Julie Slick: As Slick as it gets

This story is taken from the Summer 2010 issue of Limelight Magazine.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

PHILADELPHIA – Bassist Julie Slick, who makes up one third of the Adrian Belew Power Trio, has just released her self-titled debut solo album. At the young age of 24, the Philadelphia native said music has always been a huge part of her life.

“My parents are such music freaks,” she said. “They would play a lot of vinyl’s for us all the time. Every Friday night we would have music appreciation day. We would have a dance party and my mom would put on the Beatles, Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, and stuff like that.”

The “us” Slick is referring to is herself and her brother Eric, who is only a mere 15 months younger than his sister. She said when Eric was a toddler their parents bought him bongos and ended up getting him a drum set by the time he was five years old.

“He was banging on his crib in perfect rhythm,” Slick said.

She said finding her instrument of choice wasn’t as simple.

“I had messed around with keyboards a little bit and I tried to learn guitar when I was nine or ten, but I was a shy kid so guitar didn’t seem right for me,” Slick said. “I had trouble staying focused with it and learning solos.”

Never feeling completely comfortable with keys or guitar, she was still determined to connect with an instrument. Her father had a Fretless Gibson Ripper bass and when she was 11 years old, she figured she’d give it a try.

“My dad had a super long scale bass and it was pretty much bigger than I was at the time,” Slick said. “I just thought to myself, ‘with this thing I can just hide in the corner and I don’t have to learn any chords or solos.’”

As her skills as a bassist began to form, Slick grew interested in the music of Cream.

“My first main influence would be Jack Bruce,” she said. “My dad showed me a couple of bass lines from songs like ‘Politician’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love,’ and we had old VHS tapes of Cream concerts we would watch.”

Slick said she even painted her first bass, a Squire Music Master, just like Bruce’s Fender Bass VI Baritone, also known as a baritone guitar.

“I was really into drawing and painting at that time, too,” she said.

Once she really began to excel, her father introduced her to jazz bassist Stanley Clark as well as Chris Squire of the band Yes. Squire particularly inspired Slick because he’s a pick player.

“I mostly play with a pick and I love that Rickenbacker sound,” she said.

By the time she was in high school, Slick began her education at the School of Rock, an after school music program for talented young musicians.

“At the School of Rock, I found kids that had similar interests and wanted to jam,” she said. “I found a really good community there.”

The only person that ever attempted to discourage Slick was a reporter from a local radio station that visited the school.

“He was just being a total jerk to everybody,” she said. “He pulled me aside and was like, ‘don’t you feel weird here being a girl? There are mostly boys here.’ I just wanted to punch him in the face.”

While she may have been irritated for a moment, Slick said she is ultimately proud to be a female bassist.

“It’s not a typical instrument for girls to play,” she said. “I’m a pretty competitive person so I really never let it get to me.”

She said her competitive nature drove her to practice more. Since her brother always was cast on the best songs the School of Rock had their students learn and then perform onstage, Slick made she sure she was cast on the same songs.

“I would work really hard so we could be together,” she said. “We’re very close.”

Over the years, the two of them grew as musicians and quickly became a tight rhythm section. At this time, they were heavily influenced by Adrian Belew’s band King Crimson. In 2006, Belew, an innovative guitarist who is know for his unusual approach to guitar playing, which features bizarre electronic tones, unorthodox playing techniques and a wide variety of sonic effects, asked the two of them to go on tour with him as the Arian Belew Power Trio.

“The tour was booked while I only had five weeks left of school,” Slick said. “Luckily, my teacher allowed me to submit my work online. It was kind of funny because my teacher could see how my music was influenced by playing with (Belew) the last weeks of the semester.”

She said her parents were “super excited” when they found out both she and Eric were going on tour with Belew.

“My parents are my biggest supporters and as soon as I told my mom it was as if I told her I had won the lottery,” she laughed. “My dad was giving us big hugs. They have all of King Crimson on vinyl.”

Slick said because she and Eric have been playing together their whole lives and come from the
same musical background they are very comfortable when performing together in front of a live audience.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I think (Belew) has a lot of fun with that too because he never has to worry about the rhythm section falling apart. He can go off into outer space with his guitar playing and not have to think about what me and Eric are doing. The three of us incorporate a lot if improvisation in our sets and I always look forward to those types of sets.”

While Belew is the composer of the music the Power Trio plays, Slick said she was fortunate enough to be able to write her own bass lines and improvise on a few songs on their studio album, “e”.

“It was really a treat to be able to do that,” she said. “It was an honor.”

After playing with the Power Trio for three years, the band took some time off and Slick used that time to write her solo debut album.

“I actually put on my blog as a new year’s resolution, ‘I’m going to make a solo album this year,’” she said. “I hadn’t written much before but I’m fortunate to have a home studio. I’ve been collecting recording equipment longer than I’ve been playing bass. I captured some of what I had been working on and suddenly I had ‘Shadow Trip’ written.”

Slick said she got “addicted to the process” and had five songs complete after two weeks.

“I had no intention of making the album that soon,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘wow. I think I can actually do this. I can make an album.’”

Because she doesn’t sing, she said the thought of having vocals on her album wasn’t even an option.

“I went into melodies that were singable enough that you wouldn’t really miss the vocals,” she said. “But, I sampled my voice and pitched it up and used it on tracks four and eight because I wanted it to have a human element.”

She said a lot of the melodies on her new CD are actually being played on bass.

“I have this Roland pick up that can convert a signal into MIDI and a Roland VB-99 module which takes that signal and is able to process it and turn it into sounding like a guitar or an organ or various synthesizers,” Slick said. “I would say I’m influenced by (Belew) in that way. He has so many sounds.”

During the processes of writing, recording, and producing her album on her own, she felt as if she needed some sort of outside source to bounce ideas off. Naturally, she turned to her brother.

“Even though he wasn’t around that much because he was touring with Dr. Dog, Eric was a major creative consultant for the new album,” she said. “Whenever I was working on a song I’d invite him over or e-mail him a song and ask him what he thought. He helped me a lot with ‘February’ and ‘The Rivalry.’”

For more drums, Eric suggested she contact drummer Marco Minnemann. On a whim, she emailed Minnemann and asked if he would be interested in playing on her album. After getting his permission, she sent him a sample of one of her songs.

“I sent the e-mail, went to bed and the next morning he sent back three different takes of the song already completed,” Slick said. “I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ That’s when I got the idea to ask more people.”

Slick also asked Pat Mastelotto from King Crimson for a musical contribution and although he was in South America, he sent her his track within a day. When she asked Robert Fripp, the founder of King Crimson, she doubted he would be interested. Regardless, she sent him an e-mail and within a couple hours he replied and told her that while he was busy with his own projects, he was more than happy to let her sample some of his soundscapes.

“I was like, ‘you bet I’m going to use some,” she laughed. “I went and picked out a couple of sounds that jumped out at me. Sometimes, the sounds would lead to me changing the direction of the song I was writing.”

With the album complete, Slick has already sold many copies simply by promoting it on social networks online.

“This whole CD was my big experiment and I’m impressed with myself that I could put it out so quickly and got the responses I got,” she said. “If there’s more positive feedback I would definitely consider doing a tour or opening for somebody.”

In fact, she will get the chance to open for Belew at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey, on June 30th and at World Café Live her hometown of Philadelphia on July 1st.

“It’s forcing me to put on a one person show because (Belew’s) doing a one man show,” she said. “I hope to play more shows in the future.”

She will also be going on a brief tour of Europe with the Power Trio this October-November, but Eric won’t be with them this time around. Interestingly enough, the replacement drummer is Minnemann.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what it will be like because I haven’t really worked with any other drummers on stage,” Slick said. “It will be interesting, especially the improvising part of the set.”

She did admit she will miss her baby brother while she is on the road.

“It might be different in the van,” she said. “I won’t be with goofy Eric making jokes and acting like Dr. Phil.”

Nevertheless, she said she is excited to go to Europe because she enjoys exploring the area when the band has down time. A few of her favorite places are Quebec City, Australia, and Tokyo.

“In Tokyo, we had a residency where we played at the same club for a week,” Slick said. “During the day, we just got to walk around and I did a lot of people watching.”

She said she spent a lot of time in Harajuku, the fashion district, because everyone was dressed exotically and elaborately.

“I was determined to get a pair of sneakers while I was there and I got this really bright pair,” Slick said. “I still have them and I really like them.”

Unfortunately, she said she doesn’t have the luxury to be able to see the sights in each and every place she gigs.

“I’ve been to Italy twice now and we just passed through it,” she said. “I’m sure if we had a day off in every city we visited I would fall in love with every one. But, what’s cool is we do meet and greet after every show and we get a sense of what the people are like in that area.”

No matter what, Slick said she always makes sure to taste the local food, as she and Belew both love to eat.

“The best food ever was in Turkey,” she said. “We had our guide take us to a Turkish restaurant and it’s funny because it’s such a meat centric diet over there and I’m a vegetarian. But, they just put out 20 courses of the most amazing cheeses, breads, vegetables and spreads.”

She said she tries to find the best places that serve traditional food and when she gets home she is always antsy to cook and recreate the dishes she dined on.

“I love cooking,” she said. “It’s enjoyable and really relaxing. When I was 17, I started watching Food Network obsessively. The first thing I ever made was chicken Parmesan.”

Slick said she thinks cooking is very similar to creating music.

“It is an art form to me,” she said. “It’s just like making a mix or a song. It’s the way you lay out
your components and the way they balance off each other. I have a food blog on my website and one day I’d like to make a cookbook.”

In the meantime, Slick is busy producing Cheers Elephant, a band that also hails from Philadelphia.

“My boyfriend, Matt Rothstein, is the bass player,” she said. “We’ve been dating for six years and we met at the School of Rock. The first time they gigged, I pulled Matt aside and told him, ‘this band is really good.’”

One thing led to another and Slick started recording their album, which will come out on Thursday, September 30, with a special CD release party at World Cafe Live Downstairs in Philadelphia.

“It sounds really good and I look forward to putting it out there and seeing the response,” she said.

With several projects under her belt, Slick still found the time to start yet another band called Paper Cat with her brother and guitarist Robbie “Seahag” Mangano. They decided to form the band right after she graduated from college in 2008 and they ended up recording an album of original music.

“Eric just always likes to play out,” she said. “He gigs like crazy and toured with (Mangano) in Project Object, a Frank Zappa cover band. One day Eric decided to book a show at John and Peter’s in New Hope, Penn., and asked Robbie if he wanted to play with us and he did. We had no material; we just jammed and came up with songs on the spot. Our friend recorded the show and we made the album, ‘Live at John and Peter’s.’”

To find out more about Slick, visit her web site at julieslick.com. Her mother, writer Robin Slick, also has her own web site which not only features her novels, it’s loaded with information about Julie and Eric, plus videos of them performing.

“I actually haven’t read any of my mother’s books because her publications specialize in romance and erotic books,” she giggled. “I guess I just didn’t want to read that stuff coming from my mom.”

No matter what, Slick said she is grateful for having parents who have always been supportive and encouraging.

“They got us into music,” she said. “They are why we are where we are and I just think they are the greatest parents in the world.”

Age of Evil: A band of brothers

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the spring of 2010.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

For the members of Age of Evil, heavy metal has always been a huge part of life. Made up of two sets of young brothers who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, the boys have been thrashing out and thriving as a band for the last decade and not one of them is old enough to drink legally.

“The four of us started playing together about 10 years ago,” said 19 year-old lead singer and guitarist, Jeremy Goldberg. “We used to play a lot of covers and then in 2005 and 2006, we started performing a lot of our own music.”

Goldberg’s brother Jacob is 18 and plays bass, while Jordan Ziff, also 18, takes on lead guitar duties. Drummer Garrett Ziff is the oldest at 20.

“I guess in today’s standard we’re considered young, but I don’t really think our age is that big of a deal,” said Goldberg.

He thinks it’s particularly bizarre their ages have caused such a stir in the media because a lot of bands he grew up listening to had been in their late teens and early twenties when they first formed their groups.

“It doesn’t bother me, but it is a little weird if you think about it. Look at Tommy Lee in Motley Crue or Dimebag Darrell in Pantera. They were about our age when they came out. It’s more about the music, playing a show, and having control over an audience,” said Goldberg.

He said he loves being the front man and the more he performs, the more he learns about his audiences.

“It’s different in Europe than it is in the United States in the sense that the people there just watch and listen, where kids in the U.S. go nuts and do mosh pits and stuff like that,” he said. “Fans in Europe just live and breathe metal. They go to shows during all days of the week.”

While the band was shredding their way through Europe this past summer, they recorded their sophomore album, “Get Dead,” in between tour dates. The six-song disc includes two new songs, two live tracks, and two covers, one that was inspired during a show.

“We played in London almost a year and a half ago with Girl School and we wanted to play a classic, traditional metal song the fans would appreciate, so we went with ‘Electric Eye.’ It’s not one of Judas Priest’s huge, super popular songs, but that’s kind of why we did it,” said Goldberg.

The second song they covered was a last minute decision made in the studio.

“We had no idea what we were going to do, but we knew we wanted to do another cover,” he said. “Our drummer suggested, Skid Row’s ‘Slave To the Grind.’”

Goldberg took out his cell phone, listened to the song, and ended up learning it by ear. Within a few hours, they began recording it.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “Sometimes some of the things you don’t think are going to work end up being pretty bad a**. We also recorded parts of ‘Still of the Night’ by Whitesnake, but we didn’t have time to finish it.”

Another song that didn’t make the cut for “Get Dead,” was an Ace of Bass song, “Beautiful Life.” It was featured in the comedy film, “A Night at the Roxbury.”

“It’s a pop song you wouldn’t think we would cover, but we put our own spin on it and it turned out really cool,” said Goldberg. “We hope we can release that soon.”

In addition to the covers and the new songs, Goldberg said it was important for them to incorporate live recordings on the album because they wanted to show their fans they can play just as well live as they can in the studio.

“We don’t want to rely on technology because then playing live isn’t as good. We want to do it ourselves,” he said. “If you can’t be a great live band there’s almost no point in playing. That’s what we’re all about.”

Age of Evil was recently able to display their talent as a live act when they opened for Hail!, a new touring band made up of some of heavy metal’s most highly respected contributors to the genre, including Andreas Kisser of Sepultura, Tim “Ripper” Owens of Judas Priest, David Ellefson of Megadeth, and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.

“It was a blast to open for them in New York at BB Kings (and at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Mass.),” said Goldberg. “We got to hang out with the members of the band before and after the shows and they are very down to earth, humble guys. We went up on stage with a ton of energy and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

They also opened for several bands over the last year including Jon Oliva’s Pain, Soulfly, Manowar, W.A.S.P., and Arch Enemy. Goldberg said they even got the chance to open for Tesla while they were in Switzerland this past summer.

“It’s cool because we can play with those different bands and mix it up,” he said. “For me, Tesla was one of my favorite shows on the tour. You can find a few videos of that performance on YouTube. The last song we did was ‘Still of the Night’ and it was before we really had it down and we just had fun with it.”

Right now, Goldberg said they want to focus on touring more in the U.S. and Canada. They are currently beginning the recording process of their next full-length album.

“We already have most of the material written and we’re working hard on doing demos,” he said. “We’ve been meeting with producers and trying to figure out that end of it.”

He said it’s more like their first album, 2007s, “Living A Sick Dream,” and less like their newest release, “Get Dead,” because it’s not as heavy and hardcore.

“It’s still hard rock and roll with a metal edge, but there will be something for everyone on there and we’re excited about it,” her said. “We want to have our new music in peoples’ hands, so definitely keep an eye out for it.”

Until then, he is pleased with the attention “Get Dead” has been receiving.

“I went on iTunes one morning and our new EP was featured on there,” he said. “It was up for four weeks in a row. It’s cool to see that and it’s awesome to get that recognition.”

MASS gets sea of praise for ‘Sea of Black’

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the spring of 2010.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With their new album, “Sea of Black,” receiving rave reviews from both fans and critics alike, the members of MASS said they are very pleased with the positive feedback. Lead vocalist, Louis St. August, was actually a bit surprised at first.

“I thought it was going to do well, but I didn’t think it was going to be received this well,” he said. “I figured it would maybe get seven out of 10 stars, but not get nine and 10 out of 10 stars.”

For guitarist Gene D’Itria, it was less shocking.

“I knew once [St. August] and I got together and started writing for this record it was going to be our best yet,” D’Itria said. “After the first four songs were written, I had a great feeling. I had no doubt in my mind that the fans, and others, including critics, would love this record.”

The Revere-based band of four said they feel they are only as good as their latest release, so after nearly 30 years of pumping out solid music, they are elated to hear their listeners tell them it’s their greatest effort thus far.

“I love that people are considering this to be our best album because that is always what you shoot for, topping the last one,” said drummer Joey “Vee” Vadala.

Bassist Mike Palumbo agrees.

“You’re always pushing yourself to improve on the next one and be more creative,” he said. “But, in the end it’s all MASS music.”

When it comes down to writing the music, D’Itria said they’ve improved as the years go by.

“I think as we get older, our songwriting keeps getting better and better,” he said.

Their process for creating new material is often a collaborative one, usually beginning with D’Itria sharing a guitar riff with St. August so St. August can match a melody to it and form lyrics.

“The other guys always contribute after me and [D’Itria] lay the foundation,” St. August said. “I always try to write positive songs. We’re a rock band from Boston that writes positive music.”

St. August said he thinks the songs they chose for this record seemed to all fit together perfectly.

“We kind of went back to our roots a little bit,” he said. “Our last album, ‘Crack of Dawn’ in 2007 was very versatile, while with this new one, we focused on our original style, which was melodic pop-rock.”

After they recorded “Sea of Black” at Mixed Emotions Studio in Boston, they flew the tapes to Sweden, where Martin Kronlund produced them.

“He mixed and mastered the album there,” St. August said. “We were communicating by either via e-mail or by phone to tell him what we were looking for. We tweaked it that way. We just went back and forth.”

St. August said he is forever grateful to Kronland, who also worked with MASS on “Crack of Dawn,” for continuously being professional and precise.

“Working with him was great,” St. August said. “He has a lot of patience because we can be pretty picky at times when we’re looking for a particular sound.”

Vadala said he is also very appreciative of Kronland’s skills as a producer.

“We were very pleased with the sound and production,” Vadala said. “Overseas can be a challenge with the critics but, as we can all see, they are very pleased, too.”

St. August said he is eagerly anticipating singing the new tracks at their CD release party at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on June 4th.

“I’ve been talking to people who are really dying to hear some of the new songs performed live, so I am looking forward to the CD release party,” he said. “The album has brought us a lot of new fans, but I’m also happy to see a lot of old fans that have come out of the woodwork and back onto the bandwagon again.”

While St. August said there have been a lot of ups and downs over the course of their nearly 30-year career, the good points stand out more.

“One of the best things was the first time I ever heard a MASS song on the radio, or the first time I saw our video on MTV,” he said.

He also said a big highlight was playing for a sold out crowd at an amphitheater in Los Angeles.

“That was a real thrill for me because I grew up a fan of The Who and they performed there the night before,” he said. “I was very excited to be standing on the same stage and opening up for Stryper.”

St. August has kept his voice in stellar shape over the years by taking good care of his throat.

“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke,” he said. “I live a clean life. I also studied vocals when I was 17 and I kept those breathing techniques that I was shown.”

MASS doesn’t have a set tour planned just yet, but they have the CD release party on June 4th at the Regent Arlington Theatre coming up, as well as acoustic shows in the near future. They are also flying to Maryland in June to be a part of the 2010 M3 Rock Festival, performing with act such as the Scorpions and Cinderella.

“We were asked to play in California on August 27th for Heaven’s Metal Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Festival,” St. August said. “I think we may do that, too. We’d really like to get over to London and do a few shows, so we’ll see what happens.”

They also hope to release another album within the next few years.

“If I had to put a date on it, I would say maybe by 2012,” said St. August.

In the meantime, Palumbo said they are going to continue to do what they do best.

“It’s all about the camaraderie and the love of writing and playing music,” he said. “We have a good time.”

Ani DiFranco hopes to make a connection through her music

This story originally appeared as an online exlcusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

After playing at Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and Mile High Music festivals this summer, Ani DiFranco began a fall U.S. tour in September and will take the stage at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center on Nov. 14th. If you’re familiar with her music, it should be no surprise her new album, “Red Letter Year,” is filled with political rants and love songs, but it is also one of her most joyous records yet.

 “There’s a certain kind of contentment underlying the whole album,” said DiFranco. “The place that I have to sing from now is on more stable grounds than before.”

 The album starts out with the events of Hurricane Katrina and how she feels there have been many positive changes in America since the disastrous storm.

  “There’s been this huge transformation going on in society,” DiFranco said. “Now we have Barrack Obama in the White House as opposed to George Bush. It sort of represents the return of democracy to the American people.”

DiFranco said her personal life has undergone several transformations as well, as she moved to a new city, got married, and had a daughter.

“I live in New Orleans now and have a family now,” she said. “I think whenever I feel a resonance between my personal life and the life of my society, a lot of songs come out of that.”

Interestingly enough, her husband, Mike Napolitano, co-produced her new album.

 “Working with him is terrific,” said DiFranco. “A big part of the sound of ‘Red Letter Year’ has to do with him and his production prowess.”

DiFranco said it’s a rare luxury for her to have someone in the studio with her producing her music.

 “Usually I’m on my own making records, so it was really terrific for me to have somebody better than me at recording and production,” she said. “He’s someone I really trust and rely on in the studio and I can just focus on being the artist and not have to sit back and be objective at the same time.”

DiFranco wasn’t kidding when she said she is used to making records on her own. In fact, she started her very own record label, Righteous Babe Records, when she first began her music career.

 “That decision came along very early on for me because I was always a very idealist person,” DiFranco said. “When I was very young, I started to get interest from labels because I was kind of getting a thing going on my own and I was building an audience and creating a buzz.”

DiFranco said small labels approached her at first and then major labels began contacting her.

 “I met some of these people and I talked to them and I realized very early that I have a deep seeded loathing for capitalism and what it does to society and art,” DiFranco said.

She said not signing with a label was about not participating in a hyper capitalistic society.

 “I find it dehumanizing and numbing.” DiFranco said. “Beyond that, I didn’t have a grand plan of how I was going to do it. I was just taking it a day at a time.”

DiFranco said she still takes life one day at a time and one show at a time.

 “I stay present and in the moment,” she said. “I don’t regurgitate my banter, I just walk out on stage and I react to the moment. That for me is what performance is about.”

She said it’s hard to tell her fans what they can expect from her at a show because it changes from night to night.

 “I change my set list up as often as I can,” she said. “I’ve got a bunch of new songs that are unrecorded songs I’ve been work-shopping onstage.”

Sharing her music with her fans is very important to her and she said she feels very fulfilled by aveling town to town, giving her songs to people.

“Music is a social act and I find it very inspiring,” she said. “To get together with a bunch of strangers in a room and make that connection through music is very profound. It uplifts us all and makes me feel less alienated and less alone. ”

DiFranco said she has received many letters over the years saying how her music has helped fans through hard times.

 “It’s always striking for me because it does that for me too,” she said.

After over 20 years of making music, DiFranco said she continues to love what she does.

“I have the coolest job going and I’m lucky to have it,” she said. “I still have the will to write poetry and figure out my world and my place in it. I just try to stay grateful. As long as I am, people will meet me there.”

Marianne Faithfull: Keeping the faith

This story originally appeared as an online exclusive in the fall of 2009.

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With a new album released this past November, the legendary Marianne Faithfull is on a US tour that will hit the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on September 26

 “I’ve already played in America and it went very well,” said Faithfull. “Now I’m back to do a proper tour.”

The album, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” consists of 12 cover songs the music icon handpicked herself, including The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife 3,” Espers’ “Children Of Stone,” Morrissey’s “Dear God Please Help Me.”

“I love the record and I’m very proud of it,” she said. “I want to help it as much as I can which is why I’m touring so much.”

Faithfull said she is very excited about touring and has the rhythm section from the album on tour with her.

“I’ve got a wonderful band,” she said. “We have a beautiful set list. We did it all summer through my tour of Europe. I’m really happy to get the chance to do this in America too.”

She said she chose to do a covers album because she has had a bit of trouble writing new material but was ready to get in the studio to record and take it on the road.

“I wasn’t able to write recently,” said Faithfull. “I’m a bit dried up for the moment, but hopefully I’ll get it back.”

In the meantime, producer Hal Willner worked with her on the compilation album.

“Hal and I did a record like that before called, ‘Strange Weather,’ but it was very different than this one,” Faithfull said. “So, we thought we’d do another.”

In addition to working with Willner, Faithfull also had Sean Lennon play on ‘Easy Come, Easy Go.’

“He plays guitar and sings on, ‘Give You Pleasure,’” she said. “He’s a very good guitarist. John would be very proud.”

Another musician Faithfull said she got the chance to record with on her new album was her “guitar playing friend” Keith Richards.

“It was wonderful working with Keith on this record,” Faithfull said. “He worked with me on a Burl Ives song, ‘Sing Me Back Home.’ Keith’s a great guy.”

Faithfull originally hooked up with Richards and The Rolling Stones back in the 1960s when they wrote her the song. “As Tears Go By.During that time, she said it was difficult being a woman in the music industry.

“It was very hard to be a female in rock n roll in the 60’s because there was a lot of misogyny,” Faithfull said. “I don’t think it’s quite as bad now, but it must be still there.”

She said she does not feel the same kind of pressure she used to feel mainly because she does not let it bother her anymore.

“When I was young it affected me a lot,” she said. “But I wasn’t alone and I got through it. There were more than a few highly intelligent, very honest, interesting female singers out there with me.”

Faithfull grouped herself in with artists like Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, and Carole King.

“I somehow go along in there,” she said. “You could actually be yourself and not make yourself a construct for the pleasure and delight of men. That’s a freedom. We’ve carved out a new sort of niche.”

She said her all time favorite female singer is Billie Holiday and she paid a tribute to Holiday on “Easy Come, Easy Go” by covering the classic song “Solitude.”

“I just love everything about her,” Faithfull said. “I love her voice and I love the mood she can create.”

Faithfull can create moods all her own whether she is singing or acting.

“I love acting,” she said.

She has played characters such as Ophelia from “Hamlet,” God, and even the Devil.

“I played the Devil in ‘Black Rider,’ a musical play written by William S. Burroughs with music and songs by Tom Waits and directed by Robert Wilson,” she said. “That was wonderful.”

One thing she said wasn’t wonderful was the process of writing her autobiography, ‘Faithfull.’

“I wrote one real autobiography and it was very difficult,” she said. “The other one I wrote was more of a memoir and it’s much less depressing.”

She said although her personal life has overshadowed her career in the past, it doesn’t overshadow it now because she has made it that way.

“I don’t see myself as a victim,” she said. “It’s tempting fall into the role of the victim because it’s easy, but that’s not a good idea. Never stay a victim-ever.”

Not only has she fought to move beyond her mistakes of the past, including drug addiction, Faithfull is a cancer survivor.

“I’m very pleased to be a survivor because I’ve turned it all around,” she said.  “I think I’ve won actually. I’m a winner as well as a survivor.”

She said she continues to have a positive outlook on life and is happy to be where she is in her career.

“I’ve always thought that the point of being a survivor is to turn it into something really good,” Faithfull said. “If I can do it anyone can.”

Although rumors have been flying about her retiring, she said she is not ready to give up singing.

“Sometimes I say I’d like to retire and I do think about it but I don’t really mean it,” laughed Faithfull. “I’ll get there at some point, but not yet.”

When she is not on tour, Faithfull resides in both Paris and Ireland.

The Bangles begin recording a new album

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Back in the 1980s, when they were exploding onto the music scene with songs like “Walk Like An Egyptian” and “Manic Monday,” members of the Bangles were being asked if they were starting a new trend with all-female rock bands.

Despite their considerable success, the women rock group thing never really took off. Vicki Peterson, guitarist/vocalist for The Bangles, says it’s still a mystery to her why more women did not form their own bands after that. She said she does not know if she should blame the music industry or she wonders if The Bangles and The Go Gos were just not big enough precedent setters.

But The Bangles, who also include Vicki’s sister Debbi, the drummer, vocalist/guitarist Susanna Hoffs and vocalist/bassist Annette Zilinskas, since having had families, are still around, playing concerts and are working on a new album.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Peterson said in a telephone interview. “There’s a very nice dynamic when women play together. It’s different than when women and men play together. It’s different than when all men play together. It’s a different attitude.”

The Bangles recently started recording a new album and they are going about the process differently than in the past. Instead of taking a collection of 40 songs and going into the studio, they are kind of making it up as they go along. Peterson said The Bangles are growing the album as they record it and doing some experimentation with the music.

“In the end, it will sound like a Bangles record,” Peterson said. “There will be lots of jaggly guitars and lots of harmonies.”

Peterson said today’s state-of-the-art technology makes it possible for the band to make an album that way and it also weighs less on their family lives. She is not sure when the new album will come out, maybe by the end of the year, but she said the band is working steady on it. But the days when they would spend 24/7 on The Bangles as they did in the 1980s are over.

“Probably the biggest change is the double-edged sword in that we’ve structured the band, so it’s viable for us to do as mothers with children,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the demise of the band in 1989 had come because they could not sustain their work schedules and needed separate lives. And they are content with the way their lives are now.

“We’re not expecting to be big stars anymore,” Peterson said. “We’re not as concerned with radio hits. We just want to continue to put on good shows.”

Peterson said it is also not as expensive to record an album nowadays. They do not have a record company involved with their new album and Peterson said The Bangles may go back to their own label, called Down Kiddie, that they used in the beginning back in 1981.

Peterson said “it is about bloody time” for a new album.

Peterson said she has very eclectic tastes when it comes to the music she likes to listen to, from Bonnie Raitt to World Cafe to music of the 1920s.

The members of The Bangles also do a lot of charity work. They have done several events to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer. Peterson has designed a bra to go along with that work. They have an ongoing fund raiser on their web site for Doctors Without Borders and they also do a lot to help schools.

Peterson said the band has been active, just not actively recording lately. The Bangles have been out playing regularly in recent years. They’ve toured Europe, Australia and Japan. They are playing a few shows, but are not doing a full concert tour at this time. They played the House of Blues in Boston on May 27.

Peterson said she thinks the band will be playing some of their new songs at the shows, but promises the audiences they will hear the familiar material from the ‘80s, as well.

“If you come to a Bangles show, you’re going to hear at least one of your favorite Bangles songs,” Peterson said.

Sarah Borges: The transition from alt country to pop rock

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine

By GEORGE AUSTIN

If you knew the music of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles before, you would think of alt country and Americana. But that is not what her latest album sounds like. Borges and her band have gone toward a more pop rock genre.

“This new record has a lot less country,” Borges said. “There’s a lot less pedals and steel guitar. It sounds like our band and it definitely sounds like us, but there’s no pedal or steel. Even taking that away lends a different sound to it.”

Borges said the band decided to go a different direction on the album, called “The Stars Are Out,” because when she and the Broken Singles toured, they saw what worked well. Their performances are very energetic and they wanted to reflect that on the CD. And so far, it seems that trying to translate the live show to the recording has worked. Borges said the album has done really well and the band is playing a lot of shows behind it.

The song “Do It For Free” has gotten radio play. Borges wrote about creepy men in bars.

“There’s so many men songs written about women, so I decided to turn it around a little bit,” Borges said.

The album has five original songs and five covers. There’s a Smokey Robinson song on the CD called “Being With You.”

“That’s a song a lot of people know, but we did our version of it,” Borges said. “We’re so excited to be showcasing that one, too.”

Borges had grown up in the small city of Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts, not exactly the music capital of the world, but it was a close knit place where the high school had a great drama program. She was in theater and the choir at Taunton High School where she graduated in 1995. Borges started playing guitar as a teenager. At 16 years old, she started playing in bands.

“My parents listen to a lot of classic rock and Bob Dylan,” Borges said. “When I got older, Boston had a vibrant music scene, so I went to see a lot of college rock bands, like Buffalo Tom and Morphine, on the weekends.”

Borges said her musical influences include Bonnie Raitt, The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones.

“And I like a lot of new music, too,” Borges said. “It depends on the day.”

Borges studied radio at Emerson College in Boston where she graduated in 1990.

“I knew I wanted to do something with music and be close to what I love to do,” Borges said.

After graduating from Emerson, Borges played in various bands in Boston before meeting the members of the Broken Singles who she hit it off with. The members of the Broken singles include guitarist Lyle Brewer, bassist Binky and drummer Rob Dulaney.

“I think our personalities really were complementary,” Borges said. “We had a good time hanging out, which is really important since we spend a lot of time hanging out together.”

Borges has played at the famous South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas five times.

“It’s really just sort of a mecca for people in bands,” Borges said.

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