Tag: Music

Interview: Janet Gardner discusses departure from Vixen, solo career and new music

When vocalist/guitarist Janet Gardner announced that her departure from Vixen this past January, it came as a bit of a surprise. After all the band, known for hits like “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Rev It Up,” had just completed another successful year of touring as well as releasing a new live album – the aptly titled, ‘Live Fire.’

For Gardner, the decision to leave didn’t come easy. Following her marriage to guitarist Justin James and the release of her acclaimed self-titled solo album, the blonde songstress spent the beginning of 2018 being rushed into emergency surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma. Her recovery was quickly followed by a string of solo U.K. shows before rejoining Vixen for even more live dates. This coupled with the process of juggling a regular job at home and raising her son had made scheduling too difficult. Something had to give.

There were no hard feelings with the split and Vixen, which consists of Share Ross (bass), Roxy Petrucci (drums) and Britt Lightning (guitars), will continue to carry on with Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale) joining the ranks on lead vocals.

n the meantime, Gardner is concentrating on her solo career and has nearly completed a follow-up album with James she hopes to release in the spring. Expect to see her out on the road in support of the new music as well as continuing to perform the hits she helped make famous.

AXS recently spoke with Janet Gardner about her decision to leave Vixen, new music and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What prompted your decision to leave Vixen and concentrate on your solo career?

Janet Gardner: Last year was insane for me. It started off in January when we were on a solo run out West and I had to have emergency brain surgery. I made up all of the missed shows and then did a U.K. run. Then Vixen started and we did even more great stuff. When I finally came up for air I was back home to my regular job, taking care of my son and all the other things that I do, and realized I was missing out on a lot because of scheduling. I had to make a decision.

AXS: Was this something that had been weighing on you for some time?

JG: Absolutely. I definitely wanted to make it work. They [Vixen] had made concessions for me when I needed to do things and I would feel bad about holding them back. I remember one time being stuck in a Detroit airport for eight hours and missing my son’s middle-school graduation. It’s hard to leave my family but I don’t want to keep Vixen from doing what they want to do. It was a tough call.

AXS: What are some of your best memories with the band?

JG: There’s been quite a few. Opening for Scorpions was our first arena tour and the first night of that tour was surreal. When I heard “Edge of A Broken Heart” on the radio for the very first time and our record went gold was another dream come true. They’re all good memories.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Janet Gardner by Clicking Here!

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Interview: Josh Malerman discusses The High Strung’s New Album, ‘Quiet Riots’ and writing ‘Bird Box’

Photo by Doug Coombe

Josh Malerman and the rest of adventure rockers The High Strung have unveiled the band’s eighth full-length release, Quiet Riots. The fourteen-track album is the group’s most harmony-laden to date, as it sees them reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Mark Owen, who’d been on hiatus for more than twelve years. Songs like the guitar-driven “Legion” and the effervescent “If You Wanna Roll” conjure up images of free-spirit and cross country drives, while tracks like “Riots Of The Mind” are a reminder that this world is still a very unsettled place.

The High Strung is: Josh Malerman (guitar/vocals), Mark Owen (guitar/vocals), Stephen Palmer (guitar), Chad Stocker (bass) and Derek Berk (drums).

Josh Malerman’s artistry not only lies within the craft of music but also as an acclaimed novelist. His post-apocalyptic thriller, “Bird Box,” a New York Times Bestseller, was recently adapted into a Netflix original feature. Since its release last December the film, which stars Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, has become Netflix’s biggest hit to date.

AXS recently spoke with Malerman about The High Strung’s new album, Quiet Riots, “Bird Box” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How does the new album, Quiet Riots, relate to some of the band’s previous work?

Josh Malerman: This is the most harmony-laden album so far and a lot of it has to do with Stephen, our lead guitarist, who was more involved in this singing. Then there’s Mark Owen, one of our two singer-songwriters, who had left the band for twelve years and returned. For me, this will always be the album that was kickstarted by Mark’s return and our first real attempt at a harmony album.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?

JM: Usually either Mark or I will come in with a little hook of an idea. Whether it’s a chord change or a lyric one of us will bring it to the table and we’ll finish the song together. [Mark] Owen is also great at lyrics, and when you have a songwriting partner who cares so much about them as he does you can’t help but step up your game.

JM: Let’s talk about a few tracks from the new album beginning with “Riots Of The Mind.” What can you tell me about it?

JM: Mark brought that one to the table. It’s a wonderful way of saying things are crazy without being too hazy or political. There’s something pocket poetic about it. There’s a lot of crazy sh#t going on in the world right now and it would be wrong to not even wink in that direction.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Josh Malerman by Clicking Here!

Interview: Thompson Square’s Keifer Thompson discusses the duo’s new children’s book, ‘Time To Get Dressed’

Photo by Garrett Merchant

As new parents, the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated duo Thompson Square (Keifer and Shawna Thompson) have discovered a new layer of creativity with the release of their first children’s book –the appropriately titled “Time To Get Dressed.” The book, written by Thompson Square, illustrated by Ana Patankar and inspired by the duo’s two-year-old son, Cooper, features a sing-song storyline with whimsical pictures designed to teach children how to get ready for their day.

In addition to “Time To Get Dressed” Keifer and Shawna Thompson continue to ride the wave of success and acclaim from their latest album, Masterpiece. An eleven-track opus that features more of the duo’s infectious vocal blend while sonically exploring landscapes of R&B, reggae and rock.

AXS recently spoke with Keifer Thompson about “Time To Get Dressed,” music and more in this new interview.

AXS: What inspired you to write “Time To Get Dressed?”

Keifer Thompson: Our son, Cooper, was a few weeks old and I was putting him in his crib one morning. I started putting his socks on and just started singing, “Socks, socks, one by one… Puttin’ on socks can be so fun.” Shawna was there at time and asked me if that was something my mom used to sing to me as a kid. I told her it was something I had just made up and she told me I really needed to finish it. I’d never written anything like that before so I went downstairs and a few hours later went up and showed her. Then we played it for management and everyone agreed that we needed to make it into a book. We got an amazing illustrator, sent a few photos and suggestions of how we wanted it to look and she knocked it out of the park. What’s interesting is that it’s not just a song. It’s a learning tool and application that helps with the whole process of getting dressed. It’s been neat to see people gravitate toward the book. We’re very excited at how it’s taken off.

AXS: What’s the biggest thing you and Shawna have learned as new parents?

KT: There’s a level of love that’s unparalleled and something that can only be experienced by a parent. You often hear people say they can relate, but you really can’t until you know that you’re responsible for the life of someone every day. Before Cooper came along my mornings usually started early in the house thinking about songs or writing. As a creator, you’re always looking for that next emotional roller-coaster. This is a built-in inspirational vault and has given life a purpose.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Keifer Thompson by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Eric Schenkman Discusses New Solo Album, ‘Who Shot John,’ the Spin Doctors, Gear

Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman’s third solo album, Who Shot John, showcases the many sides of the artist’s vast repertoire.

Whether it’s the colloquialism of the album’s title track, the unbridled anarchy and groove of songs like “Agent Orange” and “Locked in the House All Day,” or the hard, Chicago blues feel on tracks like “I’m All Right,” Who Shot John is radio-friendly enough to draw listeners in, while his guitar wizardry reveals a dynamic, effervescent complexity.

Guitar World recently spoke with Schenkman about Who Shot John, the Spin Doctors and more.

How would you describe Who Shot John in terms of its sound and maybe how it relates to some of your previous work?

Sound-wise, it leans heavily on my working with a trio, which is something that I do a lot, and how I’ve been understanding music through the blues these last several years. It’s a good representation of where I’m at now and [looks] at a lot of different angles and perspectives that I’ve come to terms with.

What’s your writing process like?

It happens very differently for different songs. Sometimes a song can be melody-driven, like “Fortune Teller” and “Far Away.” A song can also be very immediate and other times could take years to write. “Agent Orange Blues” is an example of a tight, visceral response to a situation, whereas a song like “Who Shot John” came from a lyric I started about 20 years ago and just recently finished. I had that one in my head for years trying to figure out what the lyric meant.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Eric Schenkman by Clicking Here!

Interview: Madame Mayhem Discusses New Single, ‘Broken’, Memorable Moments

Co-written with Breaking Benjamin’s Keith Wallen, Manhattan-born singer/songwriter Madame Mayhem is back with her infectious new single, “Broken.”

The new track, which features the powerful rhythm section of Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Winery Dogs) and Ray Luzier (Korn, KXM) continues the dynamically gifted artist’s trend of delivering infectious melodies, hard-hitting rhythms and soaring vocals.

AXS recently spoke with Madame Mayhem about “Broken” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did your new single, “Broken,” come about?

Madame Mayhem: It’s always cool when you can collaborate with people who hold you accountable and can bring something of their own to the table as well. I’ve written a bunch of songs with Keith Wallen and “Broken” is one that came out of those sessions. I always like it when listeners can relate to a song in their own way. For me, “Broken” is a song about the feeling you get when you’re in a relationship with someone and both of you know it’s over, but both of you are afraid to admit it.

AXS: What was the writing process like?

MM: I always say this but it’s true: there’s really no one set way to write. I could go in with a bunch of lyrics and Keith may have a bunch of riffs. Sometimes we may use them and other times we may just scratch it all together and talk about what we’re feeling right now. We’ll both come prepared but sometimes it can all go out the window and we’ll start with something new. It’s very organic.

AXS: Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?

MM: The lyrics usually come from the struggles and frustrations I’ve been through. It’s therapeutic to get the song out, and when I hear people say that they feel the same way it makes me feel that I’m not alone. It’s writing from truth.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Madame Mayhem by Clicking here!

Go Jimmy Go: 2018 Year in Review

As a musician and writer, 2018 has been the best of year of my life. Not only did I complete more than 124 interviews for this blog, GuitarWorld.com and AXS.com over the course of these last twelve months, but 2018 also marked a trifecta of amazing milestones for me.

I began this whole writing journey with a single, simple Facebook resolution I made to myself on New Year’s Day in 2011. If you’ve been a regular follower of this blog over the last seven years, you’ll know that its the same one I post every January 1st to remind me of how it all began and just how far I’ve come:

Keeping that promise to myself over these last seven years has been an amazing ride, but 2018 saw three of the biggest, pinch yourself moments ever. Things I only ever dreamed about doing. So, as this year comes to close, I’d like to revisit them one more time.

2018 started out with a trip to Los Angeles in February for a once in a lifetime experience at Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp. Not only did I get to jam with two guys from my all-time favorite band, REO Speedwagon, but I also had the rare opportunity to perform on stage with Night Ranger at The Whisky A Go Go! Joining me that night were Craig Goldy (Dio) and three guys, Bobby, Rik and Tom, who I’d never met before but who quickly became friends and bandmates I’ll never forget.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: all the while I was in L.A preparing for Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp, I was also busily putting the finishing touches on something I think every writer dreams about doing, and in May of this year that dream finally came to fruition with the release of my first novella, “Neapolitan Sky.”

The story about Nica Mitchell’s journey actually began in the Summer of 2017 and took nearly six months to complete. It was a labor of love, pain and constant rewrites and second guesses. When I finally put the pen (or in this case, the lid of the laptop) down, I had the good fortune of having more than a dozen of my friends help me by being test/proof readers and editors. Their input and experience was invaluable in getting the story ready for publication. Following the release of “Neapolitan Sky,” I also had two amazingly successful book signings in Bethlehem and New Hope, PA.

Equally as surreal as the physical book was the release of an Audible version, which was read by one of my favorite artists and actresses, Ashley Watkins. Where I had brought the words of Nica Mitchell and her friends to the page, Ashley literally brought them to life!

But perhaps the biggest, and most exciting, event of the year came just a few weeks ago with the release of my first two interviews in the pages of Guitar World magazine. As a guitarist, I’ve been absorbing this magazine like religion every month since 1985. It’s a bible for any aspiring guitarist. Having already been blessed (religion – bible – blessed, get it?) to write for the website for nearly six years, getting the opportunity to contribute content to the physical magazine was another dream come true. When you open the magazine and see your name printed on the page right next to some of your guitar heroes its not only poweful, it’s humbling. Moreover, it’s proof that hard work, networking and kindness pays off.

Next year will mark another major milestone as I’ll be turning fifty years old. But as I look to that day with both fear and wonder I’m reminded that each and every day is part of the journey. Collectively, I look back on these last seven years and can’t believe some of the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve met so many amazingly talented people along the way. Not just actors, musicians, artists and filmmakers. In many cases, these are people who’ve become dear friends to me. Friends I’m proud to have in my life and ones who inspire me to do better.

Here it is in a nutshell: Since 2011, I’ve done nearly 2,000 interviews and articles, released three children’s books with one of my dearest friends, wrote my first novel, and have rounded out 2018 with two interviews published in the pages of Guitar World magazine. Even with all of that it still feels like I’m just getting started. There’s so much more to do, and I can’t wait to get started. As a preview, I already have an interview on deck with Def Leppard, who will be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. I’m also halfway through my new book, a prequel to “Neapolitan Sky” that’s set in the year 1986!

Please don’t read that last paragraph and think I’m tooting my own horn. I’m nobody special. What I’m trying to say by writing it down is that if I can do it — so can you. Dreams don’t just fall into your lap. You have to go out and make them happen. And sometimes, all that can start with just a simple resolution:

“I’ve resolved to do some writing. So here goes:”

I hope reading this blog will inspire you to do the same thing I did on January 1st, 2011, and that is to make a promise to yourself for 2019. A resolution to do something you’ve always dreamed about. Take the first sentence of my resolution and change the word “writing” to something you’re passionate about. Then go out and make it happen.

Here’s wishing you peace, love, music, art, writing….and all the best for the New Year.

‘Six Degrees of Sarzo’: Rudy Sarzo Talks New Radio Show, The Guess Who, Memorable Moments and More

It’s been another incredible year for multi-talented artist, Rudy Sarzo. Not only was The Guess Who bassist involved in the band’s first album of new material in more than two decades, The Future Is What it Used To Be, but Sarzo also contributed his musical prowess to friend (and fellow former Dio bandmate), Craig Goldy’s Dream Child project, Until Death Do We Meet Again.

You may be surprised to learn that Sarzo, whose lengthy musical career as an artist includes work with Ozzy, Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, was also once a mass communication major in college. An experience that serves him well is his newly launched radio show, “Six Degrees of Sarzo.” A three-hour, nine-segment show on Monsters of Rock Radio that airs Sundays from 4 – 7 p.m. PST (7 – 10 p.m. EST). The show is an eclectic mix of music and interviews and is part of the 80+ original station line-up on Dash Radio, available commercial and subscription free.

I recently spoke with Rudy Sarzo about “Six Degrees of Sarzo”, his work with The Guess Who, Dream Child, and the 35thanniversary of Quiet Riot’s monster Metal Health album in this exclusive new interview.

Where did the idea to do a podcast originate?

Recently, I’ve been attending a lot of memorials for musicians and friends of mine who’ve passed away. I heard so many nice things being said about them that I started thinking wouldn’t it be nice if they could be here to hear all of these things being said about them? It inspired me to create the Dash Podcast, with the “dash” being that line between the birth and death date on a headstone. The idea was for me to bring in people I admire from all walks of life and talk about their journey.

One day, I was contacted by Harlan Hendrickson, who owns the Monsters of Rock brand. He has a station on Dash Radio (ironically enough) called Monsters of Rock Radio and asked me about doing a show. I now have a program on Sundays from 4 -7 p.m. PT called “Six Degrees of Sarzo.”  It’s a nine segment, three-hour show that has a bit of essence of the original podcast where I interview musicians, talk about their journey and mix it up with music.

What are your plans for “Six Degrees of Sarzo”?

I recently interviewed my friend Frankie Banali from Quiet Riot and dUg Pinnick from King’s X and also have the NAMM show coming up in January where I’ll be doing short interviews with people there. I also want to use the show as a tool for what’s happening now and to get more exposure to the new bands like The Struts, Greta Van Fleet and Rival Sons. They’re all great musicians, songwriters and performers. There’s a bright future for the next generation.

Let’s discuss a few other projects you’ve worked on this year, starting with The Guess Who. The band released a new album in 2018, The Future Is What it Used To Be. How has the reaction been?

There was emphasis on keeping the spirit and legacy of the band and what the sound is all about with the new album, and the response has been phenomenal. We play a few of the new songs every night and have three videos for the songs “Playin on the Radio,” “Haunted,” and our new one, “In America.”

What was the writing process like?

I’ve only been in the band for a years but the process started even before I was on the radar. There are two producers / songwriters in the band—Derek Sharp and Will Evankovich. Will is also the co-writer and co-producer, along with Tommy Shaw, on the latest Styx record, The Mission. They had been working on material to submit to other artists and one day they said, wait a minute. Why should we give these songs away? Let’s make a new Guess Who record!

What can you tell me about your involvement with Craig Goldy in the Dream Child project?

What was interesting about that album was that there was a clear vision: Craig was going to produce and write. Goldy already knew Wayne Findlay and Diego Valdez and the label asked him about getting Simon Wright and myself, who played with Goldy in Dio. I did recording and engineering in my home studio and Wayne and Diego did their parts in their studios. Simon went into a studio to record and engineer the drums with Goldy. It’s record I was very proud to be a part of.

This year marked the 35th anniversary of Quiet Riot’s Metal Health album. When you look back on that whole era now, what thoughts come to mind?

I recently talked about this with Frankie Banali on my radio show. I was on the same circuit as Kevin [Dubrow] and Frankie in the Randy Rhoads version of Quiet Riot before I joined Ozzy. After Randy passed, I wasn’t mature enough to know how to deal with loss and needed to get away. I had gotten a call from Kevin to come in and play on one song, “Thunderbird.” It was a song Kevin wrote when Randy left Quiet Riot to join Ozzy, but after Randy passed, it took on a whole different meaning. I went into the studio to do that one song and by the time I left the session I’d recorded almost half of the record. When I officially left Ozzy a few weeks later, I came back and finished the songs. I played on everything except “Metal Health” and “Don’t Wanna  Let You Go,” which was recorded by Chuck Wright. I found emotional refuge playing with my friends again and re-discovered the joy of playing. That’s what that record means to me. It was a place where I felt comfortable.

Did the band have any idea of how special that album was going to be?

We actually felt it might do the complete opposite. I remember at the time, no one wanted to manage the band. We had to beg the original Randy Rhoads-era manager to come out of retirement, and even he was skeptical. I was aware of the  new wave of metal and the possibility of how the band might be accepted outside of L.A. because I’d been touring with Ozzy for a few years and we had Motörhead, Def Leppard, UFO and Starfighters open for us. I thought we might sell 50,000 albums, which was the watermark for a young band to make a new record. Then MTV happened and they started playing “Cum On Feel The Noize” every half hour. That made an incredible difference.

Of all the highlights of your career, is there one thing that stands out to you as most memorable?

Every single one has its own special memory. I can’t say that one was more memorable than another. Whether it was with Ozzy, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake or Dio, each one had a very beautiful arc –a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s more about the journey than anything else.