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.

Birthday Reflections At 51

October 5th, 2020: My 51st Birthday.

This is my eighth entry in this series of birthday posts. Something I started shortly after I began my writing journey in the fall of 2011. 

To be honest, especially with everything that’s happened over the course of the last twelve months, I didn’t feel like posting one at all. But instead of rehashing all the gloom and doom about viruses, failed leadership and elections, I’ll try to remain upbeat about it. So here goes:

Birthdays are the one day where we, collectively, celebrate the individual. And by that I mean we don’t use the day as a reason to inundate social media with over the hill jokes, pay for lavish lunches, or give someone a number of spankings equivalent to their new age, plus an extra one to grow on–although I do remember that was the best part about attending birthday parties as a kid in the 1970s, so long as you weren’t the one on the receiving end.

No, the real reason people blow out candles, consume large quantities of cake, receive greeting cards (hopefully, with a few greenbacks in them) and open whimsical presents is to commemorate the day you arrived on Earth.

You’re alive, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

For me, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was a youthful teenager; driving me and my buddies around in a beat-up, 1972 Toyota Corona (honest, I’m not talking about the virus. There really was a car called a Corona). Going to the mall on Friday nights after school, pouring my hard-earned, summer lawn mowing earnings into video game cabinets and drinking gallons of Orange Julius. Wishing I could somehow muster the courage to go over and talk to the cute girl who stood with her friends outside the Listening Booth record store. Ah, youth.

Wasn’t I the one who was able to go to rock concerts and stay up til the wee hours of the morning? Sitting in some dingy diner; smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee while talking to friends about what would happen when we took on the world and made all of our dreams came true? Now, I’m lucky if I can stay up til 10 p.m. most nights.

There’s an odd sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still and that you’ll never be as old as your parents. But then, one day, you take a nap and wake up in their role.

I promised I would keep things upbeat for this post so I won’t rehash the past. Instead, I’ll talk about the future. In addition to continuing to do interviews, I’m also heavily in the writing process of my next book. Something that has been put off for quite a while but something I am extremely excited about. I am giving myself to the end of the year to finish. More on that in the months ahead.

I’ve also been dabbling a lot in watercolor painting. Not only has it been a great stress reliever but it’s something you can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money and where you can literally see your progress every day:

I called this one “The Road Beyond 50.” If you visualize yourself in it, the painting is a metaphor for life. You can’t see where you’ve been (the past) or the scars that you carry. All you can see is where you’re standing now and the road to what lies ahead of you. As in life, there is beauty all around us and a brave new world just waiting to be explored. 

I hope my next trip around the sun, and walk down this path, brings us all a sense of hope, peace and love. 

 

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.

A Silver Lining

2020 has been the absolute worst year of my life.

I know, it probably has been for you as well. But my streak of bad started way before the corona virus and debating the usefulness of masks while hating each other. For me, the black cloud hovering over my head began last October when I lost my beloved dog, Doodle, three days before I turned 50. That single event set the wheels of gloom in motion.

It really began in early March of this year when my mother suffered a fatal stroke and, a week later, the Covid-19 lockdown officially began. I do writing on the side and was grateful to be able to continue to work from home with my real job in IT.

Unfortunately, one month after quarantine began, I was told that my position had been eliminated, effective immediately. My company offered to pay me until the end of the month. This was contingent upon them overnighting all the things at my desk along with a box for me to return my laptop and other company equipment.

I used those two weeks to secure a contract position at another company. The bummer of it was, the new job didn’t start for eighteen days and there would be no pay coming in. So, like thousands of other people, I applied for unemployment benefits to fill the gap and was accepted. I won’t go into great detail about my experience with the Department of Unemployment other than to say that as of this writing, I still have not received one single penny for the two-weeks unemployment they owe me. I tried calling, emailing, voicemails… all met with constant busy signals or completely ignored. I had to dig into savings in order to pay bills. The fact they still owe me for two-weeks unemployment is unsettling, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for others who are going through a similar process and still haven’t found a job.

Just when I thought there might be a break in the storm, this past week I had to say goodbye to another one of my dogs. Ginger Snap, a senior pup we adopted after she was rescued from a kill shelter in 2011, and who had spent the next four years living a life filled with love and luxury, told me it was time. She had been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease a few weeks ago and I was giving her medication that was supposed to alleviate the symptoms that were ruining her quality of life. I came downstairs on Saturday morning to find her unable to get up. It will take me a long time to get over the thought that I failed her.

So, during a period of ten months, I’ve not only become mired in this pandemic but also lost my mother, two dogs and my job. Which kind of leads me to the title of this post – The Silver Lining.

The day after Ginger went to the rainbow bridge, I went to visit my brother, who had lived with my mom in the house we all grew up in. He had recently installed windows in places of the house where none previously existed. I marveled at the sun, gleaming through the new windows and showering the space that was once our childhood bedroom in bright, summer light.

As I admired his work, he mentioned how he should’ve installed the windows twenty-five years ago and how he wished our mom would’ve been alive to see them. I agreed.

After I left the house to go home, I walked past the huge blue spruce tree lumbering in the yard. Its towering branches reaching high to the heavens like it had always done even before I was born. I suddenly remembered how deathly afraid I was of that tree as a child, and how I would often have nightmares about it coming out of the ground at its roots to get me.

I decided I wanted to have a piece of that big tree to stick in my curio cabinet at home. It’s a place where I keep all of my childhood knickknacks of times gone by. I bravely reached for a low hanging limb and plucked off a tiny piece of branch. I held the small stem to my nose and breathed deeply, inhaling the faint scent of pine from something that forty-five years ago scared the living shit out of me.

That night as a lay in bed, I had a dream that I was back at my brother’s house. I can’t recall all the details, but I remember my brother and I were standing in the kitchen talking about something when in walked my mom. In the dream, she looked exactly as she did as when I was a boy, but in my heart, I knew she had died. You would think that I would be terrified at the sight of a ghost, but I wasn’t afraid to see her at all. Instead, there was something I wanted to know.

“Are you all right?” I asked. Meaning, is it ok when you die.

She nodded her head. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “Everything is ok.”

The dream quietly transitioned into something else I can’t remember, but that revelation of seeing her still haunts me. It’s been years since I’d dreamt about my mother, and even when I did there was never a conversation that felt so visceral.

I’m not sure if what I experienced was the culmination of visiting my brother and all the things that have been happening to me in 2020, or that my mother really was trying to tell me that everything is going to be all right.

But if I had to make a choice, I like to think that it was the latter.

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.

Interview: Playground Sessions CEO Chris Vance Discusses Success of Powerful ‘You Raise Me Up’ Virtual Recital

Playground Sessions’ Chris Vance and Quincy Jones

During the pandemic, when people have been stuck inside their houses, Playground Sessions, in partnership with legendary artist, producer Quincy Jones, offered the world an opportunity to participate in a free class to learn Brendan Graham’s song, “You Raise Me Up” on the piano and perform it together in a Virtual Piano Recital. The goal was to share the joy and gift of music when the world needed it the most.

Using the Playground Sessions platform users learned the song, recorded their performances on video and submitted them for inclusion. What started out as a 30-day virtual lesson culminated into a worldwide, history-making campaign as more than 7,000 musicians of all skill levels took part with nearly 1,000 video submissions

I recently spoke with Chris Vance, Founder and CEO of Playground Sessions about this phenomenal event and more in this exclusive new interview.

Can you give me a little backstory on your own experience with music?

CV: I played the saxophone in elementary school but was always drawn to the sound of the piano. If I ever saw someone playing, I’d be right there watching. Like many people I had a lesson or two, but when that didn’t work out I just went on with my life.

Where did the idea for Playground Sessions originate?

CV: I had been working at P&G doing brand management and being part of the digital team. During that time, I was also learning different languages using a product called Rosetta Stone. I became fascinated with what tech could do in people’s homes. One day I was shopping and saw a Casio keyboard on sale and thought now was the perfect time to try playing again. What I discovered after visiting YouTube and taking private lessons was that all of my practice time was being spent alone with a piece of sheet music. The truth is around 90% of keyboards and guitars purchased are under the bed within thirty days because people are not having success. I fell into that category. That’s when I decided I wanted to create a product that could take the universal desire of playing an instrument and help make it a reality.

How did the partnership with Quincy Jones come about?

CV: Quincy is a huge part of what we’re doing, as is Harry Connick, Jr., who’s one of our teachers. Quincy actually approached us early on after reading an article about us. He had been in an airport and noticed a kiosk filled with Rosetta Stone. For Quincy, music is the universal language, and he wondered where the Rosetta Stone for music was. His team told him about us and he invited me out to meet with him. The rest is history. He’s been a huge influence and sounding board for us and plays a big role in building the product and curriculum.

How does Playground Sessions work?

CV: There are a few core things, the first being how to make the experience of practicing fun. We solved that by building a curriculum that puts people in control and gives them the songs they know and love to learn. Then we leveled everything. So whether you’re just starting out on notes or are more advanced with chords, we surround you with visualization and gamification to keep you engaged and practicing. We also provide backing tracks to help you find success. It’s all genres of music but we’re putting users in control.

Read the rest of my
With Chris Vance by Clicking Here.