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.
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 (Robotech, DeepStar 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 Throughthe 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 Angeland 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.
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.”
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 DeepStarSix 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.”
[PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Harry Manfredini & Fred Mollin’s score to Friday the 13thPart 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.)
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.
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 (Maude, The 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.”
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 TheGravel Church. But it came at a steep price: six months of incarceration as a result of voicing his disagreement with a family court judge.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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” groupcontinues 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 bandsever 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.
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!
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