Over the summer, Limelight Magazine had the opportunity to catch British rock band Modern English in concert at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. The band was taking part in the month long Retro Futura tour that also featured Howard Jones, Men Without Hats, The English Beat, Paul Young and Katrina (formerly of Katrina and The Waves). It was our first time seeing any of these acts live in concert.
While we were impressed by everyone’s performance, Modern English’s short set was the highlight of the entire show. Rather than stick to their ‘80s material, the band included a new song in their set called “Moonbeam” which is featured on their most recent studio album Take Me To The Trees. The song had the audience on their feet with a standing ovation. Since I couldn’t get the song out of my head, I purchased the physical CD on Amazon after the show and I’ve been playing it non-stop ever since. The album had such an impact on me that I also purchased their other studio albums, including some from private sellers on E-bay.
Take Me To The Trees is the band’s first studio album in 30 years and features four-fifths of the original lineup. The album reconnects the band to their roots, as it was co-produced bv Martyn Young of Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S fame, whose last production job was 1986. The album’s cover was also done by Vaughan Oliver, whose first sleeve design was Modern English’s “Gathering Vibes” single in 1980.
Modern English is currently rehearsing for a fall tour of the U.S. that will hit ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Mass., on November 13th. (Purchase tickets HERE). Despite his busy schedule, lead singer and guitarist Robbie Grey, who has been part of every incarnation of the band, answered some questions Limelight Magazine had for him about the Take Me To The Trees album and tour.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): According to the band’s Facebook page, Modern English is currently rehearsing for their upcoming tour of the US. How are rehearsals going so far?
ROBBIE GREY: The rehearsals are going well. It’s great to be playing a mixture of really early Modern English material with the new album and figuring out how to arrange the set.
LM: Earlier this year, Modern English released its first album in over 30 years with four-fifths of the original line up. How was recording this album with this line-up different than recording your first three studio albums?
ROBBIE GREY: “Well we did the new album in our own art studio space using the art gallery as the live room. Before we always used recording studios. Also, using the music program logic was new to us. Recording over a couple of years was new as we could never afford that before using professional studios.”
LM: Do you have a favorite song off Take Me To The Trees and why is it your favorite?
ROBBIE GREY: “Trees” is my favourite. It reminds me of a film soundtrack. It’s very cinematic. I love the arrangement of the instrumentation. Also the lyric is very nature based. I like that.
LM: Take Me To The Trees was a PledgeMusic supported album. Why did the band choose to take this approach?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s the new way. Great to touch base with our fans. We were surprised after all the time away to do so well with the Pledges. We had a lot of control which was a real bonus.
LM: Does recording new music through a fan driven campaign create more or less pressure on the band than having the support of a record label to produce a hit single?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s a lot less pressure I think. No record company means no interference.
LM: Speaking of the new album, Take Me To The Trees is one of your best. I’ve played it non-stop since buying it on Amazon. At this point in time, do you know how much of the new album will be part of the set list for the upcoming US tour?
ROBBIE GREY: “Trees,” “Sweet Revenge,” “Moonbeam” will all be featured on the tour.
LM:As for the older songs, will you primarily focus on material from Mesh & Lace, After The Snow and Ricochet Days with the original line up or will there be songs from Stop Start, Pillow Lips, Everything Is Mad and Soundtrack as well?
ROBBIE GREY: The shows will feature songs from Take Me To The Trees, in addition to early 4AD singles and tracks from Mesh and Lace’ and After the Snow.
LM: I got to see you perform for the first time this summer in Providence, RI, on the Retro Futura tour. One of the highlights of your set was hearing “Moonbeam” from Take Me To The Trees. You were the only band to play a new song and the audience loved it. Many bands at retro shows typically stay away from performing new songs but you included one in your set. How do you feel when the audience appreciates your new music just as much as what you created in the past?
ROBBIE GREY: We agreed to the Retro Futura tour only if we could play new material. “Moonbeam” fit into the short set really well. People really liked it. Always good when new stuff goes down well.
LM: You’ve had various lineups of Modern English over the years. What makes recording and performing with this core group of individuals different than the rest?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s the original band. Always had a magic about it. There’s no comparison really. Get us in a music room and it works.
LM: You may have been asked this before but looking back on your long career with Modern English, what has been one of the biggest highlights for you personally?
ROBBIE GREY: “We just picked up an award in London for 5 million radio plays for “I Melt With You.” More than Bowie’s “Changes” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” I mean that’s pretty good!
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ROBBIE GREY: We always just want to make music. We’re still very creative. It’s an exciting feeling. I hope people can see that.
Whether you called them glam bands or hair bands, this subgenre of heavy metal and hard rock music consists of big hair, tight pants, and nostalgic music. Glam bands played rock songs full of rage, sentiment, and electric chaos. The genre was pioneered by bands such as Mötley Crüe, Cinderella, Poison, Dokken, Ratt, and Bon Jovi and it thrived mostly in the mid-80s to early 90s until grunge came along.
Sleeze Beez is a glam metal band that formed in 1987. Originating in The Netherlands, the band’s classic lineup consisted of Chriz Van Jaarsveld, Jan Koster, Don Van Spall, Ed Jongsma, and Andrew Elt. They released four studio albums between 1987 and 1994. Their most popular being Screwed Blued & Tattooed which was released in 1990 and cracked the Billboard Top 200 albums chart on the strength of their single “Stranger Than Paradise” that was prominently featured on MTV.
Koster, one of the band’s founding members and dedicated drummer, struggled with a wrist injury for years and finally decided to give up playing in 1996. The band decided to call it quits after the release of their fourth studio album Insanity Beach, but reunited briefly in 2010 when they played two reunion shows.
On the eve of the band’s 30th anniversary in 2017, Limelight Magazine caught up with one of Sleeze Beez’s founding members and guitarist Chriz Van Jaarsveld who reflected on the band’s history.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): Sleeze Beez formed in 1987 and 2017 is your 30th anniversary. Although the band broke up in 1996 and reunited briefly in 2010, why do you feel that so many people are still interested in the band and your four studio albums?
CHRIZ VAN JAARSVELD (CVJ): It’s great to see that our music is still alive at this day and age. Back in the day, we worked hard to get recognition and our input was relentless. We weren’t just a band, it was a way of life; non-stop dedication so I consider it rewarding and a compliment. It is great to know that our music lives on.
LM: Looking back on your nine years together from 1987 to 1996, what would have been the biggest highlight for the band and why?
CVJ: I reckon that the biggest highlight for us was that we got signed by a major label (Atlantic Records) for a worldwide deal and got the opportunity to cross the Atlantic. When we started touring the U.S., “Stranger Than Paradise” was climbing the charts. The video clip was all over MTV and we easily adapted to the rockstar lifestyle. We took the stage by storm. It was great. It was what we wanted.
LM: After releasing your debut album, Sleeze Beez changed vocalists for their second album, Screwed, Blued & Tattooed. Why did you change vocalists and how did the addition of Andrew Elt provide stability and propel the band to more success?
CVJ: It simply didn’t work out with the first singer. [There were] problems on a personal level and musical differences. The same old stuff. We brought in another singer, who filled the gap briefly but he actually couldn’t keep up with us. Round that time, I met Andrew at an “All Star” jam session organized by rock magazine Metal Hammer. Andrew and I shared the same bill. We actually didn’t gel that well because we both had similar ego’s [and] a certain attitude towards each other. (Later on, we became friends of course, brothers in arms). But, I acknowledged his qualities as a singer and performer and we unmistakably had some strong musical chemistry going on on stage, with mutual respect. So, when Sleeze Beez needed a new singer, I called Andrew up and asked him to come over to the studio. At first, he wasn’t that keen on it but when I went to a gig he did with his band and played him some of the stuff we’d been working on (I played him some tunes right there in the dressing room on a crappy cassette player under the noses of his fellow band mates who were not too pleased by that) he was instantly intrigued. When he came over to the studio, he was totally blown away by the new material. Jan, Ed, Don, and me were a solid unit already, ready to take on the world. Andrew was the last piece of the puzzle. From then on, we were ready for takeoff.
LM: In preparing for this interview, you mentioned that you listened to Screwed, Blued and Tattooed for the first time in years. That album charted in the U.S. on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. What can you objectively say about that album after so many years have passed?
CVJ: I´m a bit of an “audiophile” and I got this great vintage amp recently. One night I listened to all kinds of music and when plowing through my CD collection I came across a copy of Screwed. For the first time in like 20 years I sat down and listened to the whole album. Objective, as if I heard it for the first time. It was quite an experience, really. I always only kept on hearing the flaws or parts that I found disturbing and could have been better (in my opinion). I’ve never been able to listen to it without analyzing (same goes for other albums we did or I’m on) but now I could really just sit down and enjoy the ride. I really enjoyed it actually, and I can imagine why it did for us what it did. There’s a great energy about it. Good tunes too. I actually played air guitar to it.
LM: You were also signed to a major label, Atlantic Records, for that album. How did you end up getting signed to them?
CVJ: After Screwed, Blued & Tattooed was recorded, we knew we had something good. So we started “shopping” the album to get it noticed by the bigger labels. When we did, we realized that the rumor was going around already. People heard of us, talked about us, and were interested or eager even, also due to our live shows. We had several executives from big labels coming over to the Netherlands to meet up and negotiate a possible deal. When Atlantic made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, we finally closed the deal. Atlantic was a huge player in the market, of course, and had many of our own heroes under their wing so we considered it a great opportunity to sign with them.
LM: On the strength of the hit single “Stranger Than Paradise,” from Screwed, Blued and Tattooed, the band did nearly 80 headline shows throughout the U.S. and Canada that year. What do you recall about that tour? Did you have any venues that stood out?
CVJ: We actually did a bit more. We crammed a whole bunch of shows in a relatively short period of time. I recall that it was one wild ride. “Stranger Than Paradise” was climbing the charts and the video was all over MTV. (Click HERE to see the video). Good reviews in magazines and radio airplay. We got quite a decent fan base that started following us around. We lived the rockstar lifestyle to the brink and enjoyed every minute of it (and every aspect for that matter.) We crossed the US in a frenzy, and rock ‘n rolled from city to city and the names of the places and venues became a blur (just like that part in the Spinal Tap movie where the band doesn’t know where they are anymore, shouting “Hello Cleveland!” That happened to us too and a lot of the other stuff as well, by the way). Also, it’s been a while ago too, of course, we are talking the beginning of the 90’s here. We played most of the venues and clubs that were known around that time. It was a blast!
LM: According to the biography on your website, your third studio album, Powertool, took three years to complete due to continuous struggle between the band and the label. What were some of the difficulties with Atlantic Records that came about that you’re able to say after all these years?
CVJ: We had most of the material for Powertool ready straight away, really. After Screwed, Blued and Tattooed, we continued writing and recording demos. The thing was that Atlantic felt that the music didn’t have the same output, the same vibe as Screwed had, so they tried to hook us up with other writers and a producer. They flew us to L.A. and stuck us somewhere in Hollywood to write new material but that did not work for us. Although we were willing to collaborate, we stood our ground at the same time. Eventually we ended up in England, where we finally recorded the album, with producer Gary Lyons. The sessions went really well and Powertool saw the light of day fairly quickly. The thing was, though, that the Seattle Grunge scene emerged and spread like wildfire, right around the time Powertool came out. The record companies considered grunge the next big thing so they didn’t put much effort in bands like us anymore. They signed The Stone Temple Pilots in our place and after some struggle with lawyers, we were released from further obligations. Powertool had been released too late. If it would have been released on schedule, things would have turned out different, I’m sure.
LM: Sleeze Beez fourth studio album, Insanity Beach, is one that Limelight Magazine enjoys very much. This album is more aggressive and hard-edged than anything you did before. Why did you take this direction at the time?
CVJ: It was just a natural course our music took. It was how we evolved. Maybe it was a sign of the times as well. There was a lot of tension in the band back then, which oozes through the music as well. Also, the production is more heavy, a fatter sound. It’s a bit more dark, compared to its predecessors but a fine album nevertheless. Glad you guys like it!
LM: Is it true that the band was planning to tour behind this album but disbanded before you could go on the road?
CVJ: Yeah, we had a tour planned and everything. But the truth is that we weren’t the band we used to be anymore. We’d outgrown each other over time and the ranks got divided. We weren’t a unit anymore. When the mutual spark is gone, it is better to part ways. It was the best thing to do, also to the fans: it wouldn’t be sincere to continue. So, we decided to call it quits.
LM: A lot of founding band members today keep the name and add members and perform the songs they recorded with a new lineup. Was there ever any thought about putting a new band together with the name Sleeze Beez after the 1996 break up?
CVJ: It has been asked or suggested a couple of times by managers and people out of the music biz but we’ve never considered it. It would be betrayal. Although we had our differences at the time we broke up, we came out stronger. We are like brothers. We would never do such a thing. Sleeze Beez would not be that same band without any of its original members. Replace one or leave one out and the chemistry and magic are gone. It’s the sum of the parts that make the difference.
LM: Sleeze Beez reunited in 2010 & 2011 for two shows, including a slot opening for Aerosmith in the Netherlands. How did the reunion come about?
CVJ: We were asked by a well-known Dutch agency to open for Aerosmith. They thought it would be a great event that way; The Beez reuniting on a bill like that. We actually liked the idea so we got together just for that event. Afterwards, we liked it so much that we decided to do one more gig at the legendary Paradiso in our hometown of Amsterdam – a farewell show as a closure that never happened back in the day. For the fans and for us, it was absolutely fabulous.
LM: How do you feel both reunion shows went?
CVJ: It was great to hit the stage again together after all this time. When we got on stage at the Gelredome Stadium, we saw that the front rows were filled with Beez fans. It was amazing.
LM: Given that 2017 is Sleeze Beez 30th anniversary year, are there any plans to do another reunion?
CVJ: Not at the moment but never say never…
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
CVJ: Back in 1987, when Jan (Koster) and I started this band, we had actually only one song to our name; “Girls Girls, Nasty Nasty” and the record company wanted to sign us and give us studio time to record an album just on that one song only. Problem was we didn’t really have a band but we’d told the record company we did, to get a record deal. So, when we started recording the very first (and now obscure) Look Like Hell album, it was actually just the two of us, Jan and me, together with an engineer. We lived in the studio and we worked non-stop. We wrote a song in the morning, recorded it in the afternoon, and we did the mixing at night. Besides our own instruments we played all the instruments together. In the meantime, we got hooked up with a singer and in between recordings, we were frantically looking for a second guitarist and a bass player. We held auditions in the studio. When Don (Van Spall) came in and we jammed a bit, we knew he was the right guy for the job. He brought Ed (Jongsma) along, a solid bass player. We finished the last recordings with them. When the album was done, we had a band at the same time. That’s how it started and the rest is history.
Following our interview with Chriz Van Jaarsveld, we re-listened to Sleeze Beez four studio albums and put together our 10 favorite songs. We consider this an “essential playlist” of their music. If there were ever a compilation CD, we’d hope these tracks would make the cut.
“Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don’t” (Screwed Blued & Tattooed)
“Girls Girls, Nasty Nasty” (Look Like Hell)
“Raise A Little Hell” (Powertool)
“Rock In The Western World” (Screwed Blued & Tattooed)
“Save Myself” (Insanity Beach)
“Screwed Blue ‘N Tattooed” (Screwed Blued & Tattooed)
“Stranger Than Paradise” (Screwed Blued & Tattooed)
There are a lot of similarities between former Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John Waite guitarist Shaun Hague and the legendary Eric Clapton. Hague has recently made a name for himself as a proficient blues guitarist and has gained enormous success from his band Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton. Although Hague currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, he will be returning to southeastern Massachusetts with his band on March 30, 2017, with a gig at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. Purchase tickets HERE.
Hague, who was originally from Somerset, Mass., started playing music at a young age. He has been inspired by some of the greats, including his top three favorites – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. Hague talked about how Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton, fell together.
“Everyone has that main influence, and Eric became mine…I had every Clapton record, and I was learning all of them,” he said. “And then I became such a huge fan, and I knew all of his songs inside and out. And now with my guitar techniques that were somewhat like his and my vocals; I just happen to have a bluesy, raspy voice. So it just seemed like a good fit, and it was always something I’ve wanted to do.”
Hague attributes both his success and his passion for music to Clapton, saying that he may have never fought and worked so hard to be such an incredible guitar player if it wasn’t for Clapton. Hague also talked how he was affected by the presence of The Beatles and Springsteen when he was growing up.
“[The Beatles] really turned me onto music,” he said. “Bruce Springsteen kind of showed me what an entertainer is, songwriter, you know he’s just kind of the ultimate package of musicianship, live entertainment, and stage presence.”
Now that we know how Journeyman formed, how did the journey men come together? Hague talked about the creation of The Journeyman featuring Robert Monroe (keys/vocals), Andy Taylor (drums) and Sheldon Dukes (bass).
“After moving to Chicago a few years ago from LA, I befriended musicians,” he said. “There were a couple of guys I knew in town and then after that we just became friends and I said, ‘Hey I’ve got this idea,’ and they were totally into it.”
Hague explained that the tribute band is named after one of his favorite Clapton albums, “It has a lot of great hits and a lot of great non-hits too.”
Hague also mentioned his top three favorite Clapton songs which are “Pretending,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “The Core”.
Hague talked about the success he has gained from Journeyman, attracting a multitude of fans — with growing success that even Hague hadn’t expected.
“I went into this hoping for the best and it’s been more than I expected,” he said. “The first show we did was kind of hush hush. It was done here in Chicago. 130 people showed up or something and our second show was in Iowa.”
Even though the first show was low key, they had instantly caught the attention of many fans. This led to a sold out show in Iowa and many more people were turned down at the door. From there, Journeyman rocked a number of stages, attracting their largest audience to date at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, IL, on Nov. 25, 2016, in which 315 attended.
Hague was surprised at the immediate success of Journeyman and at how fast tickets for future shows are selling out.
As he tries to understand his own success, Hague has come to the conclusion that Journeyman has become a favorite out of all the Clapton tribute bands for two reasons. The first, they are willing to travel and play just about anywhere. Second, they are younger than the other bands. Hague reminds people of a young Clapton, one they might have seen before, instead of an older version.
Hague jokingly questioned if he and Clapton are related somewhere down the line, then added, “I look like him from the 70’s.”
Although Hague’s main focus nowadays is covers, he has somehow managed to make a name for himself as a blues guitarist. Hague said it all started in 2001 when he was 17. He had never performed in front of anyone before, but he was chosen to play at the House of Blues in Boston and was named “The Best Young Blues Guitarist”.
“I love the blues. Always been influenced by it,” he said. “I think everyone does at some point in their life. But I understand it and connect with it.”
Along with Hague’s passion and skills, the Narrow Center for the Arts helped kick start his career. Hague has a great relationship with The Narrows and started his career there playing open mics. He is looking forward to returning in the spring to headline the Journeyman show.
“I love The Narrows, I love [Narrows Executive Director] Patrick [Norton]. I go all the way back to the Narrows Center when it was in a different spot,” he said. “It was this little art gallery and downstairs there was this kind of makeshift music venue. There were tables and chairs and a stage that wasn’t very high off the ground [with] very minimal lighting [and] minimal sound equipment. And they had open mics. Occasionally they would book a small show.”
After winning the contest at the House of Blues, Norton called Hague and invited him to play at one of their open mics.
“So I went down and sat in with Patrick. I played the blues or something, and I kept going back every week or every other week or something. And then I was in a little cover band. So we would show up and sit in on the cover nights and play,” said Hague.
Since 2001, The Narrows and Hague have grown both separately and together. Hague has played at The Narrows many times, both at The Narrows old location and their present location. Hague will be back at the Narrows Center as a headliner on March 30th (which also happens to be Eric Clapton’s birthday). Hague talked about why this show will be better than any show he’s ever played at The Narrows before.
“The first time I played The Narrows it was all acoustic. That was just the setup that was there. Last time, I came through with my band, the band I had. It was kind of unrehearsed. It was a good show though. Everyone’s always wanted me to play guitar, play blues, and the last two times I was in there, that’s not what I was doing. So, next time around, it’s going to be all about guitar work and my vocals and stuff. The band I have now is absolutely amazing. Each guy is super proficient with his instrument.”
Since Hague grew up in Massachusetts, many of his friends and fans are anticipating his return to Fall River. Hague is also looking forward to being back, especially coming back a new, more successful man. He is proud to have done what he set out to do when he lived there, “which was do music for a living. A lot of people laughed at me when I was 16, 17, but I’m proud to go back there and headline this venue that overlooks the town I grew up in.”
Hague also talked about growing up in Massachusetts, “I remember myself as a kid, being over in Somerset, playing my guitar in my room non-stop. The neighbors called the cops on me at night. Being a kid from a small town, I didn’t have many friends. I just spent all my time playing guitar,” he said.
Hague is proud of his success. He took a risk by not going to college and playing music instead. Yet, it’s obvious, that this risk paid off for him. He has had success playing original music, but prefers to play Clapton’s songs.
“To be honest with you, I feel more freedom and I feel more comfortable playing Clapton’s music because I’ve been doing it so long,” he said. “I feel much more comfortable playing his stuff than my own original music. You know it’s a bit more naked when you’re out there…so playing his music I feel more free. I play better than I’ve played in years. I sing better than I’ve sang in years. These songs have been in my head since I was 14, 15 years old. So for twenty plus years I’ve been listening to Eric Clapton non-stop.”
Hague acknowledged that he’s also managed to be creative within his tribute band.
“The original part we’re playing, in the tribute, obviously the vocals are word for word. The main guitar riffs are note for note,” he said. “But when I go solo or my keyboard player goes to solo, it’s not always the exact solo that was there, sometimes. So we’re getting to show what we can do through his music. I get the opportunity to showcase my skills, the piano player’s skills, even my drummer gets a solo on a song, so does my bass player, he gets a solo too.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to the Journeyman show can be purchased online HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.
When legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio died on May 16, 2010, it sent shock waves throughout the hard rock and metal community. As sad as his death was for so many people, it motivated vocalist Leather Leone to return to the heavy metal music scene after being away from it for nearly two decades. Since then, she has released a studio album with The Sledge/Leather Project, reunited with the band she originally fronted, Chastain, for two stellar recordings (Surrender To No One and We Bleed Metal), and is currently in the process of recording her first solo album since 1989 with a stellar band in Brazil. 2017 promises to be the year of Leather!
“The loss of Ronnie Dio changed me as much as when I had spent time with him,” said Leone in an exclusive interview with Limelight Magazine. “It took my breath away, as it did for many. I had to say and do something…the only way I knew was through song. He had always told me I had a gift. I simply gave it back to him. I think of him always when I write and record. He has always been my vocal reason. I thank him for any note that I sing.”
Leone said that her 20 year hiatus from music wasn’t planned but it just happened.
“After Chastain, the offers were comprising and uninteresting,” she admitted. “I would and will not try to be something I am not…I had other paths that called to me.”
While Leone’s path took her on a road away from the music industry, she is now back stronger than ever with a new solo album in the works with a lineup of musicians that includes Daemon Ross (guitar), Braulio Drummond (drums), Thiago Velasquez (bass) and Vinnie Tex (guitar).
“I call them my boys from Brazil,” Leone said. “They are a well-kept secret that I have the privilege of working with. They have done their share of working with much bigger names than me. I had met Daemon Ross on my first jaunt to Brazil in 2014. We had stayed in touch hoping it would evolve in some way. Vinnie, Braulio and Thiago I met for the first time in September. For me it was magic. We fit together very well.”
Although many years have passed, Leone feels like she’s the same rocker she has always been with the opportunity to become even better than ever.
“I can’t tell you how empowering and life changing this new project is for me,” Leone said. “The band that my promoter/manager Rodrigo Scelza had found for me is a wall of inspiration. I am basically writing with Vinnie Tex via email. I have gone through his and Daemon Ross’s ideas and chose what I think will work with my lyrical ideas…then Vinnie and I start doing demos back and forth. It is working very well. I have found a sense of sameness with them.”
Leone and her “boys from Brazil” are recording this new album in South America due to the unique opportunity she has working with these musicians.
“The guys are all situated there,” she said. “It is easier for me to go to them and it is important for me to be there with them. The energy I get from South America is indescribable.”
The new album doesn’t have a title yet but Leone did mention that it will be released sometime in 2017 “Dio willing,” she said, in commemoration of Ronnie James Dio.
While Leone is the same hard rocker she has always been, she said the music industry around her has drastically changed over the years.
“I find social media crazy,” she said. “Anyone can make music. All music can be downloaded and found for free. There are so many bands, it’s hard to find your place. That is what I’ve noticed, but I am still blessed to be able to make music so I have no complaints.”
Leone recorded her first album ever in 1985 with the band Chastain called Mystery of Illusion. They released music for five years before Leone departed the band in 1991. Over the past several years, Leone returned to Chastain and recorded two studio albums, Surrender To No One (2013) and We Bleed Metal (2015). [Check out the music videos for “Evil Awaits Us” and “I Am Sin” from Surrender To No One by clicking on the song title.]
“Working with Chastain is like riding a bike,” Leone explained. “You always remember and it comes back to you. Our relationship hasn’t changed. It was very cool to be back in the studio with him (David T. Chastain). At this time I see no plans for another record but weirder situations have come to be.”
Although Leone worked with Chastain in the studio again, they hadn’t shared a stage in over 25 years until they performed together on October 8, 2016, at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“The live show with Chastain was cool,” Leone said. “I had always known it would happen eventually. It made me realize how thankful I was to have come from there and how lucky I was to move forward with my boys.”
Leone hopes to play some shows in the states again, possibly even with her “boys from Brazil.”
“My world with this band is wide open,” she said. “I am starting again with a fireball of talent beside me. There is interest and possibility. I hope to play in the states again.”
As Leone cements her return to the music scene, she is now accompanied by many more female rockers than before. When Leone first started making music, she was playing with the boys and being compared to male metal singers such as Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. Although Leone is proud to have been a pioneer female vocalist and rocker, she has also struggled with this label.
“I have always said I have a hard time with the female label,” Leone explained. “I understand looking back that we were few but still that label is so boring. I feel blessed, of course, to be spoken in the same conversations as the big guns but why is gender an issue?”
Leone is thankful for everyone who has supported her throughout her career.
“Thank you to everyone who has stuck by me with love and belief,” she said. “My new band will blow your mind as they do mine every day.”
Girls, Guns and Glory is a band like no other. Their music has been compared to Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Dwight Yoakam, Chris Isaak and many more. While the band may be compared to some of the greats, they also stand out from the rest. They are both an intellectual and soulful band that you don’t want to miss when they tour in your area.
The band consists of four talented musicians, Ward Hayden, (acoustic guitar and lead vocals), Josh Kiggans (drums), Paul Dilley (bass and vocals), Cody Nilsen (lead guitar and vocals). Check out their latest album Love and Protest where they analyze the connection between these two words. Ward Hayden explained the main concept behind the album.
“The overarching theme of the album is the exploration of what love is, what it means, what is its purpose in our lives and then the other side of that, what happens when that emotion is faced with opposition,” he explained. “To me Love and Protest are alpha and omega. It is the emotion itself and then it is the opposition of it. The songs on the album cover those feelings and there is a lot of ground to cover in between those extremes.”
The songs on Love and Protest is a combination of rock, country, and blues music. Many iconic musicians have inspired the band through the creation of this album.
“Sonically we were really inspired by Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes album,” Hayden explained. “For the 10 years we’ve been a band we’ve always made music rooted in classic country and early rock ‘n’ roll and as the band has matured and progressed, we’ve worked to blend those styles into something that sounds distinctly like Girls Guns and Glory.”
One of the most unique aspects of Love and Protest, is that it was recorded in analog. With the guidance of their producer Drew Townson, Girls, Guns and Glory were able to embody the magic of classic rock and country albums recorded on tape.
“Recording an analog album was a largely positive experience,” Hayden said. “Our producer, Drew Townson, had the vision of this being an all analog album from the very beginning of this album’s creation. He was very upfront in his feelings that we were losing some of the energy the band has when we record digitally. By recording to tape, he felt it worked well with my voice and he felt that it would better capture a vibe that can get lost in the digital process. Now, that the album is complete, I have to agree with Drew that this was the best way to capture the feeling and emotion of these songs. There is something raw and honest about four people being in a room and making music together and that is what this recording was able to capture.”
Besides the different recording techniques used, Hayden explained the other ways in which Love and Protest is different from the band’s previous releases.
“I think it shows a lot of development in the band,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of stage and studio experience under our belt and this is the first time that we approached an album with songs that were really labored over.”
In the past, Hayden typically wrote songs in short bouts of creativity. For this album, he took his time and worked hard and long on each song.
“With Love and Protest, some of these songs were worked on for years,” Hayden said. “They were songs that I’d kept for myself and continued to rework and think about for a really long time. For me, it’s some of my most personal songwriting and I think it shows when you listen to the album.”
This also wasn’t the first time Girls, Guns and Glory worked with Townson. He also mixed and co-produced the band’s 2015 release A Tribute to Hank Williams Live.
“I’ve known Drew for about nine years and we’d always wanted to do a studio album together,” Hayden said. “He and I produced the Tribute To Hank Williams album together, so I knew I liked how he worked and vice versa. What I also liked was that he was not only open to the idea of having Josh Kiggans, Paul Dilley and I sitting in the producer’s chair with him but he welcomed it with the new album. He was very open to our ideas and we were comfortable enough with him that we knew we could pitch concepts and ideas to him and know we were getting honest feedback.”
Girls, Guns and Glory are proud of all the albums they have released yet Hayden explained why he feels that they are a new band due to the release of Love and Protest.
“Right before we entered the studio we parted ways with our guitarist at the time,” he explained. “Josh, Paul and I got together with our manager and he said to us that we can’t look at this like a road block. He told us that he believed we have the songs ready to make the best album of our career and that we have the guys needed to make it. It was a vote of confidence that we really needed at that time.”
During the creation of the new album, guitarist Cody Nilsen joined the band adding a fresh, new quality to the album in addition to the solidified Guns, Girls and Glory sound.
“For us, it felt like new life had been breathed into the band and we were re-energized,” Hayden said. “When one door closes, another door opens and I think all of us felt like we were almost new again. Things felt great in the studio and they’ve felt great on stage as we’ve been touring.”
Girls, Guns and Glory have done lot of touring over the past several years and have experienced some amazing moments. One of the band’s most memorable moments was when they played two shows in France last year.
“We were performing just outside of Paris when the Bataclan terrorist attack occurred,” Hayden explained. “The show that night ended with people in total distress and people were extremely worried and upset. The next night we got the call from the venue we were supposed to play that over 150 tickets had been cancelled because people were afraid to go out and the venue wanted to know if we wanted to cancel the show. We talked amongst the band and with our tour manager and ultimately decided that putting joy and music into the world was the best option. So, we told them we’d be there for the show. There were only about 100 people that wound up coming out but the connection between the band and the audience that night was the strongest I’ve ever felt from the stage. People sang along with tears in their eyes and so did we. It was one of the most memorable and moving experiences I’ve had in this band. We didn’t speak French and they only spoke a little English but we connected over music and emotion. It helped me believe that good can win over evil and I felt it was an example of the resilience of the human spirit.”
Girls, Guns and Glory have played shows with some popular acts within the music industry such as Los Lobos and George Thorogood and The Destroyers.
“Los Lobos are just some really welcoming and cool guys,” Hayden said. “They’re always good for a laugh backstage. George Thorogood and The Destroyers have told us some great stories about touring with The Rolling Stones and seeing Chuck Berry. I love rock ‘n’ roll history, so getting to share the stage and hang out with people who have been in it for so long is really inspiring and exciting. I consider myself a music fan first and foremost, so getting to hear the stories and firsthand accounts has been one of the best perks of being a musician.”
Girls, Guns and Glory is managed by Patrick Norton, Executive Director of The Narrows Center for The Arts in Fall River, Mass. Norton came in contact with the band since he was a fan and has continued to propel their career using both his venue and the connections that he has within the industry.
“Girls, Guns and Glory had started to attract a following in Boston and Patrick was one of the first people outside of the city to give us a shot,” Hayden explained. “He put us on as the opener for a few bands at the Narrows and gave us the chance to start building a following there. It took us give or six times of playing the room but we’ve been able to sell it out a few times in the last couple years and The Narrows has become one of our favorite venues to visit.”
Hayden loves his job as a musician and even had some advice for aspiring musicians today.
“I’d say to an aspiring musician to keep grinding and working hard,” he said. “This business is a roller coaster ride, plenty of ups and downs. If you can learn to ride the roller coaster then you’ll do well and enjoy what you’re doing. I’d also encourage aspiring musicians to do their best to not get discouraged. The music business has changed so dramatically in the 10 years I’ve been in it. Major label deals are a thing of the past but there are so many ways for independent artists to succeed nowadays. It’s all about finding your angle and putting in the time and hard work. If you love it, keep at it, just make sure you truly love it. If the love is there, even the bad times won’t seem so bad.”
Get your copy of Love and Protest on iTunes or Amazon. Girls, Guns and Glory will also be hosting CD release shows throughout the Northeast this winter and in the South and Mid-West this spring. Visit their website HERE to keep informed about the band.
Joan Osborne has been pursuing music for over 20 years and she has just hit her creative climax with her newest album Love and Hate. Osborne’s story began when she moved to New York City in the late 80’s when she founded her own record label called Womanly Hips. Osborne pursed her love for singing and songwriting and gained substantial success in 1995 when she released her first major label album, Relish, featuring the hit single “One Of Us”. Although this album gained substantial attention, Osbourne made her intentions clear as stated in her website bio, “She was more interested in musical integrity and creative longevity than transient pop success.”
Osborne has always been ahead of her time. She bravely stepped out into New York alone and opened her own record label. She has also been open about both her sexual and creative freedom. With one compilation album, one holiday album, two live albums, and seven studio albums under her belt, Osborne still felt that she had creativity that needed to be let out. Osborne worked on Love and Hate for several years before perfecting and releasing her eighth studio album in 2014. This album explores many different aspects of both love and hate. Within this album, Osborne once again displays her iconic, raw lyrics and bluesy voice.
Osborne will be performing a show consisting of stripped down versions of songs from Love and Hate, as well as songs from her other studio albums, at the Spire Center for Performing Arts, located at 25 ½ Court Street in Plymouth, Mass, this Thursday, Dec. 8th. Purchase tickets HERE.
“If fans are familiar with the full band versions of the songs from the album or from seeing us live, they can expect a more intimate experience,” Osborne said “For the duo and trio shows we strip the songs down to their bare essence and the fans have told us over and over that it is a very emotionally affecting show, that they hear things in the songs that they never have heard before.”
At the show, Osborne will be bringing playing with two other talented musicians: Jack Petruzzelli and Andrew Carillo.
“I will be bringing two excellent musicians who are also old friends,” Osborne said. “Jack has been a collaborator since the early nineties, and we came up together playing in the clubs and bars of Manhattan. He and I have also coproduced the last two albums that I’ve released. Jack plays with Patti Smith, with Rufus Wainwright, and is a founding member of the Fab Faux which is the world’s premier Beatles cover band. Andrew has been working with me since the early 2000’s and he and Jack together have a great sound. They are also really fun to hang out with, and because they have known me for so long, they have lots of embarrassing stories about me!”
Osborne said it’s much different performing as a duo or trio compared to having a full band.
“Performing with the full band is a lot of fun but there is something about doing a duo or trio that is both more challenging and more satisfying for a singer,” Osborne said. “You have nowhere to hide but you can also work with a lot of subtleties that get lost in a band configuration, and the shows tend to be more emotionally intense because of that.”
Since Love and Hate’s release, the album has received many positive reviews. What makes it so much more different from Osborne’s previously released music is her focus on songwriting.
“We first started writing material for Love and Hate a full seven years before the album was released,” Osborne said. “It took us that long to find our way to what the album wanted to be. It started as an effort to create something that was stylistically in the world of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or Pink Moon by Nick Drake but as we worked on it the themes of romantic love–in all its many variations–began rising to the surface and I realized that that was what the record wanted to be. So for that reason, we were all very busy with other projects, it took us a long time to get to the end result but I think that was a good thing. I like the fact that every song went through many versions before being fully realized. I think the writing is as strong or stronger than anything I have done.”
For Osborne, Love and Hate is one of the most personally-charged, creatively ambitious efforts of her two-decades-plus recording career.
“I think the subject matter, romantic love, is a very complicated one at this time in my life and in the life of my family and friends,” Osborne said. “Most popular songs tend to explore the territory of a new love or of kicking someone to the curb after you can’t take it anymore. There is a huge area in between those two points, an area that is very complex, and that is what I see people in my world living through; trying to negotiate and it’s both very difficult and very rewarding. I wanted to explore love in that way, to get into all the messy details of a deeper love.”
As a seasoned musician and songwriter, Osborne now feels that she is truly writing for herself and she is making up her own rules. Her dedicated fans have followed Osborne through her growth and she is grateful they are willing to evolve with her.
“I know that doing music for a living is very privileged life, even though it can be very difficult,” Osborne said. “I know that I would not be able to do this unless I had fans who came to the shows, who bought CDs and T-shirts, and who have stayed with me through all the different styles and incarnations I’ve traveled through. I honestly have no idea what I would be doing if I could not do music, so my fans have been my salvation.”
Osborne has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards; six in the 90’s and one in 2013.
“Of course it’s nice to be recognized in that way,” Osborne said. “It’s nice to feel that you are part of a larger community of music artists and going to the Grammy awards, seeing the other artists from all different genres, always makes me feel connected to this huge web of people making music around the world.”
With many years of experience as a musician, Osborne still manages to create compelling and refreshing music.
“I have jumped around from genre to genre, which can be seen as commercial suicide in a way,” Osborne said. “I can only say that I have followed my instincts more than any plan for commercial success and I don’t honestly know whether that has been a good thing but that’s been my choice.”
“I think my experience makes it easier for me to create music,” she added. “I think it allows me to cut through the noise and get to the heart of the matter more quickly. I don’t feel bored: music is like the ocean, you can dive in and swim your whole life and you will never get to the other side.”
Osborne also has a lot of memorable moments since the release of Relish in 1995.
“I have been really fortunate to be welcomed into a lot of different musical worlds,” she said. “I have sung with Lucciano Pavarotti in Italy, I have sung with Stevie Wonder at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve toured with The Dead, dueted with Bob Dylan and I’ve sung with Patti Smith. Those have been highlights but honestly they have not been any more wonderful than just performing with my band in front of a crowd on a normal night. There’s something about the communal emotional experience of that which transcends everyday life and elevates us all.”
While Osborne hasn’t released any new music in two years, she is currently working on a set of Bob Dylan songs that she hopes to start recording this winter.
“Our next album will be a set of Bob Dylan songs,” Osborne explained. “It’s a project I have long wanted to do and the residency we did at the Café Carlyle back in March was the springboard for this album; we did two weeks of nothing but Bob Dylan songs and it was amazing. I felt like what an actor must feel like doing Shakespeare, the material is so rich. So we’ve been in pre-production for that and will be going into the studio shortly after our show in Plymouth.”
Tickets to Osborne’s show at The Spire are $45. The venue features superior acoustics, custom state of the art lighting and sound systems and original period architectural details, offering patrons an exceptional performing arts experience.
MASS is known as a hard rock band from Revere, Mass., but they have decided to show another side of themselves with the release of a four song Christmas CD Holden on to Christmas. You may know these four musicians as the rockers that they are but they are also all fathers who believe that no child should go without presents on Christmas.
The band first decided to give to Toys for Tots in 2010 when they released their first Christmas single. They released a second Christmas single in 2014 and once again donated the proceeds to Toys for Tots. This year, MASS decided to step up their game by releasing a full, four song Christmas CD, which is limited to 500 copies and they’re already selling fast. Get your copy HERE!
Limelight Magazine spoke with MASS vocalist Louis St. August about the success of the first two Christmas releases and the band’s inspiration for expanding their Christmas tradition by releasing a Christmas CD this year. The first Christmas single they released did very well and they were able to raise around $3,000 for Toys for Tots. For the Christmas release in 2014, MASS ended up raising even more money for the charity. Since there was only a limited number of copies for both of these releases, MASS decided to put that music, remastered on a CD, with one original MASS Christmas song.
“We have the three songs that we previously recorded and a brand new original Christmas song called ‘Holden on to Christmas’,” St. August explained. “We had them all remastered and we put them all together on the CD.”
The CD was just released on November 17th but already around 300 out of the limited 500 copies have been sold. Along with this impressive first week of sales, MASS is glad to be able to once again give Toys for Tots a substantial donation.
“No child should go without receiving at least one gift on Christmas,” August said. “We felt strongly about that, especially myself, so I presented the idea to the guys [Gene D’tria, Mike Palumbo, and Joey “Vee” Vadala] and they all agreed.”
Not only is this CD a grouping of four merry songs but it is also a true MASS album. With so many other Christmas albums out there, St. August talked about what makes this CD different.
“Our fans like MASS music so they like our renditions of the songs that are rock but also Christmas,” he said. “People who have written me back really appreciate the new song we wrote so I think the CD is different than other Christmas CD’s because we have a little bit of a different style and our voices are different. It’s coming from a melodic, hard rock band and it’s just showing a different side of us; a side that can do ballads and happy, Christmas tunes.”
St. August first started thinking about creating a Christmas CD in August since the band would need that much time to create Holden on to Christmas.
“I started it in August and I actually sang the Christmas song that we wrote on a hot day in September,” he said. “I had to kind of force myself into the Christmas spirit.”
Holden on to Christmas consists of three previously released songs, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Grown Up Christmas List”, and “Where Are You Christmas”. The last song on the CD is the title track which is a original MASS Christmas song “Holden On To Christmas”. St. August explained how that last song came into fruition.
“We’re coming out with a brand new album next year, a full length album,” he explained. “It will be our ninth studio album. We wrote a couple songs when we were in the studio and one of the songs just didn’t fit with the rest. So my idea was, ‘why don’t we change it and make that into a Christmas song?’ I put Christmas lyrics on it and added some Christmas kind of atmosphere to it with sleigh bells and the choir.”
MASS hopes to continue releasing Christmas music every few years and also donate as much money as they can to Toys for Tots. MASS has even considered doing a possible MASS Christmas concert in the next couple of years.
Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!