Category: AXS Interview

Interview: Nita Strauss Discusses Her Infectious Debut Solo Album, ‘Controlled Chaos’

Photo Katy Cooper

2018 has certainly been a memorable year for Nita Strauss. The guitarist, widely known for her time touring with Alice Cooper and for being one of the most in-demand clinicians on the planet, started the year out by unveiling her first Signature Model guitar, the Ibanez Jiva. This coincided with another round of live dates with Cooper as well as solo performances that included Wrestlemania and for the Los Angeles Rams as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service”. Now, the beautiful blonde shredder is doing something else she’s never done before: releasing her monstrously cool, debut solo album, Controlled Chaos.

With help from her longtime visionary, Josh Villalta, the instrumental album is a snapshot of Strauss’ life as an artist and features an eclectic mix of emotion and guitar wizardry. From the dark and aggressive sounds of songs like “Our Most Desperate Hour” and “Mariana Trench,” to more peaceful tracks like “Hope Grows” and “Here With You,” there really is something for every taste. Strauss even gives a nod to Queen with a haunting version of “The Show Must Go On.”

AXS recently spoke with Nita Strauss about Controlled Chaos and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How would you describe Controlled Chaos and how it relates to where you are as a guitarist?

Nita Strauss: This is my first album and first chance to show my personality, so I didn’t want to make a strictly rock or a strictly metal album. I wanted to make an album that encompasses all the different styles and emotions I’ve gone through as a person. On Controlled Chaos you’ll hear the dark and aggressive side (of course),4 but you’ll also hear a bright and fun side and a calm and peaceful side. It’s a snapshot of myself as a guitar player.

AXS: What’s your writing process like?

NS: For me, it starts with a story and with me saying this is what I want to talk about and here is how I want to talk about it. A common misconception people have about instrumental music is that it’s all just notes that work together in sequence. I learned from studying my guitar heroes that’s really not the case. I want to tell a story with the song but leave it to the listener to have their own interpretation of what each one is about. It’s not like a song with words where the lyric is already telling you what it means. These songs can be about whatever they make you feel. That’s the beauty of instrumental music.

AXS: What was the recording process like?

NS: I did a bulk of the recording on a break from the tour over the summer in L.A. The rest was done in the back of tour buses, venues and in hotel rooms. Anywhere I could set up my recording rig. Even if I only had a free hour in-between sound check and the show, I’d set up my equipment and get something done. It was grueling at times but was so worth it because I was able to be really hands on. The album came out exactly the way I wanted it to.

Read the rest of my
Interview with NIta Strauss by Clicking Here.

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Interview: Jake E. Lee discusses the new Red Dragon Cartel album, ‘Patina’

With a career that spans more than three decades and includes work with Ozzy and Badlands, guitarist Jake E. Lee and Red Dragon Cartel’s new album, Patina ranks as one of the his finest and returns Lee to the bluesy, hard rock sound of his Badlands days with cleverly inspired songwriting and Lee’s unmistakable guitar wizardry.

Produced by Lee and bassist Anthony Esposito, Patina also reunites Lee with Max Norman (mixer), who worked with Lee on Ozzy’s Bark at The Moon as well as with Esposito on the debut Lynch Mob album, Wicked Sensation.

Red Dragon Cartel is Jake E Lee (guitars), Darren James Smith (vocals), Anthony Esposito (bass) and Phil Varone (drums).

AXS recently caught up with Jake E. Lee to talk about the new Red Dragon Cartel album and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: How does the new Red Dragon Cartel album, Patina, compare to the first album?

Jake E Lee: On the first record nothing was ever recorded with more than one person in the room, which was a little alien to me. This new record is more old-school and was done the same way as when I was in Badlands, or even when I was with Ozzy. The band would get together and I would present ideas and riffs and we would work on them together. The process makes it sound more like a band. It’s more honest and organic and more presentable live. We could only do about half of the first record live because of the way it was recorded. For this new record, we’ll probably be able to do almost every song on it. It really hits you harder when it’s live and these songs, in particular, are going to hit hard in a live setting.

AXS: What was the songwriting process like? What inspires you when you write and create?

JEL: I always have a huge stockpile of ideas but for this album I wanted it to be fresh. The songs on this record are just the band getting in the room; jamming and coming up with something. Sometimes inspiration can come from whatever I’ve been listening to that day, like “Havana.” I’d been listening all day to a certain band and a song that had a great riff. When the band got together that day we started out by just jamming on it. Afterwards, I sat there thinking, “Man, I wish I could come up with something that cool.” That’s when Anthony looked at me and said, “Well, why don’t you?” So, I played around, gave it a twist and then we started working on it.

AXS: What can you tell me about the song, “Crooked Man?”

JEL: The title was inspired by the riff. It’s a very crooked riff that’s not in 4/4 time. I was having trouble sleeping and wrote that riff at like eight in the morning. It was “ugly” but in a really cool way. I love the dichotomy and juxtaposition of ugly and pretty; loud and soft. For me, the process is about throwing things in that you might not expect. Something that makes it different. Every song on this record is different and has its own special place.

AXS: How about the track, “The Luxury of Breathing?”

JEL: When you’re working on a riff or chord progression with no lyrics, you need to have something to call it, and that song was originally entitled “Fuzzy Bunny” because of the pedal I was using for the main riff [laughs]. If there’s one riff that sounds very Badlands, it’s probably that one. I play slide and there’s even some harmonica and a little guiro on it.

AXS: What was it like getting to work with Max Norman again?

JEL: It was great. I hadn’t seen Max in about twenty-five years. Anthony had kept in touch with him because Max produced and engineered the first Lynch Mob album, which was Anthony’s first professional record, as well as Bark At The Moon, which was mine. We were in the studio one day and Anthony was talking on the phone. Then he looked at me and said: “Hey, do you want to talk to Max?” I remember Max was very curious about what we were up to. He thought the songs were great and later asked if he could be a part of it. He did a great job. It was fate that we’d all work together.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Jake E. Lee by Clicking Here!

Interview: Ted Nugent discusses his new album, ‘The Music Made Me Do It’, career

Photo: Brown Photography

Over the course of his illustrious career, Ted Nugent has carved a permanent place in rock history. To date, the guitar legend and Motor City Madman has sold more than forty million albums and performed just shy of seven thousand shows.

On Nov. 9 Nugent, along with bass virtuoso Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless, will release a brand-new album, aptly titled, The Music Made Me Do It. As an added bonus, each CD will include a full-length concert DVD, “Live At Freedom Hill,” captured at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, Michigan in 2017. To tease the new album and raw energy of his live concert experience, Nugent has also released a video for the album’s title track that was shot at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA.

AXS recently spoke with Nugent about The Music Made Me Do It, his career and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did this project come about? What inspired it?

Ted Nugent: It’s not about spurts of inspiration. It’s about constant inspiration. I’m inspired every day I grab a Gibson guitar and go into uncharted territory. I figured out my American freedom and individuality a long time ago. When I’m outdoors and removed from music and the clusterf#ck of politics it cleanses my soul. We all need to escape, but that’s not to say we need to abandon responsibility. I’m so engaged in this beloved experiment in self-government and I raise as much hell in this guitar playing, we the people as I possibly can. I fight for the Constitution, Bill of Rights and freedom, and to raise the battle cry of “America First”. That’s why my music is the most soul cleansing, nature-is-healer, rhythm and blues, rock and roll groove fest.

AXS: What’s your writing process like?

TN: I’ve never in my life sat down with a pen and paper and said, “Hmm. What shall I write a song about today?” [laughs]. F#ck that! I just pick up my guitar and start pounding and create more bastard children of honky tonk and boogie-woogie. My hands start moving and I sing lyrics that are my life. It’s almost out-of-body. I’ve never contemplated chord structures or lyrics. I just love to go on adventures on the guitar neck.

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Interview with Ted Nugent by Clicking here!

Interview: Smithfield’s Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder talk music, touring

Photo: Jason Myers

With hook-laden melodies, clever songwriting and rich harmonies, the partnership of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder (Smithfield) are fast becoming one of Nashville’s most in-demand acts. The duo, whose family connection spans three generations, defines their music as an infectious blend of rock and pop mixed with traditional country.

Smithfield spent the year as part of the Granger Smith tour before hitting the festival circuit this past summer. Now the pair has embarked on their first nationwide radio tour promoting their latest single, “Our World.”  But don’t expect Smith and Fielder to slow down and hibernate over the long winter months. The duo plans to hit the studio again to record more new music to be released early in the New Year.

AXS recently spoke with Smith and Fielder about Smithfield and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did the two of you come together to form Smithfield?

Jennifer Fielder: Trey and I have known each other since we were about ten years old. Our families go back three generations, so our grandparents and parents all knew each other. Growing up, our families did parties together and Trey and I met at one of our New Year’s Eve parties. As far as how we formed Smithfield, even though Trey and I knew each other, we grew up singing separately. I was doing country music in college when Trey’s rock band had broken up. He reached out to me and the two of us got together. That’s when we discovered our voices blended perfectly together. It was fate that we were meant to sing together, and our journey began from there.

AXS: How would you describe your sound?

Trey Smith: I come from a rock background and Jen comes from a more traditional, country background. But our sound is really focused on our harmonies. I like to say that it’s a rock and pop mix that’s rooted in country music.

AXS: How does your songwriting process work?

JF: Sometimes it starts with an idea, title, or a melody that Trey has on his guitar. Other times, our co-writer will have a great idea and we can latch on and tell the story. Sometimes we may just be chatting in the room about life and an idea will come out of that. You can never plan to write a great song. It just happens.

AXS: What can you tell me about your recent single, “Our World?”

TS: One of the great things about Nashville is that there are so many great songs being written every day. “Our World” was a song that was pitched to us by a friend. When a song connects with you and can bring out an emotion, it’s something you want to cut. This was one of those situations where we knew it was a Smithfield song the moment we heard it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Smithfield by Clicking Here!

Interview: John Schneider discusses ‘Dancing With The Stars’, new music and downloadable App

For the multi-talented singer-songwriter, actor (and dancer), John Schneider, telling stories is in his DNA. The same can also be said for his amazingly talented and beautiful “Dancing With The Stars” partner, Emma Slater. The couple’s innate ability to weave deep layers of emotion into their routine is a big reason why they’ve done so well on the popular ABC series this season.

As Schneider continues his whirlwind run in the competition, he’s also busy promoting his new music single, “Devil In The Mirror,” as well as his John Schneider App. A portal which gives fans access to all of his events and social media as well as a one-stop shop for his music and merchandise.

AXS recently spoke with Schneider about what it’s like being on “Dancing With The Stars”, his new single and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What’s it been like working with Emma Slater this season on “Dancing With The Stars?”

John Schneider: It’s been great. Emma’s a storyteller, just like me. Once we started to gel, she started thinking about songs where we could tell great stories. She really went out of her way to find the right song, the right movement and mood for “Smile” (our recent dance) so that we could tell the story about me missing my mother but finding my smile at the same time. It’s not always about the dancing. It’s about what you’re saying, and telling stories is in her soul.

AXS: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about dancing?

JS: All of them are different, so it’s about technique and frame. You’ve got to keep your frame rigid and that boils down to keeping your elbows up, especially in the Waltz. You have to look like you have a broom handle stretching elbow to elbow straight across your back. It always feels like I’m doing it but when I look back at the video my elbows are not up. For me, it’s a lot like golf. If you get too comfortable with your swing, chances are it’s wrong.

AXS: How does dancing in front of so many people compare to performing music or acting?

JS: The assumption everyone has is that the nerves kick in when you get to Monday night and all of the people, but that’s actually when I feel most comfortable. In this case, comfort is really not my friend because comfort equals “elbows down”. But what we did this past Monday night was beautiful. I know this because they have about a hundred stagehands constantly moving stuff around and working their butts off. After our dance, I noticed several of them were crying. That to me is more important than technique. I’m not designed to be a perfect, technical dancer. I’m designed to connect to an audience. So, when I see a 52-year-old man in a black t-shirt crying underneath a light after I did a dance, I know I did something important and touched someone. Our job is to entertain and make you feel something for a certain amount of time, and for that I’m grateful.

Read the rest of my
Interview with John Schneider by Clicking Here!

Interview: Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson discusses the band’s new album, ‘Mixed Reality’

Photo: Shervin Lainez

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than twenty-five years since Gin Blossoms’ monstrous breakthrough album, New Miserable Experience. A record which was a much-needed alternative to the flavor of the week pablum and grunge scene and featured the hits “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Found Out About You,” and “Allison Road.” Perhaps nothing captures that same spirited sentiment better in 2018 than the band’s brand new album, Mixed Reality.

Produced by the legendary Don Dixon, Mixed Reality features the jangle influence Dixon made famous on early albums by REM and The Smithereens. At the same time, vocalist Robin Wilson’s lyrics and delivery on tracks like “Break,” and “Face The Dark” are infectiously reminiscent of the band’s early days but also show a deeper level of musical maturity. A testament to a band who, even after a quarter of a century, still has a lot left to say.

AXS recently spoke with Robin Wilson about the new Gin Blossoms album, Mixed Reality, memorable moments, touring and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: It’s been eight years since the band’s last album, No Chocolate Cake. What inspired Mixed Reality?

Robin Wilson: Motivation. It had been too long and we were anxious to record again and do something to propel our career. Mixed Reality is a companion to New Miserable Experience and an album I feel we would’ve wanted to make in 1990.

AXS What was it like having Don Dixon produce Mixed Reality?

RW: It was very exciting. Don Dixon [and Mitch Easter] recorded the first two REM records. Those were at the core of our influences as a band. I remember when we went into the songwriting, I felt very connected to my twenty-year-old self when I was listening to REM, The Smithereens and those records that inspired us.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like? 

RW: Generally, I keep a notebook of lyric ideas and when I come up with a melody, I’ll look through my list to see what leans into it. For a few of the songs on this album, I sat down with the guitar and wrote the melody and lyrics at the same time. A good example of that is the song, “Break.” I had that verse and chorus of that song within about ten minutes. It took a few weeks to add the bridge and refine it a little, but once I felt like I was onto something I became confident in the material.

AXS: What can you tell me about the track, “Face The Dark?”

RW: I had originally written that song thinking it was going to be about the end of my marriage. But once I had it pretty well wrapped up, it felt more like it was either about, to, or from Doug Hopkins, our original guitar player. Having already been thinking of REM and the records Don and Mitch had made, it was really easy to think about Doug too and some of my memories of him.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Robin Wilson by Clicking Here!

Interview: Bassist Trevor Horn Discusses His Role in Dire Straits Legacy tour, career milestones

DSL (Dire Straits Legacy) is an experience and celebration of the Grammy-Award winning British rockers’ music. It’s an evolving contingent that features former members of Dire Straits – Alan Clark (piano/keyboards), Danny Cummings (percussion), Mel Collins (saxophone) and Phil Palmer (guitar/musical director). Other renowned musicians, including drummer Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty), bassist Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Yes), Marco Caviglia (vocals/guitar) and Primiano DiBiase (keyboards) have also joined in various stages to tour and record.

The contingent, which has already toured Europe and South America and released their first original album, 3 Chord Trick, late last year, is now embarked on a U.S. tour that will run through mid-October. The tour gives longtime fans the opportunity of hearing hits like “Sultans of Swing,” “Walk of Life,” “Romeo & Juliet,” and the quintessential MTV classic, “Money For Nothing,” performed live for the first time in decades.

AXS recently spoke with bassist Trevor Horn about the tour, his career and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did you become involved in the DSL project?

Trevor Horn: I became involved last year because one of the guitar players was someone I use a lot on my records. He told me the band was doing some gigs in Brazil and needed someone on the bass. It’s been an interesting experience and has made me have a lot more respect for Mark Knopfler as a writer.

AXS: What do you think makes the music of Dire Straits so special?

TH: I can tell you straight off. The lyrics are real and the playing is terrific. Just the way Mark Knopfler writes; he takes things a lot of people use and turns them on their head in a really good way. Obviously, his guitar playing is great too.

AXS: What’s next for the group after this run of U.S. shows?

TH: We’ll be off to do some shows in Bucharest and Italy. I’ll also be doing a show with my own band in November at the Royal Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Trevor Horn by Clicking Here!