Category Archives: Music
Vision Films has partnered with Fathom Events to bring a riveting new rock documentary, Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows Into the Spotlight, to select U.S. movie theaters this summer, with an exclusive one-night theatrical event set for June 29.
The feature-length doc, which has been screened to critic and audience acclaim at SXSW Festival, Glastonbury Festival and Calgary International Film Festival, introduces fans to several unsung heroes of the music industry. These artists have played with legends such as Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Alice Cooper and many more.
Guitarist Phil X (Bon Jovi, the Drills) is just one of the artists featured in the documentary. I recently spoke with him about Hired Gun, his role in Bon Jovi, the Drills, his gear and more.
How did you get involved with Hired Gun?
[Producer] Jason Hook and I go back to our teens outside of Toronto, Canada. He moved to LA a few years before I did, and we later started putting a band together and making music. We went on to different things and ended up in the “side guy” realm of life. When he was presented the opportunity to make a documentary, he had the idea of getting all the people together he knew who were hired guns. So it was a no-brainer for him to call me up and say, “Hey man, you just toured with Bon Jovi. You want to be in there?” [laughs].
Was having a career in music something you always aspired to do?
For me, there was no choice. I feel that if you’re truly passionate about making music, you can’t do anything else. You’re always making music because it’s in your heart. Everyone has a dream of being in a successful band, but for some reason, my bands always happened on a small scale. The hired-gun thing started in the studio and by meeting people and then playing guitar on their records. Two years later, around 1999, I was asked to come in and play on Tommy Lee’s solo record, Methods of Mayhem. It started snowballing after that.
How did you wind up getting the gig with Bon Jovi?
It happened very quickly. I was doing my session thing at Henson Studios, and John Shanks had a studio there. John co-wrote and produced a lot of the recent Bon Jovi records, and I’d run into him a lot either having lunch or walking down the hallway. What changed the game was one day he came up to me and told me he couldn’t stop watching my YouTube videos.
We hit it off, and a few weeks later he called me up and told me about a gig he had. He told me about a band that was having some issues with their guitar player and that I might be the guy to get called in to do some shows when he can’t. I said, “Ok, who are we talking about?” and he said, “Bon Jovi. Do you want to do it?”
So they gave me the material to learn the two-and-a-half-hour hour show and told me I’d be in the reserve tank. That meant I might get a call or I might not. Then it happened: April 14, 2011. They told me to go to New York and rehearse with the band. I was on hold again, and then “on hold” became “Let’s go! We’re playing New Orleans in a few days and there will probably be 50,000 people there.” That was it!
Read the rest of my
Interview with Phil X by Clicking Here!
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Foreigner’s eponymous debut album.
The record—fueled by the hits “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Cold As Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time”—launched the band into worldwide stardom. It would be the first in a string of consecutive multi-platinum monster releases that included Double Vision, Head Games and 4.
Much of the credit for the band’s success can be attributed to Lou Gramm, whose songwriting skills and emphatic vocal performances played a monumental role in the band’s hook-laden formula. In fact, he and Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by none other than Billy Joel.
Although he’s been out of the band for more than a decade, Gramm continues to write, record and tour the arsenal of Foreigner hits with his Lou Gramm band. And as Foreigner prepares to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a new tour this summer, there’s word that Gramm will once again be joining Jones at a yet-to-be-determined Foreigner show.
I recently spoke with Gramm and his guitarist, Michael Staertow, about Foreigner, Lou’s solo career, music, gear and more.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first Foreigner album. When you look back at that album now with so much perspective what thoughts come to mind?
GRAMM: Working with Mick [Jones] was a very creative situation, and I remember how much fun it was to write those songs and record them. Even when we weren’t at our most imaginative; instead of just putting everything away, we plugged along, putting down different ideas. Before long, we were right back swinging again. It was a very positive time.
Can you tell me the origin of the song, “Long, Long Way From Home”?
GRAMM: That was the very first song Mick and I wrote together. He would always play me cassette tapes with guitar riffs and told me that if one of them tweaked my ear to let him know and we’d work on it. I heard that great guitar riff that started the song and we began working on the verse and B section. The chorus was a little tough to crack but we did. Lyrically, it’s the story of me coming to New York City.
There’s been talk of you joining Foreigner for their 40th anniversary tour this summer for at least one show. Can you confirm this?
GRAMM: Yes. It’s being planned. Right now, we’re trying to pick the best night and venue. I’m not at liberty to say where it could be, but I can say it’s going to be a ton of fun.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Lou Gramm & Michael Staertow Here!
The Mission is classic rock giant Styx’s 16th studio album and their first disc of new material in more than 14 years.
The concept album—which will be released June 16—is an adventurous, 43-minute thrill ride chronicling the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs of the first manned mission to Mars in 2033.
From the hopeful drive and classic Styx sound on tracks like “Gone Gone Gone” and “Hundred Million Miles” to the stargazing machinations of “Locomotive” and the elegiac optimism of the closing track, “Mission to Mars,” The Mission succeeds in delivering the good from a band that continues to fire on all cylinders more than 45 years after signing their first recording contract.
Styx features Tommy Shaw (guitars/vocals), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals), James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass).
I recently spoke with Shaw and Young about The Mission, music and the band’s upcoming United We Rock Tour with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder.
It’s been more than 14 years since Styx’s last studio album, Cyclorama. How did The Mission begin?
SHAW: Things have changed so much in just the past decade. It used to be you’d spend a lot of time in the studio and then go out and tour for three months. Now, it’s in a way that’s favorable to having band like us recording again. Even though radio has disappeared, so many different ways to get to your fans have opened up. It made sense for us to get back into the recording business again.
YOUNG: We also knew we were coming up on the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, which for me was our most productive, progressive time frame and our most successful as well. There’s elements of that album as well as Pieces of Eight on this record.
What was the songwriting process like?
SHAW: For me, the best songs are the ones that come to you. It’s like you just walked into a room and they were already playing on a radio. This album started out as a little acorn that fell to the ground and took root. That acorn [“Mission to Mars”] was an idea that came to me in a dressing room playing around on a warm-up amp. It had a setting with a little echo and I started playing this guitar riff. I liked it and recorded it on my phone and then later built a demo around it. One thing Styx is good about is talking about things you’re going through in life. No matter what the subject is, there’s always a human element to it. That’s when I realized this was something Styx could do.
What can you tell me about “Gone Gone Gone”?
SHAW: That was another dressing-room idea. James Young is one of these guys where you always have to pay attention when he first puts his guitar on, because a lot of times he’ll spew these amazing ideas out when he’s warming up. It’s like they come out of thin air. He had been playing this riff for a few days, and I finally asked him to show me how to play it. So, we started playing it together and then Lawrence walked into the room and he said, “Alright, somebody make this into a song!” We knew all along that this had to be the [album’s] opening song. It’s the perfect way to open the album and start the show.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Tommy Shaw and JY Young Here
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, but it still makes sense.”
That’s how nine-time Grammy winner Dan Auerbach describes his new album, Waiting On a Song, which will be released June 2 on his own Easy Eye Sound label.
Waiting On a Song is the followup to the Black Keys frontman’s 2009 solo debut, Keep It Hid. It’s also a love letter to Nashville; Auerbach recruited some of the town’s most respected players to write and record for the new project, including John Prine, Duane Eddy and Bobby Wood. Even Mark Knopfler contributes his own snaky, snarling guitar to “Shine On Me,” which you can hear below.
Other standout tracks include the cinematic “King of a One Horse Town” and the upbeat but melancholy title track. The song’s music video—which was directed by Bryan Schlam—reinforces that perspective by following a group of teens during the “best summer of their lives” before they head off to college.
I recently spoke with Auerbach about Waiting On a Song, songwriting, his gear and more.
When you experience Waiting On a Song as a whole, there are so many different styles and influences from the Sixties and Seventies that come across. Was that the intent?
A lot of what you’re hearing is the guys from those records that you remember listening to, like Bobby Wood, who plays Wurlitzer on this record, also played on hits by Elvis and Dusty Springfield. When you listen to this record you’re not being reminded of a certain style. You’re actually listening to the guy who created the style.
What’s your songwriting process like?
It all depends. Sometimes, you have a melody first or a lyric, and other times it can just be a title and you can write a whole song based on it. What I do know is that every single song on this record was done in an old-school, “songwriter” way of getting into a room with someone and writing a song on acoustic guitar or just on a piano. I’m so used to having the studio be a part of the writing process, but not on this record. Everything was done ahead of time, which is really interesting because it was the first time I’ve ever done that.
When I was growing up, we’d sit around in a circle and play guitar and sing bluegrass and blues songs. Now, I’m sitting in a circle with the guys who wrote many of those bluegrass and blues songs and we’re writing together. Even though it was the first time I did it, something about it felt very natural.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, beginning with the title track.
I’ve got a little room over at my house that we started writing in last summer. I spent the whole summer in that room just writing, and I wrote that one with John Prine and Pat McLaughlin. The concept for the video was director Bryan Schlam’s idea. He executed it so well. Even if you didn’t grow up during that time period, everything those guys and girls are doing makes you feel nostalgic. There’s something warm about the video, but the feeling of it really matches the song in an uplifting, melancholy way.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Dan Auerbach by Clicking Here
‘Defying Gravity’: Paul Gilbert Discusses Mr. Big’s New Album and His Improving Improvisational Skills
The call went out: It was time for a new Mr. Big album.
And with that, original members Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums)—along with Matt Starr (drums)—convened in a Los Angeles recording studio. In a matter of six days, the band’s ninth original studio album, Defying Gravity. was born.
Produced by Kevin Elson, who’s worked with Mr. Big on their classic albums from the Eighties and Nineties, Defying Gravityfeatures inspired songwriting, virtuostic musicianship and most importantly, tasty fretwork. In fact, most of Gilbert’s solos were tracked live with the band, showcasing the development of his improvisational skills in both melodic and face-melting ferocity.
I recently spoke with Gilbert about Defying Gravity (which will be released July 7), gear and the upcoming G4 Experience.
Where did the idea for Defying Gravitybegin?
We really wanted to do a new album and tour, and it was just a matter of coordinating our schedules. Back in the early days, Mr. Big was the only thing any of us did. Now that we all have different solo projects and bands that we play in, it’s a bit trickier to coordinate. We wound up having six golden days where everyone was free.
On the last album [The Stories We Could Tell], we did a lot overdubs and later realized the best way for us to work is live in the studio. There was a good energy and it was quick enough where we didn’t overthink things. It put us in a good state of mind and we had such an enjoyable time.
Did your approach to guitar change much for this album?
I’ve been working on my improvisational skills, and I think that’s something that’s starting to show on this record. When you record an album in six days, you don’t have time to work out a lot of stuff. So a lot of the solos were improvised. But it’s not necessarily about flashy licks. It’s also about harmonically locking in and playing the right note at the right time. I think I was able to do that more than ever before.
What was it like working with Kevin Elson again?
It was fantastic. We had so many good memories of working with him on those four classic albums. Kevin has a great ear and is very mellow, but he’s also very supportive. Because we worked so quickly, a lot of times we didn’t even have time for demos. So when you brought a song to the band you had to do a buskers version for the first time in front of everyone. It can be scary because you’re thinking, “What are they going to think?” But at the end, everyone said let’s work on it. So it went from that raw, one-man band version to a complete track within a few hours.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Paul Gilbert By Clicking Here
Since releasing their classic debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, in 1989, hard rock giants Warrant have gone on to sell more than 8 million albums.
And while songs like “Down Boys,” “Heaven,” “I Saw Red” and “Cherry Pie” have cemented their place in Eighties metal history, it’s their tight musicianship, inspired songwriting and perseverance that sets them apart.
Six years after the release of their last album, Rockaholic (the first to feature new frontman, Robert Mason), Warrant return with yet another slab of muscular hard rock, Louder Harder Faster, which was released May 12.
Produced by Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, ex-Dokken), the new album is full of the familiar rockers and signature ballads the band is known for. Warrant is Erik Turner (guitar), Jerry Dixon (bass), Joey Allen (guitar), Steven Sweet (drums) and Robert Mason (vocals).
I recently spoke with Dixon about Louder Harder Faster, gear and Warrant’s decision to record a rocking cover of Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.”
If you had to describe Louder Harder Faster in one word, what would it be?
Raw. There’s not a lot of repair work on this album or fixing things with ProTools. We all just got in the room and captured the magic without worrying about it being completely perfect. Sometimes when you’re in the studio worrying about wave forms and where they are on a bridge you can actually do damage to a record. We just decided to just say, “Does it feel good? Yeah? Ok, let’s move on.”
Has Warrant’s songwriting process changed much over the years?
I like to think songs just go though you. Sometimes songs can come from just walking down the street, like the song “Big Sandy.” I remember I was going to Robert’s house to write another song when I went by this big empty wash that was called the Big Sandy Wash. It just cracked me up and I said, “There’s a song, right there.” So, you take things like that, get on to something and then try to finish it.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Jerry Dixon by Clicking Here!
Zepparella, the all-female rock band that dares to channel the almighty Led Zeppelin through their own improvised magic, will perform at the Third Annual Malibu Guitar Festival, which runs May 18 through 21.
The festival pays homage to the Rolling Stones, a band fronted by two of rock and roll’s biggest icons—Mick Jagger and Keith Richards—both of whom have defined the look, attitude and sound of rock for more than five decades.
Other acts scheduled to perform include Steve Vai, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and Hunter Hayes. Robby Krieger of the Doors will receive a special honor in celebration of the iconic American band’s 50th anniversary.
Zepparella, which features Gretchen Menn (guitar), Clementine (drums), Angeline Saris (bass) and Noelle Doughty (vocals), blend a diverse array of influences ranging from speed metal to classical to jazz, R&B and rock—all of which is channelded into a top-notch Led Zep tribute experience. The group also is featured in the upcoming documentary, She Rocks.
Menn is still riding the wave from her acclaimed solo conceptual project, Abandon All Hope, an album based on Dante Alighieri’s epic 14th-century poem, Inferno.
I recently spoke with Menn about the Malibu Guitar Festival, Zepparella, her music and more.
How has reaction been to your solo release, Abandon All Hope?
It’s been great. I assumed that by its nature it might be specific in its audience. But I recently had a supporter in Germany who bought it for his 78-year-old mom who wasn’t into rock at all, and he told me she absolutely loved it. On the flip side, I have a 6-year-old nephew who’s at an age where’s he’s not shy to tell you exactly what he thinks, and he loved it as well. I’m so glad it’s reaching and affecting so many people.
What can you tell me about Zepparella’s upcoming show at Malibu Guitar Festival?
It’s going to be a little different from a normal Zepparella show. Once in a while, we’ll have someone sit in with us for songs like “When the Levee Breaks” and “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” This show will be different because we’re going to be playing with a bunch of different people. Initially, we thought we were going to be the house band and play other people’s stuff. But Steve Vai said, “Let’s play some Zeppelin!” Can he be any more awesome? [laughs].
What’s it like for you to be able to share the stage with Vai?
I’m trying not to be completely freaked out about it [laughs]. Steve’s a guitar god, and it’s an incredible honor. When you’re 15, it’s something you never dream of. It all comes from a positive space.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Gretchen Mann by Clicking Here!
‘We Start Wars’: Vocalist Seana Discusses Band’s Infectious Debut Single and Performance At The Whisky A Go Go
We Start Wars, the new band which features guitar goddess Nita Strauss along with Nicole Papastavrou (eight-string guitar), Alicia Vigil (bass), Seana—a.k.a. Shauna Lisse (vocals), Katt Scarlett (keyboards) and Lindsay Martin (drums), prides itself on breaking down the “chick band” stereotype by combining virtuoso playing with multi-layered songwriting and high-energy performance.
The band’s infectious, groove-driven debut single, “The Animal Inside” showcases all of the aforementioned technical and melodic abilities of this adrenaline-fueled sextet as well as delivering something that has never been done before.
We Start Wars will make their live debut on May 25 at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood.
I recently spoke with Seana about We Start Wars, her songwriting, career and more in this exclusive new interview.
How did We Start Wars come about?
It actually started with Nita [Strauss]. She’s been dreaming of putting this band together ever since she started playing guitar. She spent a lot of time finding girls by focusing on technique and abilities. I was the last piece of the puzzle. This band has a lot of energy and power and I love the fact that every song is different.
What can you tell me about the band’s debut single, “The Animal Inside”?
The music for the song had already been written, so I just took it and added the lyrics. I based the song off adrenaline. So, the animal in “The Animal Inside” is adrenaline. Adrenaline affects us all and gives us the strength and power to do whatever needs to be done. Whether it’s a wrestler before stepping into the ring or an artist taking the stage or an audience waiting for a show to start, it was inspired by that feeling. That adrenaline rush. It’s also a great way to introduce ourselves.
As an artist, what’s your writing process like?
My songwriting process is eclectic and no process is ever the same, which is actually what makes being in a band so awesome. I’ve written songs alone and have taken tracks home and added lyrics and melodies. I’ve also collaborated with other members and have hooks and melodies that come to me in dreams. No song is the same and that’s what keeps it interesting. As far as inspiration, I’m inspired by life, death and this whole crazy ride we’re on together. I like my songs to leave a person feeling like they always have a place to come back to. Whether it’s a place where you can get pumped up, laugh or cry I like talking about things in life and am not afraid to talk about the sad because life isn’t always perfect. I like to keep it real.
What can fans expect from We Start Wars’ debut at The Whisky?
This is our first show, so expect lots of adrenaline and high energy. We have a lot to prove and we’re going to prove it on stage at that show. I’m stoked!
Was a career in music something you always aspired to have?
For the most part. I always saw singing as a hobby until Amy Lee and Evanescence showed up on the scene. That was a game changer. She made me think of my singing as something I could make a career out of. I decided then and there that I would work really hard and never give up.
Who are some of your other musical influences?
Prior to Amy Lee, I was influenced by Pink Floyd, who were life changing for me. My first best friend was my grandpa who passed away when I was four. He had this room where we used to play together and after he was gone, I remember sitting in the room by myself listening to the radio and Pink Floyd’s “Time” was playing. It was the first time I understood that music was more than just words and instruments. It was therapy. Other influences would be Jewel, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Heart and Rage Against The Machine. My grandmother was a piano teacher and was also a big influence on me.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
I have a pop project I’m working on which is just my name, Seana, and have a few songs recorded that I’m piecing together. It’s definitely different than my rock stuff, but I love all kinds of music. I did vocal jazz in school and went to college for vocal performance where there was a lot of opera.
What are you most looking forward to about this next phase of your career with We Start Wars?
I’m excited to share this experience with other amazingly talented ladies. I’ve never been in an all-girl band before and am looking forward to sharing the stage with other strong-willed, talented women.
Wendy Dio and the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund will present the third-annual Ride for Ronnie this Sunday, May 7.
The event kicks off at Harley Davidson of Glendale, California, and ends in Encino with a live concert, auction and dining at Los Encinos State Historic Park.
This year’s event is hosted by Dio’s longtime friend, Eddie Trunk, and the lineup includes performances by Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples, Eddie Money, Rough Cutt and an all-star band featuring Steven Adler (Guns N’ Roses). There’ll be a silent auction at one of the exhibit booths throughout the afternoon while live auctions—featuring one-of-a-kind rock collectibles—will take place between performances.
Last year’s event raised more than $50,000 for the cancer charity, and 100 percent of funds goes to cancer research and education.
I recently spoke with Wendy Dio about this year’s Ride for Ronnie and more.
When did the idea for Ride for Ronnie begin?
It really began when we were trying to raise money for cancer and keep Ronnie’s legacy alive. When we did the fifth memorial for Ronnie, we realized there were a lot of people coming in from Sweden, Italy and from all over the US. We decided to try to find something for them to do over the weekend and at the same time help raise more money. So we came up with the idea of putting together a bowling event the day before and having a Ride for Ronnie the day after. Harley Davidson from Glendale came on board as our sponsor, and it was so successful and we had so much fun that we said this is great idea.
At the first one, we had about 150 riders and 500 people. Last year, we had 350 riders and 1,500 people in attendance and raised more than $50,000. We’re hoping this year to have more people and do even better. We have a great lineup, and it will be fun day for everyone keeping Ronnie’s music and memory alive while raising money for cancer research and education.
How does the Ride for Ronnie work?
“Kickstands Up” will start at the Harley Davidson in Glendale and then we’ll ride with a police escort ride to Encino where we’ll have bands playing. But people don’t have to ride to be a part of the event. They can just buy a ticket to come into the show—it’s $25 pre-sale and $35 on the day of the event.
What can you tell me about this year’s entertainment?
Eddie Trunk, who’s been a great supporter of heavy metal music and a great friend of Ronnie’s, is hosting again. We’ve got Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples, Eddie Money, a re-formed Rough Cutt, the Loveless, Sonia Harley and No Small Children. We also have a surprise—Steven Adler recently came on board and is putting together an all-star band to do some Guns N’ Roses songs. There also will be vendors, food trucks, beer and wine, live and silent auctions and raffles, with items that include a signed Great White guitar as well as a bundle of Black Sabbath and Dio stuff.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Wendy Dio by Clicking Here!
The Afghan Whigs‘ spellbinding new album, In Spades, which will be released May 5, is the long-awaited followup to their internationally acclaimed Do to the Beast (2014).
The album, which was written and produced by Greg Dulli, features the tastefully eclectic singles “Demon in Profile” and “Oriole”—both of which you can hear below—plus the guitar-centric “Arabian Heights.”
In addition to an already-planned European tour, the Whigs will perform a sold-out show at New York City’s Apollo Theater on May 23.
Unfortunately, the new album and tour happen to coincide with Dave Rosser’s recent cancer diagnosis. Although Rosser is unable to tour for extended periods, the guitarist promises to perform at the Apollo show—and maybe even a few other dates.
The Afghan Whigs are Greg Dulli (vocals/guitar), Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), John Curley (bass), Patrick Keeler (drums) and multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson.
I recently spoke with Dulli, Rosser and Skibic about In Spades, touring, gear and more.
How would you describe In Spades, and how does it relate to the band’s previous work?
DULLI: Honestly, it’s the next evolution. This is the first record we’ve done live in the studio together in 20 years.
ROSSER: It’s pretty guitar-centric and there’s lot of riffing, but it’s still very cinematic. With Rick Nelson in there, we’ve got the multi-instrumentalist who plays violin, cello, piano and guitar.
What was the songwriting process like?
DULLI: I write songs based on the feeling of the riff. The riff and its subsequent arrangement then tells me what it wants to be. I’ve written that way since I was 13. But I’ll never tell anyone what my songs are about, because I feel songs are personal to the listener—and the interpretation is up to them.
SKIBIC: It was a pretty organic process. Out first session was about two weeks long, and at times it seemed we were writing a song a day.
ROSSER: A lot of times during sound checks we’ll jam out to ideas and record them. The time in between albums and touring is spent collecting ammo and then after that, it becomes a matter of finding targets to fire that ammo at.
Read the rest of my
Interview with The Afghan Whigs by Clicking Here!