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.
Guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist Simon Fitzpatrick will be back on the road this December by popular demand. Both are extremely talented musicians known for their work with drummer Carl Palmer, of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Asia. For their December run of dates, Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick will be premiering one act from their soundtrack written for the classic silent film Nosferatu.
Bielatowicz is a sensational guitarist from Lancashire, England. He attended school at Leeds College of Music and pursued music for a while before he was offered the opportunity to play guitar for the Carl Palmer Band. Although he has only released one solo album in 2014 titled Preludes & Etudes, he has a vast history within the music industry touring the world, recording music, and playing phenomenal live shows with musicians such as Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) and Les Paul.
For a while, Bielatowicz toyed with the idea of creating a soundtrack to a silent film. In the same out-of-the-box manner in which he approaches many of his projects, Bielatowicz chose to write a soundtrack for Nosferatu, a silent German expressionist horror film, after watching the movie a few years ago.
“I feel that music and art should connect people on an individual and personal level,” Bielatowicz said. “Sadly we live in a society that seems to be moving away from that idea, where mass media and maximum profits are the primary goals of creativity. I’m always looking for ways to rebel against this modern day trend – writing and performing a live soundtrack to a 95-year-old silent movie just seemed like the right thing to do!”
“The name I gave to the silent movie soundtrack project is The Orchestra of Lost Emotions,” Bielatowicz said. “With all the wonderful technological media innovations we have today, I feel like we miss out on a more personal experience – our physical and personal relationship with the world is becoming a lost emotion – hence the name of the project.”
Bielatowicz loves to challenge himself as a musician so creating a soundtrack for a movie such as Nosferatu that has been surrounded by so much hype has been an exciting experience for him.
“I think the history that surrounds Nosferatu makes it a very attractive movie to tackle,” Bielatowicz said. “The director’s initial plan was to make a version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but when permission was denied by Stoker’s family, he decided to go ahead and make the film anyway, tweaking the script and changing the characters’ names – Count Dracula became Count Orlok for example – in an attempt to avoid copyright infringement. Despite their efforts, the changes were not enough to avoid a lawsuit. Shortly after its debut, a judge ruled in favor of the Stoker estate and ordered all copies of the movie to be destroyed.”
Thankfully, some copies of the film survived, and today it’s become a cult classic. The movie sprouted a wave a creativity within Bielatowicz and he knew this was the project for him.
“Nosferatu has the reputation for being a creepy horror movie, which of course it is but it’s also so much more than that,” Bielatowicz explained. “F. W. Murnau was the genius director of his day and the movie is a cinematic masterpiece full of innovative camera techniques, cutting edge special effects and emotional acting performances. It’s difficult to imagine how innovative Murnau actually was in his early silent movies – you have to remember he was literally inventing the media of cinema at the time and the films he made still stand up as a benchmark for modern day movies to be measured by.”
“Not wanting to give too much away, Nosferatu doesn’t follow the standard plot norms we came to expect of Hollywood over the 100(ish) years that followed,” Bielatowicz said. “The hero turns out to be not-so heroic, while his love interest becomes the heroine in an emotional climax to the movie. That’s definitely not what audiences would have expected in the early 1920s. The way Murnau succeeds in communicating these subtleties and emotions using the medium of silent acting and camera work is nothing short of genius.”
The Orchestra of Lost Emotions is a multi-cultural soundtrack. Bielatowicz combined his English heritage and the original film’s German elements to create a masterpiece. This piece of art also incorporated Bielatowicz’s rock sound with a mixture of classical music.
“I guess my influences as a composer aren’t what you’d typically expect for a rock guitarist!” Bielatowicz said. “Classical music has always been my passion and there’s a huge classical influence in the music I’ve written for this soundtrack. As for the German connection, I think fans of classical music will recognize a huge tip of the hat to Beethoven throughout.”
Bielatowicz talked about the main characteristics that differentiate the Nosferatu soundtrackfrom his previous material such as his stripped back solo album Preludes & Etudes.
“The biggest difference is that I’ve written all the music to tie in very closely with onscreen action,” Bielatowicz explained. “Scoring for a silent movie allows you the freedom not only to write music which evokes the emotions of a scene but also to incorporate sound effects into the music. Elements such as footsteps, door slams etc. are all incorporated in the music as an attempt to blur the lines between soundtrack and sound effects.”
The soundtrack is split into four acts. Bielatowicz will be premiering the first act on his December tour along with the first 30 minutes of the film.
“[The first act] is a great introduction to the movie and goes right up until the dramatic moment where the main character first meets Count Orlok the vampire,” Bielatowicz explained.
Along with the premiere of Nosferatu, Bielatowicz will also be playing a variety of covers and original music.
“We’ll be playing a selection of classical showpieces, including a lot of music from my solo album Preludes & Etudes,” he said. “You can expect to hear movements from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, some Beethoven favorites, Chopin Etudes, Debussy ballads, famous opera overtures all arranged for electric guitar, bass guitar and Chapman stick, like you’ve never heard them before! Mine and Simon’s tour follows an extensive tour with Carl Palmer, where we’ve been playing tribute to the late Keith Emerson, so you can probably expect a couple of ELP [Emerson, Lake & Palmer] classics thrown in too!”
The last time Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick played together, they received rave reviews. Both musicians always put on a dynamic instrumental performance, and this one is bound to be even better due to the premiere of the soundtrack. Bielatowicz confirms his true talent by creating an all instrumental playlist that never bores the audience and never begs for vocals.
“I think variety is the key to maintaining an audience’s interest in any musical setting,” Bielatowicz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re solo instrumentalist, a full band with vocals or a 90 piece orchestra, if everything you play sounds the same then your audience is going to get bored pretty quickly. Obviously, the fewer elements or instruments you have in a band, the more creative you have to be about maintaining variety but as long as you remain mindful of that then it’s possible to keep an audience’s interest no matter what instruments you have at your disposal. Dynamics play a big part, as does instrumentation, the use of different sound effects and obviously having 25 minutes of your set devoted to playing a soundtrack along with a movie screening helps a lot too! Audiences can expect a carefully thought-out set, specifically designed to keep them on the edge of their seats for the entire duration of the show.”
Bielatowicz has been playing alongside Fitzpatrick for many years and is excited to embark on another tour with him.
“Not only is Simon one of my best friends but he’s also one of the most gifted musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing with,” Bielatowicz said. “I think our musical styles compliment each other perfectly – there’s no one else I’d rather do this tour with. I guarantee audiences will see him doing things they never thought possible on the bass guitar or Chapman Stick!”
Over the years, their relationship has grown and they have pushed each other to be the best musicians they can be. Their musical chemistry is evident during their live performance and this bond has been created and solidified through their years of friendship and musical expansion.
“I definitely think we’ve inspired each other to take our instruments to new places,” Bielatowicz said. “The way we both play our instruments is quite un-guitary and un-bassy and I think it’s fair to say we’ve influenced each other on our musical journeys.”
Here’s is the complete list of tour dates for Bielatowicz and Fitzpatrick’s tour. Visit the websites of the public venues to purchase tickets.
December 8, 2016 – Pawnee, IL (Private Concert)
December 9, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI (Private Concert)
December 10, 2016 – Chicago, IL (Private Concert)
December 11, 2016 – Gibsonia, PA (Private Concert)
December 12, 2016 – Blend of Seven Winery, Delaware, OH
December 15, 2016 – Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
December 17, 2016 – Hollis, NH (Private Concert)
December 18, 2016 – Hartford Road Cafe, Hartford, CT
December 20, 2016 – Schwenksville, PA (Private Concert)
December 21, 2016 – Triad Theatre, New York, NY
December 22, 2016 – Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA
Trevor Rabin is a musician, singer/songwriter, producer and film composer most famous for his time as the guitarist and vocalist for YES. He was with the band from 1982-1995 and was responsible for some of their biggest hits including “Owner of a Lonely Heart” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 singles chart. He was also responsible for their most successful selling album 90125, along with three others: Big Generator, Union, and Talk.
Rabin is currently planning a tour with two former members of YES, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. The tour, appropriately called “Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman: An Evening of YES Music & More,” launches tonight in Orlando, FL, and will come to Boston on October 19th at the Citi Wang Theatre.
It’s been 25 years since Rabin performed on stage with Anderson and Wakeman on the Union tour. In an interview with Limelight Magazine, Rabin talked about how this reunion came about.
According to Rabin, he and Wakeman had always planned and hoped to tour together, but it never happened until now. With busy lives full of thriving careers, both Rabin and Wakeman spent years making excuses and putting off their work together.
“I think the catalyst was our very good friend [YES founder and bassist] Chris Squire dying,” he said. “This led us to discipline ourselves and say ‘you know what, now we really really got to’.”
The two finally decided to clear their schedules and make this project happen with their mutual friend Anderson who previously performed a successful series of concerts with Wakeman in the U.K. in 2010 and the U.S. in 2011. These three musicians work great together and flourish in the mist of each other’s company and creative energy.
“What’s really great is that it really came from the heart of the musicians, opposed to some promotion company or record company getting involved,” said Rabin.
Rabin and Wakeman are currently rehearsing and also recording music together. Rabin said that they have had a great time working together recently and are both inspired and excited for the upcoming tour.
Although they will not be playing any of their new music on this tour, Rabin explained the setlist they are working on.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve really taken the catalog that we’ve all been involved with in the past, and really found, I think, exciting new ways of doing it,” he said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
“We’re still going through it,” he continued. “We’ve rehearsed way more than we need and we still haven’t reconciled what we are going to play. I mean obviously we’re going to play “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and things that you kind of have to play. It’s kind of prerequisite for doing the tour, almost.”
Rabin explained how the tour came about and his current work with Wakeman.
“We do have some new stuff, but I guess just because of the passion we have for this and how we approached it, it isn’t done yet,” he said. “This music and tour wasn’t put together by a bunch of promoters and managers and record companies. It’s really just happening in it’s own good time. The intention was to possibly do an album or at least a bunch of songs and go on tour after, but it was taking a long time once we started to get the stuff done.”
Due to their lack of time and eagerness to go on tour together, Rabin and Wakeman have set up two different tours. After this series of dates, they plan on finishing their collection of music and then plan a separate tour where they will be playing new music.
Rabin has many things to look forward to in the future, but he also spoke a little about his time with YES and his reasons for leaving the band in 1995 at the conclusion of the Talk tour.
“It was very satisfying when 90125 came out and was the biggest YES album ever. It kind of legitimized this band,” he said.
But eventually, Rabin did outgrow the band and moved onto a new project.
“I had done close to a thousand shows with YES and I just didn’t feel like playing ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ for a little while,” he said. “I wanted to get into film and I’ve been famed as a conductor, arranger, orchestrator, so I thought, ‘well, what’s the natural place to do this?’ I thought, ‘well, film, maybe film.’”
During Rabin’s time with YES, he worked closely with Anderson writing songs in the past particularly on the highly underrated Talk album, but he has done less work with Wakeman. Because of this, Rabin was truly excited to work with him.
“The most important thing about this for me was working with Rick,” said Rabin. “Obviously working with Jon is great. We’ve always wanted to do this again. But Rick, I haven’t worked with as closely as this before. Although, when we were doing the [Union] tour, we worked very closely. There were nights when it felt like it was just him and I on stage.”
Rabin said fans who purchase tickets to his upcoming shows with Anderson and Wakemen will enjoy a night of old time classics with a new twist and be able to witness the flourishing musical relationship these three men have.
“I hope people enjoy it as much as we’re enjoying it,” said Rabin.
The Citi Wang Theatre is located at 270 Tremont Street in Boston, Mass. Tickets to the show can be purchased online by clicking HERE, at the Citi Center Box Office, or by calling 800-982-2787. VIP packages are also available through ARW-TOUR.COM.
Although he may not be a household name in the United States, Robert Reed is a man of diverse musical talent. A multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, Reed is best known throughout Europe as the founder of the Welch progressive rock band Magenta. Before that, he was creating equally compelling music with his band Cyan and side project Trippa. A self-proclaimed fan of 70s progressive rock music, Reed recently decided to salute his music hero, Mike Oldfield, by recording a solo album, called Sanctuary, in the style of Oldfield’s 1973 masterpiece Tubular Bells. Like Oldfield, Reed played every single instrument on Sanctuary and structured it exactly like Tubular Bells with two movement instrumental pieces. He was even aided by Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth who were members of the Tubular Bells production team.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Reed immediately followed up his debut solo album with Sanctuary II. While he once again played almost every single instrument, this time he was joined by drummer Simon Phillips (Toto/Hiromi), who previously worked with Oldfield on four of his solo albums. The album was released this past June to critical acclaim.
Currently, Reed is rehearsing with a 10 piece band for a special Sanctuary Live performance on October 8th at the Big Room at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. The performance will be recorded for a future CD and DVD release. Despite his busy schedule, Reed was gracious to grant us an interview where he offered in-depth and insightful answers to our questions.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): In order to put the following questions in context for our readers, could you briefly explain the impact legendary multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield has had on you as a musician, particularly in your formative years?
RORBERT REED (REED):Tubular Bells was the first album I had bought for me at the age of 7. I had heard a funky version of it on an album of horror film themes. I was captivated by it and played it to death. I then discovered the rest of M.O. (Mike Oldfield’s) catalogue. I just became inspired to learn to play all the various instruments, like my hero. I found in M.O. music a deep emotional content. The ability to move you with music without lyrics. There is something very special in M.O. guitar playing. It’s almost like a vocal connecting with you. I then became a massive fan of all his work and went to see him many times.
LM: Now moving ahead to 2014, you released your critically acclaimed solo album, Sanctuary, which pays homage to Oldfield in a big way. You structured the album exactly like Oldfield’s masterpiece, Tubular Bells, with two-movement instrumental pieces and played every single instrument. Why did you decide to tackle a solo project of this magnitude at this point in your music career?
REED: Alongside my career in music with my various bands Magenta/Komepndium, I have done lots of TV and film music. But I’ve always had a yearning to do a long form album like Tub(ular) Bells. Lots of people knew my influence which shows itself in my other projects and always asked when I would do the album. Then, at the beginning of 2013, on the first day of the New Year, I sat in the studio and asked myself what I really wanted to do, and started what became Sanctuary. The music just flowed for the following months. It was the most enjoyable album I have ever made, as it came from the heart. I knew I wanted it all to be played by hand, real instruments and using the long form template of classical music and Tub(ular) Bells. I also knew that I wanted vocals, but not lyrics. So I had to find singers who understood this. I was lucky to work with Synergy Vocals, a vocal group who work with Philip Glass and Steve Reich, so they knew exactly what I wanted.
LM: Sanctuary was co-produced by Tom Newman and mastered by Simon Heyworth who were both part of Oldfield’s 1973 Tubular Bells production team. How did you get them to assist you with this project?
REED: When I finished the first Sanctuary album, I really liked it, but wasn’t confident that it worked as a standalone album. It had been a labour of love, but wanted to check that it was NOT just a “clone” album that couldn’t be taken seriously.
So I thought I needed to put it to the test, musically, and who better than Tom Newman, who had made the original album. I know he is a very straight talking man and would say the truth. So I sent him a copy and asked his opinion. He replied and gave it his blessing and was really complimentary. There are loads of fan versions of M.O. material, and people who do YouTube demos in their bedrooms of M.O. music. Tom said that he is sent loads of these, but Sanctuary was different. It was actually NEW music, written in a similar style, but had managed to capture the spirit of what M.O. had done on those first four albums of his.
I also sent a copy to Simon Heyworth to ask a similar question of the music. He also replied and said the same, but also that he could close his eyes when listening to Sanctuary and he was back in the Manor Studios in 1973, and offered to master it. I was so pleased and had the confidence to go forward.
LM: What was it like working with them, especially since they come from a different era of recording, and how much input did they have on the finished album?
REED: Tom was such a help, he lives in Ireland so we had to do the collaboration via the internet. I had done a lot of the work already, so I sent him the individual tracks of the music, so he could extend, change the order and sound of each part. He had loads of suggestions. On the first album, he said that I was putting too much into the music, cramming too many themes. This is because these days I worry that people haven’t got the attention span, to listen to things and want everything changing and exciting all the time. Tom is the opposite and kept telling me to let the music breath. Also, I was going to add shorter tracks to the first album, to make the album longer, and to have “single” type songs to help promote it. Tom hatted this idea and just said that it spoilt the atmosphere created by the two long pieces… He was of course right.
On the new album Sanctuary II, Tom had even more of an input. I had finished the album and was about to send it be mastered. I thought I had better send Tom the finished mixes, for one last check, as I hadn’t spoken to him for a few months whilst doing the final mixes. I had a reply, where he said I had made the most perfect album in history BUT I had taken out all of the soul of the demos! I was devastated, but went back and checked some of the guide mixes Tom had done and he was right. Computers allow you to repair every mistake, everything in time, make everything sound perfect…but it’s not what we should be trying to achieve in music. It should be about soul and emotion and sometimes the little mistakes are what make it human. So I spent the next four weeks, mixing from a different perspective. To Tom, I owe a lot and am so grateful to have his input.
LM: After Sanctuary was released, you wasted no time and spent most of 2015 recording Sanctuary II. Was it your plan from the start to structure this follow-up album the same way as the first, which is also what Oldfield did on his second studio album Hergest Ridge?
REED: As I said, the first album was such a joy to make, also the reaction to it was so positive, that I really wanted to make a second album as soon as I could. There was no need to change the song format as it had worked so well on the first. I was also a lot more confident, so I could be more bold. I had also learnt lessons from Tom that I could bring to the new album, though he still would complain that I was squeezing too many ideas into the music.
LM: Unlike Sanctuary, you were aided by legendary drummer Simon Phillips on Sanctuary II who worked with Oldfield on four of his studio albums (Crisis, Discovery, Islands, and Heaven’s Open). Why did you decide to use a drummer this time around? Was it always your plan to work with Phillips? Were other drummers considered?
REED: With Sanctuary II, I wanted to add something new. I had avoided drums on the first album, as it really changes the atmosphere of the music, but thought it would be a challenge to use them on the second album, but tastefully. I had a wish list of drummers I thought who would understand the music. Simon was at the top, but I never dreamt that I would get him. I tracked him down and sent him an email, explaining what I had done and working with Tom and Simon and asked if he would listen to the demos. This he did, and he was really complimentary about how nobody was making this type of music anymore, so he agreed to play. He lives in America, so I sent him the backing tracks and he sent me his drums. The moment I played them against the music, I knew I had something special. Simon is also an amazing engineer and producer, so the drums sounded amazing and what he played was perfect. I never thought, back in 1984 watching Simon play drums at Wembley with Mike Oldfield, that years later he would be playing on my album. That was special.
LM: I’ve been listening to Sanctuary II non-stop since I ordered it online. While this album again pay tribute to Oldfield’s early works, the influence of some of his later releases shines through, particularly Platinum and Five Miles Out. Did this naturally progress this way or was this what you were aiming for when you started writing and recording the album?
REED: Yes, there are definitely more of the Platinum era. That’s because of the drums and how they make the music move. For me, there is a lot more influence of David Bedford the composer who M.O. worked with a lot in the 1970’s. David’s albums like The Odyssey was a huge influence. But again, there is a lot of me. The whole “influence v. plagiarism” debate is a weird one. When I released the first album, I split the M.O. fans down the middle. Half saying that they loved that I was bringing new music in a style they liked; the other half were very of protective of M.O. and hatted what I was doing. I remember M.O. saying how disappointed he was that after Tub(ular) Bells nobody else was inspired to make long form instrumental music. This is exactly what I am doing. Also, EVERYBODY has influences and brings them into their music. M.O. music is very stylized because of the instruments used, but so is classical music. Beethoven sounds like Bach, sounds like Mozart, because they all use the same instruments. It’s the melodies that set them apart. ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) sound like The Beatles. Steve Wilson [sounds like] King Crimson. Genesis took their sound from King Crimson, Marillion and Genesis….we all have influences. In the end it comes to this. IS THE MUSIC well written and performed and does it move you emotionally????? If it does then I have succeeded.
LM: Do you know if Oldfield has heard either of the Sanctuary albums?
REED: I’m not sure he has heard it. He must be aware of it, as it’s all over Facebook and YouTube. I’m not sure if M.O. is interested in anybody else’s music. I just hope he appreciates the spirit in which I made it, and the reason why I made these albums.
LM: Now that the album is out, you’ve been busy rehearsing for your Sanctuary Live shows on October 8th at the Big Room at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. How are rehearsals going?
REED: I always wanted to play these albums live, but knew it would be a challenge, for obvious reasons. So, after the new album, I just put a date in the book, and forced myself to make it happen. We are in the middle of rehearsals, and it’s sounding fantastic, a little different than the record. It’s very had to play, as everybody has to play the right thing at all times for it to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
LM:You’re going to be performing with a 10-piece band. Since you performed almost every instrument yourself on both Sanctuary albums, how did you select these musicians to bring these albums to life?
REED: I had to find people who I could trust to be able to bring the right style of playing to each part. I also wanted people who I can get on with and feel comfortable around. We have two guitarists, two keyboard players, bass play, drummer, percussionist playing tub bells, times, marimba, etc., and three singers. It would have been very easy for me to play piano through it all, as that’s my main instrument, but I thought people would expect to see playing various instruments, so currently I’m playing a lot of guitar, some bass, and various percussion instruments…Its’ a real challenge, but fun.
LM: You’re recording the concerts for a future CD and DVD release. When do you expect them to be released?
REED: Not sure really, hopefully mid-2017. The concert is going to be very intimate, as Real World Studios is not really a venue. We can get 75 people in for each of the two shows, so I hope it’s going to be great for the audience to be surrounded by the band, visually and sonically. The plan is them to play more shows in more traditional venues, possibly with the same band or smaller, with different line ups. It’s weird I remember seeing M.O. perform Tub(ular) Bells II at Edinburgh He had a massive band and it was perfect, but it was a little too safe and boring. Then I saw him with a five-piece band and the music was completely different to the albums, but was so much more exciting. So you have to strike a balance when playing live.
LM: Speaking of the future, Oldfield concluded his two-movement trilogy of albums with Ommadawn in 1975. Are there plans for a third and final Sanctuary III album?
REED: I’d love to do a third album, but I need to find a sound in my head, and have a few ideas of what new to bring to it. At the moment, I’m completely consumed with the live shows. Though, I am planning a special E.P. for early 2017 that is the early stages of recording.
If there’s anyone who could be classified as a “Renaissance Woman,” it’s Phoebe Legere. The Maine native who is of Acadian and Abenaki (First Nations) descent, sings, plays a number of instruments (piano, accordion, cello, Native American flute, organ, buffalo drum, synthesizer, guitar and cavaquinho), stared in several films (Mondo New York and Toxic Avenger 2 & 3), paints, draws, sculpts, and writes movies and musicals. She also founded the New York Underground Museum in 2006 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2000. She’s released over 15 CDs of original music and will be appearing at Brick Hill House Concerts on Sunday, Aug. 30th, in Orleans, MA. We recently caught up with Legere who didn’t hold back in her answers to our questions.
Limelight Magazine (LM): You’re going to be performing at Brick Hill House Concerts on Aug. 30th in Orleans, MA. For anyone who has not seen you perform live before, what can they expect at this show? Phoebe Legere: This is an excellent and fair question, but it is impossible for me to answer. I cannot see myself when I am performing, nor can I predict how I will be perceived by others. I can only tell you what I feel when I play music. I go on a journey inside myself into a cosmos of memory, desire and ideal beauty. There are spirits there, spirits of my ancestors and of animals. These spirits seem to hover near! They are very interested in the music. Spirit voices suggest things to me, ideas about color, pitch, timbre, re-harmonization and expression. My eyes may appear to be seeing the audience, but in fact, I am looking into a place beyond space and time. I feel deep love and compassion for my audience. I read them with my heart as I play.
I play rhythms and notes and what I feel will soften hard places in their hearts and heal sad places in their minds. My job is to bring the music medicine to the people. That is why my native name is Phoebe Songbundle. I can be very photogenic, but cameras do not see very well. In person, I hover between pretty and ugly, male and female, young and old, white and Native. That is a good place to be. People soon forget how I look and they begin to go on the journey with me.
Music is a magic canoe that can take you down the river of your own dreams. In that journey you will find your own ancestors and spirits of animals who can guide you to heal yourself. I channel the music of my ancestors – French Acadians, Abenaki Native Americans, Wampanoag ancestors who ran to Maine and Canada and joined the Abenaki during the Massachusetts holocaust, and yes, my Mayflower Puritan ancestors too. I’m descended from a few of the travelers including Bradford and a young woman named Remember Allerton. They named her Remember so we would never forget how the Puritans were treated by the English.
I have to heal the pain of those ancestors who are still grieving because of the territorial and linguistic incursions of Imperialist England into North America at that time. You will also hear elements of church music in my note choices. I grew up in a small colonial town in Massachusetts where I sang in the choir and played the organ in the church.
LM: Will you be performing solo or with a band and do you have a preference for one over the other? Legere: I have invited musical friends from the area to play with me. Notably, my friend singer-songwriter George Leonard, a 2015 inductee into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, will play fiddle with me. I love to be part of a team. When we play together we are than the sum of our parts – music is prayer – everyone knows it’s easier to get the Lord’s attention if there’s a crowd praying the same song.
LM: You’ve released 15 CDs of original music. How do you go about deciding on a set list for your shows? Legere: I use my intuition in everything I do. On the Cape I will play more of my maritime songs: “Big Sperm Whale,” (click on song title) “Heart of the Summer,” (click on song title) and “Sailing on the Sound.” When I am in French Canada, I do mostly French, but this far south I’ll sing mostly English.
LM: In some of your promotional materials, it says you “reinvented Cajun music in your own image, mixing New York City jazz funk with New Orleans blues, down-home Acadian bluegrass, story-telling and melody.” How would you describe your music to someone else? Legere: I play North American music. An oyster makes a pearl from the pain of a grain of sand. Similarly, my music grows from the pain of forced human migration. What do I mean? Well, in 1755 the Acadians were deported to Louisiana – that’s how we get Cajun music at the same time Africans were being moved, forcefully, in chains, from beautiful Africa to places where they were treated like animals. The Cajuns (Acadians) were an underclass everywhere they went, since social status is all about territory and having a big house and an established business. The English had burned our houses and took our land. All we had was family and music. The Cajuns intermarried with the Africans and that’s when the music started to get really interesting. It’s called jazz. This is the vein I am working. Where Acadian music meets Black music. I like it and I feel right at home in this type of groove. To this Jambalya, I add plenty of Native American, French and classical elements. Yes, I went to Juilliard. Yes, I sing at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Yes, I write for and conduct Symphony Orchestras. Yes, I was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. But when I play folk music at a house concert, I am just that. I am a woman of the people, a down to earth, real person born on the 4th of July.
LM: You sing, play several instruments including the piano, accordion, cello, Native American flute, organ, buffalo drum, synthesizer, guitar and cavaquinho, as well as write memorable songs. When did you take an interest in music? Legere: I started playing the piano before age three. I reached up and could feel the keys. That is when I started. I began composing at six and I’ve been professional since age nine.
LM: What was the first instrument you learned how to play and why did you decide to pursue other instruments? Legere: In those days there was a strict division of instruments into “male” and “female.” The piano was feminine, a nice thing for a little girl to learn. My mother forbid me to play guitar. They directed me instead, to the cello, which was my main instrument for many years. My sister wanted to play drums and vibes. She was forced to play the flute. My other sisters played violin and viola so naturally I picked those up and started playing them. My grandfather played accordion. The accordion had fallen out of favor by the time I reached adolescence, but I found one in the attic. The minute I squeezed it I was hooked. The expressiveness of the reeds is like the sighting of the sun, the cries of immigrant populations! The accordion is the true instrument of the people! And what’s more, you can move while you play it. I love to hear the sound waves swirling around me as I stroll with my accordion.
When I got involved with performance art many of the galleries and museums where I played did not have a piano. The accordion was perfect.
I was signed to Epic records at 16. They said “Phoebe, don’t let anyone see you carrying THAT THING!” (the accordion was that thing). Now, as with so many of my visionary ideas, everyone realizes I was right all along. The whole world now knows the accordion is the hippest instrument. I have much more to say about the accordion and music as a mind control tool of government BTW
LM: You have a very impressive biography. Of all of your accomplishments, what was your proudest moment so far? Legere: Singing my poem, The Waterclown, with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in 2000. (Pulitzer Nomination 2000). The topic, water, the privatization of water and the importance of water in climate change has become one of the hottest topics in enviro-politics now. You can listen free to the mp3 on my website: http://www.phoebelegere.com/waterclown.html. Also hear me conducting and singing my classical chamber trio called STARS on the same page.
LM: Outside of music, you’ve also appeared in several cult films including Mondo New York and Toxic Avenger 2 & 3. Did you like your experience working on these films? Are you still actively pursuing film projects? Legere: I write movies and I make my living writing music for movies. I have a degree in film scoring from NYU. As my late friend Roger Vadim once said, “Film is a perfect synthesis of sound and image.”
I direct and produce all of my music videos. My movie The Shamancycle Story, (about my 15 person rideable eagle sculpture made from up cycled and re-purposed junk), had a limited run in art houses last year. It could be viewed as a 20 minute extended music video for my song “Love is Your Power,” but you can also hear me singing the traditional, 10,000 year old Creation Hymn in there too.
My early music videos, “Marilyn” and “Trust Me,” were collaborations with Nile Southern, Terry Southern’s son. I was very influenced by Terry Southern. Terry wrote Easy Rider, Doctor Strangelove, Candy, The Magic Christian, and most of Barbarella. He was an important writer until Nixon put him on the Enemies List after which he could not work in Hollywood.
Nile and I lived with Terry in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. Terry’s ideas about movies and writings were a profound influence.
LM: You’re also a painter who founded the New York Underground Museum in 2006 to preserve the works of artists whose works are not held by major institutions. Why is preserving these works so important to you? Legere: NYUM presents, preserves and curates the work of visionary artists whose work is not held by major institutions. In 2006 there was a show called the East Village show. I could not help but notice that women, artists of color, handicapped artists, ethic artists and Native Americans were not represented in this show. However, Madonna and Debbie Harry were in the show. This showed me how corporate culture not so subtly invades the world of high art. I wanted to create a zone of beauty and vision that was protected from the dominant money culture.
LM: What artists do you currently listen to? Legere: Daniel Lavoie, Congolese hip hop such as Baloji but also the hip hop made by 12 year old soldiers in the Congo.
I listen CDs made by families who sing the old Acadian songs, like “C’est d’même que ça commencé” by La famille Doiron who sang with me on my Canadian tour 2015, I listen to George Leonard and Ray Legere my cousin.
I listen to CD’s I made from Brown Wax cylinders created at the turn of the century by someone who went in and recorded the oldest Abenaki/Penobscot elders singing the old medicine songs, (the cylinders were in a flood so they were covered with mildew, hard to listen to, but I was (able to extract some basic Abenaki medicine motifs later, when I went to visit the Maliseet, who speak a very similar language to us, they had the same songs and we understood each other, you can hear me singing in this (language on “Blue Canoe Blues” (click on song title) on Soundcloud.)
I listen to the very old gospel recorded before it all became a business, I listen to the Smithsonian Folkways recordings.
I listen to the radio just to see how bad it is. Yes. I listen to Top 40 and I realize with horror that somebody has now created computer program to determine the words and images from the top three songs in each year for the past 30 years and that is how the music is being made now. You think a song was written by an inspired artist songwriter? No. Music is now ghost written by teams of writers who market test the lyrics on subject fitted with electrodes. I was on a major label for three years. Epic/Sony. I know how these people operate and they are beyond scared shitless. They leave nothing to chance. How about that song “Shut Up and Dance.” Yes consumers listen closely.
I listen closely to the top 10 songs to hear the subliminal messages embedded behind the lyrics. I listen to the machines used in the productions. Your consent is engineered.
I listen to RFI the French global internet radio station. They play a lot of African music that interests me. I play with an African drummer named Joachim Lartey. He knows 2000 West African shamanic drum beats. It’s kind of cool and sad that the Zulus are now doing house music. It sounds better than the crap I have to listen wherever I go in America, but African rhythms are one of the cultural treasures of the worlds and it’s tragic to see the Zulus handing their power to a machine. Africans used to say: “The drum is the voice of God!”
How do I know so much about Africa? I went to Africa in 1987 with Nile. We lived at Peter Beard’s Hog Ranch. We visited the Masai Mara. We lived with the Kikuyu tribesmen who had lived with Karen Blixen. I learned many things [such as] creativity, music, dance and costume.
That is how I got the idea for Hello Mrs. President, [which was] my musical about the first black woman President of the USA starring Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer LaVerne Baker and me as (the First Partner).
I listen to early early blues artists like Howling Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Son House, John Lee Hooker, Sunnyland Slim…you want me to go on? I was the Blues DJ on Sirius Radio for two years.’
I had a friend named Boris Rose who recorded all the radio broadcasts of the 40’s. That was when radio had good music. The major labels were still signing musical geniuses.
Boris made me cassettes of the broadcasts from the Royal Roost and the big ballrooms. He made tapes of the great boogie boogie and blues pianists who came through New York City and that’s how I developed my blues piano style, as well as spending a great deal of time in Louisiana with my grandmother. We are connected to all the Legere’s and Trahans in Eunice and Lafayette, LA. I listen to early New Orleans R&B. I love the period just after World War 2 when jazz was just morphing into rock ‘n roll. I love it.
I can’t get enough music. I never tire of it. I studied jazz piano with John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet but I have also hung out with and played with the best modern piano players from Nola’s great blind Henry Butler to my friend Billy Joel. Do I listen to Frank Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Big Joe Turner, Charles Trenet and Jacques Brel? You bet I do. I am an ear person. I listen to poetry being read by poets too. It is amazing what is available on YouTube.
My best listening time is when I am not listening. In the silence I hear my own symphonies, melodies, ideas and songs.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add for those reading this? Legere: I like music, I like musicians and I like people who like music. I like to listen in a group. Music is more important than people think. Music is the vibration that is creating the illusion of reality and music is the telescope that lets you see through the illusion. That is why, in the old days, before industrial music and machine music, music was the glue that held families together. That’s why they call it music harmony. I have created a free art and music camp for the high poverty at risk children of New York City. This is my passion. I am a natural teacher and that my greatest love is nurturing the visionary artists and musicians of the future.
Did you see the drums I made – White Eagle Drum and Golden Wolf Drum with Abenaki symbols? I’ll be playing them at Brick Hill House.
Born and raised in Israel and the youngest of seven children, Meytal Cohen started playing drums at age 18. After serving a mandatory two year stint in the Israeli Defense Force, Cohen relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a drumming career. She enrolled in the Los Angeles Music Academy and graduated with a degree.
It wasn’t easy at first, but Cohen caught her first big break when she and some of her friends filmed an audition video for America’s Got Talent of an electric string rendition of System of a Down’s “Toxicity.” The show didn’t think much of them, but the video went on to become a viral hit with almost 10 million views. As a result, she decided to continue uploading YouTube videos of her doing cover songs and her viewership has grown to over 120,000,000 views, with over 1,000,000 likes on Facebook.
Last December, Cohen headlined a sold out performance at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles and is embarking on a two-date East Coast tour that will hit Brighton Music Hall in Brighton, Mass., on March 24, 2015. At this show, she will play a mix of songs from her upcoming studio album of original tunes and covers that her fans have grown to know and love.
We recently caught up with Cohen who graciously answered our questions for this interview.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): You were born and raised in Israel, graduating with a theater major from Blich High School and serving for two years in the Israel Defense Force, before relocating to Los Angeles and enrolling in the Los Angeles Music Academy to focus on drumming. Why did you eventually decide to play the drums and relocate to Los Angeles? METYAL COHEN: I remember being drawn to drums from a young age, and even asking my mom if I could have a drum set. But she said no, and put me in the tap dancing class instead (I actually really liked it, it’s kind of similar to drumming in a way) Then, later on, in high school, I got into metal music and that really sparked my interest in drums again, as they’re so prominent in that style of music. So, I decided I was going to get a drum set and take lessons, even though my mom was still against it. I got a really shitty job till I was able to buy my first drum set and started taking drum lessons. My teacher at the time was a graduate from a music school in L.A. so I assume that’s how I got the idea in my head. When I eventually decided to go for it, I wasn’t playing for very long, but felt it was now or never type of thing. I was just released from the Israeli Defense Force and was supposed to go to med school, but then changed my plans and decided to relocate to Los Angeles and try to become a professional drummer. I figured I can always go study in a year or two if it didn’t work out. Of course, it didn’t work out in a year or two. It took way longer, but I just kept hoping and trying different ways to make it work. I really didn’t want to go to med school. It was really my mom that wanted that. LM: The Los Angeles Music Academy has world class drum instructors on their staff. How did your time there help you as a musician? COHEN: Since I wasn’t playing for very long when I enrolled at the L.A. Music Academy, I feel that I wasn’t really able to make the best of it. The true school for me was covering my favorite songs. I would pick songs that were way harder than what I was capable of playing, and worked my way into being able to play them. That helped me develop my ears as well as my technique. LM: Since attending the Los Angeles Music Academy, you’ve made a name for yourself. What advice would you give to aspiring female musicians, especially those that want to pursue drumming as a career? COHEN: Follow your heart, learn from but don’t compare yourself to other drummers, have patience, and remember there are no rules for how your success will come. LM: Your website contains a number of videos of you playing cover songs, including songs by Dream Theater, Rush, System of a Down and Tool. You’ve obviously invested a lot of time into your online videos and you’ve reached a jaw dropping number of views. What made you decide to start making drum videos? Did you expect them to become so popular online? COHEN: Me and some friends shot an audition video to America’s Got Talent of an electric string rendition of System of a Down’s “Toxicity.” The show didn’t think much of us, but the video went on to become a viral hit (almost 10 million views now). I was getting a lot of requests from people for more videos and I was practicing a few songs at the time already. So, I decided to shoot those covers, just by myself, as the girls at the time were busy with other projects. The response was pretty amazing. I have to give a lot of the credit to my boyfriend, Lior, who at the time was shooting the videos and editing them. He saw the amazing potential and really encouraged me to shoot more video. We decided to shoot 100 drum covers and see what happens as a result. I personally never imagined that I would gain so much support and feel incredibly fortunate. LM: Most of your drum covers are of metal, hard rock or progressive rock bands. What draws you to this type of music? How do you go about selecting a song to cover? COHEN: I was introduced to metal music through my first boyfriend when I was about 17. He gave me a mix tape and it had Pantera, Korn, Deftones, Metallica and some other amazing bands. I totally got into it and the best thing about it was the drumming. The songs I cover are a mix of my favorite songs and songs people request. LM: In some of your videos you are playing barefoot. Do you have a preference? Does it make a difference either way? COHEN: Lately, I’ve come to the realization that I have way more power with shoes on. My opinion already changed several times since I started playing. Both work! LM: Who are some of your biggest musical influences? COHEN: Tool would have to be my biggest influence. I love everything about that band. Danny Carey’s drum patterns, Maynard’s vocals, lyrics that make you feel, and melodies that are not that complicated and yet brilliant. LM: Given your strong following online, have your considered offering drum lessons online or even becoming a drum instructor someday? COHEN: No, I don’t think I’m the greatest teacher. Doing something and explaining how you do it are two very different things. LM: You played a sold out show at the Whiskey a Go Go in December. How did that show go? What was the audience reaction like to your set? COHEN: I was really nervous about that show, but it went great and it was amazing to meet everyone that’s been following and supporting me for so long. The response was overwhelmingly positive and so many good things have happened as a result. I was able to sign with a really good management and booking agencies, here in the U.S. and in Europe, and I was also offered two headlining shows in New York and in Boston this coming March. You should come out! LM: How much time do you spend rehearsing for a show with your band? COHEN: For this first show we did, I was practicing like a mad woman because I was so nervous, as it was the first time I played live since I made YouTube my home-base. As a band, we rehearsed for two weeks. My singer lives in Ohio and my guitarist lives in Salt Lake City, which makes practicing very expensive. For these next shows, we’ll probably only rehearse together once or twice before the show. LM: For your show at Brighton Music Hall in Brighton, MA, on March 24, will you be playing your own songs, covers or both? COHEN: We’ll be playing songs from my soon-to-be released album. I’ve posted a few of my original songs on my Facebook page already, and the response has been amazing with over 10,000 likes within the first day. We’ll definitely play a couple of covers too, after all that’s how it all began! LM: Do you already have a band in place for this show? If so, who will be performing with you on stage? COHEN: I’ve been so fortunate to collaborate with some amazingly talented musicians. My singer, Eric Emery, has the most amazing vocal range I’ve ever heard. My lead guitarist, Travis Montgomery, is like a machine with feel; my second guitarist, Doc Coyle, of God Forbid, needs no introduction, and my awesome bassist Anel Pedrero. LM: Given your versatility as a drummer, I would think you’d be in demand from other musicians. Are you open to collaborating with other musicians? COHEN: I’m always open for new and exciting opportunities! LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add? COHEN: Thank you so much for this interview!
The Stick Men is a progressive rock band formed in 2008, featuring musicians with extensive experience playing together. Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto are the rhythm section of the legendary progressive rock band King Crimson and Markus Reuter is a composer/guitarist who designs and plays his own unique touch style guitar. The Stick Men is a rock trio like no other. Playing instruments not seen or heard every day and writing captivating and challenging music, they embody the tradition of forward-looking rock music. On October 21, 2014, The Stick Men will perform their only New England date at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass., with special guest Mindset X (click on link for related story). We recently interviewed the band right before a charity show in Kingston, N.Y. where they discussed their music, touring, crowd funding, and what the future holds for the band.
Limelight Magazine (LM): The Stick Men have a gig at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass., on Oct. 21, 2014. Are you looking forward to this show? Tony Levin: Very much looking forward to it. Boston’s where I’m from, so getting back to the area to play is always special. (I do come in for Pats games when touring schedule permits it, and that’s great, but playing is even better.) Pat Mastelotto: Yes. Markus Reuter: I’m looking forward to this show, and the whole tour, very much.
LM: This is your only New England date on the tour. What can your fans expect from the band at this show? Tony Levin: We love sharing our music – Stick Men has been touring and recording for quite a few years now – so we can choose music from some past albums as well as the new one. We will also play some King Crimson pieces, a no brainer, since two of us, Pat and myself, are members of Crimson, and we all love that music. And we do our version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” And we love to improvise too, so there’ll be some musical surprises, even for us. Markus Reuter: We are about to release a “Best Of” compilation and our set list will reflect that. So we will be looking back by playing songs we haven’t played in a long time, but we’ll also play some new pieces.
LM: How does the band decide on a set list? I’ve seen you perform several King Crimson songs in the past, but now that you have a few studio albums under your belt will it lean more toward that material? Tony Levin: Good question, and we do vary it from show to show, so we’ll only decide on that day which of the pieces we’ll do. Markus Reuter: I guess we’ll still be playing two Crimson songs in the set. The rest has always been our material.
LM: The band’s music is often described as being complex and adventurous. How would you describe your music to a first time listener? Tony Levin: We try to be ‘progressive’ in the real sense of the word, not simply by playing “Prog rock music”…so we look at our music as a growing thing, and don’t keep going out to do the same thing. This year we’re in writing mode, exploring ideas for next year’s album, and at some point in the show we’ll probably give some early exploratory versions of those ideas. Pat Mastelotto: Two, two-handed guitar bass tappers going at it. Markus Reuter: It’s essentially rock music. Very visceral and groovy.
LM: Giving the complex nature of your music, are there any songs that you perform live that end up being more difficult than you expected?
Tony Levin: When you’re playing complex music, any piece can suddenly become really hard — sometimes they’re based on different players playing intermeshed parts, or separate time signatures, and if anybody has a little glitch, well, you don’t meet up where you thought you would, and some quick adjusting needs to be done. I’d say that happens pretty regularly, and we’re always pleased when we survive it. Pat Mastelotto: All of them 🙂 Markus Reuter: Yes, some are harder than others. The devil is in the details usually. Some pieces require extreme concentration while others require physical stamina, for example.
LM: Your rhythm section just wrapped up a tour with King Crimson on Oct. 6 and you’re wasting no time at starting up the tour with The Stick Men. Did you go straight into rehearse mode after the Crimson gigs? How much time does the band generally devote to rehearsing? Tony Levin: Our rehearsal periods vary a lot, depending on what schedules allow. This time it’s a bit nuts…the Crimson tour finished in Seattle and Stick Men have a benefit show (today, actually) here in Kingston, NY – then Pat will run home to Texas while Markus and I rehearse a few days, for the tour starting next week! Next February, I’ll go to Berlin, where Markus lives, and we’ll rehearse there for a week, getting ready for spring touring. Pat Mastelotto: King Crimson had about seven weeks of rehearsals spread throughout 2014. Stick Men will get one day Markus Reuter: We usually do very little rehearsing.
LM: On your last studio album, Deep, you used PledgeMusic to help fund the project. How did the idea come about to use a crowd funding source? Tony Levin: That worked out well – we’re very appreciative of the fans who help us out to a higher degree by pre-ordering the CD and other stuff – in a band, financing the recording is an issue, and often you want to do more…like have a DVD with some video and extra bits, but the costs have to be paid before making it, and a lot of bands don’t have the backing or funds for that. So getting advance funding from the campaign allowed us to make a more extensive and better product for Deep than we would have been able to without it. I don’t see us doing that kind of sourcing for some years, because you don’t want to lean too heavily on your biggest fans – they’ve already been kind enough. Markus Reuter: We wanted to release Deep also as a 5.1 mix on DVD plus a concert
movie, so we needed much more funds. It was wonderful to see how much support we got from our fans.
LM: Do you feel that crowd founding platforms have enabled musicians who may not normally have label support to keep the focus on the music and to stay in touch with their fans? Pat Mastelotto: Yes. Certainly. Markus Reuter: Yes, but it seems this is already over. The major labels are now plugging into the same pool.
LM: Can we expect any new music from The Stick Men on the horizon? Tony Levin: This tour we’re bringing back some cool pieces from our past that we haven’t done in a while and, as said before, we’re giving some glimpses of the upcoming music from next year. To make that music really the best it can be, we’ll have many periods together rehearsing and recording until we feel it’s right. Since we’ll do that in both Berlin, Germany, and Austin, Texas (where Pat is based) it should have quite an international feel to it! Markus Reuter: Some time in 2016. And I hope we’ll play some of the new music live before an album release.
LM: This band has been together for over five years now. Besides having one lineup change, how has this configuration of the band evolved? Tony Levin: We’re very comfortable musically with each other — not a surprise with Pat and I having been touring together since mid-90’s in King Crimson! I think in a live show the chemistry among the players is part of the fun of the show, and hopefully it shows with us that we enjoy each other musically. Pat Mastelotto: Actually it’s been about seven years. The configuration really hasn’t changed since Tony remains a Chapman Stick and I remain on acoustic and electronic drums and percussion. The change to Marcus was too a very similar instrument but Marcus’s style of playing is completely different. With the next recordings, we hope to re-introduce more vocals back into the songs.
LM: Along the same lines, what do you like most about playing with these guys? Pat Mastelotto: I love the level of musicianship and commitment. Markus Reuter: I guess it’s the fact that we’re creating “music” and that there’s actually an audience that wants to hear it.
LM: You all have such diverse resumes. Is there anyone you haven’t performed with that you would like to in the future? Pat Mastelotto: Hendrix and Lennon but I’m not in a hurry. Markus Reuter: I’m open to whatever happens. I do want to move further, for sure.
LM: After this tour, what’s next for everyone in the band? Tony Levin: Right after our Mexico City show, I will go to Europe for a Peter Gabriel tour that ends in early December and I can finally catch some Pats games in chilly December. Then January we’ll be writing music separately, hook up in Berlin in February to start bouncing it around. Looking at Far East and S. American tours in March thru May, then getting that album done in the Summer. We all are part of a music camp in August, called Three of a Perfect Pair Camp, in the Catskills… so that’s about as far ahead as I can guess at. Pat Mastelotto: About a week after this tour ends in Mexico City I’ll be going back to Europe to tour with the Slovakian guitar player David Kollar, that’s only about 10 shows – and then after our last show in Prague, I’ll go to Sweden to work with IB Expo which will include Mel Collins from King Crimson. Markus Reuter: I will be taking three months off of touring.
New England is a four-piece rock band from Boston, Mass. The lineup includes John Fannon (guitar and vocals), Hirsh Gardner (drums and vocals), Gary Shea (bass), and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards and vocals). The band released their self-titled debut album, New England, on Infinity/MCA Records in 1979. It was produced by Mike Stone and Paul Stanley of KISS and contained the Top 40 single “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya.” After touring throughout most of 1979, they released their second album Explorer Suite in 1980 and their third album Waking Wild in 1981. The band also spent a lot of time on the road, touring with bands such as AC/DC, Journey, Kiss, Rush, among others. They eventually broke up due to a lack of support from their record label. While the band reunited for a few short sets since then, New England is reuniting for their first full length concert since 1983 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass., on August 15, 2014. We recently caught up with the band during rehearsals for this show in Boston. We’re very grateful that every band member answered all of our questions and we look forward to catching the show on August 15th. For tickets, click HERE.
Limelight Magazine (LM):New England is performing its first full length show since 1983 with all four original members at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA, on August 15. How did this reunion concert come about? John Fannon: Although this will be our first full headline show in over 30 years, we did a charity event last year playing about six songs and it was like we were frozen in time. Rocking like it was 1979! We knew we had to play more and here we are. Hirsch Gardner: We’ve done a couple of shows over the years, usually just a short set of some of our most popular tunes. We had such a great time playing together and hanging out that we thought a full show would be great for us and the fans. Gary Shea: We had played a few benefit shows over the past few years the most recent one being last summer at The Cafe Royal. We decided it was time to have fun playing more than the occasional gig. Jimmy Waldo: We have actually been playing every year since 2005 in Boston, but not a full show.
LM:Did you ever expect to perform again with all four original members? John Fannon: Yes, I always knew we would. It took a long time traveling down many individual, artistic paths but we have come full circle and are having a great time hanging out together and most important playing music! Hirsch Gardner: Yeah…it was inevitable. Not only do we love playing together but the comments from the fans on the social media sites were inspiring. Gary Shea: There has never been talk of performing with anyone else. It would never be the same. We are lucky that we all are very involved in the music business live as well as in the studio. Jimmy Waldo: Yes, we have always been good friends and worked on each other’s projects. It was always in our minds to get together and start playing again.
LM:This past week you’ve been rehearsing in Boston. How have rehearsals been going? John Fannon: Rehearsals were great. We could feel that same energy we always had. Playing these songs I think we all felt, “wow we were pretty dam good!” Hirsch Gardner: Once we stopped laughing, joking and horsing around, rehearsals went great. It takes a lot of work to get some of that muscle memory back in shape, and just getting in shape physically is a challenge. New England is a very powerful and intense musical endeavor. Gary Shea: Again this is not our first get together, that was back in 2005. The rehearsals went very well and this concert is the first time we will be headlining again and doing our whole show and we are very excited about that. Jimmy Waldo: These rehearsals have gone great. We’ve had a blast playing songs from all three albums. The chemistry we’ve always had was there.
LM:What can fans expect from New England at this show? John Fannon: Everything they remember and more. Playing live, New England has always sounded just like the “record” coming through a giant stereo. Hirsch Gardner: Like I said, it is very powerful and intense. We play the same now as we did back in the day. This ain’t no mamby pamby cover band and we ain’t taking any prisoners. Gary Shea: We are going to perform some material that was recorded on our albums but never done live in concert. It`s going to be a blast for us musically and hopefully our fans will really enjoy it. Also, it’s a very audience friendly venue where we will all be up close and in person. No bad seats or sound. Jimmy Waldo: A lot of energy. The songs we have picked for this show are really rockin’ and we will be doing some totally acoustic songs as well.
LM: Is this a one-off show or is there a possibility of additional tour dates in the future? John Fannon: There will definitely be more dates coming. We are committed to playing new and old music together into the future and beyond! Hirsch Gardner: We’ll play as opportunities arise. Gary Shea: We have been back together for a few years and logistics are now prevailing that allow us to play together much more than before. We are very excited about that. We hope to get around the country again, as well as Europe and Japan where we also have fans. Jimmy Waldo: We will be doing more shows as well as some European and Japanese shows.
LM: Has there been any consideration yet to recording new music? John Fannon: Yes we are working on some new material and will be playing a new song at the show. Hirsch Gardner: We have and hope to release some by the time we gig. Gary Shea: Yes, we have been working on new music over the years and may do a new tune live. Playing a new song live before recording it always hones the arrangement and content. Jimmy Waldo: Yes, we have been working on new material for the last year or so. We all have studios which makes it very easy to collaborate on new material.
LM: Your debut album, New England, contained the Top 40 single “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya,” which is the song most people associate with the band. What was it like for the band having success right from the start? John Fannon: It was a dream come true…I remember our caravan of truck, cars and tour bus driving to one of our first headline shows in Denver and “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” came on the radio. We all stopped on the side of the road, got out and were dancing in the streets. It was such an awesome feeling. We knew “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” was playing all around the world and there it was in real life! Hirsch Gardner: Dream come true. Touring with the likes of ACDC, Journey, Rush, Cheap Trick, Kiss and headlining venues like Santa Monica Civic, The Fox Theater in Atlanta. It couldn’t have been more fun. Gary Shea: Ha! This band was together for 10 years under a few different names, playing all over the Northeast, Canada and the Midwest. There was no overnight success. We actually broke up in 1975 and reformed in recording only mode for three years to get a record deal. That`s when we had six major label presidents and managers coming to our studio in Braintree, Mass. It was then that we chose to call ourselves New England, for musical influences and knowing that if any band around here dared to use that name the had better be damn good. It was very exciting to tour all the arenas in North America and be accepted as a peer to many of the great bands of the time. Very rewarding and humbling. We also made some amazing fans over the years that are coming across the country to this show. Jimmy Waldo: It was amazing. We grew into it very quickly with all the touring we did following that record. Our first 20 or 30 shows were all headline shows in 2,000 to 4,000 seaters.
LM: That album was produced by Mike Stone (Queen, Asia) and Paul Stanley of KISS. What was it like working with both producers? John Fannon: It was awesome! Mike was recommended to us by Brian May and we all loved how the Queen records sounded so we obviously said “bring him on” and he did not disappoint. Mike was not only an incredible engineer, but also a wonderful person to be around. We became great friends. Paul Stanley brought star power and confidence to the project. Even though our music was 99 percent developed and arranged going into the recording sessions, his input and presence was invaluable! Paul also gave us a taste of celebrity status just hanging out with him in L.A., NYC, and London. It was a magical time for the band. Hirsch Gardner: Mike was a genius at the board. The sound of our first two albums still stands up with some of the best productions today. Paul was also great to work with. Gary Shea: It was very inspirational to have a team with major experience recording and a successful track record making heavy rock music. We had other offers but we chose Mike and Paul for their commitment and love of our music. We had a great time recording in L.A. New York, and London. When the album came out, it was very rewarding after so much sweat, tribulations, vision, and hard work to see it do well for us. Jimmy Waldo: Mike was an amazing engineer who had done some of the best bands on the planet. Paul came from a more musical place as a writer and performer.
LM: Does anyone in the band still keep in touch with Paul Stanley? John Fannon: No, we don’t. I wish we could. Hirsch Gardner: I stayed in touch with the KISS guys after New England for a short while. Jimmy, Gary and I put together a band with Vinnie Vincent when Gene (Simmons) suggested we get together with him. Other than that there has been no contact. Gary Shea: Over the years we have seen each other on and off. I last saw Paul last summer in Detroit on the Kiss/Motley Crue tour. We share the pride in knowing we all did a great job together and made some enduring music. Jimmy Waldo: Not really.
LM: When bands have success right out of the gate, there’s usually pressure from the record label to create another hit single. How much pressure was placed on the band when you recorded your sophomore effort, Explorer Suite? John Fannon: I wouldn’t say we felt any pressure. I think the timing was a bit sudden and surprising because we were having so much success touring. Once we were home we just continued to do what we loved to do. Create new music. I will say with great regrets, I don’t think the record or management company knew what they had with Explorer Suite. It went right over their heads and yet this is still critically acclaimed as one of the best classic albums of all time. Kind of bitter sweet. Hirsch Gardner: Well if there was pressure from the record company there was as much amongst the band but not pressure in a negative way. We wanted a hit single and worked very hard to achieve that. Gary Shea: Every band is faced with the second album pressure. We were lucky in that we had a lot of material plus new songs we were working on at that time. Of course the label wants success again, we all do. Our problem was never the music. It was the roller coaster of the music business itself. Jimmy Waldo: Elektra wasn’t as involved in the process as much as we would have liked. They really liked and accepted the record that we delivered and decided on “Explorer Suite” as a single, based on Queen’s success with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
LM: Your third album, Walking Wild, was produced by another big name musician, Todd Rundgren, who stripped the layered production of the first two albums. Was this a conscious effort by him and the band to go in a “leaner” direction or did it just evolve during the recording process? John Fannon: That was a conscious effort of Todd’s. He had a very different style of production and sound. He did have some great musical ideas and direction for the songs especially vocal harmonies and string parts. We made this record in two weeks. Pretty amazing! I remember him telling me, “This is a great record. Don’t let Elektra F. it up.” Hirsch Gardner: We had always loved Todd’s production and songwriting skills so I think that is what brought us to him. The album reflects all of that: his production style, songwriting and arrangements. Gary Shea: We hired Todd because we were all big Nazz fans and having a very musical producer really appealed to us. There was no leaner decision, it was just how that music at that time needed to be built. There are still big vocal parts and strings bit like you say, it was just the evolution of the recording. That whole album by the way was written in two weeks at Todd`s Utopia Warehouse and recorded and mixed in under two weeks at his home studio in Woodstock. We are very proud of our achievement in pulling that off. The band had been playing together every day, all day, for over six years at that point and we were very tight musically. Jimmy Waldo: I think it was a bit of both. We did a few songs, which had a more layered production on that record, which Todd really liked. But we also did songs like “Holdin’ Out on Me” and “Be My Dirty Dream,” which were basic rock and roll. They just didn’t need as much of a heavy layered approach as our first two records.
LM: Sadly, New England didn’t get much label support after your debut album. How much of an influence did that have on the band’s breakup at the time? John Fannon: I think it had everything to do with the breakup. Hirsch Gardner: By the end of the third album and tour we had played together since 1973. I think we were all pretty beat at that point. Gary Shea: It was a huge factor. On both the second and third albums that were released on Elektra Records, the label picked singles that were not what we had envisioned. We chose “Conversation” on our second album for a single, but they said they wanted to showcase our musicality with “Explorer Suite.” Along with Todd on our third album, Walking Wild, we chose “Don`t Ever Let Me Go” which also featured Todd playing a guitar solo harmony with John. They chose “DDT” instead and a lot of female radio people didn`t like the humor and refused to play it. Jimmy Waldo: We couldn’t continue making records and touring without a label’s financial support, so we decided to all pursue other projects. We didn’t stop working together because of personal issues – we had no way to make records or tour anymore. In those days there was no Protools, or high quality home recording. It was very expensive to make a record.
LM: Out of three albums you recorded, which one is your personal favorite? John Fannon: Although I love all three albums, Explorer Suite is my personal favorite. My goal was to write songs that would give each of us even more space to showcase our creativity and diversity as musicians. I think we got there. Hirsch Gardner: All of them. I still marvel over the playing, songwriting, sound of those albums. I’m a pretty big fan of New England!!! Gary Shea: I like all three for many various reasons, whether it’s the song, the parts I played, or what was happening at the time. They are all great little stories and we gave them all our love and attention. Jimmy Waldo: That’s a tough question. I really like all three for different reasons. All the songs on all three were really good. As a keyboard player, each album brought new challenges for me, which I loved.
LM: For anyone out there who is on the fence about coming to the show on August 15, what’s the number one reason why they should attend this show? John Fannon: Rehearsals have been ROCKIN’. We still have that same powerful melodic sound and energy wrapped around great songs that has always been New England, and we are looking forward to debuting a new song! Come join us on August 15 at the Regent Theater in Arlington, Mass., strap on your seat belt and get ready for AN HISTORIC NIGHT OF POWER ROCK!!! Hirsch Gardner: Who’s on the fence?!?!?! Give me there name and address!!!!!! Gary Shea: Come down and see a real rock band that can play and sing its ass off melodically without sounding wimpy. No auto tune, no pre-recorded backing tracks, just four guys that have devoted their lives for that two hour moment in the limelight. We won`t disappoint. Jimmy Waldo: We are a great band, that has great songs, and plays them live with lots of energy. We all love playing together and it shows. It’s a great show with lots of dynamics.
After seemingly calling it quits forever in 2009, veteran heavy metal band Metal Church reunited last year and released their 10th studio album Generation Nothing. The album marked a return to the classic metal sound of the band’s first two studio albums, Metal Church (1984) and The Dark (1986), while still sounding contemporary. We recently caught up with vocalist Ronny Munroe just days before their month long tour of the United States.
Limelight Magazine (LM): In 2009, Metal Church announced on its website that they were “calling it quits” due to a number of industry-related factors. What was the chain of events that brought the band back together again?
Ronny Munroe (RM): Basically [Metal Church founder and lead guitarist] Kurdt [Vanderhoff] called and said we had an offer from 70000 Tons of Metal (a heavy metal festival that takes place annually aboard the cruise ship the MS Majesty of the Seas] and what did I think about putting the band back together and I said, “of course, let’s do it.”
LM: Did you ever expect to be working with Metal Church again?
RM: Yes, I knew it would happen when it was supposed to happen and it did.
LM:You’re now the longest serving vocalist for Metal Church with four studio albums under your belt. How did you end up getting the position a decade ago?
RM: I went to audition for Kurdt’s “Vanderhoof” project actually and then I mentioned “hey why don’t we do Metal Church?” And after a lot of thought on Kurdt’s part he finally called me and said, “so you wanna do Metal Chuch, let’s do it.”
LM: Metal Church could have easily rested on its laurels and went out on the road playing material from their previous studio albums, but the band decided to record a new album. Was that always the plan when the band reformed?
RM: Yes, it was. We figured if we were to do the cruise show and have all that exposure that it would be a good time to do a new record. But more importantly, we wanted to give the fans the best possible record we could and I think we did that with Generation Nothing.
LM: Reaction to Generation Nothing has been nothing short of stellar. We didn’t think it could get any better than your last studio album This Present Wasteland but it did. Are you pleased with the reaction to it?
RM: I am very pleased with the outcome and the reaction of the true fans of the band, but I am eager to do the next one.
LM: Can you share with us a little about the recording process for the album?
RM: It starts with Kurdt writing and recording demos and then sending them to me to listen too and then write too. We work out the harmony lines and collaborate on the lyrics. But it has always started with Kurdt. He’s a great writer.
LM: What’s your favorite song off Generation Nothing and why?
RM: I dig the whole record which is odd for me to say because I usually don’t listen to my own recordings, but this one I do. I’ll pick ‘Bulletproof’ because it’s about growing thick skin so the B.S. just bounces off.
LM: Metal Church is about to embark on a month long tour of the U.S. Are you looking forward to being on the road again?
RM: It’s going to be great to get out there and see and play for the fans again. It’s been a few years but we have the metal burning in our veins and were ready to bring it!
LM: What can your fans expect from this tour?
RM: A great night of music first off and just a bunch of guys having a great time playing and singing their asses off.
LM: Given the bands extensive catalog of music with three different singers, how does the band decide on a set list?
RM: We just pick what has always worked best and then throw in a couple different ones just to change it up a bit.
LM: Every member of the band is involved with a lot of different side projects. Will the band members continue with their side projects now that Metal Church is back together?
RM: Metal Church is a main priority for each and every one of us, but let’s be real. We’re not big enough to just survive on what this band makes. It’s more for the love of music. So yes we will continue doing our side stuff.
LM: One thing that really stands out about this band is that you are actively engaged with your fans, especially on your personal Facebook pages. What do you like most about engaging with your fans?
RM: The fans are everything to me/us. If we don’t have the fans then we’re just playing to ourselves. More importantly, it’s good to talk with people and find out what they’re about and how our music has touched or helped them.
LM: What’s the best part about being in this band for you personally?
RM: Getting to sing such thrash metal classics and having the opportunity to spread the metal love around the world and do some good.
LM: Apart from music, what do you do in your free time?
RM: Spend time with the kids and take wildlife pictures. When I’m not devouring the stage, I like to relax.
LM: Any final thoughts or comments?
RM: Thank you for the time and I hope to see all of you on the road one day soon!
As British hard rock pioneers UFO prepare to bring their show to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on Oct. 14, guitar hero Vinnie Moore took time out to chat with Paul Bielatowicz about his life-long love affair with music.
The name Vinnie Moore was revered in guitar circles long before he joined veteran British rockers UFO. Moore began playing guitar at the age of 12, “I got my first guitar for Christmas. I was really into guitar bands and wanted to play because of Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Brian May.” However, his first encounter with the instrument almost proved to be his last, “It was much more difficult than I had expected, and I almost quit.” Thankfully, Moore persevered, “There was a love, and that kept me going. As I progressed it seemed to become easier and more natural. At about the two-year mark I got more serious and started practicing for a couple of hours a day. Soon after that I became obsessed, and at that point I couldn’t stop because the guitar owned my soul!”
Moore began playing in local bands and, a few years later, a major guitar magazine featured him as an up-and-coming star. It was this article that led to his first big break, “A production company in Los Angeles was casting for a Pepsi TV ad which featured a rock guitarist. They saw my write up in Guitar Player Magazine and gave me a call one January evening. The next morning I was on a plane to L.A. I went through the audition process and was chosen to do the music for 30 and 60 second versions of the commercial. It was just amazing for me, hearing my playing on national television a few times a day. The ad was a great kick starter for my career as it helped create a bit of a buzz before my first record came out.” The ‘buzz’ did the trick, and his debut solo album was a huge success – seemingly overnight, Vinnie Moore had arrived!
Over the years, Moore has enjoyed a long and varied career. “Being a solo artist, a member of UFO, playing with Alice Cooper, guesting on several projects… man, it’s all been great and I feel very fortunate. There have been many highlights but I think that maybe the journey itself has been the best part.”
Aside from his reputation as a performer, Moore has also earned a name for himself as a world-class teacher. His two tuition videos, released back in the 80s, provided guitarists with an insight to the closely guarded secrets of a virtuoso guitarist. Today, Moore is still involved in teaching – when he’s not on tour or in the studio he can often be found giving guitar master classes. Asked what advice he gives to students, he responds, “I think that love and passion are the most important things. If you have those first, then all the other things will somehow fall into place. Listen to as much music as you can because you will learn from it all. Find a teacher because that will help you learn things more quickly. And find a group of friends who play, because you will learn from one another. Just play as much as you can. I learnt a lot from my teacher, listening to records and from playing in bands with guys who were more accomplished than I was. But nothing helps as much as sitting in the bedroom and putting the time in.”
Speaking to Moore, it’s clear that his childhood love and passion for the guitar is still very much alive. He remains hungry for musical development and the continued perfection of his art, “If I didn’t feel like I was making some sort of progression I would probably quit. This is what keeps it exciting for me. Music is so incredibly infinite and there is always something new to learn and explore. It’s not something where you learn it all and then you’re done. There always seems to be something that you didn’t know about before; it’s amazing what can be done with 12 notes.”
UFO is a band with a rich heritage of guitar players – Michael Schenker (Scorpions), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), and bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, The Winery Dogs) count among Moore’s predecessors. Moore has been a permanent fixture in their line-up for the past decade, appearing on four studio albums, including last year’s critically acclaimed release Seven Deadly that returned the band back to the charts. Although UFO boast a serious pedigree and have indelibly carved their name into rock history, one can’t help but notice their desire to have fun and enjoy the ride. This goodtime attitude is evident in their music and performance. Concertgoers can expect, “A lot of energy and inspiration. We do this because we still love expressing ourselves in front of an audience. The day that I don’t feel that, then I don’t want to do it anymore. We give every show our all and feed off the energy from the crowd. Song-wise you will hear something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
With a career spanning 30 years and counting, Moore’s eyes remain fixed firmly on the future, aiming to, ”Continue doing what I love, keep being inspired and fascinated by music and keep playing for people.” With a new solo album in the pipeline, Moore’s hunger and love for his art continues to propel him forward on his musical journey, as he wows audiences worldwide.
Louis St. August and Gene D’Itria of the Revere-based rock band MASS, who received considerable airplay on MTV and radio with their single “Do You Love Me” in the 1980s, will open the show with a rare acoustic set.
The Narrows Center for the Arts is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets can be purchased online at www.narrowscenter.org, by calling 508-324-1926, or in person at the box office. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and during all shows.
Bringing great entertainment to New England since 2011!