We caught up with Shannon Larkin Sunday afternoon before the show on the bus to talk about football and about his musical influences. When I arrived I waited in their outdoor football viewing area where a TV comes out of the side of the bus and is setup for group viewing. You can tell members of these three bands are die hard football fans.
I had already done my research to know that Shannon loves the Oakland Raiders and has pretty strong feelings about them bringing down the San Diego Chargers last week for the first time in many years.
CB: Do you feel like your Oakland Raiders are doing better than they should be? (Laughing)
Shannon: No. No I don’t. I feel like they are doing a lot worse than they should be. My Raiders story goes back to growing up. I was raised in Virginia area and my dad is a Notre Dame guy. He went to Notre Dame so I grew up watching ND football ever Saturday. Tim Brown, who was a number one draft pick and Heisman winner, went to play for the Raiders in 1987 or 1988. After that I always liked the Raiders. I also went to Redskins games at RFK growing up in Virginia, so the Raiders were my AFC team and I always loved the Skins. The last few years the Redskins have been terrible and they had Jason Campbell as their quarterback and then he got traded to Oakland and I didn’t understand why.
CB: Now he is the starter right?
Shannon: Yes because Gradkowski got hurt. Al Davis has been very influencial with things he has done for the NFL. He has done some great things, but he is so old now like 88, he needs to let the team go and get some younger people. Let them win again.
CB: Well, San Diego is losing today so you should be happy.
Shannon: Last week was so amazing. Every year, I watch the Raiders lose those two games against San Diego and last week Sully and I were jumping up and down when Oakland won for the first time in a long time.
CB: Well, we are here in Bengals country, do you have any favorite Bengals?
Shannon: They are exciting this year with T.O. and Chad. Terrell Owens is still making amazing plays and touchdowns every game and is fun to watch. Carson Palmer is a great quarterback and hopefully he can prove himself in the big games.
CB: Well maybe the Raiders and Bengals will see each other in the playoffs.
Shannon: I can only hope.
CB: In music, you have played with legendary bands
like Stone Sour, Black Sabbath, Candlebox, and others, but I read that
you love to play funk music. We have the Bootsy Collins connection here
in Cincinnati. Have you ever met Bootsy?
Shannon: I have never met Bootsy. It is funny last night we played Detroit and after the show there were fans waiting outside on the street and I always try to go out and sign autographs and take pictures with the fans. There was this older gray-haired black guy who came up to me and said he was in the P-Funk Allstars with George Clinton. He came up and said hi and that he liked the show. I love funk so that was interesting.
We were a family where the TV was mainly used for Saturday Notre Dame games. After dinner, we would go downstairs and my parents would play records for my sister and I like the Beatles and Creedence. One of the main records was Sly and the Family Stone Greatest Hits.
CB: So you have always had it around.
Shannon: Yes, Sly and the Family Stone is the shit to me. It just has such a positive message in every song where all the musicians can shine. In my later years, I got into Zeppelin, RUSH, Slayer, Metallica of course. I am giving away my age. In 1984, it became Black Flag and punk bands. Everything kind of circles around. Now I am forty-something I am going back to my roots with 60’s and 70’s rock.
CB: What are you listening to right now?
Shannon: My latest downloads have been “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, which is another record my parents used to play and Paul McCartney’s “Wings.” People won’t believe it reading this.
CB: Have you met Paul?
Shannon: Oh my god no. I wouldn’t even know what to say. After a long hard battle with myself after someone asked me who my top 5 bands were, I ended up picking Ramones, Beatles, Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Sly and the Family Stone. Those are my influences and I wear them on my sleeve.
CB: Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t worked with yet.
Shannon: I’d love to work with George Clinton someday since he invented the word funk. Funk to me becomes about being in a room with friends to just jam with and you just make music and there is no pressure to make a record. You just get stoned and have a shot of tequila and just jam for three hours. It always becomes a funk riff that you can loop over and over where everyone can take their little part to shine. I would love someday to create some funk-pop music like Sly and Family Stone. Sly is like a freak that disappeared off the face of the earth so I know I will never get to play with him. George is still out there though with his crack pipe so there is a chance maybe I will be able to play with him.
CB: You just played Sturgis this summer. Did you have fun? Any crazy stories?
Shannon: It was horrible for us.
CB: Really? I thought you always enjoyed it.
Shannon: Well we are usually on tour when we play there and this time we weren’t so we didn’t have our bikes. It sucked. There were 500,000 people and bikes and we didn’t have ours. The show was fun but it was like putting a kid in the candy store and telling him he can’t have any and he has to watch all the other kids eat the candy.
CB: What kind of bikes do you have?
Shannon: I have a 07 Heritage Softtail that is my reliable bike. I have a 77 Shovelhead that is my bar hopper bike. In fact my 77 Shovelhead is from a guy here in Cincinnati, Jeff Cochran with Speed King Customs. I ordered it from him here when I found out we would be working on the Oracle album in LA for four months. I knew I would need a bike in LA so I called him after I had seen him when I played here. He brought a whole bunch of bikes out and I fell in love with a red one with a suicide shifter. He came across the 77 and thought it would fit me better so he sent it out to me and I love it.
CB: You guys have the new Oracle album which came out in the spring. What is your favorite song to play on the new album?
Shannon: “Oracle.” It is a 7.5 minute instrumental. At shows like Rock on the Range, when the album first came out we weren’t ready to tour so we would fly in for radio festival shows. It ended up being like a “best of” with two or three songs off the new record where as this is “The Oracle Tour.” It is Oracle heavy and we play 5 or 6 songs off the new record which makes it far more interesting to us to play new stuff that we haven’t played live before.
CB: The “Love-Hate-Sex-Pain” song is all over the radio right now.
Shannon: That is so great to hear and what we did for all the songs in the show tonight is strip down the videos and make all new videos to go with each song. We hired a video guy from Motley Crue and dug through years of video tape trying to find stuff that would look cool on the big screens. Everything is brand new visually even if you don’t know all the new songs yet.
CB: So are we going to see any pyro tonight?
Shannon: We actually have a laser show this time. Laser technology has kind of taken over the past few years and it is sick visually. You can get any can get any color lasers now and it actually takes two guys to run the lasers. It is actually cool from my vantage point as well to see the lasers over the crowd.
CB: I know you have a family now. Do they ever come out on the road with you?
Shannon: No they don’t really, but we did start this tour in Florida so my wife and kid got to come out and experience the first two shows. They love it. My daughter is 12 now so she is at an age where she can appreciate it and have fun.
CB: Do you ever worry about exposing her to it?
Shannon: No, we are all in our 40’s and we don’t do any of that crazy shit anymore. We did it all in previous bands before we joined Godsmack. I was 36 when I joined the band and was already married and had my daughter. The only thing I worry about is the language. You know we are a rock band and so when she comes backstage she’ll see people smoking and doing shots. We also did this one DVD called “Changes” and on the DVD I was late to sound check and Sully keeps yelling “Shannon Fucking Larkin” over and over. Now when fans see me and I am walking with my twelve year old people yell out, “Shannon Fucking Larkin” so she is exposed to that sometimes and I want to put ear muffs on her. As far and the drugs and girls though we are way over that.
CB: I have spoken to a lot of drummers this year
and some of them like Ray from KORN talk about playing drums all the
time everyday even when they are not touring. When you are not touring,
do you play all the time or do you take a break?
Shannon: I play all the time. When I am home, I go in my garage and put on my Ipod and play along with every song on random shuffle. One minute it is the Stones and the next it is Slayer. It is a fun way to practice. Usually when the band is together without Sully, we just jam and play funk and other sounds as well. The other band members live in New Hampshire and I live in Florida so I don’t really have anyone to play with so I jam to the Ipod.
CB: Does your daughter do any music?
Shannon: Yes she plays the trumpet in the school band which is cool. Maybe a funk duo is in the future who knows?
CB: What is up next for the band? I know the record is still pretty new, but are you working on new music?
Shannon: No new music right now. We actually write by ourselves. Everyone has a little recorder that we use. Tony is actually back there playing guitar right now. He plays all day and when he gets a riff he likes, he will record it. By the time we start to write songs, we all have like 20 riffs as a starting point. We use those to write songs and a chorus. Right now we are just all focused on this tour. It is a pretty big production. Even though the set list is the same, the production changes and is ever evolving. Last night Sully came on the bus and we came up with a new ending to the set. We also just came up with a video for “The Enemy.” It is changing as we go, as we see parts that are weak, we make changes. Our video guys says he goes to sleep dreaming about edits.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to check out the muched-buzzed about band The Tillers, nominated for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the Folk/Americana category. Playing in the Southgate House's "lounge" room, the trio (playing stand-up bass, guitar, banjo and more) huddled around a single, vintage-looking, multi-directional mic and delivered their sweet, accomplished spin on traditional Folk, Country, Gospel and Blues.
Last night, Fox 19's website reported that veteran local musician, talent booker and event promoter Johnny Schott passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday morning in his home in Tennessee.
Peter Frampton was a leader of English Rock & Roll movement in the 1970s, sparked by the massive popularity of his epic 1976 live album, Frampton Comes Alive. Frampton is celebrating the 35-year anniversary of the album on the road with his "Comes Alive 35 Tour," which comes alive at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion this Sunday and features a performance of the entire milestone album in the first set. Frampton continues to evolve as an artist, as evidenced on his Grammy-winning 2006 album Fingerprints and his newest record, Thank You Mr. Churchill, released last year. CityBeat spoke with Frampton recently about the album's impact and how special music still is to the legend.
After months of planning and judging and selecting and scheduling and designing and implementing, the big night has arrived at last. The first night of MidPoint 2009. You can almost smell the impending disaster in the air.
Well, perhaps disaster is a bit strong. It’s been a long time — well, a couple of years anyway — since MidPoint has been baptized by a significant rainfall, and right out of the chute last night’s precipitation claimed its first victim for me. As much as I wanted to see The Elms, I wasn’t prepared to walk up to Grammer’s in the pouring rain and then watch them while outside soaking wet. I hear the tent is nice and, as it turned out, I probably would have been better off to take the wet walk.
We received word this afternoon that legendary Funk guitarist and Cincinnati native Phelps “Catfish” Collins succumbed to cancer today at the age of 66. Collins (along his younger brother Bootsy) was an architect of Funk as a member of James Brown’s JB’s, Parliament/Funkadelic (fellow P-Funk guitarist Gary Shider passed away just a couple of months ago) and Bootsy’s Rubber Band and was responsible for some of the greatest Funk guitar riffs every laid down.
There is no mystery in music anymore.
I‘ve been trying to find a scapegoat to blame for this. Most notably, I’d like to blame KISS for taking off their make-up in ’83, unveiling the Demon and Star Child as just a couple of goofy-looking New Yorkers dressed up like extras from a Dokken video.
But as much as I’d love to blame KISS for taking the mystery out of music (Gene Simmons ruins most things so it was a good guess), the problem really lies with the internet and the digital age we are consumed by. (Thanks, Al Gore!) When was the last time you went on Google and couldn’t find what you were looking for? With a few easy clicks, you can find answers to some of life’s most important questions like, "Who was the second guy from Wham?" (Andrew Ridgeley) and was Liam Neeson actually on an episode of Miami Vice (yes, he was).
But even with the constant flow of status updates, tweets and information that has caught Americans in this perpetual technology loop, over the last five months there has been one artist that has captured some sense of anonymity in the music industry. That artist is Captain Murphy.
For those of you who don’t know who Captain Murphy is, don’t worry. No one does.
When Captain Murphy burst onto the scene with his impressive verse on Flying Lotus’ Adult Swim single, “Between Friends," the music media and Hip Hop heads alike immediately got a raging hard-on for the guy. His use of voice modulation and his style, which carries the complexities of MF DOOM’s flow with just a hint of the silly attitude of Tyler, The Creator, caused a sea of speculation about his identity and spawned more gossip than when Honey Boo Boo Child gets pregnant before her My Super Sweet 16 special.
After the release of “Between Friends,” Murphy has intermittently dropped singles over the last couple months, turning the internet into his own personal Gotham City (Murphy playing the part of the Dark Knight) and leaving every music journalist and tons of Hip Hop fans trying to figure out who the hell is playing Bruce Wayne.
Now, Captain Murphy has dropped his mix tape, Duality, which takes the listener on a 35-minute Psychedelic Hip Hop excursion into the mind of a cult leader and has only heightened the anxiety attacks over his true identity.
But what’s the point?
Can we, journalist and fans, just relish in the secrecy of this up and coming artist without freaking the fuck out about it? I know that our job as journalists is to report information that people want/need to know, but I didn’t think obsessing over people who just want to make music and making their lives more difficult was in the job description.
The perfect example is last year’s music industry enigma, Earl Sweatshirt.
When the music media received news that Earl Sweatshirt, the most mysterious figure of the then-exploding Odd Future gang, was nowhere to be found, they began foaming at the mouth. The “Free Earl” campaign and the lack of knowledge of his whereabouts were covered by everyone from bottom feeder music blogs to The New York Times. But while Earl wasn’t even in the country (he was allegedly located at a troubled boy’s camp in Samoa), America was getting their rocks off on glorifying him as Hip Hop’s second coming and propelling him into stardom and fame before he was even old enough to vote.
Sweatshirt tackles this invasion of privacy on his latest single “Chum,” when he spits, “Tolerance for boundaries, I know you happy now/Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down/Just to be the guys that did it, like I like attention/Not the type where niggas trying to get a raise at my expense/Supposed to be grateful, right, like thanks so much you made my life/Harder and the ties between my mom and I strained and tightened/Even more than they were before all of this shit/Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits.”
It’s a shame that our insatiable infatuation with artists has been pushed to the point where we force young creators like Sweatshirt (and, to an extent, the seemingly fragile mainstream crossover star Frank Ocean) to want to give up on their budding careers, but what if the consequences were more severe? Sure, this constant media intrusion could push Earl to quit rapping and that would be a terrible loss of potential in the Rap game. But what if instead of quitting, this media malpractice pushed him to the bottle and drugs like Amy Winehouse or even a shotgun like Kurt Cobain?
On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of information-driven OCD that makes people sign off of Facebook only to almost simultaneously check the Facebook app on their phones. Many of us now have an endless need to be in the know.
But in more serious cases, it’s the kind of obsessive behavior that caused fans like Michael Abram to break into George Harrison’s house and stab him in ’99, caused Mark Chapman to shoot John Lennon in Manhattan in ’80 or Nathan Gale to shoot “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott in that Columbus nightclub in ’04.
We have an opportunity to change this "gotta know now!" behavior with Captain Murphy. Here’s my proposal — every copy of Captain Murphy’s first album should include a prescription for Xanax and Prozac (maybe even a spliff or two for our friends out in Colorado). Maybe that would allow everyone to enjoy the music without having a mental breakdown about who is making it.
In the end, if Murphy doesn’t want us to know his identity, then we don’t need to know his identity. So unless the Captain is 2Pac revitalizing his career under this new alias, let’s all just keep calm and enjoy the mystery. While it lasts.
UPDATE: Aaaaand that didn't last too long. No more mysteries! Captain Murphy was revealed to be Flying Lotus (details here).
The Doobie Brothers have been entertaining audiences across the world for more than 40 years. In 2010 the band released World Gone Crazy, their first album in a decade. They continue to be an inspiration with their recordings and their rigorous tour schedule.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist and vocalist Tom Johnston by phone this week. Johnston discussed the changes the band has seen through 40 years of Rock n Roll and what guides the creative process of the band. They will be performing at Riverbend at the PNC Pavilion this Sunday alongside Chicago.
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on the road for over 30 years. Do you ever get tired of just being on the road?
Tom Johnston: You get tired of travelling. You don’t ever get tired of playing. The playing part is what makes you come out here in the first place. I think Keith put it the best, Keith Knudsen, “You get paid for all the time it takes to get to the town and then you play for nothing.”
CB: You have seen music change over the years in recordings from albums to 8-Tracks to tapes to CDs to MP3s and iPods. Do you think it sounds better or worse today, the classic analog vs. digital question?
TJ: If you have hearing like mine, it really doesn’t make any difference. There is basically the school of thought that digital recordings aren’t as warm as analog. I can’t really tell you the difference when I am listening to it. Maybe if I did a mix there would maybe be a difference in analog that I could tell the difference. They have really come a long way with digital recording. They have ways of mixing digital recordings now so it sounds more like analog. Some people still buy albums if you can get them. People are still putting albums out. In fact, this last album we put out, World Gone Crazy, there was over 14,000 actual albums put out with the CDs, and by that I mean actual vinyl records for the people that want to hear it in analog.
CB: How many guitars do you have and what is your favorite to play?
TJ: Oh boy. I’ve got a lot of guitars. Basically, everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly Paul Reed Smith.
CB: When you began and wrote the early hits and songs for the band like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, what were your early inspirations?
TJ: My inspirations at the time of writing a song like that had pretty much been put in place from playing since I was 12 on the guitar and picking up singing when I was 15. Most of my early stuff came from Blues and R&B and Rock & Roll by the guy I consider the King of Rock & Roll, that was Little Richard and people like Jerry Lee Lewis. Later on, that changed, I got into Hendrix and Cream and quite a few other people I am not going to be able to think of right now. David Mason albums, old Fleetwood Mac albums, you know from the ’70s, just a lot of stuff going on then. As far as players, Albert, Freddie and B.B. King were huge in my guitar playing. I call them the Three Kings, that’s basically how a lot of people refer to them. There are a lot of singers that influenced me. James Brown was definitely one of them.
CB: Have you had a single issue or incident that has ever changed the way you approach music?
TJ: If I ever did, I am not really sure when it was. I know the first time I ever watched, one of the few times I actually got to watch, James Brown live was 1962 in Fresno and that was pretty much a life altering event, musically. I had never seen anything like that. It just blew me out of the water. I couldn’t believe someone could work that hard that consistently and put on just an incredible show. That was a big event in my life.
CB: Over the years, you have had some health ailments with your voice and other things. How do you stay healthy on the road now?
TJ: I take care of myself. Back in the old days it was the Rock & Roll lifestyle, that wasn’t really healthy. But the biggest sideline I ever had was stomach ulcers which I developed in high school but it fully bloomed when I was out on the road in 1975 when I actually had to leave the tour. That is really the only health issue I ever had, but it was a bad one.
CB: Do you consider yourself or does the band consider themselves spiritual in any way and did it ever play a factor in your music or writing?
TJ: To be honest with you, no — at least not in the secular way of any specific religion. It’s not that we are not a religious band, it is just everybody has their beliefs about the world and mankind and how we got here I suppose but it is certainly nothing we would talk about.
CB: After all these years, I assumed you guys would talk about everything.
TJ: We talk about a lot of stuff but that isn’t one that pops up. Actually it popped up this morning. I was just giving my views on Buddhism and thinking it was a little more realistic since it is based on mankind’s shallow man as opposed to strictly about a specific deity and things having to be done a certain way. But those are just opinions and I don’t really follow it that closely; I don’t think anybody in the band does, to be honest with you.
CB: Do you guys take on different leadership roles within the band?
TJ: Yeah, to a point. It is basically when we are recording. When we are playing, it kind of happens naturally. Recording it is pretty much whoever writes the tune will be leading if you will, but other people come up with ideas for the tune so it is pretty much always a group effort.
CB: Are there any current Rock bands or new Rock bands on the scene right now you would like to collaborate with or work with?
TJ: I think John Mayer is an incredible guitar player. I really enjoy his work. Another one is Bruno Mars — I think he is extremely prolific as a song writer and pretty amazing. There is a band called Mannish Boy, which is a Blues group. I really like those guys. They are new. Most people aren’t going to know them. They aren’t Pop or anything like that. They are simply a Blues band but they are really, really good. There are more, I just can’t think of them right now. There are more people I think are really good out there that would be fun to get in the studio with. It would be fun to work with Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green. It would be fun to work with anyone from Maroon 5. We recently worked with Luke Bryan for that TV show on CMT called Crossroads and we had a ball doing that.
CB: I love Luke Bryan and his music. He has kind of blown up recently.
TJ: He is a good guy. He is a really good guy. We had a lot of fun doing that show. Everybody was just having a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have any creative outlets or hobbies outside of playing music?
TJ: It’s outside of the band in a sense but I write music for a hobby. I love writing. I do it all the time. I have a little studio at home. A lot of the stuff I write would never be used by this band. I am starting to branch out and write with other people now too, which is something I haven’t done as much. I have always kind of just written my own songs. I have started taking the steps to go out and write with some other writers who are very prolific and very much involved with the Pop scene or the Country scene or whatever else. I just really started doing that before we came out on this tour. When we finish this tour this year, I will go back to doing that some more. It was fun. It was a new place to go. It is exciting to get in and work with someone else because they help you find a lot of stuff you don’t know you have and I think you do the same for that person. You come up with songs that you would never come up with if you were just sitting there by yourself.
CB: Do you use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to your fans?
TJ: There is Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff on our website. I don’t do any of that stuff. For whatever reason it hasn’t called me. I don’t have any need to be in touch with people or stay in the limelight or find out what is going on. I am kind of a private guy and I would like to keep it that way rather than blast it all over the universe. I don’t belong to Facebook. I know tons of people who do it and that’s great. From a business point of view, it is a really smart way to go. From a website point of view, it is a really good tool for getting your music out there, events out there, where you are going to be, maybe even staying in touch with other musicians, things like that but mostly I do that on the phone. Twitter, I have never even used Twitter. I know people do it all the time but I have never gotten involved with it.
CB: I still use a telephone because I prefer to talk to people.
TJ: It is alive and well in the younger generation. That’s how they communicate.
CB: My last question is do you have any fond Cincinnati memories over the years?
TJ: Yeah, playing at Riverfront Stadium, playing at where we are going to be playing this Sunday which is right on the river, Riverbend. We have played there lots of times. I was just talking to a gentleman a little bit ago about playing in Blue Ash the last time and a tornado came through and shut the show down and we never got a chance to go out and finish it. We have been playing Cincinnati since we started so we are talking 40 years of playing Cincinnati.
CB: We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TJ: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to being there and it will be a gas as always. This show with Chicago has pretty much been sold out everywhere we have gone. The crowds have been great and it is a good combination. The two bands, we get together at the end and do an encore of everybody in both bands playing at the same time and it is pretty powerful.
Greg Dulli needs little introduction in these parts, but for those who are somehow not familiar, the now-46-year-old Hamilton native came up as frontman for The Afghan Whigs in late 1980s and exploded out of the local scene via a string of visceral, dark-hued albums (the best of which, 1993's Gentlemen, continues to grow in stature) that were equally influenced by Husker Du, Prince and moody, noir-infested crime movies. Dulli's post-Whigs output has been just as compelling, including releases by The Twilight Singers, his main project. The band performs Monday at Newport’s Southgate House.