Category: Interview

‘Powwow Highway’: Actress Amanda Wyss Discusses Films 30th Anniversary And Continued Relevancy

Still powerful in its message and poignant in its relevancy more than thirty years after its release “Powwow Highway,” based on the novel by David Seals, remains one of the most timeless and significant films about the indigenous struggle to preserve their native culture.

The film tells the story of Native American Philbert Bono (Gary Farmer), a reflective and loveable man seeking to gain higher identity through the use of mystical and traditional means. His friend and Vietnam War veteran, Buddy Red Bow (A Martinez), is an adversarial social activist trying desperately to protect what’s left of his Cheyenne Reservation from government interlopers and greedy land developers.

The story takes a unique turn when the duo goes on an unexpected road trip in a rusted-out car to rescue Red Bow’s sister, Bonnie (Joanelle Romero), who’s been wrongly accused and arrested in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along their journey, Red Bow’s hard-edged view of life and the world around him is put to the test by Philbert’s resolve and undying faith. Together they will learn the true meaning of their heritage, friendship and love.

The award-winning film, which includes the coveted Filmmakers Trophy at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival, was produced by late Beatle George Harrison and features a rich soundtrack that includes songs by Robbie Robertson, U2 and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Amanda Wyss, who’s intense portrayal of the flawed Meridith Lane in the 2015 psychological thriller, “The Id,” is equally as brilliant in “Powwow Highway” as Rabbit Layton, a fiery Texan who plays an important role in the film’s climatic third act.

Although filmed in the late 1980s, the messages behind “Powwow Highway” tragically continues to stand the test of time.

I recently spoke with Wyss about the 30th anniversary of “Powwow Highway” and more in this exclusive new interview.

When you look back on “Powwow Highway” with so much perspective what thoughts come to mind?

It doesn’t feel like thirty years have gone by because I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was exciting on so many levels. First, it was based on real characters and we had an amazing cast of brilliant actors like Gary Farmer, A Martinez and Joanelle Romero. George Harrison produced it and Robbie Robertson was doing the music. We filmed it as a road movie in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and New Mexico and everyone became immersed in the story.

Why do you think the film remains timeless and relevant so many years later?

It’s amazing and tragic at how so little has changed. That’s why it remains so relevant. From working on the film, I learned a lot about the activism side and how hard different reservations have to fight against the government just to maintain their land, culture and resources. I walked away from the film with a deeper respect for the people fighting to protect and preserve what they have left. It’s made a lifelong impact on me. But we all share a similar deep connection. Jonathan Wacks [director] went on to teach film at the College of Santa Fe for many years. Joanelle also goes there a lot. She created The Red Nation Film Festival, which showcases indigenous filmmakers. She’s a great actress, singer-songwriter and mother.

What initially attracted you to the story?

I was sent the script and knew right away it was a part I had to play. I loved Philbert Bono (Gary Farmer) and the character of Buddy Red Bow (A Martinez) and their relationship. I also loved that it was set in the southwest and based on real people. The character of Rabbit Layton was so fun. I felt her in my bones.

Do you have a funny story to share about the role?

I remember going to read for the role and it was put on tape. I had a hair appointment later that afternoon and dyed my hair red and the color didn’t come out right. I was resigned to having to wear it for a while but then got a call back and had that put-on tape as well. Up to this point, I hadn’t even met the director and got a call from him later that night offering me the role. I’ll never forget what he said: “You know, it might have just been the lighting, but on camera your hair looks pink” [laughs]. I admitted to him that it was and he asked if there was any way I could put it back to blonde. Give credit to the wonderful hairdresser because I had about five days to change it back.

Amanda Wyss – Gary Farmer

What were your thoughts when the film won the Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance?

It was thrilling. We didn’t celebrate it there but we knew it was special because its message and story was so powerful. I feel lucky to have played a part in telling it.

Do you ever foresee yourself getting on the other side of the camera at some point?

I have a strong desire to direct and hope that will be my next phase. I love the idea of not just having a microcosm of a movie as an actor but an overall view of the story and all of the little pieces. To be able to put people together on the same page as you are about the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. I’d be very excited to do that.

What role would you consider to be your deepest dive as an actress?

One of my deepest dives was “The Id.” It was an extraordinary experience with people who protected and enabled me to go down a rabbit hole that was deep and messy. I felt totally safe because of the director of photography, the director and producer. It was a huge learning experience for me and a powerful, creative moment. I like playing characters with a dark side that gets revealed and feel very fortunate for the people who’ve given me the opportunities and roles I’ve been able to play.

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Interview: Janet Gardner discusses departure from Vixen, solo career and new music

When vocalist/guitarist Janet Gardner announced that her departure from Vixen this past January, it came as a bit of a surprise. After all the band, known for hits like “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Rev It Up,” had just completed another successful year of touring as well as releasing a new live album – the aptly titled, ‘Live Fire.’

For Gardner, the decision to leave didn’t come easy. Following her marriage to guitarist Justin James and the release of her acclaimed self-titled solo album, the blonde songstress spent the beginning of 2018 being rushed into emergency surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma. Her recovery was quickly followed by a string of solo U.K. shows before rejoining Vixen for even more live dates. This coupled with the process of juggling a regular job at home and raising her son had made scheduling too difficult. Something had to give.

There were no hard feelings with the split and Vixen, which consists of Share Ross (bass), Roxy Petrucci (drums) and Britt Lightning (guitars), will continue to carry on with Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale) joining the ranks on lead vocals.

n the meantime, Gardner is concentrating on her solo career and has nearly completed a follow-up album with James she hopes to release in the spring. Expect to see her out on the road in support of the new music as well as continuing to perform the hits she helped make famous.

AXS recently spoke with Janet Gardner about her decision to leave Vixen, new music and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What prompted your decision to leave Vixen and concentrate on your solo career?

Janet Gardner: Last year was insane for me. It started off in January when we were on a solo run out West and I had to have emergency brain surgery. I made up all of the missed shows and then did a U.K. run. Then Vixen started and we did even more great stuff. When I finally came up for air I was back home to my regular job, taking care of my son and all the other things that I do, and realized I was missing out on a lot because of scheduling. I had to make a decision.

AXS: Was this something that had been weighing on you for some time?

JG: Absolutely. I definitely wanted to make it work. They [Vixen] had made concessions for me when I needed to do things and I would feel bad about holding them back. I remember one time being stuck in a Detroit airport for eight hours and missing my son’s middle-school graduation. It’s hard to leave my family but I don’t want to keep Vixen from doing what they want to do. It was a tough call.

AXS: What are some of your best memories with the band?

JG: There’s been quite a few. Opening for Scorpions was our first arena tour and the first night of that tour was surreal. When I heard “Edge of A Broken Heart” on the radio for the very first time and our record went gold was another dream come true. They’re all good memories.

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Interview with Janet Gardner by Clicking Here!

Interview: Josh Malerman discusses The High Strung’s New Album, ‘Quiet Riots’ and writing ‘Bird Box’

Photo by Doug Coombe

Josh Malerman and the rest of adventure rockers The High Strung have unveiled the band’s eighth full-length release, Quiet Riots. The fourteen-track album is the group’s most harmony-laden to date, as it sees them reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Mark Owen, who’d been on hiatus for more than twelve years. Songs like the guitar-driven “Legion” and the effervescent “If You Wanna Roll” conjure up images of free-spirit and cross country drives, while tracks like “Riots Of The Mind” are a reminder that this world is still a very unsettled place.

The High Strung is: Josh Malerman (guitar/vocals), Mark Owen (guitar/vocals), Stephen Palmer (guitar), Chad Stocker (bass) and Derek Berk (drums).

Josh Malerman’s artistry not only lies within the craft of music but also as an acclaimed novelist. His post-apocalyptic thriller, “Bird Box,” a New York Times Bestseller, was recently adapted into a Netflix original feature. Since its release last December the film, which stars Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, has become Netflix’s biggest hit to date.

AXS recently spoke with Malerman about The High Strung’s new album, Quiet Riots, “Bird Box” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How does the new album, Quiet Riots, relate to some of the band’s previous work?

Josh Malerman: This is the most harmony-laden album so far and a lot of it has to do with Stephen, our lead guitarist, who was more involved in this singing. Then there’s Mark Owen, one of our two singer-songwriters, who had left the band for twelve years and returned. For me, this will always be the album that was kickstarted by Mark’s return and our first real attempt at a harmony album.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?

JM: Usually either Mark or I will come in with a little hook of an idea. Whether it’s a chord change or a lyric one of us will bring it to the table and we’ll finish the song together. [Mark] Owen is also great at lyrics, and when you have a songwriting partner who cares so much about them as he does you can’t help but step up your game.

JM: Let’s talk about a few tracks from the new album beginning with “Riots Of The Mind.” What can you tell me about it?

JM: Mark brought that one to the table. It’s a wonderful way of saying things are crazy without being too hazy or political. There’s something pocket poetic about it. There’s a lot of crazy sh#t going on in the world right now and it would be wrong to not even wink in that direction.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Josh Malerman by Clicking Here!

Interview: Thompson Square’s Keifer Thompson discusses the duo’s new children’s book, ‘Time To Get Dressed’

Photo by Garrett Merchant

As new parents, the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated duo Thompson Square (Keifer and Shawna Thompson) have discovered a new layer of creativity with the release of their first children’s book –the appropriately titled “Time To Get Dressed.” The book, written by Thompson Square, illustrated by Ana Patankar and inspired by the duo’s two-year-old son, Cooper, features a sing-song storyline with whimsical pictures designed to teach children how to get ready for their day.

In addition to “Time To Get Dressed” Keifer and Shawna Thompson continue to ride the wave of success and acclaim from their latest album, Masterpiece. An eleven-track opus that features more of the duo’s infectious vocal blend while sonically exploring landscapes of R&B, reggae and rock.

AXS recently spoke with Keifer Thompson about “Time To Get Dressed,” music and more in this new interview.

AXS: What inspired you to write “Time To Get Dressed?”

Keifer Thompson: Our son, Cooper, was a few weeks old and I was putting him in his crib one morning. I started putting his socks on and just started singing, “Socks, socks, one by one… Puttin’ on socks can be so fun.” Shawna was there at time and asked me if that was something my mom used to sing to me as a kid. I told her it was something I had just made up and she told me I really needed to finish it. I’d never written anything like that before so I went downstairs and a few hours later went up and showed her. Then we played it for management and everyone agreed that we needed to make it into a book. We got an amazing illustrator, sent a few photos and suggestions of how we wanted it to look and she knocked it out of the park. What’s interesting is that it’s not just a song. It’s a learning tool and application that helps with the whole process of getting dressed. It’s been neat to see people gravitate toward the book. We’re very excited at how it’s taken off.

AXS: What’s the biggest thing you and Shawna have learned as new parents?

KT: There’s a level of love that’s unparalleled and something that can only be experienced by a parent. You often hear people say they can relate, but you really can’t until you know that you’re responsible for the life of someone every day. Before Cooper came along my mornings usually started early in the house thinking about songs or writing. As a creator, you’re always looking for that next emotional roller-coaster. This is a built-in inspirational vault and has given life a purpose.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Keifer Thompson by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Eric Schenkman Discusses New Solo Album, ‘Who Shot John,’ the Spin Doctors, Gear

Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman’s third solo album, Who Shot John, showcases the many sides of the artist’s vast repertoire.

Whether it’s the colloquialism of the album’s title track, the unbridled anarchy and groove of songs like “Agent Orange” and “Locked in the House All Day,” or the hard, Chicago blues feel on tracks like “I’m All Right,” Who Shot John is radio-friendly enough to draw listeners in, while his guitar wizardry reveals a dynamic, effervescent complexity.

Guitar World recently spoke with Schenkman about Who Shot John, the Spin Doctors and more.

How would you describe Who Shot John in terms of its sound and maybe how it relates to some of your previous work?

Sound-wise, it leans heavily on my working with a trio, which is something that I do a lot, and how I’ve been understanding music through the blues these last several years. It’s a good representation of where I’m at now and [looks] at a lot of different angles and perspectives that I’ve come to terms with.

What’s your writing process like?

It happens very differently for different songs. Sometimes a song can be melody-driven, like “Fortune Teller” and “Far Away.” A song can also be very immediate and other times could take years to write. “Agent Orange Blues” is an example of a tight, visceral response to a situation, whereas a song like “Who Shot John” came from a lyric I started about 20 years ago and just recently finished. I had that one in my head for years trying to figure out what the lyric meant.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Eric Schenkman by Clicking Here!

Interview: Theresa Caputo discusses ‘Live! The Experience’ event coming to Bethlehem, PA

Photo: Alex Chaput

Theresa Caputo’s “Live! The Experience” is a one-of-a-kind event that connects the Long Island Medium with legions of loyal fans and skeptics from across the country. Each show is uniquely different in that it brings people from all walks of life together for an evening that’s spontaneously spiritual and, at times, beyond belief.

The New York Times Best-Selling Author and star of her acclaimed series, “Long Island Medium,”is about embarking on a whole new round of dates that will take her across the U.S. to deliver messages of hope while challenging cynics to believe that anything is possible. One of those stops will be a two-night stay at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2.

Caputo’s been sensing Spirit since she was a small child, but it wasn’t until she was in her twenties that she began to hone her intuitive, sixth-sense ability to put pieces of the puzzle together and help others to heal. Her “Live! The Experience” is certain to be an unforgettable evening.

AXS recently spoke with Theresa Caputo about her Live! The Experience event and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What can fans expect from your upcoming “LIve! The Experience” events at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA?

Theresa Caputo: With the live show, I always tell people it’s just like watching “Long Island Medium,” but without the shopping [laughs]. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to create and bring to the live show. Whether there are five people in the room or five-thousand, it’s all spontaneous. I start off the night like any other reading by coming out and giving a quick speech about what people can expect over the next two hours. Then Spirit starts communicating. I’ll leave the stage and whether it’s in the front row, back, or balcony, I’ll stop and deliver the message right in front of the person. We have big screens set up and cameras that follow me around so everyone feels a part of it. No matter where you’re seated you’ll be able to see the messages being delivered up close and personal. Every message provides so much healing. Spirit allows us to continue to go on with life no matter what we’ve been through. It lets us know that there’s more to life than just here in the physical world.

AXS: What do you think attracts people to your live events?

TC: One of the main things is that when a tragedy happens or when we lose someone we sometimes don’t understand why and lose our faith. This show restores that faith and gives hope. Another thing I’ve learned is that people come to the show because they’re skeptical or intrigued. But it doesn’t matter if people believe in what I do or not. I want them to believe in themselves and have their own connection. I want you to believe that all of the things you are feeling are real.

AXS: Was there ever a “wow” moment for you during these live events?

TC: It may sound cliché but with every reading, there are those moments. There are always things that happen where you’ll say, “There’s no way. How could this happen?” But what I do is so much more than just communicate with someone who has died. It reunites families and gives people a sense of peace they can’t get through anything else.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Theresa Caputo by Clicking Here!

Interview: Madame Mayhem Discusses New Single, ‘Broken’, Memorable Moments

Co-written with Breaking Benjamin’s Keith Wallen, Manhattan-born singer/songwriter Madame Mayhem is back with her infectious new single, “Broken.”

The new track, which features the powerful rhythm section of Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Winery Dogs) and Ray Luzier (Korn, KXM) continues the dynamically gifted artist’s trend of delivering infectious melodies, hard-hitting rhythms and soaring vocals.

AXS recently spoke with Madame Mayhem about “Broken” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did your new single, “Broken,” come about?

Madame Mayhem: It’s always cool when you can collaborate with people who hold you accountable and can bring something of their own to the table as well. I’ve written a bunch of songs with Keith Wallen and “Broken” is one that came out of those sessions. I always like it when listeners can relate to a song in their own way. For me, “Broken” is a song about the feeling you get when you’re in a relationship with someone and both of you know it’s over, but both of you are afraid to admit it.

AXS: What was the writing process like?

MM: I always say this but it’s true: there’s really no one set way to write. I could go in with a bunch of lyrics and Keith may have a bunch of riffs. Sometimes we may use them and other times we may just scratch it all together and talk about what we’re feeling right now. We’ll both come prepared but sometimes it can all go out the window and we’ll start with something new. It’s very organic.

AXS: Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?

MM: The lyrics usually come from the struggles and frustrations I’ve been through. It’s therapeutic to get the song out, and when I hear people say that they feel the same way it makes me feel that I’m not alone. It’s writing from truth.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Madame Mayhem by Clicking here!