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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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