CityBeat Blogs - Interview http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-35-160.html <![CDATA[Q&A with Godsmack]]>

 Looking on music shelves this week, it will be hard to miss the bright and loud 1000hp, the latest offering and No. 1 Rock album from Godsmack. It may be a little bit different vibe, but it is the same great Rock music they have given audiences for well over a decade. Since the breakout Awake album in 2000, they have literally been evolving with the genre, captivating audiences and gathering fans with each performance. 

CityBeat was able to preview their show at the Uproar Festival Sunday night at Riverbend with drummer Shannon Larkin. After a couple subdued tours in which they let the music speak, they are back to their roots with hard hitting, pyro-filled, knock-you-back action.

Find tickets/more info on Sunday’s Uproar stop here.

CityBeat: You guys have been working hard. You will be releasing the album next week,1000hp. What can the fans expect from this album?

Shannon Larkin: We kind of infused a different sound for us. It’s more of a punkier vibe as far as upbeats and down stroking. Not so much chunk-chunk as the last record or box or Metal. It is a fine tuned thing we do each record because we don’t want to keep making the same record over and over again. Yet you can’t change your sound and alienate your fan base. The last record we went balls out Metal sound. So on this one, we made a conscious effort to try and change things up and give a more punky vibe to it.

CB: What is your favorite track to play off the new album?

SL: “1000hp” the song. I just love it. It has an AC/DC vibe to me. I don’t get to play much four to the floor drumming so it is just a straight ahead full fierce and I love it.

CB: I actually watched the webisodes that you guys created to promote the new album and that was interesting. I’m sure the fans love to see the behind the scenes of the new album and how the album was made. During one of the webisodes, the band talks about how you were the one who introduced Dave Fortman, the current producer, to the band on the last record. Why did you think he would be a good fit for Godsmack?

SL: I was in a band called Ugly Kid Joe with Dave and he was the guitar player and we toured the world together for six years and made a couple records. I knew that not only was he a great producer with great ears and a great engineer and a great mixer, but I knew also he was this great dude. When you start making records, it gets balanced and pressure on and arguments ensue, the producer has to almost be a psychiatrist and step in when band members get in each other’s face and Dave is just a great person that if there is any tension in the room over a part for instance, if we are arguing what is a better part or arrangement of the song, Dave diffuses the situation with humor. He is good at that and just making everybody feel comfortable when the red light comes on. He is just brilliant. I can’t say enough about him. It doesn’t hurt he had made hit records with Evanescence, Mudvayne, Slipknot, and the list goes on and on, but that helped too when I introduced him to (Godsmack singer) Sully (Erna). But then an hour after meeting with Dave, Sully loved him too. I knew he’d get the gig after talking to Sully if it was up to Sully because he co-produces every record. I knew Sully had to like Dave and I knew he would. Perfect fit.

CB: Where did the name come from for the album?

SL:: When we were writing that song, Sully was trying to do a history-of-the-band-type song. He was thinking we are at 100,000 horse power. When the song came together, it was too many syllables and 1,000 horsepower fits perfectly, but is that enough horse power? Ironically, we have this Top Performance Pro Shop beside our headquarters here in New England. They soup up cars and rev up cars and we went next door and the dude fired up a 1003 horsepower Chevelle and that was enough horsepower. It wasn’t even street legal. It ended up being the car we recorded to start the album and the song.

CB: You have been doing a lot of drum clinics. Why is it important for you to get out and work with younger people and do drum clinics across the country?

SL: My company Yamaha gives away drums. They are the best set drums I’ve played, No. 1, so I just love and am honored to be endorsed by them. They have been on me for years about getting out there and trying to push the company. I am the guy who had never done a clinic before and I am not a solo artist or soloist. I am a band guy and always have been a band guy. I never even do a drum solo. When Sully & I play together the whole band is on stage and it is a drum feature. 

I had always said no to Yamaha about doing these clinics. Then I heard Paul Bostaphwho plays for Slayer. He did the clinics, but he didn’t do it as a soloist or solos, he played along to Slayer songs he recorded and got the drums taken out. So when I realized I could do that, then I was like “Wow,” I had done like 30 records and I had played a bunch of session work and all these cool records I hadn’t been able to play in years. So when I found out I could have all these drum tracks removed and play a clinic and play my favorite songs I had recorded the last 30 years, I was in. 

I only did a one week tour so far and I only did the West Coast and it was really fun and cool but weird with nobody around, not having my guys. It’s funny, I told people you can be on stage in front of 50,000 people and not be nervous, not one butterfly in my stomach, but walk into a Guitar Center that is lit up like a K-Mart and there is only 150 dudes out there, but they are all drummers staring at me, and I’m scared to death. It turned out to be really fun. I was happy to do it.

CB: Have you gotten any tattoos recently?

SL: I haven’t. The last tattoo I got was the Ugly Kid Joe Devil logo on my leg. I did a record with them the year before last. I still jam with Ugly. I did a record with them calledStairway to Hell and so I got this logo.

CB: I know you are a big fan of The Ramones too and we just lost the last Ramone. Do you have any thoughts about that?

SL: It’s devastating in so many ways. I just don’t like them, they are my favorite band of all time and I have seen them over 20 times over the last 25 years. When Tommy died, I really felt my mortality because, I don’t know (what) your favorite band is, say it’s Led Zeppelin — there are three out of four of those guys still alive and they were older than The Ramones. I asked everybody. Not one person I know has had every original member of their favorite band die. It really hit me hard. Am I next? It was really crazy there for a minute. Of course, I just saturated my ears with Ramones songs for the last two weeks. It was devastating.

CB: Last time I spoke to you we were talking about your daughters and now they are teenagers. Do you have any advice for other dads?

SL: Yeah, just try to hang in there because they all go through that teenage time where they seem to hate their parents and they don’t. They don’t hate you and will come back around.

CB: What can the fans look forward to here with Uproar here in Cincinnati?

SL: Well we are going to play a bunch of new stuff. I don’t know if fans look forward to that but we sure do as a band. We have been together for 12 years and we love the old stuff, and we will play plenty of that too, but we will be doing five new songs in the set which is exciting for us. 

They can definitely look forward to a big show also. You know, the last few tours we toned it down because we used to have these monstrous shows with the pyro going off and bombs going off and video. The last couple tours, we tried to prove to ourselves, we try to be a great live band and don’t need all the bells and whistles, so the last few tours (have) just been the band and some lights. But this time we are bringing it all back, things blowing up and flames flying off the stage.

CB: I always loved the fire.

SL: It definitely is cool having the big columns of flames shooting up. It’s funny because these summer tours are hot as hell anyway and they are flames and are hotter than hell. So we are up there sweating and it is worth it, especially when those concussion bombs go off. I love those, they are my favorite parts, those real loud mortars and everybody flinches in the crowd. It is crazy and cool.


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<![CDATA[Q&A with REO Speedwagon]]> REO Speedwagon has been providing audiences hits since the ’70s. The band gained momentum after its release of High Fidelity in 1980 giving us “Keep on Loving You” and “Take it on the Run." 

Since then they have accumulated enough hits to fill up any set to keep crowds entertained. With them teaming up with Chicago currently on tour, it brings a nostalgic rush of Rock live to audiences across the country. 

CityBeat caught up with founding member and keyboard player Neal Doughty to get a feel of how life has changed over the years in the music business. The band performs at Riverbend Music Center Wednesday night. Find tickets/more info here.

CityBeat: I read in an interview that you found the name REO Speedwagon in an engineering class when you were in school in Illinois. I was curious if you ever finished your engineering degree.

Neal Doughty: No. I did not finish the engineering degree. I went to college for five years and never graduated because when the band got started it was just a little dormitory, a couple guys in the dorm, playing for fun playing on weekends. Then the band got really, really popular and we started branching out to Ohio and Indiana and the first thing we knew is we were too busy to go to class. And if you are in engineering at the University of Illinois, you better go to class because it is not easy. So myself and Alan, our original drummer, neither one of us finished college. We stuck with the band. It was sink or swim in the music business. It was interesting telling my parents that I had dropped out of college after five years, but we were already supporting ourselves with this band. We are already actually making a living. My dad goes, “Hey I can’t argue with that. People go to five years of college and never do get a job.” They handled that OK and I am happy with how that turned out.

CB: I think you made the right choice. That is pretty hardcore to have a full-time band and finish school.

ND: Yeah, I have two nephews that are engineers and it’s a good area because I haven’t heard of an engineer who couldn’t find work. They were hired right out of college. I would have been happy either way. I am still interested in scientific things. I would have enjoyed it and been pretty good at it but this will do. It’s fine.

CB: You have been playing the hits for over 30 years. What is your favorite song to play live? 

ND: I think my favorite song live, I love playing “Can’t Fight This Feeling” because I get to showcase the piano a bit on that intro. I also love playing “Back on the Road,” the song that Bruce sings. It is somehow the perfect tempo and a crowd who hasn’t been on their feet yet will always get up for that song. 

Of course with all the changes and stories of our career, there isn’t one song we play live that I don’t like, which is a great luxury. A lot of bands don’t have that. We have been together so long and have so many records out that we can pick our favorite songs to play live and it usually turns out to be the favorites of the audience too. Most bands, they probably play some songs that at least two guys hate it, but we have been very lucky to have a lot of songs to choose from. I’m happy.

CB: What has been your greatest Rock star moment?

ND: My wife is in the room and she is laughing because I think she had something to do with my greatest Rock star moment. I don’t know if we should go into the details. We met at a show. We had known each other for a long time and had never quite gotten together. One night after the show, she pretty much attacked me in the dressing room in front of the entire crew. There were no clothes that came off. It was all very legal and everything. All I can say is within three months, instead of living at the beach in California I was living in Minnesota where it gets really cold. This was eight years ago and so far it has been totally worth it. Yes, that was my greatest Rock star moment … to have a woman that was so affectionate in front of so many people.

CB: That is the best story I have heard in a while.

ND: She is laughing her head off right now.

CB: There is nothing illegal about clothes coming off, by the way. It is fine.

ND: Everybody kept their clothes on. It was just kind of a message that I like you, a really nice way of saying I like you. In fact, I was supposed to leave town that night but the band got me a hotel room and a plane ticket. It turned out to be fairly innocent, but it was the start of a great relationship that is going eight years later. You definitely meet some of the wrong women on the road, and this is one of the rare instances where I met the right one. 

CB: The internet and social media have totally changed the way bands can make it and get on the radio and get famous now. Do you think it is easier or harder for a band to make it today?

ND: It is a whole different thing. It used to be very, very hard to get a record contract. We were together four years just starting before we got somebody interested with us. We were lucky to be with Epic Records for so many years. They let us do like 10 records that weren’t hits until we had High Fidelity in 1980 and 1981. There is no record label that would give a band that many chances to turn in a hit. 

On the other hand, now you can make a record on your telephone and upload it to the internet. If it goes viral, anything can happen. I live in a small town in Minnesota, and one of the students there, one of my wife’s English students, made a video on a broken iPhone with an out of tune piano and it went viral. It has 10 million views on YouTube and she now has a couple record companies fighting over her. 

I don’t mind how it’s working today. If I were going to, in my old age, try to make a song of my own, I think I would like the fact I could make it at home, upload it to the Internet and see what happens. I have nephews who are in a Rock band. They have become the most popular band in the St Louis area just from all their sales online. I think it is a great equalizer. You no longer need a lot of money behind you to get a break and that’s good. Any kid in a basement has the same chance as somebody with a million dollars to spend in a studio and I think that’s truly great.

CB: Are there any new up and coming bands or current artists that you would want to collaborate with?

ND: I tend to like one song by an artist and just buy that one song, which you can do now. I tend to have this really crazy range of tastes in bands. I like Foster the People on one end and I like Brad Paisley on the other end of the scale. Brad happens to be a good friend of ours, so I may be biased.

My taste in music is so eclectic now, something that maybe couldn’t have happened before the Internet. You hear a song on a TV show in the music in the background and there was no way you would ever find out what that song was. A lot of the new groups that get discovered, that I like now, it started watching a TV show, with a great song in the background. You just now have to aim your phone at the TV and it will tell you who the band is. That is really the greatest invention ever. There are songs I hear on the radio or in a movie or in the background of a TV show and you could have searched for the rest of your life and never found it. Now, being able to find anything you might hear is my favorite thing that has happened to the music business. If you look at the playlist on my phone, you would think this guy is all over the map with the stuff he likes. I am very happy about that development.

CB: You have been on the road for many, many years. Do you keep journals or photographs? How do you keep the history of the touring and the memories?

ND: No, once again, the Internet has helped with that. There were some lost photographs. We have had a million things happen that were great. Recently one of our old crew members from 30 years ago found a picture of John Entwistle jamming with us on stage in London, and Brian May for Queen hanging out with us in the dressing room that night. These old black and white pictures so people will actually believe that something that great happened to me. We found a picture of literally the house 157 Riverside Ave., which we rented in Rockport, Conn., where we did our first album. Now we found what it looks like recently. Then we also found they tore the thing down. Granted, it was not a national landmark, but seeing pictures of it a few years ago, we could see why they tore it down. It was about to fall down and we probably had something to do with that.

CB: You have had a few band members change over the years. How do you know you have a right fit? 

ND: Well we have been kind of lucky we had only one real change happen and it all happened at the same time. Our current lineup has been together for 25 years, which is longer than the original group was together. 

Back in the late 80’s, our original drummer Alan who I started the band with, and our original guitar player Gary both left around the same time. Alan couldn’t handle the road anymore because he was too attached to his family. He quit for the best of reasons, to be with his kids and wife. He opened a restaurant and is doing well. Gary started not handling the road well. The road brought out all of his demons. There was a point when he just couldn’t do it anymore because it’s too hard. 

That really is when we got Brian, our drummer, and Dave, our guitar player, and that all happened very fast. We did a major set of auditions for drummers. I think we auditioned eight drummers in two days. Brian was the first one and we knew right then he was the guy we wanted. I asked Kevin if we had to listen to seven more drummers but he wanted to be fair to them. But Brian easily passed that audition. Dave Amato, our guitar player has a great background. He played with Ted Nugent. He has been on Motley Crue albums. He was a known studio guy in Los Angeles. He came over to Kevin’s house and we jammed for about half an hour and then immediately asked him to join the band. It was a perfect fit from the first note. 

We were lucky to get Brian and Dave. They brought new energy into the band. I am not sure if we would be together now if it wasn’t for what those guys brought, which was new enthusiasm. We still call them the new guys after 25 years and they are getting kind of sick of it. That is the only real change we have made and it was 25 years ago. I am happy we still have our original vocalist which not every band is lucky enough to say that. We made one change and it has been great since.

CB: Do you have any regrets over the years?

ND: I have no personal regrets. I have done some incredibly, stupid, horrible things but I don’t regret them because they all led to where I am now and I am a very happy person right now.

CB: What can the fans expect when you come to Cincinnati this year?

ND: First of all, they can expect us to play a one hour set of our favorite songs and they’ll know all of them except for one surprise new song. I know the audience cringes when a band plays that new song because they want to hear the familiar stuff. This song is good, really good. We wouldn’t do it live otherwise. It’s got a hook right from the beginning. It has gotten nice mentions in our reviews so far. 

Then Chicago comes on and does all of their hits. Then the lights go down and come back up three minutes later (with) both bands on stage doing three individual hits by each band. Six songs, literally the biggest hits of each band, played together, 14 individuals playing at the same time. That took about a 12-hour rehearsal to put that together and it is just amazing. The Phoenix newspaper called it one jaw-dropping moment after another. I have to agree. I am way in the back of the stage on that part and I love it because I can watch the whole thing. These guys from both bands are just running around having the best time of their life. 

We have known some of the guys for Chicago for decades. Robert Lamm, one of the lead singers and writers was a neighbor in Beverly Hills back when I lived there 35 years ago and somehow we never toured with them. 

We didn’t know if (the onstage collaboration) would work. They were a little more progressive, a little Jazz oriented, but they are still Rock & Roll. We are more Country or Folk. We weren’t sure the same audience would show up for both bands and it has worked beautifully. The shows so far have been virtual sellouts. The thing has blended so well. 

Picture “Keep on Loving You” with that beautiful Chicago horn section. It gives me chills and I have been playing it 40 years. The crowd, the lights come up, and every camera comes out at the same time. They can’t believe … that we have that many people on stage and they are technically all playing together and we know what we are doing is more amazing. It is something you won’t see very often. We haven’t done anything like this. I am definitely having a really good time, we call it the grand finale. I am sure it shows to the audience we are having so much fun.


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<![CDATA[Q&A with Eric Johnson]]>

Eric Johnson is one of America’s great guitar players. A natural guitarists of sorts, he has been touring since his late teen years in the ’70s and has worked with many great acts from a variety of genres — including Rock, Folk, Alt Country and Jazz — over that time. His Grammy Award-winning pedigree makes him still a very in-demand session musician and his own new takes on classic songs has made him a favorite on the festival circuit. 

Johnson brings his unique stylings to the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati on Tuesday night. (Find tickets/more info here.) This is a can’t-miss show, for guitar fans in particular.


CityBeat: Do you have a favorite guitar that you play?


Eric Johnson: Yes, I have an old Fender Stratocaster that I play a whole lot. It’s probably my favorite guitar.


CB: Is it always with you?


EJ: It is pretty much. Sometimes I’ll tour without it and use other stuff. Also I worked with Fender and designed my own signature guitar so I use that a lot too.


CB: What’s the longest you have ever gone without playing guitar?


EJ: I don’t know, maybe a couple weeks.


CB: What do you think the best guitar solo of all time?


EJ: That would be really tough to say. Probably something musical and interesting to listen to over and over. Maybe something by Jimi Hendrix like “May This Be Love.” I wouldn’t say it’s the best guitar solo ever, but it comes to mind as a really wonderful solo.


CB: Johnny Winter, your fellow Texan, just passed away. Do you have any thoughts about him or fond memories?


EJ: I got to meet him when I was a teenager and he was always really nice and complimentary to me. I was really surprised to hear that he had passed away because I had heard that he was doing a lot better and (was) healthy and on the upswing. It came as a sad surprise.


CB: I had just seen him at JazzFest in New Orleans in May. He played great and looked healthy. I was shocked as well.


EJ: Yeah I didn’t expect it at all because he was doing so well. 


CB: Is there a group of people or person that was most influential to you or helpful to you during your early career days?


EJ: Well, when I started in my very early career, Johnny Winter said some nice things about me and that helped me a lot. Steve Morse from the Dixie Dregs helped me out. Christopher Cross kind of helped get things going, and getting to play with Carole King and Cat Stevens — that was a real and official help to me.


CB: It’s so different now for bands trying to make it. Do you have any thoughts on if it’s easier or tougher now for bands that want to play music?


EJ: I think it’s a lot tougher. People are reluctant to pay for music and there are so many bands out now. With the use of the internet and YouTube, anybody can be creative, which is good in a way. If you want to have a career, you have to have something pretty dynamic and unique that is captivating to people. 


CB: Last time I saw you perform was on the Experience Hendrix Tour. I have seen that show a couple times. What was the highlight of the tour for you?


EJ: Different ones. I remember the first ones I did, it was playing with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. Then Mitch passed away. Getting to hang out with Billy Cox is really a great thing. I liked Doyle Bramhall’s set, and getting to play with all those musicians is a treat.


CB: What do you do with your down time when you are out on the road?


EJ: I just chill out or practice or take hikes and explore the city. I hang out with friends or family if they happen to be in the town I am in.


CB: Do you have any Cincinnati stories from the past when you have played here?


EJ: I have always enjoyed playing there. I have a couple close friends from Ohio. I have gone and hung out around the rivers and stuff. Cincinnati has some really great music shops there as well.


CB: What can fans expect from your show here at the Taft?


EJ: We are doing a couple re-workings of tunes I like to play. We change them up so much they are kind of their own deal. I have this live record that just came out, Live in Europe, and I will do some of those songs, but I will do some new tunes and some re-workings of old tunes and tunes by other people. It will kind of be a cross-section of different stuff.


CB: Are you constantly working on new music or do you take breaks?


EJ: I try to constantly work on it, some kind of thing, whether collaboration with somebody else or playing on somebody else’s recording or something on my own.


CB: I know you started out doing a lot of sessions early in your career. Do you do any sessions now or work with any other artists?


EJ: Yeah, pretty much all the time. I do one a month at least.


CB: Are there any current bands that you would like to collaborate with or work with from a live music standpoint?


EJ: I’ll tell you a lot of different things I like. I dig that band Explosions in the Sky. I like Grizzly Bear. I think they are great. Tallest Man on Earth is a great Folk singer as well.



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<![CDATA[Local Art-Pop Trio Leggy Plays Northside Fest Tonight]]> On a closed off street in Northside, behind yesterday's Rock N’ Roll Carnival, band members of Leggy distribute the last of their cigarettes evenly amongst each other.

The three-piece “art-rock-influenced-punk-pop” band (download their EP Cavity Castle for free here and come up with your own interpretation) consisting of Véronique Allaer on guitar, Kirsten Bladh on bass and Chris Campbell on drums are fresh off their residency at The Comet. Allaer writes the lyrics, and cites musicians such as St. Vincent and Lana Del Ray as her influences. This is evident in the track “Sweet Teeth,” with its inherent sexy-yet-sassy, tragic-yet-empowered lyricism. Allaer’s pouty voice is one of the quintessential elements that make Leggy, well, Leggy. If Audrey Horne (from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks) ever wanted to be a rock star, she would make a band like Leggy.

When a band is given a Comet residency, they commit to playing once a week for a month, and get to pick the other bands that play on their bill.

For a DIY band, or for any aspiring musicians, a regular gig at a popular music bar is a pretty big deal. So how does a band get a residency? For Leggy all they had to do was drink enough alcohol.

“Do you know about Fogger Nights at Rake’s End?” Bladh asks. “We got way too drunk. It was like 2:30 a.m. so we went over to the Ice Cream Factory and drank with our friend who works at The Comet and eventually we were like, ‘Hey, we should have a residency at The Comet,’ and he was like, ‘Totally.’”

A night of drinking might have been the catalyst for the residency, but Leggy’s résumé speaks for itself. They’re getting widespread attention internationally, and playing with acts like Ghost Wolves and Paul Collins and even playing in The Northside Rock N’ Roll carnival tonight.

With each success, it’s hard to find a new way to progress forward, and bar selling out Great American Ballpark Leggy has accomplished a lot in our little corner of Ohio. So now they are headed out into the world — specifically, across the Midwest. Leggy’s next move is to go on tour and they say they’ll walk the Midwest if they have to — and they might have to.

“The biggest issue is not booking shows, it’s figuring out how to get there,” Allaer says. “A friend of ours was going to let us use his van, but he hurt his back so now he needs it and none of us are 25.”

In case you forgot or don’t know, a person isn’t legally allowed to rent a car until they are 25. Every member of Leggy is 24, and the tour starts mid-August.

“We are trying to contact our 25-year-old friends,” Bladh says.

Regardless the transportation, Leggy is a band that treats successes like stepping stones and ambition is more valuable than gasoline and shitty vans. July 4th, coincidentally, is a day Allaer will always remember as her wake up call for creating a successful band.

Two years ago today, I was wasted and fell off a three-story building and broke my hip. I basically could have died, and it made me reevaluate my priorities,” she says.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Andy Grammer]]>

Andy Grammer has a unique blend of musical talent, meshing his piano and guitar playing skills, smooth vocals and Hip Hop-like hooks to get crowds across the world fired up. Since his self-titled debut album in 2011, he has found great success through radio airplay and tours with the likes of Train, Natasha Bedingfield, and Colbie Caillat. Grammer is now embarking on his first headlining tour, which brings him to Covington’s Madison Theater this Saturday. The tour stop will be your chance to see Grammer in an intimate venue setting and see him up close and personal as he delivers his hits. (Click here for tickets and show info.)

CityBeat: What can the fans expect from the new album coming in August?

Andy Grammer: They can expect a lot of different vibes. I took a lot of chances sonically on this one. There is some acoustic stuff. There is one that sounds to me a little like Imagine Dragons meets Kanye. There is one that sounds like an MGMT track. There is one sounds like an old Lauryn Hill jam. I just made sure the songs were, in my opinion great, and I had a blast with the stuff I am really into right now.

CB: The album is called Magazines or Novels. Is there a story behind the title?

AG: It’s like how we ingest music these days. We are very ADD. A lot of times we just read through it, like magazines — tear through it, then throw it away. My goal was that not to be the case with this record. I built like 100 songs. I wrote the first 50 and realized I had a lot more magazines than novels, so I wrote another 50 and I think it is really good, actually. I am really excited about this album.

CB: What is your songwriting process?

AG: My process is more like … (chase) something all the way to the end and then step back and see if it is any good. Sometimes it is and, more often than not, it is not. I have to write a whole hell of a lot to get the jams I’m real proud to have on the album.

CB: You have had several huge hits on radio in your career. Do you know right away when you have a hit on your hands when writing?

AG: I don’t. I really don’t. That’s what is so confusing about it. I wouldn’t write it unless I thought it was great. I write it and am super stoked about it. As time goes by I can kind of tell whether it’s going to hold up. 

CB: Do you have people close to you that can give you the feedback?

AG: Yeah, my manager and I pretty much are the ones that make the decision.

CB: What is the best and the worst thing about being on the road for you?

AG: We are doing shows that are like half old stuff and half new stuff and the fans will be really into it. The worst thing about being on tour is finding food that is good. It is pretty difficult to do, to find good food. It is easier to find McDonald’s and then you fall into (it) and feel bad. The best part of this tour, specifically, is playing new songs and seeing the fans react to it. It’s really exciting.

CB: I have seen you play in Cincinnati when you opened for Train. Do you have any specific Cincinnati tour memories that you remember or fun things in Cincinnati you like to do?

AG: Fans in Ohio are the best. Any show in Ohio, fans know how to have a good time, they party harder than anyone else at shows. It’s real. I’m not sure you know that about yourselves. I have toured around the whole country and it is just better in Ohio.

CB: Have you ever been starstruck?

AG: Sure. When I met Sara Bareilles I was a little bit starstruck and I don’t even know why. I really liked her and was excited to meet her.

CB: Is there anybody you want to collaborate with, maybe a different genre of music?

AG: I would like to do a song where I did the hook and Macklemore did the rap. I think that would be dope. 

CB: Do you have a favorite guitar that you like to play?

AG: Yeah, Taylor is my jam. They hook me up with guitars and they sound amazing.

CB: Is there one specifically? Some people have one guitar. I saw one person last week with one they had played so much they had worn a hole in it.

AG: I don’t have that. I bust them up a lot and I have to get them fixed. I have also had this thing where I have had like three of my guitars stolen out of my car in L.A., and I don’t live in a terrible place. I think someone is on to me.

CB: I guess you shouldn’t get attached then. Well, what can the fans expect when you come through Cincinnati. I know you said you were playing half old and half new material, but what can the fans expect from your headlining show?

AG: Expect to see a little bit different light. One song has a vocoder on it. There is a little more high energy stuff. I am really excited. High energy is, in my opinion, better.

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<![CDATA[Vintage Trouble on the Road to Bonnaroo ]]>

Seven hundred acres of Manchester farmland is transformed into Tennessee’s sixth-largest city every June when 80,000 people invade the area for the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. With live music from over a hundred bands on twelve stages from noon ‘til dawn for four days, Bonnaroo presents attendees with an experience that is almost overwhelming.

Unquestionably the most diverse music festival of its kind, this year’s top dog headliners include Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Lionel Richie, The Flaming Lips, Wiz Khalifa, Arctic Monkeys, The Avett Brothers and dozens more.


Often described as “James Brown singing with Led Zeppelin”, Vintage Trouble is an L.A.-based band that has built a worldwide following after three years of non-stop touring in support of their 2010 debut album, including a much-coveted slot as the opening act for The Who on their 2013 tour. As the summer festival season is ramping up, Vintage Trouble continues their grueling tour schedule with a stop this weekend at Bonnaroo. I recently spoke to the band’s bassist Rick Barrio Dill. Calling from Los Angeles, where he is recovering from recent surgery after a retinal detachment scare, Dill was upbeat and eager to discuss the band’s history, philosophy and enthusiasm for the road ahead. I asked him if the band changes their approach when preparing for a festival stage, as opposed to theaters and arenas.


“Not really,” he said. “We might tweak the edges differently, but overall our approach to a festival gig is the same kind of sweaty, sexy late night vibe as the clubs of Los Angeles where we kind of honed our thing. We’d only been a band about nine months before we got the gig opening for Brian May that immediately put us in front of the theater crowds that were sitting down. Then we got the Bon Jovi tour where we were playing in stadiums to 40, 50, sometimes 70,000 people. 


“It taught us that we like setting up really tight, really close together, so we can literally touch each other no matter what kind of stage we’re on. And everything is contained in that sort of mentality. So, no matter if it’s a giant stadium or a 150, 200-seat room, we want it to get sweaty and we want it to be as intimate feeling as we can make it on the stage and within ourselves and what we can throw out and I think everybody connects. So even when we’re opening up for The Who, it still sort of feels that same 200-seater room.”


Dill said that translates to the way Vintage Trouble records, as well.


“We recorded our whole record in two and a half days, all in one room, doing all full takes,” he said. “We sort of fell into this method and later saw similarities in the footage of The Beatles at Shea Stadium, where they’re set up real tight in the middle of this giant stadium. We don’t wanna spread out. We set up in a tight circle where we can touch each other and then everything’s gonna come out from there.”


I mentioned to Dill how refreshing and somewhat ironic it is in this modern age of technological advances in the way music is generated and delivered to the listener that the old method of just coming out onstage and kicking people in the ass still works.


Chuckling a bit, he replied, “Well, it works for us! You know, we’ve played in front of hardcore Death Metal audiences, Hip Hop audiences, Country audiences and we always seem to land on our feet. I think it’s kind of a testament to how somewhere in our DNA it always traces back to old Soul, Rhythm & Blues, old, early Jazz, and early Rock & Roll. 


“One of the things we try to do is we try to pull everybody into it. And it’s funny because even if you aren’t familiar with music from 50 or 60 years ago or they way they performed back then, people seem to understand. People can sort of hear some trace of that sort of thumbprint in their DNA even if they don’t necessarily have those records or haven’t been privy to what those performances were like. People get it. And that’s what’s so great about music, especially the kind of music that we do. It just seems to kind of transcend a lot of genre-making that has gone on over the last 30-40 years.”


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<![CDATA[Louis Langrée Talks MusicNOW]]>

Louis Langrée is well aware of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's rich history. The CSO's freshly minted music director also knows part of that history includes the nurturing of contemporary composers and their often unconventional works. 

Enter MusicNOW, Bryce Dessner's 9-year-old festival of adventurous sounds. (Read our conversation with Dessner here.) This year's sonic extravaganza includes the CSO's take on new pieces by such esteemed composers as Nico Muhly and David Lang, as well as the title work from Dessner's new Classical album, St. Carolyn by the Sea.

CityBeat recently connected with the genial Langrée — who spoke in self-described "primitive" English by phone from Paris — to discuss the CSO's collaboration with MusicNOW. 

 

CityBeat: Before we get into MusicNOW, I'm curious about your initial impressions of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Why were you interested in coming on as music director?


Louis Langrée: The fame the orchestra is really big. Everybody knows it's a major orchestra. But then making music with them was a completely different experience because, yes, they have the qualities of all major American orchestras — precision, clarity of the attack of the situation. But they have also from their heritage, in their DNA, this German conception of sound, that you build the sound from the base of the harmony. That means the density of the sound is something absolutely remarkable, and that's rare in the United States. I think it has to do with the tradition, the roots, of this orchestra and also, of course, about the quality and the spirit of the musicians, which is really wonderful. 


CB: Why were you interested in collaborating with MusicNOW and taking on a festival of contemporary music?


LL: One of the strengths of the orchestra is to have supported and commissioned and performed contemporary music from their very early age. Having given the American premiere Mahler Third, Mahler Fifth, Stravinsky coming to Cincinnati before he was considered a giant, having premiered (Aaron Copland's ) "Lincoln Portrait," having commissioned (Copland's) "Fanfare for a Common Man" and many other pieces and many more recent pieces. That's why I wanted to open my tenure as music director with eighth blackbird and Jennifer Higdon concerto piece. It shows that we should support, play, commission and perform contemporary music — and, of course, contemporary American music. 


CB: What was it like collaborating with Bryce?


LL: Meeting Bryce was a wonderful. His French is perfect. Especially compared to my primitive English. (Laughs). I like his attitude in making music and experimentation. And any strong institution should be also a place of experimentation. Music is not something you put in a museum. It's alive. And then we should perform contemporary music like Classical music and perform Beethoven music, not forgetting that he only composed contemporary music. All the composers — Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok — composed contemporary music, so we have to continue it. He's very focused and concentrated, but on the other hand the spectrum was quite bright. I think we have arrived on wonderful programs — very challenging, but very exciting. 


CB: What makes him unique as a composer?


LL: He knows how to make an orchestra sound. It's a very clear and precise writing but at the same time there is so much flexibility in the variations of colors written and the flow of the music. It's always quite exciting to study a piece and hear it. Having the privilege of working with the composer is something wonderful because there are so many questions I would like to ask of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and of course it's impossible. So being able to ask the composer and to hear his answers is just wonderful. 


Bryce is someone who has great harmonic taste, and I think for the orchestra it's wonderful because you can express yourself much easier. I think he's very much like his music — a very welcoming man, a very open, very luminous person. I see that in his music, which is not always the case with composers. With him, I get the feeling he's one with his music. 


CB: How has the orchestra responded to playing these new, sometimes challenging pieces?


LL: Any new piece you don't know what to expect. What I've found is that these musicians are very open-minded, they are very generous and positive in their attitude and are eager to try any new experience. It's a privilege to perform these two concerts of new music, but it's also very challenging, so you have to be very practical. 


CB: And what's the experience been like for you?


LL: It's a great responsibility when you conduct a piece, but it's also a great privilege that today's major American composers are willing to write for us. To be sharing this experiment and experience in concert, to be a part of MusicNOW, is really something beautiful. 


MusicNOW's 2014 festival begins tonight and continues tomorrow. Visit musicnowfestival.org for tickets and full programming details.


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<![CDATA[Q&A with Josiah Wolf of WHY? and Dream Tiger]]> A lot of great things emerge from Cincinnati: goetta, Graeter's Ice Cream, George Clooney… Among those locally bred gems is WHY?, the eclectic indie Hip Hop band with some of the most brilliantly complex and candid lyricism out there, courtesy of Jonathan “Yoni” Wolf. In addition to its lyrical genius, WHY? is never lacking in instrumental flair, boasting infectious beats, tinkering bells, moving strings and woodwinds — the works. Band members Yoni Wolf, Josiah Wolf, Doug McDiarmid and Liz Wolf toured all around the country and world this year. They’ve traveled to San Francisco, Montreal and London, to name a few, but now find themselves back in their hometown.

CityBeat met with drummer and instrumentalist Josiah Wolf (Yoni’s brother) at The Comet and spoke to him about Cincinnati, his new projects, upcoming shows and WHY?’s latest albums.

CityBeat: Cincinnati is your hometown. You and Yoni grew up here?

Josiah Wolf: I was born in Philadelphia but came here when I was, like, two. So yeah, I grew up here. I lived here all of my formative years…left when I was around 21. 

CB: I saw that WHY? is nominated for the “Indie/Alternative” category for the Jan. 26 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs). How does it feel to be nominated?

JW: I don’t ever expect to win those things, but it’s nice that we’re on the radar of the city. We were nominated last year too and went down to The Madison. I think [the CEAs] have gotten bigger. It’s cool — it’s kind of a way of getting the music community and art community together.

CB: Do you interact with some of the local bands here?

JW: Uh, never, no. [Laughs] Just kidding. Yeah, I’ve met some good friends here and some good bands here. I’ve met a lot of people through WHY?’s other drummer Ben Sloan — a lot of his friends that he went to school with. They have a collective, The Marburg Collective, and they play at The Comet every Monday.

CB: Aside from WHY?, I know you’ve been working on some other projects, such as Dream Tiger with your wife, Liz. Can you tell me about that?

JW: I’m doing stuff for myself right now that is only in infancy. Some of that might be music I release myself or I might collaborate with Liz on it. Some of it might become WHY? songs. I have a lot of tracks that are in their beginning stages.

CB: So with WHY?, do the members work on music individually and then come together?

JW: Yeah, we do that a lot of the time. Every record is different, though. Like with the last record, Mumps, Etc., Yoni worked on almost all of that by himself. With the Golden Ticket EP, I did all of the music on that. Yoni wrote the songs on the piano and then he sent me the tracks and I put music around it.

CB: How is it different to do your own stuff versus stuff for WHY? or Dream Tiger?

JW: WHY? is kind of Yoni’s band in a way even though we’ve had times of collaboration. It’s my band also but he’s the main guy. Dream Tiger is Liz’s band. [Laughs] In both bands, I kind of take a side role. The difference is working with my brother versus working with my wife. They’re different but both are good in my life. Lately, I enjoy working by myself in a way, as far as coming up with ideas.

CB: You’ll be playing at The Comet on New Years Eve with WHY? for your last show of the year. How do you feel about that?

JW: I love The Comet. It’ll be a fun, low pressure show for us. I’m excited about it. I’d say that intimate shows [are] my preference.

CB: Which of your albums is the band’s favorite to perform? I know at the Fountain Square show this summer, you guys played a lot from Alopecia, which is one of my favorite albums. How do you choose which albums to play?

JW: Right now we’re focusing on the new record, Mumps, Etc. We do most songs from that but, yeah, we do a lot from Alopecia. Some Elephant Eyelash. We don’t really do much Eskimo Snow right now. The Alopecia songs do lend themselves to the live performances better than some of the other ones — they are more exciting songs in a way. For some reason, the Eskimo Snow songs are a little more difficult to pull off live [but] we do a couple.  

CB: So Mumps, Etc. came out last year after a three-year break. How would you say the band’s sound has evolved in that latest album? And since then?

JW: That record was mostly Yoni as far as the arrangements go. He didn’t play a lot on it but the rest of us got the parts he arranged and learned them and embellished them a bit. The goal was to get a very clean, large sounding record with minimal instrumentation — not too cluttered. I think we did pretty good with that. When I listen back to the instrumentals, it’s clean, and that’s what we were going for. Nowadays, the newer stuff that we’re working towards is a little more homemade — a little more experimental. We’re trying to get back to some of that stuff and get away from being in a big studio. Next up, we’re going to record more at my house in my basement studio.

CB: And then there’s the September EP Golden Tickets from this year on the Joyful Noise label. It is a described as “a collection of personalized ‘theme songs’ for and about seven specific WHY? fans who were Internet stalked.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that project?

JW: It first came about through our web store three years ago, I believe, right around this time. We had this one t-shirt that was a misprint. All of the other shirts had a certain color but one shirt was gold. It was like a test print. Somehow we came up with this idea: How about we put up a contest online and say whoever gets the golden shirt will have a song written about them. And the first guy who bought the shirt — it was Hunter Van Brocklin, the guy — was sent the shirt and we wrote a song about him. That’s how it started. From there, we did another merch contest and then we kind of got away from the merch contests and did more of a charity after the Japan [tsunami]. We did an auction where whoever gave the most to the benefit got the song written about them that month — that was the golden ticket. So every month, it became a little different.

CB: When the fans found out about their “theme songs,” how did they react? Creeped out? Flattered? Shocked?

JW: Everybody liked it! At least nobody expressed a [creeped out] sentiment. Maybe some people were creeped out [Laughs], but people seemed to like it a lot. People wrote us about it. We were lucky; all of the people we selected were really cool people. If you’re going to put your information out there on social media, we can write a song about it. It’s all public information. We had a good time doing it. Yoni would send me the tracks and I would make the music around it. It was just a fun little project. 

Dream Tiger (Josiah and Liz) plays Mayday this Friday and WHY? performs at The Comet on New Year's Eve.

Check out WHY?’s website for more information about the band.

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<![CDATA[Brick, Melody and Mortar: The Rise and Enthrall of Molly Sullivan]]>

It was sometime back in September that I stumbled upon the story of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, and her piece in The Guardian about the unfortunate realities she faced as a female musician. Only days later, I heard the stories of classical composers wearing their own diadems of misogyny. All these forces were crumbling away at what I once believed to be the most progressive industry we had at our hands. 

With such revelations came a personal desire for truth at a closer proximity. I honed in my lens and turned it on the state of our own music scene, and the circumstances of female musicians in the Queen City.

I may have stumbled a bit the first time I saw Molly Sullivan perform. It could have been the champagne. It could have been the wine. It could have been the sheer, uprooting shock of such a sneakily sultry voice filling all the quiet corners of a room.

It was 2011 and the setting was a birthday party at the neo-historic Marburg Hotel, and local heroes Shadowraptr had just finished their set in the basement — a lush and operatic performance of their usual brand of psychedelic Prog-Rock, with Jazz sensibility. They didn’t disappoint with an expectedly raucous presentation, and we didn’t back down as an ever energetic crowd. It was in a quiet aftermath, among friends and fellows just as imbibed as our beer-soaked shirts, that I wove my way through a hallway maze and sauntered into a living room with an organ against its back wall. At its helm sat Molly Sullivan.

As she would come to tell me nearly three years later, “Going back to when I first started playing out as a singer songwriter, I always felt this extreme pressure and insecurity of being a female musician…whose music was tending to be more on the delicate side of things, an emotionally driven side of things. It required a little stillness from the crowd.”

But back looking back on that night in March 2011, stillness was inevitable. Warm from wine and an approaching spring, the handful of us that sat in the living room did so with an active passivity.  But even as heads lolled against neighbors’ shoulders or against the walls at our backs, there was an intensity in every pair of eyes that I glanced into; all were watching, focused, as Molly struck a chord and then another, taking us through the coziest part of the evening with two or three ballads of life, lovelorn.

It was an intimacy that couldn’t have escaped those of us even if it had tried, and only a brief, drunken sampling of where Sullivan had started her story, rising to the ranks of the recognized, respected and regaled. Before that, she was front woman for the electronically infused No No Knots and a few months after that, she would play out as a solo artist with a backing band, making a stop at The Heights Music Festival and a New Year’s Eve show at the Southgate House Revival in 2012, before a brief hiatus kept her choruses hushed.

Sullivan admits that a lot of the anxious cogs of her earlier years were weighed on heavily by being a female musician in a primarily male-dominated scene.

“I feel like it’s a lot easier for men as artists,” Sullivan Says, “generally, because you have the potential to be the heartthrob, and also it’s not necessarily a sissying thing to go to for a guy. So I feel like there’s more of an audience inherently built in.”

In the later months of 2013, however, she re-emerged, armed with a loop-accentuated sound and a solo confidence that she speaks fondly of. Crafting songs, sonically clad with vocal layering and solid to the string guitar work, Sullivan took her one-woman symphony on the Cincinnati circuit, to high acclaim — winning the solo artist bracket of FB’s local “Last Band Standing 2013” battle of the bands, and earning herself a spot on one of the participating MidPoint Music Festival stages.

Sullivan had dedicated time to playing earlier shows in spots she would normally not perform, in venues and around crowds she would normally not consider being her primary audience. She says she found new courage in taking these risks. Though initially unsure about even participating in the event at FB’s, Sullivan came to find her hesitation was unnecessary.

“I made some assumption about the clientele there – it’s kind of known to be like a bro bar,” Sullivan explains. “I was thinking, ‘They’re not gonna get my art.’ That ended up not being true.”

When asked about the progression of her performance presentation, Sullivan says, “I think I’ve actually come to learn — just by doing it when I’m in a bar and everybody is silent — just like recognizing that there’s something captivating about the simplicity and the emotion of being present with your songs. It’s a really empowering thing when people are dedicated to listening and joining you in that experience.”

Sullivan also recognized the power of community, and the part that earnest encouragement from within the Cincinnati scene played in her career as a musician. One pillar in her support group is claimed by The Daughters of The Midwest, an ensemble stage set of premier, female musicians dominating the Cincinnati area.

“I’ve definitely kind of geared my energy towards being supportive of other female musicians,” Sullivan says, “supporting Kelly (Fine), Mia (Carruthers), Maya (Banatwala). And now that I’m back out there again, because of the support that I’ve been shown.”

“I think it’s a really powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other,” she continues. “And as soon as I got back into it, it made it a lot easier to go with the flow and be excited for people wholeheartedly.”

And looking outside of the just the female musician community, Sullivan vehemently recognizes the support of Cincinnati as a whole. Sullivan expresses an appreciation for her time playing with The No No Knots, as well as the support she received from the members of Cincinnati’s Marburg Collective. As she explains, "There’s mostly positive reinforcement floating around. There’s kind of this really solid to the earth community here that exists that wants to support."

She admits that what hides outside of Cincinnati is what scares her most. We traded stories and conversations about recent revelations of ignorance and misogynistic skeletons in some of contemporary music’s most renowned scenes, tales of classical composers saying woman have no place in conducting pieces.

Sullivan acknowledges being weary of “the whole, big wide world,” with such possibilities floating around in clouds of reality.

“Cincinnati scares me in its own ways,” she says. “Almost what scares me more is beyond what’s Cincinnati, just the competitiveness that can be fruitful if you’re successful in the game. And I think part of me has been afraid of success, because with that success, you know what’s gonna come: it’s gonna be that banter online, all those anonymous people hemorrhaging bullshit…Why bother?”

Even with such uncertainty for outside markets, Sullivan exhibits an insight and strength that propels her forward, even more so because of her acknowledgements of the bad that can come with the good. She says she’s learning to navigate her way around “the hemorrhaging bullshit.” Her awareness of everything that can dampen an otherwise well lit stage is what makes her voice so definitive on the conversation about the regressive mentality of misogyny that can still exist in our present day music-scape.

There exists within Molly Sullivan a partnership between community appreciation and individualistic impetus. She acknowledges the power of community backing, saying it’s a “powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other.” And she recognizes the groundwork that’s been laid out in years past.

“We’ve seen the rise of a few female fronted bands come through,” Sullivan says, “and people are more willing to be excited for that and support it.” (She cites the Seedy Seeds and Wussy as pioneers for female musicianship.) Sullivan is aware of where we’ve been and where we are. But what’s more, she’s ready to take us to where we need to be. And she’s ready to do that with a self-made spirit.

“I’m getting to a point where I don’t give a fuck really,” Sullivan says.

It was with a new impetus that she’s approached her musicianship. “I’ve grown stronger as a female musician,” she says. “Now I’m just kind of like, well, if you don’t want to listen to it then fuck you, you don’t have to be here. It took me a long time to get to that point, and I still kind of have some insecurity about it. But most of the time I’m just like, ‘Molly, grow a pair, get over it.’ ”

Sullivan also explains the intentionality behind her current solo-set performances. Much in the same vein of playing in new venues, under possibly uncomfortable lights, she exhibits a drive to explore her boundaries, and expand past her limitations.

“I’ve chosen to do these things by myself,” she says. “If I’m going to play with a band later, I need to be OK playing solo first. It’s been really empowering, doing all of that.”  She proves herself to be relentless and, though hurt, unscarred by the outside forces of misinterpretation and misogynistic pressures.

It’s with a knowing, weathered paddle that she navigates these future streams. And it seems she couldn’t be more pleased with the direction she’s headed.

“So far, it’s been really lovely being back.” She takes a moment, at the end of our conversation, to reflect out loud. “Would you look at that? I did that. And I don’t need anybody else. I’m all about collaboration, but it’s really good to know that I don’t need anybody. I’m capable.”

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Mike Healy of Papadosio ]]>

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.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights]]>

Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights (JTNL) is a Texas-born/California-based Rock band with a bluesy, rootsy edge that has been a workhorse on the road, touring anywhere and everywhere since forming in 2007. Along with tour jaunts with musical giants like ZZ Top, JTNL has also been very popular on the festival scene, every summer playing to large crowds all over the country. Although the band hasn’t released an album since 2010’s major label debut, Pardon Me (on F-Stop Music/Atlantic), there was promise of a lot of new music on their current tour when Tyler spoke with CityBeat recently. JTNL plays Bogart’s this Wednesday with friends and fellow rockers Taddy Porter. (Click here for tickets and further show info.) 

CityBeat: You are currently on tour with Taddy Porter. How did this tour come about?

Jonathan Tyler: We have toured with them a lot in the past. Both of our bands formed around the same time. I think about three or four years ago. We started playing shows together and became friends. When we were looking into a tour this fall, their name came up and everybody was really excited about it. It just came together naturally. 

CB: You have been touring pretty extensively since 2007. What is the best part of being on the road for you?

JT: I love playing music live. There is something really special about it. It is one of my favorite things to do. It is really fun to get in front of a live audience and play songs and to just kind of get that energy going between the crowd and the band. It is fun to see what happens, a lot of unique, special, unexpected things happen sometimes and it makes it more fun. It is always fun to try out new songs on people as well.

CB: Are you guys working on new music currently?

JT: Oh yeah, pretty regularly, all the time. We will be playing new songs at the Cincinnati show.

CB: What does the perfect day look like for you?

JT: Well, I live in California so I love to go to the beach and I love to surf and I love to eat good food and spend time with my girlfriend. When I am on the road, I love to walk around. We usually travel during the day, early in the morning, to the city we are playing in. We will set up our gear and we usually have a few hours off. I try to find a good restaurant in town and try out new places basically. I try to see what the city is all about.

CB: I know you are in different cities every day so it all merges together sometimes.

JT: Yeah. For some reason we haven’t played Cincinnati very much. I don’t know why. We are looking forward to it.

CB: At one point weren’t you living in Texas?

JT: Yeah, that is where the band was formed. I moved in January to California.

CB: What music are you currently listening to that is inspiring you?

JT: There is a lot of different stuff. I really like the band Endless Boogie from New York. It is like a ZZ Top style Rock & Roll band. I really like those guys. There’s some Electronic music also that I like, which probably doesn’t seem likely because I play Rock music and it may surprise some people. I listen to a lot of different music, really anything that will inspire me. I’m also really into Bruce Springsteen right now. 

CB: Some people are saying that Rock is dying. Do you believe that, with the popularity of EDM and other genres of music, that is happening right now?

JT: Yeah, I do. I think it will come back around. I think everything kind of goes in cycles. I think it is easier right now for musicians to do the Electronic thing because it is cheaper. You can just make it with one person really. You don’t need an entire band to make tracks and people are making recordings out of their houses. The whole industry is turned up on its side. It’s interesting for sure, but I think Rock is always going to live on.

CB: If you could trade places with anyone for a month who would it be?

JT: I have to think about that. I really don’t want to be anyone else. That’s a hard one. I honestly can’t say.

CB: Do you have any habits you’d like to break?

JT: So many. Smoking cigarettes would probably be the No. 1 thing. I guess I don’t want to break it that badly since I still do it. 

CB: What can the fans look forward to in Cincinnati next week?

JT: They can look forward to some new music. We will probably play a lot of new songs. They can look forward to a high-energy Rock & Roll show.

CB: I have seen you many times over the years. I look forward to it. It is always high energy and great Rock & Roll.

JT: Well thanks, I appreciate that. We will probably play half new music and half of the older songs. I think people will be happy to come out and see something different if they have seen us before, but maybe hear the songs they love as well.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Kenny Wayne Shepherd]]>

Kenny Wayne Shepherd has brought a youthful side to American Blues music ever since the great success of his first album, Ledbetter Heights, which went platinum and reached No. 1 on the Blues charts. He was just 17 at the time of the album's release and has gone on to put out several more successful Rock/Blues albums with his Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, featuring Cincinnati's Noah Hunt on lead vocals.

Shepherd has developed a new exciting project called The Rides with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg, a veteran musician who formed The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield in the late ’60s and has written and produced many classics. The Rides are performing at the Ohio River Throwdown, a new Roots music festival, this Saturday at Riverbend Music Center, playing alongside other acts like Tedeschi Trucks Band, JJ Grey and the Mofro, Los Lobos and many other artists. CityBeat chatted with Shepherd recently about his new project.

CityBeat: I saw behind the scenes videos of The Rides recording in the studio together. What was your favorite experience being in the studio with the other two guys?

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Well, the whole thing was a really good experience. Everybody had a really great time doing the record. It’s just very interesting. You look back over the course Stephen's career, and Barry as well, and these guys have made some really tremendous records in their time. They have also been on so many albums and done this for so many years that they have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge of how to do things in the studio. For me, even though I have had my recording career for 20 years now, I still consider myself to be like a sponge, just trying to soak up as much information as I can. I learned a lot from those guys and it was a really good time.

CB: Where did the name of the band actually originate?

KWS: We were putting our heads together. It went on for two weeks. One of the hardest things to do is to come up with a band name, at least it can be one of the most challenging things to do. A lot of the reasons why it is so hard to do nowadays is because almost every name has been used. Everything we came up with, we would go back home and I would look it up online and do a Google search and someone would have that name and we would start over again. 

We spent a lot of the time in the studio between recordings … Stephen and I are both big car guys, I mean we love cars. Stephen and his wife have some of the most incredible cars you could hope to own. I have a pretty cool collection myself. We spent a good bit of time talking about cars and driving and stuff like that. As we were exploring name options for the band, one day we were at Stephen's house and I had driven my 1964 Dodge to his house and we were walking out to the driveway to leave and he just looked at my car and said, “You know we should be called 'The Rides.' ” I was like, “Yeah. That’s cool.” I went home and checked and couldn’t find anybody with that name. So here we are.

CB: What is your favorite car you have?

KWS: I don’t know. I would say right now my 1969 Dodge Charger, and I think it is one of the most beautiful, one of the most visually stunning cars that was ever designed. Probably that one is my favorite.

CB: I have listened to the new album and I really, really love it. What is your favorite song to play on the new album?

KWS: I go through phases when I do a new record like, “Right now this is my favorite song …” and then a few months from now a different one is my favorite one. Currently my favorite is “Can’t Get Enough,” the title track. That song is a great representation of this band and what we are about. It is one of the songs we wrote together. It has great, heavy guitars. It has got really, good lyrics. Even the vocal is nice and raspy and bluesy. There are lots of dynamics to that song and I think it is just really a great representation of who we are as a group.

CB: Typically you are touring with your band by yourself. What was it like splitting singing duties with Stephen?

KWS: I split singing duties, to a degree, in my own band. I have Noah Hunt, who is from Cincinnati, he has been my lead vocalist for 17 years. But over the past few years of my career, I have stepped up here and there to the microphone when I wanted to, and on the last record we recorded, Noah and I sang a lot of songs together. I have kind of started to integrate that idea into my own band even though I tend to let Noah sing most of the songs because he has such an incredible voice and it enables me more to focus more on my guitar playing. There is certainly, in this band, more vocal responsibility for me. I really wanted to do it. It is pretty cool. Like being around Stephen, who is so well known for his singing and vocals, it has been inspiring to me to step up to the microphone and sing more.

CB: I thought I saw Noah at the Peter Frampton show in Cincinnati.

KWS: He was there. He went to the show because we had just been on the road with Peter over the past two months, we had done some shows with him. Noah wanted to go hang out and see everybody when they came through town so he went.

CB: What is the favorite guitar you have ever played?

KWS: The one I am most attached to is my 1961 Stratocaster. It is the first Strat I ever got. 

When you are a guitar player you hear this story about how there is this one guitar that is your soulmate. There is one guitar out there that was built for you. You know it the minute you pick it up and start playing it. Some guys go their entire lives trying to find it. I found this guitar when I was just 15 years old. The minute I picked it up, it fit me like a glove. I did everything I could to get it, I couldn’t afford it at the time, then later on, the following year, it was in Los Angeles at the Guitar Center. Then I came back a year later and it was still there. I still didn’t have the money to afford it, but I decided I wasn’t leaving the store without it. I told my Dad, he was like “We gotta go.” I’m like, “I’m not leaving without this guitar.” Between him, the guy at my record company, my A&R guy, my music attorney, they decide they would split the cost up on their credit cards as long as I agreed to pay them back. I did. That guitar has been with me ever since. It has toured the world with me and been on every record I have ever done. It is just my baby.

CB: That is a great story. I have interviewed so many guitar players and nobody has talked to me about their soulmate guitar before. 

KWS: Yeah, well, it really is. I don’t know about those guys but there is a bond between me and that instrument. I feel like all guitar players have their go-to instrument and there should be a really solid connection between them and the instrument.

CB: Social media has become invaluable with marketing music and musicians. When you are on the internet, in general, where do you spend most of your time?

KWS: I am a creature of habit and repetition when it comes to browsing the web. I have a couple of sites I look at every day. I go online and get my daily dose of the news. I usually go to AOL, because half of their stories report the news and the other half are like looking at a tabloid magazine. They have some really weird stuff they put up there. 

I have a couple car enthusiast websites, like there is a website called Moparts.org which is for all Mopart Car enthusiasts. I love the Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth brands, so I am a Mopart guy. 

There are a couple guitar pages that I go onto to see what is going on in the world of guitar. I check in, there is a page called thegearpage.net, then I go to the Fender Forums and Fender.com. 

I am also obsessed with the new Tesla Electric cars. I have been browsing their forums a lot educating myself on their technology and stuff. I am kind of a geek when it comes to cars and all things mechanical.

CB: Can you tell us what the fans can expect from The Rides' live show in Cincinnati?

KWS: We just rehearsed, we just had four days to rehearse for this tour and none of us had played any of these songs since we recorded the album back in December. So I guess with my schedule with my band and Stephen and his band, we had a very narrow window of opportunity to prepare for this tour. 

We are basically going to do the album and throw in a few songs from my catalog and Stephen's catalog and stuff that Barry wrote that other people recorded. The whole goal is to be loose and have a good time and just play music together. They’ll hear a little bit of my stuff, a little bit of Steven’s stuff, a little bit of Barry’s stiff, then they’ll hear the whole (Rides) record.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Fastball]]> It does not seem like it has been 15 years since Fastball released its biggest hit, “The Way.” But the trio's Classic Rock- and Pop-inspired Alt Rock sound transcended the ’90s and is already considered a classic. The band has just gotten off the Under the Sun tour with fellow ’90s rockers Gin Blossoms and quickly began its own headlining tour, which hits Dayton, Ohio, club McGuffy's tonight. The Easthills and 650 North open the show. Click here for details.

CityBeat caught up with singer/guitarist Miles Zuniga in advance of Fastball's Dayton appearance and discussed tour life and the changes in their musical hometown of Austin, Texas.

CityBeat: What was the highlight of the Under the Sun tour?

Miles Zuniga: There were a lot of highlights. I got to play bass in the Gin Blossoms, as well as playing with Fastball. That was a perk. Just being around those great musicians and stuff. It was probably playing at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego. It is an amazing venue. It is right by the ocean and you get a real good view on stage that is pretty great. There was also a sailboat that some guy owned down in Charlotte and he named it “The Way.” Actually, it was a yacht, an 85-foot yacht, and I got to go on his yacht. That was pretty nice.

CB: How has the process changed over the years for you guys to put together songs?

MZ: Probably the biggest way it has changed, when we started, it was a lot harder to flesh out something on your own because I had a little 4-Track (recording device). I didn’t have a jump drive or anything. You couldn’t really imagine how the whole piece of music would look. These days, with computers, it is pretty easy. You could do something that could potentially even end up as a recording if you wanted. That is what has changed the most for me. I can construct songs and get them in the ballpark of what I hear in my head. To me that is really good. It eliminates a lot of the misunderstanding. Sometimes it is good to have an open slate and hear what a song is going to do with no preconceptions.

CB: The band is from Austin. Austin has become this major music scene. How has Austin changed since the ’90s when you started out?

MZ: It has grown exponentially. It is kind of a drag for people like me because I felt like I used to have it all to myself. It wasn’t as crowded. It is kind of turning into into a big city and all that entails. The restaurant scene is more exciting, but at the same time, traffic sucks. I don’t know where live music fits into the whole bit. I think the live music scene is roughly the same amount of people playing live music. I don’t think the live music scene has grown in terms of how many people are doing it with the population. I think it has remained the same. I don’t know. To be fair, I don’t go out as much as I used to and see bands.

CB: You have used Kickstarter, which is becoming very popular as well, to raise funds for your musical projects. Can you talk a little bit about that process and why you think it has become so popular for people to do use this as a tool for fundraising?

MZ: It has become invaluable. It is very hard to make money off recording these days with the advent of Pandora and Spotify. People are used to getting music for free or next to nothing. So it is very different from when we had hit songs and people had to go to the record store to buy the record.

The problem is, the cost of making a record hasn’t come down accordingly. It has come down, but it still costs. If you are going to do a record with artwork and everything, it is going to cost you anywhere from 15 grand to 30 grand, maybe more. It just depends. Everything costs money. It is invaluable with a thing like Kickstarter, finding the fans willing to commit to the project before they have heard the music. That is pretty radical. That means they are real fans. They love what you do and trust that you are going to deliver something they are going to enjoy.

CB: When you have written songs in the past, did you know when you were writing them that you had a hit?

MZ: No. We had no idea. “The Way” was our biggest song. We had no idea that song was going to do what it did. It was one of the more contentious numbers, in terms of how we wanted it to go. Tony (Scalzo) and I were at each other’s heads about how it should sound. I think all that creative friction really ended up producing a classic. We didn’t know it at the time, in the moment. None of us thought it was going to be a gigantic song. In fact, it takes a full minute before the vocal comes in. I never would have thought that had commercial potential, to wait that long before (the singing starts). It turns out DJs love that kind of thing because they can talk over it.

“Out of my Head,” when I first heard Tony play that I thought, "This is great" and "This is a hit," and I was right, but everybody kind of thought that song was a hit. It was not anywhere as big of a hit as ‘The Way” though, and that is interesting.

CB: What music is inspiring you right now?

MZ: I like all kinds of stuff. I think that band Foxygen is really good.

CB: I love them. I love Foxygen. I am a music photographer and you can’t beat shooting them.

MZ: I would note, too, as far as new music, I don’t usually do this but I decided I would listen to the Top 5 songs or Top 10 songs according to Billboard, just to hear what people love, because I never listen to radio or anything. I ended up liking what I heard and it has been the same top two songs all summer, the Daft Punk song ("Get Lucky") and the “Blurred Lines” song. The more I learned about the “Blurred Lines” song, the less I liked it. In the beginning, I liked it a lot in terms of just listening to it and hearing it for the first time. What a great summertime jam and smash hit.

CB: Are there any habits you’d like to break?

MZ: I am actually in the process of breaking them right now. I just got off this tour and I was drinking a lot on it. I decided that was it. That was the last hurrah. I’m not going to drink like that anymore, ever. It is just not fun. It is like an old piece of gum. I have done it enough. I am trying to exercise more than I already do. I am trying to get up early. Boring stuff. It is not exciting stuff, but I guess breaking bad habits isn’t exciting.

CB: Being healthy?

MZ: Being healthy and just being more present, not being worried about tomorrow or yesterday, but being more into what is going on right at this second. I think if you can learn how to do that, it is an amazing thing. Life definitely improves because there is something really fantastic being in the moment. It is hard to do. People are distracted. I am distracted with all the little modern conveniences with the internet and all that crap. I think it is really a detrimental thing, but it is hard to resist too — you know, instant gratification.

CB: What adjectives do you hope people describe you at 75?

MZ: Generous … charming … handsome … hilarious … a raconteur.

CB: What does your ideal day look like?

MZ: Get up around 9 in the morning, have a beautiful cup of coffee, go run or swim, have lunch and then do some creative work for three or four hours, then go have dinner with a beautiful woman and then maybe go see a movie or something. That would be a pretty damn good day.

CB: What has been your greatest Rock star moment?

MZ: I don’t think I can narrow it down to one single moment. There have been so many great memories. One night I got to hang out at a bar with David Lee Roth and Dennis Rodman. We played a really great show, an amazing show in Helsinki, Finland — having a No. 1 record, being so far from home and to have these people freaking out about the music you wrote in your bedroom is pretty amazing.

CB: What can the fans expect when you come to Dayton?

MZ: Loud, poetic Rock & Roll and maybe a couple stories thrown in.
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<![CDATA[Q&A with Lightnin' Malcolm ]]>

Lightnin’ Malcolm is an emerging driving force in the genre of underground Blues as a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars and also as a solo artist. Alongside counterpart Carl Gentle White aka "Stud" on drums, the dichotomy of their two styles produces a rough, soulful sound that reminds folks of Blues legends like Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Audiences should be prepared to dance, party and delight in Malcolm’s deep Mississippi sounds tonight at the Southgate House Revival. Malcolm is opening for and playing alongside the North Mississippi All-Stars. Showtime is 8 p.m. 

CityBeat: I know you have an album coming out on Sept. 10. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Lightnin' Malcolm: Well, it is 14 original songs and they have quite a few different styles on them. It is all based on my style, which is based on the hard driving, raw boogie North Mississippi Hill Country style. It is mostly (the) guitar and drums duo but we add some horns on a few tracks. We have Luther Dickinson playing slide on a few songs. So it is a pretty good mix of stuff.

CB: I was listening to some of it this week. I love “My Life is a Wreck.” Can you tell me the story behind that song?

LM: Well, that is a semi-autobiographical piece. One of my greatest influences was T Model Ford and he recently passed and that song was based on a style he had on the guitar. His grandson Stud is playing drums with me now. That was the first song we did in the studio. That was his first song recording and I thought it was a great way to feature it. My music depends on a great drummer. Drums are so important to the music and he is one of the best. I have known Stud since he was like 1 years old. He grew up watching me play drums with his granddad. He knows the style of drums that I like, the raw, four on the floor, predator style, no messing around. Just raw and making people dance. By us knowing each other so long, he is like my little baby brother. We have this chemistry together that works so well.

CB: I watched some videos of you two playing together. It is super high energy and looks like a lot of fun.

LM: Yeah, that is the key to it all. We don’t have to hit a note exactly right or (do flashy) guitar solos. We just try to create as much … fun for the people as we can. We just want to see people party and have fun.

CB: How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?

LM: I was about 10 or 12. Before that, I really wanted to be a drummer. I used to beat on buckets and pots and pans, put the radio on and play along with them. I didn’t have any actual drums and I finally got a hold of a little piece of guitar. I didn’t know how to tune it or nothing, but I fell in love with the strings in my hand. It took a while to learn how to tune it because I didn’t have anybody around me to show me at that time. Once I learned how to tune it, I started learning pretty fast. It just became everything to me. I look at the guitar like some people look at The Bible. It is like a vehicle for something later. I leave Earth. I can go on a vacation in my backyard with a guitar. I can escape to a whole other world with it. 

CB: I know you eventually moved to Mississippi after growing up in Missouri. How did you hook up with some of these great guitar and Blues players in Mississippi?

LM: I just made friends with them. They saw something special in me, I think. I wasn’t trying to blow them off stage. I didn’t ask them many questions, like how to do things. They noticed whatever they played, I could play back. They hadn’t seen too many white guys, or any guys, that could do that. So we just made friends. It was pretty easy. Those were the kind of guys I wanted to be around. They really took me in. They were really nice to me. They never said I wouldn’t be able to do it. There was everybody else saying, “You won’t be able to do it.” They were the guys saying, “You got it. Stick with it.” 

CB: Alive or dead, what one person would you want to collaborate with if you could?

LM: That’s a good question. I think, you know what’s funny, there are a lot of people outside of the Blues I’d like to collaborate with nowadays. Of course, like, John Lee Hooker is one of my all time favorites, Howlin' Wolf, there are so many Blues guys. Out of living artists, I’ll tell you a guy I love right now, two guys I love, they are more like R&B. (One is an) artist named Lyfe Jennings, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, he’s fucking awesome, he’s so sincere. Another guy is Anthony Hamilton who is a Soul singer. To me, even though their style is way different than mine, those are guys I really hear singing where I’m like, "Wow, they really hit the ceiling." You don’t hear it that much anymore. Everybody is using effects. You really don’t hear that wail in that voice. Otis Redding had that, you heard his voice and you just had to see him. You don’t hear anybody like that anymore. I know people wouldn’t expect that from me, but when I am riding down the highway listening to music, those are two guys I really listen to, that I look up to and would be great to collaborate with.

CB: That leads me into another question. There has been so much publicity recently around Pop music with Miley Cyrus and the VMAs. To me it shows how much more important it is to keep really authentic Blues music in front of people. What are your thoughts on that?

LM: I agree with that. I’m out here fighting the good fight doing what I can. It’s not always easy. People have to support what is going on. If people start throwing their money at garbage, you’re going to end up with a lot of garbage. I can’t speak for the next person but I can say this — there isn’t enough hours in the day to listen to great music. There is all the great music you can listen to. There is definitely no time for nonsense. I don’t waste time listening to stuff that sounds like garbage. That’s just me. 

My drummer, Stud, he’s young. He was watching the awards the other night and I was laying on the couch trying to sleep. I didn’t miss much. The hours in the day are precious. I would use them wisely. You don’t have to listen to garbage. That’s about the best I can do. If anybody can make some money doing something, good for you, I don’t mean it the wrong way. If you ask me about serious music, there is great music out there being made. It is just underground. Maybe it is too real for people. I am not the expert on this type of thing, I just know what I like, I listen to what I like. Even when I was a kid in school, I was listening to way different music. I was listening to Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker and would tell the other kids, “You have got to hear this. Check it out.” They just said, “Whatever.” I thought maybe when they grew up they would understand. 

CB: What can the fans expect from you guys at the Southgate House Revival show? 

LM: We are coming to rock y’all. We want y’all to come and have fun and dance and boogie. We want you to get in the groove and forget about everything in the outside world for a couple hours and get in the zone. We want to have a party for y’all. Being on stage can be the funnest thing in the world when it is going right. When it is going wrong, you just want to disappear. It is a funny thing. When it is right, it is right as a motherfucker.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Volbeat ]]>

Volbeat has been headlining huge shows in Europe for nearly a decade and now they are bringing their Metal sound to the States. In the position of up-and-comer again, they bring their high level energy to American, which has translated into sold out shows across the country. Currently Volbeat is touring on its new album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies. 

CityBeat was able to catch up with new band member and former Anthrax lead guitarist Rob Caggiano in preparation for the band's upcoming show in Cincinnati to discuss the transition into a new band and his broad musical influences that have helped him evolve since childhood. He definitely has brings a strong, veteran presence to a band that was already rising to new heights. Check out Volbeat headlining the Rock Allegiance Tour at US Bank Arena this Sunday with HIM, All That Remains and Airbourne. 

CityBeat: Could you tell me about the moment in the studio working with Volbeat on their new album that you realized you really could be in the band or it would be a good fit?

Rob Caggiano: They had asked me to be a part of it two weeks into the process of recording. So it was pretty early on into the whole thing. I think it really stemmed from the first meeting we had when they called me initially when I left Anthrax and put the press release out there. A couple days later I flew to Denmark and sat down with Michael and went over the tunes and then ideas for the new record. We ended up collaborating and making music together. It was such a fun vibe and such a great chemistry. I think that was kind of a catalyst for everything else.

CB: I saw you guys at Rock on the Range for the first time playing together. It was really amazing. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?

RC: We definitely had a really good time during our show. It was a lot of fun. Rock on the Range, to me, is one of the coolest festivals here in the States. It seems like America is catching up finally with what is going on in Europe with these outdoor festivals. Rock on the Range is very well put together, very organized, just very pro and well done. It’s always a good time. I did get a chance to see Lamb of God play, about half their set and that was killer. It was great to see Randy back up on stage.

CB: Has there been any hazing or initiation since you joined the band?

RC: Not really, I was doing all the hazing. It has been pretty cool, pretty seamless, the whole transition. The way it went down, it was very organic and felt very comfortable from the beginning. It has been cool. We are having a blast.

CB: I know it must have been a difficult decision to leave Anthrax which had been your job for the last 12 years. What were the factors for moving on?

RC: I just had this feeling of being stuck. I just felt like I was on a conveyor belt, doing that for so long. I still love those guys dearly and they are like my family. I just wasn’t happy. It got to the point where I just wasn’t happy and I was questioning myself and what I am doing here. What are we doing? What’s going to happen in the future? I just came to the conclusion I needed a change. 

I think the main part of the problem was that Anthrax was never a creative outlet for me. By no choice of my own, that was just the way it had been. I think after all those years my heart wasn’t in it anymore and I needed something different. It was definitely an emotional, difficult decision to make but it was something that needed to be done.

CB: What is your favorite guitar solo to play on the new Volbeat record and out on tour?

RC: I have two favorites. I enjoy playing the “Lola Montez” solo and the “Doc Holliday” solo. 

CB: I know you have been producing for several years helping out bands and doing Anthrax and Volbeat records. Do you ever see yourself stepping out of Rock or Metal and producing other genres? There are a lot of collaborations happening right now with different genres of music.

RC: Absolutely. I never saw myself as a solely a Metal producer. To be honest, when I am at home, I don’t really listen to Metal. It’s probably because it is what I do all the time. My influences are really varied and I listen to so many different albums and genres of music. I just consider myself a musician. I put 100% of my heart into whatever I am working on. With all these different influences, I can definitely do a lot of different things and have done a lot of different things in the past.

CB: What are you listening to right now? What is influencing you?

RC: My favorite record right now, if we are talking about new bands and newer records, is this band called The National. I think (they're) phenomenal.

CB: They are actually from Cincinnati. 

RC: Yeah, it seems like they are doing pretty well all over the world. Their new record is phenomenal. I think it is just great, the production is amazing, the songs are great. I have never met the band. I had heard the name but I had never heard the music. We were doing a record signing in Copenhagen and I asked one of the girls at the store what was her favorite record, what should I check out, what came in that is the new hot record. She said to get the new National record. I said “Ok, I’ll give it a shot.” She was right. I dig it. I like Lana Del Rey too.

CB: Do you ever plan to sit down and write your Rock biography?

RC: Maybe one day down the road. I don’t know if I’m ready yet. 

CB: I’m sure you have plenty of stories. What is your craziest tour story with Volbeat right now?

RC: It really isn’t that crazy on the road with these guys. It’s pretty mellow. It is a very focused thing. We do our show … the thing about being on tour, especially with Volbeat, we are headlining a lot of these festivals in Europe so we are going on late. We get there early at these festival sites and have a whole day of nothing. It is kind of boring just waiting to go on stage. Nothing really crazy has happened yet but I will keep you posted.

CB: I am shocked you haven’t seen crazy things at the European festivals with fans.

RC: I guess it depends what you call crazy.

CB: Yeah, your idea of crazy may be different than mine. You may be like, “That’s totally normal.”

RC: Exactly

CB: What was the name of your first band?

RC: My first band ever was when I was 14 years old. We were called “Wild Heart.”

CB: Do you keep in touch with those guys?

RC: Kind of. I saw the other guitar player recently in Florida. He has been a friend of mine forever. The rest of the guys I have not spoken to in a long time.

CB: Do you play any other instruments?

RC: Yeah, I play drums. I play keys. I do our programming when I need to. I just make noise basically. I can pretty much get anything to sound decent. As a kid, I started out playing drums so that has always been in my heart. I went to the guitar from that. 

CB: Your parents were supportive of the drums in the house?

RC: Well they bought them. Yeah, my parents were huge supporters of my music. My Dad is really into the music thing. It was definitely a very healthy atmosphere growing up for creativity and inspiration. There was always music around which was cool.

CB: I started hearing about Volbeat and listening to Volbeat about two years ago when they were just coming to the U.S. Obviously they are huge in Europe, beyond headlining. What do you think is the biggest difference so far in the U.S. shows and the European shows?

RC: In the U.S. it is very much on the rise, the shows over here are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. With them, we did two legs, two U.S. legs and every show was killer. Back in 2010, that is when I first met these guys with my other band, The Damned Things, they took us on tour. That’s when I first heard the music and met the guys and became friends. Even that tour was sold out every night. It was an awesome tour. Volbeat is definitely on the rise in America. In Europe obviously it is crazy. It is just a really good feeling all around. There is a lot of excitement about this band and the new record, just good vibes. 

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Eric Bass of Shinedown]]>

Shinedown has been touring on its most recent album, Amaryllis, for the last two years and has just started its Carnival of Madness tour to complete touring on the record. It is the band's biggest, brightest and loudest tour yet. With each album, Shinedown's rocking sound shows bigger energy and different sides, as well as different looks. 

CityBeat was able to catch up with bass player Eric Bass to discuss life on tour and the close bond the band members have, even after all these years. Shinedown will be tearing up the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend on Saturday night on its Carnival of Madness tour stop with Papa Roach, In This Moment and Skillet. (The concert is sold out.)

CityBeat: You guys have really been successful with the last couple albums. You have been on the Billboard charts for over two consecutive years. Did you ever expect that would happen?

Eric Bass: Did I ever expect it? I always hoped it would happen, I guess. You work really hard. We have this thing we say: "Keep your head down, stay humble and move forward." We are blown away by the success. To be honest with you, if you had told the 17-year-old me this was what was going to be happening, he’d be ecstatic. I can’t say that I expected it to happen. We wanted it to happen. We worked really hard for it. We are not surprised, I guess you could say, because of the hard work. It is a true blessing to be able to do what we do and have the success we have had.

CB: The band has been touring constantly. How do you make time to write new songs on the road?

EB: We actually don’t write on the road. We like to separate the two. We go home when we are done with this tour. We will lock ourselves away for a year and write as many songs as we can. Then, when we are done with that, we will go out and tour again and complete the process. We wrote “Diamond Eyes” on tour because it was for a movie soundtrack. That was the first experience we had with that. It worked out and everything went well with it. We work really hard when we are on tour. We are a go-go-go all day long band with interviews, meet and greets and that sort of thing. So there is really not a lot of time to get in and be creative like that. We prefer to separate the two and that creates the situation where each record is pretty different from the others because they are different times and you are not overlapping time periods. You are separating into blocks. It makes the records really interesting. 

CB: I have photographed you on your last couple tours. Your shows have grown larger and larger with more pyro and turned into huge Rock shows. How did you guys prepare for Carnival of Madness?

EB: Well we started talking about it two or three months ago and we said, “It’s not going to be small.” That was the whole thing. We were going to make it as big as we could possibly make it. We are bringing our whole sound system with us. We are bringing our own lights. We are bringing our own pyro. We basically have carnival performers that are out with us. It is just a conscious, concerted effort to, every time, step your game up. We have sort of become known for that when we do these big headlining runs. We don’t want to disappoint anybody. People paid good money and want to see a great Rock show and that’s what they are going to get.

CB: You actually have carnival performers on stage with you?

EB: We actually do, yes. It’s going to be fun. I think everybody is going to really enjoy the show.

CB: The first show was this past weekend. How is it going so far?

EB: We are one down. We have the second one tonight. The first one was great. Internally, we found a couple things we could do differently, do a little bit better. We are definitely going to do that. The first show was great. The crowd was very receptive. It was awesome. I think tonight is going to be even better. Then the Cincinnati show, by that time, we will be well-oiled machines and veterans.

CB: Shinedown has a huge social media presence. Why is it important for you guys to stay connected to your fans in that way?

EB: Because the fans are the reason we get to do what we do. We never forget that. The fans are the boss, the most important thing. The fans buy the tickets, they buy the records. I have to say, and it’s going to sound cliché but it’s not meant to be, we have the best fans. Our fans are ridiculously loyal. We like to keep up with them. We actually know … you would be surprised how many fans we know. I’ll see fans at meet and greets that I will know from Twitter. We keep up with them and we know what’s going on. We like to hear what they have to say. They are going to let us know if something is not right. They will let us know if they don’t like something, if they like something. It’s a great tool to utilize as well. You get instant feedback on what you are doing.

CB: What are your hobbies outside of playing music all the time?

EB: It’s kind of funny. I say all my hobbies become my jobs. I produce records. I do a lot of songwriting. I engineer, mix records. A lot of my hobbies have become my job. 

I am a golfer. I enjoy golf a lot. More recently, I have started building model airplanes. I needed a quiet hobby I can sit in my house and do. It is something I have found solace in. It may be a little geeky, a little nerdy, but it is fun.

CB: You actually co-wrote “I’ll Follow You” correct?

EB: Yep

CB: I love that song. I know it is the new single and it is out, but what is the story behind the song?

EB: The story of the song is pretty interesting. The piano part I had for a couple years. I had been playing it in sound checks. We don’t write on the road, but if it’s something someone in the band hears, “Hey remember that. Record that.” We are pretty in tune with that sort of stuff. 

We were out on our acoustic tour that we did on the end of our last record cycle with Will Hoge, a great singer-songwriter from Nashville. Nobody had really said anything about the piano thing I had, so I thought maybe it will be good for Will. 

So I hit him up and said, 'On the next day off, I want to show you this piano piece I have got and we can write a song.' He gave me his number and said to give him a call. I gave him a call the day of, I called him like three times, never went to voicemail, never picked up. 

The next day, I was like, “I called you three times.” He said, “It never came through. I don’t know what happened.” That day at soundcheck, Brent was like, “What’s that thing you are playing?” I was like, “Man, I have been playing it for three years.” He finally woke up to it. We actually had the recording that day at sound check kind of going through the song. Some of the lyrics are actually in there from that first time we ever played it through, he and I. 

If you fast forward six months when we finally wrote it, finally sat down and wrote the song, it happened seamlessly. We wrote it in like two hours, the whole thing was done. Lyrically, it is about the person in your life who is your best friend, your spouse or your girlfriend, your boyfriend or someone really close to you, that person you will always be there for and they will always be there for you.

CB: The band took a different turn on the latest album, playing with the full orchestra. How did that concept come about?

EB: We talked about how Madness had a lot of string-sections stuff. We just talked while we were writing the record about how to make this record a little bigger and a little more grand. That was the first thing that came up, we need to do something with horns and full orchestra, rather than just string sections. 

It was fun. It was a blast to be in there to watch that stuff be recorded, watching your vision come to life was amazing. There is very little that we do that is not a conscious decision. We kind of see what we want to do next. We were talking about our next record the other day on the bus. We will probably start working on that next year. We already kind of got an idea for it of what we want it to be. It is pretty phenomenal to have this type and level of instruments on something you have worked on. You pinch yourself every once in a while because it’s so cool.

CB: You guys have been together for some time. Are you all still friends? Do you still hang out?

EB: It’s pretty funny, we love each other so much. We all still ride the same bus even though we don’t have to. We, all four of us, camp out in the same place. We work out together every day. We eat together every day. We really are brothers. We have our moments of getting agitated with each other and angry with each other. There is something different that I don’t see in a lot of bands we travel with. There are some, but they are few and far between. You get a group of people that genuinely like each other and genuinely get along. 

I can count on one hand the times I have been up in someone’s face in my band, that I have been that angry with someone. We just don’t get like that. We talk things out. If there is a problem, we sit down and we are very honest with each other. We don’t harbor any animosity toward each other for anything. 

“I’ll Follow You” is out right now and is a song Brent and I wrote. Everybody in the band is happy as hell about that because it is doing well. “Bully” is a song Brent and Zach wrote, and I was happy as hell that was doing well. A lot of people get caught up in the unimportant stuff, like who makes more money or what’s going on with this or who’s more popular in the band. We don’t care about that stuff. It’s about the band, the entire group. We all really care about each other. We hang out when we aren’t on tour. It is really a blessing.

CB: It is amazing you guys spend so much time together and it is still like that. There aren’t many people I could spend 24 hours a day with?

EB: We see each other more than we see our wives and girlfriends and our families. We are married. We have to get along. There is no way around it. You can tell on stage. We smile at each other on stage. We joke around. We throw picks at each other. It’s genuine. It’s not an act. You can tell bands on stage that don’t like each other, and you can definitely tell bands on stage that do, and we are one of those bands that really like each other. 

Click here for a full photo set by Amy Harris of the Carnival of Madness tour stop in Cleveland this past Tuesday.

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<![CDATA[Ozzy Talks Black Sabbath Reunion and Tour]]>

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.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with George Thorogood]]> Blues/Rock legend George Thorogood has done just about everything a musician can do over his 30 years on the road. Along with his vintage Gibson ES-125, the only guitar he has ever played, cared to play or even knows how to play, he has delighted audiences with a catalog of hits, like “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over,” which he can still play every night to provide a familiar, comfortable performance any audience can love.

CityBeat spoke with Thorogood about his “wild” ride through Rock & Roll and his connection with his guitar. He plays at Riverbend PNC Pavilion on Friday night with Blues icon Buddy Guy.

CityBeat: Do you ever get tired of playing your hits like “Bad to the Bone”?

George Thorogood: I get tired, yes, but I don’t get tired of playing them. You see, we created those songs to play live. That was the whole purpose of them. I get asked that question a lot. I don’t understand it. Do artists make songs up and not want to play them a lot?

CB: Most of the time they say they love to play them and most bands wish they had songs like that.

GT: It has always made me feel strange because I thought if you worked really hard and made an automobile, like a BMW or something, would you get tired of selling BMWs? That is the whole purpose of making them, isn’t it?

CB: Yeah, to share them.

GT: I don’t get tired of playing them. What I would get freaked out about is if people didn’t want to hear the songs.

CB: You have been touring a lot this year. What is the biggest difference in touring now versus the 1980s when you started?

GT: Better cars, better seatbelts, better buses, better hotels, better accommodations, better food, better everything. That was 30 years ago. The world has changed.

CB: It seemed more fun then, though.

GT: Why would you think that?

CB: I think artists now are so freaked out with social media and people seeing everything and having access to people and things can get out very quickly. I think people are less likely to have fun sometimes.

GT: That part of it, yeah, but that part isn’t going away if you are famous. You can lose your money but you can’t lose your fame. That is going to be happening anyway.

News just gets to people quicker now than it did 30 years ago. It’s the yin and the yang of the whole thing, when you become famous. You have to take what comes along with it. That part is not a lot of fun. But if you quit and you stop, it’s still going to exist whether you play or not. If Harrison Ford retires tomorrow, people are going to be talking about it in some form or shape.

The other part of it is a lot easier. We have better hotels. There is air conditioning. We have buses. The venues are better — better for the fans, better for the bands. It’s a business now. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. They have put so much time and capital into the business to make it up on that level. In that way, I have survived that and I am part of it. That is something to be very proud of.

Let’s face it, the club owners and promoters and everybody are not going to be interested in you unless you are going to make a profit. We are a consideration and not an afterthought when it comes to that.

CB: Are you working on any new music while you are out on the road?

GT: Not really. We are working on putting together a record that has a combination of all the originals we have done over the years and adding one or two new ones to it. It’s a project on the table at this time.

CB: I know you are a big baseball fan. I am actually surprised you are touring during baseball season. The Reds aren’t going to be there on Friday. How are you feeling about baseball this summer?

GT: That’s a fun question. I have never altered my work schedule. I don’t know how that started. I took one summer off to play in a softball league and it was about 20 games, but I was active the whole time. If I took off during baseball season, I’d be broke. I wouldn’t be able to put 15 years together. It’s summertime. I have to go out and perform. There is no getting around it.

I don’t know any baseball players saying they are taking off the summer because Thorogood is touring.

CB: What is your favorite guitar to play live?

GT: I only play one guitar, a 125. It’s the only guitar I’ve ever played. It’s the only guitar I know how to play. Actually, I like to prance around on stage singing like Mick Jagger does, but I can’t sing as good as him. So the 125 is the only one I use.

Please tell people not to steal it. They don’t make them anymore and that is the only kind I can play.

CB: Have you ever lost any gear or had it stolen?

GT: Yeah, it’s been stolen a couple times, but we got them back. We finally put up a sign saying, “Stop stealing George’s guitars. They don’t make them anymore and it’s the only kind he can play.”

CB: I’ll make a note in the article. You mention Mick Jagger and I saw the Stones live for the first time last month and it was pretty amazing. I know you toured with them and you have had many great tours over the years, but what is your craziest tour story?

GT: Craziest? Like mental and I need a prescription from a psychiatrist?

CB: Sure.

GT: None. What’s your idea of crazy?

CB: Crazy fans, crazy parties, anything?

GT: I’ve never been to any crazy parties. There have never been any crazy fans, ever. The Rolling Stones are 100% professional outfit ran by Bill Graham. There is no time for any craziness. There was too much money involved.

The Three Stooges do crazy things. The Rolling Stones and Bill Graham do not.
Everything is professional. Everything was in ship-shape … they wouldn’t still be in business now if they didn’t do that. If they did anything crazy or wild, they did it while I was not around.

Sorry, but I do not know where all this comes from … but when I showed up, I am the only guy that can turn an orgy into a Boy Scout camp. When I show up, it is clean cut and above the board, all the way.

CB: No more fun when you arrive.

GT: It was total fun. It was all fun. It depends on what your idea of fun is. My idea of fun is playing on a stage and getting to see The Rolling Stones free every night. In that case, that was wild and crazy. That is as wild and crazy as I want to get.

CB: They were amazing. I was blown away. I had waited so many years to see them. I am glad I finally got the chance.

GT: Yeah. They are better now than ever.

CB: I have nothing to compare it to other than films.

GT
: Well I do, and you have to go see them now.

CB: If you could trade places with anybody for a month, who would it be?

GT: Trade places with anybody? Probably Michelle Obama.

CB: Why?

GT: I’d like to know what it feels like to be the most powerful person in the world, even if it is only a couple of days.

CB: What current music do you listen to? I know you have been inspired by many of the greats over the years. Do you listen to any current music?

GT: I am a little busy with my own. I haven’t really had a chance to sit and relax and listen to any current music for the last 40 years because I have been busy with my own business.

CB: What is your favorite guitar solo you have ever recorded?

GT: Oh, please, come on, the favorite guitar solo I’ve ever recorded. I’ve recorded so many I can’t even remember some of them.

CB: I know, but some people have an experience or something that stands out.

GT: Every one of them.

CB: What is the hardest part about being on the road?

GT: Being away from my family.

CB: What can the fans expect on Friday night?

GT: I’m sure they aren’t going to walk out there and say, “I hope George is OK tonight.” You go see the Cincinnati Reds, you expect them to win, don’t you?

CB: Of course.

GT: Well, there you go.

Thorogood's music video for "Willie and the Hand Jive," filmed in Corryville at the club now known as The Mad Frog:


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<![CDATA[Q&A with Peter Frampton ]]>

Peter Frampton is a true guitar legend, revered by every single one of his peers. As his Guitar Circus tour rolls into town this week, crowds will be amazed by the beautiful music from his catalog of 40 years of music, as well as performances by Blues legend B.B. King and special guests Sonny Landreth and Dave Hidalgo (Los Lobos). 

CityBeat caught up with Frampton in advance of Wednesday’s tour stop at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion and discussed how this tour concept came together and what it has been like working with one of his heroes on a nightly basis.

CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Frampton’s Guitar Circus so far?

Peter Frampton: It is hard to say because we have had so many incredible guitar players play with us already. The list is growing every day. From the other night, Vinnie Moore to Vince Gill to Don Felder to Roger McGuinn. It is like every night is so different. Every night is a highlight with all of these amazing players. Sometimes we only have someone for one night because of scheduling, like Vinnie Moore was only one night. John Jorgenson was only one night from Elton John’s band, who is also a wonderful Jazz artist (and) was with me on my Fingerprints CD. Some nights we get one, some nights we get three and sometimes we are lucky enough and we get Don Felder for six (shows) and Roger McGuinn for six (shows). They are all split up and don’t happen at the same time. I can’t really pick one.

CB: When did you come up with the idea and how did you bring it all together for the tour this year?

PF: It was last year after my little sabbatical, my year off after the Comes Alive (anniversary) tour. I was going, “What can I follow this with?” because it was a very successful tour and probably one of the most successful tours I have done in years.

It was one of those things where I said I have got to do something with other artists. We had been doing shows for quite a few years now with just me, "An Evening with," as it were. It was something I wanted to do with as many guitarists as I could, to have an opening act with a great guitar player and then have some guests. The idea was there. I sat down with my manager Ken Levitan and I said what I wanted to do. He said, “Why don’t we call it something like a 'guitar circus'?" I said that was great. It was fantastic. I have to give him credit. He came up with the idea and then we have as many guests as we can along the way.

At that point, we decided we would try to have a three-act show, which  is what it is in Cincinnati, where it is Sonny Landreth opening it up. He is not an opening act, he just starts the evening because he is a headliner himself. He is a phenomenal player and has such a great history. We have him starting the evening off for us with his amazing band and himself.

The person that when we first put our feelers out (for) who might be interested in coming along with us on the Guitar Circus and said yes was B.B. King, which blew me away. That set the whole tone for the whole Guitar Circus because everyone said, “If B.B. King is doing it, I’ve got to do it.” It gave us great credibility right from the start. So B.B. King will come on. We played for the first time with him the other night. I got to sit in and jam with him, which was a dream come true.

After B.B. goes off we come on and do our hour and a half. During that period, David Hidalgo will come on, he is our guest in Cincy, from Los Lobos. He has played a couple dates with us already and it is incredible. We become Los Lobos and it is phenomenal. It is just great. It is very exciting every night. It is a challenge to be that person’s band when they come on. I’ve got an excellent band so we do a really good job.

CB: You mentioned B.B. King, who is an all-time legend. What do you talk to B.B. King about backstage?

PF: Well, I went back and saw him when he arrived in his own bus. I thanked him for being the reason why this whole tour is being successful, because he was the first person to say yes. I said, “Not only is it an honor that you are on one date, but you are on nearly four weeks of dates with me, every night.” I just couldn’t thank him enough. He said he was thrilled to be a part of it. I think there is a mutual respect as guitarists, definitely my way. To be able to sit and play with him the night before last was incredible. He is going to be 88 and he is still doing it. It is absolutely incredible that he is, and we are all thrilled that he is. He is just the sweetest guy. You wouldn’t think that someone as legendary as him is that nice but he is. He is a sweet, sweet man. You can’t believe it. It is how you wish everybody could be when you meet them. He takes the cake that is for sure.

CB: I can hear you smiling through the phone just talking about playing with him.

PF: It doesn’t get any better. It is one of those moments I won’t ever forget. I am not sure I will be doing it every night. I hope so. He said I can tell him what I want to do and walk out and play. He means what he says. I am just getting to know him. It is unbelievable that we had never met before until the other night. Now it feels like we have known each other for years.

CB: I saw you recently perform this Spring on The Voice. You went on with Terry McDermott during the finals. A lot of artists are coming out and speaking negatively about shows like this that try to make people stars overnight because they don’t have to pay their dues over years. Do you have any feelings about that?

PF: I am not a big fan of those shows in general. The part that I don’t like is that it is this nationwide talent show. These people come on, and it’s their fault, they put themselves in that position to have someone ream them on national TV. I sort of cringe every time I see that, (no matter how) rightly or wrongly how the judge is.

I have been asked to be a judge on those things. You will never see me as a judge. I would be saying everybody stays. That’s not me. I know what I like and everything, and I will say it in private, but I am not going to say, “You suck and get out of here,” which is basically what happens.

They asked me over a weekend, like two days before the show, if I would do The Voice. I asked them to fill me in and tell me what it was about. Then I listened to Terry and liked him a lot, all his clips and everything. I thought it was just excellent. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to go on there and do a duet. For me it was just a performance within one of those types of shows. I wasn’t part of voting anybody on or off. It was something I enjoyed doing and I think it came off really well. We got such a demand for the song, we mixed it and released it as a single. So it is on iTunes as well.

CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?

PF: I just got my Phoenix back, that is what it has been called. It is the guitar that was supposedly lost and burnt up in the plane crash in South America in Venezuela. After having that back for a year and a bit now, it is definitely my favorite. I have other favorites, but there is something about that one and the history, you know of me getting it in time to play on Humble Pie’s live record, Rockin’ the Fillmore, and everything I did in the 70s, all my solo records. It was one of only two electric guitars that I had. To have that back, it has become my favorite again overnight.

CB: I own a few Jim Marshall photographs and one is of you at Oakland Stadium in 1975. Do you remember that day? Obviously that photograph is iconic itself, but is there anything special about that day in California? Did that photo change you in any way?

PF: In San Francisco and Detroit and New York, we were already pulling huge crowds just from word of mouth and the solo albums I had out, and obviously my time with Humble Pie. I think that was the very first time we did it at a stadium. There is nothing quite like looking out to 65,000 people … I think the biggest place we had played was Madison Square Garden. There is a huge energy-level discrepancy between an arena and a stadium. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline it gives you to see 65,000 people with their hands in the air shouting at you. You never forget that first time. There were many after that in stadiums, but that first one was pretty incredible.

CB: I speak to a lot of guitar players. I spoke to one the other day that said a guitar broke up his relationship. Have you ever had a guitar break up a relationship?

PF: No, but it has come really close. The guitar, she is the other woman, always. The passion you have for music is very strong and it does come with jealousy sometimes when you prefer to play the guitar than be with the woman.

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<![CDATA[Q&A with Ann Wilson of Heart]]>

Heart introduced a fresh, rebellious sound in the early 1970s when a particular voice was truly needed. That timeless voice belonged to singer Ann Wilson. In a time when the female frontwoman was just gaining steam, Heart found their identity in theirs. To this day Wilson embodies the band’s sound and message. She helped make it possible for generations of others to find their voice in Rock & Roll.

The band's legacy was celebrated on a grand scale this year when Ann, her sister, guitarist Nancy Wilson, and the rest of the Heart family were inducted into the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the likes of fellow legendary groups Rush and Public Enemy. 

CityBeat had the privilege of speaking with the legendary vocalist in advance of Heart's performance Saturday at Riverbend Music Center. Audiences can anticipate hearing classics like “Barracuda” and "Crazy on You," as well as fresh music off of the 2012 album Fanatic, which nicely continues the Heart legacy. Don’t miss the finale with Jason Bonham (opening the show with his Led Zeppelin tribute) joining them on stage. 

CityBeat: What was the highlight of your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction this year?

Ann Wilson: The highlight of my (RRHOF) induction this year was standing beside Nancy at the podium. That was a feeling of great pride I will never forget.

CB: What is the most number of days you have gone without playing music?

AW: I have gone months sometimes without playing a guitar, but never a day goes by where I don't sing.

CB: What does your ideal day look like these days?

AW: Sleep in late, have a great pilates/yoga workout, hang out with my kids and their kids, cook dinner, meditate, sleep with my dog nearby.

CB: If you could trade places with someone for a month who would it be and why?

AW: I guess I couldn't do that. I don't envy anyone else that much!

CB: You have seen music recording formats change from vinyl and 8-track to cassette, CD and MP3 through the years. Do you feel like music sounds better or worse with the use of technology?

AW: Music definitely sounds worse to my ears because of digital technology. There is a hard, brittle sound to it. Analog music sounded warmer and deeper, though maybe not as " perfect." Auto-Tune makes me crazy because it removes all individuality from a person's voice. Everyone ends up sounding anonymous. The imperfections are where the soul is, I say leave them in. Leave in the humanity.

CB: How did the latest tour come about with Jason Bonham? Any favorite tour stories from the current tour?

AW: Many people saw the Kennedy Center Honors show on TV or YouTube and loved the tribute to Led Zeppelin. The management was listening and everyone agreed it would be a beautiful idea. We've only done two weeks so far, and it's been amazing. No train wrecks yet!

CB: Do you journal or take photos over the years with special tour memories. How do you document your stories and memories?

AW: We record every night and have photographers on sight. Occasionally I will blog, but I am usually pretty wound up after a show. Maybe this will be the year I take up a journal. A person can't count on their memory forever!!

CB: Does it ever get tough being on the road with family? How have you handled it for so many years?

AW: Yes, the road is rough. Traveling and performing together takes a lot out of you and sometimes things do get emotional. We are lucky to have each other for support. I don't know how I would have made it all these years without Nancy's love, strength and sense of humor!

CB: Are you working on new music while on the road?

AW: My head is full of new songs at the moment.

CB: What can fans looks forward to when the tour hits Cincinnati?

AW: The show in Cincinnati will open with Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, Next will be the heart show, after which there will be a finale consisting of about 30 minutes of Zeppelin songs with Jason Bonham and (Bonham's guitarist) Tony Catania joining in.


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