The Doobie Brothers have been entertaining audiences across the world for more than 40 years. In 2010 the band released World Gone Crazy, their first album in a decade. They continue to be an inspiration with their recordings and their rigorous tour schedule.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston by phone this week. Johnston discussed the changes the band has seen through 40 years of Rock n Roll and what guides the creative process of the band. They will be performing at Riverbend at the PNC Pavilion this Sunday alongside Chicago.
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on the road for over 30 years. Do you ever get tired of just being on the road?
Tom Johnston: You get tired of travelling. You don’t ever get tired of playing. The playing part is what makes you come out here in the first place. I think Keith put it the best, Keith Knudsen, “You get paid for all the time it takes to get to the town and then you play for nothing.”
CB: You have seen music change over the years in recordings from albums to 8-Tracks to tapes to CDs to MP3s and iPods. Do you think it sounds better or worse today, the classic analog vs. digital question?
TJ: If you have hearing like mine, it really doesn’t make any difference. There is basically the school of thought that digital recordings aren’t as warm as analog. I can’t really tell you the difference when I am listening to it. Maybe if I did a mix there would maybe be a difference in analog that I could tell the difference. They have really come a long way with digital recording. They have ways of mixing digital recordings now so it sounds more like analog. Some people still buy albums if you can get them. People are still putting albums out. In fact, this last album we put out, World Gone Crazy, there was over 14,000 actual albums put out with the CDs, and by that I mean actual vinyl records for the people that want to hear it in analog.
CB: How many guitars do you have and what is your favorite to play?
TJ: Oh boy. I’ve got a lot of guitars. Basically, everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly Paul Reed Smith.
CB: When you began and wrote the early hits and songs for the band like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, what were your early inspirations?
TJ: My inspirations at the time of writing a song like that had pretty much been put in place from playing since I was 12 on the guitar and picking up singing when I was 15. Most of my early stuff came from Blues and R&B and Rock & Roll by the guy I consider the King of Rock & Roll, that was Little Richard and people like Jerry Lee Lewis. Later on, that changed, I got into Hendrix and Cream and quite a few other people I am not going to be able to think of right now. David Mason albums, old Fleetwood Mac albums, you know from the ’70s, just a lot of stuff going on then. As far as players, Albert, Freddie and B.B. King were huge in my guitar playing. I call them the Three Kings, that’s basically how a lot of people refer to them. There are a lot of singers that influenced me. James Brown was definitely one of them.
CB: Have you had a single issue or incident that has ever changed the way you approach music?
TJ: If I ever did, I am not really sure when it was. I know the first time I ever watched, one of the few times I actually got to watch, James Brown live was 1962 in Fresno and that was pretty much a life altering event, musically. I had never seen anything like that. It just blew me out of the water. I couldn’t believe someone could work that hard that consistently and put on just an incredible show. That was a big event in my life.
CB: Over the years, you have had some health ailments with your voice and other things. How do you stay healthy on the road now?
TJ: I take care of myself. Back in the old days it was the Rock & Roll lifestyle, that wasn’t really healthy. But the biggest sideline I ever had was stomach ulcers which I developed in high school but it fully bloomed when I was out on the road in 1975 when I actually had to leave the tour. That is really the only health issue I ever had, but it was a bad one.
CB: Do you consider yourself or does the band consider themselves spiritual in any way and did it ever play a factor in your music or writing?
TJ: To be honest with you, no — at least not in the secular way of any specific religion. It’s not that we are not a religious band, it is just everybody has their beliefs about the world and mankind and how we got here I suppose but it is certainly nothing we would talk about.
CB: After all these years, I assumed you guys would talk about everything.
TJ: We talk about a lot of stuff but that isn’t one that pops up. Actually it popped up this morning. I was just giving my views on Buddhism and thinking it was a little more realistic since it is based on mankind’s shallow man as opposed to strictly about a specific deity and things having to be done a certain way. But those are just opinions and I don’t really follow it that closely; I don’t think anybody in the band does, to be honest with you.
CB: Do you guys take on different leadership roles within the band?
TJ: Yeah, to a point. It is basically when we are recording. When we are playing, it kind of happens naturally. Recording it is pretty much whoever writes the tune will be leading if you will, but other people come up with ideas for the tune so it is pretty much always a group effort.
CB: Are there any current Rock bands or new Rock bands on the scene right now you would like to collaborate with or work with?
TJ: I think John Mayer is an incredible guitar player. I really enjoy his work. Another one is Bruno Mars — I think he is extremely prolific as a song writer and pretty amazing. There is a band called Mannish Boy, which is a Blues group. I really like those guys. They are new. Most people aren’t going to know them. They aren’t Pop or anything like that. They are simply a Blues band but they are really, really good. There are more, I just can’t think of them right now. There are more people I think are really good out there that would be fun to get in the studio with. It would be fun to work with Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green. It would be fun to work with anyone from Maroon 5. We recently worked with Luke Bryan for that TV show on CMT called Crossroads and we had a ball doing that.
CB: I love Luke Bryan and his music. He has kind of blown up recently.
TJ: He is a good guy. He is a really good guy. We had a lot of fun doing that show. Everybody was just having a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have any creative outlets or hobbies outside of playing music?
TJ: It’s outside of the band in a sense but I write music for a hobby. I love writing. I do it all the time. I have a little studio at home. A lot of the stuff I write would never be used by this band. I am starting to branch out and write with other people now too, which is something I haven’t done as much. I have always kind of just written my own songs. I have started taking the steps to go out and write with some other writers who are very prolific and very much involved with the Pop scene or the Country scene or whatever else. I just really started doing that before we came out on this tour. When we finish this tour this year, I will go back to doing that some more. It was fun. It was a new place to go. It is exciting to get in and work with someone else because they help you find a lot of stuff you don’t know you have and I think you do the same for that person. You come up with songs that you would never come up with if you were just sitting there by yourself.
CB: Do you use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to your fans?
TJ: There is Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff on our website. I don’t do any of that stuff. For whatever reason it hasn’t called me. I don’t have any need to be in touch with people or stay in the limelight or find out what is going on. I am kind of a private guy and I would like to keep it that way rather than blast it all over the universe. I don’t belong to Facebook. I know tons of people who do it and that’s great. From a business point of view, it is a really smart way to go. From a website point of view, it is a really good tool for getting your music out there, events out there, where you are going to be, maybe even staying in touch with other musicians, things like that but mostly I do that on the phone. Twitter, I have never even used Twitter. I know people do it all the time but I have never gotten involved with it.
CB: I still use a telephone because I prefer to talk to people.
TJ: It is alive and well in the younger generation. That’s how they communicate.
CB: My last question is do you have any fond Cincinnati memories over the years?
TJ: Yeah, playing at Riverfront Stadium, playing at where we are going to be playing this Sunday which is right on the river, Riverbend. We have played there lots of times. I was just talking to a gentleman a little bit ago about playing in Blue Ash the last time and a tornado came through and shut the show down and we never got a chance to go out and finish it. We have been playing Cincinnati since we started so we are talking 40 years of playing Cincinnati.
CB: We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TJ: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to being there and it will be a gas as always. This show with Chicago has pretty much been sold out everywhere we have gone. The crowds have been great and it is a good combination. The two bands, we get together at the end and do an encore of everybody in both bands playing at the same time and it is pretty powerful.
This week’s CityBeat features the announcement of the first several weeks’ worth of headliners for PNC’s MidPoint Indie Summer Series. The free, every-Friday concert series on Fountain Square again features an interesting array of out-of-town artists and Cincinnati music’s finest. The concerts begin June 3 with local Electronica duo You, You’re Awesome headlining a typically eclectic night of provocative sounds. It’s good prep for 2011’s MidPoint Music Festival this fall. The Indie Summer kick-off is your first chance to get MidPoint ’11 tickets — MPMFers can buy three-day passes at a discounted rate while they last at the events this summer.
Below, take a look/listen to the performers announced so far.
Cintas Corp. sets unrealistic production quotas for laundry workers that cause dangerous conditions and it led to the death of one worker in March 2007, according to a motion filed in a lawsuit against the company.
The widow of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, an employee who died when he fell into a dryer at a Cintas facility near Tulsa, Okla., made the allegation in an application filed Tuesday that seeks to amend her lawsuit.
Anybody who’s familiar with the Internet knows that it’s a great place for looking at pictures of people without their clothes.
Apparently a lot of people want to do that to vice presidential candidates as well.
According to Google Politics & Elections, the No. 2 most-searched term connected to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s name is “shirtless.”
Ryan is known for a proposed budget that would offer massive tax cuts to the rich while attempting to reduce the deficit by gutting Medicare.
If one is to believe TMZ’s absclusive titled “Paul Ryan: He’s Hiding A Six Pack,” then one could see why.
An intrepid CityBeat intern spent most of Monday morning searching for pictures of said abs, but was only able to turn up the vice presidential candidate waving ironically from his yacht.
According to TMZ’s unnamed Hill source, Ryan hits the gym every morning at 6 a.m., and his routine is “fierce.” The source, who talks like a stereotype, says Ryan is kind of on the skinny side, but “totally ripped and has a six pack.”
Ryan’s press camp responded to the news by challenging Joe Biden to a sit-up contest in lieu of a vice presidential debate.
Google’s top four related search terms for Paul Ryan:
Mesmerizing local singer/songwriter Kim Taylor – who performed recently at the CMJ Music Festival in New York City — has a new five-song EP called The Greatest Story …, which is available now for about four bucks if you download it on her Web site. (In fact, all of Kim’s music is only available digitally as of now; CDs are only being sold at shows, while a vinyl version of her I Feel Like a Fading Light is due out in December.) The set will hit the iTunes store in the near future.
Well, surprise. Most of the Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes live in states that polls show are locked in for Mitt Romney. They are down South. Or out in the Southwest, according to Tax Foundation data.
Mississippi has the most filers with no income tax liability. It has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980. When Obama was on the ballot there in 2008, he only got 43 percent of the popular vote. Yet 45 percent of Mississippi tax filers pay nothing. That tidbit certainly rips a hole in Romney’s contention that Obama voters don’t pay income taxes — Republican voters appear to be skating as well, and obviously in far larger numbers than Romney suggests.
Our neighbors in Kentucky — who voted early 60 percent GOP over the past three presidential elections — are pretty good at not paying income taxes too. Fewer send checks to the IRS than in West Virginia. Alaska is the outlier — it votes Republican and just 21 percent of its filers don’t pay income taxes to Uncle Sam. You betcha, the vast majority of Alaskans do send money to the IRS. Perhaps they write their checks while looking at Russia from their porches.
If you are wondering about Ohio, the state had 5.56 million tax filers. Of that number, some 68 percent paid federal income taxes. We’re a swing state that backed Obama in 2008. Clearly, not all the payers were Republicans.
Here is a map with all the data:
The Tax Foundation, a group based in Washington, D.C. that calls itself a nonpartisan research group, produced its state-by-state ranking of non-filers in May 24, 2010. It has been available on the Internet for more than two years, which means it was available long before Romney said Obama’s supporters don’t pay taxes. This insight gets right to the heart of the matter:
“Nine of the 10 states with the largest percentage of non-payers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina and New Mexico at 40 percent. All of the top 10 ranking states have among the lowest median family incomes in the country.”
Get your glue guns ready, ya'll, because the Crafty Supermarket's about to take over the Northside Tavern. That's right. Your local watering hole (generally full of tight-pantsed drunks at night) will be hosting an indie craft show on Saturday afternoon (noon-6 p.m.) with handmade fine art, recycled goods, home decor, jewelry, children's items, stationery and more.
The masterminds behind this DIY dream are local writer/editor/crafter Grace Dobush and recent DAAP grad/sustainable shoemaker Alisha Budkie. The duo will be bringing together over 20 craft vendors from Cincinnati and the Midwest for a fair inspired by the likes of Renegade Chicago. Along with shopping opportunities there will be "swag bags" for the first 50 shoppers, music from PROJECTMILL, food from Dojo Gelato and others, and a Make It! table where attendees can get crafty with the BYOProjectors (read about them here).
CityBeat recently had a little e-mail exchange with Dobush, whose book, Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash and Basically Have It All, is about to be released, about the Crafty Supermarket.
CityBeat: What is the Crafty Supermarket?
Grace Dobush: Crafty Supermarket is an indie craft show, or a Rock & Roll craft show, which is more appropriate since it's in Northside. This is not your standard high-school auditorium, church-basement craft show: We're having music by PROJECTMILL, rad food from local vendors and 20 hip crafters who will be selling the stuff they make. No packaged stuff, no commercial stuff, no lame stuff—just arts and crafts!
CB: Why are you having a craft show? What's the goal?
GD: My goal is to solidify the craft scene in Cincinnati a bit. There are a ton of really talented crafters and artists here, but none of us seem to know each other! My co-organizer, Alisha, and I had never met until we were in Washington D.C. at the Summit of Awesome (a craft summit organized by the ladies who put on Crafty Bastards, a humongous indie craft show). We really wished there was an indie craft event in Cincinnati, and eventually we realized that we should step up and do it ourselves! It's either the DIY mentality kicking in or a pretty solid sense of masochism, I'm not sure which.
CB: You seem to be an indie craft guru. What is your crafting experience? What inspires you to craft? What crafts do you make/specialize in?
GD: That's the first time I've heard that one! I've just been crafting a long-ass time. I've been printmaking since I was a teenager and then took a course on bookbinding my freshman year of college. It just kind of snowballed after that, and I sought out like-minds on the internet. Right around 2000 was a turning point for indie craft... it got a name, the indie craft shows started coming out, and all the movers and shakers were on these craft message boards and got to know each other. Some of the folks I know from those boards back in the day I ended up interviewing for my book, Crafty Superstar.
I'm not a full-time crafter (I'm a magazine editor and writer by trade) but I love connecting with people and talking to people. There are plenty of crafters who are much more successful than me at being a business, but I saw a lot of word-of-mouth information that hadn't been collected anywhere else. And my book was born!
CB: What role does crafting play in our modern world, so to speak? Why is it important?
GD: I think the popularity of craft is a direct backlash to the super-industrialized big-box shopping culture. People are starting to see the value in knowing exactly where the things they buy come from, and there's nothing better than finding an object you absolutely love and getting to talk to the person who made it. Of course, big-box stores recognize that this aesthetic is totally hot, so you see crafty-ish knockoffs for sale that are probably handmade... but by child laborers who may or may not be working against their will.
There are also a pretty big number of crafters who focus on using sustainable, local and/or recycled materials. And of course, when you support an indie artist, you are directly supporting your local economy. I can almost guarantee the $10 you spend at Crafty Supermarket will turn around and get spent on bus fare for the Metro, dinner at Melt or drinks at the Tavern later.
CB: What vendors will be on hand at the market?
GD: We've got a really wide range of crafters—selected from almost 70 applications, which just blew us away. The crafters make jewelry, paper goods, housewares, kid's stuff, clothing, art, knit things—all sorts of stuff. We also tried to get a balance of crafters in terms of wanting this to represent Cincinnati crafters—about three-quarters of the vendors are from the Cincinnati region. And although we have a lot of vendors who are old hands at the indie craft sale thing, we also wanted to make sure to bring in some folks who are doing a show for the first time, because once upon a time, we were the newbies.
CB: What sort of crafts will attendees be able to make at the Make It! Table?
GD: We've got a really random assortment of supplies and guest curation by the crafty people from BYOProject, which is a crafty collective that meets at Happen Inc. in Northside once a month. It's an anything-goes kind of craft situation, but specifically we've got paper to make your own album cover (12-inch, of course), and little paperboard albums that you can decorate to make your own storybook or draw a demented family album. Whatev!
CB: Will this become an annual event? Do you have any other events planned for the future?
GD: From the very beginning Alisha and I have kept saying stuff like "Next year, we are so doing X and Y," or "Next year, we are never doing Z again." It's just felt kind of natural that this would roll into being an annual event. Plus, since the response has been so huge (our Facebook event has 130 guests at this point) that it would be a shame to never do it again!
We don't have any more events planned immediately—we need some recovery time!—but at this point we're totally planning to do something even bigger for next fall. The late fall is primo craft sale time because people are much more willing to spend money to buy gifts for other people. It's pretty safe to say you'll see Crafty Supermarket again next fall.
Update (June 5, 11:20 p.m.): Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn't hand out marijuana plants at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
In perhaps an act of civil disobedience, Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is planning to hand out marijuana plants at a campaign event Wednesday.
But the event could run foul of state law for both Berns and attendees. Ohio law prohibits obtaining, possessing or using a controlled substance — a category that includes marijuana.
The event will take place at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Clifton Avenue on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
"If you want one of the plants I suggest you get there early," Berns said in a statement.
In this year's mayoral race, Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally considered the top contenders, although neither candidate has received an official endorsement from the local Democratic Party.
Berns has differentiated himself from the frontrunners by pushing marijuana legalization in his platform.
Drug prohibition laws are generally dictated at state and federal levels, but city governments can legalize or decriminalize certain drugs and force police departments to give the issue lower priority.
Marijuana is already decriminalized in Ohio. Cincinnati re-criminalized the drug in 2006, but the drug was decriminalized through a city budget passed in 2010.
Some groups are attempting to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. CityBeat covered those efforts in further detail here.
Last night, Fox 19's website reported that veteran local musician, talent booker and event promoter Johnny Schott passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday morning in his home in Tennessee.