that tells the story of Paige [Stone], a woman who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make.

The producers have set up an Indiegogo campaign to help with the film’s completion and with fan support have already surpassed their goal. They’re now working towards a stretch goal, which includes some really amazing perks.

I recently spoke with Alex Lynn Ward about her role in “It Happened Again Last Night” and more in this new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’ve been friends with Gabrielle for years. She’s actually one of the first people I met when I moved to L.A. from New York. She had been writing drafts of this script for a long time and had always asked me to read it. So when it came time to make the film she told me she’d love for me to play this role. I said, “Absolutely!”

What was it about the project that piqued your interest?

I loved the story and all of the things it stands for. On the creative side, I’ve wanted to work with Gabrielle for a long time. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

How would you describe the story of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

It’s the story of a girl named Paige who’s in an abusive relationship and is also involved in a relationship with my character, Kris. Paige doesn’t know what the right decision is but she has to choose between fear and love before she runs out of time, and she knows it’s getting to the end.

What else can you tell me about your character, Kris?

Kris is very in love with Paige. She’s also strong and very matter of fact with no BS. Although Kris and I are complete opposites I identified with her so much. It was cathartic to play this role.

What was the filming process like?

I can’t say enough good things about it. It was the smoothest, easiest and most stress free shoot. There was so much love in the room and everyone was on board from the very beginning. Gabrielle was so on and it was exciting to get to see her direct.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

Did you always know that you want to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I grew up in New York City so the opportunity was always there. When I was 13, I got accepted into the Frank Sinatra School of The Arts where we had celebrity mentors and intense theater training. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

My Star Wars fan film recently won the JJ Abrams Audience Choice Award for our short, “The Sable Corsair”. That’s up now on Star Wars.com and is very exciting! I’m currently collaborating with WhoHaHa.com. It’s Elizabeth Banks’ new venture to spotlight funny women. They have a few of my YouTube videos and we’re working on some original content as well. I’m also going to start work on a new short that’s part of “Twilight Zone”-themed anthology called “Spades”.

What are you looking forward to about the release of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’m so excited about this film. Everything is so beautiful and so well done. It speaks to what I really stand for and I feel the end product is going to be reflection of just how awesome it was to make. This is really going to be something special. 

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Multi-talented Actress and Filmmaker Gabrielle Stone Talks New Project

GabrielleStoneSome know actress Gabrielle Stone for her inspiring performances in such horror films as “Speak No Evil,” “CUT!,” and “Zombie Killers”. But the beautiful daughter of legendary actors Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone has a creative side few have seen –that is until now.

This fall Stone, along with her project partner, Roze will unveil their new short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night”.

A passion project for Stone, the film not only features a group of seasoned actors –including Amanda Wyss, Randy Wayne, Chris Mulkey and Alex Lynn Ward, but was also written, directed and produced by the creative duo of Stone and Roze. Stone also takes on the emotional role of Paige in “It Happened Again Last Night”, showcasing her versatile acting prowess.

The producers have set up an Indigogo campaign (with some really amazing perks) where fans can contribute to help with the film’s completion.

 I recently spoke with Gabrielle Stone about “It Happened One Night” and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for “It Happened Again Last Night” begin?

 I initially wrote a script I wanted to do as an actress, but once I brought in Roze [co-writer/co-director] things quickly evolved. After we had settled on our final draft, it was clear what a powerful story we had. The subject matter of domestic violence is not often spoken about publicly and we wanted to depict it in a real and truthful way. The LGBTQ themes were also in the script from the very beginning. I have a lot of people in my life who are in same sex relationships and I really wanted to do a piece that shows the strength I witness in all of them.

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman [Paige] who’s struggling to own who she really is. Paige is stuck in an abusive relationship with Stephen (Randy Wayne) while her heart is with Kris (Alex Lynn Ward). In the end, she must choose between fear and love before she has no choices left to make.

 What can you tell me about your character, Paige?

Honestly, it was a very emotional experience playing Paige. There was a real sense of responsibility in bringing realness to this character. I remember after we had finished a highly emotional scene, Alex (Lynn Ward) came into the make-up room and looked like she was about to burst into tears. Alex and I have been friends for years and she’s always been the funny and lighthearted one in the room. She was so affected by watching me in the state I was in and feeling the reality that women actually go through this that it really hit her.

There are a lot of notable actors involved in this project. What can you tell me about them?

They’re all amazing. We were incredibly lucky to get such great talent on board and I think most of that has to do with them believing in the material. Every person brought everything they had to set and everyone gave incredible performances.

GabrielleStone2

Do you have a tentative release date for the film?

We’ve already got a picture lock and it’s currently with sound and color correction. We’re now in the process of raising the last bit of funds to cover post-production costs, marketing, and festival submission. Our goal is to be finished by mid-September to start submitting to festivals.

What are some of the perks fans can receive by supporting your Indigogo campaign?

We genuinely appreciate everyone who believes in this project and has been helping us by donating or sharing. I truly believe this film is going to affect people and hopefully will help heal some as well. We’ve got some great things to offer as a thank you. Everything from fully signed film posters, digital downloads, scripts signed by our entire cast and even dinner with Randy Wayne and I.

Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

My film, “Ava’s Impossible Things” is currently available on Vimeo and I have “Death House” and “Dance Night Obsession” coming out later this year. I’ve also recently signed on to a horror film that hasn’t been publicly announced yet.

What’s the best bit of advice your mom has given you as an actress / artist?

Be authentic. Live in love. Don’t act.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the creative process while working on this project?

This entire process has taught me to trust my instincts and has reassured me that I know what I’m doing in the creative world. I also have a greater understanding and new appreciation for people on the other side of the business. This is a passion project I’ve held close from beginning to end and to finally be able to show it to the world and have people experience what we’ve been working on will be incredible. For me to say “I’ve made my first film” is a huge accomplishment for me and I couldn’t have picked better people to be involved with it. It’s something we’re all truly proud of.

‘Disappearance At Devil’s Rock’: Author Paul Tremblay Discusses His New Emotional Thrill Ride

DrockFollowing the success of his psychological thriller, “A Head Full of Ghosts”, author Paul Tremblay spent most of the summer of 2014 trying to figure out what his next book would be about. He began by asking himself the same question most horror writers do – “What scares me?”

Tremblay eventually found the answer to his question while spending time in the woods near his home. The result would become his page-turning thrill ride, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”.

Although its title may conjure up images of 1970’s Hardy Boys mysteries, this is a 21st century tale of fear and intrigue. Elizabeth Sanderson gets the call in the middle of the night that all parent’s dread. Her son, Tommy is at a sleep over at a park when Tommy suddenly wanders off and disappears.

The supernatural element and emotional struggles of the family and neighbors in their desperate attempt to find Tommy make “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” one of the highlight reads of summer.

Tremblay is no stranger to accolades. His previous book, “A Head Full of Ghosts” was recently awarded The Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel. It was also optioned for the big screen by Focus Features and has even received praise by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. A U.K. version of “A Head Full of Ghosts” will be available in late September.

I recently spoke with Paul Tremblay about the new book and more in this exclusive interview.

Where did the idea for “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” begin?

I started by asking myself the question, “Of all the things that scare me now, which one scares me the most?” As a parent myself, the obvious answer would have to be to have one of your children go missing. Then I started thinking about Borderland State Park. It features prominently in the book and is a real place I used to hike in all the time. I decided to put those two things together, and make one of my favorite places kind of creepy.

Can you tell me a little about your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ve done both. With “A Head Full of Ghosts” I did a lot of plotting and pantsing. For this one, I started by doing a sixteen-page summary that took quite a bit of time to complete. I learned a lot about structural work as I prepared for the story; right from the beginning and through the whole process of writing. The first draft took about eleven months to complete. When I first finished, it was by far the longest thing I had ever written.

Did you have to do much research in preparation to write?

My son was actually my Minecraft expert. Both he and my daughter grew up playing the game. I didn’t know a whole lot about Snapchat, and most of that research was done online and figuring out what police would be able to get from it. There’s this idea of how using social media makes us safe and closer than we actually are. I decided to use it to make it harder to find Tommy.

PaulTremblay

Do you have a set daily goal of time or words in mind when you sit down to write?

I usually don’t set a time when I’m working a project but I do try to set a goal of 500 words a day—and that could be in the morning, afternoon or night. I always try to fit it in but also give myself permission to miss that mark. More times than not, I’ll make those 500 and some days will even surpass that.

Did you encounter any challenges while writing “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?

This book took me out of my comfort zone a little bit. All of my previous novels were done in first person point of view. This one was third person jumping around to different characters. It’s good to push yourself as a writer and continue to get better.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to aspiring writers?

For someone starting out the biggest thing is read…read… read! If you want to be a writer, you can’t sacrifice anything else for reading. Also, give yourself a reason to be patient. If the first book doesn’t sell, use that process to stick with it. You’ll learn a lot as a writer from being rejected and from listening to what editors say. Take their comments about your work and use it to get better!

You’ve recently won The Bram Stoker award and Stephen King has even mentioned how much he loves your work. As a writer, when comes to mind when you think about those things?

 It’s very affirming and humbling. I actually started writing because of Stephen King. So getting accolades from one of my heroes tells me that the work has paid off. Winning an award by a horror association is also one of the highlights of my professional life and something I’ll never take for granted.

What would you like people to take away from reading “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?

I don’t want to add to the culture of fear and have people be freaked out and afraid for their children. But I’d really like for people to come away feeling empathy for all of the characters –even the ones that don’t do good things. As a writer, that’s important to me. Readers don’t always have to feel sympathy for the characters but they should understand the decisions that they make and why they do what they do.

‘All I Ever Wanted’: Actress Ashley Watkins Discusses Emotional New Film

Ashley Watkins

Ashley Watkins

With a resume that encapsulates the realms of horror, drama, comedy and dance, actress Ashley Watkins has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most versatile artists. Her beauty equally matched by talent and an innate ability to draw emotion from the human connection.

Watkins will soon be seen in the Markiss McFadden and Mason Troy film, “All I Ever Wanted” – a gritty new drama about family, hope and forgiveness and how they all come together when we need them the most.

Inspired by real-life events, “All I Ever Wanted” represents Troy’s first foray into the writing world and promises to be a story that touches the heart and soul.

I had the chance to speak to this amazing actress about her new film and more in this exclusive interview.

What was it that attracted you to the project and story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

Markiss McFadden is one of the most focused and motivated entrepreneurs I know. He’s an actor, director and producer all in one and is super-talented. So I already knew going in that working with him would be amazing. Then after the first day of shooting, I got to meet Mason Troy. We went over a really deeply connected scene together and that’s when I realized just how important this story was to him. I’m not sure how true this story was to his past but he feels it. He’s lived it. The story, the emotion, the human connection. I instantly connected with that.

How would you describe the story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

It’s a story about Mason’s character, Ace, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and for years got stuck in this world of selling and dealing drugs. Ace wakes up one morning and realizes everything he has he doesn’t really own. It’s all drug money. He realizes that he has this inner talent and wants to do other things. He also wants to rekindle his relationship with his sister and stepfather. It’s the story of the coming together of all of those things.

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

What can you tell me about your character, Rose?

Rose is Ace’s sister and is a little more difficult. She grew up depressed and had a lot of social issues. She was also bullied in school and had anxiety attacks. She’s incredibly smart and someone who once had a great relationship with Ace but is struggling with her own demons. 

What was the filming process like?

Being on set with Markiss each day was just what I imagined. He was an absolute professional. And because he’s also an actor, he was so aware of what was needed. Working with Mason was also amazing. This was his first film where he wrote, produced and acted, which was huge. After we had finished filming I remember telling him not to worry if he heard any quirks about the film. I said, “You’ve just completed a film. Just the fact that you created and completed a film and that it’s right here, right now is bigger than anything.” We were all taken into a piece of Mason’s world and brought into it in such a beautiful and vulnerable way.

There’s an interesting musical scene in the film. What can you tell me about it?

Yes! There is a scene where I am singing. My character, Rose used to play the guitar so Ace buys her one and pushes her into going to sing at an open-mic night. She does and it actually becomes a window into Ace’s world and reflects what she’s trying to do for him. He’s trying to tell her that she’s got talent and needs to do what she needs to do — and she’s doing the same for him. It’s a beautiful moment.

Is there a message people can take away from watching “All I Ever Wanted”?

Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone stop you, control you or tell you that you’re not capable of doing something. 

What other projects are you currently working on?

I recently finished filming “The Young Pope”, which is a HBO series that stars Jude Law and Diane Keaton. I can’t say what it’s about but it was a dream role that I’ve wanted to film ever since I was a kid.

Photo by: CA Photography

Photo by: C.A. Francis Photography

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

I’ve been asked about that a lot of times. Being on the other side is a craft of its own. After a few more years of experience I think I’d be able to transition over. Right now though, I like to become the characters and live through them. But when I do decide I want it to be a project that is dear to me. Much like the way Markiss and Mason have done in telling a story of their own. When an actor and director can get to the same level of connection, creative thinking and understanding, it’s a beautiful thing!

Keyboardist Geoff Downes Discusses New Dance Orchestra, Asia

GeoffDownesDo you remember where you were when you first heard it? I do. It was June of 1982 and I was sitting in seventh grade music class during one of the last days before summer vacation.

The school was one of those two-story brick structures that had no air conditioning and by mid-morning temperatures in the classroom had risen to almost unbearable levels. The open windows and portable fans that circulated hot air throughout the classroom provided little relief to a bunch of teenagers waiting for that final bell to sound.

As a sort-of end of year gift to the class, the teacher allowed students to bring in some of their albums to listen to while we cleared out our desks. That was when this kid named Danny put it on the turntable. As needle met vinyl and the crackling hum and hiss began, it was the first time I heard that now infamous guitar riff and opening line:

“I never meant to be so bad to you. One thing I said that I would never do …”

“Heat of The Moment” became the coolest thing ever to me on that apropos day. The day I joined the eventual 8 million other people who bought the band Asia’s debut album.

Since then, I’ve been a fan of keyboardist Geoff Downes. Not only for his experimentation of all things keyboard, but also for his songwriting ability. In addition to having the best selling album of 1982 with Asia, Downes also holds the coveted distinction of being part of the very first video ever played on MTV (Video Killed The Radio Star).

Today, in between his work with Asia and Yes, Downes finds time to work on other projects as well. His most recent, New Dance Orchestra’s “Electronica” features the phenomenal vocals of Anne-Marie Helder (Panic Room, Mostly Autumn) and utilizes sounds from the latest computer technology. The result is a collection of virtual orchestrations that defy standard definition. Blending elements of classical, new age, pop and electronica, Downes uses rich textures to take the listener on a journey of spiritual enlightenment.

I spoke with Downes about Electronica as well as the forthcoming Asia album Gravitas, which features founding members Downes (keyboards), John Wetton (bass) and Carl Palmer (drums) as well as new guitarist Sam Coulson. He also tells me about some of the most memorable moments of his career.

NDOElectronicaHow would you describe the sound of Electronica?

It’s a good combination of a lot of the influences I’ve had over the years. From my time with The Buggles to session work and some of the other projects I’ve been involved with like Yes and Asia. It’s a nice variety of music and an amalgamy of many of the things that I’ve been through over the course of my career.

How do you approach songwriting for a project like New Dance Orchestra as opposed to one for Asia or Yes?

When I create songs for New Dance Orchestra, there’s a lot of experimentation that I like to do. Some of the material comes from me tinkering with the latest sounds on computers. I’m very much into the technical aspect of the keyboard and like to experiment a lot with them.

How did you connect with Anne-Marie Helder?

I had worked with Anne-Marie on the Icon project I did with John Wetton. She came in and did vocals on a few of the tracks. She’s one of the top prog-rock vocalists and is very much in demand. 

To listen to samples from Electronica, Click Here

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

Asia: Gravitas (2014)

When Steve Howe announced his retirement as guitarist for Asia, was there ever a moment where the band thought about slowing down?

The rest of us always felt that it was worth continuing. Steve has his reasons for wanting to move on and concentrate more on his solo material. He’s pretty much been on the road for the last seven years doing solo material and his trio in addition to having the extra pressure of Yes and Asia. He felt it was time to try other things, which is fine.

We brought in Sam (Coulson), who was recommended to us by Paul Gilbert. He’s a different type of player from Steve and brings with him his own sound. The actual emphasis was never to change direction but to evolve.

What can you tell us about the new Asia album, Gravitas?

We finished the album just before Christmas and it’s going to be released the last week of March. The cover was once again designed by Roger Dean. It’s another Asia album with songs written by myself and John Wetton.

What’s the writing process like when you and John get together?

Generally, we’ll both come in and open our ‘war chests’ of musical ideas. Whenever we get together in a session, it’s rare that we don’t come out of it with at least one or two songs.

Can you tell me the origin of “Only Time Will Tell”?

That one started off with what became the chorus part. It was something I had actually written for a jingle company. I had the basic idea for what became the chorus and I played it for John. That’s when he said “Hey, I think I’ve got something that might go with that” and started playing me the first verse. Originally, the song was going to be called “Starry Eyed”.  It was a very in-depth collaboration with a very proggy, sentimental arrangement. It’s one of my favorite pieces that we’ve ever done in terms of Asia’s history because it has such depth and texture to it.

When The Buggles released “Video Killed The Radio Star” did you have a feeling of how special it was going to be?

We knew that it was a great song and a great record when we finished it. Trevor Horn and I both thought that if we were ever going to have a hit, this one would be it. I remember we presented it to Island Records and they were a bit skeptical. They didn’t even really like the name “The Buggles” either, but it ended up being our first major hit in the UK.

Have you ever given thought to writing a book chronicling your life?

I’ve been thinking about that recently. It really has been an amazing journey and is something I’ll definitely be looking into… when I have the time [laughs].

With all of your success with The Buggles, Yes, Asia, New Dance Orchestra and all of your other projects, is there anything that stands out as most memorable?

There are so many. Obviously, you have to look at the first Buggles album because it was the one that introduced me into the business. The Drama album is very satisfying because more and more die-hard Yes fans can relate to that album as time has gone by.

Then of course there’s the first Asia album.

I’ll never forget sitting in the car with John Wetton. We had just arrived in the States shortly after the album had come out and “Heat of The Moment” was playing on the radio. I remember we changed the channel and at that exact moment another station was playing “Only Time Will Tell.” To have those tracks both playing simultaneously on two different radio stations in the same city was surreal. At that moment we both knew what we had was going to be something really special.

For more on Geoff Downes:

Geoff Downes Official Website * ASIA Official Website * Yes Official Website

Ender’s Game: Actress Andrea Powell Discusses New Sci-Fi Blockbuster

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

For actress Andrea Powell, it’s more than just a sci-fi blockbuster. It’s a story about real people in extraordinary situations.

Powell, whose impressive resume already includes “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” and ABC’s “The Gates” joins Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in “Ender’s Game” [based on the novel by Orson Scott Card and opening November 1st].

Powell plays the role of Theresa Wiggin, the mother of Ender (Butterfield), a boy chosen to save the world from alien invasion.

Ender’s Game will certainly give people a lot to talk about. It’s big and splashy, with breathtaking special effects (some done in ways that have never been seen before), and retains many of the great messages from the book.

I spoke with Powell (a hero herself) about her role in “Ender’s Game” as well as her involvement in team DetermiNation, a program which raises funds and awareness for The American Cancer Society.

How would you describe the story of Ender’s Game?

It’s a futuristic sci-fi story about an extraordinary young man who has the fate of the world in his hands. Asa Butterfield’s performance as Ender is fantastic. For such a young actor, he has a lot to bear carrying the movie and he’s completely up to it. It’s definitely a blockbuster, but it’s also a story about leadership, ethics and morality.

What attracted you most to this project?

I loved the idea of a science fiction novel that has big things to say about leadership, morality and the retaining of values in difficult situations. The way Gavin Hood [Director] approached the film was also interesting, because he did it from the perspective of the people involved.

Tell me a little bit about your character, Theresa Wiggin.

Theresa is a brilliant strategist. She’s a mom at her core and wants to protect her family and instill good values in her children. But she’s also got a struggle ahead of her. When Ender is chosen, he has to go away and there’s a certain amount of pain and loss that’s associated with it. At the same time though, she understands that what he’s doing is truly for the good of the world.

Let’s discuss your involvement in team DetermiNation.

Team DetermiNation is a group of endurance athletes who run races and raise money and awareness for The American Cancer Society. I’ve been heavily involved with them for years as both a spokesperson and running three half-marathons. I lost my father to cancer more than ten years ago and also have a lot of friends and family members who have been touched by cancer. It’s a terrible disease and too many people have to deal with it.  

Do you have any advice for up and coming actors?

I always encourage people who want to become actors to primarily try to live an interesting life. Travel, learn about art and music, make friends and observe people. If your entire life is all about acting, then you won’t have any “real people” experience to draw from.

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

Andrea Powell (Photo Credit: King PDT)

What’s next for you?

I have a holiday movie called “Christmas in Conway” that’s premiering December 1st on ABC. I play Cheri Oteri’s side kick and get to do a little comedy.

What satisfies you the most about your Ender’s Game experience?

The opportunity to work on such a wonderful script with a truly kind-hearted and talented director. When it’s all going on, you have no idea that what you’re working on is a gigantic Sci-Fi blockbuster, but then you look around and see Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and all of these other wonderful artists and you quickly realize that what you’re doing is part of something really special.

Time In A Bottle: Maury Muehleisen’s Sister Discusses Her Brother’s Music, Time with Jim Croce

Maury Muehleisen in 1973

Maury Muehleisen in 1973

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the lives of Jim Croce, Maury Muehleisen and four others were cut short when the twin-engine plane in which they were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff on September 20, 1973.

In the years since the accident, Muehleisen’s sister Mary has been keeping her brother’s memory alive. In 2006, she re-released Maury’s only album, Gingerbreadd, on CD. She also released early recordings made by her brother, whose guitar arrangements are synonymous with the classic Jim Croce sound.

On September 21, Mary Muehleisen will be in attendance for Time in a Bottle: A Tribute to Jim Croce, an event taking place at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, to remember the lives and music of Croce and her brother.

Because Croce graduated from Upper Darby, proceeds will go to the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation for a scholarship fund in Croce’s name. In addition to Croce song performances, the evening will feature the music of Maury Muehleisen as well as stories from the people who knew them best.

Maury Muehleisen & Jim Croce

Maury Muehleisen & Jim Croce

I spoke with Mary about the 40th anniversary tribute as well as her brother’s music and his legacy. You can read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Mary Muehleisen By Clicking Here!

For more information on the Tribute To Jim Croce Click Here!

For more on Maury Muehleisen or to order a CD Visit: www.maurymuehleisen.com/

Winds Of Change: The Chronicles of Singer Chris “Breeze” Barczynski

breezeChris “Breeze” Barczynski is a true success story. Born and raised in small rural Pennsylvania towns, he aspired to one day play professional football, but fate had other intentions.

In the early 90’s (following a devastating football injury while playing in London) he returned home to discover his true calling did not lie on the grid iron but rather with a microphone and a guitar.

For the next twenty years, Breeze would sing lead vocals and perform with a variety of bands like “The Honey Buzzards”, “Sweet Brother Rush” and “Citizens of Contrary Knowledge”. During that time, he not only opened up for some of the biggest names in music, but also licensed his songs to hit television shows, became a semi-finalist on Star Search and even sang as a regular on the hit TV show, The Singing Bee.

Now, after spending the last dozen years honing his craft in the New York City area, the former Lehigh Valley, PA resident is ready for another change. He’ll soon be making the move to California in search of new adventures and inspiration. He’s also in the process of finishing a book about his life experiences thus far.

I spoke with Breeze about his days performing in the local music scene as well as his forthcoming book chronicling the life of a music man.

Tell me a little about your upbringing.

CB: I was born in Reading, PA and went to grade school in and around the Hershey area. I came up playing trumpet and drums and when I was in 6th grade, we moved to the Lehigh Valley. I knew that in order to get to college, I was going to have to pay my own way, so I played sports. I played football, ran track and wound up going to college on an academic scholarship with every intention of having a professional football career.

When did music become your main focus?

CB: I played professionally for two years in England in the Budweiser League (before it became the World League) and suffered a severe knee injury that ended my childhood dream. I returned to the U.S. and sank into a deep depression.  I was 23 years old and beginning to think that I had nothing to live for.

Then one night, I went to an open mic blues jam in Dayton, Ohio and sang a Muddy Waters song. That experience rekindled my love of music; which literally saved my life. I came back to the Lehigh Valley in 1991 and auditioned for a blues band. Soon after that, I started The Honey Buzzards and we played the area from 1994-2000.

What are some of the best moments you remember from that time?

CB: We got to open for a lot of great acts like Green Day, Collective Soul, Blue Öyster Cult and Kansas. We opened up for Sugar Ray in front of 12,000 people. We also opened for Hootie and The Blowfish on the same day that the video for their song “Hold My Hand” had its world premiere. I remember standing with Darius Rucker staring at the television screen and watching it for the very first time. That was a cool experience. We wound up signing with a management group who had worked with bands like LIVE and Fuel. We had some success with a song called “Fighting Gravity” and almost won a record deal through Garage Band.

What did you find most difficult about those days?

CB: We were trying to be an original band but were playing in cover rooms. That was the catch 22. With our management, you had to either be cover or original. Trying to do both was difficult. We were always walking the fine line between original and cover band and it was really confusing people. So, we decided to change the name of the band to “Sweet Brother Rush” to try to secure a deal. We came close, but it didn’t work out.

breeze1

Why did you eventually make the move to New York City?

CB: I really wanted to put together the band that I had always dreamed of. A band where everyone respected each other as both men and musicians. One without ego and a band that just made great music: Citizens of Contrary Knowledge. We’ve had great success; licensing songs to things like Showtime’s “The Tudors” and a few indie films as well. Nickelodeon also licensed our entire CD for two of their kid shows: “Drake and Josh” and “Zoey 101”.

Tell me about how you wound up on The Singing Bee.

CB: In addition to Citizens of Contrary Knowledge, I was also been performing with a 22-piece big band that did a lot of corporate events around the country. Through that band, I met a keyboard player named Russ Graham who ended up becoming the Assistant Music Director on The Singing Bee. They were in LA trying to audition singers for the show, but it just wasn’t working out. So, Russ called me up one day and told me that the gig would be perfect for me. He said, “Do whatever you can to get here. We need you!” [laughs]

From all of my years playing cover music, I have about 2,000 songs running in my head that I know the lyrics to and can sing along with. Because of knowing so many, I just knocked it out of the park. I met with music director Ray Chew, who I’ve also worked with on several other projects since. When I get to LA, I’m going to reconnect with him and also look at putting together another band on the west coast.

Photo: Gary Jenker

Photo: Gary Junker

Have you ever taken vocal lessons?

CB: I haven’t. I came up singing a lot of rhythm and blues and my voice blended well for that genre. There was a time though where I did reach out to a vocal coach to learn proper technique and taking care of the voice. I remember there were situations where I was playing 6-7 nights a week with The Honey Buzzards and at one point, I did 12 one night shows in a row. It was a lot of driving around and singing and that put a lot of strain on my voice.

How about your guitar playing?

CB: That’s a work in progress. I picked it up a long time ago when I first started playing in the Valley. I consider myself a singer who plays guitar. It’s the only instrument that I write with.

What’s your songwriting process like?

CB: There’s no real formula for it. Some songs I’ve written in ten minutes and others, I’m still writing ten years later. I’m more into being a lyricist and writing melodies and find it easier to write with a co-writer who plays piano or guitar. I love collaborating.

Tell me a little about your new book.

CB: It’s called “The Chronicles of the Music Man“. I grew up in the small towns of Pennsylvania and was taught certain things by my parents and teachers, as well as by government and idols. I’ve gotten to a point in my life now where I know most of what I was told or learned about was just bullshit. The book is my attempt at taking people through the “Forrest Gump” stories of my life. Explaining what I thought before, what I went through and learned and why I may not necessarily believe what I did before. I want to take people through that process and maybe get them to think a little differently about the world. It contains surreal stories of my life and the lessons I’ve learned from them as well as lyrics and poetry. I’m also recording a CD of music inspired by the stories to accompany the book. I’m editing it now, and hope to have it out in the next few months.

Godspeed to you Breeze on your next adventure!

Article first published as Winds Of Change: The Chronicles of Singer Chris “Breeze” Barczynski on Technorati.

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