Category: Music

Back To School

Me, June 11, 1987

Thirty years ago I had an epiphany. It was March of 1990 and I was in the middle of my second semester at West Chester University. My goal at the time was to major in education and, eventually, go on to teach young, impressionable minds about the only subjects I truly cared about: guitar and music.

Before we go any further, allow me to give you a little back story:

I had already graduated high school three years prior to this revelation but things didn’t turn out the way that I planned. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved music, but back then all I wanted to do was be the next Eddie Van-Halen. I knew that was something that wasn’t going to hapen overnight, so I decided to enroll at Penn State University in the Fall of 1987 as a music major.

I had no money set aside for school and my parents, who’d recently divorced, had no means of helping to fund my education either. So I applied for grants and took out loans. Quite a few loans if you really want to know. I was told at the time I wouldn’t have to worry about paying them back, at least not until six months after I’d finished school. It was almost too good to be true. I’d be rich and famous by then.

Most of my tuition for that first semester was covered by loans, and the people at the bank were kind enough to give me plenty of extra money as well. Checks made out to James Wood rolled into the bursar’s office faster than cars at a Chik-fil-A drive-thru, and every day I’d sneak down to the office in between classes to see if another one had arrived. Ones that were supposed to be set aside for schooling but instead I used to buy important things, like guitars and amps and treating my friends to coffee and cheese french fries at the local Perkins. I went to school three times a week, didn’t have to work and the money continued to roll in. I was living the life, or so I thought. Don’t believe me? Here’s an entry from a journal I kept back in 1987:

Journal Entry: Sept 2, 1987 while sitting in Psychology class.

By November, I was getting pretty tired of going to school. I just wanted to rock, and there was no one who could tell me otherwise or point me in the right direction. I dropped out of Penn State and spent most of 1988 working odd jobs while trying and failing, often miserably, at starting a band.

One day I received a letter in the mail informing me that, since I was no longer enrolled in college, the funds from my student loans would have to be repaid. The bill had come due. Not just for all the classes I dropped, but for all those guitars, amps and five-star meals I’d consumed. I needed a way out and fast.

I decided to attend the local community college with an emphasis on music education and an eventual transfer to West Chester University. This worked out well for me in two ways: First, it put the money I already owed on the back burner again. Second, and even more importantly, it allowed me to continue to take out more loans for tuition while pocketing the rest. By August of 1999 and my first semester at West Chester, I was already looking at some serious debt, and I was not even twenty-years-old.

“This is going to be worth it,” I assured myself.

Which leads me back to the ephipany of 1990 and to when I’d once again pretty much given up on college. Sure, I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t paying attention in class and was driving home almost every weekend. One day two of my roomates who, unlike me, had just finished studying, asked if I wanted to join them for a night out. When I reached into my pocket to see what funds were available, I fished out a single dollar bill and thirty-seven cents worth of loose change. It was all the money I had to my name. I reluctanly told them I’d have to pass.

That’s when I had the epiphany. Even though I’d given it the old college try, school just wasn’t going to be for me. I had to face the inevitable and do the one thing I hated most in life….. find and keep a job.

I decided to drop out of West Chester. Well, let me rephrase that, I didn’t actually drop out of school. I abandonded it. Yep, I packed my things, drove home and never went back. Eventually received the report card stating I had received all “F’s,” save for an English II course where the instructor was kind enough to put down a WP (withdrawl passing) for me. I would wind up spending the next ten years slowly making payments on my loan while working as a garbage man and pharmacy technician. I did try going back to community college in the mid-nineties and, although grateful my loan payments were again put on hiatus, once again never finished more than just a few courses.

Around the turn of the century (still blows my mind to say that) I decided to change careers and enrolled at the now defunct Allentown Business School where I received a quick diploma in Information Technology and have spent the better part of the last twenty years resetting passwords. Yes, I do a LOT more than that but don’t want to bore you with tech stuff. It took more than a dozen years but I even managed to pay back every penny I owed in student loans.

Journal Entry: September 1987

Recently, I had another epiphany. My daughter, now a high school graduate herself, enrolled at the same community college I attended. As I looked over her schedule it got me thinking about all the classes I’d taken over the years and how much I’d left on the table. All the money I spent on education, guitars and meals that went absolutely nowhere. Having not thought about such things for the longest time, I decided to find out what classes I had.

I started by logging onto the community college’s website and viewed my transcript. I was suprised to find that I had accumulated 51 credits in subjects ranging in everything from psychology and music to French and philosophy. This led me to check West Chester’s website where I discovered more than a dozen more I’d earned.

Hmmmmm…..

With newfound curiosity I decided to reach out to an advisor at the community college to see what this hodgepodge of classes might get me in terms of a degree… any degree… and how fast it could get me there. After reviewing everything I’d given her, the woman I spoke with told me that if I took an environmental science course over the winter and four other courses in Spring (English II, Developmental Psychology, Environmental Sustainability and Nature of Mathematics) I would earn an Associate in Arts Degree in General Studies and graduate in May of 2021. What’s more, all of the required courses could be taken completely online at my convenience, so it wouldn’t interfere with my current job.

So, guess what I’m doing after more than thirty years? …. I’m going back to school. It is an idea as frightening as it is thrilling.

What do I intend to do with this degree? I’m so glad you asked. Because that was the same thing the advisor wanted to know when I told her I wanted one as quickly as possible.

Initially, she asked me what prompted a 51-year-old man to consider a career change, noting that my answer would be crucial in determining which courses I should enroll in.

“If your goal is to move on to a four-year college and become a teacher,” she said, “you’ll definitely want to make sure you cover your education requirements.”

“I have no intention of becoming a teacher or even changing careers,” I told her. “I enjoy what I do.”

“Then why would you want to get a degree at this stage of your life?” she asked, curiously.

I thought about high school and the three colleges I attended. The classes I took, the guitars I bought, the meals I ate and the loans that were now long paid off. I was grateful to finally be in a position where I wouldn’t have to worry about taking out any more of them. Then I smiled.

“I want it for me,” I said.

Interview: The Revivalists’ David Shaw Steps Into Solo Spotlight

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

Acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer and Revivalists front man David Shaw recently unveiled the first two singles from his forthcoming debut solo album: “Shaken” and “Promised Land.” The new music, both deeply relevant and poetically poignant, showcases a deeper side of the enigmatic Shaw’s talent as artist and storyteller.

The first track, “Shaken,” is a groove-ridden song about confronting fears and insecurities and trusting the path that makes you who you are. The second single, “Promised Land,” is a powerful statement about systemic injustice and the gap between the haves and have-nots. Both will be included on Shaw’s debut solo album tentatively scheduled for release early next spring.

I recently spoke with David Shaw about his new music and more in this exclusive new interview.

What prompted you to do a solo record at this point in your career?

David Shaw: I always knew I would do it at some point, I just didn’t know when. The band has been a well-oiled machine moving on its own and I thought now was a good time. I was also noticing that I needed to grow in ways a band culture doesn’t necessarily foster. The process of doing everything myself was such a learning experience. The main thing surrounding the project was me wanting to see how much joy it could bring to my life. That’s what I wanted a lot of the songs to focus on. I realized early on just how much my own psyche can be affected by the music that I listen to and the music that I make and wanted that to permeate through the recording process.

What’s your writing process like?

DS: It can start with anything but most of the meat of my writing comes from a clever lyric that will come to my head and then I’ll explore it. Other times I might just sit down with my guitar and play chords and start scatting melodies. Sometimes words will come along with those melodies. If there aren’t words in my “fishing expedition” I’ll go through my notebooks and skim through my random meanderings and put words to the melodies. That’s always been my process.

Let’s discuss the new tracks, beginning with “Promised Land.”

DS: That was a song that was written before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all of the latest civil unrest. It’s a song about the haves and have nots. There’s a lot going on in this country with people walking around every day with a target on their back. For me, as a white, privileged male, I need to be vocal about how we can change. I hope the song can be a facilitator for good.

Read the rest of my
With David Shaw by Clicking Here.

Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell look back at America’s remarkable 50-year career

The pair discuss their love of acoustic guitars, working with Beatles producer George Martin, and the band’s 50th anniversary box set, Half Century.

Multi-platinum selling group America is celebrating their 50th anniversary with the ultimate eight-disc box set, aptly titled Half Century. Produced for release and compiled by Jeff Larson, the CDs contain rare archival studio recordings consisting of alternate mixes, demos and rehearsals, including several previously unreleased tracks dating from 1970 to 2000.

Along with the remastered 1973 Bremen in-studio performance and two CDs of radio interviews providing audio overview of the band’s career, there’s a DVD of Super 8 home movies (1972-1975) that gives fans a behind the scenes look at the legendary band’s early years.

Guitar World recently spoke with founding members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell about the new release and more.

What goes through your mind when you think about this 50th anniversary milestone?

Dewey Bunnell: “It’s mind-blowing, to be honest. Those first 20 years seemed to go on forever but these last thirty have really blown by. We’ve been very active the whole time; writing songs, recording, and touring. It’s like what they say about your babies: enjoy them while you can because they’ll grow up before you know it. It’s true.”

Gerry Beckley: “It really is an immense amount of time and we’re as amazed as everyone else. We’re still very happy to do what we’re doing. It’s not quite as easy as it was when we were younger in terms of travel, but the shows have become even more rewarding.”

How did you decide what to include on the 50th Anniversary Box Set?

Beckley: “We definitely have to give a nod to our archivist, Jeff Larson, who for years has been in touch with all of the stuff in between the cracks. There was a lot more than just the yearly album we would make. It’s a lot to keep track of and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Bunnell: “Gerry and I were very lucky to have held on to a lot of our early material and Jeff had the flexibility of finding out what went well together. We did it together but Jeff did all of the heavy lifting.”

What can you tell me about the newly released track, Remembering?

Beckley: “I tend to do multiple recording of things and that particular track was on one of my solo projects [2011’s Unfortunate Casino]. I’d done an earlier version with beautiful backgrounds from our dear friend, Jeff Foskett, and we put Dewey’s vocal on it. It framed the subject of dealing with time and made a nice addition to the box.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunell by Clicking Here.

Zach Myers: “Brent told an audience of 2,500 people that we were making a double album… it was the first I’d heard about it!”

Photo: Sanjay Parikh

One half of new duo and Shinedown offshoot Smith & Myers on the pair’s mammoth debut album, and what’s next for the Billboard chart-topping hard-rockers

Brent Smith & Zach Myers, one-half of Multi-Platinum band Shinedown, recently released their full-length double-album project, Smith & Myers Volume 1 and 2. The new albums are an acoustic-flavored combination of original and covers that showcase the duo’s barebones approach to tasty guitar riffs, hook-laden melodies and intriguing vocals.

Included with the cover material is a re-imagined and poignant version of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, a grungy spin on Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, and a darkened take of REM’s Losing My Religion.

The original material is equally as powerful and includes the catchy alt-rocker, One More Time, as well as explores such topics as racial injustice [Not Mad Enough] and romance difficulties [Bad At Love].

Guitar World recently spoke with Zach Myers about the new project and more in this new interview.

How did the Smith & Myers project come about?

“Smith & Myers started with a radio/label contest where they asked us to do a few covers that fans had picked. We didn’t want to do that as Shinedown, as we already have a cover attached to our name [Simple Man], so Brent and I decided to do the songs together acoustically the way they were recorded.

“As far as this project goes, it started when Brent and I did a few shows together as Smith & Myers. I always vamped in between songs while Brent was talking to the audience and one night, he went on stage and said: “You know, a lot of people keep asking when we’re going to do a record. So, I wanted you guys to know that we’re going in and making a double album.”

“It was the first time I’d ever heard about it, in front of 2,500 people, live on stage [laughs]. Brent likes to put things out in the atmosphere to hold himself accountable and follow through, so we did it! We started tracking on February 20, right before the world came to a halt, and finished the last three songs separated from each other remotely.”

What was the criteria for choosing which songs to cover?

“We listened to a few suggestions from fans but most of the songs were ones we just enjoyed listening to. We didn’t want to do them as they were originally written, because if you listen to a song like Rockin’ In The Free World; those are some of the best lyrics ever written.

“Especially when you consider that it’s a thirty-year-old song that’s just as relevant today as when it was originally written. I remember when we had our first meeting and I went in with my own mission statement.

“I said let’s pretend the songs we do had never been written and were brand new. Suppose I handed you lyrics that had never been sung before. How would we play these songs if we wrote them? That was the approach. The cover that really started it all though was Losing My Religion.”

Read the rest of my
With Zach Myers by Clicking Here.

Brad Gillis on his modified Strat, working with Gary Moon and that time he bought a wig for Ozzy Osbourne

The longtime Night Ranger guitarist checks in ahead of the release of his solo album:

What can fans expect from your upcoming solo album?

It’s aggressive and heavy but there are also a few ballads. There’s a track called Sex and the Money that’s about meeting who you think is the girl of your dreams – only to find out that she’s really a hooker. There’s also a song on which I’m singing called World Shut Down.“

The last time you worked with Gary Moon was on Night Ranger’s Feeding Off the Mojo [1995]. What was it like working with him on your solo project?

“Gary’s a great bass player and his voice is so pure; that’s why I brought him back in. I’ve also got [keyboardist] Derek Sherinian, plus drummers Larry Howe (from Vicious Rumors) and Matthias Montgomery playing on a bunch of tracks.“

What’s the story behind your 1962 Strat?

“I’d just finished my stint with Rubicon back in 1978 when a friend knocked on the door with pieces of a sanded Strat he didn’t want. I had a gallon of orange paint and took it to a shop where it was primed and painted. I then had the neck painted black and the original Fender decal put on. Around the same time, word was getting around about the new Floyd Rose tremolos. 

“I loved how Eddie [Van Halen] worked the bar and did dive bombs. I found the third one at a shop in San Francisco and traded a Les Paul Custom for it. They installed the tremolo on my Strat and threw in a fret job. The deal was done and a new ball game began.“

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here.

Interview: Shinedown’s Brent Smith & Zach Myers Preview Relevant Tracks From Forthcoming Smith & Myers Duo

Photo: Paris Visone

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brent Smith & Zach Myers By Clicking Here.

Phil X: “Livin’ on a Prayer is one of best rock songs ever. I still get goosebumps after playing it hundreds of times!”

Right On The Money is the latest installment from Phil X & The Drills and a dynamic addition to the band’s already explosive discography. The guitar-driven track was recorded at legendary Capitol Studios with Chris Lord Alge and also features Daniel Spree on bass and Brent Fitz on drums.

The new single is separate from The Drills upcoming fifth album, Stupid Good Lookings Vol 2 – it’s a diverse compilation that will feature a different drummer, including Tommy Lee, Liberty DeVitto, Kenny Aronoff and Ray Luzier, on each song.

We recently caught up with Phil X about his new single and Gibson endorsement, as well as an update on the new Bon Jovi album.

Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams were scheduled to tour this summer, but the pandemic cancelled those plans. How have you been spending your time?

“I’ve been keeping busy doing remote sessions in my studio. People will send me their files and I’ll upload the session and lay down the guitars. Then I’ll send them back the session. It keeps my creative chops up. I also feel good about what The Drills are doing right now and being able to include my kids in the video for Right On The Money.”

Speaking of Right On The Money, how did the song come about?

“I do my best writing when I’m driving around. When I’m driving I don’t like to listen to music. I like to listen what’s in my head and one day I had this bouncy riff going on and the phrase Right On The Money.

“It means that no matter what’s going on you just have to stay positive. The song’s an opportunity to lift spirits in this crazy time.”

How did the opportunity to record that track at Capitol Studios come about?

“Chris Lord-Alge is a huge fan of The Drills and he had the opportunity to do a masterclass on recording live bands off the floor at Capitol. So, he called and asked if we’d be interested in coming in and recording three songs. It was a dream come true.

“I’ve done a lot of sessions and my favorites are the ones where everyone is recording together. Anytime I get a chance to do that with my band I just love it.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Phil X by Clicking Here.

Interview: Fee Waybill Returns With Guitar-Driven Solo Album, Shares Secrets Behind Tubes Classics

Fee Waybill Rides Again is the legendary Tubes frontman’s first album of solo material in nearly fourteen years and a compilation seven years in the making. Together with longtime collaborator and producer Richard Marx, the duo’s vision of creating a raucous, guitar-driven album has become one that’s both deep in variety and universal appeal.

Led off with the infectious lick of “Faker,” the album combines well-crafted songs and tight musicianship with Waybill’s ubiquitous vocal, which sounds better than ever.

Other standouts on Fee Waybill Rides Again include the hard-charging “Promise Land,” the groovy and hook-laden, “Meant To Be Alone”, and the crossover country vibe on the track, “Still You On The Inside.” A song written by Marx and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger that was originally intended for Chris Daughtry. Featured guests on the new album include guitarists Michael Landau and Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon along with bassists Jason Blynn and Whynot Jansveld.

For longtime fans of classic rock and The Tubes, this seven years in the making album was certainly worth the wait.

Fee Waybill Rides Again is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.

I recently spoke with Waybill about his new album and more in this exclusive new interview.

Can you give me a little background of how this new album came about?

Fee Waybill: Richard [Marx] and I have been friends since 1983, when I met him at a Tubes session. Every summer he and I and his boys would take a vacation to his cabin in Wisconsin. About six years ago we decided to use that time to go into the studio and recorded the song “Faker.” That was when we first came up with the idea of doing another solo record. We wound up doing three other songs during that time, “Woulda Coulda Shoulda,” “Promise Land,” and “How Dare You.” Then life reared its ugly head and we didn’t do another track for almost six years.

Six years seems like a long time in between sessions.

FW: It was, but about a year and a half ago we decided to revisit the album and went back through the archives of songs we had written over the years. We found the track “Say Goodbye,” which we had originally intended to use for one of Richard’s albums. Every time I listened to it I realized what a great song it was and wanted to add it to the list.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Fee Waybill by Clicking Here.

The Go-Go’s: “If you think we’re sweet girls who wrote candy-flavored pop songs, our history is going to be a surprise”

Photo: Paul Natkin

The Go-Go’s Documentary, directed by Alison Ellwood, whose other work includes the Emmy-winning History of the Eagles, chronicles the band’s meteoric rise from the LA punk scene to the world of superstardom.

With rare photos, live footage and shocking revelations, fans will discover the grit and determination behind the band’s early years in the clubs as well as their tumultuous UK tour with The Specials and Madness before returning to the States and becoming the first, and only, all-female band to play their own instruments, write their own songs and have a number 1 album.

The new documentary, which also features candid interviews with both current and former members as well as management, also includes the new song, Club Zero, the first new Go-Go’s recording in nearly 20 years.

Guitar World recently spoke with The Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock about the new documentary in this new interview.

How did this documentary come to fruition?

Charlotte Caffey: “We were approached by Alison Ellwood about the idea of doing a documentary. At first, we were a bit nervous because we didn’t want it come across as a salacious ‘behind the music’ kind of thing. Alison did such a great job. It really puts perspective on things. ”

Kathy Valentine: “The documentary gave us a chance to get something out that was a more complete narrative than what was already in the public eye. The band coming out of the L.A. punk rock scene is something that not everyone is aware of.

“Alison and her team compiled all of this fabulous filmed footage. It was challenging but it’s a testament to her skills as a director in putting together an interesting and exciting story.”

Belinda Carlisle: “A documentary is a heavy thing to commit to because your story is cemented forever. It took a while for us to put our trust into Alison but we’re so glad that we did.

“For a person who thinks The Go-Go’s are these sweet girls who wrote candy flavored pop songs, our history is going to be a surprise.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with The Go-Go’s By Clicking Here!

‘Thee Critical Beatdown’: Body Count’s Vincent Price Discusses New Video, Re-issue of ‘No Lives Matter’

Photo: Dirk Behlau

Although many recognize him from his two-decade run as Odafin “Fin” Tutuola, the mild-mannered star of NBC’s “Law And Order: Special Victims Unit,” Ice-T has played a significant role in music by combining progressive elements of rap, hip-hop and metal. The legendary artist is also not afraid to speak his mind when it comes to issues that continue to plague America.

In light of current events, Ice and his band, Body Count, have released a new radio edit of their single, “No Lives Matter.” A prophetic song which first appeared on the groups ferocious 2017 album, Bloodlust. The track’s message is more relevant than ever and a step towards inspiring transformation and unity.

In another surprise move Body Count has released a new animated music video for their hard-hitting track, “Thee Critical Beatdown,” from their acclaimed album, Carnivore, released this past spring. The visual was created by Tommy The Animator, who also worked with the band in creating the video for “The Ski Mask Way.” “Breakdown” is a warning to the trolls who like to infuse rage while sitting behind a computer screens that their day of reckoning is coming.

I recently spoke with Body Count’s Vincent Price about the music and more in this exclusive new interview.

What frustrates you about what’s going on in society today?

Vincent Price: What’s frustrating to me is what’s being going on in the world for a long time, and that’s people just hating each other. It started a long time ago and, over the years, everyone was thinking it could change. A lot of people don’t really pay attention to Ice’s lyrics, but the truth is he’s been talking about this for a long time and people are just now starting to see it.

What’s the band’s writing process like?

VP: We write the music and Ice writes the lyrics. Some people look at Ice as just an actor or rapper, but he’s a true musician who knows what he wants to hear. He knows all the ins and outs of metal and hard rock.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from the band’s latest album, Carnivore. What can you tell me about “Thee Critical Beatdown?”

VP: Whenever we’re working on new material I’ll come up with a working title. At first I was calling it “Gangster Slayer” because it was so heavy. We had been in the process of writing for a while when Ice came in with the lyrics. It’s basically “Talk Shit Get Shot Part 2.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Vincent Price by Clicking Here.