Singer/guitarist Glen Campbell is truly Country music’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Starting out as a masterful, much-used session musician, in the ’60s and ’70s, Campbell represented the genre as one of its premier stars and was also embraced on the pop charts, scoring huge crossover hits with singles like "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "Southern Nights" and "Rhinestone Cowboy."
This past year, Campbell's 50 years in the music business was celebrated at the Grammys, where he was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and honored with a musical tribute by The Band Perry and Blake Shelton that was capped off by Campbell joining the musicians for a version of "Rhinestone Cowboy."
After his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the summer of 2011, Campbell decided to hit the road one last time while he still could. After releasing the collaborative album Ghost on the Canvas (featuring covers of songs by modern artists like Jakob Dylan, Teddy Thompson, Paul Westerberg and Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard), Campbell kicked off his extensive “Goodbye Tour," which comes to the Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati this Sunday. For ticket info, click here.
CityBeat was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with Campbell about changes in music from when he started to today and how close he stays with his family on tour.
CityBeat: How did you choose songs and artists to collaborate with on Ghost on the Canvas?
Glen Campbell: Julian Raymond is my producer. He found the majority of the material. However, he kept notes of things I said or did and some of this material makes its way into the album. (Closing track) “There’s No Me…Without You” is an example of this.
CB: What has it been like to see the changes in music technology from vinyl to 8-track to cassette to CD to IPod? Do you think music sounds better or worse with the new technology, analog vs. digital?
GC: It has been wonderful to see all of the technological advances with recorded music. I think the music sounds better with the new technology.
CB: You are often highly autobiographical in your own songs. Do you regret ever sharing any of your stories through your music or songs?
GC: I have no regrets about the autobiographical songs I recorded.
CB: Are your children still on tour with you? What is the best part of having them on the road with you?
GC: My son plays drums for me. Shannon is on guitar and Ashley plays keyboards and bass. It’s wonderful sharing the stage with them. I love it. They are terrific musicians in their own right. The best part of having them with me is that our whole family and my wife Kim are all together and doing great shows which people have warmly embraced.
CB: What is your favorite guitar solo on any recording that you have done?
GC: One of my favorite guitar solos I recorded was for Frank Sinatra on his “Strangers in the Night.” I also like my guitar solo on “Wichita Lineman.” Jimmy Webb never finished the song so I just filled the hole with the guitar solo.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
CB: What is the longest time you have gone without playing guitar?
GC: I play every day.
CB: Would you ever consider playing with a Beach Boys reunion? (Campbell filled in for Brian Wilson on tour in the mid-’60s and recorded on Pet Sounds and other records.)
GC: I would not want to do a Beach Boys reunion at this point. They just celebrated their 50 years together with a big tour. I think that more than covered it.
CB: How has music helped you cope or deal with your Alzheimer's diagnosis?
GC: The music has brought me much joy and comfort.
Janet Jackson literally comes from a musical royal family. Her successes have extended the legend of the Jackson family positively, and with her strong voice, sharp dance instincts and a performance style perhaps only matched by her brother, the late King of Pop himself, has made her the second biggest superstar in the clan. The baby of the Jackson family has also managed a very successful acting career, which most recently has included roles in films like Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married and its sequel, Why Did I Get Married, Too, as well as the 2011 hit For Colored Girls. Jackson — who recently released her first book, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself — didn't rely on her family name to bring her success, instead creating her own distinct, multifaceted legacy. Jackson's intimate Number Ones Up Close and Personal tour comes to Riverbend's PNC Pavilion Thursday. Notoriously shy and extremely private in her personal life, CityBeat connected with Jackson via email to chat about True You, Cincinnati fans, her film career and the current tour.
Everclear has joined forces with other acts that may be best described as ’90s Rock and Pop groups for the Summerland Tour 2012 to get rid of the stereotype and prove their music still resonates today. Everclear saw its biggest fame with the release of the 1995 album Sparkle and Fade and the chart topper “Santa Monica.” The band has continued representing its West Coast roots and just released its eighth album, Invisible Stars.
CityBeat spoke with Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and discussed the Summerland tour. We also made Alexakis face a lighthearted game of quick-fire questioning which led to some very comical and real responses. Everclear will be performing at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) alongside Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground and Lit.
CityBeat: You guys have been out on tour for a few weeks since June. What is the craziest band on the tour?
Art Alexakis: The craziest band on the tour? Crazy in which way? My band has probably got more time with therapists. Does that count? I don’t know. I’ve got to tell you, every band is crazy in their own way. The Sugar Ray guys are just knuckleheads because they are playing ’80s music and ’90s Punk and singing it at the top of their lungs before every show. Lit are the party dogs. The Gin Blossoms are just old school pros and sweet guys and we are just a bunch of knuckleheads. I don’t know. It depends on what time and what day you are looking.
CB: I have been listening to your new album, Invisible Stars. My favorite song on the album was “Santa Ana Wind” and I wanted to see if you could tell me the story behind that song.
AA: It’s funny because that is one of the co-writes on the record. I had wanted to write a song about moving back to L.A. and I don’t force things. If it doesn’t come, I don’t force it, because it always sounds disingenuous when you do. A friend of mine, David Walsh who is in a band with my old bass player, came by my studio just to hang out a little bit. I remember him sitting there and he picks up the guitar and goes, “I got this music that I just can’t figure out a melody or words to it” and he just started playing it and I just started singing the melody. Within two hours, we had a song.
I took it home that night and finished it, finished all the words and got all the nuances and then we went in and recorded it a week later. It is my emotional favorite song on the record, it is definitely my favorite, even though I love all the songs. I am really proud of this record, but I am glad you like that song. That song means a lot to me. It’s weird because when I turned that song in, no one was talking about it as a single. I was kind of disappointed, but since the record came out, it has been the No. 1 song people write me about on Twitter and … Facebook. That is the No. 1 song, I think, that and “Jackie Robinson” is probably neck and neck. I am glad it resonated with you. I like that a lot.
CB: You guys have had produced major hits. I grew up with your music and love you guys. When you are writing, do you know when you have a hit?
AA: That is a real good question. I think a lot of people would be hesitant to answer that. I know when a song writes itself. I don’t know if you are familiar with my song “I’ll Buy You a New Life,” but that song basically wrote itself in like two hours and “Santa Monica” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Santa Ana Wind” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Jackie Robinson.” I had the idea for it in the music but I didn’t write the lyrics until later, but when I wrote them they came out in like about an hour.
Songwriting is the creative thinking. The craft part is easy for me but the creative parts, you can’t control it.
CB: There are definitely political tones on the new album, and I know you can be political at times. We are heading into a big election. Are you planning to do any campaign work or work with any candidates?
AA: No one has asked me. I am a tried and true Democrat and a huge fan of Barack Obama, was in 2008 and still am. I think he has done a great job. He is trying to climb a mud hill uphill, straight uphill, and he is doing it. It’s a hard job. I sure as hell wouldn’t want that job. I’ll campaign if people ask. It’s not like I go out of my way. I am political because I believe everybody should be political. It is our role. It is one of our key responsibilities; it is like falling in love or working or eating. Voting is so important. I feel like it is our right and our obligation as an American. I have always felt that.
CB: You guys are going out with all of these iconic ’90s bands and touring. What do you feel is the state of Rock music today?
AA: I don’t know. That’s a big, kind of $10 dollar question I don’t have the answer to. From my perspective, one of the reasons I wanted to start this tour, the reason I called Mark (McGrath of Sugar Ray) to get involved and be my partner and do this thing with me was I felt there was a need for this. I was talking to a lot of people who felt very disenfranchised by contemporary Rock and Pop and felt a huge connection with the ’90s era more than from a nostalgic point of view. This type of guitar Rock resonates with them and resonates with me as well. I think those are the people that are picking up on our record. We aren’t on a major (label). We don’t have major promotion. It seems like they are picking up every week which is bizarre because they usually go down at first. It just shows me, especially the way word of mouth on this tour has been, that my hunches were right. This isn’t nostalgia. This is a valid connection with people and music. People still feel excited about it and have a great time, and I think that is what it is all about.
CB: I just got a new table game and I have “Lightning Round”-sort of type of questions for you.
AA: You just what type of game?
CB: It’s a table game. You pick it up and ask questions. You should get one for the bus. Have you ever ran away from home?
AA: Have I ever ran away from home? OK. Yes. You should do your homework, missy.
CB: I know. I did. That is why it is kind of funny that I drew that one first.
AA: That is why you were laughing when you asked the question, you already knew the answer too.
CB: Sort of. What habit would you like to break?
AA: I can’t say what just came to mind.
CB: Yes you can. We print anything. That’s the point of this. Don’t think.
AA: The habit I want to break is my aversion to world peace. That didn’t work, did it? The habit I’d like to break is hitting on my drummer. I think it bothers him, makes him feel uncomfortable.
CB: I thought you were going to say getting married or something along those lines.
AA: I see where you are going. Maybe it is getting married to women half my age.
CB: That may be a good habit to break.
AA: I see. Just live with the band.
CB: Have you ever been fired?
AA: Yes. I have been fired, several times.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
AA: Alive. Is that an adjective? That’s not really an adjective, is it? Virile. Exciting. It’s a working dream. It’s not that far away. 75 is probably a long way off for you; it is not that far off for me.
CB: I’m not that young. I’m 36.
AA: You’re not that young? You’re older than my wife but you are younger than my ex-wife.
CB: What is your best excuse when pulled over for speeding?
AA: To be honest with you, I never make an excuse. I always come clean and I always get off. “I have no excuse officer. I was speeding. I was just excited to go where I want to go. I broke the law. I’m sorry. Give me the ticket.” I never get a ticket. The truth is good but being in a multi-platinum band probably helps too.
CB: I’ll try it but I don’t think it will work as well for me.
AA: When girls say that, they try to cry. My ex-wife, beautiful, she was beautiful, she was an actress and she would try to cry and get away out of tickets and she always got the ticket.
CB: I don’t cry. I just try to make up an excuse and that doesn’t work either. I am the worst driver.
AA: I believe you.
CB: What is the most unusual gift you ever received?
AA: My wife now, when we were dating, gave me the gift of a party on my birthday that was like a role playing game, you ever done that?
CB: I have done murder mysteries.
AA: This was a murder mystery, but this was cool because I was a Columbian drug lord and she was a Columbian drug lord and we became partners in killing and murdering and it was awesome. It’s a game. It’s awesome.
CB: I love it. Obviously, I am playing the table game with you right now. I like games.
AA: I think you are making this up off the top of your head.
CB: I am not. It is called Table Topics: Questions to Start Great Conversations. Any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past?
AA: Oh yeah, but I am not telling them to you.
AA: I have some really good Cincinnati stories. Just because.
I will tell you one. I was in my room and I was at some posh hotel and I was fooling around with some people and I hit the door and … I got that, what’s that called … Staph Infection.
The first time lead singer of The Dukes Are Dead, Lucas Frazier, eagerly told me about his band, in between puffs of a hastily smoked cigarette while on a quick break from the coffee shop where we both worked, I’m pretty sure I said, “Aw! That’s so cute.”
Three years and a lot of hard work later, The Dukes Are Dead are far from cute. Stoic. Diligent. Loud. Confident. Any number of adjectives, but unequivocally, definitely, absolutely, not cute.
Oh sure, they’re an attractive bunch. All slender and tangle-y-long-haired fellows, TDAD are four young men with serious, hungry ambition and serious, twinkling eyes. Randy Proctor, the prodigious bassist for this band, is perhaps the most vivacious, and assertively business-like.
I sat down with the gentlemen of The Dukes Are Dead to discuss their current role as the musical accompaniment for The Know Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, about the tumultuous and yes, bloody, life of the seventh president of the United States, running through May 12. (Read CityBeat's review here.)
“I was hanging out at MOTR one night,” says Proctor, his red curls all hip length and slightly mussed after a Saturday night performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, “getting really drunk, and Eric Vossmeyer, the production manager — he also does Fringe Festival — I overheard him talking about Fringe Festival and he says it nicer than the truth is, but, I was drunk, and kind of being cocky, and I guess I just felt like interrupting his conversation and telling him what he should do at one certain part of the production and this, this and this with the poster, and [I was like] ‘I’m in a band’, and I was being kind of cocky and he was like, ‘Oh, ok, thanks. Wait. You’re in a band? Why don’t I get your number?”
Proctor speaks quickly and efficiently, dropping anecdotes and inflection all over the place.
“And then I had no idea what he was talking about, and I called him up and we went to MOTR and he told me, ‘I like your ideas, but I’d like you to be in a musical with your band.’” Proctor relays. “I thought it was really wacky, and I was not too keen on it at first, actually, and then he just kind of described it to me, and then he told us he was going to pay us, which was cool, and then it just kind of won [us] one by one over to the idea of it. And then the wheels went into motion from there.”
Like Proctor said, TDAD was slightly hesitant at first to agree to being a part of the production.
“It was a lot of time. It was a lot of time that pretty much cancelled [us out of] being able to do anything [else],” says Luke Darling, lead guitarist for TDAD. “We were trying to do big things, and then this came up, so it was very cool, it seemed like a cool idea and like a lot of fun but that was the problem, was time. But we decided we did have time. We had enough.”
Rehearsals began a month and a half before production started, and TDAD quickly adjusted to the different setting and atmosphere.
“It was really fucking hard and stressful. They gave us all the sheet music, they gave us a CD, and basically we had to teach ourselves how to play these songs in, like, a week or two,” Frazier says matter-of-factly. He’s sitting one chair over from me, drinking a Moerlein, with Proctor, Darling and drummer Dave Reid sitting in the row directly behind us.
“Through this process, I think we all have learned tons of shit when it comes to playing music and understanding music. Like, I mean, just chords we’ve never played before, time signatures, key changes, all sorts of stuff that we’d never really attacked as The Dukes Are Dead, all of a sudden we were faced with,” says Frazier.
“And it wasn’t like, ‘Well I don’t like this, let’s just change it’, it was them telling us, ‘Play it like that.’ And they gave us this CD and this music, but then we get into this practice space and all of a sudden there’s all these lines and there’s these, like, times where we’re just playing the same thing over and over and filling the space, and having to get quiet and loud and everything’s fluctuating and changing and it’s just completely different from anything we have ever done before. And it has made us much better musicians, whether we like to admit it or not.”
The intensive rehearsal schedule is best explained by Proctor: “[At one point there were] two weekend days in a row, where we did twelve-hour days back to back, which means we worked a total of like fourteen days in a row [besides] the weekend. And we all have other jobs, too.”
But TDAD is nothing if not diligent and pervasive, and their smoking, blazing Rock and Blues-infused style made itself evident during rehearsal.
“I think that’s unavoidable,” says Darling. “We’re all particular tone snobs in our own way, to our own liking, and we were told to turn things down very far. Because it needed to be done. It’s a guitar-tech-nerd thing. I think tone’s the only reason it’s different.”
Proctor chimes in. “I think we got, three different times, formal requests to say, ‘take your volume down, you’re rocking a little bit too loud for the house.’ I’m proud of that. I think it’s cool that they had to tell us to turn it down.”
“It sucks to turn it down, but it makes sense,” says Frazier. “Because the music is not the most important thing. The vocals are.”
As lead vocalist for TDAD, Frazier has an especial appreciation for the way in which the story must be told.
“[The musical's actors] have to be heard above everything else, because they tell the story. The music is extremely important, but it’s still second to what they’re doing.”
Showmen of a different variety, TDAD performs emphatically, exuberantly at their own shows, with Frazier exuding a magnetism that is firmly in the realm of broody young lead singers. During BBAJ, TDAD is relegated to an elevated platform on the right side of the stage, mostly in dim lighting during the production. Learning to take a backseat was “so weird”, says Frazier. “When I’m on stage and I’m playing in a Dukes show, there’s that connection [with the audience]. [We know] we’re [all] having a good time. But this, they’re hardly ever looking at us, because we’re just playing the music. They’re performing. It’s very interesting to take a step back and really focus on what [I’m] doing. And increasing…”
“Dexterity,” inserts Darling.
“Right, exactly,” continues Frazier. “It’s just a chance to practice and focus and think more about it, because no one’s looking at you. It’s nice. It really is.”
With the spotlight off them in the musical arena, TDAD is eager to get back to their daily grind of performing, writing, recording and being a band.
“I think through this experience, it’s put us all in the mindset of [being] even more determined to do what it is we really want to do,” says Frazier. “Not that we’re not enjoying ourselves here, and we’re very grateful for the people around us, and this is a wonderful experience, but after this, it’s time to get back and hit it even harder than before.”
“This production’s here because some other guy went out and wanted to make music and change the world that way. It’s our turn to do the same thing.”
The coming summer of 2012 holds a lot in store for the gentlemen of TDAD. They will be embarking on an extensive tour, in cities “as north as Chicago, as south as Nashville, as west as St. Louis, and as east as Washington, D.C., and a lot in between” Proctor notes.
“We want to let people know that we’re going to be taking this and then going on out and expect to see us doing some bigger things. More content is going to be on it’s way, and we’re only going to get bigger and stronger and more incredible as time goes on.”
The Dukes Are Dead will continue performing in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson through May 12, and their next show is on June 15 at MOTR Pub.
Five Finger Death Punch will be one of the headlining acts of Rock on the Range, one of the nation’s biggest Hard Rock and Metal festivals that takes place in Columbus this weekend. FFDP has become known for its “active” show, encouraging crowd participation that can get on the edge of out-of-hand at times. The band released its third studio album last year, American Capitalist, which quickly shot to the top of all Rock and Metal charts.
CityBeat caught up with drummer Jeremy Spencer to preview next week’s Rock on the Range and discuss the grueling nature of the industry (especially as a drummer) and the advice that has driven him to be in the position of leading the rhythm and timing of Five Finger Death Punch. FFDP performs Saturday night on the main RotR stage in Columbus.
CityBeat: I was excited to talk to you because I know you just won the Golden God award for Best Drummer. How was that experience for you?
Jeremy Spencer: It was really great because I am a fan of all those drummers in the category and to be put in the same category was humbling already, and then to win, it was “Wow, this is really cool.” We couldn’t be at the show because we were out on tour. I got a call saying, “You know he won and if you could put together a video for the acceptance that would great.” So I made this really ridiculous acceptance speech video where I dressed up as redneck fans mocking me giving a speech, so I did a multi-character video for winning the award and it was really funny. It is all over the internet in case you get a chance to see it. Everyone got a kick out of it, but overall it was a really humbling experience and really cool.
CB: You guys just made another trip to Kuwait as well. I know it is really important to the band to support the troops. What was your most memorable experience this time around?
JS: We got to hang out with the troops a lot during the day and talk to people and we do extensive signings for them. The shows were pretty crazy. They don’t get a lot of entertainment over there so they are really excited when we get to come and play. And it is exciting for us too because they are such huge supporters of the band so it is the least we can do to give back to them because they sacrifice so much to be away from their families. It was very cool.
The only thing that wasn’t cool is that there is an 18-hour plane flight to and from Kuwait. That is the only brutal part but the rest of it was incredible.
CB: I actually did see some of the YouTube videos from the shows over there that were posted and they looked like they were crazy with the crowd surfing and the moshing and they really go into it.
JS: They really do. They get after it. It’s insane, like I said it is all pent up energy so they really get after it.
CB: I have listened to the album since it came out but in a lot of the recent songs there is serious hardcore drumming action. How do you stay in shape and how do you condition for that kind of hitting?
JS: I do a lot of stretching. That is the thing I didn’t do much growing up but now as I am getting older I have realized that stretching is vital. It is almost like doing yoga really. I use hard foam rollers to roll out my muscles and get the knots out. Stretching is key; any drummers that are doing this I would recommend doing that starting as young as you can. I also don’t party anymore. I try to take care of myself. I try to eat things that are relatively healthy. So that is pretty much what I do.
CB: I think that is a misconception for a lot of people. I talk to a lot of bands from a lot of different genres and I think people think the road is a continuous party and for some bands it is, but for a lot of bands it is about having a healthy lifestyle because it is so grueling.
JS: It really is. We are kind of like athletes. We have to get up there and perform for 75 minutes sometimes or 90 minutes and it takes a toll on you physically. We are not playing Pop music. It is pretty aggressive. It is physically demanding.
When we started out, we definitely participated in that party lifestyle. I am one to try it, but if you are going to be successful and have a long career then you can’t get wrapped up in that stuff. Rarely does it work so I figured it was time to treat this like a job. It is a job but it is a great job.
CB: Let’s talk about Rock on the Range. I have seen you play there before a couple years ago. It is always a good time. Is there anything that you are looking forward to specifically around that show?
JS: Last time, we had one of the biggest crowd surfing experiences that Rock on the Range had ever experienced and it is well documented on YouTube. So we will see how crazy the fans can get there this time. We certainly enjoy it. Every time we play there, it has been great. And you know, all the other great bands, and hanging out with our friends, it has always been a positive experience and I look forward to getting back there and doing it again this year.
CB: I was there last time. I am a photographer so I am always down in front for the beginning parts so it is always a little sketchy with the crowd surfing for us.
JS: Absolutely, you might want to wear a helmet or something.
There is no denying the legendary status of Black Sabbath. They are all Rock & Roll superstars, defining Hard Rock and Metal, both as forms of music and lifestyles. Without Sabbath, we would not have seen the likes of the Metal acts of today, like Slipknot and Tool, or fellow legends like Motorhead and Megadeth, as well as much of Grunge (and all of Stoner Metal).
Frontman Ozzy Osbourne does not see Black Sabbath as a Metal band. At a pre-tour press conference Osbourne elaborated on this: “I’ve never really liked that—- using that word 'Heavy Metal' — because ’80s Metal was all Poison, Motley Crue, Ozzy and so on, and the ’70s was a different thing, you know? And it got different in the ’90s. I mean, it’s like it doesn’t have any musical connotations for me.”
The new Black Sabbath album, 13, is not a Metal album. It is more like their earliest work together, not the Paranoid or Masters of Reality years, but the time they were grinding it out as a heavy Blues band. This is, of course, not your typical Blues album, nor has Black Sabbath abandoned what made them the legends they have become.
What gave the band the inspiration to produce their first No. 1 album (yes, I repeat, first No. 1) was one simple concept, one simple word — freedom. Ozzy explains, “There’s a lot of free spirit, which is what (producer Rick Rubin) was looking for, I suppose. It must have been. We did very well, his idea of a Black Sabbath album.”
On Sunday night, Black Sabbath rolls into the Klipsch Music Center in Indianapolis. After nearly 45 years of Black Sabbath, a lot of lineup changes have been made. This is not a different lineup. This is the original crew (minus drummer Bill Ward).
This is Ozzy, clean, sober and still with that distinct sound that no one else in the business can touch. It is guitarist Tony Iommi, who beat cancer while the new album was being made, truly the “Ironman” of the band (as Osbourne refers to him). It is bassist and band lyricist Geezer Butler. Rumors are already flying that this may be their last tour together, so it will be a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.
Here are a few more snippets from the pre-tour press conference to get you fired up. The humbleness and pride really shined through in all of Ozzy’s answers.
Q: Hey, I remember back when Sabbath originally got back together in the late 90s and you guys did a lot of touring then into the next decade. The band had tried back then for a time to get a new record together and then it didn’t materialize. Can you put your finger on what made things different this go around that did enable you to come up with some pretty raw material?
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? I was doing this television thing with The Osbournes back then, and I had my own career, and I suppose it was a clash of egos and it just didn’t feel right. We tried to force an album. In fact we did — we recorded a demo with a bunch of stuff, which is nothing like the way we used to do. We were forcing it out of ourselves. Whereupon this album, the 13 album (that) just kind of came out, we just clicked. I mean, you know when you’re in a band and you go into something that is working. You know, we didn’t have to force it. It just came naturally.
Q: When did you realize that?
Ozzy: There’s no answer - there’s no formula. There’s no magic — it just happens or it doesn’t. I wasn’t really into it (during the earlier attempt). They weren’t really into it and you can’t force it. It either comes or it doesn’t and I said before in the press that the reunion album was going to have to be something special, the most important album of my career.
When it comes out naturally and you get that tickling feeling in your spine and you know you're on a sort of that spiritual thing you sort of — you know that everything’s working right, you’re not forcing it.
Q: 13 has already proved to be very successful for the band. It’s the band’s first No. 1 album in the U.S. How does this feel after 45 years?
Ozzy: You know what? You’re asking the wrong guy, because when it went to No. 1 in England, it just went No. 1 in England, America, Germany, New Zealand and I’m like, "What?" I mean, I’m still kind of pinching myself, like I’m going to wake up and it’s all been a dream, because had this happened in 1972 after Paranoid, I’d have gone, “Oh, yes, OK.” But now after 45 years up the road and we get our first No. 1, it’s kind of a hard thing to swallow, you know? You just kind of — it’s great. I’m not saying I don’t want it to be No. 1, but I just don’t understand why now, you know? I mean, we’ve been around for a long time, in one way or another.
Q: OK, so now you’ve got the album that you wanted. What’s the live show going to be like?
Ozzy: You know, all I can say is a month or so ago we were in New Zealand, Australia and Japan, and it was astounding how the reception was. We’re going to do some old and we're going to do some new and it’s just kind of interesting to be able to do some new stuff because in the past I haven’t been able to do a lot of new stuff because of the fact that my range is too high and I couldn’t do onstage what I did in the studio.
But now on this, on 13, I sang it in a range that I could do most of them on stage so we did new things, “End of the Beginning”, “God is Dead?" and a couple of others, but we couldn’t do most of the cuts off the album, if you want to change them around and all. We’re not going to go and just do new stuff with very limited old stuff. We’re going to do “Paranoid,” “Black Sabbath,” a good mix of the old stuff as well as the new stuff.
Q: I wanted to see if you could talk about Tony Iommi, just how inspirational for you it was watching your friend battling cancer while making this album, and his courage.
Ozzy: You know, when he came down with cancer, it’s been the way of Sabbath. That is, we’d try to get something going again, and the last time, (original drummer) Bill Ward had a heart attack and we couldn’t do it then. The easiest part of getting back together with Black Sabbath and doing an album is just sitting down and just saying, “Yes, you know,” but then all kinds of crap gets flown in the works.
And Tony kept going. He said, “I’ve got this lump,” and I said, “You know what? If I were you, I’d go and get myself checked out, because you know in a way, it was what I said to Sharon — my wife Sharon went to get checked out early part of of 2000, and she found she had colon cancer, so she had to go and get it checked out.” So he came back and he said, they’ve found I’ve got lymphoma, and I go, 'This is unbelievable.' Every time we start to get going -—it’s like a curse, you know? And believe me, I know from firsthand with my wife that treatment for cancer is not like doing a line of coke and going to a disco. It knocks the crap out of you, you know? But fair play to Tony, it just came down to the studio.
The only thing we had to do was make it easier for him to get treatment. In other words, we started off at my studio in Calabasas, but we all moved to his studio in England, and we all stayed in a hotel for a while to accommodate him, and he would come down to the studio every day. I’d go, “Tony, you’re sure you’re okay to do this, man, are you ready?” And he goes, “No I'll do it," and he came down, he came up with the goods.
I thought my God, man, he is “Ironman.” You know, I mean, my hat goes off to him, because I mean, believe me, I don’t know if you have ever known anybody who had chemotherapy before, but that really knocks the life out of you, man.
Q: I’m just curious what the impetus was that — when you called Tony back in 2010 and said, you know, let’s get the band back together, I want to make another Sabbath album, what was going through your mind at that time?
Ozzy: I can’t really remember who called who. I think it originally was me and Tony doing an album and then we tried various bass lines and we tried the instruments out and we tried a whole bunch of people, and I don’t know who said, what’s Geezer up to and, you know, and it just kind of came together by accident and we all started to write stuff and it started to gel. Whereas we tried before and we all sat there and it just wouldn’t —- it … just wouldn’t work, you know.
But it came together very naturally and it wasn’t too long to where it was like, 'I like that, that’s pretty cool,' and so you can’t force anything, right? You can just, you can try and be Black Sabbath, but we all knew that we didn’t want to put an album out called Black Sabbath, just for the sake of us guys getting together and doing stuff together. At one point there was even talk like not calling it a Black Sabbath album, but eventually it rolled into itself.
Q: I wanted to ask about the lyrics on the album. Now I know Geezer has a big hand in that. How does the process work? Who create the lyrics?
Ozzy: Well, what happens is I get a melody, and I’ll just sing anything, and sometimes it can be like a beginning or a hook line or a couple of words that he gets inspiration from. He’s the main lyricist, although I wrote a couple of the sets of lyrics on the album, but Geezer gives Black Sabbath’s vocal message verbally. I mean, over the years, he’s given me some phenomenal lyrics, you know.
He’s just one of these guys that can do that. I get an idea like “God is Dead?” for instance. One day I was in the doctor’s office waiting room, and Time magazine was just sitting on the front with “God is Dead?” and I thought, 'Wow, that’s a good idea,' and I started singing that on the track, you know, the “God is Dead?” bit.
You know, I thought, 'They've flown planes into the World Trade Center under the name of religion and God and all this shit, and that is not my idea of what God should be.' My idea of what God should be is a good guy, you know? I don't think there's any good in killing people in the name of your God. And so Geezer — that was my idea — and Geezer took it to another level.
Q: Did you ever have to have discussions about things that he writes that you might not agree with?
Ozzy: No, no.
Q: Is there ever a back and forth?
Ozzy: He’s very careful. I mean, if you listen to the lyrics on “God is Dead?” at the end of the song it says, “I don’t believe that God is dead.” people just look at the face value of the title, and I know on this tour we’re going to have Bible thumpers and people picketing us and people telling us that we’re evil and all that. We kind of laugh at it, because people just go the face value (of) “God is Dead?" and it’s all about Satan and it’s just quite amusing, actually, because they don’t really know what they’re complaining about.
Q: This is just a little bit off-topic. In the movie God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, I noticed toward the end you were learning to drive. I just wanted to know what was going on with that.
Ozzy: See what happened, I got a driving license, bought a Ferrari, I bought an RA Spider, and the people would get out of the bloody road when Ozzy was driving, I’m telling you. I was always getting stopped by the cops or running into somebody else’s car, so one day I said to my wife, “You know what? I’m 64. I don’t really want to be found dead in a Ferrari.” I’ve survived this long of all my trials over my life. I don’t want to drive over a cliff in a car, so I haven't really been driving since I sold the Ferrari and the RA.
Classic Rock band Styx originated in the 1970’s and enjoyed hits like “Lady” and “Come Sail Away." Today, while they may not have the exact pieces of the original band from the late ’70s intact, Styx travels the globe annually to give a show similar that of its early days, though these days the group is fronted by J.Y. Young.
CityBeat recently spoke with Styx keyboard player and vocalist Lawrence Gowan about his musical influences and what led him to the band 14 years ago. Styx performs at Riverbend Music Center tomorrow (Tuesday) night with fellow classic rockers REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent.
CityBeat: First off, have you had any memorable Cincinnati experiences on the tour over the past few years?
Lawrence Gowan: They are all incredibly memorable. The audience there has always been fantastic for us. One of the experiences I remember was the first time we played Cincinnati and I saw that classic fountain downtown. The last couple of times, we stayed on both sides of the river finally now so I have gotten to know a little bit more of the town just by walking around. The audience reaction in Cincinnati is always tremendous for Styx. We are really geared up and really looking forward to the 26th of June.
CB: You were one of the later members to join the band in the ’90s. Were you a Styx fan growing up playing music?
LG: I loved Classic Rock. I loved Progressive Rock particularly and Styx was the only really successful band outside of Britain to make a great mark in that style of music, so yeah I loved the whole genre of music they were playing and I loved the band. Funny enough, I had a long solo career with a number of albums in Canada that were never released in the States but I was always very aware of Styx. I did a couple of shows with them in 1997. There was something in the air that kind of felt like we were going to connect again in the future and I am entering my 14th year with the band now.
CB: When you joined the band, was there any initiation or hazing they put you through?
LG: Yes of course there was. You actually had to cross the river Styx which I don’t recommend for everyone.
CB: You are a classically trained pianist.
LG: Yes I am.
CB: How do you think that better prepared you to be in a Rock band?
LG: I always find that Classical music inspires or makes its way into a lot of the melodic content of some of the best Rock music. The moment I heard “Eleanor Rigby”, with the Classical string quartet playing through that song, I realized the profound connection between both styles.
Both styles are not very afraid to be very grandiose when they need to be and cover a great emotional spectrum. It’s funny, I remember reading (that) Elton John and Rick Wakeman particularly had gone to the Royal Academy in London, and in Toronto they have the Royal Conservatory which is the same pattern, the same message of teaching so I wanted to go through that. I really love it and I still do. Before we go on stage every single night I am backstage playing some Classical piece just to get my chops together and get my head ready for the show.
CB: You had mentioned and you were a pretty large solo artist before you joined the band. What was the biggest transition from being on your own and being in other bands to being in a band like Styx?
LG: Learning to play with others. It’s a completely different dynamic when you are a solo artist and you have got the band behind you. You have a string of hit songs that you are responsible to play every single night and it all kind of falls on your shoulders.
With Styx, I love this as well because it is a break from that entirely because I am on stage with five other frontmen who are all very capable of commanding the stage on their own. We trade off on who is up front in every single song, and even within a song there may be several sections where section after section the strongest dynamic on stage is being traded off. I love that and it is a completely different thing. I love just being the keyboard player at some points in the band. It’s great.
CB: Have you ever been starstruck?
LG: In my life? Well, let me see now — yeah, I guess a couple of times sure. When I made my second solo album, I got a chance to record at Ringo Starr’s home near London, England, in Ascot, England. It was the house where John Lennon had recorded “Imagine” and when I went to the door the first day with the producer — it was a home studio there he was letting us use — (and) he actually answered the door. I remember finding it difficult to bring words to my mouth which usually isn’t that hard of a thing for me to do. That was quite an experience. I remember it took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t in a scene from A Hard Day’s Night but actually talking to a guy in his house.
CB: There is a lot of debate now about Rock music in general and how it has changed so much. Other forms of music are coming to the forefront. Do you think Rock & Roll music is a dying art?
LG: That is a tough one, isn’t it? I have heard that kicked around most of my life. I think we can agree now that Rock music was the big musical statement for the last half of the 20th century, the electrification of music and the fact that Rock makes such a gigantic sound and changed what people embraced as popular music. I don’t think it is going to ever go away now because we have history on our side. There has been 50 years of it or more so I think it is a style of music that is going to continue to evolve and to dig into different areas.
I think you can trace a lot of the newer things you are talking about, trace it back to that gigantic statement that Rock was in the last half of the 20th century and I think it will be embraced and loved my millions for years to come because just like people still love Jazz or they love Country or they love Classical music or Ragtime; it is a style of music and a way of performing that I can’t see it entirely slipping off the planet any time soon.
CB: Do you keep journals or any kind of history of the tours over the years, memorable things for you?
LG: The best history I kept for a number a years was every night at the end of shows I took a Polaroid picture on stage or took three or four of them and tossed some of them out to the audience but I’d keep one for myself. My wardrobe case is stuffed with all these Polaroid pictures because we have played over 1500 shows together since I joined the band. That is a fantastic journal. You know what they say about pictures and words. They do tell a huge story over the course of time. It is funny, last night in Kansas City at the end of the show when I am reaching down and shaking people’s hands and somebody threw a picture up at me of the first year I was in the band and we had a great laugh backstage after because we realized there are old pictures of us now together. It was back when we did a little acoustic set in the middle of the show. My best documentation of the shows is that collection of Polaroids.
CB: I am a music photographer so I have got years of histories of bands and it is, I think, the best way to tell a story.
LG: It kind of is. I like putting my thoughts on paper very much but that usually morphs into becoming a song. I find that just what pictures evoke and the flood of memories you can get from them it can be astounding every time you look at them particularly when you are in a heightened state like being on stage in front of 10,000 people, the feeling of that moment is well captured.
CB: Any regrets over the years?
LG: I think like any human being there are things you are going to regret I suppose but it is a useless endeavor because they all kind of amount to where you are today and I like where I am today so I really can’t waste much time on that. I am sure one day on my death bed I will think, “You know, maybe I could have been a hockey player.”
CB: You guys are playing over a 100 shows a year, huge amounts of time on the road. Are there any plans to slow down?
LG: Not really. There is such an insatiable demand for Styx to play around the world and I have got my solo shows back up and doing a number of those in Canada every year. I think I enjoy it now more than I ever did and I am in a band of like-minded people. We have no plans to do that. We plan to keep pushing as hard as we can for as long as we can. Really, the only real question for us is how we find time to make another full album and we are kind of coming up with novel ways of being able to come up with that at present.
CB: I know Ted Nugent is on tour with you guys this time and he has been very vocal all the time about political views and gotten in trouble the last few months. Do you have any election picks for us this year?
LG: As the only Canadian that is involved in this whole thing, I think that is the easy way to duck out of the U.S. political debate and the hot question. I have a feeling that it is between Obama and Romney. That is my big prediction.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show next week?
LG: We are going to ram as many Styx classic hits at them as we can in the hour and 20 minutes we are playing. We will also throw in one or two of the album cuts from The Grand Illusion. We noticed there are songs on that record that were never singles that have become great favorites of a lot of the audience so we like to include one of the more unusual pieces in the show as well.
CB: What do you do on your down time on the road?
LG: Well I usually, myself, I like to do something to keep myself in shape so I am always doing a bit of yoga. Although I am the keyboard player, I am a huge guitar lover so I am usually practicing my chops in the hotel room. We also do all the social media things like Facebook and our website. They need to be looked at every few days just to see where things are and I love to go for walks around cities. That is one of the things I enjoy about Cincinnati. As I said, the last couple of times, walking across that bridge across the river is one of my favorite pastimes in that city. I am a walker.
CB: It is amazing how much time you spend on Facebook and the internet that is lost doing those things.
LG: It is a nice way, it is an easy way, depending on how you treat it, to feel like you can engage with people you really don’t have the opportunity to with the shows because we are too busy getting ourselves back to the tour bus afterwards. We can shake a few hands. It is a way to kind of feel a connection to people on a human level where we happen to be in a career that it is hard to do that just because of the demands of the day.
CB: Are any current bands influencing you now or what are you listening to?
LG: There are so many things I have listened to lately, I heard a fantastic band from England recently called Everything Everything. Todd, our drummer turned me onto them. I like Keane. I like them being keyboard players. I like My Chemical Romance, I kind of dig that band a bit. There is a Metal band I really like called Children of Bodom. That is the kind of stuff I have listened to lately.
Peter Frampton is a true guitar legend, revered by every single one of his peers. As his Guitar Circus tour rolls into town this week, crowds will be amazed by the beautiful music from his catalog of 40 years of music, as well as performances by Blues legend B.B. King and special guests Sonny Landreth and Dave Hidalgo (Los Lobos).
CityBeat caught up with Frampton in advance of Wednesday’s tour stop at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion and discussed how this tour concept came together and what it has been like working with one of his heroes on a nightly basis.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Frampton’s Guitar Circus so far?
Peter Frampton: It is hard to say because we have had so many incredible guitar players play with us already. The list is growing every day. From the other night, Vinnie Moore to Vince Gill to Don Felder to Roger McGuinn. It is like every night is so different. Every night is a highlight with all of these amazing players. Sometimes we only have someone for one night because of scheduling, like Vinnie Moore was only one night. John Jorgenson was only one night from Elton John’s band, who is also a wonderful Jazz artist (and) was with me on my Fingerprints CD. Some nights we get one, some nights we get three and sometimes we are lucky enough and we get Don Felder for six (shows) and Roger McGuinn for six (shows). They are all split up and don’t happen at the same time. I can’t really pick one.
CB: When did you come up with the idea and how did you bring it all together for the tour this year?
PF: It was last year after my little sabbatical, my year off after the Comes Alive (anniversary) tour. I was going, “What can I follow this with?” because it was a very successful tour and probably one of the most successful tours I have done in years.
It was one of those things where I said I have got to do something with other artists. We had been doing shows for quite a few years now with just me, "An Evening with," as it were. It was something I wanted to do with as many guitarists as I could, to have an opening act with a great guitar player and then have some guests. The idea was there. I sat down with my manager Ken Levitan and I said what I wanted to do. He said, “Why don’t we call it something like a 'guitar circus'?" I said that was great. It was fantastic. I have to give him credit. He came up with the idea and then we have as many guests as we can along the way.
At that point, we decided we would try to have a three-act show, which is what it is in Cincinnati, where it is Sonny Landreth opening it up. He is not an opening act, he just starts the evening because he is a headliner himself. He is a phenomenal player and has such a great history. We have him starting the evening off for us with his amazing band and himself.
The person that when we first put our feelers out (for) who might be interested in coming along with us on the Guitar Circus and said yes was B.B. King, which blew me away. That set the whole tone for the whole Guitar Circus because everyone said, “If B.B. King is doing it, I’ve got to do it.” It gave us great credibility right from the start. So B.B. King will come on. We played for the first time with him the other night. I got to sit in and jam with him, which was a dream come true.
After B.B. goes off we come on and do our hour and a half. During that period, David Hidalgo will come on, he is our guest in Cincy, from Los Lobos. He has played a couple dates with us already and it is incredible. We become Los Lobos and it is phenomenal. It is just great. It is very exciting every night. It is a challenge to be that person’s band when they come on. I’ve got an excellent band so we do a really good job.
CB: You mentioned B.B. King, who is an all-time legend. What do you talk to B.B. King about backstage?
PF: Well, I went back and saw him when he arrived in his own bus. I thanked him for being the reason why this whole tour is being successful, because he was the first person to say yes. I said, “Not only is it an honor that you are on one date, but you are on nearly four weeks of dates with me, every night.” I just couldn’t thank him enough. He said he was thrilled to be a part of it. I think there is a mutual respect as guitarists, definitely my way. To be able to sit and play with him the night before last was incredible. He is going to be 88 and he is still doing it. It is absolutely incredible that he is, and we are all thrilled that he is. He is just the sweetest guy. You wouldn’t think that someone as legendary as him is that nice but he is. He is a sweet, sweet man. You can’t believe it. It is how you wish everybody could be when you meet them. He takes the cake that is for sure.
CB: I can hear you smiling through the phone just talking about playing with him.
PF: It doesn’t get any better. It is one of those moments I won’t ever forget. I am not sure I will be doing it every night. I hope so. He said I can tell him what I want to do and walk out and play. He means what he says. I am just getting to know him. It is unbelievable that we had never met before until the other night. Now it feels like we have known each other for years.
CB: I saw you recently perform this Spring on The Voice. You went on with Terry McDermott during the finals. A lot of artists are coming out and speaking negatively about shows like this that try to make people stars overnight because they don’t have to pay their dues over years. Do you have any feelings about that?
PF: I am not a big fan of those shows in general. The part that I don’t like is that it is this nationwide talent show. These people come on, and it’s their fault, they put themselves in that position to have someone ream them on national TV. I sort of cringe every time I see that, (no matter how) rightly or wrongly how the judge is.
I have been asked to be a judge on those things. You will never see me as a judge. I would be saying everybody stays. That’s not me. I know what I like and everything, and I will say it in private, but I am not going to say, “You suck and get out of here,” which is basically what happens.
They asked me over a weekend, like two days before the show, if I would do The Voice. I asked them to fill me in and tell me what it was about. Then I listened to Terry and liked him a lot, all his clips and everything. I thought it was just excellent. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to go on there and do a duet. For me it was just a performance within one of those types of shows. I wasn’t part of voting anybody on or off. It was something I enjoyed doing and I think it came off really well. We got such a demand for the song, we mixed it and released it as a single. So it is on iTunes as well.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
PF: I just got my Phoenix back, that is what it has been called. It is the guitar that was supposedly lost and burnt up in the plane crash in South America in Venezuela. After having that back for a year and a bit now, it is definitely my favorite. I have other favorites, but there is something about that one and the history, you know of me getting it in time to play on Humble Pie’s live record, Rockin’ the Fillmore, and everything I did in the 70s, all my solo records. It was one of only two electric guitars that I had. To have that back, it has become my favorite again overnight.
CB: I own a few Jim Marshall photographs and one is of you at Oakland Stadium in 1975. Do you remember that day? Obviously that photograph is iconic itself, but is there anything special about that day in California? Did that photo change you in any way?
PF: In San Francisco and Detroit and New York, we were already pulling huge crowds just from word of mouth and the solo albums I had out, and obviously my time with Humble Pie. I think that was the very first time we did it at a stadium. There is nothing quite like looking out to 65,000 people … I think the biggest place we had played was Madison Square Garden. There is a huge energy-level discrepancy between an arena and a stadium. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline it gives you to see 65,000 people with their hands in the air shouting at you. You never forget that first time. There were many after that in stadiums, but that first one was pretty incredible.
CB: I speak to a lot of guitar players. I spoke to one the other day that said a guitar broke up his relationship. Have you ever had a guitar break up a relationship?
PF: No, but it has come really close. The guitar, she is the other woman, always. The passion you have for music is very strong and it does come with jealousy sometimes when you prefer to play the guitar than be with the woman.