Category Archives: Features & Interviews

Mark Cherone channels Pete Townshend in Who celebration band SlipKid with brother Gary

BY CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Plenty of adolescents have been inspired to pursue the guitar because of Pete Townhsend. But only a few professional guitarists actually end up playing Townshend’s role in a Who cover band, and even fewer are good at it.

Enter Mark Cherone.

As a member of Hurtsmile with his brother, Extreme’s Gary Cherone, he gets to satisfy his ongoing itch to play original material, which has remained his primary musical ambition since attending Berklee College of Music in the mid-80s. This leaves him wide open to enjoy the duo’s other project, SlipKid. Dubbed “A Celebration of The Who,” the brothers Cherone get to channel their heroes with an invigorating showcase of tunes that highlights The Who’s undeniable genius, power, and passion.

Slowly emerging from the pandemic, SlipKid is playing at The Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Friday, December 3. Purchase tickets HERE. Johnny Barnes and the Nightcrawlers open the show.

Mark Cherone recently took the time to speak with Limelight Magazine about how this project came to be and what it means to him and his brother.  

LM: Do you remember the first time you heard The Who?

MC: I do. I remember. You know, since childhood I’ve grown to love many artists like all of us do, but The Who? The Who made me want to play guitar and be in a band. I saw their movie, The Kids Are Alright, in the theater in the late 70s, I was 10 or 11. A friend of my brother took me. And there it was on the big screen! I just remember seeing Pete Townsend slide across the stage on his knees during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the end of the movie, and I just thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I’ve loved him ever since, his whole career, I love his solo albums. I’m just crazy for him, still, and I love The Who. So SlipKid is really a labor of love. I’ve never been in a cover band, only original bands, which, looking back, seems a little odd. I kind of wish I had played in cover bands… maybe it could’ve helped my guitar playing.

LM: So, what were you doing while your brother was having success with Nuno Bettencourt in Extreme?

MC: I was also in a band. Actually, I was in a couple of bands before Gary and I started Hurtsmile with Joe Pessia around 2007. In the time during Extreme’s huge success, I was in a band called Flesh. And Nuno helped us out, helped get our album out. Extreme took us on tour, which was a lot of fun. Then, in the late 90s, I was in a band called Super Zero, which was another great band and fun time. We got two albums out on our own. A Japanese company put out some of our music, so we went over to Japan. And after that, I did another band where I was singing. Since then, I started splitting time between SlipKid and Hurtsmile, since they started around the same time.

LM: How did SlipKid come about?

MC: My whole career, I just dove into the original music thing. Looking back, I don’t know if that was wise, but it’s what I did. Many years ago now, Gary and I talked about doing some kind of Who thing and it just seemed like a cool idea. We talked about doing Tommy, which SlipKid has performed. It kept coming up when we’d see each other. At one point he called and said “Hey, I’ve got a drummer here… come down and let’s run through a couple of songs.” And it just snowballed right away. The very next week, he had a bass player. And the drummer then tells us, “I know a keyboardist that knows all the Who tunes,” and we were like “Get him over here.” So it just came together, and pretty quickly at that. When we’ve performed Tommy… let’s just say it’s a pretty big undertaking. Honestly, I’m not even sure how we pulled it off, but we did the entire thing. The audience seemed to love it and we had so much fun doing it. I really love being in this band.

LM: So, it looks like SlipKid was active for a while and then took a hiatus?

MC: Sort of, yes. This is the second coming of SlipKid. We got started a while ago—maybe 2006 or 2007? I honestly don’t remember, but it was around the same time Hurtsmile started. And we played out all around Boston and the surrounding area. Gary would leave and do Extreme tours and other projects, so we worked around that for about eight years. But then, at a certain point, we took a good ol’ break and we were kind of out of commission for a handful of years. Sometime in 2019, we said let’s try to get this set back up and running and do some shows. We were able to do two shows in January of 2020, and then the pandemic hit, so we ended up taking another year off.

LM: Since this is your first cover band, it must feel completely different to step into somebody else’s catalog. Is it almost a relief? Or, is it more daunting? Maybe a little bit of both?

MC: It’s been interesting and wild. These are songs that we’ve been singing along to, on the radio, in the car, for decades. And then you go to learn the chords and discover surprises like really weird chord changes, and you have to wonder, like, ‘why would he go from here to here??’ But, you have to learn it. I ended up developing an even greater appreciation for Pete’s writing when I had to figure out the chords and pay attention to the arrangements in a new way. A lot of the stuff on the radio is very square—you know, eight measures for this, eight measures for that, eight measures for the other. Pete does these weird nine-measure, ten-measure solo sections, just really odd. We asked each other, ‘should we straighten this out and make it square?’ But we decided to perform the songs as they were written, which has made it more challenging, but it’s helped us with Hurtsmile because we will take more chances with progressive arrangements thanks to learning this material.

LM: How did you go about creating a setlist? I imagine it’s a tough call whether to stick with crowd-pleasers or indulge in deeper cuts that might be more satisfying to you, but maybe not for the audience.

MC: I think we’re such Who fans that we have to kind of ask ourselves, “I love the song, but does everyone else love this song?” except for the most obvious ones. And we do have to stick close to the vest on a majority of the set, so we don’t lose the audience. But we throw in as many deep cuts as we can without being self-indulgent. We decided on a mostly chronological approach. There are a few things out of order, but for the most part, it’s kept chronological, so it shows the band’s musical evolution.

LM: The song “Slip Kid” was originally written as a vague warning about the music business, amongst other things. Was that the context in which you chose the band name?

MC: No, not really. It was an aesthetic choice. It’s the sound of it, the punchiness of it. I don’t think we brought in the lyrical content of that particular song, but we’re aware of the band’s rebellious edge. We don’t even call it a tribute band, we refer to it as ‘A Celebration of The Who.’ We go up there and we try to channel the visceral piss and vinegar of The Who without smashing our instruments, you know? More than imitating or paying tribute, we’re celebrating this incredible catalog of music.

The Vault is 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.

Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.

ALAN HOWARTH TO PERFORM AT THIS YEAR’S 20TH ANNUAL HORROR MOVIE MARATHON AT THE COOLIDGE

BY CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Alan Howarth [Submitted photo]

Alan Howarth’s sound designs are ingrained in pop culture.  

The sound you hear when the Starship Enterprise appears in the Star Trek films? That’s Howarth. When the little girl calls from within the television set in Poltergeist? Howarth. That musical sense of foreboding that overcomes you when Indiana Jones faces a cobra in Raiders of the Lost Ark? All Howarth. 

And if you happened to see jazz fusion pioneers Weather Report in the late 70s, you might recall marveling at co-founder Joe Zawinul’s next-level keyboard setup. That, too, was Howarth’s magic, working as a touring technician to keep Zawinul’s complex array of synths in running order from night to night — no small feat in the pre-digital age. 

As an adolescent, Howarth was always more interested in visual art, but music ended up in the driver’s seat. Eventually, he married the two things, creating music to soundtrack images. Nowadays, he’s also drawing sketches of some of the famed movie scenes he’s celebrated for scoring — an unexpected full-circle connection to his creative roots. Howarth will have some of his sketches for attendees to view when he performs a set to kick off the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s 20th Halloween Horror Marathon at 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 30th. Purchase tickets HERE.

“When we were approached about the idea of bringing out Alan Howarth for this event, we jumped at the chance, because it just worked perfectly,” said Mark Anastasio, a.k.a. ‘Midnight Mark,’ Program Manager and Director of Special Programming at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre for over fifteen years. “And we were thrilled that he was willing to perform as part of this show. People love the scores that he’s created and to hear some of them live with a packed house full of horror fans is going to be quite something. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, [which he scored with John Carpenter], was already locked in as one of the two films we’d be revealing early, so it just made total sense.”

Howarth is best known for his spooky sound signatures at the intersection of sci-fi and horror, but his musical interests began with an accordion found in the attic of his Cleveland-area childhood home. Music became more than just a hobby after a one-off high school gig (playing sax) yielded an $80 payout—big money at that time.

So began a series of serendipitous events that shaped the trajectory of his career. Playing bass in popular Cleveland bands, one of which opened for The Who, eventually led him to Los Angeles. There, an earlier connection to the band Weather Report resulted in attaining the keyboard technician job that put him on the road for several years, beginning in 1976. Four years later, based on his job with Weather Report, an old Ohio friend working at Paramount Pictures recommended Howarth as a knowledgeable ‘synth guy’ for some work on the first Star Trek movie. In the wake of completing that project, Film Editor Todd Ramsay offhandedly put him in touch with John Carpenter, but Howarth was not expecting to become the tech-yin to Carpenter’s creative-yang. 

Actually, at that time, Howarth was taking classes on film scoring at UCLA Extension. A lot of guys would’ve probably quit the classes, but for Howarth, working with Carpenter was like a dream internship on steroids. 

“John and I are the same age,” Howarth said over the phone from Newport Beach, California. “He’s from Kentucky and I’m originally from Cleveland, so we’ve both experienced life through a Midwestern lens and on a similar timeline. But he’s John Carpenter, right? I mean, he’s a trained musician from his dad, his dad was a concert violinist and also taught music. In our first meeting, he came over to my house and we sat and just talked for about three hours. I showed him some stuff in my little dining room studio, and we were excited. And at the end of that meeting, he goes, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,” and so just like that, I’m now scoring with John Carpenter on Escape From New York. It was my first score! And I had all the gear, but John wasn’t interested in gear. Several times I tried explaining to him how something worked and he’d say ‘Alan, I don’t really want to know about that stuff. That’s your job’.”

In the forty years since, Howarth collaborated with Carpenter on a half dozen more genre classics (Christine, Halloween II, Halloween III, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, and They Live) while moving further into his own scoring career (another trio of Halloween films, amongst others). 

From left, Alan Howarth and John Carpenter working on the score for Halloween III: Season of the Witch in 1983. [Submitted Photo]

When he’s not scoring, he’s often called on to create effects or sound designs — mini-themes ­— for specific moments in films. This is his specialty, taking visual cues and effectively representing them sonically— merging his passion for visual art with his musical abilities and technical chops. As a result, his designs have been featured in everything from National Lampoon’s Class Reunion to Beetlejuice,  Phantasm II, and the Back to the Future sequels. Howarth’s team won Academy Awards for their sound effect work on The Hunt for Red October and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While the tone of his work remains largely ominous (but not solely—more on that later), how he creates it has shifted over time. Like most everyone involved in music production, Howarth has learned to use Digital Audio Workstations (Ableton Live, Garage Band, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, etc.), which have become an industry standard. As a tech-enthusiast, he’s stayed abreast of the changes from the very beginning, and he was even involved in the development of what we now know as “surround sound.” Most of the digital shift, he says, has been positive.  

“The editorial aspect of digital is a huge improvement,” he said, explaining that the cut-and-paste nature of digital recording ends up requiring less musical skill, but it makes his job easier. When he and Carpenter did Escape from New York, they couldn’t synchronize the videotape with the audio recorder. Literally, it was just a matter of pushing play on both consoles at the same time, letting them freewheel and the pair would work on the score that way. The other thing Howarth would sometimes do is record the dialogue from the video to one track of his multi-track tape recorder, so he could turn the video off and still know where he was in the movie. 

From left, Alan Howarth and John Carpenter working on the score to Escape From New York in 1981. This was Howarth’s first collaboration with Carpenter. [Submitted Photo].

Lately, an appreciation for analog sound is fueling a revival of sorts. Howarth says that the sound of analog synths and analog tape that he and his contemporaries were using forty years ago — emulating avant-garde artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze — has become sought after. As a result, popular software has emerged to recreate those textures. What’s more, he’s now being asked to work on vintage equipment. 

“The last two scores I’ve done—one was a movie called Hoax (2019) and the other is Cosmic Dawn, which will be out in the spring—both directors asked me to do what I used to do in the 80s with analog synthesizers,” he said. “So, it was technically somewhat limited, but now it’s a style. Back then, we got the most out of the technology because that’s all we had. Now, with digital, the possibilities are limitless, which can actually make things more difficult. I had lunch with Brian Eno one time and he was talking about producing records for other artists and he said that what he does now is limit the use of technology. Before he starts work on an album, he sets parameters, like real drums only or only analog synths or… anything to make the universe of digital possibilities more finite. He said it provides a sense of direction because the limits of the past have proved to be a good way to go, artistically.”

No doubt, the folks at the Coolidge Corner Theatre would wholeheartedly agree with Eno: they prefer to run 35mm film prints. As a registered NFP for over thirty years, Anastasio says it’s one of the main factors in keeping the venue’s programming unique. But staying true to an analog vision in the digital age comes with challenges. 

“The main challenge with that, in this day and age, is the expense,” he said. “Shipping rates across the world have increased. And 35mm prints are heavy. So it’s more expensive than ever to show 35mm, but it’s something we still do here and we do it well so that we’re able to maintain relationships with studios and archives in order to borrow what is becoming increasingly rare. Film on film has become a rarity. But I think a lot of our audience comes out to watch these movies in their original format and they appreciate it.”

Anastasio says the Halloween Horror Marathon is a 100% 35mm program right down to the trailers that will run between films. He explained that a distributor who owns the rights to a film they might want to license won’t necessarily have a 35mm print of the film in stock, forcing the Coolidge to have to go to a private archive or to private collectors — folks that have salvaged these 35mm prints from destruction. That process fetches an additional fee.

For the Marathon, five of the seven films will remain a secret until they’re actually up on the screen. Anastasio also points to the challenging endurance test involved for his projection team, led by Nick Lazarro, formerly of Kaiju Big Battel, and Thomas Welch.

“But it’s also a ton of fun,” he said. “And I do think that there’s something really special for our audience members, to be able to spend an entire night inside of a place that they love so much. This is a way of reminding our audiences that this is their theater. It’s such a beloved community space and they support us by coming to our shows, and by donating. So having a night where they can sleep over and feel as though it’s truly home is special.”

If there’s something that (thankfully!) isn’t particularly challenging for the Coolidge, it’s making sure that patrons have the safest possible environment to enjoy their unique programming. 

“We’re not messing around when it comes to the safety of our guests,” Anastasio said, and he’s not kidding. In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within a 72-hour window, he explained that the Coolidge went a step further, upgraded their HVAC with high MERV-rated filters and new, state-of-the-art Continuous Infectious Microbial Reduction (CIMR) Systems technology. In the most basic terms, the CIMR system scrubs the air, “creating charged, ionized compounds of safe, self-regulating ultra-low level hydrogen peroxide,” that kills airborne pathogens. Apparently, it’s the same system used at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. Additionally, they’re blasting their ventilation ducts with UV light, which also works to kill pathogens. All told, it seems like spending the night at the Coolidge is a safer bet than most hotels. 

Anastasio also clarified that the smaller theatres will be open for guests to enter should the big room begin to feel too full. 

Alan Howarth enjoys performing his scores in front of live audiences. [Submitted photo]

For his part, after a long period of performing very little, Alan Howarth is excited to bring his stage show to an appreciative group of genre fans, particularly on mischief night and in celebrating 20 years of Halloween marathons at the Coolidge. When he performs live, he creates an amalgam of his most famous scores and sound designs with cleverly edited visual accompaniment from the related movies. 

Alan Howarth greeting fans at the merchandise table after a concert. [Submitted Photo]

Of his most recent work, a project with Oliver Stone’s son Sean Stone on a politically charged docuseries, The Best Kept Secret, sounds most riveting. Amusingly, Howarth was told to dial back the dark, menacing score he initially provided because it made the series too heavy. In the end, he used lighter tones to set up an interesting contrast, which reveals his other side: there’s more to Howarth than witches, ghosts, and goblins and spaceships.

“I’m really into meditation and spiritual things, and I’ve done two meditation CDs, Paradise Within and Indigo Ra,” he said. “I also collaborated with a jazz buddy of mine named John Novello who has a very famous band called Niacin. That project is called Luna Tech. All of that stuff is up on Youtube, so folks can check it out for free. I want to do more work like that, that’s not all dark and black. These are the sunshine and flowers and beauty projects, y’know?. One of my clients for many years, before the internet, was Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” based in San Diego. “They had an annual video that they would distribute to the donors showing what they were doing each year, and I scored all that stuff… the fish in the reefs, and the oceans and the winds and the climate. I have a whole other part of me and my work that nobody knows about.” 

The Coolidge Corner Theatre is located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA. Tickets for the 20th Annual Horror Marathon with Alan Howarth live can be purchased HERE.

One of three posters for this year’s 20th Annual Horror Marathon at the Coolidge Corner Theatre designed by Mark Reusch.

Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman to perform at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on Oct. 19th

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Caped keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman remains an unforgettable pillar of talent within rock’s progressive canon. Most know him from his runs with The Strawbs and Yes, the latter spanning some of the band’s most celebrated material, beginning with 1971’s Fragile.

But what many may not realize is the breadth of his solo career, which boasts worldwide album sales of around 50 million. His first three solo recordings all became gold records in the States. When Wakeman overcame some persistent health problems by sobering up in the mid-80s, a mind-bogglingly prolific work ethic emerged; he’s released multiple full length recordings in most years since. Among them, he’s scored multiple films, sound-tracked video games, and even recorded his own version of Phantom of the Opera. Intermittently, he’s released updated versions of his Yes material, recorded a series of collaborations with his son, Adam, and composed multiple volumes of ambient, ‘relaxation music.” He’s also written three books.

Now, after 18 months of being locked down in the UK, Wakeman returns to the States this fall with “The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” a delayed follow-up trek to his sold out ‘Grumpy’ tour in 2019, which brings him to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, next Tuesday, October 19. [Purchase tickets HERE.]

It’s a grand piano tour that provides an overview of his entire career, highlighting early session work (he played on David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” for instance, though he apparently declined an offer to join The Spiders From Mars) and his contributions to Yes while surely touching on three recent releases: Piano Portraits (2017), Piano Odyssey (2018), and The Red Planet, (2020).  

On the eve of leaving the UK, Wakeman took time out to answer a few questions for us in his inimitable, cheeky manner. He has much to celebrate, having been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s annual birthday honors. In chivalrous ranking—i.e., The Order of the British Empire—it’s just below knighthood.

SUBMITTED PHOTO (COPYRIGHT UMC)

LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): Lockdown was awful and frightening in many ways, but, for those that managed to avoid illness and jarring financial consequences, it held its own kind of delight… an enforced rest, perhaps. And maybe, for intensely creative people, enforced restlessness. How did you fill your time?  

RICK WAKEMAN (RW): I found it terrible. I lost a few friends to the virus and it prevented performing, which is my great love. At 72, the last thing you need is an enforced rest! I wrote a lot, practiced a lot, screamed at the news a lot, and spent time walking with our rescue dogs who are great listeners when you’re constantly moaning about the mess the COVID virus has placed the world in… and I’m sure the dogs agreed!

LM: I imagine the Queen’s CBE honor is flattering. We don’t have anything quite the same over here, but it seems much more prestigious than an award, and it speaks to a lifetime of work rather than a particular recording or event. Can you talk a little about how that feels?

RW: It’s very flattering and genuinely came as a surprise as well.  There are four awards given twice a year. Knighthood is the highest honor, then the CBE, then the OBE and finally, the MBE. The CBE is usually given in recognition of the work you’ve done—in my case, music and broadcasting. I’m extremely proud of it. I’m a strong royalist and to have this approved by the Queen means a lot to me. I have had the honor of meeting most of the Royal Family, including the Queen… it’s wonderfully British. I wish my parents could have been alive to have seen this happen, but there’s good reason they are not, since my father would have been 107 and my mother 105!”

LM: Sometime in the 80s, Rolling Stone published a ‘rock encyclopedia’ that pegged you as a beer-swilling, meat-loving foil to Yes’s otherwise uptight vegetarianism. Is that a fairly accurate description? How did it feel to be the guy that walks in with this incredible talent and, sociologically, being the one that turns everything upside down?

RW: I remember that. Written by Cameron Crowe, if I recall correctly. Back then, when I joined on, it was probably accurate. The irony is that apart from Steve [Howe] who is a strict vegan still, the rest of the guys aren’t, and I eat very little meat at all. And whilst the others all drink alcohol, I’ve been teetotal since 1985. So, my, how things turn around!

Fragile was the first album by Yes that Rick Wakeman appeared on.

LM: In contrast to that image, your showcase piece on Fragile, “Cans and Brahms” sounds a bit prim.  

RW: We decided that on Fragile, we would all have a solo piece to illustrate what our musical contributions to Yes were. I couldn’t do what I wanted because Yes had extreme publishing restrictions, which meant I had to record a piece that was already out of copyright, so I chose one of the pieces I studied for my A-level music course. 

LM: Let’s talk about the capes. You’ve continued wearing capes on stage since the early 70s. By the middle of the decade it almost seemed like some sort of prog-fashion, but what was the original impetus? Were you just having fun, or does it aid your playing in some way?

RW: I bought my first cape from a deejay introducing us on stage in Hartford, Connecticut in 1971. I had previously been described in a review as ‘looking like a demented spider’ with arms and legs stretching out to try and reach keyboards and petals. Seeing the deejay on stage wearing one, I realized it covered up everything, and so I bought it from him. Michael Tate, our lighting man, said afterwards, ‘That’s your answer, but you need a specialist making your capes.’ He them introduced me to a lovely lady in Cleveland who made all the classic capes for me. I still wear them for all the rock shows, but not the piano shows, as it’s really hard to play the piano wearing a cape! I might give it a go again, though.”

LM: The CBE honor comes at time when you’ve recently released a trio of very well received solo recordings and are touring a show that takes a macro view of your whole career. I imagine it’s been a time of reflection, so are there things that you’re most proud of? Is there something that gives you more satisfaction, looking back?

The Six Wives of Henry VIII was Rick Wakeman’s first official solo record.

RW: It’s a difficult question that I would probably answer differently on a daily basis. I’ll say this: my first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, was pivotal for me, as the head of A&M in England hated it. And the initial reviews weren’t good either. But, thankfully, the music loving public did like it and suddenly the record company and later reviewers changed their tune.

LM: Touring in 2021 is a bit different than in the 70s. In some ways it must be a better experience now, but maybe there are some things you miss? What’s your favorite aspect of being on the road nowadays that’s different from the pre-digital age?

RW: It’s very different now… better in some ways and not so much in others. Back then, so much was new. We were playing venues that had never before been used for rock concerts and sound and lights were just developing, so every day was a new adventure. Certainly, the reliability of [digitized] instruments make a huge, positive difference. And, of course, I miss being in my twenties for sure. It’s harder on the road when you’re in your seventies, but that’s mainly traveling and long days. Playing on stage will always be exciting, though, and long may that continue.”

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Box office hours areThursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and during show times.

ROCKIN’ 4 VETS SERIES TO FEATURE BARRY GOUDREAU, JAMES MONTGOMERY & JON BUTCHER

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

The Coronavirus Pandemic has been rough for just about everybody, but folks that work in event-related fundraising have especially been feeling the squeeze. It was enough to make Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi reevaluate his sense of purpose.

But in the end, he doubled down: he’s got three music fundraisers to benefit homeless veterans scheduled through early fall.

Just before the late winter lockdown of 2020, Tirabassi was working with friend and Saugus native Dennis Moschella on a project to send ten Vietnam vets on a weekend ‘trip of a lifetime’ to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Wall, in Washington D.C. The pandemic put the pair’s plans on hold for over a year.

Determined to see it through despite Murphy’s Law-style setbacks galore, Rockin’ 4 Vets finally produced its first gig of 2021 last month, starring John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Tirabassi walked away knowing the ten vets would get their trip to D.C., but he was also burdened with some new knowledge that helped him get his fundraising groove back.

“During that show, the company that does our ticketing told me a rather disturbing story,” he recalled. “It involved a Vietnam vet who’d become homeless and was living in a shelter, but his wife was unable to reside there and was forced to make other, less-than-healthy decisions about where to live. They’ve since found housing together; not the greatest, but an improvement. But this story was very concerning to me since I’ve had a place to put my head at night and food if I’m hungry, even during the toughest times in my life. Our vets deserve better.”

If there’s one thing Tirabassi’s never short on, it’s talented musicians who are eager to help. The upcoming trio of shows will feature Boston co-founder Barry Goudreau’s band Engine Room (Sept. 25), James Montgomery Band’s 50th Anniversary show (Oct. 2), and revered Beantown ax-man Jon Butcher, with special guest Sal Baglio from the legendary Stompers (Oct. 9). All three shows will be outdoors at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus.

Barry Goudreau (Submitted Photo)

“It’s been a privilege having been successful in the music business and being able to continue to write and perform new music,” Goudreau said of his latest project. “It’s also a privilege to be able to do what I can for the veterans who volunteered to serve our country and make it possible for the success I’ve enjoyed. I hope folks come out to these shows to support our veterans and enjoy an afternoon of rockin’ good music in a wonderful setting.”

For Tirabassi, however, getting to this point was a journey unto itself.

“During the 2020 shutdown, I debated the idea, purpose, and overall identification of my organization,” he explained, referring to the newly renamed Rockin’ 4 Vets — formerly V is for Veterans — which he’d founded some years earlier.

“I eventually came to the decision that I needed to identify a more specific set of causes to attempt to assist and to rename the organization to better reflect how, exactly, it raises funds. To that end, the name was changed to Rockin’ 4 Vets since all the events have been live concerts.”

Tirabassi has spent the better part of his adult years moving back and forth from the east coast and warmer locations, feeling the alternating pull of the private job market and his music industry connections, which date back to the 1970s.

“In the late 70s, while in L.A., I did some booking for Steppenwolf, The Grass Roots, and The Guess Who,” he said. “When I got back to Peabody, I started working on the production end of shows — sound, lights, and staging — for local and regional talent. To be honest, it was the kind of life you had to love since there wasn’t much money in it. I’d periodically leave it to take better-paying work and then feel like I was missing out on a hard-to-finger level of excitement. It must’ve come from taking pride in a job well done because I was pretty disconnected from the crowds. It was behind-the-scenes work.” 

Tirabassi’s small-time production work eventually landed him bigger touring jobs with Foghat, Badfinger, The Outlaws, and others. The lure of being involved in the staging of live music has never left him, so it makes perfect sense that his fundraising endeavors would be rock’n’roll-related.

It also makes perfect sense that Boston-area blues legend James Montgomery would be involved. Montgomery has often used his music to raise funds throughout his long and storied career, beginning in the Vietnam era. His mother served in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, and his father fought in Okinawa. Safe to say, the issues that face veterans returning from duty are at the forefront of his consciousness, and fundraising has been a facet of his music almost from the beginning.

James Montgomery (Submitted Photo)

Tirabassi and Montgomery have worked together on various projects since the 70s, and it was from their relationship the ideas behind Tirabassi’s organization initially came alive.

Joining Montgomery for his 50th Anniversary celebration on Oct. 2 will be gritty soul shouter Barrance Whitfield and former U.S. Senator/Ambassador Scott Brown on guitar.

“It’s always an honor to play with James Montgomery and his All-Stars,” Brown enthused. “I’ve been a fan for decades. I’m even more impressed with the amazing philanthropic work James does for our veterans. I encourage you all to come out to a great concert for a great cause. Come out and make a difference!”

Tickets for all shows are $35.00 in advance and $40.00 at the door, available individually or at a discount for a series package. They will also be offering VIP packages. For more details, click HERE.

100% of all profits from this series will go to area veterans organizations in the area dealing with the vets homeless crisis.

These are outdoor concerts. Gates will open at 1:00 PM, and music starts at 2:00 PM.

Jon Butcher (Sumitted Photo)

JOHN CAFFERTY TO HEADLINE VETERANS’ BENEFIT SHOW IN SAUGUS, MASS., ON AUG. 14TH

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Some folks get involved in music to try and get famous. Real musicians, however, are motivated by the craft.

John Cafferty is of the latter variety. He formed the Beaver Brown Band in 1972, cutting his teeth in barrooms along the East Coast for a decade before his brush with the big fame machine came along. It was an offer to record the soundtrack for the movie Eddie & the Cruisers (1983), and it certainly boosted his profile.

Curiously, neither the film nor the soundtrack did all that well upon initial release, but subsequent airings on HBO rejuvenated interest and sent the album up the charts. It went on to sell over four million copies, and the ensuing string of hit singles, including “Tender Years,” “C-I-T-Y,” and “On the Dark Side,” has helped keep him and his band on the road ever since.

But it’s the sense of purpose he derives from making music that got him started. And, fifty years on, it’s what keeps him going.

Case in point? A fundraiser he’s playing on Saturday, August 14. It’s an outdoor show at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., and it benefits an organization called Rockin’ 4 Vets, formed in 2015 to assist veterans dealing with PTSD and substance abuse through live music events. Cafferty has appeared at a half dozen of these events, both by himself and with the band. The show on the 14th is of the latter variety, featuring sax player Michael Antunes, who turns 81 the week prior.

“We like to get involved in doing things that help to make peoples’ lives better,” Cafferty said during a recent call from his Rhode Island home. “Music is a giving thing. When I go see someone play, and they’re delivering the right way, it lifts my heart up and makes me feel better… always has. And I have that ability to do that for other people, so do my friends, and it’s a gift. So, when asked to pitch in, we have a tendency to say yes.”

Cafferty says he originally met Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi through bluesman James Montgomery, a mutual friend who helped Tirabassi, who used to do larger shows with artists like Foghat, The Outlaws, and Badfinger, start his organization. As a disabled vet with a passion for organizing events, Tirabassi launched Rockin’ 4 Vets to see if he could deliver a better return to the non-profits of his choosing.

“This is the very beginning of the first foray into doing live shows again,” Tirabassi said over the phone. “I’m also on the Board of Veterans Assisting Veterans (VAV), and they’re doing a unique thing, bringing a dozen vets down to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. this September. We started this project a year and a half ago but had to halt it because of COVID, so it’s a long time in coming. This concert fundraiser is one of the final parts of putting this trip to D.C. together for these guys.”

This show is one of Cafferty’s first since the lifting of COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings. A tour itinerary is coming together that will keep him and the Beaver Brown Band busy well into next year, assuming the mounting threat of viral variants doesn’t shutter venue doors once more.

“Our schedule just started,” he said. “We did a couple of spring shows in New Orleans, private ones, not open to the public. But we just started playing to crowds this past weekend at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We had a year and a half off. But we huddled up together when we could, safely, and continued on making music and writing songs. I felt pretty safe when we played this past weekend, but I tried not to extend myself unnecessarily. I believe in the vaccines.”

Tirabassi is erring on the side of caution.

“Anything we’re planning right now will be outdoors,” he explained. “I know folks want to get back to indoor shows, and I understand that, but I think it’s wise to avoid that right now. I will certainly have masks available at this show so that people can feel as comfortable as possible.”

Cafferty isn’t looking ‘on the dark side’ with regard to the pandemic. Instead, he’s focused on the good it brought out in some of us.

“This was an unimaginable situation we’ve been through,” he said. “If someone told you the week before that it was gonna happen, you wouldn’t have believed it. And then it did. But the world and the individuals in it found a resilience they didn’t know they had. When things were dark, people stood up and helped one another, protected one another… people were willing to put themselves on the line. Look at these essential workers — talk about heroes!”

“With these veteran events we do that Jim puts together, we’re also honoring and celebrating heroes, people who put themselves on the line. That’s who the vets are, putting themselves out there for the sake of everyone else, and they deserve everything we can give them.”

John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band will perform as part of a Rockin’ For Vets fundraiser event at Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., on Saturday, August 14, from 1 to 5 PM.  Click HERE to purchase tickets.

Harry Manfredini reflects on his iconic “Friday the 13th” score and its legacy

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

“Friday the 13th” film score composer Harry Manfredini signs the Warwork Records release of the album on vinyl in September 2014 at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA. Since then, Waxwork records has released the first seven films that Manfredini composed for the horror movie franchise on vinyl. (PHOTO BY J. KENNEY)

True innovators don’t often realize they’re marking new territory until after the fact.

 

When composer/musician Harry Manfredini got the job to score Friday the 13th, which is celebrating its 40th-anniversary this year, he already had a few notches in his professional belt, but he was mainly just trying to keep working.

 

“It was about putting food on the table,” he said recently, over the phone from his home in Valencia, California. “I knew I was going to get paid, and, at the time, that was enough for me. Nobody involved had any idea what we were onto. It wasn’t until we actually screened it and saw the audience’s reaction that we realized we had lightning in a bottle.”

 

Manfredini went on to score most of the Friday film franchise alongside a lengthy list of other projects. However, there was a time in his life when film scoring was more of a fantasy than anything else. As a classically trained musician playing sax in jazz clubs and earning a doctorate in Music Theory at Columbia University, he wasn’t at all sure what direction his career would take. A fellow Columbia student that was producing records on the side helped point him in the right direction.

 

It began slowly with a shoe commercial and assisting with some demos. That led to working with Arlon Ober (RobotechDeepStar Six) on the score for a controversial art-porn film released in 1976, Through the Looking Glass, directed by Joseph Middleton. Scoring music for porn might not seem like an auspicious break for a classically trained guy holding a doctorate, but Through the Looking Glass doesn’t sound anything much like the blaxploitation-toned soundtracks that characterize skin flicks from that era.

 

“Middleton told us he wanted a really classy, orchestral score,” he recalled. “It was wall-to-wall music forever – scored like a real film, very unusual. I’ve only seen the parts of it that I composed the music for, but it’s supposedly a well-regarded, experimental film for that genre.”

 

And as if to balance out Through the Looking Glass, Manfredini and Ober also scored two short films during that same time frame that went on to win Academy Awards, The End of the Game and Angel and Big Joe. Sometimes versatility is your best asset at the beginning of a career.

 

“One of the things you learn in the land of low budget and small films, especially back then in New York, is that with each one you work on, you’ll know some of the people on the next assignment,” he explained. “The small budget family is very small and very close, and we were all out there helping each other. “

 

When Ober left for California, Manfredini worried the phone might stop ringing, but the Academy Award wins opened some doors. It wasn’t long before someone introduced him to Sean S. Cunningham, producer and director of Friday the 13th.

 

“Given my background, I understand a lot of contemporary avant-garde music. But one of the things you learn about scoring films is how different the composition is from other modes of writing. You’re ninety percent dramatist ─ sometimes you write just one note, and it works. Your obligation is to the film, not to show off your chops or how complex your understanding of composition can be.”

 

Though he initially wondered who, if anyone, would go to see the film, Manfredini brought musical personality to the soundtrack of Friday the 13th by making his score come to life as a character. ‘Leitmotif’ is a compositional term mainly used in opera that denotes a recurrent passage of music associated with a specific person. In this case, he bent that musical tool to indicate the presence of someone we can’t see. It was an unusual twist for a slasher film.

 

“I told Sean that because we don’t see the killer until the ninth reel, we needed to somehow introduce them in reel one,” he said. “I suggested that we only have music when the camera is from the viewpoint of the killer, making it immediately indicative that we’re now seeing with their eyes. So, the score became a character, in that sense, and I think that’s a large part of what makes the music stand out so much.”

 

And stand out it certainly does, particularly with the chilling “Ki-ki-ki-ki…” and “Ma-ma-ma-ma…” chants (recordings of his own voice saying the words ‘killer’ and ‘mommy’ processed through some filters) and the orchestral swells that frame the boat scene toward the movie’s end.

 

“The chanting is scary because it’s a human sound,” he noted. “For the boat scene, it was my job to make the audience think the movie is over, and the editors stretched that damn thing out as far as they possibly could. I couldn’t imagine what the hell I was going to write to make that work.”

 

In the end, he chose to retool a country song he’d written for the diner scene from earlier on in the movie. The second version of the song bears little resemblance to its jaunty former self, presented as an orchestral piece with keyboards, light drumming, and a substantial ‘flange’ effect. It projects what one might call a ‘mournfully triumphant,’ tone, leading the viewer down a path of resolution and effectively indicating that the story is ending ─ but there’s just a hint of menacing undercurrent. Folks that are familiar with the film know why.

 

It would appear that, despite the unlucky associations with the calendar day itself, Friday the 13th is the gift that keeps on giving.

With a no-name cast (Kevin Bacon’s career was barely underway, leaving Betsy Palmer as the sole recognizable star) and a meager budget of $550,000, Friday the 13th still grossed nearly $60 million at the box office when it debuted in 1980. Now considered a classic, it’s been franchised, novelized, incorporated into comic books, and made into a video game. Manfredini, now 77, says producing music for the game was particularly challenging, given that the music continually shifts for each person playing (up to 8 simultaneous players) depending on the path they take.

About 15 years ago, Manfredini got clued into a fun world of fandom he previously didn’t know existed when he attended the movie’s 25th-anniversary screening in Los Angeles. Encouraged by Friday cast members ─ folks he’d never met before because the composer is usually the last person to work on a film ─ he discovered an audience, thriving at conventions throughout the country, that’s familiar with his work and wants his autograph. He’s since become a regular at these events.

A promotional poster for Harry Manfredini’s appearance at the Rockula Horror Expo in San Antonio, TX, in October 2017. Manfredini said he enjoys meeting fans of his scores and the “Friday the 13th” films at conventions across the country.

He’s also enjoyed a resurgence of interest in his scores through the vinyl revival. Horror-centric indie label Waxwork Records has pressed the original soundtrack twice, and it has completely sold out both times. In fact, all but three out of eight Manfredini releases the label has issued have sold out. He says he’s thrilled on multiple levels.

 

“It’s incredibly gratifying and monetarily tasty, too. What’s really cool is that we went to Paramount and got the original tracks specifically for the Friday stuff, and then they were remastered by James Nelson for the 6 CD box set that came out on La-La Land Records. I called him up and he asked me what I’d like to do, so I told him ‘more low end, more high end, and clean up the middle,’ because sometimes the mid-range can get plugged up. He added some reverb, and when I heard the results, it was like night and day! I’m very grateful to him for helping my work sound so good. For the vinyl releases, Kevin Bergeron at Waxworks remastered the tracks specifically for vinyl, which requires a different process, working off of the great sounding transfers that James Nelson had already done. They’re unbelievably good.”

La-La Land Records was the first company to release an officially licensed box set of “Friday The 13th” soundtracks back in 2012. The limited edition and long sold out set contained the first six “Friday the 13th” film soundtracks that were composed by Harry Manfredini.

Recently, at the request of an orchestra in Spain, he’s reworked the Friday the 13th score into an orchestral suite, which then got performed by a group at MIT (a YouTube video exists). To continue fostering the trend, he’s also remade DeepStar Six into an orchestral suite and is currently developing Suite from Swamp Thing. Additionally, Austin-based film composer Brian Satterwhite has interviewed him extensively for an upcoming book about the music of Friday the 13th.

According to IMDB, Manfredini also has many new scoring projects on the horizon, and, looking at the long list of contributions to his credit, he’s remained consistently busy. Curiously, he says he’s not a big fan of horror as a genre because much of it involves gratuitous killing and torture. He sees Friday the 13th as a murder mystery.

 

Friday the 13th knew what it was, it knew what it was going to be, and it didn’t try to be anything else. The cast looked like a bunch of regular people, not models, and you briefly got to know each one of them. It knew exactly what it was, and for what it was, it was very good.”

Film composer Harry Manfredini signs a poster art insert of the “Friday the 13th” vinyl soundtrack at a signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA. (PHOTO BY J. KENNEY)

[PUBLISHER’S NOTE:  Harry Manfredini & Fred Mollin’s score to Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood was recently released on CD through La-La Land Records. Copies of the CD signed by Manfredini are currently available for pre-order at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA, by clicking HERE. Please support small businesses during these difficult times.)

Cody Carpenter is in ‘Control’

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY

Cody Carpenter (Photo by Joakim Reimer)

From where Cody Carpenter lives in Los Angeles, he can see the dark shadow cast by the ash from the wildfires as they continue raging nearby. It’s a real-life horror show, as opposed to the fictitious ones for which he and his father, Director/Composer John Carpenter, have created  riveting soundtracks.

In addition to helping his dad score the 2018 reboot of Halloween, Cody composed the music for Vampires (1998, starring James Woods) and Ghosts of Mars (2001, with Ice Cube and Pam Grier). He also scored and performed the soundtracks to a pair of films in Showtime’s Masters of Horror series (2005).

But the smoky view from his perch in L.A. doesn’t exactly fill his head with musical ideas. “It’s hard to see the sun,” he said.

Despite the ominous look of the California sky on the day we speak, Carpenter is generally upbeat, not unlike the tone of his new solo release, Control (Blue Canoe Records). It’s the third installment in a triptych, preceded by Cody Carpenter’s Interdependence (2018) and Force of Nature (2019). Each of the three has a distinctive feel, but there are threads of musical personality running through that unify the projects as a series.

Control brims with contagious, propulsive energy thanks, in part, to a powerhouse cast of rhythm players like Jimmy Haslip and Junior Braguinh on bass, and Scott Seiver, Jimmy Branly, and Virgil Donati on drums. While it has no accompanying film, the album has an unshakably cinematic feel that showcases how the younger Carpenter’s visual imagination is never far behind his music.

“Control” is the new studio album by Cody Carpenter.

Creativity took hold early for Cody, born John Cody Carpenter, in 1984. He says his dad always encouraged him to investigate music and there were instruments strewn throughout the house.

“My dad also played me the movies that were most important to him when I was young,” he said. “He didn’t want me watching the horror stuff too early on, but he made sure I saw other films that he considered important and influential.”

Likewise, his mom, actress/singer Adrienne Barbeau (MaudeThe Fog), had him take piano lessons at a young age and encouraged him to find his singing voice.

Now 36, he’s admirably accomplished, having released music under various names since his teens, including a pair of mighty accessible, vocal-synth-pop albums attributed to Ludrium.

For the current series, the music is instrumental and significantly more complex, but not bogged down by gravity. Much of Control is exuberant — even breezy, in parts — when compared to the dark, Tolkienesque feel that stereotypes prog-rock. From the joyous “Unconditional” to the percussive, Latin-inflected track, “Badger’s Wedding,” the album makes for an energizing listen.

“I’m aware that progressive rock has been associated with severe moods, but this kind of adventurous music doesn’t have to be in that box,” he said. “And I don’t necessarily think it should be. Compared to the music I make with my dad, this is more out of leftfield. The earliest music of my own that I recorded was far more similar to what people think of as stereotypical prog: incredibly introspective, lots of dark elements. Then I started listening to more jazz fusion. When I was younger, I really didn’t like it; I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But over the years, my ears relaxed and I could let it in. It definitely influences my writing.”

A multi-instrumentalist focusing on keyboards, Carpenter thrives in the ‘no rules’ environment that his solo projects afford him. It’s a much roomier approach to composing than his film score work, which requires a different sort of discipline. But when father and son work together, they still manage to incorporate a large degree of creative freedom.

“Every film score project is different,” he said. “When you’re working with an image, you take cues from the director as far as what part they want the music to play, what emotion they want it to elicit in the viewer, etc. You’re serving the viewer and enhancing their experience. The way my dad and I do things is still highly improvisational, though. We sit down with an image; we play to it and see the ways we can make it work with what’s happening on the screen.”

For their pre-Halloween reboot collaborative releases, Lost Themes (2015) and Lost Themes II (2016), the Carpenter duo crafted cinematic tunes to an imaginary film. For these recordings and the ensuing tour dates, they were joined by longtime family friend, Daniel Davies, son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies.

“Daniel and I grew up together,” Cody explained. “At one point, he moved into my dad’s house, so we lived as brothers for a little while. Lost Themes began with just my dad and me sitting down at the computer and playing around with some new gear. I ended up moving to Tokyo afterward, and while I was there, my dad emailed me to say there was interest in releasing the material we’d worked on, so Daniel stepped in to write some more and help finish it up. For Lost Themes II, we actively worked as a trio. The concept was the same for both: we weren’t scoring a specific image, but rather, the film in your mind. The music encourages the listener to create their own scenes.”

Even with his various solo achievements, Cody says that touring with his dad — when the Lost Themes trio expands to a muscular 6-piece — is his proudest moment. It’s the culmination of a longstanding creative relationship that isn’t weighed down by rivalry or unnecessary expectations.

“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to work with him and to know that he wants to do it and can use me in these projects,” he said. “There’s never been this concept of stepping out of someone’s shadow. Maybe it’s because the music I make on my own is so different, or maybe it’s just because I have a good working relationship with him. Either way, when we go on tour, to perform my dad’s music for his fans is a great feeling. I’m incredibly lucky.”

Cody Carpenter, left, says that touring with his dad (far right) is his proudest moment. (Photo by Joakim Reimer)

 

Kristian Montgomery: From incarceration to ‘The Gravel Church’

By CHRISTOPHER TREACY 

It took a stint behind bars for Kristian Montgomery to find creative freedom.

Informed by an edgy country sound that blends Americana with southern-fried rock and even glimpses some super-light grunge, Montgomery has crafted a watershed record in The Gravel Church. But it came at a steep price: six months of incarceration as a result of voicing his disagreement with a family court judge.

“The Gravel Church” is a studio album from Kristian Montgomery & The Winterkill Band

“I wrote more than half of the record in prison,” he said in a recent chat from his Middleborough home where he and his wife were steaming up some fresh quahogs caught earlier that day. The title of the album refers to the yard — a barbed-wire-fenced patch of dirt — where he was allowed to roam while locked up.

“It was the first time that I’d ever been there. I saw some crazy stuff, and I’m not suggesting it’s a good idea for anyone. I got in a fistfight; I got put in solitary – it was a real horror show. My producer, Joe Clapp kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry you had to go through all this, but man — these songs are awesome.’ I guess the takeaway might be that being a male in probate court is detrimental to one’s health. But these new songs started coming together about starting over, having nothing, and finding a way to build your life back to where you want it to be.”

While the sound of the music he’s making has shifted, some of his most basic goals have not. As the frontman of Bone Dry System, formed in 1992, Montgomery and his bandmates used to covet the elusive spot on WBCN’s Boston Emissions playlist. The show has since moved from WBCN to WZLX to being online-only for the past two years, but “5 Horses” from the new album was the Boston Emissions Song of the Week in early April. With a striking post-apocalyptic tone and it’s “…Might as well go now” refrain, the track speaks to our collective contemplation of mortality as a species in the throes of a global pandemic. It’s appropriately surreal.

Montgomery says the song came to him after watching an old episode of Wild Kingdom on YouTube. The show was uploaded with the iconic ‘Keep America Beautiful’ PSA still tacked on, wherein the Native American horseman cries at the sight of a littered coastline. “It was very spur-of-the-moment, and I came up with the riff on a guitar from Nashville Guitar Company. If there’s a musical influence, it’d be Peter Gabriel.”

Montgomery cites Gabriel and Neil Young as huge influences, along with late Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell. Listen closely, and you’ll hear all three come through at different times on The Gravel Church, Cornell being a vocal inspiration throughout. But it was well before he’d ever heard Cornell sing that folks took notice of his voice. As is often the case with standout vocalists, Montgomery cut his teeth singing in church, where his grandmother, who he lived with, conspired with the choir director to bribe him into singing solos.

“When I was a kid, I was in church with my grandmother, and the reverend walked past and heard me singing,” he explained. “I was 10. He pulled my parents aside and said, ‘the kid has pipes, let me give him some lessons.’ It quickly went from hymns to Led Zeppelin. He was a very cool guy, and he’d formerly been a tenor with the Boston Pops. As far as being a reverend was concerned, he was more of a rock star to me. He had this super powerful voice. Sometimes he’d scare people with it, and I envied that power.”

The messages that Montgomery uses his vocal chops to deliver on his new record are more pointed and poignant than most of what’s going on currently in the world of mainstream country. Uninterested in candy-coating, he writes unflinchingly about some taboo topics. “Look at My Child” was penned for his brother-in-law, who returned from war in Afghanistan forever damaged. “The Tracks” is about being a channel of communication for a conspiring pair of co-defendants. Some songs are about events in jail, while others are about healing his life afterward. The opener, “Boston,” describes a love/hate relationship with a city that reads like a metaphor for addiction, while “The Bird Won’t Fly” is about his current wife, his biggest fan and supporter. In spots, he uses startling spoken word segments to illustrate his viewpoints. The resulting feel is of something charged with meaning rather than cooler-and-beach-blanket fluff.

Unsurprisingly, Montgomery feels that the genre we know as ‘country’ has lost its way.

“The genre as it stands today is very propaganda oriented… love your country, support your soldiers, support the war machine,” he said. “Originally, country music was attached to the blue-collar working class. In its classic sense, I draw a parallel between country and punk, which was embraced by the lower class, struggling folks… people of the street. I grew up skateboarding in Harvard Square and getting my head smashed in at punk shows. Over time, punk got less edgy and became the music of the masses, but the message changed less than it has with that of country, which flies in the face of everything it once stood for. Like punk, country music was supposed to question authority and support individual freedoms. Now it seems to be about conformity.”

But while conformity isn’t compelling to Montgomery, getting his music out to more people certainly is. He says he fears releasing new music during a pandemic might be ill-advised. But the flip side of that idea is that more people have time to listen right now than when they’re trying to keep pace with their complicated modern lives. For a man whose manager used to tell him and his Bone Dry bandmates, “You guys are the next Van Halen,” his career in music is more about humility these days. And maybe, on a larger scale, doing his small part to perpetuate some necessary change.

“I think this crazy time is an awakening of sorts,” he said. “I think people are recognizing how hard they’ve been working, blindly pushing along, and how it has affected their families. We’re not meant to just keep going until we can’t go anymore. We’re supposed to be able to enjoy our family and foster relationships. Running ourselves ragged so that there’s nothing of us left shouldn’t have to be the secret to success.”

“A lot of this record is about moving forward,” he continued. “It has plenty of little nuances and details to discover for anyone that wants to spend the time. And as long as the songs mean more to me than to other people, I know I haven’t lost sight of it being a creative thing. You can get lost in that world pretty quickly when it’s not art anymore, when you’re pandering to try and achieve a certain sound or appeal to a specific group of people. I don’t want to become that guy. I’m just another worker among workers.”

For more information about Montgomery or to purchase The Gravel Church and other merchandise, click HERE. The website also contains links to his Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages.

 

Preacher Jack’s interview with Limelight Magazine from 2008

PUBLISHER’S NOTE – Lifelong musician John Coughlin, also known as Preacher Jack, recently died in a long-term care home in Massachusetts, of Covid-19. Our staff writer at the time, Ian Abreu, who is currently a City Councilor in New Bedford, MA, interviewed Preacher Jack for a story in our spring issue of Limelight Magazine 12 years ago. Since this story originally only appeared in print, we are sharing it today in his memory. RIP Preacher Jack  

By IAN ABREU

At the ripe-old age of 66, “Preacher” Jack Lincoln Coughlin still possesses the same passion for the up-tempo, boogie-woogie style of music he felt as a 13-year-old back in 1955 when his mother bought him his first piano.

“I’ll never forget this, when I was 13, I was watching Liberace on television and my mother had just given me this piano,” said Coughlin. “Well I start to see him do this boogie-woogie style of music and it just captivated me. I knew this was something I had to do.”

Boogie-woogie is a style of piano-based blues which became very popular in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and its elements can be heard in big band, country/western, and even gospel music.

“I want to mix all races and ages when I play,” said Coughlin. “In the past, I’ve played for gangsters and cops at the same time. That’s my mission, to bring quality music to every and anyone. I’d like to maybe give people a taste of church without having to go to church.”

Long-time friend and manager Peter Levine believes that “Preacher” Jack’s sheer love for music is what truly ignites his soul.

“His appeal after all these years is his love of the music – which pours out of every pore on his body each and every time he plays out,” he said. “He loves the music, it’s his life, not a fad. He makes you feel good when he plays, which in all honesty isn’t what you necessarily get these days.”

Some of Jack’s main musical influences include: Hank Williams Sr., Liberace, Mahalia Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis.

With the help of people such as Levine and Boston native and Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone, “Preacher” Jack has just released a new LP on Bill Hunt’s Cow Island Music label called Pictures From Life’s Other Side, which features 18 tracks of both original and covered material.

“First of all, I want to state how much I appreciate what Peter (Levine) has done, he’s essentially brought my career back, has found me work, and believes in me,” said Coughlin, who now resides in Salem, Ma. “This latest record wouldn’t have happened if it also weren’t for Gary Cherone, either, he gave me the studio time and paid for it out of his own pocket.”

With over 45 years of pounding the keyboard under his belt, “Preacher” Jack feels that his message of spreading the word about his love of boogie-woogie does not go unnoticed with the younger generation whenever he performs.

“One of my goals every time I play is to bring the best of what really is American music to the ‘new world’ of music fans,” he said. “I want people to notice that underneath my kisser, I’m just a pure lover of gospel and boogie-woogie.”

If you’re interested in finding out more information about booking Jack for your private party, corporate function, club, or lounge, contact manager Peter Levine by phone at 617-930-1121 or by e-mail at Petel39@aol.com.

“Jack is one of the finest entertainers I have ever seen,” said Levine. “He was born to entertain and in the 18 years that I have been seeing Jack, he has never disappointed an audience.”

You can also visit “Preacher” Jack’s myspace page at www.myspace.com/thepreacherjack which feature an innumerable amount of both pictures and songs.

College courtesy of longtime Preacher Jack fan Frank Chip Langille.

 

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.