Archive | March, 2011

White says ‘YES’ to the Zeiterion Theatre

20 Mar

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

As a member of the progressive rock band YES for nearly 40 years, drummer Alan White said while he doesn’t think they have ever performed in New Bedford, they are eager to play at the Zeiterion Theatre on Tuesday, March 29, as part of their “Rite of Spring” tour. For the brief tour, they will be performing in smaller venues, as they want to share hits like, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and “Roundabout,” with audiences in intimate settings.

“I’m looking forward to playing there and seeing all the fans,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to do any of the new music because the album isn’t finished, but we’ll be playing a mixture of songs that the band really loves to play and the fans love to hear, so hopefully everybody enjoys it.”

While the album is yet to be mixed and mastered, they wrapped up the recording process a few weeks ago. White said the sessions were “very good,” and anticipates it will hit stores by July. They were originally going to title it, “Weekend Fly,” but went with, “Fly From Here.”

“We always banter around with names,” White laughed. “It’s usually the last thing we decide on and it’s funny because one of the first things people ask you is, ‘what’s the name of the album?’”

In addition to being their first album in ten years, it’s also their debut recording with Oliver Wakeman on keys, as well as Benoit David, on vocals, who both joined in 2008 and have been performing with White, along with longtime members, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, ever since.

White said the chemistry of the band is solid, as is the new music. Their friend, former band mate, YES collaborator, and celebrated rock producer, Trevor Horn, produced “Fly From Here,” and influenced a lot of their latest material.

“He is a great songwriter,” said White. “The writing process was pretty much driven by him, (Squire) and (Howe), with the other guys making contributions. We’ve been playing with each other for so many years and it’s really professional. We work together to achieve our goal.”

One of the main reasons White said he has stayed in the band so long is because he believes they know how to keep their sound fresh and exciting. After become a member in 1972, he enjoys being part of a band that “wants to create new music all the time.”

“It’s one of those groups that’s always looking for something new on the horizon,” he said. “With pretty much every album we make, there’s a movement forward from what the band sounds like. We’re always looking for different opportunities.”

Before he became a musician, White planned to study architecture at a technical college in England. However, playing in bands at gigs since he was 13 took up most of his time, as he was focused on improving his musical skills and building a reputation as a qualified drummer.

In 1969, when White was just 20, former Beatle John Lennon asked him to perform with the Plastic Ono Band. White agreed and the concert was recorded, becoming the successful album, “Live Peace in Toronto.” He also played on the “Imagine” album, and was featured on the single, “Instant Karma.”

“John actually took me under his wing,” White said. “He liked being around me and he liked the way I played. He used to tell me. ‘Alan, whatever you’re playing, just keep playing it because it sounds good.’”

Lennon introduced him to George Harrison, and White performed on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. He said working on the album was quite the experience.

“When I was recording with (Harrison), about 15 people came into the studio everyday and picked up instruments, and it was like a regular group with him as the leader,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. Playing with them was a stepping stone in my career.”

White said he is grateful he has gotten the chance to work with acclaimed musicians, including the members of YES. He’s pleased to be on the road with them again.

“I especially love playing with a group of talented musicians like this,” he said. “They make it interesting. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s part of my life. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t playing music on stage.”

The Zeiterion’s box office is located at 684 Purchase St., New Bedford. Tickets are priced at $65 and $49. Box Office Hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.

Kicking MASS for nearly thirty years

11 Mar

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

When Louis St. August, lead singer of the Boston-based hard rock band, MASS, found out they will be receiving the Legend Award at the 2011 Limelight Magazine Award ceremony at Club Hell in Providence, R.I., on March 12, he was, “blown away.”

“It’s such an honor and we’re really proud,” he said. “We’ve stayed true to ourselves and our style. We never strayed away from our type of music and people appreciate that. The e-mails, letters, and orders for our CDs and autographed pictures keep coming everyday.”

One of his most memorable moments in his music career was performing a sold out show at the L.A. Amphitheater, a 15,000-seat venue, the night after The Who played there. Growing up a huge Roger Daltrey fan, the evening was very special for St. August.

“The thing that really made me feel great was that the night before, Roger Daltrey was singing on the same stage I was on the night after,” he said. “We played with Hurricane and Stryper and we were the second act. I felt like I had the crowd in my hand. They were all singing along.”

While he’s been in the music business for 30 years, St. August said he still feels like he’s 18 years old, the age he was when MASS formed. As he was graduating high school and most of his friends were going off to college, he was busy signing a record contract.

In fact, there was a bidding war for MASS, as labels like Atlantic, RCA, and A&M, showed deep interest, and the band ended up chose to make a deal with A&M Records.

“I feel like I had already achieved my accomplishment,” he said. “It was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and I was so excited. I was always daydreaming about it and I always loved music. It was always in my blood.”

In order to work on what was to be their first album, they flew down to Florida and laid down tracks at Criteria Studios in Miami. While there, they got the chance to rub shoulders with several celebrity musicians.

“There were all these great artists walking around and they were so friendly and cool to us,” St. August said. “Julio Eglesis was recording an album with Diana Ross at Criteria Studios. They were in Studio A and we were in Studio B. Aerosmith were down there so were The Bus Boys and Stephen Stills. We got to learn so much.”

But, after they finished recording, friction began.  The management company they originally signed with wasn’t getting along with the record label and the band suffered the consequences.

“We were naïve and we signed our lives away,” said St. August. “The album was finished but the record label wasn’t going to put it out and it got shelved. After working on it for two and a half months, that was a big disappointment. We returned to Boston and hired a lawyer and it took us over two years to be free from the contract and the album just sat in limbo. We recorded a four-track, self-titled EP under our own label, MASS Records.”

But, in 2010, a year St. August said has been one of their most productive, MASS got the last laugh. Titling the album, “Fighter,” they released it through Retroactive Records.

“Now, I’m getting royalties for recordings I did almost 30 years ago,” St. August said.

Also in 2010, they re-issued their EP with a bonus track, this time calling it, “84 Unchained,” put out their hit album, “Sea of Black,” as well as recorded a few Christmas songs to benefit Toys For Tots to wrap up the year.

“2010 was great,” said St. August. “‘Sea of Black,” got the approval of longtime fans and new fans, and I’m really proud we released ‘A Very Merry X-MASS.’ A good friend of mine, Scottie Dunbar of Dunbar Entertainment, came to me with the idea to do it for Toys for Tots. We had another song, ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ and I also did a ballad.”

In less than two weeks, “A Very Merry X-MASS,” sold 600 copies. They ran out and had to print more.

“Kim Sholtz, wife of Tom Sholtz, the guitarist from (the band) BOSTON, ordered 40 CDs,” he said. “She sent me an email saying she’s always been a fan.”

In addition to raising over $3,000 for Toys For Tots, the band bought, “tons of toys.”  Ironically, in the same week, someone had broken into the Toys For Tots in Burlington, Mass.

“It was all over the news and I was like, ‘is this a sign from somebody?” St. August said.  “We drove down there and handed them all the toys. It was a great feeling to do that. We were happy to give to the kids.”

Through the course of their career, MASS released their first major label debut in 1985 with RCA, “New Birth”, produced by Tony Platt, which spawned the 45 single, “Do You Love Me.” The song reached the Billboard’s charts and the video was in rotation on MTV.

“That was our breakthrough album,” he said. “That record sold really well, selling more than 100,000 when it was initially released.”

While they were recording “New Birth” in New York, they were involved in a food fight with another band at an upscale Chinese restaurant. Although they were all asked to leave, St. August said it was worth it.

“We just laughed it off,” he said. “Joe Turner, the singer from Rainbow, was there with Thomas Baker, a producer. Someone from their table threw a piece of bread at us and we ended up throwing a piece back and a food fight ensued. You can just picture the faces of the people in this beautiful restaurant and as food was flying over their heads.”

Shortly after “New Birth,” came out, they left RCA and signed with California label, Enigma. Though Enigma, they released, “Take You Home,” in 1988 and then, “Voices of the Night,” in 1989.

As the nineties grunge scene took over the radio, MASS took a break from recording and used the time to write songs and perform. They released a “Best Ones” CD in 2000 with For Reel Records. As the years went on, labels overseas became interested in hearing some of the songs they had been working on.

“I sent some demos to various companies overseas and three or four were interested in releasing new MASS material,” St. August said. “We signed with the second biggest European record company, Escape, and in 2007, we came out with, ‘Crack of Dawn.’”

As to the future, MASS is currently looking to record a new album that they hope to release in 2012. In the meantime, they will be opening for Stryper at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass., on Saturday, March 26.

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