Category Archives: Music

Neal Schon Talks Journey, Santana, Gear and “Surreal” Career Highlights

Photo by: Steve Jennings

Photo by: Steve Jennings

It’s been another top-notch year for guitarist Neal Schon.

Besides the fact that Journey—which includes Schon, Ross Valory (bass), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Steve Smith (drums) and Arnel Pineda (vocals)—celebrated another season of non-stop touring, Schon also reunited with Carlos Santana to record Santana IV. The album marked the first time Santana’s classic lineup has worked together in more than 40 years.

We recently spoke to Schon about touring with Journey, reuniting with Santana, the 35th anniversary of Journey’s Escape, gear and some incredible career highlights.

What’s it like to still be performing at this high level with Journey after so many years?

It’s been an amazing ride, and I think it’s all due to a lot of hard work. When we decided to rebuild almost two decades ago, it was a long ride up the hill. Those first eight years were a lot of work, and in many ways it was like paying our dues all over again. We’re grateful to everyone who put in so much time rebuilding, and we still have much more to experiment with musically.

What does the band have planned for next year? 

We’ve been playing the greatest hits for a while and know we have to play those songs in order to make fans happy. But our die-hard fans want to hear different material, and we have tons of it. So that’s what’s about to come next year. We’ll be playing our first shows in the Orient where we’ve been asked to play Escape and Frontiers in their entirety. I think it will be fun for everyone to get reconnected with those records. Some of those songs, like “Frontiers,” we’ve never played live. We actually went through it at a sound check recently and it sounded amazing. I’m excited about doing it.

What was it like getting back together with Carlos and the gang for Santana IV?

For me, it was a lifelong dream. Everyone had their own hangups at the time we disbanded, and a lot of us didn’t leave on the right note. I remember when we first got together to test out the idea, we had about eight days of rehearsal and jamming and it was just amazing. Gregg [Rolie], Carlos and I brought in songs, and we went at it in a very organic way and laid it all down. I feel so proud of this record and it’s very gratifying to have helped pull all of these guys back together.

This year also marked the 35th anniversary of Journey’s Escape, an album that saw the departure of Gregg Rolie and the arrival of Jonathan Cain. What was the chemistry like in the band at that point?

Honestly, it was great. Even before we did Escape, we were already at a height, when we put out the Captured. By that point, Gregg had enough of being on tour and wanted to start a family. At the time, the Babys were opening for us. They were a solid unit and I loved [John] Waite’s vocals. I was checking out Jonathan [Cain] and felt that he was such a great player, and I also liked the fact that he strapped on a rhythm guitar and played once in a while. So when Gregg was going to leave I asked him what he thought about Jonathan taking his place. Gregg thought it was a great choice and everyone else in the band agreed. We continued to evolve and even went into some new areas I had never been in before.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Neal Schon by Clicking Here.

Eric Johnson Talks ‘EJ,’ His First All-Acoustic Album

Photo by: Max Crace

Photo by: Max Crace

Thirty years after the release of his breakthrough album, Tones, guitar legend Eric Johnson is releasing his first all-acoustic solo effort, aptly titled EJ.

Long known for his painstaking approach to making records, Johnson took a more immediate approach for EJ, which will be available October 7. Most of the material was cut live in the studio, with some songs even being sung and played at the same time in the studio. The result is an album packed with honest realism and organic emotion.

Original tracks like “Wonder” showcase Johnson and his 1980 Martin D-45, which was a gift from his late father. Another highlight is “Wrapped in a Cloud,” a six-minute sonic journey that features acoustic bass, cello, drums and percussion. There’s also Johnson’s tasteful arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s “One Rainy Wish,” plus a burning version of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s 1951 classic, “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise,” which we premiered here last week.

I recently spoke with Johnson about EJ and more. You can check out our conversation below. For more about Johnson, the new album and his upcomning tour, visit ericjohnson.com.

What made you decide to do an acoustic album at this stage of your career?

It’s another side of me that I’ve always dabbled in but never really presented in my records or career. Usually, you’re out doing your thing and get known for something that becomes your main deal and you just go with it. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting at home in my studio just doing what I enjoy. At some point, I decided to put things out and see what happens.

What was the criteria for choosing material for EJ?

It was a process of elimination. I just got a bunch of songs together and started recording them. Whatever songs I thought had merit or the ones I caught a vibe on, those were the ones I culled down for this record.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from EJ and get your take on them, starting with “Wrapped in a Cloud.”

That actually started out as a demo of just me with one mic on a baby grand piano. If you listen to the intro, it’s literally a dynamic, mono mic hanging off the side of a baby grand piano going into a cassette player. I then overdubbed an acoustic guitar and vocal. It was a funky demo and I really liked the vibe of it. But rather than try to erase and redo it, I decided to use the existing version and transferred it over and started adding more professionally done tracks to it.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoWith Eric Johnson by Clicking Here!

Michael Sweet Talks New Solo Album and Stryper’s ‘To Hell with the Devil’ Tour

michaelsweet-oswMichael Sweet’s new solo album, One Sided War, is packed with hook-laden songs that transcend the tasty fretwork and soaring vocals we’ve come to expect from the Stryper frontman.

On the new disc, Sweet is joined by a plethora of seasoned musicians, including guitarists Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) and Ethan Brosh, bassist John O’Boyle and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence). Newcomer guitarist/vocalist Moriah Formica accompanies Sweet on a tasty duet, “Can’t Take This Life.”

In addition to the new solo album, Sweet—along with the rest of Stryper—is gearing up for a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of that band’s monster album, To Hell with the Devil.

I recently spoke with Sweet about One Sided War, Stryper’s upcoming tour, gear and more. You can check out our chat below.

You consistently release great new music. How important is it for you to keep creating?

It’s everything to me. Many artists seem to lose their drive and passion for doing it as they get older. They’ll say things like it’s not really worth it to make new albums. But the thing about me is that it feels as though I’ve gained more drive and more passion. I just love what I do.

How does One Sided War compare to some of your previous albums?

It’s obviously got some similarities to the sound of some of the other things I’ve done in the past because I can’t escape the sound of my voice or the style of my guitar playing. But I always try to bring in new ingredients and substance to give it a different flair. I always say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I mean it. But that’s not meant to be a slam on the other projects. I just go into each project trying new things—using new equipment and trying different mic and amp techniques to improve upon the last project. I never sit down and think about what I want to sing or play. I just do what comes from the heart.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!

Chris Robinson and Neal Casal Talk New Chris Robinson Brotherhood Album

To create their new album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood relocated to a remote recording studio in the hills of northern California. The result? One of the band’s finest musical moments to date.

The disc also represents several “firsts” for the former Black Crowes frontman and his bandmates; it’s first album the band produced without any outside help, and it marks the first release featuring new bassist Jeff Hill and new drummer Tony Leone.

ChrisRobinsonBrotherhood - Photo by jay-blakesberg

The tunes, including the infectiously psychedelic “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” seem to channel everything from Bob Dylan to Parliament Funkadlelic, while tracks like “Ain’t It Hard But Fair” and “Forever As the Moon” showcase a deep level of maturity in the band’s songwriting and kaleidoscopic sound.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is Chris Robinson (vocals/guitar), Neal Casal (guitars), Adam MacDougall (keyboards), Jeff Hill (bass) and Tony Leone (drums). I recently spoke with Robinson and Casal about the new album, songwriting, their gear and more.

How much of an influence did recording in northern California have on the sessions for Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel?

Neal Casal: It was very inspiring. We made the record in a house with a big window overlooking the hillside and the Pacific. It was a very comfortable and quiet environment where there were no distractions or social situations to pull us away. There was something about the energy on that hillside that was very creative. And once we got inside, Chris’ notebook opened up, the words started flowing and the songs just wrote themselves.

Chris Robinson: We might not all be Californian, but this band was born in California. The California concert culture and counter culture is embedded deep within us. Living communally in this amazing house and studio changed our perspective. We were a lot closer to the source of what influenced us and it was unique on so many levels.

How would you describe Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel?

Robinson: In a weird way, it’s kind of like it’s our first record. Our actual first record was a band that had worked all year long and then went into the studio and recorded our live show. For the second album we had more time on the road and pushed ourselves a little more in the songwriting. Now that we’ve spent four solid years on the road and have been writing and working, it was all about getting to this session and letting these songs flower. We’re really happy about the bounty our art has given us after tending it for so long.

Casal: I think it’s the natural maturation of the band after being together for five years making records and doing hundreds of shows. The songwriting partnerships have developed further and broadened our palletes. The music, our commitment to the band and our mission is deeper than ever. It’s also a more direct sounding record with a closer connection to our live show.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Chris Robinson & Neal Casal
By Clicking Here!

Jane Wiedlin Talks Final Go-Go’s Tour, Gear and Career Highlights

Photo by: Carl Timpone.

Photo by: Carl Timpone

Rising out of the Hollywood punk scene, the Go-Go’s helped lay the foundation for early Eighties pop/rock. But what’s even more impressive than their hook-laden songs and tight musicianship was that these ladies did it all on their own without having to compromise their creativity by bringing in outside writers or session players.

Fueled by the hits “Our Lips Are Sealed and “We Got the Beat,” the Go-Go’s’ debut album, Beauty and the Beat, rose to Number 1 on the Billboard album charts. Subsequent albums Vacation and Talk Show yielded similar hits and helped cement their reign as the most successful all-female rock band of all time.

After an impressive 38-year run, the Go-Go’s—which includes Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitars), Charlotte Caffey (guitars) and Gina Schock (drums)—will embark on a farewell tour that will celebrate the band’s legacy as well as say goodbye to their legions of fans.

I recently spoke with Wiedlin about the Go-Go’s’ final tour, her gear and some of her most memorable moments.

When you consider the fact that this is the final Go-Go’s tour, what comes to mind?

I’ve had a lot of different emotions going on as I go through my day. I’ll admit I was sad when we first started talking about retiring as a touring band, because there’s nothing like getting out on stage and having people cheering for you. But we’ve also been doing it for a long time, and it gets harder as you get older. So now that we’ve decided it’s time to let the touring go, my plan is to appreciate every second and everyone in the audience and just have the best time I’ve ever had in my life.

What can fans expect from this farewell tour?

We are pulling out all the stops. In addition to the hits, we’ll be playing songs that we haven’t played live for decades as well as some new cover songs. You’ll see that there will be a lot of emotion with these shows. It’s going to be bittersweet, but the plan is to have the time of our lives.

What was the biggest challenge during those early years of the Go Go’s?

The first few years weren’t challenging at all because we were in a community that had accepted and embraced us. But once we started trying to get a record deal, it became extremely challenging. We were one of the most popular bands in California but no record company would touch us. Eventually, we gave up on the idea of signing with a big label and ended up with I.R.S. Records. Miles Copeland took a chance on us and it paid off for everyone. It turned out that people were willing to accept an all-female band.

How did the song “Our Lips Are Sealed” come about?

I was having a thing with Terry Hall, the singer from the Specials and Fun Boy Three. He sent me the lyrics in the mail and I wrote the music and melody. Since I wasn’t a trained musician, I didn’t realize that the chord progression I chose was considered “impossible”—and anyone who knows a lot about music would tell you you can’t put those chords together [laughs]. But there’s something to be said for being naïve. It makes you do things differently.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Jane Wiedlin by Clicking Here!

Doobie Brothers Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston Talk Gear and Classic Tracks

Photo by: Kelly Swift

Photo by: Kelly Swift

Over the course of their 40-plus-year history, the Doobie Brothers have been delivering their distinct brand of roots-based, harmony-laden, guitar-driven rock to eager fans old and new.

As a whole, the band has amassed more than 48 million in album sales to go along with a pair of Number 1 songs and four Grammys. Classic rock guitar aficionados have long known—and no doubt played—many of the riffs from the band’s arsenal of hits, including “China Grove,” “Black Water,” “Long Train Runnin’” and “Listen to the Music.”

The Doobies took a five-year hiatus in the early Eighties, only to return with a reunion album, Cycles, in 1989. They’ve been touring and making music ever since.

The Doobie Brothers’ touring lineup—which is on the road with Journey this summer—includes Pat Simmons (guitar/vocals), Tom Johnston (guitar/vocals), John McFee (guitars/fiddle/vocals), Bill Payne (keyboards), Marc Russo (saxophone), Ed Toth (drums), John Cowan (bass/vocals) and Tony Pia (drums). I recently caught up with Simmons and Johnston to talk about the music, guitars and more.

This is actually the first time the Doobie Brothers have toured with Journey. How has it been going?

Simmons: Really good. When you get out on the road, you never know what it’s going to be like, but they’re all such great guys. It’s been just like family.

Johnston: There have been full houses and the crowds have been very receptive. It’s been a great tour all around.

Bill Payne of Little Feat contributed keyboards on nearly every Doobie Brothers album and is now touring with the band. How did your relationship with him begin?

Simmons: Our producer at Warner Brothers, Ted Templeman, had done a Little Feat album and was working on ours [Toulouse Street]. I remember we were in cutting songs and Ted wanted to try some keyboards on a few tracks. He said he had this great keyboard player and when he brought in Bill, we all just flipped. He was so amazing. Bill came out occasionally to play in the early days and I tried several times over the years to get him to join the band, but he was always busy with Little Feat. Finally last year, he was substituting for our old keyboard player who had left for another gig. As usual, I said, “God I wish you could stick around”—and this time he said, “Well, as a matter of fact…” [laughs]. That was it!

What makes the music of the Doobies so timeless and special?

Johnston: It really depends on what your age range is. At some point in your life, the tunes may have meant something to you. In other cases, they’re songs you can sing along with and make you feel good. We’ve been lucky to have written tunes that have lasted and are still getting played today.

Simmons: For sure, it’s the songs. More than anything else in our culture, music is one of those things that brings back recall from your past. You don’t get to relive every minute but when you hear a song, you think about where you were or what you were doing when you first heard it. It’s a continual process and really keeps artists alive in people’s memories. It’s an all around association that’s not just about the music or the artist. It’s about people lives and how they all intermingle.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Pat Simmons & Tom Johnston Here!

Joe Perry Talks Hollywood Vampires Tour, Gear and Aerosmith’s Future

Photo: Ross Halfin

Photo: Ross Halfin

When Alice Cooper decided to pay tribute to his Seventies drinking buddies—a group of late-night partiers dubbed the “Hollywood Vampires”—he used the nickname for a new band featuring an impressive batch of artists and released an album of classic covers and a handful of original tunes.

Following the band’s TV debut on this year’s Grammy awards, not to mention a string of European shows, the Hollywood Vampires–whose core members include Cooper, Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry—are about to begin one of summer’s most anticipated tours.

I recently spoke with Perry about the band’s North American tour, new music, the future of Aerosmith and more.

What can fans expect from the Hollywood Vampires Tour?

The album is a pretty good indication. But once you make the record, the goal is to out-do it when you play it live—and that’s what we’re doing. Although there are a lot of guests on the album who won’t be with us on stage, the core band is the one I’d pick if I was going to go out and tour by myself. Everyone is a great player and we’re all friends as well as fans of the music we’re playing. We’ll probably change the set a little bit as the tour goes on, but only because there are so many great songs we want to play. The guys we’re paying tribute to were all pioneers at what they were doing. They all passed way too soon, but we’re showing that their music lives on. Those guys are alive when we play these songs, and that’s why this is going to be a really special tour.

How did the Hollywood Vampires come together?

Alice was thinking of doing a covers record and the idea came up a to do something that was more of a tribute to the guys he used to drink with at The Rainbow as well as a celebration of their music. We’ve all known each other for years and can certainly say we’ve all paid our dues entertaining people one way or another. So this is a tip of the hat to the great talent and songs these guys have left behind, but it’s also about the vibe of being friends and never thinking it was ever going to happen—and here we ar

How did you become involved in the band?

The original stuff on the record was pretty much done by the time I showed up. I came in while they were laying down tracks and was literally working right down from the studio they were in. I remember they kept calling me up and asking me to come over and sit in and play. One time they said, “Hey, tomorrow we’re going to be cutting a track with Paul McCartney. Do you want to come over?”—and I was like, “Um, yeah! OK!” [laughs].

Do you see the Hollywood Vampires as more of a long-term project?

I’m hoping we’ll be able to write some more stuff and continue the vibe. It’s a dream come true for all of us to play together. But right now, we’re focusing on getting out there and seeing how it goes down. It’s a great lineup and the reason we’re doing it is to put some energy into the crowd and pay tribute to some of these great guys who are no longer around.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Joe Perry by Clicking Here

Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson Talk New Album, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles’

TheBanglesHand-selected from their personal archives, the Bangles’ new album, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Bangles!, is a 16-track collection of re-mastered Eighties-era rarities, demos and live recordings from the band that would burst out of the Paisley Underground music scene and into pop/rock super-stardom.

Unavailable for nearly 35 years, this “new” album, which is set for a June 24 release, includes their debut single, “Getting Out of Hand” (when they were called the Bangs), as well as all of the tracks from their self-titled EP, which was produced by Craig Leon (Ramones/Blondie).

With elements of Motown and punk-inspired beats as well as their trademark, jangly guitar sound and deep harmonies, Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles is as real and raw as it gets. Reminding us all just how connected Susanna Hoffs (vocals/guitar), Vicki Peterson (guitar/vocals) and Debbi Peterson (drums/vocals) still are to the music that inspired them.

I recently spoke with Hoffs and Peterson about the project, their careers, gear and more.

What made you decide to revisit your first EP?

Hoffs: It was the right time and we really wanted to make the music available to people. We had originally released the music digitally a few years ago but never got around to putting it into any other format. So when Omnivore Recordings approached us about revisiting it, we knew it was a cool idea.

Peterson: Part of the charm of this record is the distance of looking back and the perspective of what it sounds like. A lot of these songs were covers that we actually played in our live set at the time, and some of them like “Outside Chance” and “Steppin’ Out” pre-date The Bangs. I wanted to get the EP back out into the world again because I’m really proud of it. This album is very reflective of the things we love musically and why we became a band in the first place.

Hoffs: Whenever we do those songs in our set they take us full circle, but they’re just as fresh to us now as they were then. It’s the most core Bangles material that exists.

Let’s discuss a few of those tracks. What can you tell me about “Bitchen Summer/Speedway”?

Hoffs: That song actually pre-dates the Bangs. David Roback (Rain Parade/Mazzy Star) and I were really into surf stuff and started my very first band. David took that sound and “Mazzy Starred” it into a song we called “Speedway.” It was one that I brought in during the early period of the Bangs and we crafted it more.

“I’m in Line”

Hoffs: That was one of the first songs that we all wrote together as a band. It had Mamas and the Papas harmony but with a Motown feel underneath in the rhythm section.

How much influence did being part of the Paisley Underground have on you?

Peterson: It was a huge influence. Part of it was because it was a community of friends who were all inspired by the same kind of music. There was a musical aspect where I’d just get blown away by the anarchy and freedom that I heard on stage. It definitely influenced the way I approach guitar.

Hoffs: All of the work that we did to form the band and create our sound stemmed from our influences, and that’s what we shared with many of the bands we found ourselves working with. The fact that we found other like-minded musicians and that it caught on as a scene was an acknowledgement that things were going our way. It really developed a big following and there was this great feeling of community and camaraderie.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Susanna Hoffs & Vicki Peterson By Clicking Here!

The Dead Daisies’ Doug Aldrich and David Lowy Talk New Album, Touring with KISS

DeadDaisiesAussie/American rockers the Dead Daisies’ new studio album, Make Some Noise, is a celebration of the ferocious arena sound of the Seventies. The album, which was produced by Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Def Leppard), is set for an August 5 release and boasts an array of intense riffs, huge hooks and tasty melodies.

The current Dead Daisies lineup features an impressive arsenal of notable musicians, including David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink), John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, Ratt), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy) and Brian Tichy (Ozzy, Foreigner).

From the self-confident, rousing statement of the album’s title track to the infectiousness of songs like “Long Way to Go,” “Song and a Prayer” and “How Does It Feel,” Make Some Noise is the perfect soundtrack for summer driving—and pretty much everything else. The disc also features the Daisies’ spin on two classic cover songs—Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and the Who’s “Join Together.”

And speaking of summer, the Dead Daisies recently announced they’ll be the opening act for Kiss for a month’s worth of dates on this year’s Freedom to Rock Tour.

I recently spoke to guitarists Lowy and Aldrich about Make Some Noise, the band’s upcoming summer tour, gear and more.

The-Dead-Daisies-2016---Groupshot-HiRes

How did The Dead Daisies come together?

David Lowy: I started the band in Australia with Jon Stevens—a great singer/songwriter and performer who took over the lead singer role in INXS after Michael Hutchence died. Jon and I originally decided to get together to write and wound up hammering out 25 song ideas that we later recorded in LA. The nature of the Dead Daisies is that it’s not the only thing the band members do. So when Jon left the band a year ago, John Corabi joined us. John’s been with a few bands, including Mötley Crüe. The lineup’s changed over time due to the nature of the band, but it’s a band for guys who love rock and roll to get together, record, tour and have a good time.

How would describe the sound of Make Some Noise?

Aldrich: For me, it’s straight-ahead, classic, Seventies-influenced riff rock. David and I each took one track (David on the right hand side and me on the left). We did a few overdubs for solos, but a lot of what you hear is taken from the original tracking. We really wanted to capture the initial vibe.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Doug Aldrich & David Lowy Here

Seth Avett Talks Signature Martin Guitar and New Avett Brothers Album, ‘True Sadness’

TheAvettBrothersIt’s going to another big year for the Grammy-nominated, alternative folk collective the Avett Brothers. Not only did they perform for the first time at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, but they’re also about to unveil their new album, True Sadness, which will coincide with another summer of touring.

True Sadness, which is set for a June 24 release, was produced by longtime collaborator Rick Rubin. The album represents the next chapter in North Carolina brothers Scott and Seth Avett’s ever-evolving career. In a letter to fans, Seth described True Sadness as “a patchwork quilt of styles” where “a myriad of contrasting fabrics makes perfect sense.”

I recently spoke to Seth about the new album and his signature Martin D-35 guitar.

How does True Sadness relate to some of the Avett Brothers’ previous albums?

I feel this record is probably the most dynamic one we’ve ever made. If you look at our previous records, you’ll find whispers an hints of our influences behind some of the music, but you only hear them in passing or small portions or perhaps. On this record, it’s more pronounced. When you apply that with our love for rhythm and gentle pieces of folk and rock, this record goes a lot of different places.

What was the writing process like?

We always try to be open-ended and without formula as much as possible. Generally, I lean toward musicality and am often led by a melody, where Scott is led more by a story or narrative. Eventually, we always find ourselves back wholly autobiographical viewpoint in a song. We draw just as much from our daily lives as we do from sitting around trying to write. When it comes to writing we stay open to all the sources, because there are an infinite number of them.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from True Sadness. What can you tell me about “Ain’t No Man”?

I jumped in after Scott had already planted the seed years before. I remember we were already in the studio working on demos when Scott came bursting through the door describing the idea. He came in bounding with so much inspiration that he could hardly contain himself. He started to reach for the guitar, but instead I told him not to and just sing the bass line to me and I’d transcribe it. We had never written a song like the before, so it was cool. So Scott sang me the bass line and it sprang out for there. It was a weird gestation of lightning in in a bottle.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Seth Avett by Clicking Here!

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