Category: Music

33 Years of Employment

Me, June 11, 1987

Who would have thought how much could change in a thirty three years? To think that at the time since I received my high school diploma in June of 1987 the world has become such different place.

I’ll be honest, when this picture was taken I figured it would probably only be a year before I’d be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, talking about my band’s debut album and world tour with Def Leppard. I had high hopes and wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.

Thirty-three years ago the only thing I wanted to do was rock. I’m serious. I mean that’s ALL I wanted to do. I really didn’t want to go to college, and I sure as hell had no interest in doing anything that resembled actual work.

On the contrary, my days were usually spent sleeping til around noon, noodling on my guitar and mooching money off of my mom and grandmother for such things as gas for my car and coffee and cheese fries at Perkins. After all, a man’s gotta eat, right?

“Borrowing” money from them soon began to get old and my options for disposable funds was starting to run out. I was worried that I might be completely broke before fame came knocking at the door.

What to do?

It wasn’t until I discovered that student loans were readily available that I began to have second thoughts about going to college. I mean, who wouldn’t want some free money? Money you wouldn’t have to pay back until after you graduated college!! Hell, that could take YEARS!! I quickly signed the first promissory note I saw and still have vivid memories of running down to the bursar’s office every day at Penn State Allentown to see if there was a big check for me. And what did I do with this windfall of cash you ask? The money I was supposed to use for books and tuition? I bought a guitar and amp and wound up dropping out.

This cycle inevitably repeated itself over the next few years as I applied to community college and eventually, West Chester University. I discovered that as long as I was enrolled in school I was “off the hook” as far as paying back the money. At least in the short-term. It wasn’t until I woke up one morning in my dorm, dug into my pockets and realized I had $1.37 to my name that I had an epiphany. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. Here I was, twenty years old with $1.37 to my name and nothing more. The friends I’d graduated with were now halfway done with college and most were well on their way to bigger and better things. It was my wake up call. Rock and Roll would have to wait.

On May 29th, 1990 (thirty years ago as of this writing), I started working full time on the 4-12:30 am shift as the head garbage man at Easton Hospital. That’s right, I literally started at the very bottom. Any gum wrapper, cigarette butt or operating room bio hazardous waste was handled by me. I hated it with a passion. They even fucked up and spelled my name wrong in the company newsletter. Despite all of my self-doubt and embarrassment of being a garbage man, something inside kept me going. I knew better days were ahead.

A year later, a position opened up in the pharmacy. It was a 2:30-11pm shift but was the perfect chance for me to get out of garbage. I worked that position for eight years.

Eventually, I made the decision to go back to school and get my degree in computers, married, bought a home and became the father of a beautiful daughter. It took me fifteen years but I eventually paid back every cent of my student loan debt.

Perhaps the best thing of all was that my own rock star dream didn’t die. I now live it vicariously through my writing. The point being, we can do anything we want to do. Be anything we want to be. We just need to make a plan and do what it takes to get there.

As I look back on this picture, three decades after it was taken, I see someone who had big dreams. And someone who, thirty-three years later, found a way to make them come true.

Saxophonist Boney James Discusses His ‘Solid’ New Album

Solid is the title of four-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Boney James’ seventeenth album. It’s the follow-up to his hugely successful 2017 release, Honestly, which became his eleventh #1 album on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.

The inspiration for the eleven-track compilation flowed at an unusually quick pace for James and is chock full of the signature sound and movement. Most notably, on the infectiously smooth opening track, “Full Effect,” and “Luna,” which features an ethereal, almost Latin-fused groove.

Other highlights from Solid include the album’s title-track and “Tonic,” both of which inspired and built from licks performed by guitarist Kendall Gilder during sound checks on James’ Honestly tour. “Be Here,” an Adult-Urban single initiated by James’ longtime collaborator, Jairus ‘J-Mo’ Mozee, is another transportive track that features an inspired serenade from special guest, Kenny Lattimore.

With Solid, James delivers an album worthy of his depth, creativity and maturity. Moreover, its a welcome respite from the stress of today’s chaotic world.

Solid will be released on Friday, June 12.

I recently spoke with James about the new album and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did Solid come about?

Boney James: It’s been over two years since my Honestly CD and I started getting the urge to make new music. Whenever that feeling hits I’ll start collecting ideas. I discovered that as soon as I started writing, the songs just sort of popped out. Sometimes a song might have taken a little bit longer to develop but, for the most part, once I put my thinking cap on there they were.

How does the new album relate to some of your previous work?

BJ: That’s a tough thing to say. I just make the music and let other people decide what to think. Every record has its own character but I was feeling a strong sense of positive energy from this music. Some of these songs put a big smile on my face. I remember as I was making the record it was very transporting and took me out of the day to day worries of stress of life. That’s always what I try to do but I really felt it this time, particularly on a few of these songs. With everything going on in the world right now it’s even more appropriate to have something that might put a smile on your face when you listen to it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Boney James by Clicking Here.

Interview: Emma Taylor Defines Herself With Evocative New Single, ‘Made Your Bed’

Emma Taylor has never been one to follow formulaic trends when it comes to her craft. Although the L.A.-based songwriter’s haunting and ethereal music is drawn from personal inpsiration, it’s the conversational passion in her lyrics that truly defines her as an artist.

There’s a timeless curiosity about Taylor’s sound that not only resonates with the listener but also hearkens to the mid-70s singer-songwriter world of artists like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor.

In her new single, “Made Your Bed,” Taylor showcases a new perspective in poetic subject matter. Where previous songs had discussed such topics as being stuck in pongnant, unhappy relationships, we now find the songstress learning to stand up for herself and not settling for anything less. Taylor’s infectious, evocative vocal and uniquely powerful production is a gentle reminder that true artistry still exists in a pablum-fueled world of status quo.

I recently spoke with Emma Taylor about “Made Your Bed” and more in this exclusive new interview.

The first thing I have to ask is how have you been dealing with the quarantine we all find ourselves in?

Emma Taylor: It’s definitely affected me. It’s crazy to not have the inspiration from social interaction but, right now, it’s a lifestyle change we all have to make. I do miss regular day to day things and conversations we all take for granted. As far as performing goes I’m not sure when that will happen again but when it does, it will most likely be different.

Can you give me a little backstory on your new track, “Made Your Bed?”

ET: Some of my previous songs have had an underlying theme of being stuck in a relationship. For this one I really wanted to flip the table and say, “Hey. You’re screwing up and I’m not going to allow it anymore.” It’s a song about taking responsibility for your actions and not letting someone you love get away with it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Emma Taylor by Clicking Here.

‘World Goes Round’: Frank Musker and Jeff Hull Discuss Rediscovered 80’s Musical Time Capsule

Back in 1989 a behind the scenes group of renowned songwriters and studio musicians, Frank Musker (Queen, The Babys, Air Supply), Elizabeth Lamers (John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Christopher Cross), Jeff Hull (Brenda Russell, Heart, Chaka Kahn) and Marty Walsh (Donna Summer, Eddie Money, Sheena Easton), decided to get together to record an album. The result was World Goes Round, a powerful collection of pop, inspiration and creativity.

As artists who, at the time, were also heavily involved on other projects, the album was eventually shelved and would reamin unheard for more than thirty years. It wasn’t until guitarist, Marty Walsh, found a cassette tape of the tracks in his basement that the music of World Goes Round is finally seeing the light of day.

The ten-track album, produced by Tommy Vicari (Prince, Billy Idol) and fueled by the infectious lead single, “Big House,” was digitally transferred using 21st century technology. A product of its era conceived in a pressure free setting, World Goes Round sounds as fresh and relevant now as it did more than three decades ago.

I recently spoke with Frank Musker and Jeff Hull about uncovering the World Goes Round time capsule and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did the music of World Goes Round finally see the light of day after all this time?

Jeff Hull: It was when our guitar player, Marty, found the cassette in his basement, listened to some of the tracks and then sent them to everyone. It’d been thirty years since any of us has heard it. What’s interesting is that we weren’t able to find the original multi-track of the recordings. So, we went in and remastered from cassette. We were amazed at how good it sounded.

How did World Goes Round originally come together?

Frank Rusker: I had a house and studio in Laurel Canyon where we would have sessions and worked with A-list players. I was in a relationship with Elizabeth at the time and we were always making music. Elizabeth had been working with Marty Walsh and we were always letting other people use the studio as well. One day, I heard Jeff playing and knew right away I wanted to put him in my orbit. We were all having a lot of success individually but not really making the records we wanted to make. We didn’t have an impetus of creating a working band. We just wanted to make an album that would satisfy our need of depth and personality. When I listen to these songs now, all these years later, they still sound amazing.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Frank Musker & Jeff Hull Here.

Nita Strauss: “No matter your skill level, you can always improve on your own style and personality as a guitar player”

Photo credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns

In addition to wowing fans around the world as Alice Cooper’s touring guitarist and gracing the cover of Guitar World as one of the guitarists of the decade, Nita Strauss is the first female to have her own signature model Ibanez (the JIVA), including two new models that were unveiled earlier this year.

Her monstrous 2018 debut solo album, Controlled Chaos debuted at #1 on Billboards Top New Artists chart and her guitar clinics are sought out by fans and seasoned players alike.

Now the LA-based guitarist is taking her love of teaching to the next level by launching Rock Guitar Fundamentals, a three-module, online teaching program that’s suitable for guitarists of all levels.

Module One is designed for the novice player and goes over the anatomy of the guitar, including all the basics, including how to correctly hold the pick, fret notes, tuning and more.

Module Two is highly focused on technique and modal theory, approached from a rock player’s perspective to be easily understandable for the modern musician.

Module Three is where you’ll uncover Strauss’ secrets of sweep picking, legato, whammy bar tricks, and more.

Whether you’re picking up the guitar for the very first time of you’re an advanced player who wants to learn some shred tips and tricks, aspiring learners can jump in wherever their skill level is. Better still, purchasing the course gives users lifetime access to all future course updates.

In addition to the new course, Strauss is also hard at work on the follow-up to Controlled Chaos. In this new interview, Guitar World got the lowdown on Rock Guitar Fundamentals and much more.

What was the genesis behind Rock Guitar Fundamentals?

“I love doing my clinics and have had so many requests for lessons via Skype and in person. There was no way to fit it all into my schedule but I thought how cool it would be to put something together that took all or the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years playing guitar and putting it into the same lesson format I learned from.”

What’s do you find most rewarding about teaching?

“For me, the most rewarding thing is being able to pass along the knowledge and skills that I’ve learned. If you’re someone who has a skill or something you can pass along, I feel it’s incumbent on you to pass it to the next generation so those skills and that knowledge can live on.”

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

’26 East’: Dennis DeYoung Discusses Inspired New Solo Album and Why He Didn’t Try To Reinvent The Wheel

Dennis DeYoung – Photo: Rebecca Wolf Photography

The title of former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung’s new album, “26 East: Volume 1,” is an homage to the Chicago address where he, along with Panozzo twins, John and Chuck, formed the nucleus of what would become one of classic rock’s most revered and enduring bands back in 1962. The music contained on the compilation, much like the locomotive imagery blazed on the cover, takes the listener on a journey of self-reflection and timeless gratitude.

A project that began with the nudging and encouragement of fellow Chicagoan and neighbor, Jim Peterik, DeYoung gives fans what they yearn for in 26 East by delivering songs that hearken back to the mid-70s sound that made his former band staples of classic rock radio. Case in point is the infectious “East of Midnight,” a song which immediately conjures up imagery from Styx’s Grand Illusion period.

Although DeYoung successfully captures the essence of his early years with Styx there’s also more current messages contained on the new album. On “With All Due Respect,” DeYoung rails against the danger of sensationalism in our media-driven society. While “Run For The Roses,” offers a voice of hope in an uncertain world.

One of the special and personal moments on 26 East has got to be DeYoung’s tribute to his musical idols, The Beatles, with “To The Good Old Days,” a duet with John Lennon’s son, Julian. On it, DeYoung comes full circle; from his youthful days in his Rockland, Illinois basement to the biggest stages in the world.

In many ways, 26 East is DeYoung’s personal journal. A time capsule and tip of the hat to a career defined by his songwriting and keyboard prowess. More importantly, it shows that in these troubled times DeYoung is more relevant than ever.

26 East Volume 1 will be released on Friday, May 22. I recently spoke with Dennis DeYoung about the new album and more in this exclusive new interview.

What was the inspiration behind the new album, 26 East?

Dennis DeYoung: The president of Frontiers Records had been emailing me every few months about a deal and, quite frankly, I really didn’t want to do it. The whole music business is upside down and I just felt like it was a needless exercise at this point in my life. It wasn’t about money or proving myself as a songwriter. I think I’ve already accomplished that. It was actually my buddy, Jim Peterik, who talked me into doing it. Jim sent me a demo of a song he was working on called “Run For the Roses.” I knew it was a terrific song so the two of us got together to finish it and to see where it would take us. I discovered that we were both on the same page and the creative process couldn’t have been better. When we finally came up for air we had eight songs. Then I wrote a bunch of other songs by myself to get to the end zone.

What’s your songwriting process like?

DDY: The obvious answer would be to say that it starts with a phrase, or maybe just sitting at the piano banging out chords. But here’s the process I’ve done my whole life: I come up with some notes that fit on two chords. Then I take words and stick them on the notes. I try to give the audience a perspective of what I see in the world around me, hoping that they”ll find themselves in my story. I can always write a song that’s true about myself. The trick is that you, the listener, will think that it’s about you. You find yourself in my story thinking that it’s yours.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Dennis DeYoung by Clicking Here.

‘Blvds of Splendor’: Cherie Currie and Matt Sorum Discuss Infectious New Album

Photo by Robert Sebree

Legendary Runaways vocalist Cherie Currie describes her new album, Blvds of Splendor, as the record she wish she’d made when she was signed to Capitol Records in the early 1980’s, and for good reason. The album, nearly ten years in the making and produced by veteran drummer/author/ entrepreneur Matt Sorum (The Cult, Velvet Revolver, ex-Guns N’ Roses), is a pure cornucopia of musical goodness spotlighting Currie’s monstrous vocal prowess.

From the album’s high-energy opening track, “Mr. X,” a track originally slated for Velvet Revolver and featuring Slash and Duff McKagan, to the more haunting sounds of “Blvds of Splendor,” a song with a subtle vibe written as a duet and performed with Billy Corgan [Smashing Pumpkins]. Other tracks from the album, like the groove-ridden “Black Magic,” the bluesey “Roxy Roller,” and the apropos “Force To Be Reckoned With,” also demand repeated listenings.

One of the biggest highlights of Blvds of Splendor has got to be the modern remake of The Runaways hit, “Queens of Noise,” where Currie is joined on vocals by Brody Dalle, The Veronicas and Juliette Lewis. Drummer Matt Sorum also pays homage to the band’s late member, Sandy West, by contributing a masterful performance in West’s signature style.

Runaways fans have waited a long time to hear this rock icon do what she does best and will certainly find a lot to like with Blvds Of Splendor. But more importantly, the new album proves that forty-five years after she became the lead singer of the all-female teenage rock band, Currie is still at the top of her game.

I recently spoke with Cherie Currie and Matt Sorum about the new album and much more in this exclusive new interview.

This album has been many years in the making. Can you tell me a little bit about the journey of Blvds of Splendor?

Cherie Currie: About ten years ago Matt reached out about having me do some backgrounds on a project he was working on. I was busy at the time with the movie [“The Runaways”] but later reached out to him about putting together a band when I was opening for Joan [Jett] at the Pacific Amphitheatre. Matt told me he would do it and it was so well received that we wound up getting offered a contract by Joan’s record company. Over the years we thought about recording and releasing the album but something always came up. Now is the perfect time. This is the record I’ve always wanted to make.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Cherie Currie & Matt Sorum Here.