Archive | July, 2010

Cyndi Lauper wants to have fun with the blues

20 Jul

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

NEW BEDFORD – After performing to a sold out crowd at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center last year, singing sensation Cyndi Lauper is returning to New Bedford, Mass., on July 27th and will be playing songs from her new covers album, “Memphis Blues.” With over 25 years as a pop artist under her belt, Lauper said she yearned to branch out a bit and made a blues album.

 “I had wanted to do a blues record for eight years,” Lauper said. “I’m glad I waited. It would have been a good record years ago, but it would have been different. I’m grateful to be able to do it now.”

Lauper said she was fortunate to share vocals with blues legend B.B. King on “Early in the Morning,” while guitarist Johnny Lang appears on “How Blue Can You Get” and “Crossroads.” Soul singer and songwriter Ann Peebles also made a cameo on the track “Rollin’ and Tumblin.’”

 “Oh, my God, I sang on the same microphone as Ann Peebles,” Lauper laughed. “Do you know how awesome that was? I can’t even believe it.”

Another artist Lauper said made a big impact on “Memphis Blues” was the multi-talented musician Allen Toussaint.

 “When Allen Toussaint sat down and played, ‘Shattered Dreams,’ it was like Voo-Doo,” Lauper said. “When we were doing it, I really felt like I fell into a dream. It was a great experience. They are all incredible players and I was blessed. Charlie Musselwhite was great on the album and he actually plays with me live. He’s awesome.”

As eager as she was to do a blues recording, Lauper said she still had some reservations about how her fans would receive the music.

 “It was hard at first, but I decided to do it and it’s actually going over pretty good,” she said. “I kept going and I kept trying and I felt that I needed to experience this and this was the right time. I wanted to sing the blues to the people, but with humor.”

She said she believes the songs she selected to cover on the album all have just the right attitude she was searching for.

 “I wanted to sing music that was uplifting because the best parts of the blues are uplifting,” said Lauper. “That was really the motivation in choosing the material. These are all wonderful, old songs that really spoke to what is going on today. They relate to what’s going on now. That’s the timeless thing about the blues. These songs have courage and spit and vinegar because that’s how we get through.”

In addition to performing songs from her new album, Lauper said she plans on playing some of her old songs, too.

 “I wouldn’t not play ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’,” she laughed. “It would be rotten if I didn’t.”

Most recently, Lauper has joined forces with another female artist that just wants to “have fun.” Lauper and Lady Gaga have been appointed as spokespeople for the 2010 MAC Viva Glam Campaign in order to raise money for AIDS research and treatment. The campaign also seeks to educate woman about HIV/AIDS around the world.

 “I wanted to be a Viva Glam Girl since the first time it came out,” Lauper said. “They told me I’d be doing it with Lady Gaga. I met her once and I thought, ‘well, she’s great. I love her work.’ I think she’s a great performance artist.”

Lauper said one of the main reasons she and Gaga were chosen for the campaign is because AIDS is an epidemic in women of their age brackets. The highest new rates of infection are in women between the ages of 17 and 24, and between 39 and 60.

 “When I did the Viva Glam Campaign, I learned a lot about AIDS,” Lauper said. “AIDS has no discrimination. AIDS is the leading killer of African American women in our country. 100 percent of the proceeds (of the campaign) goes to fight AIDS. Spend $14 and give a tube of lipstick to your kid sister and tell her to protect herself.”

Another organization Lauper is affiliated with is the “Give a Damn Campaign,” a movement she designed in order to support the gay community.

 “I did, ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ to raise awareness on the civil rights problem in our country in the LGBT community,” she said. “The money I raised from there I used to start, ‘giveadamn.org.’ It’s been extraordinary to be a part of.”

Lauper originally began her unofficial work as an advocate for civil rights in 1986, when she wrote and recorded the song, “True Colors,” in honor of her homosexual sister. Lauper also said her family has encouraged her music through the years, especially her husband and her son.

“I think getting married and having a child made my music deeper and better,” she said. “I was proud to join the ranks of the many women who came before me who were mothers and artists.”

As a female musician, she said the release of her hit song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” was a milestone and a huge success for both her career and for women everywhere.

“I only hoped it would do what it does now and it did,” she said. “It’s better to spend your life energy working on projects that are bigger than yourself.”

One project Lauper recently worked on was with Mattel. The toy company made a line of Barbie Dolls called “Ladies from the 80s” and they released a Cyndi Laiper doll.

“Who do you think they worked with on the outfits?” Lauper laughed. “I wanted the outfits to look like the cover of the single sleeve. I couldn’t get the earrings, though.”

As flattering as having a doll made after her is, Lauper said the most memorable moments for her life over the years have been hearing other performers cover her music.

“I really loved it when Miles Davis covered ‘Time After Time’ or when Patti La Belle sang it right in my face,” Lauper joked. “I thought to myself, ‘it don’t get any better than that.’ But, it does. Everyday, I pinch myself.”

Folk icon Jonathan Edwards engages his audience

19 Jul

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the summer of 2010.

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Jonathan Edwards, at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Friday, July 23, 8 p.m.

Jonathan Edwards took a break from a recording session on July 8 to talk to a writer about his upcoming show at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. He says the album, his first of original material in 15 years, will have a rockier and more energetic sound than past works. But he said there will still be some songs addressing the social problems of the world, as he has been known to do with his lyrics over the past 40 years. But while Edwards wants to send a message with some of his music, he also wants to entertain.

“It’s a tricky balance between having a cause and art,” Edwards said. “You have to know when to articulate. It’s a tough balance. You don’t want to be all about social issues and not about your personal life. I like to write about what’s going on around the kitchen table and hopefully you can relate.”

Edwards, who will be at the Cotuit Center for the Arts on July 23, is of course most well known for his song “Sunshine,” which was written when he was an angry young man during the era of the Vietnam conflict, anti-war rallies and controversial President Richard Nixon. Many years since “Sunshine” was written, he says the song applies today with the United States in the Iraq War and War on Terror in Afghanistan.

“The relevance is still there to sing against and speak against wars that people think are wrong,” Edwards said. “These are still some of them.”

The difference between now and then, Edwards says, is young men were forced to go to Vietnam with the draft. He thinks if there was a draft for the MIddle East wars, they would be over sooner. Edwards talks about the big military effort that the U.S. has made overseas, yet can’t clean up the oil spill in the Gulf.

“You can’t fight insurgency and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to bring democracy by fighting tribes in the desert. It doesn’t make sense.”

But enough of the serious stuff. While he may address some of those issues during his concerts, Edwards said he wants to entertain the people who come to his shows. He will be part of a quartet at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. Edwards is the lead singer, but he also is a multi-talented musician who can play the guitar, bass, piano, harmonica and percussion, when needed. On the left side of the stage will be Taylor Armerding, a mandolin player and vocalist who founded Northern Lights. On banjo, bass and mandolin will be Charlie Rose. On the right of the stage will be Stuart Schulman on bass, piano and fiddle. Stuart played on the early records of Edwards, is the chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Groton and has performed on and off with Edwards since 1969. Edwards has been traveling with the quartet for a couple of years.

“I love playing with all different kinds of lineups,” Edwards said. “I’ve played solo, duo and everything in between. People love the quartet. I kind of got into this business to play music with my friends and that’s what we’re doing.”

Edwards said the quartet allows him to expand his vocals and instrumentals. He said it gives him a chance to go deeper into his songs. He said the quartet allows for more spontaneity during a concert than when he is solo.

After being born in Minnesota, growing up in Virginia and attending Ohio University, Edwards went to Boston to enter the music scene. He has lived on a farm in western Massachusetts, briefly in New Hampshire and now lives in Maine.

“New England has a pretty young population with colleges and schools,” Edwards said. “I’ve always sorts of resonated and gravitated toward young people and their energy and outspokenness.”

But Edwards has some special connections to Cape Cod and said one of the happiest times of his life was in the 1980s when he was looking for a place to live and decided to live in Cotuit.

“I just rented a house and enjoyed the town and went to the beach and had a wonderful summer,” Edwards said.

Edwards also did the soundtrack and appeared “for about a minute” as a preacher in the movie “The Golden Boys,” which was set in Cape Cod and shot in Chatham.

From providing backup vocals for Emmylou Harris, to recording a children’s album that was inspired by his daughter, to scoring the 1996 film “The Mouse,” to touring with a Broadway show and hosting a PBS documentary series on the waterways of America, Edwards has displayed his talents in a variety of venues. There is a 90-minute documentary of his life called “That’s What Our Life Is.”

But playing his music is what he likes the most. The folk icon said he enjoys performing in theaters that hold 200, 300 or 500 people and interacting with audiences.

“More and more, I’m engaging myself and getting to know them,” Edwards said. “It’s a richer experience for me. I love it more and more.”

Edwards has opened up shows for the Allman Brothers Band and B.B. King. He has also worked with local folk singer Cheryl Wheeler, of Swansea, producing the songs “Driving Home” and “Mrs. Pinocci’s Guitar” for her. He said Wheeler is one of the most creative musicians he has worked with and said her songwriting and singing is phenomenal.

As far as the difference between when he started out in folk music during the 1960s and 2010, Edwards said there were a lot less musicians with acoustic guitars showing up to play for crowds many years ago. He said there are many more folk musicians today and more venues for them to display their talent. In the digital age, he said a lot more people can make an album in their kitchen and record it. But Edwards said musicians are not addressing social issues as much today as when he was starting out on the music scene, which is “kind of troubling” to him. He said he writes songs about social issues that he does not play live in concert because people want to be entertained. But he said the wars, immigation and dependence on fossil fuels are issues that musicians today could address with their songwriting.

“It’s difficult to make it interesting and fun to laugh at because because they are such difficult, in-grained problems,” Edwards said. “It’s difficult to make art out of it that people are not going to be depressed by.”

For tickets, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com, call 508-673-3637 or go to the box office at 4404 Falmouth Road (Route 28) in Cotuit. This is an all ages show.

Tech talk with guitar genius Adrian Belew

19 Jul

This story was taken from the summer 2010 issue of Limelight Magazine and the Bridgethink.org monthly e-newsletter.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With a tour about to kick off and gigs at both the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonberry, N.H., on June 24, and the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on June 26, guitar extraordinaire Adrian Belew said he is equipped with fresh new gadgets that enhance his unique, innovative sound. These “toys” will allow him to put on a one-man show that the audience will have to see to believe.

“I think everything I pick up is part of my creative thought process, which is why I’m always trying new instruments or new effects boxes or switching from playing from guitar to piano,” Belew said. “Each one of those things has the same characteristics and will spark an idea. I guess what I’m always trying to do is inspire myself towards creating the next piece of music, the next song, or the next record concept.”

In order to be more creative, Belew said it’s best to continuously experiment with a lot of different equipment, as he is forever on the prowl for the latest and greatest gadgets.

“I went to the NAMM show they had in California in January,” he said. “It’s a huge convention of all the new musical devices and instruments. It’s where all the different music manufacturers show everything they have.”

Belew said he spotted a mechanism on display called the Tenori-on, an electronic musical instrument that consists of a screen, held in the hands, of a sixteen by sixteen grid of LED switches, any of which can be activated in a number of ways to create an evolving musical soundscape. He said he became infatuated with it almost immediately.

“I really loved it,” he said. “I thought it was an amazingly creative tool. It’s small and almost toy-like and anyone can play it instantly. I want to figure everything out about it and master it. Once you’ve mastered it, there is a lot more to it and then you could actually do compositions with it.”

He said playing the Tenori-on is absolutely nothing like playing guitar, or anything else for that matter.

“It’s not like anything I can think of,” Belew said. “It’s not nearly as tactile as playing guitar. So much of playing guitar is physical. Every little thing you do with your fingers, the way you move your fingers on the fret board, the way you strike the strings, or picking, is going to affect the sound. It’s not the same with the Tenori-on. You are just pushing buttons and once you push a button it activates a sound.”

After he experimented with the Tenori-on, he decided to bring it with him to a performance in order to test it out on stage and introduce it to his fans.

“I brought it to the show because I figured there weren’t many people who’ve seen one or heard one yet,” he said. “I wanted to show my audience everything they expect from me, that I’m pushing the boundaries and trying out new technologies.”

Another form of technology Belew frequently has been using on and off stage is an Apple laptop computer, which primarily acts as a looper for all the sounds he composes. He said he became interested in the concept of looping through his desire to play in a trio.

“When you open up a new box of tools like that, especially a computer, you can imagine there are so many things you couldn’t do with just guitars,” he said. “It’s helped me a lot. In a trio format where there’s only one guitar player, I figured if I could make some loops and that would be our rhythm guitar player (so we would) not have an empty place whenever I wanted to do a solo.”

With the Tenori-on, laptop, software, and other devices, Belew said he ultimately wants to be able to replace keyboards, guitar synthesizers, and several other pieces of heavy equipment he’d rather not lug around. More or less, he said this would give him the opportunity to travel lightly.

“I’m making a big effort to downsize all of the gear I have because in the last four years we toured a lot and it’s too much gear to take most places,” he said. “I wanted to see if there was a better way of doing it with smaller tools so eventually I’ll have just a couple of tools with me and I’ll be able to take those around the world.”

As Belew said, he has toured a lot over the years and has written music in multiple bands including King Crimson and his Power Trio, as well as solo material. He said the main difference between writing music within a group versus working as a solo artist is simple: when writing in a band, he needs to consider the style and preference of his fellow band mates. When working on a solo project, anything goes.

“When I’m writing songs with King Crimson, I’m the singer, the lyricist. I’m the person who writes the melodies,” he said. “I have to be careful that I choose ideas that reflect the rest of the members of the band and their taste and well as what the band is about.”

He said that while it may sound limiting, it’s not.

“The good thing about it is the other people are collaborating with you,” he said. “They are creating things for you to work with too. On my solo records, I try to do everything I can myself just because I think it makes it a little more personal. In King Crimson that’s not necessary. I don’t need to play drums because we have a much better drummer. It’s all from the same well and it’s all good.”

Whether he composes music as a collaborative effort or alone, Belew admitted he rarely considers his audience when he writes.

“I’m sorry to say that and it sounds cold, but I do whatever is in my mind,” he said. “I wake up in the morning with certain ideas and thoughts. I have musical problems I want to solve and I go about doing that. My purpose is, ‘this is in my mind and I want to get it out.’ There are times when I think if the audience will like it or not, but I don’t think it causes me to change anything.”

He said he has never been able to write on the basis of what other people like and, while he admits it may sound a bit selfish, he thinks it’s a “more pure” way to express himself.

“I always create on the basis of what I want to hear,” he said. “You do whatever your heart and your mind are telling you to do. You don’t sit and think, ‘what are my fans going to think?’ because that can derail your creativity quickly. When I started out as a musician, I thought I wanted to be in a popular band or be an artist that made records that loads of people would love. That’s kind of where a lot of people start from but as you mature you realize that’s not the most important aspect of it.”

Belew said the quality of his work is what matters to him most.

“If you’re a musician, you have to live within your own means,” he said. “I’m always conscious that I’m not really a mass appeal, at least not now. You never want to shut that door, it may possibly still happen, but because of that I think it gives me a little extra freedom. I’m not trying to compete with anyone on the radio or with my last hit.”

Hits or no hits, Belew said he has been able to write many rock songs with his bands. On his own, he said he can branch out more.

“The idea behind the (one man) show itself was to demonstrate a part of my music that doesn’t work in other formats,” he said. “It’s more improvising and playing gentler music and prettier things and talking with the audience. You can’t really do that in a rock show because you don’t want to stop the momentum and talk with the audience. In this show, I do all those things, so it’s really put together to show an artistic side of what I do in a very personal way.”

Belew said he hopes to personalize his shows even further by incorporating video to make his sets more of a multi media experience.

“I want to put up two big screens and play with visual things on the screens, sometimes just
allowing (images) to float by and do their own thing. But other times being interactive with them so I might be playing something that refers to the pictures you are seeing,” he said. “I’m not really completely finished with what I would like to see happen.”

While he works on perfecting his video, Belew plans to take some of the artwork he recently painted on the road with him and put it on display.

“I’m bringing the paintings along just as a way of showing another side of myself and who I am as an artist,” he said. “A lot of my fans have asked about the paintings and have hinted that they’d like to see them in person. The paintings are really a backdrop. If you come before or after the show you can come and take a look at them close up.”

Belew said he always thought he would start painting when he retired but got the urge and acted on it.

“I just took it up one day out of the blue,” he said. “I thought, ‘well, I’m ready to do this now,’ and I went to a store and started asking a lot of questions about paint.”

He said he knew he wanted to get paint that would work with other substances like sand and gloss so he could add to the dimensional aspect.

“I bought two canvases, took those canvases home and within three or four hours I was ready to start out on the next two,” Belew laughed. “In my paintings, I’ll do a lot of different layers and I’ll put a layer on and then I take some of it off. It’s a way of building dimensions.”

He said he thinks painting is a lot like making music and believes the two forms of art have the ability to inspire one another.

“They come from the same family, from the same side of my brain,” Belew said. “You’re dealing with the same type of things – dimension, tone, and arrangements. I’ve never thought about (music) in the same way as in painting, but it’s true, they are two separate ways of using layering. If you were Picasso, you could draw with a pencil or you could use an airbrush. If you’re a guitar player you could play an acoustic or you could play through a computer.”

Another effective way Belew said musicians and artists can use the computer is via social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

“I think it’s an exciting time because of those elements,” he said. “I think they’ve been good for the music business to reinvent itself because it’s taken the music and the business itself and hoists it in the hands of the artists. You’re more in control of your career through the Internet than you ever were when you were making records on a label. If you do it correctly, you can make more money. It’s a double-edged sword to me. It’s harder, but more rewarding.”

He also said he thinks it’s a bit of a confusing time to be in the music business because too many people are posing as musicians when they are not.

“There are a lot of people that really don’t belong there,” he said. “Maybe as time goes by they get sorted out – who’s truly a musician and who’s just up there because they have a computer and they can. It doesn’t mean you should just because you can. It’s spreading things so thin. There’s no one behind any one movement. When I was starting out, there were movements and a lot of people would get behind those movements. You don’t quite get that same feeling on the Internet because everyone’s doing things. It gives the effect of almost too much information and not enough focus.”

As far as Belew is concerned, he said he is just having fun with his many gadgets and gizmos.

“I never get too wrapped up in one,” he said. “I use all of them for the different needs I have. I’m very careful in my music to balance between the technical and digital aspect of what I do with the more organic acoustic aspect of music so you never lose that part of it.”

Julie Slick: As slick as it gets

19 Jul

This story is taken from the Summer 2010 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

PHILADELPHIA – Bassist Julie Slick, who makes up one third of the Adrian Belew Power Trio, has just released her self-titled debut solo album. At the young age of 24, the Philadelphia native said music has always been a huge part of her life.

“My parents are such music freaks,” she said. “They would play a lot of vinyl’s for us all the time. Every Friday night we would have music appreciation day. We would have a dance party and my mom would put on the Beatles, Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, and stuff like that.”

The “us” Slick is referring to is herself and her brother Eric, who is only a mere 15 months younger than his sister. She said when Eric was a toddler their parents bought him bongos and ended up getting him a drum set by the time he was five years old.

“He was banging on his crib in perfect rhythm,” Slick said.

She said finding her instrument of choice wasn’t as simple.

“I had messed around with keyboards a little bit and I tried to learn guitar when I was nine or ten, but I was a shy kid so guitar didn’t seem right for me,” Slick said. “I had trouble staying focused with it and learning solos.”

Never feeling completely comfortable with keys or guitar, she was still determined to connect with an instrument. Her father had a Fretless Gibson Ripper bass and when she was 11 years old, she figured she’d give it a try.

“My dad had a super long scale bass and it was pretty much bigger than I was at the time,” Slick said. “I just thought to myself, ‘with this thing I can just hide in the corner and I don’t have to learn any chords or solos.’”

As her skills as a bassist began to form, Slick grew interested in the music of Cream.

“My first main influence would be Jack Bruce,” she said. “My dad showed me a couple of bass lines from songs like ‘Politician’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love,’ and we had old VHS tapes of Cream concerts we would watch.”

Slick said she even painted her first bass, a Squire Music Master, just like Bruce’s Fender Bass VI Baritone, also known as a baritone guitar.

“I was really into drawing and painting at that time, too,” she said.

Once she really began to excel, her father introduced her to jazz bassist Stanley Clark as well as Chris Squire of the band Yes. Squire particularly inspired Slick because he’s a pick player.

“I mostly play with a pick and I love that Rickenbacker sound,” she said.

By the time she was in high school, Slick began her education at the School of Rock, an after school music program for talented young musicians.

“At the School of Rock, I found kids that had similar interests and wanted to jam,” she said. “I found a really good community there.”

The only person that ever attempted to discourage Slick was a reporter from a local radio station that visited the school.

“He was just being a total jerk to everybody,” she said. “He pulled me aside and was like, ‘don’t you feel weird here being a girl? There are mostly boys here.’ I just wanted to punch him in the face.”

While she may have been irritated for a moment, Slick said she is ultimately proud to be a female bassist.

“It’s not a typical instrument for girls to play,” she said. “I’m a pretty competitive person so I really never let it get to me.”

She said her competitive nature drove her to practice more. Since her brother always was cast on the best songs the School of Rock had their students learn and then perform onstage, Slick made she sure she was cast on the same songs.

“I would work really hard so we could be together,” she said. “We’re very close.”

Over the years, the two of them grew as musicians and quickly became a tight rhythm section. At this time, they were heavily influenced by Adrian Belew’s band King Crimson. In 2006, Belew, an innovative guitarist who is know for his unusual approach to guitar playing, which features bizarre electronic tones, unorthodox playing techniques and a wide variety of sonic effects, asked the two of them to go on tour with him as the Arian Belew Power Trio.

“The tour was booked while I only had five weeks left of school,” Slick said. “Luckily, my teacher allowed me to submit my work online. It was kind of funny because my teacher could see how my music was influenced by playing with (Belew) the last weeks of the semester.”

She said her parents were “super excited” when they found out both she and Eric were going on tour with Belew.

“My parents are my biggest supporters and as soon as I told my mom it was as if I told her I had won the lottery,” she laughed. “My dad was giving us big hugs. They have all of King Crimson on vinyl.”

Slick said because she and Eric have been playing together their whole lives and come from the
same musical background they are very comfortable when performing together in front of a live audience.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I think (Belew) has a lot of fun with that too because he never has to worry about the rhythm section falling apart. He can go off into outer space with his guitar playing and not have to think about what me and Eric are doing. The three of us incorporate a lot if improvisation in our sets and I always look forward to those types of sets.”

While Belew is the composer of the music the Power Trio plays, Slick said she was fortunate enough to be able to write her own bass lines and improvise on a few songs on their studio album, “e”.

“It was really a treat to be able to do that,” she said. “It was an honor.”

After playing with the Power Trio for three years, the band took some time off and Slick used that time to write her solo debut album.

“I actually put on my blog as a new year’s resolution, ‘I’m going to make a solo album this year,’” she said. “I hadn’t written much before but I’m fortunate to have a home studio. I’ve been collecting recording equipment longer than I’ve been playing bass. I captured some of what I had been working on and suddenly I had ‘Shadow Trip’ written.”

Slick said she got “addicted to the process” and had five songs complete after two weeks.

“I had no intention of making the album that soon,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘wow. I think I can actually do this. I can make an album.’”

Because she doesn’t sing, she said the thought of having vocals on her album wasn’t even an option.

“I went into melodies that were singable enough that you wouldn’t really miss the vocals,” she said. “But, I sampled my voice and pitched it up and used it on tracks four and eight because I wanted it to have a human element.”

She said a lot of the melodies on her new CD are actually being played on bass.

“I have this Roland pick up that can convert a signal into MIDI and a Roland VB-99 module which takes that signal and is able to process it and turn it into sounding like a guitar or an organ or various synthesizers,” Slick said. “I would say I’m influenced by (Belew) in that way. He has so many sounds.”

During the processes of writing, recording, and producing her album on her own, she felt as if she needed some sort of outside source to bounce ideas off. Naturally, she turned to her brother.

“Even though he wasn’t around that much because he was touring with Dr. Dog, Eric was a major creative consultant for the new album,” she said. “Whenever I was working on a song I’d invite him over or e-mail him a song and ask him what he thought. He helped me a lot with ‘February’ and ‘The Rivalry.’”

For more drums, Eric suggested she contact drummer Marco Minnemann. On a whim, she emailed Minnemann and asked if he would be interested in playing on her album. After getting his permission, she sent him a sample of one of her songs.

“I sent the e-mail, went to bed and the next morning he sent back three different takes of the song already completed,” Slick said. “I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ That’s when I got the idea to ask more people.”

Slick also asked Pat Mastelotto from King Crimson for a musical contribution and although he was in South America, he sent her his track within a day. When she asked Robert Fripp, the founder of King Crimson, she doubted he would be interested. Regardless, she sent him an e-mail and within a couple hours he replied and told her that while he was busy with his own projects, he was more than happy to let her sample some of his soundscapes.

“I was like, ‘you bet I’m going to use some,” she laughed. “I went and picked out a couple of sounds that jumped out at me. Sometimes, the sounds would lead to me changing the direction of the song I was writing.”

With the album complete, Slick has already sold many copies simply by promoting it on social networks online.

“This whole CD was my big experiment and I’m impressed with myself that I could put it out so quickly and got the responses I got,” she said. “If there’s more positive feedback I would definitely consider doing a tour or opening for somebody.”

In fact, she will get the chance to open for Belew at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey, on June 30th and at World Café Live her hometown of Philadelphia on July 1st.

“It’s forcing me to put on a one person show because (Belew’s) doing a one man show,” she said. “I hope to play more shows in the future.”

She will also be going on a brief tour of Europe with the Power Trio this October-November, but Eric won’t be with them this time around. Interestingly enough, the replacement drummer is Minnemann.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what it will be like because I haven’t really worked with any other drummers on stage,” Slick said. “It will be interesting, especially the improvising part of the set.”

She did admit she will miss her baby brother while she is on the road.

“It might be different in the van,” she said. “I won’t be with goofy Eric making jokes and acting like Dr. Phil.”

Nevertheless, she said she is excited to go to Europe because she enjoys exploring the area when the band has down time. A few of her favorite places are Quebec City, Australia, and Tokyo.

“In Tokyo, we had a residency where we played at the same club for a week,” Slick said. “During the day, we just got to walk around and I did a lot of people watching.”

She said she spent a lot of time in Harajuku, the fashion district, because everyone was dressed exotically and elaborately.

“I was determined to get a pair of sneakers while I was there and I got this really bright pair,” Slick said. “I still have them and I really like them.”

Unfortunately, she said she doesn’t have the luxury to be able to see the sights in each and every place she gigs.

“I’ve been to Italy twice now and we just passed through it,” she said. “I’m sure if we had a day off in every city we visited I would fall in love with every one. But, what’s cool is we do meet and greet after every show and we get a sense of what the people are like in that area.”

No matter what, Slick said she always makes sure to taste the local food, as she and Belew both love to eat.

“The best food ever was in Turkey,” she said. “We had our guide take us to a Turkish restaurant and it’s funny because it’s such a meat centric diet over there and I’m a vegetarian. But, they just put out 20 courses of the most amazing cheeses, breads, vegetables and spreads.”

She said she tries to find the best places that serve traditional food and when she gets home she is always antsy to cook and recreate the dishes she dined on.

“I love cooking,” she said. “It’s enjoyable and really relaxing. When I was 17, I started watching Food Network obsessively. The first thing I ever made was chicken Parmesan.”

Slick said she thinks cooking is very similar to creating music.

“It is an art form to me,” she said. “It’s just like making a mix or a song. It’s the way you lay out
your components and the way they balance off each other. I have a food blog on my website and one day I’d like to make a cookbook.”

In the meantime, Slick is busy producing Cheers Elephant, a band that also hails from Philadelphia.

“My boyfriend, Matt Rothstein, is the bass player,” she said. “We’ve been dating for six years and we met at the School of Rock. The first time they gigged, I pulled Matt aside and told him, ‘this band is really good.’”

One thing led to another and Slick started recording their album, which will come out on Thursday, September 30, with a special CD release party at World Cafe Live Downstairs in Philadelphia.

“It sounds really good and I look forward to putting it out there and seeing the response,” she said.

With several projects under her belt, Slick still found the time to start yet another band called Paper Cat with her brother and guitarist Robbie “Seahag” Mangano. They decided to form the band right after she graduated from college in 2008 and they ended up recording an album of original music.

“Eric just always likes to play out,” she said. “He gigs like crazy and toured with (Mangano) in Project Object, a Frank Zappa cover band. One day Eric decided to book a show at John and Peter’s in New Hope, Penn., and asked Robbie if he wanted to play with us and he did. We had no material; we just jammed and came up with songs on the spot. Our friend recorded the show and we made the album, ‘Live at John and Peter’s.’”

To find out more about Slick, visit her web site at julieslick.com. Her mother, writer Robin Slick, also has her own web site which not only features her novels, it’s loaded with information about Julie and Eric, plus videos of them performing.

“I actually haven’t read any of my mother’s books because her publications specialize in romance and erotic books,” she giggled. “I guess I just didn’t want to read that stuff coming from my mom.”

No matter what, Slick said she is grateful for having parents who have always been supportive and encouraging.

“They got us into music,” she said. “They are why we are where we are and I just think they are the greatest parents in the world.”

Age of Evil: A band of brothers

19 Jul

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the spring of 2010.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

For the members of Age of Evil, heavy metal has always been a huge part of life. Made up of two sets of young brothers who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, the boys have been thrashing out and thriving as a band for the last decade and not one of them is old enough to drink legally.

“The four of us started playing together about 10 years ago,” said 19 year-old lead singer and guitarist, Jeremy Goldberg. “We used to play a lot of covers and then in 2005 and 2006, we started performing a lot of our own music.”

Goldberg’s brother Jacob is 18 and plays bass, while Jordan Ziff, also 18, takes on lead guitar duties. Drummer Garrett Ziff is the oldest at 20.

“I guess in today’s standard we’re considered young, but I don’t really think our age is that big of a deal,” said Goldberg.

He thinks it’s particularly bizarre their ages have caused such a stir in the media because a lot of bands he grew up listening to had been in their late teens and early twenties when they first formed their groups.

“It doesn’t bother me, but it is a little weird if you think about it. Look at Tommy Lee in Motley Crue or Dimebag Darrell in Pantera. They were about our age when they came out. It’s more about the music, playing a show, and having control over an audience,” said Goldberg.

He said he loves being the front man and the more he performs, the more he learns about his audiences.

“It’s different in Europe than it is in the United States in the sense that the people there just watch and listen, where kids in the U.S. go nuts and do mosh pits and stuff like that,” he said. “Fans in Europe just live and breathe metal. They go to shows during all days of the week.”

While the band was shredding their way through Europe this past summer, they recorded their sophomore album, “Get Dead,” in between tour dates. The six-song disc includes two new songs, two live tracks, and two covers, one that was inspired during a show.

“We played in London almost a year and a half ago with Girl School and we wanted to play a classic, traditional metal song the fans would appreciate, so we went with ‘Electric Eye.’ It’s not one of Judas Priest’s huge, super popular songs, but that’s kind of why we did it,” said Goldberg.

The second song they covered was a last minute decision made in the studio.

“We had no idea what we were going to do, but we knew we wanted to do another cover,” he said. “Our drummer suggested, Skid Row’s ‘Slave To the Grind.’”

Goldberg took out his cell phone, listened to the song, and ended up learning it by ear. Within a few hours, they began recording it.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “Sometimes some of the things you don’t think are going to work end up being pretty bad a**. We also recorded parts of ‘Still of the Night’ by Whitesnake, but we didn’t have time to finish it.”

Another song that didn’t make the cut for “Get Dead,” was an Ace of Bass song, “Beautiful Life.” It was featured in the comedy film, “A Night at the Roxbury.”

“It’s a pop song you wouldn’t think we would cover, but we put our own spin on it and it turned out really cool,” said Goldberg. “We hope we can release that soon.”

In addition to the covers and the new songs, Goldberg said it was important for them to incorporate live recordings on the album because they wanted to show their fans they can play just as well live as they can in the studio.

“We don’t want to rely on technology because then playing live isn’t as good. We want to do it ourselves,” he said. “If you can’t be a great live band there’s almost no point in playing. That’s what we’re all about.”

Age of Evil was recently able to display their talent as a live act when they opened for Hail!, a new touring band made up of some of heavy metal’s most highly respected contributors to the genre, including Andreas Kisser of Sepultura, Tim “Ripper” Owens of Judas Priest, David Ellefson of Megadeth, and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.

“It was a blast to open for them in New York at BB Kings (and at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass.),” said Goldberg. “We got to hang out with the members of the band before and after the shows and they are very down to earth, humble guys. We went up on stage with a ton of energy and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

They also opened for several bands over the last year including Jon Oliva’s Pain, Soulfly, Manowar, W.A.S.P., and Arch Enemy. Goldberg said they even got the chance to open for Tesla while they were in Switzerland this past summer.

“It’s cool because we can play with those different bands and mix it up,” he said. “For me, Tesla was one of my favorite shows on the tour. You can find a few videos of that performance on YouTube. The last song we did was ‘Still of the Night’ and it was before we really had it down and we just had fun with it.”

Right now, Goldberg said they want to focus on touring more in the U.S. and Canada. They are currently beginning the recording process of their next full-length album.

“We already have most of the material written and we’re working hard on doing demos,” he said. “We’ve been meeting with producers and trying to figure out that end of it.”

He said it’s more like their first album, 2007s, “Living A Sick Dream,” and less like their newest release, “Get Dead,” because it’s not as heavy and hardcore.

“It’s still hard rock and roll with a metal edge, but there will be something for everyone on there and we’re excited about it,” her said. “We want to have our new music in peoples’ hands, so definitely keep an eye out for it.”

Until then, he is pleased with the attention “Get Dead” has been receiving.

“I went on iTunes one morning and our new EP was featured on there,” he said. “It was up for four weeks in a row. It’s cool to see that and it’s awesome to get that recognition.”

MASS gets sea of praise for ‘Sea of Black’

19 Jul

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the spring of 2010.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With their new album, “Sea of Black,” receiving rave reviews from both fans and critics alike, the members of MASS said they are very pleased with the positive feedback. Lead vocalist, Louis St. August, was actually a bit surprised at first.

“I thought it was going to do well, but I didn’t think it was going to be received this well,” he said. “I figured it would maybe get seven out of 10 stars, but not get nine and 10 out of 10 stars.”

For guitarist Gene D’Itria, it was less shocking.

“I knew once [St. August] and I got together and started writing for this record it was going to be our best yet,” D’Itria said. “After the first four songs were written, I had a great feeling. I had no doubt in my mind that the fans, and others, including critics, would love this record.”

The Revere-based band of four said they feel they are only as good as their latest release, so after nearly 30 years of pumping out solid music, they are elated to hear their listeners tell them it’s their greatest effort thus far.

“I love that people are considering this to be our best album because that is always what you shoot for, topping the last one,” said drummer Joey “Vee” Vadala.

Bassist Mike Palumbo agrees.

“You’re always pushing yourself to improve on the next one and be more creative,” he said. “But, in the end it’s all MASS music.”

When it comes down to writing the music, D’Itria said they’ve improved as the years go by.

“I think as we get older, our songwriting keeps getting better and better,” he said.

Their process for creating new material is often a collaborative one, usually beginning with D’Itria sharing a guitar riff with St. August so St. August can match a melody to it and form lyrics.

“The other guys always contribute after me and [D'Itria] lay the foundation,” St. August said. “I always try to write positive songs. We’re a rock band from Boston that writes positive music.”

St. August said he thinks the songs they chose for this record seemed to all fit together perfectly.

“We kind of went back to our roots a little bit,” he said. “Our last album, ‘Crack of Dawn’ in 2007 was very versatile, while with this new one, we focused on our original style, which was melodic pop-rock.”

After they recorded “Sea of Black” at Mixed Emotions Studio in Boston, they flew the tapes to Sweden, where Martin Kronlund produced them.

“He mixed and mastered the album there,” St. August said. “We were communicating by either via e-mail or by phone to tell him what we were looking for. We tweaked it that way. We just went back and forth.”

St. August said he is forever grateful to Kronland, who also worked with MASS on “Crack of Dawn,” for continuously being professional and precise.

“Working with him was great,” St. August said. “He has a lot of patience because we can be pretty picky at times when we’re looking for a particular sound.”

Vadala said he is also very appreciative of Kronland’s skills as a producer.

“We were very pleased with the sound and production,” Vadala said. “Overseas can be a challenge with the critics but, as we can all see, they are very pleased, too.”

St. August said he is eagerly anticipating singing the new tracks at their CD release party at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on June 4th.

“I’ve been talking to people who are really dying to hear some of the new songs performed live, so I am looking forward to the CD release party,” he said. “The album has brought us a lot of new fans, but I’m also happy to see a lot of old fans that have come out of the woodwork and back onto the bandwagon again.”

While St. August said there have been a lot of ups and downs over the course of their nearly 30-year career, the good points stand out more.

“One of the best things was the first time I ever heard a MASS song on the radio, or the first time I saw our video on MTV,” he said.

He also said a big highlight was playing for a sold out crowd at an amphitheater in Los Angeles.

“That was a real thrill for me because I grew up a fan of The Who and they performed there the night before,” he said. “I was very excited to be standing on the same stage and opening up for Stryper.”

St. August has kept his voice in stellar shape over the years by taking good care of his throat.

“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke,” he said. “I live a clean life. I also studied vocals when I was 17 and I kept those breathing techniques that I was shown.”

MASS doesn’t have a set tour planned just yet, but they have the CD release party on June 4th at the Regent Arlington Theatre coming up, as well as acoustic shows in the near future. They are also flying to Maryland in June to be a part of the 2010 M3 Rock Festival, performing with act such as the Scorpions and Cinderella.

“We were asked to play in California on August 27th for Heaven’s Metal Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Festival,” St. August said. “I think we may do that, too. We’d really like to get over to London and do a few shows, so we’ll see what happens.”

They also hope to release another album within the next few years.

“If I had to put a date on it, I would say maybe by 2012,” said St. August.

In the meantime, Palumbo said they are going to continue to do what they do best.

“It’s all about the camaraderie and the love of writing and playing music,” he said. “We have a good time.”

Ani DiFranco hopes to make a connection through her music

19 Jul

This story originally appeared as an online exlcusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

After playing at Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and Mile High Music festivals this summer, Ani DiFranco began a fall U.S. tour in September and will take the stage at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Nov. 14th. If you’re familiar with her music, it should be no surprise her new album, “Red Letter Year,” is filled with political rants and love songs, but it is also one of her most joyous records yet.

 “There’s a certain kind of contentment underlying the whole album,” said DiFranco. “The place that I have to sing from now is on more stable grounds than before.”

 The album starts out with the events of Hurricane Katrina and how she feels there have been many positive changes in America since the disastrous storm.

  “There’s been this huge transformation going on in society,” DiFranco said. “Now we have Barrack Obama in the White House as opposed to George Bush. It sort of represents the return of democracy to the American people.”

DiFranco said her personal life has undergone several transformations as well, as she moved to a new city, got married, and had a daughter.

“I live in New Orleans now and have a family now,” she said. “I think whenever I feel a resonance between my personal life and the life of my society, a lot of songs come out of that.”

Interestingly enough, her husband, Mike Napolitano, co-produced her new album.

 “Working with him is terrific,” said DiFranco. “A big part of the sound of ‘Red Letter Year’ has to do with him and his production prowess.”

DiFranco said it’s a rare luxury for her to have someone in the studio with her producing her music.

 “Usually I’m on my own making records, so it was really terrific for me to have somebody better than me at recording and production,” she said. “He’s someone I really trust and rely on in the studio and I can just focus on being the artist and not have to sit back and be objective at the same time.”

DiFranco wasn’t kidding when she said she is used to making records on her own. In fact, she started her very own record label, Righteous Babe Records, when she first began her music career.

 “That decision came along very early on for me because I was always a very idealist person,” DiFranco said. “When I was very young, I started to get interest from labels because I was kind of getting a thing going on my own and I was building an audience and creating a buzz.”

DiFranco said small labels approached her at first and then major labels began contacting her.

 “I met some of these people and I talked to them and I realized very early that I have a deep seeded loathing for capitalism and what it does to society and art,” DiFranco said.

She said not signing with a label was about not participating in a hyper capitalistic society.

 “I find it dehumanizing and numbing.” DiFranco said. “Beyond that, I didn’t have a grand plan of how I was going to do it. I was just taking it a day at a time.”

DiFranco said she still takes life one day at a time and one show at a time.

 “I stay present and in the moment,” she said. “I don’t regurgitate my banter, I just walk out on stage and I react to the moment. That for me is what performance is about.”

She said it’s hard to tell her fans what they can expect from her at a show because it changes from night to night.           

 “I change my set list up as often as I can,” she said. “I’ve got a bunch of new songs that are unrecorded songs I’ve been work-shopping onstage.”

Sharing her music with her fans is very important to her and she said she feels very fulfilled by aveling town to town, giving her songs to people.

“Music is a social act and I find it very inspiring,” she said. “To get together with a bunch of strangers in a room and make that connection through music is very profound. It uplifts us all and makes me feel less alienated and less alone. ”

DiFranco said she has received many letters over the years saying how her music has helped fans through hard times.

 “It’s always striking for me because it does that for me too,” she said.

After over 20 years of making music, DiFranco said she continues to love what she does.

“I have the coolest job going and I’m lucky to have it,” she said. “I still have the will to write poetry and figure out my world and my place in it. I just try to stay grateful. As long as I am, people will meet me there.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 627 other followers