There’s always been an infectious, creative chemistry between “Mental” co-creators Julie Lake and Shirin Najafi. Whether it’s their natural way of playing off each other in roles loosely based on their own lives or the fact that they’ve been best friends since high school.
Many already know Lake for her role as the unstable meth-head, Angie Rice on the Netflix hit-series; “Orange is the New Black”, while Najafi has found success as a standup comic and for writing and directing videos that have been featured on websites like Funny or Die.
Najafi and Lake are now releasing more of their “Mental” passion project. A web series of shorts that takes a funny look inside the lives of two friends and their struggles with anxiety and mental instability. The insatiable series; produced, written, directed and starring both of these amazingly talented ladies is a testament to their natural charm and creative prowess.
I recently spoke with Julie Lake and Shrin Najafi about “Mental” and more in this exclusive new interview.
How did the “Mental” web series originate?
Julie Lake: Shirin and I have been pretty much bouncing around this idea our whole lives. We both went to high school together and have been friends forever but have also struggled with anxiety and depression. It’s something we bonded over and laughed about. So we decided to make a series about two friends who struggle with mental illness and the funny interactions they have that’s kind-of loosely based on our own lives and relationship. But we wanted to show it in a comedic way. That’s how “Mental” was born.
Where do ideas for episodes come from? Where do you draw your inspiration?
Shirin Najafi: The writing process usually begins from a dramatic point of view. Like our first episode, “Palm Springs”. Julie and I both went there for a weekend but had difficulties falling asleep in the same hotel room. It wasn’t anything too crazy; just a two-minute exchange, like “Can we turn on the AC?” and “Am I going to hear the rain machine through my ear plugs?” We were going on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation but ended up having this neurotic conversation. The next day, we both laughed about it. The irony of that situation made for a clear episode idea. Then what we’ll do is write and start talking out the dialogue, reliving the experience from the perspective of our made-up characters.
What can you tell me about the most recent episode, “Dr. Bleiffer is on Maternity Leave”?
Lake: There was a time where I had been on Klonopin as needed for anxiety. Klonopin is a symptom reliever and doesn’t really treat anxiety. But when I went to the doctor he wouldn’t give it to me because he said I wasn’t on an anti-depressant. Then when I went to Shirin’s house, I discovered she had been prescribed all of these pills. She told me that once you’re on an SSRI they’ll prescribe you anything. That led into this fantasy of what it would be like if Shirin went to the doctor [laughs].
Najafi: From a legal perspective, a psychiatrist has to be careful about issuing drugs. So if you come in and just have occasional anxiety they have to get you on a daily anti-depressant. But once you’re on one it’s no questions asked and you can get something else. The whole dichotomy is just ridiculous.
How about the episode, “Zoloft Brain”?
Lake: That’s another one that’s kind-of true to life. Shirin was on Zoloft and it was making her tired and forgetful. She really wanted to go off it but I was very alarmed, because I didn’t want to go back to the “Shirin before Zoloft” [laughs].
Najafi: A few years before I went on it I had been having this extreme, building anxiety that was getting worse and worse (which you see in the flashback scenes). There was even a time when Julie had to play a part-time therapist / caretaker. In the episode, my character forgets the code to her own building and in real life, I had once actually forgotten the code to the garage for my job. I drew a complete blank for something I use every day [laughs].. That’s when I texted Julie and told her I needed to get off Zoloft.
You both juggle so many hats with this series (writing, producing, directing, acting). What’s been the most challenging part?
Lake: There are so many pieces to the puzzle. It took a long time to do the editing, and then as we watched later we realized that we had to go through another round of edits. We had a super low budget and also had to produce, write, act and direct. We also had to move quickly, so it was a little stressful at times.
Najafi: The producing aspect was especially tough because of all the logistics. Especially when you’re trying to be creative and also having deal with lugging equipment, keeping track of when the sun goes down and wondering if everyone will be able to make it to the location on time. We had never done anything like it before.
What’s next for “Mental”?
Lake: We have two more episodes coming out. One is more like a short film and stars Emily Althaus, who plays Kukudio in “Orange Is The New Black”. She plays a crazy friend who comes into town from Orlando and is now a dominatrix. We also have another episode where Shrin and Julie are trying to pick a movie. Shirin wants to watch “Flight” with Denzel Washington and that triggers all of Julie’s anxieties about flying.
Did you both know that a career in entertainment would be your calling. Was it something you always aspired to do?
Lake: I always wanted to be an actress from the age of five. I initially started writing and creating as a vehicle for acting. Now, I really enjoy that part of it as well as directing.
Najafi: For me, I was doing a lot of writing and creating but ended up pursuing a few other things out of college. But then I realized that writing, directing and performing was in my blood, and something I’ve always wanted to do.
From a creative standpoint, what satisfies you the most about this series?
Lake: Just the fact that we did it. It’s hard to do something like this. It takes so much money, time and effort. I see a lot of people talking about what they’re working on and doing but they never seem to get it done. But we accomplished this huge undertaking with almost no experience.
Najafi: We’ve been talking about and actively writing scripts for a show like this since 2010. To finally make it all these years later was definitely an accomplishment. For me as a writer, being able to act was also an accomplishment. Acting is something I don’t do a lot of outside of “Mental”, but it’s a lot more fun!
Described as his most personal work to date, Greg Howe’s new album, Wheelhouse—which will be released on September 1— marks the guitar legend’s highly-anticipated return to solo instrumental work.
Tracks like “Tempest Pulse” and “Throw Down” showcase Howe’s infectious tone and fretboard wizardry while eclectic tracks like “2 In 1” combine a funk-infused vibe with Forties swing. But perhaps one of the biggest highlights on Wheelhouse; and one that long-time followers of Howe’s career will certainly find appealing, is the track, “Shady Lane”.
A song originally written by Howe and his brother back in the early Nineties, on Wheelhouse, “Shady Lane” is given a 21st century spin with an emotionally charged vocal performance by Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big). Kotzen also complements his fellow Shrapnel alumni by contributing a blistering guitar solo to the track as well.
Wheelhouse is an album that will once again raise the bar for guitarists, and a fitting return for one of the genre’s most dynamically diverse artists.
I recently spoke with Howe about Wheelhouse and more in this exclusive new interview.
How would you describe Wheelhouse in terms of its sound and maybe as it relates to some of your previous work?
From a guitar perspective, I’d describe it as an almost higher quality of the type of tone I was getting on Introspection. It’s very clean and there’s a lot of gain behind it but it doesn’t sound like it. I was also getting a little more into single coils and more “Strat” kind of tones, so it’s a different kind of expression. As far as direction, I feel like it’s a little more honest.
I can get carried away in the studio sometimes, and then I’ll listen back to what I recorded and decide to scrap it and end up writing something that’s either really complicated or putting together solos that border on unrealistic in terms of what I would sound like. I really wanted this to be a lot of one-take stuff and the material to sound like something I would want to play over. It’s a very natural, honest record.
What’s your writing process like?
There isn’t really a process. It ranges anywhere from going through drum loops and finding something cool that inspires the riff to waking up in the morning with a song idea already in my head. Sometimes, if I’m searching for inspiration, it can come from just watching a movie, thinking about something or connecting to something that’s happening in my life at the time. It’s a starting point that inspires and triggers the creative process.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Wheelhouse, beginning with “Tempest Pulse”
That song was one of the first I wrote for the album and has a slight Latin feel to it. I went through a phase where I was listening to a lot of Michel Camilo and that opened up some of this Cuban influence. There’s also something really festive and sexy about not hitting on the downbeat.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Greg Howe by Clicking Here.
What’s it like to grow up as a small town Southern girl and marry a rock star, and then discover you have to share the love of your life with the band and thousands of their fans? That’s exactly what happened to Rhonda Nelson, whose husband Wayne Nelson, is the lead singer and bassist for the legendary Little River Band.
Together, Rhonda and Wayne have built a solid foundation of love while traveled across the U.S. Sharing a love of classic rock as well as seeking out their favorite wineries and socializing with new and old friends alike.
In her uniquely interesting new book, “A Different Life”, Rhonda pulls back the curtain on celebrity life. Offering readers a chance to hear stories and enjoy treasured family recipes and photos while experiencing all things pertaining to life on the road.
“A Different Life” is not a scathing tell all or a collection of recipes. It’s the story of one woman’s journey with an iconic band that’s sold more than thirty million albums over the course of their four-decade career, and one told from the heart.
I recently spoke with Rhonda Nelson about “A Different Life” and more in this exclusive new interview.
What made you decide to write “A Different Life”?
About two years ago, I wanted to start a blog, just writing about our life on the road. Then as I started working on it, the idea came about doing a book. I thought it would be a cool way for people to see some of the back things that we do. I think that when your name is attached to a band, people can sometimes get the wrong perception and think that it’s always glamorous and that you live inside of this bubble, but that’s not really the case. I wanted people to see that we share the same highs and lows that everyone else does.
What was the writing process like?
As I got to meet other authors and talk to people about writing, I realized that the way I did it was not the way most people do. I didn’t dedicate a certain amount of time each day to write. As I dug through old photos and memorabilia, stories would come back to me. The other interesting thing about the process was that no one really knew what to expect. It was never meant to be a tell all. It was meant to be something that people would enjoy about Little River Band and something they would have to treasure.
Was cooking something you always intended to include as part of the book?
Cooking has always been a big passion of mine and I pride myself in what I do with it. Originally (and unrelated to the band), I had intended to write a cookbook, but then I realized I wasn’t a trained chef. So I thought I’d revisit that book a little bit down the road. But as I was doing this book, I realized there was a common denominator, which was food and beverage. That’s when I decided to give it a bit of a twist and throw that in as well.
What’s the toughest part about being married to a working musician?
In the beginning it was hard because I wasn’t used to the band being gone for three or four weeks at a stretch, and one of the things I really had to teach myself to work on was trust. All relationships require that but if you’re living this kind of life and you’re always questioning things it will eat your relationship alive. You’ve got to know that you’re on a firm foundation and believe in that.
What’s been the most rewarding part?
The best thing that’s come from it, and especially over the last four years or so, was when Wayne and I decided on an avenue to give back, and that avenue is Little River Band and LRB music. There are organizations all over the country we feel strongly about, and we support them by doing concerts or helping them organize their fundraisers. It’s been an awesome thing to do and we’ve been so blessed to be able to give back.
Was there anything you learned about yourself in writing “A Different Life”?
For me, it really was realizing that no matter how much you doubt about what your dream is, just continue to push and you can make it happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’d say to myself, “What am I doing writing a book? People will think it’s ridiculous.” But then I’d say, “So what?” It was a goal I had and something I wanted to do and be proud of. That was the biggest thing I walked away with.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
Last December, myself and some of the guys went out and did a “writers in the round” type of event where the guys played songs acoustically and I tell stories from the book. Right now, we’re working on putting another run together for December of this year. Wayne and I are also working on a similar motivational project about overcoming what life has dealt you and how to persevere and believe in yourself.
Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from reading “A Different Life”?
It all goes back to my reasons for wanting to write a book. I want people to know that we are real and experience the same highs and lows as everyone else. Whenever we meet you, we really listen to your stories. They resonate with us and touch our hearts. The other part; as you can tell when you read the stories, is that this is a path to the next project. Don’t give up on your goals and dreams. Just keep pushing through and live the life that you love. That’s the message I want people to take from it.
For more on Little River Band: www.littleriverband.com
Live’s Ed Kowalczyk and Chad Taylor Discuss Remastered ‘Mental Jewelry’ Package, Reunion and Band’s Future
The recently reunited, original line-up of Live: Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums, percussion) have recently announced they’ll mark the 25th anniversary of their 1991 debut album, Mental Jewelry, with a deluxe reissue digitally and physically on Friday, August 11.
The newly remastered package includes an unreleased studio track (“Born Branded”) from the original album sessions along with two songs from the band’s 1991 Four Songs EP as well as a previously unreleased, 1992 concert from The Roxy in Los Angeles.
I recently spoke with Kowalzyk and Taylor about the album package, their reunion and more in this exclusive new interview.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Mental Jewelry was released. When you look back on that album now with so much perspective, what thoughts come to mind?
Kowalczyk: What’s been most exciting about the experience is not only listening to the original album but also the second CD, which is a live performance from The Roxy that we did back in 1992. Just to listen to that and realize that we were not fucking around. We were nineteen and swinging for the fences from the minute we stepped out with that album and tour.
What was the songwriting process like for the band back then?
Kowalzyk: We usually did a mixture of riffs and ideas to jam out and others where I might bring something in that was more fully-formed that we would tear down and rip apart. It’s always been that hybrid and I think that’s even the way we’re approaching our writing now.
Taylor: Because we were so young when we were writing, there were obviously no rules. It was a process of self-discovery. I can remember having conversations with Ed with my perception of how difficult it must be to write lyrics, and then he would tell me he was having problems putting together chord parts. But we always pushed each other.
Kowalzyk: One of the other things that strikes me is how much that energy at its core has never left the band. It’s been a constant, intense and visceral approach to performing. We throw down hard every time we’re on that stage.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Mental Jewelry. What can you tell me about “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)”?
Kowalzyk: I remember sitting in the practice loft of Chad Gracey’s garage and Chad Taylor was there playing this rhythmic groove. I was following his rhythm and started doing a chant over that. There are only two or three more chords but there was enough to get an emotion across. Then you add Gracey’s drumming and how energetic the song is. We wanted a song that would grab people’s attention right out of the box. It definitely did that.
Taylor: At the time, I had no idea I was even writing a song. I remember Ed telling me to keep playing and then he started singing overtop of it. That’s actually my first memory of a collaboration with Ed. The other funny story about that song is because it was one of the first songs we had written, I remember telling our manager that I didn’t think it should be on the album. I have to laugh at that now because it came out of the box and was the signature thing that started to build the band. But again, we were young and blissfully unaware of the business and were just trying to put our best foot forward.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Kowalzyk and Taylor Here
During the first week of August, actor/director/producer David Rountree and a team of other notable filmmakers will undertake the 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles, CA. Their mission? To write the script, cast the actors, shoot, edit, and hand in a completed film project in two days.
Rountree, along with his partner Jeremy Jordan have teamed up with James Blakeman, Ashley Ayre, Dustin Henderson and Shahriar Rahman (visual effects producer and supervisor, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, “Smurfs”, “Scandal)” to produce the top-quality short film in one weekend as part of The Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project and premiere it at the festival the following week. The Best Film will receive a grand prize of $5000 and move on to screen at The Cannes Film Festival in France.
David Rountree is no stranger to this blog. His feature-length feature film, “CUT!” — which he co-wrote, produced and directed, was voted one of the top five horror films of 2015. The multi-talented filmmaker has also received praise for work in his baseball themed film, “108 Stitches” (which, along with “CUT!” received a national theatrical release) as well as acting in the new horror film, “The Dark Tapes”. Over the course of his career in TV and film, Rountree has worked alongside such iconic actors as Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Rob Lowe, Amy Adams, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Garner, Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Davison and Kate Vernon.
Although it’s been seven years since Rountree last did this film competition, his team has won Best Film all three times its entered. This time around the team has rented out Air Hollywood studio, which where almost any movie having an airplane, including the original “Airplane” movie, was shot. The cast and crew of the film are all volunteers, but in order to continue to get the best locations and equipment, they’ve begun a fund-raising campaign.
Watch below to see one of Rountree’s previous 48-Hour Film Project films, “Life For A Life”.
For those who donate, there are definite perks, including film credits that would be given including digital copies of the completed film, signed scripts, invitations to the set and the opportunity to be a “featured background” actor in the film.
Check out the campaign and film above and consider being part of the team for one of the most creative people I know.
This summer’s United We Rock Tour features three juggernauts of classic rock: REO Speedwagon, Styx and former Eagle Don Felder.
These artists have provided rocking summer soundtracks for the past four decades—and they share a uniquely rich history; REO and Styx have toured together many times over the years and Styx and Felder just completed a five-night residency in Las Vegas. For United We Rock, Felder will open the show with a 45-minute set of Eagles classics along with a few surprises and special guests, while REO Speedwagon and Styx will alternate headlining sets.
But don’t expect the United We Rock triple-bill to be a “hits only” event; REO and Styx have added new material to their set, with Styx supporting their new album, The Mission, and REO performing their rocking new song, “Whipping Boy.”
I recently spoke with REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato about the United We Rock tour, his gear and more.
With a tour loaded with guitarists, I suppose the first question is, who gets to perform “Hotel California” with Don Felder?
Well, Styx recently did a residency in Las Vegas, so Tommy [Shaw] has the seniority [laughs]. Actually, Tommy said he was going to play with Don on “Take it Easy.” He plays a Strat for the first half of the song and then switches to banjo. It’s phenomenal. I still remember when Don first asked me to play “Hotel California” with him; I got goosebumps. I’m not as nervous about the REO set as I am about Felder, because you can’t screw up that solo!
How did REO prep for the United We Rock tour?
We had a few warmup gigs on the weekends for a few months and used those gigs to change the set list around, figure out how to transition into songs and try to do something different. After 28 years, it’s still fun challenging yourself.
Styx has a new album, The Mission, and there’s a new song in REO’s set as well, “Whipping Boy.” What can you tell me about it?
It’s always good to have new music to keep going forward. That was Kevin [Cronin’s] song, and we each added our own two cents to it. We worked on the song on the weekend gigs to get it sounding really tight. It’s actually not even recorded yet. We might record it sometime in the fall.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!
Vision Films has partnered with Fathom Events to bring a riveting new rock documentary, Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows Into the Spotlight, to select U.S. movie theaters this summer, with an exclusive one-night theatrical event set for June 29.
The feature-length doc, which has been screened to critic and audience acclaim at SXSW Festival, Glastonbury Festival and Calgary International Film Festival, introduces fans to several unsung heroes of the music industry. These artists have played with legends such as Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Alice Cooper and many more.
Guitarist Phil X (Bon Jovi, the Drills) is just one of the artists featured in the documentary. I recently spoke with him about Hired Gun, his role in Bon Jovi, the Drills, his gear and more.
How did you get involved with Hired Gun?
[Producer] Jason Hook and I go back to our teens outside of Toronto, Canada. He moved to LA a few years before I did, and we later started putting a band together and making music. We went on to different things and ended up in the “side guy” realm of life. When he was presented the opportunity to make a documentary, he had the idea of getting all the people together he knew who were hired guns. So it was a no-brainer for him to call me up and say, “Hey man, you just toured with Bon Jovi. You want to be in there?” [laughs].
Was having a career in music something you always aspired to do?
For me, there was no choice. I feel that if you’re truly passionate about making music, you can’t do anything else. You’re always making music because it’s in your heart. Everyone has a dream of being in a successful band, but for some reason, my bands always happened on a small scale. The hired-gun thing started in the studio and by meeting people and then playing guitar on their records. Two years later, around 1999, I was asked to come in and play on Tommy Lee’s solo record, Methods of Mayhem. It started snowballing after that.
How did you wind up getting the gig with Bon Jovi?
It happened very quickly. I was doing my session thing at Henson Studios, and John Shanks had a studio there. John co-wrote and produced a lot of the recent Bon Jovi records, and I’d run into him a lot either having lunch or walking down the hallway. What changed the game was one day he came up to me and told me he couldn’t stop watching my YouTube videos.
We hit it off, and a few weeks later he called me up and told me about a gig he had. He told me about a band that was having some issues with their guitar player and that I might be the guy to get called in to do some shows when he can’t. I said, “Ok, who are we talking about?” and he said, “Bon Jovi. Do you want to do it?”
So they gave me the material to learn the two-and-a-half-hour hour show and told me I’d be in the reserve tank. That meant I might get a call or I might not. Then it happened: April 14, 2011. They told me to go to New York and rehearse with the band. I was on hold again, and then “on hold” became “Let’s go! We’re playing New Orleans in a few days and there will probably be 50,000 people there.” That was it!
Read the rest of my
Interview with Phil X by Clicking Here!
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Foreigner’s eponymous debut album.
The record—fueled by the hits “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Cold As Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time”—launched the band into worldwide stardom. It would be the first in a string of consecutive multi-platinum monster releases that included Double Vision, Head Games and 4.
Much of the credit for the band’s success can be attributed to Lou Gramm, whose songwriting skills and emphatic vocal performances played a monumental role in the band’s hook-laden formula. In fact, he and Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by none other than Billy Joel.
Although he’s been out of the band for more than a decade, Gramm continues to write, record and tour the arsenal of Foreigner hits with his Lou Gramm band. And as Foreigner prepares to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a new tour this summer, there’s word that Gramm will once again be joining Jones at a yet-to-be-determined Foreigner show.
I recently spoke with Gramm and his guitarist, Michael Staertow, about Foreigner, Lou’s solo career, music, gear and more.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first Foreigner album. When you look back at that album now with so much perspective what thoughts come to mind?
GRAMM: Working with Mick [Jones] was a very creative situation, and I remember how much fun it was to write those songs and record them. Even when we weren’t at our most imaginative; instead of just putting everything away, we plugged along, putting down different ideas. Before long, we were right back swinging again. It was a very positive time.
Can you tell me the origin of the song, “Long, Long Way From Home”?
GRAMM: That was the very first song Mick and I wrote together. He would always play me cassette tapes with guitar riffs and told me that if one of them tweaked my ear to let him know and we’d work on it. I heard that great guitar riff that started the song and we began working on the verse and B section. The chorus was a little tough to crack but we did. Lyrically, it’s the story of me coming to New York City.
There’s been talk of you joining Foreigner for their 40th anniversary tour this summer for at least one show. Can you confirm this?
GRAMM: Yes. It’s being planned. Right now, we’re trying to pick the best night and venue. I’m not at liberty to say where it could be, but I can say it’s going to be a ton of fun.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Lou Gramm & Michael Staertow Here!
The Mission is classic rock giant Styx’s 16th studio album and their first disc of new material in more than 14 years.
The concept album—which will be released June 16—is an adventurous, 43-minute thrill ride chronicling the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs of the first manned mission to Mars in 2033.
From the hopeful drive and classic Styx sound on tracks like “Gone Gone Gone” and “Hundred Million Miles” to the stargazing machinations of “Locomotive” and the elegiac optimism of the closing track, “Mission to Mars,” The Mission succeeds in delivering the good from a band that continues to fire on all cylinders more than 45 years after signing their first recording contract.
Styx features Tommy Shaw (guitars/vocals), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals), James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass).
I recently spoke with Shaw and Young about The Mission, music and the band’s upcoming United We Rock Tour with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder.
It’s been more than 14 years since Styx’s last studio album, Cyclorama. How did The Mission begin?
SHAW: Things have changed so much in just the past decade. It used to be you’d spend a lot of time in the studio and then go out and tour for three months. Now, it’s in a way that’s favorable to having band like us recording again. Even though radio has disappeared, so many different ways to get to your fans have opened up. It made sense for us to get back into the recording business again.
YOUNG: We also knew we were coming up on the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, which for me was our most productive, progressive time frame and our most successful as well. There’s elements of that album as well as Pieces of Eight on this record.
What was the songwriting process like?
SHAW: For me, the best songs are the ones that come to you. It’s like you just walked into a room and they were already playing on a radio. This album started out as a little acorn that fell to the ground and took root. That acorn [“Mission to Mars”] was an idea that came to me in a dressing room playing around on a warm-up amp. It had a setting with a little echo and I started playing this guitar riff. I liked it and recorded it on my phone and then later built a demo around it. One thing Styx is good about is talking about things you’re going through in life. No matter what the subject is, there’s always a human element to it. That’s when I realized this was something Styx could do.
What can you tell me about “Gone Gone Gone”?
SHAW: That was another dressing-room idea. James Young is one of these guys where you always have to pay attention when he first puts his guitar on, because a lot of times he’ll spew these amazing ideas out when he’s warming up. It’s like they come out of thin air. He had been playing this riff for a few days, and I finally asked him to show me how to play it. So, we started playing it together and then Lawrence walked into the room and he said, “Alright, somebody make this into a song!” We knew all along that this had to be the [album’s] opening song. It’s the perfect way to open the album and start the show.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Tommy Shaw and JY Young Here
Whether she’s portraying the frail but formidable paraplegic, Nica Pierce in “Curse of Chucky”, the crazed assassin, Bart Curlish, in “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” or the young nurse, Diane Jones, in the ABC mini-series, “When We Rise”, Fiona Dourif has proven that her versatility and talent as an actress is as genuine as the person she is in real life.
The beautiful Dourif will soon reprise her role as Nica in the upcoming horror/slasher film, “Cult of Chucky”; the seventh entry in the “Child’s Play” franchise scheduled to be released in October. The film, written and directed by series creator, Don Mancini, also reunites Fiona with her real-life father, Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky) and features Alex Vincent (from the original “Child’s Play”) and Jennifer Tilly (“Bride of Chucky”, “Seed of Chucky”).
I recently spoke with Dourif and got a sneak peek at “Cult of Chucky”, the second season of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.
It’s been four years since we’re seen you as Nica Pierce in “Curse of Chucky”. Was this new film, “Cult of Chucky” something that had always been planned?
I think Don [Mancini] is always thinking about ways to re-invent the franchise, even though he may not have a set timeline for it. It’s his life’s work. So, there was definitely talk about it on the set of the last film. I even remember Don coming up with idea of the mental asylum while we were shooting the last movie. With this new movie, he combines the old with the new, but it’s not a reboot. It’s a reinvention. It’s seeing Chucky in a way we’ve never seen before. There are definitely some surprises and I’m excited to see what people think.
What was it about the script that originally attracted you to the role of Nica?
I feel very close to the franchise in a way that’s there no parallel. When I was initially given the script, I auditioned for the role of Nica’s sister, Barb. But after watching my tape, Don said there was a quality in my performance that was right for Nica. It wasn’t obvious to me at first but they had me come in to audition and through the process made me understand that my own instincts as a person were very similar to Nica’s. But everything about the project attracted me. The idea that I could lead a franchise I felt this close to and to do something with my dad was an utter dream come true. It was my first studio film and a coming of age for me.
What makes horror such a great genre?
I think it’s fun to feel afraid. It takes up all of your attention in a way that’s exhilarating. It’s a baseline human experience and when you dive into it, it’s like riding a roller coaster.
What are some of the biggest challenges of playing Nica?
Horror itself is challenging because you have to bring a lot of energy to it. Nica goes through some very dark places, so there was a lot of trying to find freedom in the idea that everyone you love is dying in front of you. Working with the dolls can also get challenging because Chucky gets a lot of takes. You’re also working with a puppet that has six people in green suits around you. There’s someone controlling his eyebrows, someone controlling his lips, someone controlling the way his mouth moves, two people controlling his arm movement. You’re acting in this high intensity moment and in order to make the moment correct all six people have to be in sync together. So, if it’s a two-shot and Chucky’s getting twenty-six takes, you have to keep that energy and terror alive for all twenty-six. I remember getting home from those first days shooting with Chucky and just being a puddle on the floor [laughs]!
Without giving too much away, how would you describe “Cult of Chucky”?
“Cult of Chucky” is like a Chucky movie on drugs. I think that’s the way Don describes it. It’s a psychedelic, hospital movie with a lot of surprises. We’re going to see Chucky in a way we haven’t seen him before. It’s going to be fun.
What’s it like working with Don Mancini?
Don is a really generous director. He’ll let me bring to it what I think is right and then he’ll come in with opinions and an intelligence that I find very rewarding. We became good friends on the last movie and this year there was a fun synergy between us. I feel very close to this franchise and where the story goes. It’s fun to be able to make something with Don that people really dig.
When did you realize that acting would be your calling?
I remember the exact moment. I had been working on documentaries for a production company for The History Channel when I got the opportunity to take an acting class. I was doing an improv of a pizza delivery scene and when I got up there and performance kicked in it was the most exhilarating thing in the world. That’s when I thought if I could do this with my life, what could possibly be better?
Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?
I’m in Vancouver shooting “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, which is in its second season with BBC America and Netflix with Elijah Wood and Max Landis at the helm. I play a “Beetlejuice-like” monster who is the assassin of the universe. I’m this dirty, creature and the least sexualized feminine character that has ever been written. It’s maybe my favorite character I’ve ever played.
What can fans expect from the new season?
Mayhem! Max is a very smart, emotional writer. Sometimes the show feels like a graphic novel in the best possible way.
What’s the best bit of advice your dad’s given you as an actor?
There are kernels of things he’s said to me over the years that have become clearer in my journey. I remember a piece of advice I think about now-a-days with “Dirk Gently”. He said this cryptic thing: “You just have to step over the line.” The more I think about what he meant by that is more crystalized for me now.
Would you like to work with your father on another project at some point?
We talk about that all the time and would love to do something together. There hasn’t been a project yet that’s worked but I would really love that. It would be a gift.
What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?
I’m most excited about finding more freedom in the chances I get to perform. Like anything, the more you do something the better you are at it and the freer you become. It’s a fun ride and I’m so incredibly lucky.