With a slew of uplifting singles and a band name like Blessid Union of Souls, it shouldn’t be a shock to discover that the chart-topping Cincinnati band's frontman Eliot Sloan puts a lot of stock in his spiritual beliefs. But the band — one of the most commercially successful acts to ever come out of Cincinnati — was rarely overt about religion in its slick, hook-laden Pop songs. Until now. This Tuesday sees the nationwide release of Blessid Union’s album The Mission Field, the most direct and explicit expression of Sloan’s Christian beliefs on a BUoS release by a long shot.
Last night at Covington's Madison Theater, the 15th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony once again brought together people from all facets of the Greater Cincinnati music scene and gave them one hell of a party. Along with offering one of the best people-watching experiences of the year, the packed crowd in attendance was treated to great "mini-sets" (usualy about three tunes) from local bands Pomegranates (who also played the event's after-party at the nearby Mad Hatter), Young Heirlooms, Los Honchos, Two Headed Dog and Wussy, who closed the night out with songs from their recently released fourth album, Strawberry.
"Thanks for voting for us," Wussy's guitarist/vocalist Chuck Cleaver deadpanned as they began.
While Strawberry is among the (if not the) best albums released in 2011 so far, it missed the cut-off to be nominated for a 2011 CEA. (To be in the running, albums had to have been released between early Oct. 2010 and Oct. 2011.) Maybe (probably) next year, Wussy!
AN OPEN LETTER to the four million members of the National Rifle Association:
Dear fellow citizen,
The NRA released a statement yesterday on your behalf expressing that you all are “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Yes, we all are.
For years you have willingly given your money to an organization that has largely ignored pleas from policemen across our country to limit access to assault weapons and armor piercing ammunition.
You have spent countless millions of dollars silencing and vilifying voices that, while supportive of gun ownership, were calling for moderation in the distribution of weapons that could be used for mass destruction of human life, including the gun used by Friday’s killer that shot one first grader 11 times. And 19 other first grade children. And 6 adults in the space of a few minutes…
When previous heartbroken victims of gun violence who lost children or spouses tried to speak out to hopefully help prevent others from suffering similar unspeakable loss, you rallied for your rights, and gave the suffering no quarter.
For years you have marketed the idea to the citizens of this country that the US government is a potential enemy bent on harming its own citizens, and the only way we could all be safe was if we each purchased a private arsenal of weapons.
While you are reportedly “shocked, saddened and heartbroken,” how many of your members after Friday’s shooting have changed their profile pictures to images of guns, or tweeted messages like “I’m buying a gun the day after Christmas. Join me! #NRAlifelongmember” How many of your members boasted last Friday that they were going to take their kids to a firing range?
You continue to lobby in support of all of us carrying concealed weapons into schools, day care centers, movie theaters, and public squares. You argue that if only we could all walk around packing heat, our society could be safer and more peaceful. You lobby for wider “stand your ground” laws, so we can all load up and take the law into our own hands and play judge and jury (and God?) in the heat of the moment.
The members among you who call themselves Christian often bemoan the fact that “God has been removed from our schools” and yet those very members ignore the direct teachings of Jesus as recorded in Scripture that call upon all followers of Christ to work to break the cycle of violence and not return evil for evil.
Too many of us have stood by silently while you’ve played the part of the playground bully in our public discourse, and distorted our constitution for profit. While we as a nation have improved upon the vision of our “founding fathers” to end slavery in this country, to allow women the right to vote, and to outlaw hate crimes, you cling rigidly to a few words written when the right to bear arms referred to a single shot muzzle loading rifle.
Your voice has been powerful and strident, and too many of us have remained silent in our disbelief of what we were hearing from you. Our silence has been deadly.
If you are indeed “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” consider the part (if you are able and willing to join the rest of us in searching our souls) your organization has played when it comes to last Friday’s shooting. Consider the fear that your organization markets. Consider the bitter fruit of your labors that we must all taste.
And please consider asking forgiveness, changing your ways, and offering whatever healing you are capable of to the hurting in Newtown, Connecticut, as opposed to condoning responding to violence with still ever more violence, ad nauseum.
Unless you can do your part (along with the rest of us), and change in response to Friday’s tragedy, there will be still worse to come.
I live on a small farm in Ohio, own two guns (and my own business) and have family members who are big game hunters. I am rethinking my responsibility as a citizen of this country. We all are. I invite you to do the same.
You’re holding your big press conference tomorrow. We’ll be listening. But I am confident that many millions of us will no longer be silent.
The fantastic Cincinnati Folk trio The Tillers will make its television debut Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the USA network. The acoustic band (Michael Oberst, Sean Gell and Jason Soudrette) were interviewed in June by legendary news anchor Tom Brokaw for a documentary about the people and places along Route 50, the stretch of highway that runs from Maryland to California.
One of the most notable music venues in the region, Newport's historic Southgate House, has announced it will close its doors for good after a Dec. 31 show headlined by locally-based/internationally-acclaimed Punk band The Dopamines. A press release sent out Monday night (and a posting on the club's web site) announced that "after more than thirty years in continuous operation as a music and arts venue," the Southgate House will be shut down, though no reason was given.
Details on future plans were also vague; the release says owner Ross Raleigh is hoping to "relocate" the venue in 2012 and that more information would be available soon. The full press release — and an update — are below.
Music Tonight: Just four short years ago, Marbin — performing tonight at The Greenwich in Walnut Hills — came together in Israel when two musicians met just when both were in coming-of-age “crossroads” periods in their lives. Israeli saxophonist Danny Markovitz had just completed his military service (he was an infantry sergeant) when he met Israeli-American guitarist Dani Rabin, who had also just been through a rigorous experience, graduating with a degree from The Berklee College of Music. In 2008, the Marbin duo re-situated themselves in the U.S., landing in Chicago. Since then, the work hasn’t stopped, as Marbin spends around 250 days a year performing (in the Windy City region and across the States).
We caught up with Ohio native, Eric Singer aka “CATMAN”, drummer for the infamous band, to discuss local sports and the show on Friday.CB: First question, how do you feel about Lebron leaving?
CB: Did you see the owner’s reaction?
Eric: Oh yes, I did. I am a huge NBA fan. I am on NBA.com everyday. I am actually a huge Lakers fan and even though we were on tour in Europe I did not miss any of the playoff games. The games would start at 3 am and I would watch every other day. My body clock was so out of whack. I would stay up all night watching. Everyone on the tour would ask why I looked to so tired and it was because I stayed up until 7 am watching basketball.
Eric: You are in Cincinnati. I saw that you just signed Terrell Owens.
CB: Yes we did, what do you think about that?
Eric: I think it is a great thing. Obviously, I am a Cleveland Browns fan being from Cleveland.
CB: We won’t hold that against you.
Eric: No, I have always rooted for the Bengals. My Dad had season tickets to the Browns in the 60’s and he would take me to all the games. My Dad was also a musician and he knew Paul Brown personally. I think Paul Brown coached at Ohio State so we also loved the Buckeyes so Ohio State Buckeyes are always my college team of choice.
My Dad was always a huge Bengals fan because he loved Paul Brown. Basically I root for all the AFC teams except the Ravens for obvious reasons. I cannot stand the Ravens like most Cleveland fans. I always root for the Bengals. Overall I think it was a good pickup. T.O. is a personality but at the end of the day he is a great talent and is a great receiver. The Bengals may make some noise this year. I don’t look for much from the Browns this year to do any damage. I just want them to improve over last year. They have had so many changes with management and quarterbacks. I think that it would be nice to give the people of Cleveland something to look forward to versus focusing on the Lebron situation.
CB: The sentiment here in Ohio doesn’t seem
as bad as I thought it would be about Lebron based on what I had heard
in the media.
Eric: Of course, they showed the same 2 guys on TV burning their Lebron jersey in the streets over and over. It was a slow news day. At the end of the day, it is just a game. I think it becomes an obsession with some people. I am a huge Laker fan. I stay home every night during the season and watch every game. I get upset when they lose but at the end of the day, it is just a game and they are not curing cancer. I play drums in a band and it is important to me because it is my livelihood, but at the same time I keep a reality check about what I do.
CB: It is not solving world hunger.
Eric: Exactly. Some people get too serious about it in my mind. Some people hate their 9-5 job and they have passion about a sports team or a band and that is what they look forward to doing. I understand their passion, but you have to keep it in perspective.
CB: I have talked to a lot of drummers this week. I have kind of had a week of drummers, culminating with you.
Eric: That sounds like it could have a double entendre. “I just had a week of drummers.” You gotta watch how you say that. (Laughing)
CB: What is the longest you have gone without playing the drums?
Eric: Oh I have gone awhile. Probably a few months. I am 52 years old. I have been touring every year for 26 years straight and been drumming for 42 years since I was 10. It is like a car. I have a lot of drumming miles on my body. I find that when you go away from something, it renews your interest and enjoyment in it. You enjoy it more when you come back. My whole life can’t be about drums and KISS. I am not one dimensional. You have to have other interests. As much as I know that you have to have focus because that is important if you want to have success along with hard work, sometimes you need to step away from it. It makes it feel fresh when you get away and then come back. Even though I have played some of these songs a hundred times, after I get away from it for awhile it feels fresh and lets my body heal.
CB: It is an extreme sport.
Eric: It is very much like athletics. Rock and roll drumming is different than playing in a lounge band. It is hitting hard objects and absorbing all that shock. As I have gotten older I have had to learn different ways to approach it. I have massages all the time to take care of my body and keep my body stretched out and loose because it is a necessity at this point.
CB: Do you do any weight lifting or activities to condition for it?
Eric: Sometimes. Lately to be honest I have been lazy. Usually when we are off tour, I will go to the gym and try to condition with cardio and keep my stamina up at least a few times a week. That makes it not such a shock to your body when you go back to hitting things after you have been away for awhile.
CB: Have you ever been star struck?
Eric: No, not really. When I first moved to LA in 1983, I used to go to the Beverly Hills Diner after rehearsals. This is when I first realized that I lived in LA and when you go to a Denny’s or a diner that you will see musicians and actors. The first time I was sitting there and Lionel Richie came in with Irene Cara, who had a big hit at the time. He said hello just like you were a normal person. That kind of set a precedence for me with a guy who was a huge star at the time on MTV and making hits and he is just a regular guy who comes in here and says hi to me. I always remembered that whatever you do may be special or unique, but it does not make you better than someone else. I remember him and think it was a good attitude.
CB: That is a good attitude.
Eric: I am a big fan of many bands and I met Jimmy Page this year in London. That was kind of cool because I had never met anyone from Zeppelin, but I am around these guys all the time. I have played in some big bands KISS and with Queen. I played a Nelson Mandela benefit with Bono and Annie Lennox a few years ago. I have gotten to play with people and meet them this way. I met Dwyane Wade the other night on Jay Leno and that was cool because I am such a big NBA fan. I like to meet people that I have a lot of respect for and admire what they do. I don’t get star struck because I have been doing this a long time and realize at the end of the day they are just people.
CB: They go home and put their pants on one leg at a time.
Eric: Exactly, one thing I have learned that once you really get to know people you find that there is a common thread that runs through all of us.
CB: I interview people and have found that the big
bands like yourself are the most down to earth and normal. Many of the
newer bands that are just starting out seem so arrogant at times and it
bothers me and I always think that won’t work and they are not going to
make it like that.
Eric: You are right and that is a great observation. That is what I find as well. Usually people who are doing it at a bigger level, they don’t act like that. I don’t know if it is a confidence or mindset but they don’t need to do that. I live in LA and there a lot of people who are posers. They go to clubs and dress the part and think they are important. They go out every night and dress up and locals think they are in the band, but they are big fish in a small pond and they are not the real players. You are right, the people that have more fame act normal and don’t need to pretend to be anything and they are usually more cool.
CB: What can we expect from the show on Friday?
Eric: “The Hottest Show on Earth” is great. The one thing I always admire about our band is that we are always trying to improve and make it bigger and better. We are always trying to make a bigger visual spectacle. That is what we are known for and putting on a big show. I always say it is like Rock-n-Roll meets the circus. It is about being entertainers and being entertained. Anyone who saw the tour last year, we have changed the songs around and changed some of the visual things in the show. It is probably the biggest show that we have ever done with visual and screens and pyro. It is a big undertaking to take this tour around the country. There are 15 or 17 trucks that move this stuff around. A few of them have our faces on the side with the new Dr. Pepper adds, so you may see 5 or 6 of them rolling down the road in Ohio this week so you will know it is KISS on tour. I am not saying this because I am biased and in the band, but everyone must see a KISS show in their life.
Eric: We are playing Riverbend on Friday right?
Eric: I remember Riverbend. We have played there before and I actually went to a concert there before. I was on a tour in 1987 with Gary Moore and we saw Huey Lewis in the News there. They were huge at the time.
CB: I actually saw them this past weekend at HullabaLOU in Louisville.
Eric: Really, one of my good friends is their guitar player, how were they?
CB: They were amazing actually and sounded the
same. It was surreal to see bands ranging from Bon Jovi to Al Green all
in one place.
Eric: Did you see Al Green?
CB: Yes I did and he was FANTASTIC! He made me smile!
Eric: I went to see him a few years ago with Gene after we played a show in a casino on a night off. Al Green sings amazing. Gene is a huge 50’s doo wop fan and so we went to the show.
CB: He was spot on and blew my mind.
Eric: Did all the ladies come up and give him flowers?
CB: No he had bundles of roses he was passing out.
Eric: A lot of the older women still love him. He is old school and a real swooner, but he sings his ass off.
CB: I have had a phenomenal week of music and I am hoping to top it off with KISS on Friday.
Eric: You are right it is like a Cherry on Top after all that great music this week. It is great music on top of a great show. You must go see it and be converted and see it in the flesh. You will be converted to Kisstianity. There is no band like KISS and it is a dream come true to be in the band since I was a huge fan from the beginning. I was a fan from day 1 and saw them in Cleveland in 1974 when they opened up for the New York Dolls.
CB: It is like a religion.
Eric: The kind of drummer that I always want to be was to be a visual and show type drummer and I can do it all in KISS. I couldn’t be in a more perfect band.
CB: I hope to get religion on Friday.
Eric: You have to.
CB: Before we wrap up, tell me about the Wounded Warrior Care project that you are supporting.
Eric: It is the Wounded Warrior CARE project. We have gone to visit the soldiers in their facility. A dollar from every ticket sold goes to this project. Those people have gone and sacrificed their life. Regardless of people’s political views, these people go and do this on a volunteer basis to protect our rights. They have given their life so we have to make sure that there are people when they get home to help them get their life back and that is what this project is all about. You may disapprove of war, but you need to respect these people regardless of your views. You are able to say whatever you want in this country because these people go out and fight for your rights. We want to help them be able to get their lives back.
Eric: I also need to say KISS is a great family value this summer. Kids under 14 get in free on the lawn with the purchase of an adult lawn ticket. Up to four children per valid adult (21 and over) lawn ticket. Valid for Live Nation amphitheatres with lawns only. These also must be purchased on the day of the show and are subject to availability.
We know that times are tough for some people economically and we know there is no better way to get their mind off their troubles than to go and see a band like KISS. It is our way of trying to give something back to those who have supported us over the years. Everyone needs to see KISS at some point in their life.
CB: You may as well start early as a kid right?
The city of Cincinnati memorialized a fallen local musician Friday by unveiling Michael Bany Way in Over-the-Rhine. Formerly called Jail Alley, it runs off of Main Street, where Bany was killed in 1995 following a performance.
Bany's brother Mark has worked tirelessly to recognize his brother's accomplishments and to help the local music community via the Michael W. Bany Music Scholarship Fund. At Friday's event Mark presented this year's scholarship to Jalessa Andrews, who will attend Bethune-Cookman College to pursue a degree in music education.
Rise Against is the epitome of Punk Rock in this era. They are as far from the status quo from society as bands get, yet record for a major label. Part of the group's mission is to promote progressive issues, both socially and politically. Rise Against recently released its sixth album, Endgame, which features the hit single “Make It Stop” (the video for which was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award last year).
CityBeat spoke with bassist and original member Joe Prinicipe in anticipation for their upcoming show in Cincinnati. They discussed the bands writing process and how they incorporated their socially active direction in their music. Rise Against will be opening Riverbend's PNC Pavilion for the summer this Saturday. A Day to Remember and Title Fight also perform.
CityBeat: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you are one of the original band members. You guys have been out on it for about 13 years from when you started. Where do you see yourself in 13 more years?
Joe Prinicipe: It’s hard to say with this business but I would say definitely still involved with writing music and performing. Rise Against has no intentions of breaking up. We would like to follow the same career paths as bands like Bad Religion and Social D that are going on 25 or 30 years and are still making relevant music. I hope that’s where I end up.
CB: I saw you last year with the Foo Fighters when you opened up in Columbus. I was wondering if there were any fun and crazy Foo Fighter stories on tour.
JP: It was pretty awesome when there were a group of protesters, I think we were in St. Louis, maybe it was Kansas City, and they were protesting the Foo Fighter show because they did that funny promo video where they were showering together. So this group came out, this very homophobic religious group. They were protesting and the Foo Fighters came out (before the show) dressed provocatively and they were out on a flat bed truck and performed and tried to play as loud as they could to overshadow, overpower the protestors. It totally worked and it was awesome.
CB: They seem fun to be around in general and don’t take it too seriously.
JP: Totally and they are all about enjoying what they have because being on the road and being away from your family is hard enough so you might as well make the most of it.
CB: Your music has been called protest music in the past by the Chicago Tribune and I just wanted to ask about your process to write lyrics around a cause. How do you choose a cause to support and then develop a song around it?
JP: (Singer/guitarist) Tim (McIlrath) writes all the lyrics and the process is very simple. He is just writing what he feels for that day. He writes from a personal perspective on life in general. That’s why our records are not just political, there are socially aware topics, there are environmental issues, there are songs about relationships and how hard it is to be away from our families when we are traveling. We always write music first and he will hear the tone that the music sets and he has a journal, and he will flip through the journal and see if something fits and if not he will write what he thinks will fit the music and that is how it has always been the last 12 years.
CB: Were you guys influenced at an early age or did something happen to you that kind of made you take your music toward this activism tone or did you have a kind of defining moment?
JP: No, it’s just seeing punk rock music. It’s just the nature of punk rock that seems formed as a reaction to the glam era of the 70’s. It’s just a reaction to that so it’s always been about that. It’s all we know. It was something that we didn’t even discuss. It was just kind of a given the direction of Rise Against was going to be that and we are kind of carrying that torch. Bands like Minor Threat and the Bad Brains were definitely singing for change whether it was singing against homophobia or social issues, but that’s kind of what the unspoken goal that the band has always had.
CB: What is the biggest way your music has been able to make a difference or make a change?
JP: I would say the effect that “Make it Stop” has had on young kids. Kids in high school trying to get through it all. We have gotten so many e-mails that the song is helping them through the hardest time of their life and that is incredibly rewarding. I would say “Make it Stop” stands out as that.
CB: Your new album came out last year in the spring. Do you have any new music in the works?
JP: No, we still have a whole year of touring on Endgame. I think I always have song ideas in the back of my head and so does Tim. It’s kind of an ongoing thing anyway. We won’t actually have anything, officially new until the end of 2013.
CB: Do you have any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past or any fond memories?
JP: Not really. Cincinnati is Bogart's, right?
CB: It’s Bogart's and this time you are at Riverbend which is outside.
JP: That’s right. The only thing I recall is from Zach our guitar player. His old band played Bogart's and someone was shot like 20 feet away from him. That’s really it.
CB: I think you are in a little safer place by the river this time. I have this new game and it’s a table game with quirky questions and people just give their first thoughts around it, so I have been experimenting with this a little and I have three questions from this game for you. The first question is what skill do you possess that most people don’t know about?
JP: Let’s see, nothing hidden, although I am a complete coffee snob and I have an espresso machine at my house and I take that very seriously. It has to be perfect. I have to time all my espresso shots as they come out of the machine. So I guess that.
CB: So you make the perfect espresso, that’s your hidden talent.
CB: What is under your bed?
JP: Actually nothing because my wife is a neat freak so nothing can be on the floor.
CB: If you are on the bus it is somebody else sleeping under the bed in the bunk.
JP: As far as the bus goes, our tour manager is usually in the bunk below me so I have him snoring …
CB: What song would you pick to sing karaoke?
JP: I’m really bad at karaoke, oddly enough.
CB: You don’t have to be good. I don’t think that’s the purpose of karaoke.
JP: That’s true. I don’t know maybe something from ’80s Pop like the Go-Gos or Duran Duran.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show in Cincinnati?
JP: Just high energy, just come and sing with us and have a good time. It is all about interacting with our fans and just everyone singing along. We are all there for the same reason. It is a good way to let off some steam from the week prior. Just come out and have a good time.