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.
Red is a Christian Rock band that has ascended into the mainstream alongside Rock acts like Papa Roach and Korn. The band members let their faith creep into their music and their message, but do not let it define them. Earlier this year Red released its fourth studio album, Release the Panic. The album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart, showing their strength as a national act (Red's previous release, Until We Have Faces, debuted at No. 2 in 2011).
CityBeat recently caught up with Anthony Armstrong, the band’s guitar player, who spoke about the band’s inspirations and vision for the future of Rock music. Red is playing on Friday at King’s Island in Cincinnati for Spirit Song 2013, which runs Thursday-Saturday and features some of the biggest names in Contemporary Christian music.
CityBeat: I saw you guys at (Columbus, Ohio, Hard Rock fest) Rock on the Range. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
Anthony Armstrong: That’s a tough one. You know what is really sad, our good buddies Sevendust played right before us and we didn’t get to see their set so I was really disappointed. Papa Roach put on an incredible show every single time they take the stage, so I would say they are up there as one of the best. It was cool to see Bush. That was really cool to feel like I was in high school and to see those guys doing their thing. When they started playing “Come Down” I felt like I was right there back watching. There was an old movie from the ‘90s called Fear with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg, and I think Bush was the entire soundtrack to that movie. I just felt like I was back in the ‘90s and high school listening to Bush records. It was cool.
CB: You guys play Christian music and are a Christian band. Is it ever hard to be on tour or at these festivals in this non-Christian atmosphere?
AA: It’s never for us. I think media outlets and sources, even in interviews like this, people are so curious about that. They ask the question because they want to understand and know the answer to how we deal with that. For us, we don’t see it any different than if we are playing a Christian show. We are all just people in general. You are going to see crazy stuff happen at those shows too. We like to hangout and we like to have a good time. We don’t get too out of control. We hang out with all these guys. We love these guys and they love us. We just show them we aren’t any different than them because we love God and we believe in God. We don’t feel like it should be something that draws a line or creates a wall that we can’t get past. It is just what we believe. There are plenty of guys up on those stages in all the different bands that believe different stuff. I say come see one of our shows. We are going to do exactly what those bands do just as good if not better. We aim high and we really try not to focus on that kind of stuff. It just complicates things. We are just a Rock band.
CB: I have seen you tour three times over the years and you never look any different or sound any different than the other bands. It is just a different message through the words.
AA: Yeah, that’s the thing with the message. We are not going in there with some sort of agenda. We are not going into these shows with some sort of recruiting mentality. We are just going to play some Rock songs. Wherever these songs reach, wherever they are in their life, if these songs inspire them, then we did our job. That’s all we care about doing. We’ve done many of the things people standing in the crowd are doing. We know they don’t work out for us. We know they are bad for us. We know the one thing that works for us is our faith. A lot of people want to hold you over the coals for it because they think it’s lame; they think it’s cheesy and you are not hardcore if you believe in God. I know more crazy, jacked-up people that believe in God than I know that don’t believe in God. We are the ones that are here because we need God because we can’t get out of our own way. A lot of the guys that turn to God and live that lifestyle were at that point. Brian (“Head” Welch) from Korn is a perfect example of that. The guy was literally on his death bed constantly getting high. He reached out and said, “If you are real I want to know. I want you to show it to me.” And God did that for him. That was just a cool story for him to hear.
CB: I know you tour a lot over the years. Do you take time out to write as a band or do you write when you are on the road?
AA: We write so much it’s ridiculous. It’s a love-hate relationship. It takes more love than anything. It’s really cool. We just released a record. We probably won’t really start diving into writing until about January or February of 2014. We usually put records out about every two and a half years. That’s about the time you start digging into the new stuff. You take this first part of a new record release to key in on the new songs and translate and see how everything goes, start paying attention to what is going on in the world. You start collecting the inspiration you need to write another record. That’s one of the things we’ve always focused on.
CB: One of my favorite songs that you guys have was your first single, “Perfect Life” — could you tell me the story behind that song?
AA: Yeah, we were out in L.A. with our new producer, we had never used him before, his name was Howard Benson. We had three records with the same guy that we still love. We will probably do another record with Rob Graves. It was just a transition for us. We wanted to try something new. We were out there in the Hollywood hills hanging out at Howard’s huge house. You could probably fit our tour bus in there three times. We were hanging out on his back patio talking about the record and what we were about to do. He said, “Check this out guys,” and we look out and there is Kim Kardashian in the compound in front of us. We started talking about that TV show and that transitioned into what it is really like out in Hollywood and what the media projects as what life really is on the Jersey Shore and all this other stuff. What life is all about when you can have these things and be this glamorous and have this lifestyle. This is the perfect life. This is what you want. This is what you can attain. We were like, “This is complete bull. You can be happy no matter what you are doing” It’s about chasing down the things people think are important. The perfect life is projected to us in a certain way. For us we are saying, find out for yourself. What is the perfect life for you? It shouldn’t be what other people do. It should be what you do.
CB: Is it hard being on the road with your brother?
AA: No, it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s really cool because in a band, when you have a band of four individuals, when you have a fight or an argument it gets pretty awkward. Randy and I are like the unofficial leaders of Red. We take care of everything from the administration to the music. I am really involved with the writing side of things. Randy is really involved in managing our affairs. When something goes down, Randy and I can usually sort it out between the two of us. We will discuss things together as a band and a group of guys. Ultimately, Randy and I can bounce things off each other and get a little heated but the guys just know we are brothers and that’s the way brothers are. We have been competitive towards each other our whole lives and now we are in a rock band together. We have never been separated. We have always been together. We went to college together. We roomed together for four years. We might as well have dated the same girls. It was just wild. I love the dynamic. They say never mix business with family, and I haven’t really experienced it being a bad thing with me and Randy being in the band together.
CB: I hear also that you cause the occasional accident over the years on stage. Any new accidents lately? I am personally surprised Michael doesn’t hurt himself more jumping around the way he does.
AA: We are more afraid of the fire now. We are pretty scared of getting burned. We have had a couple near accidents. If you get too close to the flames, it singes all the hair off your arms. Nothing has been like it used to be with injuries. I hit Michael in the head twice, sent him to the hospital once. I opened his eye and had seven staples in his head with my guitar. My brother has hit me in the face with his bass guitar and cut my eye wide open. Rock & Roll.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
AA: I have a custom 24 PRS that I named Vegas after my Bulldog. It was my first PRS guitar they made for me and only me. I have a love affair with that guitar.
CB: A lot of people right now are saying that Rock is dead and Rock music is dying, that Country is the new thing selling out the stadium, it’s the new Rock. Do you believe that?
AA: I don’t believe it because when I went to Rock on the Range and I saw it is alive and well. I don’t believe that Rock & Roll has its act together. We live in Nashville, Tenn. We see the CMA Awards and the CMT Awards. You see how it is such a different animal. It would be really cool to see Rock get its act together and have that sort of Rock N Roll Awards. The MTV Awards used to be about Rock. We don’t have anything specific to us. We don’t have anything specific to Rock Music in general. It’s the Grammys or we are part of something. I would love to see that sort of thing happen. Other than that, I don’t think in a million years the world would be livable without Rock N Roll. It’s something in Rock music makes you feel. It gets you fired up and people love that feeling. It’s like drugs.
CB: What current music is inspiring you guys or you personally?
AA: There is such great music right now. In Rock N Roll right now, I’d say, we are big Muse fans. We have always been huge Sevendust fans. When we first moved here, I think I had to buy their record three times because I listened to it over and over and over. We are inspired by not just the music. We get out on the road with these guys and see what kind of guys they are. They work their tails off. We are all scratching for our place and hoping things just work out and it is just cool to see other bands doing things we do.
CB: I am sure you guys are going to have a great set here in Cincinnati at Kings Island.
AA: They won’t let us use fire this weekend.
CB: I have seen your show with fire and without fire and it is always good.
AA: We consider it icing on the cake, another cool thing. We want to be able to stand alone without it. When we can use it, we use a lot of it. What is funny, Rock on the Range, this summer when we play festivals, we do 28 points of flames, 28 different nozzles of fire. It’s just fire but it is so much fun. It is such a cool thing.
CB: After that show, are you going back on tour this summer?
AA: Yeah. Right now, the summer is chalked full of festivals. We will play festival dates and it is really cool for us because we play the big late night stages where we can do the pyro and stuff. After that we will get into the fall and have a couple tour options but we are not allowed to talk about the yet because they haven’t been announced. We are going overseas. We are going to Europe for three weeks right before Thanksgiving. We have some stuff happening.
One of Cincy’s more popular Pop Punk bands has decided to call it quits. But first, they're giving fans some new music and one final blow-out show to remember them by.
The quintet Loudmouth has played well-attended gigs regularly around town for the past half decade or so, eventually becoming headliners of self-booked multi-band shows at places like Madison Theater in Covington. Tonight, the group returns to the club for its farewell show and the release party for its final album, the eight-song Future Boredom.
The band is splitting because guitarist Mike Ulanski took a job teaching English in Abu Dhabi.
I sent Loudmouth a few questions about their experiences as a band in Greater Cincinnati and their individual plans moving ahead. The tight knit group of pals got together and answered them as a band.
CityBeat: You guys have your last album coming out at the farewell show. Tell me a little about Future Boredom. Was it material you were working on before you decided to split or did you know you were splitting and went in the studio to record these final tunes?
Loudmouth: The songs were written or were in the process of being written before Mike announced that he accepted the job offer, but we all knew this was our last record when we went into the studio. The toughest decisions we faced were which songs to record, and how many we could afford to do without sacrificing the quality of each songs production. Tim and Mike were writing lots of songs at the time, but their styles were heading in two different directions, which can be seen on Future Boredom.
The songs weren’t written about the break up, but they were recorded as if they were the last songs we’d ever do, which means we couldn’t afford to leave anything unsaid. Between Eric Tuffensdam’s (Moonlight Studios) expertise and our previous studio work with him, we definitely got what we wanted out of this record, a definitive and uncompromised collection of our best written songs.
CB: You guys had a great run of about four or five years. What are you most proud of from your time playing around the area?
LM: We’ve been fortunate enough to share a stage with just about every one of the bands we grew up idolizing, but opening for NOFX takes the cake on moments that we’ll remember forever. The proud moment there was that the 2000 people crammed into the Madison Theater didn’t boo us off the stage like NOFX crowds are prone to do.
But besides that, we have a lot to be proud of, and more importantly a lot to be thankful for. None of the amazing moments we had as a band would have existed without the help of some amazing people. Frank Heulfeld and Kevin McNamee with the Madison Theater, and before that the Mad Hatter, Rome and the Clifton Heights Music Festival (which we’ve only missed one since the beginning of the festival because we were on tour), Rich and the entire Southgate House staff, Adam and CincyPunk Fest, the staff at the Madison Theater, who among other things, talked the cops out of arresting Tim seconds before we hit the stage, Chris Joselyn and Brian Carothers for all their help booking tours.
Above all else, and we mean this with all sincerity, the thing that makes all of us proud and grateful is the support we’ve gotten from day one. We’ve never, not exaggerating, played a show where people didn’t dance by the end of our set. We came up in an age where kids were too cool to dance at shows, and we’ve watched so many great bands play killer sets to a bunch of stone faced hipsters gently bobbing their heads in jaded approval. Those kids got pushed to the back of the crowd when we played, and we couldn’t be more proud to have that kind of effect on people. All that dancing and moshing and shouting of our lyrics translates that people get it, and what’s more, they actually like it, and nothing is more gratifying then having that kind of connection with your friends and fans.
CB: Anything you would have done differently?
LM: Tour. Tour all the time. We did three tours; the last one to Florida was our most successful, but touring would be the No. 1 priority if we could do anything differently. We probably could have been more business savvy and networked a little more, too.
CB: What's been the low point?
LM: The worst show we ever played happened at the Blue Rock Tavern in Northside. There were a lot of people out that night and we were headlining and everything that could have gone wrong did. The P.A. kept over heating, it was 900 degrees and Mike’s guitar broke four songs in, and there was no replacement. We had to just stop. It was embarrassing and people got pissed.
Moving out of Loudhouse and losing that as a place to party and throw shows was also a bummer. We had to pay for a practice space again, we lost our afterparty, which had become a huge part of our shows, and, of course, we couldn’t invite a bunch of awesome bands to play the basement. The Bike House died shortly after that, and it seemed like Cincinnati’s basement scene sort of dried up all at once. We went from a city who had an entire weekend fest dedicated to basements to having no real basement venues to speak of. That was definitely a bummer.
Shortly after that Sam Duff left the band and the months leading up to and following that time were pretty rough. We practiced in a moldy closet sized room in the back of the Mad Hatter, we weren’t sure who was going to play bass, how we could afford to tour; it was a cold wet winter and things were just all around crappy.
CB: Can we expect future musical projects from the Loudmouth members? Any concrete plans as of yet?
LM: None of us will ever stop playing music, but where, how and with who is bound to change. Tim, Adam Bret and Chris have already talked about their next project and things are in the works.
Mike will be playing acoustic Journey covers at an open mic in Abu Dhabi to pay rent.
CB: What can people expect from the last blow out concert from Loudmouth?
LM: You’ll have to come to find out.
Tonight's 9 p.m., all-ages show features a great support bill: The Frankl Project, Horsecop, Situation Red and The Milky Way Persuasion. Tickets are $5.
Visit www.loudestmouth.com for more on the group and to sample some tunes.
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.
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.
Papadosio is a trendsetting, progressive voice in the world of Rock, mixing an electronic sound with improvisation and dashes of psychedelia. The North Carolina-based band has created a groundswell through the musical landscape with steady tour dates and the development of its own festival, Rootwire, in Southeastern Ohio, the group's birthplace. CityBeat caught up with drummer Mike Healy, a Cincinnati native, and chatted about his Ohio roots and the development of the Rootwire Music and Arts Festival. Papadosio storms into Bogarts this Friday night for an evening of high energy and eclectic sounds. Click here for tickets and further information.
CityBeat: I wanted to ask you about the Rootwire Festival. How did you guys start the festival and decide on the location?
Mike Healy: Some of us went to school in Athens, Ohio, and we actually played some festivals there before we started doing Rootwire six or seven years ago. We checked out the property and really liked it and had an idea to do a festival ourselves from traveling a lot and making so many awesome friends across the country we could collaborate with and create an amazing event. We decided (on) that land because we had previously visited it, Kaeppner Woods, outside of Athens in Logan. It is absolutely beautiful, some of the oldest mountains in the world in the Appalachian foothills. There is a lot of great energy there, it’s beautiful and it just couldn’t be a more perfect place to throw a festival the last four years. That’s how that place came about. The festival, we have just been collaborating with so many amazing friends. We just invite our friend bands and friend artists from all over the country and installation artists from all walks of life. It’s just been an absolutely amazing time for four years.
CB: I saw the band for the first time this year at the All Good festival (in Thornville, Ohio). Listening to your music, it feel like there is a little bit of a spiritual element to it. Do you guys consider yourself spiritual or religious and how does that inspire your music?
MH: I would say that none of us are religious. There are definitely all sorts of messages throughout our music of some sort of divine connection to Mother Earth and taking care of the place we live and taking care of others and loving others, all kinds of common things we like to talk about. I guess if you want to call it spiritual you can — we call it a no-brainer. You love your neighbor you take care of each other. You want peace in the world and all these universal values I feel like people can connect to. There are definitely a lot of those messages in our music. I don’t find any of us to be religious at all. Music is our religion, honestly. We are always searching for alternative thinking. We are all into the green movement and really into eco-building and sustainable living and alternative energy. All these things are on our mind a lot and we speak about them in music.
CB: The band has relocated from Ohio to Asheville, N.C. I heard you moved to a cabin somewhere outside of town. You must be together as a band a lot of the time — or all the time. Is it hard being around each other so much?
MH: We actually don’t live in that cabin anymore. We are spread out around town living with our girlfriends and stuff. We do spend a lot of time together. We are on the road 200 days a year. We are always just hanging out on the tour bus together. Even when we are home we still get together and hang out. We are a big ol’ band of brothers (and) just love spending time together. We really enjoy making music and we are all really great friends. It is totally insane. We are gone all the time and it is hard on our ladies, spending so much time away. It’s quite the crazy lifestyle. It is not for everyone. We love it. We try to do the best to make it work.
CB: What is your favorite part of being on the road?
MH: Definitely playing music every night. That is what we live for. The whole set up and tear down and all the long hours of waiting around are not so fun, but once you get on stage and are able to create and get people dancing and seeing all these smiling faces everywhere, that definitely fuels us. Some of the favorite times too are when we are on the road and have a couple days off that we get to go do beautiful things like go visit beautiful national parks or go on some crazy hikes or go relax at a really nice hotel or someone’s house. Those kind of times we look forward to because it is nice to relax and see friends all around the country.
CB: What is your favorite song to play live?
MH: That’s a hard one. We have like 50 songs that we have in rotation. I love all of them. I really like playing a new one that Anthony (Thogmartin) wrote called “New Love.” (There) are really fun new songs we have been playing live a lot in every town. Everybody has been really digging it. It is hard to pick a favorite because I love all the material.
CB: The band has played a lot of festivals, particularly around Ohio. Do you have a favorite festival moment?
MH: There are so many. I guess we love playing All Good every year, because those have been some of the biggest crowds we have ever got to play in front of. We got to play on the main stage last year in front of 15-20,000 people. Previous years … we got to play after Flaming Lips one year and right before Primus one year and those crowds were like 30,000 people. It was totally insane. It was so cool. Those are definitely high moments. Obviously Rootwire is a big moment.
We have started playing some festivals on the West Coast and all over the country. We are really enjoying trying new ones out. We have played so many in the Midwest and East Coast and it has been so nice to try some new festies out west. This year we are doing some of our first international plays. We are really excited to go down to Central America and play … in December. There is so much going on.
CB: Can you describe your songwriting process?
MH: There (are) several different ways we go about doing it. We will have a jam session and we come up with a song on the spot and write it together in the rehearsal room, and somebody will have a riff and we will go around adding pieces of the puzzle together as a group. Other times, somebody will have almost a completely finished song idea and bring it to the table. People will learn their parts and put their own flare on it. Sometimes someone will have half a song and come to somebody else to help finish it and someone else will write lyrics.
It all depends on what is happening during the creative process. Sometimes we will be on tour sitting on our laptops and all of a sudden a riff will come to our heads and we will start writing the song while sitting on the van or the bus and then bring it back after (the) tour and bring it to the band and go from there. Sometimes we are walking through the woods and we get an idea in our head and sing it into our phone real quick and then we will go back later and hop on the computer and our instruments and figure it out and bring it to the band later. It just comes to you sometimes. It’s crazy how it works. It is part of the creative process — you just never know when you will get an idea that will pop into your head and you have to jot it down somehow.
CB: Being with the band in Athens, I am sure you have spent a little time in Cincinnati. Do you have any fond Cincinnati stories from the past?
MH: Oh yeah. I grew up in Cincinnati. I lived there until I was 18 and then I went to Athens for school for seven years and then I moved down to Asheville. I’ve been playing drums since I was 3 years old and I have been in a band non-stop since fourth grade, so from fourth grade all the way through senior year I was in so many different projects. I played at Bogarts all the time for the Battle of the Bands in high school and got a lot of exposure back then with my younger bands. Now it’s full circle and now my band Papadosio is back playing at Bogarts again. We played there last year for the first time since high school. It was great. It has a lot of memories for me (from) when I was younger.
CB: Where did you go to high school here?
MH: I went to Clark Montessori in Hyde Park. I played in a steel drum band all through junior high and high school too and played all over the city and also toured the country. I played in Hip Hop bands and Rock & Roll bands, Metal bands, Alternative Rock bands, all sorts of bands in Cincy, as well as steel drum ensembles and the steel drum band in high school. I was quite the busy musician all throughout my childhood.
CB: This is basically a hometown show for you, so it will be fun to be back.
MH: It’s great — so many friends and family.
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.
The Beach Boys have been blessing audience’s ears with happy and fun tunes (with occasional blasts of melancholy) for 50 years. As they embark on a 50th anniversary tour, they are preparing to release their 31st album, titled That’s Why God Made The Radio, which is also the title of the first single. Almost anyone who listens to music can think a happy thought as it relates to Beach Boy classics like “Good Vibrations,” “Kokomo,” “Surfin USA” or one of their other countless hits.
I was able to speak with Mike Love and Brian Wilson before the tour kickoff and it proved to be one of my toughest interviews to date when I spoke with Wilson.There were moments when you had to wonder why he is speaking to the press at all and others when you remembered the pure genius inside his head as he spoke about mixing harmonies on the new album and just being happy to play again with the band that made him a legend. We reached a nostalgic and introspective point as the legends looked back on a remarkable career.
The Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour comes to Riverbend Music Center this Tuesday.
CityBeat: If you were writing “California Girls” today, how would you describe them and what are the big changes?
Mike Love: The thing about “California Girls” is that it is a riveting song saying, “I wish they all could be California Girls,” and then talk about all the places around the country. I don’t think there would be much changing to do. Of course our original fans are now California mothers and grandmothers. I believe it is all the same.
Brian Wilson: No, I would do it the same as it was.
CB: What has been your process for putting together the set list of songs for the shows coming up?
Brian: We all got together and chose the songs together and we finally narrowed it down to two hours or two and a half hours of songs.
Mike: I’ll tell you what, there are several songs that we absolutely do at every single show we do — “California Girls” being one of them, “Good Vibrations” being another, “Kokomo” being our biggest hit of all. “Good Vibrations” was our biggest hit that came out in 1966, until “Kokomo” came out in 1988 and apparently surpassed that. And then there are songs like “I Get Around” and “Fun Fun Fun” and “Surfin’ USA” and “Help Me Rhonda” — we are always going to do those big hit songs because we believe people are going to come see you for what you are known for. We are most famous for those big hit recordings we have had.
Then there are other songs we are doing on our set list called album cuts that are a little more subtle, a little more esoteric. Then there is a song called “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” originally done by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers during the ‘50s. My cousin Brian came up with a really great vocal arrangement so we enjoy doing that song. Whether it is a point of view of doing a song we feel hardcore fans know or the Beach Boys music that I can recall, we like to do some songs that will please them as well so we balance the songs, the set list, the selection of songs all throughout the years, up to and including our newest record which is called That’s Why God Made the Radio.
CB: On the new album there are fun and upbeat songs, as always, but there are also songs embracing some melancholy of the past like “Pacific Coast Highway.” Why was it important to have both on the album?
Mike: I think there has always been melancholy and upbeat aspects to our songs. For instance “Surfer Girl” is slower and romantic. “In My Room” is kind of introspective, and if you will a little melancholy like ("Warmth of the Sun"), which is also a beautiful, slow ballad, but I think mainly it is the result of the collective nature of all of us.
There is the obvious sun part of life that we have here in Southern California growing up, you know with the featured years and when we recorded “Barbara Ann” and “Lookin’ For Romance” and then “California Girls” and going around the world and experiencing upbeat and positive things like car songs or surfing songs. There is that aspect of it. Then there is also that more internal, introspective aspect of things. So there are definitely both types of music in the Beach Boys catalog, definitely. There is the melancholy and the happy and upbeat.
I think that is how life is. Sometimes, people experience moods or situations in life that are not so much upbeat or fun, death of a loved one or breaking up with somebody. There are situations in life that lend themselves to the more serious or somber or melancholy. Then there are the activities and situations in life that are far more upbeat and fun.
CB: What is it like having three generations of fans singing along at the shows now?
Mike: It is pretty amazing. It is really wild how well people have responded to us all being together. It re-establishes the theorem from math that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Brian Wilson has been doing his own solo projects and recordings and touring for the last several years. I have been touring as the Beach Boys with Bruce Johnston and occasionally David Marks, our original guitarist. Al Jardine has been doing his own thing but we all got together because of the specialness of the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys.
That is the real catalyst that got us together. In addition to that remarkable milestone, there is the fact Capitol Records gave us an opportunity to record a new studio album, so we all got together, a lot of time had passed since we last did an album but it was kind of weird how familiar the whole process felt and how normal it sounded when we were listening to our performance coming back through the speaker in the studio. A lot of time had passed but not much had changed really in terms of Brian’s ability to structure the harmonies and chord progressions and our abilities to harmonize and perform the songs. It was really cool, the two things together, the 50th anniversary and going out to tour together along with doing the new record, those two things, gave us the encouragement to get together and do this together. And the response from the public and so many places have been phenomenal, the Hollywood Bowl in Southern California sold out 17,500 seats.
The inaugural Kanrocksas Music Festival took over Kansas City's Kansas Speedway last weekend, with headlining performances by Eminem, Muse, The Black Keys and many others. Impressive and well-organized in its debut year, the festival is being called a mini-Lollapalooza, as many of the same bands performed as they made their way to and from the Chicago fest (held the same weekend). Along with Eminem's epic performance, Bowling Green, Ky., AltRock sensation Cage the Elephant was an energetic highlight. The band's current tour in support of Thank You Happy Birthday (featuring the hit "Shake Me Down"), kicked off in Cincinnati in March when CtE also became part of Cincinnati Reds history, leading fans through the first "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" of the season on opening day. CityBeat sat down with lead guitarist Lincoln Parish and rhythm guitarist Brad Schultz (pictured) before they took Kansrocksas' stage to talk about that Cincinnati visit and more.