Category Archives: Features & Interviews

Carmine Appice reflects on the history of Vanilla Fudge and his career

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Creatively speaking, Vanilla Fudge knew precisely what they were doing. They had a plan.

The quartet will always be remembered for their mind-bending reading of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” originally made famous by The Supremes. The track epitomizes their strength in laying bare the emotional core of pop songs that’d previously gotten diluted in popular, AM-radio-friendly treatments.

“There was a fad around that time, particularly throughout New York City and Long Island,” said revered drummer Carmine Appice over the phone from Manhattan, preparing for a run of shows that brings Vanilla Fudge to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on Saturday, November 16, with special guest Joe Merrick. (Purchase tickets HERE).

“We had The Vagrants with Leslie West, The Hassles with Billy Joel, The Rich Kids… a whole scene was going on around the concept of what were called ‘production numbers.’ It involved taking the original hit version of a song, slowing it down and making it more dramatic by changing the stage lighting and shifting the overall dynamic. We grabbed onto an additional aspect of that by looking at the lyrics. What do the words say? We created an atmosphere with that. These were songs with what I call ‘hurtin’ lyrics’ — mostly about love, and not all positive and upbeat sentiments. On the radio, however, it’d be an upbeat song with these sad lyrics. So, Vanilla Fudge sought to put the drama back into these songs.”

It makes total sense. While the needling repetition of a single guitar note perpetuates a sense of anxiety in The Supremes’ 1966 version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” the signature Motown stomp remains front and center, carrying the listener away from the protagonist’s headspace and onto the dance floor. Vanilla Fudge’s version, on the other hand, portrays the subject as if they’re under a crushing emotional weight. The way that keyboardist Mark Stein’s eerie organ notes suddenly intersect with Appice’s cracking snare and crashing cymbal is startling as hell. And then, of course, there’s the flipped gender script from the pop version. It’s overwrought, it’s outrageous and — to this day — it works.

“We cut that song in one take,” Appice recalled. “We did it in mono. Everything was recorded all at once. It’s seven-and-a-half minutes, and it totally changed how people thought of the song. We did something similar with songs by The Impressions, The Beatles, many others. We’d set them in a churchy atmosphere, almost a lonely, cemetery vibe. We had a pattern with the vocals where Mark would start, then each of us would get added in and build it up to a frenzy.”

Vanilla Fudge’s debut album was released in the summer of 1967 and featured the single “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

Unfortunately, producer George “Shadow” Morton derailed the band’s creative plan. Morton eschewed the musical nuances of their debut in favor of far-flung concepts for the follow-up, 1968’s The Beat Goes On, which he made from a hodgepodge of historical spoken word segments and (mostly) snippets of actual songs. What was once outrageous now seemed indulgent. While the album initially charted well on the strength of its predecessor, Appice blames it for not allowing the band to reach the next level of an otherwise promising career.

Unlike countless underdog albums with which artists have made peace in hindsight, The Beat Goes On will not become a source of late-breaking pride for Vanilla Fudge.

“If it was going to happen at all, that should’ve been, like, our eighth album,” Appice said with a chuckle. “There we were with a big success, and we were stupid about it. We didn’t know any better. Sgt Pepper was big, but that was all music, whereas this was almost all talking! FM stations were just beginning, experimenting with the format, and they’d sometimes play entire albums. Folks were calling up and asking them to take it off because it was depressing.”

Appice says that while they had other, better songs in the can already, Morton seemed determined to steer the album into the ground.

“If we’d had another hit single, it would have set a better foundation for us,” he said. “Instead, we had to rush in and do something quickly to save our asses, which turned into Renaissance, which had other production issues — no clarity, it was bottom-heavy… wasn’t what it should have been. Near the Beginning, which we produced ourselves, was much better. The album did well, and we got to go on Ed Sullivan again.”

It wasn’t enough to keep Vanilla Fudge from imploding in 1970, though they’ve reunited multiple times since. And if it wasn’t clear then, it certainly is now: the band’s considered highly influential. They hung out with Hendrix, shared stages with Led Zeppelin, and are cited as an inspiration by members of Deep Purple, Styx and Yes, among others. The hindsight accolades for helping bridge the gap from psychedelia to something harder are a large part of the Vanilla Fudge legacy.

Meanwhile, Appice’s drumming prowess has kept him perpetually busy. He credits quality management for finding ways to make his ideas materialize, particularly in the ’80s. His diversified career includes a wildly successful series of drum instruction books (the first of which he published in 1972), drumming clinics, and ‘Drum War’ events with his brother, Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath). He co-founded the bands Cactus, Blue Murder, King Cobra, and a supergroup, Beck, Bogert, and Appice. He had a fruitful creative partnership with Rod Stewart, recording, touring, and co-writing the hits “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks.” He also toured behind Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon album in 1983, but Sharon Osbourne fired him (the details are in Appice’s 2016 book, Stick It). Along the way, in addition to other solo projects, he produced a series of Guitar Zeus releases, which feature him playing drums with a host of world-renowned guitarists, from Queen’s Brian May to Yngwie Malmsteen to Ted Nugent. It’s an impressive resume.

Vanilla Fudge is currently working on a new collection of all Supremes songs, including a cover of “Stop! In the Name of Love,” which Appice says will feature original bassist Tim Bogert, (Pete Bremy has played bass in Vanilla Fudge for over a decade alongside originals Stein, Appice, and lead guitarist, Vince Martell). It will be their second project to pull material from one artist in particular, the first being an all Led Zeppelin set entitled Out Through the In Door, from 2007.

With new management, a new stage setup, and the seeds of a campaign for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consideration, the quartet seems determined to make the most of its stake in rock history.

“Now, just like back then, there’s no other band quite like Vanilla Fudge,” he said. “No other band has the same dynamics combined with the quality of players. It’s enabled us to stick around. In ’67, we were also lucky. We came at the right time; everything was experimental, folks were finding new ways of playing rock, blending it with jazz and improvising, pioneering new drum sounds… I helped take that to the next level. I’m one of the only drummers left from that era.”

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass. Tickets to this show can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. To purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

 

TJ’s Music Fall River Arts Academy Students to perform at Carnegie Hall

By CHRISTOHPER TREACY

In a culture that places more importance on results than it does on the path chosen to achieve them, working towards intangible goals isn’t very popular. But what if the outcome was guaranteed?

The old joke asks, How do you get to Carnegie Hall? and answers, practice, practice, practice. If the route to Carnegie Hall was paved for you in advance, however, the practice would hopefully ensue. After all, who would want to arrive at that revered performance space feeling ill-prepared?

Todd Salpietro, founder of TJ’s Music on South Main Street in Fall River, Mass., and its educational offshoot, TJ’s Music Fall River Arts Academy, is testing that equation this season by scheduling a special performance for 40 students at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. The show is set for December 1st.

“We’re always seeking opportunities for students that will entice them to want to practice more and become better musicians, so anything that we can try and implement that will potentially bring those results is worthwhile,” Salpietro said during a recent call. “The Carnegie Hall performance is one of the numerous vehicles we’re using to create an incentive.”

Salpietro opened his store 22 years ago and his wife, Tamie, helps him run the operation, which has blossomed impressively: right now, they have just under 350 students enrolled in the academy, ranging in age from 5 to 77. For the Carnegie Hall trip, the age range of performers will be 7 to 50.

If the trip goes well, he has a few similar ideas he’d like to put into an annual rotation. He and Tamie will be heading to Manhattan to tour the building and work out logistics ahead of time. For the actual event, they’ll be providing bus service for the students.

“To me, it’s the most prestigious stage in America,” he said. “The Beatles, The Doors, Buddy Rich — so many amazing people have performed there. It’s something to be proud of, to say that you were able to play there at any time in a career, and I think it can make students feel like ‘these things are attainable, I can get there.’ The Weill Recital Hall is 268-seat capacity, which is perfect for us. The room is drop-dead gorgeous, the chandelier, the piano… there’s something magical about it. Nobody seems able to explain it, whether it’s the height of the ceiling, the carpet or the material on the chairs, but there’s something about how sound travels within that space that has made the best composers in the world look forward to playing in it.”

Salpietro is a good man to have on your side when talking about achieving musical goals since his family is four generations deep in musicians, reaching back to his great grandfather. His first musical love was drumming (hence the mention of Buddy Rich), which was the impetus for opening his store when he was 25. Eventually, he was giving 75 drum lessons a week and touring with a Pantera cover band called Trendkill. Along the way, TJ’s became a full-service spot for all kinds of instruments and, in 2017, what was once a smaller curriculum of individual lessons grew into a large scale lesson-plan for an entire academy.

Now 47, having been surrounded by aspiring musicians his whole life, he understands that not everyone who dreams of having a career in music will make it… even if they practice diligently. And while his academy is firmly footed in hands-on instrument training, he has a healthy respect for new modes of learning. Salpietro realizes that potentially talented folks exist who might prefer taking a digital approach to developing their musical skills. To that end, he taught a Berklee College of Music affiliated high school class on how to use the digital audio workstation, Logic Pro. Still, for those looking to learn the old fashioned way, he feels a responsibility to help people give it their best shot.

In addition to planning two annual recitals where students can show off their progress, the academy uses a national rewards program called the Music Ladder System which keeps them striving for trophies and certificates. Those with aspirations to collaborate and learn about developing chemistry between players are placed in all-star bands. Salpietro says he’s looking into booking opportunities for the all-star bands, which would provide his most motivated students with the experience of performing for a live audience outside of a recital format. Exciting opportunities like these are part of what makes his operation an academy rather than just a place that gives music lessons. But for right now, he’s focused on launching the Carnegie Hall trip without a hitch.

“We’re here to provide an opportunity,” he said. “We’re catering to people with all kinds of dreams, and a majority of them are kids, but not all. Many might quit. Something like this trip will help keep people in the game — it could turn their interest around or get them through a plateau. We try and have fun at the lessons. We don’t want it to be angry or frustrating for the teachers or the students. And a lot of times, there hasn’t been enough practice, which is why the incentives are important. If they needed forty more hours of practice, this could be the thing that makes that happen, and then they get to feel great about the effort they made. It also gives them something to look forward to beyond the standard recitals.”

Enrollment in TJ’s Music Fall River Arts Academy is open, and signing up is as simple as picking a day and time (although some slots do fill up). With over 25 instructors that collectively offer lessons seven days a week, it’s designed to be as accommodating as anyone could expect. The range of instruments runs the gamut, including woodwinds, brass, guitar, bass, vocals, cello, viola, and violin. Salpietro says the rooms for lessons have recently been upgraded and some new ones were added. Renovations for additional space on a second floor are on the horizon.

“There are lots of places to take music lessons and we’re always looking at ways to rise above and provide something different than the others. For me and Tamie, who’s been with me through these last 15 years, this is our heart and soul.”

For more information about TJ’s Music Fall River Arts Academy, click HERE to visit their website.

TJ’s Fall River Arts Academy student Kevin S. is excited to be performing at Carnegie Hall in December. He has been playing piano in the program for one year and a half.

 

Ninet Tayeb ‘blessed and honored’ to open for The Zombies

By JAY KENNEY

When The Zombies perform a sold out show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, on August 27th, the audience will be in for a special treat. Israeli singer-songwriter and actress Ninet Tayeb will open the show for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

While Tayeb is arguably one of the biggest entertainment figures in her native country, she has been building a name for herself in the music industry since relocating to Los Angeles in July 2016. Progressive rock fans may know her from her duets with Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree), but she also has recorded five solo albums. Last fall, Tayeb recorded a powerful new song called “Self-Destructive Mind,” and she recently released a beautiful rendition of a Joni Mitchell’s classic song “Woodstock” in celebration of the Woodstock Festival’s 50th anniversary.

As Tayeb is in the midst of rehearsing for her upcoming East Coast tour, she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Limelight Magazine to discuss her move to Los Angeles, collaborating with Steven Wilson, coping with anxiety and how she’s chosen to blaze her own path as a female musician, among other things.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Next month, you will be performing select dates with The Zombies, including a show we booked at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on August 27th. How do you feel about opening for such a legendary band who were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

NINET TAYEB: I feel privileged to have a tour with The Zombies! They are such a great and important band. I’ve heard so much about their live shows and I actually can’t wait to hear them playing live. I’m sure I can learn so much. I feel blessed and honored.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: For this show, you will be performing as a trio. Who are the two other musicians joining you? Why did you select them for this tour?

NINET TAYEB: The two musicians with me on this tour are Joseph E-Shine. He’s the MD of this show and the bass guitar player. And Yotam Weiss, my drummer. He will be performing on percussion. We thought to have a special arrangement for this specific tour.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’ve recorded five solo albums. How do you go about selecting songs for your set list?

NINET TAYEB: It’s actually both fun and frustrating as we have so much we want to share with the audience:) We build it so it will represent our style.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I was introduced to your music through your work with Steven Wilson. How did you end up collaborating with him? How do you best describe your musical partnership?

NINET TAYEB: Steven is an amazing musician and I owe him so much. He saw me playing many years ago and then after a while he sent me a song of his that’s called Routine, I’ve recorded this one and sent it back to him, his reply was “ok, I’m sending you three more songs” 🙂

And that was the beginning of a remarkable journey we both share till this day. He is a true artist and that’s what I love the most about him, constantly changing and evolving.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Are there plans to perform any songs from your work with Steve Wilson on this tour?

NINET TAYEB: Maybe 😉

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Last fall, you released a powerful new song called “Self-Destructive Mind.” I’ve read the song was influenced by your decision to leave your native country of Israel and relocate to Los Angeles, CA, as well as your struggles coping with anxiety. Can you elaborate more on the meaning of this song?

NINET TAYEB:  Well, the song came to me while I was sitting in my balcony in LA, staring at the moon. It was two years after leaving my home in Israel and I suddenly realized what it means. The loneliness and despair that can come out of this kind of situation, the compassion and hope towards the future and everything in between. And yes, I’ve suffered from panic attacks. They show up out of nowhere with no warning signs and all you can do is cover your head under the blanket or write a song, in that moment, that’s what I chose.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The video for “Self-Destructive Mind” was directed by your husband, Joseph E. Shine. The video made the song come to life visually. Did you have any input on the video or did you leave everything up to your husband?

NINET TAYEB: Of course, I had input. We thought about it together and decided that was the best way to deliver a vision for the audio.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: This song is also the first single from your forthcoming solo album. How far along are you in the recording process? When do you expect it to be released?

NINET TAYEB: The new album will be released in the beginning of next year.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Several studies show that women face difficulties breaking into the music business. You’ve chosen to blaze your own path. What would your advice be to aspiring female musicians who are looking to pursue a career in the music industry?

NINET TAYEB: Don’t listen to studies because few months from now you will hear about another study that says the exact opposite.

Women are powerful, period. To have a successful career is something that takes time, effort and devotion, and of course, talent. I can give you a long list of a VERY successful badass musicians, females who are out there playing and spreading their magic. It’s all a matter of perspective and the way you choose to look at things.

I don’t think we compete with men or are trying to overshadow them, we play together, all kinds, all genders.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Your music career has had number of noteworthy accomplishments, especially in Israel. What has been the personal highlight of your career so far?

NINET TAYEB: My highlight has not arrived yet.

MAGAZINE: Lastly, for many people coming to see you open for The Zombies, this will be their first time seeing you perform live. What do you hope they take away from your performance?

NINET TAYEB: That’s a very good and scary question! I really hope they will not regret;)

For more information about Tayeb, visit her website by clicking HERE.

‘THE FUTURE IS WIDE OPEN’ FOR KING’S X

By CHRIS ALO (Freelance writer for Limelight Magazine)

More than three decades after releasing their debut album and nearly forty years after they formed, progressive hard rock power trio Kings X are hard at work on a brand new studio album, offering their first new music in more than a decade.  In 2019, hard rock’s biggest “cult” group continues to do what they do best in bringing their unique mixture of prog rock, hard rock and beyond to the masses.  But this summer they are seemingly wasting no time though as they literally heading straight from the recording studio and jumping onto the tour bus.

But it has been anything but an easy ride for Kings X. Bassist and vocalist Doug Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor have all individually stayed the course and kept the band together this entire time, something which is unheard of today.  Yet despite having the same lineup and having recorded albums for a number of record labels and toured the world relentlessly with an incredibly varied lineup of artists, true commercial success has still eluded them.

For those not in the know, Kings X released their first album Out of the Silent Planet way back in 1988.  Their 1989 follow up Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is considered by many as one of their strongest releases, yet still unfortunately failed to make them a household name.  Over the years Kings X released albums through Megaforce Records, Atlantic Records, Metal Blade Records, Inside Out Music and have now landed at their new home, Golden Robot.  They have shared the concert stage with a diverse range of touring partners including the likes of Anthrax, Motorhead, Dio, Dream Theater, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Pearl Jam, Billy Squire, Motley Crue and the Scorpions, among many others.

Despite changing record labels, health setbacks and having never tasted breakout success, Kings X is one of the most respected and hard-working rock acts in the music business. With a new book chronicling their history, a feature film documentary on the horizon along with a new studio album, the future seems pretty bright for the power groove trio.  Drummer Jerry Gaskill talks to Limelight Magazine right before heading into the studio to work on the new release as well as an upcoming tour date at the Vault Music Hall at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, Mass., on July 9, 2019, with special guests blindspot and Analog Heart. Purchase tickets HERE.

ALO: Hello Jerry, how’s it going?

GASKILL: Good thanks, things are really good.  I’m really sorry I missed you the other day, we started filming a documentary and I totally forgot about our interview.  It just slipped my mind.

No worries at all, I know you are extremely busy.  But OK, let’s start with the documentary.  How is that going?

GASKILL: Great, yeah we are doing a film, a documentary with a guy by the name of Roy Turner, who is part of Tricky Kid Productions.  I truly believe that he is the guy to make this movie.  He is a fan, he believes in us and he wants to bring our story to the world.  Even people who don’t know who Kings X are, he wants to make those people aware of us.  And I think that is the perfect situation.

ALO: More film makers seem interested in making documentaries about rock bands ever since the Anvil movie.

GASKILL: Yeah, definitely and I am very very grateful.  It seems like the right time and the right people.  It’s kind of exciting for us.  We also have a book out right now too.

AL0: King’s X: The Oral History, by author Greg Prato was released earlier in 2019.  Is the film a companion piece to the book or anything like that?

GASKILL: Right, Greg did the book.  But no, the book stands alone; they are totally different entities, except that they are both about Kings X.  It is kind of a good feeling; it feels like something is happening is here, like something is on the rise.  I’m not sure.  I don’t want to get too ahead of myself but I have believed in my band and this career from the beginning, so I’m not going to stop that now (laughs.)  And we are doing a new record too, so it’s like a triple threat.

ALO: Yeah I wanted to ask you that as well.  This is your first album in a decade.  What can you tell us about the new material?

GASKILL: We have all been writing but I haven’t heard much of anything really.  I haven’t heard much of their stuff and they haven’t heard much of my stuff.  We fly out to L.A. to start the record in a few days.  We haven’t done anything except talk about it, so on Monday we fly out to L.A. and start doing it.

ALO: So when the three of you get together, that’s when the process begins of putting everything together?

GASKILL: Correct, all three of us together and recording a new album together, that’s right.  I have no idea what direction the album is going to take, it’s just going to be where we are now, what we are thinking, what we are feeling.  None of us know what that is going to be

ALO: Is there a plan for release of the album?  

GASKILL: I have heard things here and there.  There has been talk about a release in fall of 2019, but to be honest, that’s not something that I am even thinking about right now.  Right now I am thinking on Monday, I am flying to LA and making a record.  For release dates and things like that, I am leaving that up to other people (laughs).

ALO: When you have done records in the past, how long does it typically take?

GASKILL: Well like you said, it’s been over ten years since we did a record, so it’s been so long, I kind of don’t remember (laughs).  I don’t remember what the process is.  But this one will be a whole new process since now we are all in different areas.  So we’ll see what happens.

ALO: So it’s been a decade since you recorded new music, how does that feel?

GASKILL: Well it’s kind of exciting but kind of daunting.  It does give me some anxiety.  I always get worried about, well, what if it’s not good enough?  There is always that aspect.  So it’s all those things rolled up into one.  But once we get together, I am sure it will be just fine.  But somebody said something recently.  Most of the things we worry about, those are things that usually never happen anyway.  So I am just taking each day as it comes,man.

ALO: This will be your first album on your new label, Golden Robot.  Obviously they haven’t released anything yet, but how has it been working with them thus far?

GASKILL: Well we haven’t done a lot with them.  But we have spoken with them, and I do think that they believe in us.  I think that just like with Greg Prato with the book and Roy with the movie and now with Golden Robot, it just feels good and it feels like now is the right time to do all of these things.  You know, I didn’t want to make a new record until it felt like it was time.  I didn’t want to do it until I thought it was the time that we could make the best record possible and it seems like now is that time.  Well, I guess we will see, won’t we (laughs).

ALO: Over the last few years you have had health issues, you lost your home due to Hurricane Sandy, and will these terrible tragedies affect the direction on the record?

GASKILL: Well, I don’t know if it will be a conscious affect on the record.  But I can tell you, that it has definitely given me a different perspective on my life.  Some of the songs that I have been writing do have some of those things thrown in there with the lyrics and whatever.  But I just learned that tragedy often times, or sometimes can cause greater things than we ever imagined.  I found that in my case.  I died, I came back, I had a heart attack, and Ilost everything in Hurricane Sandy, all those things.  But each one of those things turned into something that I thought I never could have imagined.  So there you go.

ALO: I guess you are living by the old adage, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

GASKILL: I guess it just depends on how you deal with things.  It’s easy to let things overwhelm you and take you over.  And just say forget it, I’m done.  Or you can rise up and learn from those situations and become better.

ALO: You are going out on the road at the end of June for a number of shows.

GASKILL: Oh yeah, I am looking forward to it.  I always look forward to doing shows and playing festivals and playing places we haven’t been yet.  We are going out on our first weekend after we done recording our new album.

ALO: Will you be playing any new material at these upcoming shows?

GASKILL: I have no idea.   I don’t know if we are going to be playing any of the new material (laughs).  I don’t know even know what the new material is going to be yet (laughs).

ALO: It seems that so many musicians are fans of Kings X.  Why is that?

GASKILL: I don’t know, but it sure seems that way.  I am honored by it.  I am a little baffled, but always honored.  It’s an honor to think that people that I look up to can turn around and look up to me as well.  That’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.

ALO: I know I have seen you personally open for Anthrax, Dio, Motorhead, I’ve read about you opening for Pearl Jam, AC/DC and so many others.  I guess you often get paired up with so many different acts because your band isn’t easily labeled.  Is that a plus or a minus for you?  The fact that your music can’t easily be categorized?

GASKILL: I think it’s a little bit of both.  I guess it’s probably a plus.  It would have been nice to have sold millions of records and make millions of dollars; I am still willing to find that out (laughs).  But it’s also one of those things that if that did happen, we might not be a band anymore.  We could just give it all up and go live on an island.  But like you are talking about, we have respect from musicians and the fans who love us, they really love us.  I have nothing to complain about.

I don’t think anybody really knows where to place us.  That’s the hardest thing with people, so they just place us everywhere and we just go and play.  We’ve done the Monsters of Rock cruise but then we did the progressive rock cruise, then we went and did the KISS cruise, whatever.  You never know where we are going to be.  But I guess that’s because we really don’t fit in anywhere.

ALO: Kings X was a band that was very forward thinking when it came to side projects.  Now everyone that is in a successful band seems to be in multiple bands.  Has that helped you to grow as musicians?

GASKILL: Oh yeah, I think that has helped us.  I know back when we were managed by Sam Taylor, that was something that was forbidden, if I can use that.  But when the disillusionment happened with Sam, I think we all just realized, we can do whatever we want to do.  I know that worked out great with Doug, he is just a part of everything now.  I am in New Jersey and I have played with some great musicians.  But everything has just been great.

ALO: How about playing in South America?

GASKILL: Well I haven’t heard of anything concrete.  We have talked a lot about going to South America, but we have never actually been there.  We have never been there.  We have always wanted to go to South America.  We have always wanted to go to Australia too.  We’ll see what happens.  It’s a little too early to tell, but I am open to whatever.

ALO: It’s incredible that you have been a band so long and there are still places you have not visited yet?

GASKILL: Yeah, I have always wondered why we never went down there.  But hopefully in the future we will.  The future is wide open.

Photo by Jerry LoFaro

Fifth Angel returns with ‘The Third Secret’

After nearly 30 years since releasing a studio album, melodic hard rockers Fifth Angel return with a new album, The Third Secret, on October 26th via Nuclear Blast Records. The new album consists of 10 tracks that members of the band promise will please both their die hard fans and new fans alike.

“We are very proud of the new album! We hope the fans will hear the classic threads of the Fifth Angel  they know and love, along with the growth and maturity the individuals of the band have gone through over the years,” said guitarist and vocalist Kendall Bechtel in a press release for the new album. “We hope they love the new songs as much as we do.”

In the 1980s, Fifth Angel was signed to a seven-album deal with Epic Records, but released only two albums – Fifth Angel in 1988 & Time Will Tell in 1989. (Click HERE to read a review/reflection of Time Will Tell). With a lack of label support in the early 1990s and the rise of grunge music, the band was released from their contract and went their separate ways.

Fast forward to 2018 and Fifth Angel is back with a lineup that consists of Bechtel, John Macko (bass), Ed Archer (guitars) and Ken Mary (drums). [Original vocalist Ted Pilot was asked to be part of the reunion but declined].

With their highly anticipated new album nearing its release, Limelight Magazine caught up with Macko who discussed recording the album, what it’s like to be back in the band and if we’ll see the band tour to support the release.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: On October 26th, Fifth Angel will release its third studio album, The Third Secret, on Nuclear Blast Records. It’s been nearly 30 years since your last album, Time Will Tell. Why did the band decide to do another studio album after all these years?

JOHN MACKO: We had been contemplating making a new record since 2010 when we played the KIT festival, but for one reason or another, it never happened, then after our performance at the 2017 KIT festival, we had gotten an offer to make a record with Nuclear Blast Records and that really got the ball rolling.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How long did it take the band to record The Third Secret and how do the songs hold up against your classic late 80s material?

JOHN MACKO: It took about 6 months to record and most of the song ideas were all new within a year or two at the most. We believe these songs stand with the prior records, capturing the style and spirit of the old stuff, but with modern production.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Fifth Angel released a digital single and lyric video for “Can You Hear Me” (click HERE to watch and listen). on September 7. Why was this song chosen as the lead single?

JOHN MACKO: I can’t really answer this question as our label Nuclear Blast made this choice, but we trust in their judgment and we are sure they had a good reason!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The album cover for The Third Secret was designed by Zsofia Dankova. It looks absolutely incredible. It also keeps the border art of the past two albums, which fans seem very excited about. Did the band have any input on the cover art or did the artist have free reign on the design?

JOHN MACKO: Zsofia did an amazing job for certain! But she did not make the design, the band crafted the design and we relayed that vision to Zsofia. The boarder was also our idea to keep some consistency and familiarity for the fans.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Since Fifth Angel has been away from the scene for so long, did you expect to ink a deal with Nuclear Blast Records?

JOHN MACKO: Not at all! It was pretty amazing to us when the offer was made, it was just luck we think that an A&R rep was at our 2017 KIT show and loved our performance, had it not been for that show I don’t think this record would have been made.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’re first two albums (Fifth Angel & Time Will Tell) were released on Epic Records. How is it different being signed to a label today compared to back then?

JOHN MACKO: Well, I can’t speak for other labels in today’s market, but I will tell you working with Nuclear Blast is an absolute joy! Night and day between them and Epic/CBS records! They are tremendous to work with and we would recommend them to any band out there. They get things done right away and give us all of the creative freedom we need.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’ve read that Fifth Angel originally signed a seven album deal with Epic but was eventually released from its contract. What led to the band’s initial break up in the early 90s?

JOHN MACKO: Basically it was bad timing, the band was dropped from Epic after the rise of “Grunge” music which drastically changed the direction of the music scene. Labels turned their attention to those types of bands.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: When the band decided to record a new album, did you reach out to original vocalist Ted Pilot to be part of the line up?

JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! We have always asked Ted to be a part of anything we have been doing, but he felt his voice was not up to par.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Was it a difficult transition for Kendall Bechtel to go from being a guitarist to handling both guitar and vocal duties?

JOHN MACKO: I don’t think so, Kendall has been lead singing for many years with his own side projects and also doing guest appearances on other artists records.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: As I was drafting questions for this interview, I read a press release that original rhythm guitarist Ed Archer has returned to the band. Does this mean that Fifth Angel may actually tour the States to support the release? (On behalf of all of your fans, we’d love to see you play some New England dates!)

JOHN MACKO: There are no plans of yet, but it certainly is in the realm of possibility!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I came across an interview with drummer Ken Mary in the August 1988 issue of Hit Parader where he said, “I don’t want to say that our show will necessarily be Cooperesque [in reference to being Alice Cooper’s drummer at the time as well as Fifth Angel’s], but let’s just say that there will definitely be some surprises, and lots of things that people haven’t seen before.” Interestingly, the band never ended up performing any live dates back then. Out of curiosity, why didn’t the band ever tour?

JOHN MACKO: It was always part of our plan to tour, but it seemed that one situation after another would always prevent us from making that happen, again bad timing seemed to be the issue.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Lastly, how excited are you personally to see the band back together and doing interviews about a new album again?

JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! Who would have ever thought? I feel truly blessed and lucky to have this second chance; most musicians don’t even get that opportunity once in their life time!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?

JOHN MACKO: We just hope the fans love this record as much as we do and continue to keep the faith!

 

Dark Desert Eagles to soar at Greasy Luck Brewpub in New Bedford

While Pat Badger is best known as a member of the multi-platinum rock band Extreme, he has also made a name for himself as a founder of the Eagles tribute band Dark Desert Eagles. He formed the band after the passing of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and enlisted the help of Extreme drummer Kevin Figueiredo, multi-instrumentalist Chris Lester, guitarist Eric Clemenzi, and bassist Tom Appleman. Each of the musicians in this band painstakingly re-create the amazing soaring harmonies and music of the Eagles. It’s no surprise that the Dark Desert Eagles have performed a string of sold out shows and have left their audiences spellbound by their stellar musicianship. The band will perform in The Vault at Greasy Luck Brewpub in New Bedford, Mass., on Saturday, March 24th, with special guest Shun Ng & The Shunettes. (Purchase tickets HERE.)

With anticipation high for their debut performance in New Bedford, Limelight Magazine recently caught up with Badger to discuss the band and his love for the Eagles.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’ve had a lot of success as a member of Extreme but you’re also enjoying success with your Eagles tribute band The Dark Desert Eagles. Why did you decide to start this band?
PAT BADGER: Well, first and foremost, I grew up listening to classic rock and always loved the Eagles songwriting and vocals! Even though Extreme still tours every year, there are gaps in my schedule when I miss playing out. So, I took it as a challenge to do something completely different than my role in Extreme and took on the most amazing catalog of hits from any American band, hands down!

So, I had a conversation with my friend (and now the band’s manager) about how I always wanted to start an Eagles tribute band and then Glenn Frey died a week later. I was shocked. Then I said to myself, now I HAVE to start this band!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: When you formed The Dark Desert Eagles, how did you select the musicians in the band?
PAT BADGER: The drummer from Extreme is also the drummer for Dark Desert Eagles. There is no one else I’d rather play with and we are on the same touring schedule so that is kind of a no-brainer. Some of the other guys came as recommendations from friends and other musicians. All very super talented guys!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How is it different performing on stage with this band than with Extreme?
PAT BADGER: I have played bass and sang background vocals in Extreme for 30 years. In the Dark Desert Eagles, I sing the majority of the lead vocals and play rhythm guitar which comes as a huge challenge, but it’s been a blast and really rewarding!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The Dark Desert Eagles have had several sold out shows. Did you expect the band would receive such a great response right out of the gate?
PAT BADGER: Well, like I said before, it is one of the most amazing catalogs of music, and there are a lot of Eagles fans out there. But, that being said, I had no idea that we would gain as much traction as we already have in less than a year. We are proud to say that we have sold out back to back nights in some really great venues, and we have also traveled out-of-state to places as far as Chicago and D.C., and have had the same reaction everywhere! People are lovin’ it!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: There are many tribute bands out there today that pay homage to a variety of classic rock groups. What sets The Dark Desert Eagles apart from some of the others?
PAT BADGER: Well there is a big difference in either being a cover band or being a tribute band. Let’s face it, most cover bands have day jobs and are not full time musicians. Cover bands play the music and whether they play the music well or poorly, either way they do not put any focus on the image.

As far as the Dark Desert Eagles goes, we are the only one that I know of that does the image part. We have taken a lot of cues from the Eagles documentary in the peak of their career which is arguably the Hotel California era. We transport people back in time to 1977! Or maybe it is that we are transported from 1977 into the future! LOL

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: On the band’s website, it states that “each of the musicians in the Dark Desert Eagles painstakingly re-creates the amazing soaring harmonies and music of the Eagles.” What songs ended up being the most difficult to recreate for a live setting?
PAT BADGER: For me personally, the biggest challenges have been to play the songs that are really chill, meaning relaxed and spacious with piano and acoustic guitars. Every song is also such a huge hit and everyone knows every word to songs like “Desperado” and “Hotel California,” so the pressure is on not to mess up a word, and musically to pull off some of the most famous classic rock songs of all time!

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The Dark Desert Eagles plays everything from the hits to fan favorites by the Eagles. Has there ever been consideration to performing any of their albums in their entirety?
PAT BADGER: We have talked about doing Hotel California in its entirety. The question then becomes what would you take out of the set if we were to do it and then do a second set of the greatest hits.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’ve heard the band also recreates some of the songs from the Eagles members’ solo careers. How does the band decide on that part of the set list considering the number of hits they have collectively had outside of the Eagles?
PAT BADGER: Originally we had talked about doing random songs from their solo careers but then decided on focusing on the era before they split up, so we do a few Joe Walsh solo and James Gang songs that the Eagles did at that point around ‘77.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: What is your favorite Eagles album and why?
PAT BADGER: It’s hard to make an argument for any other than Hotel California. That being said, we play every song from their first greatest hits album except one, and nothing from Hotel California is even on it! Considering that it’s the best selling greatest hits of all times and the second best selling ALBUM of all times next to Thriller… it just emphasizes just how prolific their songwriting was.

For more information about The Dark Desert Eagles, visit their website HERE.

The Vault at Greasy Luck Brewpub is located at located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.

Jeff Rapsis – Bringing sound to silent films

While you may know Jeff Rapsis as one of the co-owners of New Hampshire’s largest independent newspaper, The Hippo, he has also made a name for himself as a versatile silent film score composer,  providing accompaniment to nearly 300 films of all genres. (Just last year alone, he accompanied a jaw dropping 137 silent film programs!!!). What sets him apart from other composers is his improvisational style. He typically creates his compositions as he watches the film for the first time with the audience. Rapsis travels throughout New England, primarily in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, to perform at art houses, theaters, college campuses and libraries. This Sunday, February 18, 2018, he’ll provide accompaniment to the silent film Algol: A Tragedy of Power (1920) as part of the 43rd Annual Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival’s 24-hour science fiction film marathon. (Click HERE to purchase tickets). Despite his buy schedule, we caught up with Rapsis on Friday and he was kind enough to answer our questions about his life and creating live musical scores for silent film screenings.

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): You provide accompaniment to classic silent films. How did you get involved in doing this?

JEFF RAPSIS: I’ve loved music of all types since childhood, and was one of those weird kids who responded especially strongly to “classical” music. That led to piano lessons and lots of other musical activities from high school marching band to musical theater and even barbershop quartet singing. For most of high school, I was quite serious about becoming a composer of works for the symphony orchestra. At the same time, I had a music teacher in 7th grade who would show films during study hall, and these often included silent comedies such as Charlie Chaplin’s famous Mutual two-reel comedies from 1916 and 1917. Most of my classmates kept fooling around, but something about these older films captured my imagination. I’ve been a silent film junkie, more or less, ever since. After college, I turned to journalism and the written word for my career, and for the next 20 years did very little with music or film, although my interest in both fields never waned. I never stopped learning and thinking about these subjects, but the extent of my music-making was taking chorus roles in the productions of a local opera company. About the year 2000, I co-founded a weekly newspaper in New Hampshire called The Hippo, which focused on the arts. As the paper’s self-appointed “classical music writer” (because no one else had a background in the subject), I found myself mixing with musicians and attending performances and getting involved with the local music scene. This reawakened my desire to make music and to compose. And so when a local filmmaker named Bill Millios asked me for musical advice for a feature-length drama he was making, I leaped at the chance to compose the film’s score. Doing music for the film, Dangerous Crosswinds (2005), and having my cues played by musicians of the New Hampshire Philharmonic, to me felt like I was coming back to what I was meant to be doing all along. I wanted to do more, but in New Hampshire, there aren’t exactly a lot of directors throwing around opportunities to write film scores. So I noticed that a local venue, the Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H., had no performance scheduled for Halloween, and so suggested they run Phantom of the Opera (1925) and I would do live music. I had tried doing silent film music a few times in the past, but always felt it was a field best left to specialists. Well, the Palace folks said yes, and so that Halloween I found myself at the keyboard of my digital synthesizer doing music for Lon Chaney scuttling about the catacombs of the Paris Opera House. Despite my best intentions, I didn’t have time to prepare much in  advance, and so was resigned to winging it and hoping for the best. And I was surprised to find that accompanying film in real time, with an audience present, was something that came quite naturally to me. I recall a growing sense of excitement as the film went on and I found I could create music right there that I felt helped it come together and absorb and audience. And I was able to use the musical material in different ways depending on what the film was doing, and how the audience reacted. I could do it! And it felt like I had wings. So this led to more screenings in other venues as I began to devote more time to exploring and learning the craft of creating live music for films without a soundtrack. To me, music and film turned out to be like chocolate and peanut butter. Two great things I always liked turned out to be even better together!

LM: I’ve read that your shows are very unique because you make up the compositions as you play them and sometimes as you watch the film for the first time with an audience. Can you elaborate on why you decided to take this approach?

JEFF RAPSIS: One practical reason is that as a full-time business owner and a busy schedule, I just don’t have a lot of time to make elaborate preparations in advance of a screening. Another reason is that this method makes use of my natural tendency to explore and experiment at the keyboard. As a teenager, I was a lousy piano student in that I would rarely have the patience to learn pieces written by others, no matter how well-crafted or worthy. Instead, I would start making up my own versions and going in different directions. So the seeds were there right at the beginning, and this kind of film accompaniment plays to my strengths as a musician. Also, I think a musical score created in the moment, in live performance, gives off a kind of unique energy in a way that a recorded or written-down score does not. If I was buried in sheet music, I don’t think I’d be as effective in helping a film connect with audiences. And I like the contrast between a vintage film, which has been fixed and unchanging for 90 or 100 years or more, and music that’s happening right there in the moment.

LM: What’s interesting is you don’t focus on providing accompaniment to any specific genre of silent films but a wide range of them. Are there any specific genres that lend themselves to your improv style more than others?

JEFF RAPSIS: Comedy is the most demanding genre because the music really needs to support what’s happening on the screen, but also stay in the background for a very basic reason: audience members need to hear each other laugh. This leads to the kind of contagious laughter that sometimes gets sparked during a show, and which is one of the great glories of the silent cinema. Once the house is roaring, you can amp up the music if you want. But before that, you need to do everything you can to keep it simple, almost nursery-rhyme-like, so that you don’t step on the laughs. Less is more! Also, because so much of comedy is timing, the musician must hone the same kind of instincts that the comedians had—when to stop, when to start, when to move, and so on. It can make the difference between a so-so screening and a true no-holds-barred howler. So if I can preview a comedy beforehand, it’s especially valuable because you get a much better idea of the film’s pacing and what kind of music will support the comedy, and you can just do a better job helping the laughs come naturally. Beyond comedy, my idiom seems to do best in big dramas that lend themselves to big sweeping musical gestures. Although there’s no one single “right” texture for silent film accompaniment, my own style is to work in a pretty conservative idiom rooted in the musical language of the late 19th century classical symphony orchestra: the works of Mahler and Richard Strauss. Shostakovich is a big influence, too. And I think this helpss me to bring out the big emotions in these films, no matter what genre. Drama, western, thriller, costume picture, whatever—silent film at its best is often about the BIG human emotions: Love with a capital L, or Joy, or Hate, or Envy. The stories are often built to bring out and celebration these big, basic emotions, which silent film, by virtue of lack of dialogue and other limitations, was uniquely geared to do. I don’t get that experience from any other medium, with the possible exception of opera, which is similar in that’s it’s often also about the big, basic emotions.

LM: There has been an increase in the number of silent films screened over the years across the country, particularly at art houses and horror and sci-fi movie marathons. What do you think is the cause of the silent film “boom”?

JEFF RAPSIS: After the transition to cinema with synchronized sound in the late 1920s, for a couple of generations nothing was more old-fashioned that silent movies. People saw them as a relic from a primitive era best left in the dustbin of history—we’ve moved on from that, haven’t we? And as a kid, I recall silent film clips on television or in certain “olde-time silent movies” being run at the wrong speed, to a kind of rinky-tink out-of-tune piano accompaniment, and generally being treated as a curious novelty, nothing more. Well, I think enough time has passed so that pretty much everyone around today has no direct experience with the silent cinema: the closest link might have been fading memories of a grandparent now long gone. And so because we haven’t known it, silent film is new to us in a way that it could never be to previous generations. Also, enough time as passed to make the films very interesting just for the basic things: how people dressed, ate, and behaved. How families acted, how people got around, what they did for fun—even the lousiest silent film is today an accidental treasure trove of information about daily life as it was lived in a byegone era, and brought to life in a way that no book or academic paper could do. So since about 1900, we have this amazingly rich accidental visual record of how people lived. Imagine if we had similar material from Shakespeare’s time, or from the time of Christ! I have a cousin who is no cinema buff, but he regularly attends silent film screenings I do because he loves seeing the old cars, the horses and the blacksmiths, and so much else. I also think that in an era where we increasingly find ourselves staring at a screen and interacting with people online, there’s a hunger for communal experiences that bring people together. How interesting that this aspect of silent film may be once again a key part of its appeal after all this time.

LM: Why do you think so many people today are becoming fascinated by the films of the past?

JEFF RAPSIS: I got into this topic in the previous question: how even the lousiest films from the silent era are a visual record of a bygone era. They bring to life the habits and customs of a vanished time in a way no history book can. But there’s also one other thing they do. Just as they are highlight how much has changed, they also contain a lot of info about what has NOT changed. They show, as no other art form can, how some things are unchanging aspects of the human condition: concern for one’s family and the community, the power of love to change so much, the ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity, and so much more. These things, so important to the stories of so many films, were important long before cinema existed, and are important today, and will continue to be important for a very long time to come, I think. So if you’re not sure what’s ephemeral and what’s lasting in your own life, silent film acts as a kind of barometer to help guide you.

LM: I’m a firm believer that silent films should be seen in a theater with an audience. Do you agree with this statement and why?

JEFF RAPSIS: Yes, I do. For starters, the films were designed from the ground up to be seen in a large theater with an audience because that was the ONLY way to see them when they were being made. There was no home media like we have today. So silent films were almost universally geared for the large audience experience, which is very different from watching a film alone at home with just you and your dog or parakeet. The pacing, the way a story is presented, the way a character is presented—the reaction of a large audience to all of this was baked into films during the silent era. In many cases, filmmakers would preview their latest in-progress work to an audience to see how a sequence played, and whether or not it had any dead spots. Harold Lloyd was a pioneer of what became known as the “sneak preview,” as they were often unannounced. So if something got a big laugh, and then something else happened that was funny but the audience was still laughing at the first thing—well, then you’d go back and add some padding to accommodate the first big laugh and allow enough time for the second. So in many cases, the films were literally hand-crafted for the large audience experience! And it’s worth pointing out, I think, that this audience experience was one of the most important things about how the public first fell in love with the movies, and fell hard. It wasn’t necessarily because of techniques such as close-ups or location shooting or anything like that. It’s because most early film directors had extensive experience with live theatre, and they knew in their bones how to structure a story to get an audience hooked and keep watching and root for certain characters and all the things that make up an exciting time in the theater. With motion pictures, the same skills helped early pictures connect with audience. I think pioneer director D.W. Griffith doesn’t get enough credit for this aspect of his success. His background was in directing melodramas that traveled the small-town circuits—in these places, you had to get an audience hooked and keep them hooked, or they’d tar and feature you! So he know how to present a story to rile up an audience, and I think that’s one of the biggest things he brought to early motion pictures. It’s the REAL reason people fell in love with the movies.

LM: Besides performing in your home state of New Hampshire, you’ve done a lot of work at the Somerville Theatre for their silent film series called “Silents Please.” How did you get involved in this series and what do you like most about performing in that historic theater?

JEFF RAPSIS: I first came to the Somerville Theatre for the annual Boston Sci-Fi Marathon back in 2011, where I did live music for a screening of the very early 1916 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. While there, I met theater manager Ian Judge and head projectionist David Kornfeld. I was really impressed by their commitment to showing movies on real 35mm film, which was then being phased out by the studios in favor of digital formats. I was equally impressed by the brand new projection booth high up in “House One,” the Somerville’s main theatre. David described is as his “masterpiece,” and it really seemed so: equipped with every possible lens combination to screen prints in every format possible. They seemed to like what I did with 20,000 Leagues, and so Ian started the ‘Silents, Please!’ series after that with all titles in 35mm prints. I’ve been working with them ever since. Each year, we run eight to ten silent film programs, and we’ve built up an audience to where we often get well over 100 attendees, and occasionally many more. Highlights included a program of silent feature films starring W.C. Fields (yes, he was a popular star before talkies) for which his granddaughter, Dr. Harriet Fields, came up to Boston and told tales and answered questions about her iconic ancestor. What I like most about the theater, besides the people who manage and run it, is that it’s the real deal: an actual theater that was showing actual movies during the actual silent film era. So in that respect, if you want to recreate the total experience of attending silent film in a theater, you can’t do much better than the Somerville, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014.

LM: Speaking of The Somerville Theatre, you are going to be providing accompaniment to the silent film Algol: A Tragedy of Power (1920) this Sunday, February 18, as part of the 43rd Annual Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival’s 24-hour science fiction film marathon. Is this the first time you’ve ever performed music to this film? What instruments will you be using to accompany it?

JEFF RAPSIS: It’s Friday night as I write this, and we’re not doing Algol until Sunday, so it’s way too soon to think about it. Just kidding! Actually, I’d actually never heard of Algol until festival organizer Garen Daley mentioned he planned to run it. I’ve since seen the film once (in a sub-standard version at a very slow speed on YouTube), and to check it out at least once more to increase the odds of doing a good job. To accompany Algol, I’ll use my digital synthesizer, which is an 88-key Korg Triton LE model with weighted action. It’s actually an older model (from 2003, ancient as far as digital keyboards go) but it’s what I’ve used for years and I’ve found there’s nothing quite like it. Although the synth can produced an enormous range of sounds and textures, sometimes I augment its output with bells, whistles, and other sound-effects that provide variety without distracting from the film. For Algol, for some reason I want to bring along my bass tuba and use it as part of the score, but I’m not sure exactly how. We’ll see. I think if there’s any crowd that will respond to my bass tuba playing, it’s the sci-fi folks.

LM: You’re also the associate publisher of The Hippo which covers southern New Hampshire. How do you find the time to do everything you do?

JEFF RAPSIS: It’s a busy life, that’s for sure. I counted, and in 2017 I accompanied 137 separate silent film programs. This is in addition to working full-time as co-owner of the largest newspaper of any type published north of Boston, teaching courses in the Communications Department of UNH-Manchester, and sometimes sleeping and eating. Speaking of eating: our company is setting up a wholesale food distribution operation to go along with our newspaper delivery routes, so suddenly I’m in the artisan beef jerky business. But I enjoy staying busy, and in my own way I’m doing what composer Charles Ives did: while continuing to write music, he was also co-founder and partner in what became one of the largest insurance agencies in the United States. He would tell people that he felt his work in business helped his music, and his music helped his affairs in business. I find that to be very true. Also, I am blessed with a flexible schedule and a network of supportive people who made this pace possible. Personally, I don’t have many firm religious convictions, but I do believe this—our time here is limited, so it’s a shame not to make the very most out of every day we have.

LM:  Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?

JEFF RAPSIS: I sometimes joke that accompanying silent films is “my personal therapy,” but that’s actually not far off the mark.

For more information about Rapsis or to view his upcoming schedule, check out his blog HERE.