Interview with “A Christmas Story” star Zack Ward

Ever since his debut as Scut Farkus in “A Christmas Story” over three decades ago, Zack Ward has steadily carved out a career both in front of and behind the camera.  But there is a lot more to Cleveland Street’s best known bully.

Zack and co-star Scott Schwartz will be appearing in Omaha this Friday, November 10, where they will host a charity screening of “A Christmas Story.” I had the opportunity to speak with Zack this week and he shared his thoughts about the film and his career.

Mike Smith:  Why do you think, more than 30 years after its release, “A Christmas Story” is still so popular?

Zack Ward:  I’ve been asked that question many times over the years and I’ve been able to give the answer a lot of thought.  It has something to do with the combination of many things.  The writing.  The story is the same story structure of Homer’s “The Iliad.”  A young boy goes on a mythical adventure.  He fights all of these different demons.  And he does this to finally earn the respect of his father.  That’s what the B.B. gun is about.  It’s not that it’s a toy.  It could have been anything.  If you remember what happens at the very end of the film, when the father says to Ralphie, “What’s that behind the tree?”  The mom doesn’t even know what’s there.  And he finds the B.B. gun and the mom is upset.  But he tells her that he had one when he was that age.  What the whole statement of the B.B. gun is is a coming of age.  It’s the father’s acceptance of the son being responsible and becoming a man.  Transitioning from being a child.  And getting that respect from the parents that you adore means everything.  It doesn’t matter what the toy is.  What matters is what it represents.

MS:  That is the greatest answer to that question that I’ve ever gotten.

ZW:  (laughs)  Thank you.  I’ve had many years to ponder this.  The other thing is the direction.  If you look at the film again, and I’m sure you will now, you’ll notice that it is shot from the child’s view.  Bob Clark had the camera lowered so that the camera was always shooting from Ralphie’s point of view.  That never happens.  Usually adults are looking down on children.  In this situation, it’s always from the child’s perspective.  At a certain point, Bob Clark had them remove the floor from part of the set to ensure they could get the camera dolly low enough in order to have the right perspective.  He fought for that tooth and nail.  Also, the film is multi-generational.  It’s what they call in the industry “co-viewership.”  It’s like “Modern Family.”  You can watch “Modern Family” if you’re a grandpa, if you’re a mom, if you’re a dad, if you’re a teenager or if you’re a kid.  And “A Christmas Story” captivates all of those life moments.  You can see it as a child.  Understand it as a parent.  And reflect on it as an adult, thinking about your own childhood.  I’ve been amazed to watch 70-year old men with their 50-year old sons and 25-year old grandsons and 5-year old great-great grandsons walk up to me because they all want to meet the kid from “A Christmas Story.”  And they’re all surprised it’s me because they actually think it was shot in the 1940s.  That’s the thing that’s incredible.  How multi-generational it is.  How inclusive it is.  There’s no CGI.  There’s no special effects.  It’s just a great story that connects with people.

MS:  Do you have a favorite memory from the shoot?

ZW:  Yes I do.  My favorite memory from the shoot was when I came to the set one day.  We were shooting in Cleveland and there was no snow.  It was the middle of winter and all of the lawns were dark brown.  Cleveland at that time was not a city you really wanted to be in.  It was going through a very severe economic crisis.

MS:  I was born in Cleveland so I know what you’re talking about.

ZW:  So you know.  We were not allowed to go outside of the hotel after 6:00 pm for good reason.  It was a scary place at night.  We walked down to the set, to the house which is now a museum, and we turned the corner.  And every other street is just brown grass and ugly lawns.  But in the middle of the street is a house covered in snow.  With a big tree in the yard full of icicles glistening in the sun.  And it was all man-made.  That for me was a “wow” moment.  It took my breath away and still today I remember that feeling…that anything is possible.

MS:  You have worked steadily since “A Christmas Story,” which is very rare for someone whose career started when they were a child.  What’s your secret?

ZW:  (laughs)  I think it’s because I’ve got this face that people look at and want to punch!  It’s not my fault.  I’m a sweetheart of a guy.  I just happen to have slanty eyes and red hair.  And I really think people want to punch me in the face.  Definitely it’s helped.  (laughs)

MS:  You’ve written and directed in the past.  Do you see yourself doing more of that in the future?

ZW:  I’m actually in the process of doing that now.  I’m writing a series called “Fracture” and we go into pre-production in December.  It’s a series I co-created with a friend of mine and I’m the single writer on it.  I won’t be directing this one but I will be executive-producing and writing.  But I do love directing.  I’m actually getting ready to direct a commercial being shot in Akron, Ohio in about a week.  I love working on both sides of the camera.  The one job I hate is producing.  It sucks!  It’s such a horrible job.  Everybody blames you for everything and nobody thanks you for anything.  No matter what you pay them!

MS:  Anything else coming up soon?

ZW:  Yes.  Onscreen I have a T.V. show called “Swedish Dicks,” as in detectives.  The old, 1940s style term.  He’s a flatfoot.  I appear with Peter Stormare and a little fella named Keanu Reeves.  I tell you, I don’t know but I think he’s got a career ahead of him.  I’m also working on something I’m very excited about outside the entertainment environment.  It’s called “All Sports Market” and it is the world’s first stock market for sports team.  We’ve been working on it for the past 15 years and we’ve had a data model up for the last 3.  The whole concept is that you can buy shares in your favorite sports team.  And you can sell or trade them like you would stocks.  It’s something that goes back to the Roman times, when at the Coliseum people would place their bets.  And the sport always suffers because someone always takes a dive.  Even if there is a suspicion of collusion towards throwing the game, gambling sours sports.  It poisons it like a cancer.  This takes that element out of the game.  And it allows parents to bond with their children over their favorite sports teams.  Do you have any children?

MS:  One

ZW:  How old is he?

MS:  33

ZW:  If you said to your 10-year son, “hey buddy, let’s talk about market fluctuation and dividends and stock prices because you need to learn how to be an investor so you won’t be homeless when you’re 33,” I can pretty much guarantee you that he would fall asleep or start crying.  But if you find out his favorite team, you can tell him that together you’re going to buy 10 shares in his favorite team and you can watch what happens over the season.  It’s something you can do together.  And by the end of the season you’re son or daughter is now financially literate.  They know how to make investments.  Because you took the moment and educated them on something important while to them they were just talking with dad about their favorite team.

You can learn more by going to www.AllSportsMarket.com.  And if you sign up you get $2500.00 of play currency, what we call “learning capital.”  The whole thing now is a learning market.

MS:  Last question.  You run into Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) in an alley.  Who wins the fight this time?

ZW:  (laughs)  Is there any doubt in your mind that Scut Farkus took a dive?  Another point against sports gambling.  You KNEW I took a dive.  I was bought out.  I went down harder than a sack of potatoes.  I’ve got a couple of black belts and was in “Black Belt” magazine so I think I’d do well.  On the flip side, Peter did produce “Iron Man” so he’s probably got more bodyguards!

 

 

 

NBC’s “Blindspot” Goes Global at NYCC

NBC’s hit show Blindspot returned this week for its third season. The second season finale certainly raised the stakes for this year by launching the story a full two years ahead, scattering the show’s main characters across the globe, and increasing the mysteries of the missing timeline. Not to mention a whole new set of glowing tattoos for main character Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) to unlock. In case you missed it, the premiere certainly rose to the challenge set down by that cliffhanger. Friday night’s “Back to the Grind” featured no less than a wedding, a knife fight and a boat chase through Venice while reintroducing Jane’s nemesis brother, Roman (Luke Mitchell).

I spoke to the show’s cast and creator recently at New York Comic Con about what to expect for this new season. If you head on over to the Media Mikes Facebook page you can check out the full video interviews (don’t forget to give us a “Like” while you’re there!)

For Jaimie Alexander, Jane Doe’s new set of tattoos were a complete surprise. “I get to the end of the script,” said Alexander, who hadn’t read ahead, “and I was like ‘What!? More? I have more?!'” As seen on “Back to the Grind” one new tattoo already had Tasha Zapata (Audrey Esparza) on edge, which is right in line with Roman’s schemes. “These tattoos are not only about Roman’s end goal…” said creator and executive producer, Martin Gero “but also exposing truths within the team.” Luke Mitchell was excited to take on the role of The Big Bad saying “it’s nerve-wracking and feels like a lot of responsibility.”

It’s not all about the big bad though, as Gero and crew emphasized the James Bond-like nature this new year is bringing. “The world is kind of a scary place right now and we could all use a little escape,” Gero said, “And the show–the show can be scary and serious at times, but it was really important for us this year to have a lot more fun. To bend towards more of a kind of Bond model. The show is very international this year. We shot a big part of the premiere in Italy and we’re shooting in Australia, in Barcelona, all over Africa. So like the show’s going to have a scope the likes of which you’ve never seen, I think, on a network television show before. But then on top of that it’s also just more fun. the show is a lot of fun this year. And we hope it’ll be kind of addictive and great.”

Adding to the fun is the return of fan favorite character Rich Dotcom (Ennis Esmer), who is now working on the good side, though annoying the team all the while. Esmer, who’d appeared twice last season says his return was “a complete surprise.” He joked “It still feels like someone made a mistake at some point.”

Blindspot airs Friday nights at 8pm on NBC

Full interviews are viewable on our Facebook page:
Jaimie Alexander & Luke Mitchell
Audrey Esparza & Ashley Johnson
Sullivan Stapleton & Rob Brown
Ennis Esmer & Martin Gero

Animator Rick Farmiloe Talks About His Amazing Career

I hate to sound like Grandpa Simpson here, but “back in my day,” Saturday morning cartoons were…well they were cartoons. They weren’t 30 minute advertisements for toys (I’m looking at YOU, Transformers). Animator Rick Farmiloe remembers that time, and how his work then led him to a stint working on some of the greatest and best loved animated films in recent history.

Beginning on such shows as “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and “The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry,” Mr. Farmiloe worked his way to the Disney Studios, where he helped with the animation of such early 1980 films as “The Great Mouse Detective” and “The Black Cauldron.” He continued working in television, including multiple episodes of “Ghostbusters” and “She Ra- Princess of Power.”

Back at Disney, he worked on “Oliver and Company,” then helped take Disney into an all new world of animation success, designing some of the most popular characters of all time, including Scuttle in “The Little Mermaid,” LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast” and Abu in “Aladdin.” He has also animated for Dreamworks (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Shrek”) and added his touch to “The Simpson’s Movie.”

To help spread the word that “Frozen” actresses Eva Bella, who played young Bella and Livvy Stubenrauch, who played young Anna will be appearing at the upcoming Kansas City Comic Con (Nov. 10th-12th), Mr. Farmiloe took some time out from his schedule to talk with me about his career.

Mike Smith: You began your career in what was, to me, the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. How has the process and style of television animation changed since you started?

Rick Farmiloe: When I started in the late 1970’s all animation was still done in the US. Most of it now is sent overseas to keep down costs. Storyboarding is still done here, but the actual animation is done out of the country. TV animation was a good way for a young animator to get started. A lot of veterans were around to help with advice and drawing tips. These days there are a LOT more outlets and styles of animation. There were no ‘adult’ cartoons back then. It was all very safe and by the book. “The Simpsons” changed all that, and now TV animation runs the scale from pre-school to ‘R’ rated style shows.

MS: You’ve animated some of the true classic Disney characters of the past three decades. How are the characters assigned?

RF: At Disney we were cast just as actors would be cast. Those with very strong draftsmanship, or a bent towards more realistic characters would be cast on the leads. I always had a knack for doing more comical animation, so I was always cast to do funny sidekick characters. Those characters were always attractive to me because of the freedom to come up with funny things for my characters to do. I always wanted to ‘plus’ my animation, and if I could come up with an even funnier idea or gag, I was given the freedom to pitch it to the director. If he liked it, I gave it a shot. ALL animators were encouraged to improve upon ideas that were in the script or in storyboard form. A friend of mine once compared my animation to that of Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s famed ‘Nine Old Men’ because Ward pretty much only animated sidekicks as well. That was a huge compliment of course, but that was a role that I felt very comfortable with. I was never one of the best draftsmen at Disney, but I feel I had a talent at doing some funny animation. People still remember a lot of my scenes. I am very proud of that role.

MS: You’ve also worked on some non-Disney animated features. Are there different rules for animating for Disney as opposed to a studio like Dreamworks?

RF: At Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg made a decision to NOT be ‘Disney’. He was largely responsible for helping to create a style at Disney during the 80’s and early 90’s. He knew trying to be another Disney was the wrong way to go. The character designs and overall feel of the Dreamworks Films were much different from what was done at Disney, even though a lot of us came from Disney. He wanted the films to be for more mature audiences, not for small children but more like teens. “Prince of Egypt” was the first film in that style. It was a really bold choice in subject and style. I had to adjust my animation style to fit the subject matter. I animated the camel. I wanted to still make him funny, but without the usual broad animation and really cartoony style I was used to doing. I think the film holds up really well. I’ve always respected Jeffrey so much for wanting to come up with a new and unique style of filmmaking.

MS: Best show, in your opinion, between “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park?”

RF: You forgot “Ren and Stimpy!” (laughs). I like all of those shows a lot! The writing on all of them is just so smart and never obvious. They are all more of an adult nature, but completely unique in style and content. They all have their copycats of course, especially “Ren and Stimpy!” But since you are FORCING me to pick only one, I’m going to have to go with “The Simpsons.” It was the first and still the most consistent. Matt Groening is an absolute genius. The show has been on the air since 1962 or something and still has that great quality. The reason it’s still on, if you ask me….and I think you did….is because people LOVE that family! They seem 100% real. And beneath the sarcasm and cynicism, there is a real love between all the family members. I was lucky enough to work on “The Simpsons Movie,” and got to see first hand how that franchise works so successfully! INCREDIBLE writing! It will probably be on long after we are all gone!

MS: What are you working on next?

RF: I am always doing freelance on one project or another! I just finished animating on a live action Chinese feature that has some sections of hand drawn animation. We are in the planning stages of doing some animation for a documentary/celebration film on the legendary band, Cheap Trick! My girlfriend Christi Haydon and I have teamed up on a fun project called “Full Moon Cartoons.” It is a one panel cartoon that deals with us as cartoon characters who have moved to a town called Full Moon Springs. It is inhabited solely by monsters! It has a very mid-century modern style to it. It deals with us just trying to fit into the monster world as comfortably as we can, with funny results. It comes out every Friday, which we call ‘Full Moon Friday.’ You can find it on a site called HorrorBuzz.com, and our Facebook page called Rick+Christi’s Full Moon Cartoons. It’s so much fun for us because we have EXACTLY the same sense of humor. I have loved drawing classic monsters my entire life. Christi is a writer and production designer who loves stylistic details, and is great with color choices. We also love traveling around the country appearing at numerous comic conventions, meeting fans and making lots of new friends! It’s a very exciting time.

You can also see more of Mr. Farmiloe’s work here.

Imaginext Designer Rob Hageman Discusses Exlcusive NY Comic Con Bat-Bot Xtreme

New York Comic Con has become the premier East-Coast destination for all things pop culture and 2017 was no different. New to the convention floor this year was Fisher Price’s Imaginext toy  line which features a wide variety of multi-faceted play sets, figures and vehicles taken from the pages of the DC universe. As an exclusive for this year’s convention Imaginext creators brought a special themed version of their DC Bat-Bot Xtreme for a lucky few to purchase. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with designer Rob Hageman about the piece as well as what the brand has in store for this year’s holiday season.

Ian Lawton: How did you come up with the original idea for the original DC Bat-Bot Xtreme?

Rob Hageman: We actually started off by making a smaller version of the toy. It had all the same workable features and everything but when we got it all done we realized it would be cooler if we made it a lot bigger. The smaller version was great but once kids got a hold of the larger version that’s the one that everyone really enjoyed.

IL: Can you tell us about some of the feature on the Bat-Bot Xtreme?

RH: I think the best feature is when you turn one of the action discs as it opens up the wings of the robot. Once you do that you have access to the punching power triggers on each hand. You can also fire discs out of the fists as you punch. Across the top are a number of buttons which shoot several rockets. On the opposite foot of the robot is another action disc which opens up the chest of the robot to reveal an elevator which takes figures up into the head of the robot. Also featured is a voice changer which allows you to talk into the back of the toy and transform your voice in to that of a robot. There is a hidden bat cycle in one foot of the robot which can be shot out while the other foot features a jail for locking up any bad guys.

IL: The Comic Con version of the Bat-Bot Xtreme is different from the one in stores. Can you tell us about that?

RH: There is a comic book version of this robot that is much more metallic than the retail one. The retail one is still super cool but it’s done in standard blue plastic where the 300 we did for Comic Con have a special blue metallic paint job that is closer to what is seen in the comic. With this special version I really was trying to make sure it looked as close to the one pictured in the book. The exclusive version also comes with in special packaging featuring some really great art work, magnetic switches and LED lights.

IL: How do you decide which characters you are going to make into a figure?

RH: Each year all the designers get together and draw a bunch of concepts. We will take them to the team and give them our best pitches for each one. From there we work as a team to finalize designs and figure out which look the best, are the most relevant and will help Imaginext flush out the DC Universe.

IL: What other characters/figures are you set to release?

RH: We have Mongul and Green Lantern set to come out along with Black Canary and Night Wing around Christmas time. Also set to come is Steppenwolf as well as Swamp Thing and Survivor Batman. I think that’s probably one of our best packs we have done so far.

IL: How would someone go about becoming a toy designer?

Designer Rob Hageman and Media Mikes Ian Lawton

RH: When I was a kid I loved to draw and it was something I always did. I would draw my toys along with other toys I may have wanted. I also drew a lot of robots as I love robots. When I got to high school a teacher of mine had a friend of his who worked for a toy company come to class. He brought in all the things he had worked on and told us it was his job to make toys. I knew then it was something I wanted to do. I kept drawing more and more and after high school I went to art school and focused on toy design. I am now doing what I wanted to do ever since high school.

IL: What has been your favorite toy that you have created/worked on?

RH: My favorite is the regular Bat-Bot which transforms from a tank to a robot. It was an uphill battle for me to sell that in as I wanted the transformation to be able to happen while the toy was still in the package. I wanted there to be two different forms while making things easy to maneuver and play with. The voice on it is really great as well.

GWAR’s Blothar The Berserker Talks New Album “The Blood of Gods”

GWAR fans were first introduced to Blothar the Berserker in 2014 when he returned to Earth shortly after the death of Oderus Urungus. Since that time Blothar has cemented himself as the formidable leader of the crack addicted space aliens from Scumdogia. On October 20th the band will release their 14th studio album titled “The Blood of Gods” via Metal Blade Records. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Blothar recently about  the new album, the bands upcoming fall tour and which celebrities they have in their sites to slay.

Adam Lawton: The band recently wrapped up its debut appearance on this summer’s Warped Tour can you tell us a little bit about that?

Blothar: It was miserably hot! With us coming from Antarctica and being over a million years old it wasn’t exactly a glory gig getting dressed in a semi truck and then exposing ourselves to a whole new group of young people. Despite all the annoyances and high level of venereal diseases that were flying around we did it. We had trouble even getting good drugs out of these kids. What is ecstasy anyways? I don’t want drugs to make me feel good. I want drugs to amplify my misery! It was however a delight to see all the innocent faces upturned and the light drain from their eyes as they witnessed something they had never seen before and possibly never will see again. It’s always fun to play to a crowd who has never seen us before so it was a good time.

AL: Gwar’s new album “The Blood of Gods” will be your first full length recording with the band. What do you think you were able to bring to the album?

Blothar: Without Oderus we knew we had to do something different. If we had just gone and done the same thing we knew it would probably come off as a cheap imitation. There are things that Oderus did that were wonderful and they were his so, for us to try and recapture that was much less interesting. Gwar has always been a group effort. When Oderus was around people could work behind the scenes and not be visible as Oderus’s role in the band was to be the front man and be seen. Now that he is gone there is room for everyone who helped create this project to become more known. Everyone in the band has risen to the occasion beyond anything I could have imagined. Who knew Balsac was such a great lyricist. That guy knows the Gwar voice better than anyone. Oderus was a great writer and his songs were jammed full of words and phrases. I made a deliberate choice to scale back on the lyrics and let the sounds be the focal point.  I mainly wanted to add the hooks and melody. This is definitely a different approach from the last few Gwar albums. That’s not to say they never had these types of elements but I think this album has more of those things and the music has more space.

AL: Was coming up with a new style part of the reason an album featuring you took so long to complete?

Blothar: Yes. We had to find a way to be able to make music without Oderus. We went down a few different paths before we got to where we are with this album. There was also a lot of material that was created during this time. We needed to focus on eight songs that seemed to have what it took to be a Gwar record in order to make the best record we possibly could. A lot of material came very last minute which tends to be fairly typical. Between April and May we wrote a lot of the music. Once we figured out what we were doing and how it was supposed to go that’s when things took off. Prior to all of this the band was very distracted with lots of other things aside from having to work without the guy who had such an important vision. We didn’t know how to deal with the massive hole that was left and it took awhile to figure everything out.

AL: The first single released from the record was titled “Fuck This Place”. With Gwar having been around for millions of years now why have you just decided to say fuck this place?

Blothar: Gwar has always been this sort of cosmic Gilligan’s Island. We are stuck on this planet that we can’t get off and the few times we have gotten off we get sucked right back in. “Fuck This Place” I think is in some ways like all the rest Gwar being in the wilderness. We are looking around and now that Oderus is gone things look a lot different. Balsac wrote this song because he just didn’t like what he saw anymore.

AL: The album also features a cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood”. Was this the bands idea or just another trick by manager Sleazy P. Martini to try and make more money off the fans?

Blothar: When you do a cover really you are not making any money for yourself. Sleazy doesn’t like that so he had AC/DC killed and replaced by animatronic puppets. As a result we now collect all of their publishing. What Sleazy wants is important and the theme of us dealing with corporatization is all across the new album. We did the first recording of this song for the AV Club. I think that recording is actually a much better vocal performance that what ended up on the album. I wish we did that first version now. (Laughs) It’s a tough song to sing. Like most AC/DC songs its bit ridiculous as you don’t really know what it’s about.

AL: The band heads back out on the road the same day the album releases (Oct. 20). Who has the band decided to kill this time around?

Blothar: People keep expecting the Trump family to show up. Maybe they will? It would be nice to just move through all of them at one time. He does have a lot of kids though. Sawborg Destructo has been making some noise lately so he might show but, as far as celebrities goes aside from Trump I’m not sure. That guy we found out is immortal. We have been ripping his guts out every night and he keeps coming back for more! We can’t figure out a way to keep him down.

AL: Do you think “Blood of Gods” will finally silence the #BlotharRuinedGwar movement?

Blothar: No! It’s not going to silence it. What it is going to do is kick it into overdrive. That’s what I am expecting it to do anyways. This album is polarizing and people are going to either like it or not like it. Gwar has such an immense history that musically it’s difficult because people will hear this record and hear things they maybe haven’t heard since “This Toilet Earth”. At the same time you have people who will listen and there experience from the band has been from “Violence Has Arrived” on and they are expecting a more metal sound. “Blood of Gods” is somewhere in between. It definitely is a lot different as compared to the group’s last three albums.

Act of Defiance’s Matt Bachand talks about the bands new album “Old Scars, New Wounds”.

Matt Bachand is probably best known for his work with the heavy metal band Shadows Fall however since 2014 he has been a member of the band Act of Defiance which features former Megadeth members Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick along with former Scar the Martyr front man Henry Derek. The band is set to release their second full length album titled “Old Scars, New Wounds” and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Matt about the release, his switch to bass guitar and the plans prospective tour plans.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the band’s new album “Old Scars, New Wounds”?

Matt Bachand: Everything was different for us this time around with this record. With the first record Chris and Shawn wrote a majority of the album and they did it pretty quickly. They went from not having a band at all to having a record out in a matter of months. When I came in the material was pretty much done. I did write some bass lines around things which was a bit different from me but it was fun to be doing something different. This time around we had a good chunk of time to work the material and provide input. We all wrote a bunch of stuff for the album and you can definitely tell that this is a band no and not just a project.

AL: Can you talk about the decision to record separately from one another?

MB: That was done more by necessity than anything. We didn’t have a budget that would allow us all to travel and stay in one place while we recorded so we worked on things in each of our own locations. With all of us living in different parts of the country the cost would have been astronomical just for travel not to mention studio time. Once everything was done we sent it to Dave Otero for mixing and after a few tweaks everything was sounding good. Dave was awesome to work with and gave us a great sounding product.

AL: What has the transition from guitar to bass been like for you?

MB: I had known Shawn for a long time going back to when Shadows Fall toured with King Diamond and he was a tech for them. He knew I played bass in a cover band around where I am from and also knew that Shadows Fall was going to be taking a break for awhile so they gave me a call. Even though I had played bass in a cover band I had never really written music from a bass perspective. I think part of the appeal for me in wanting to do this was it was something different from what I had been doing. On that first record I was basically just writing and playing around what had already been written. I was focusing on now being apart of the percussion section as opposed to just riffing. With the bass playing off of what the drums are doing I really wanted to make sure I locked in with Shawn first.

AL: What are the plans for the band to tour behind the release?

MB: We are trying to pull some things together as we speak. We had a few things lined up but unfortunately they have fallen through so we are working as quickly as we can to remedy the situation. In the mean time we are working on some play through videos and things like that to keep things moving and to keep everyone involved with the band.

AL: Has there been any talk of Shadows Fall coming out of hiatus any time soon?

MB: Everyone is super busy right now so we haven’t really talked about it. Jason is playing with Overkill and Jon is with Anthrax and I am doing this project so everyone has a lot going on right now. A couple other guys in the band have families now so we have to figure out the timing. After 20 years of being in a band life eventually gets in the way so everyone has slowed down. Nothing is out of the question for us to play again it just has to be the right time for everyone.

For more info on Act of Defiance visit https://www.facebook.com/actofdefiancemusic/

Former Misfits Vocalist Michale Graves talks “Beginning of the End” tour

Michale Graves is a singer/actor who first burst onto the music scene as the front-man for the mid 1990’s reincarnation of the seminal punk rock band The Misfits. Since his departure from the group Michale has enjoyed a successful solo career and appeared in a number of different short film projects. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Michale about his career and his recently announced “Beginning of the End” tour which has him and his band revisiting all aspects on the singers 20+ year music career.

Adam Lawton: What was going on with the Misfits at the time of your departure?

Michale Graves: There was a lot going which led up to the bands break up in Orlando. There were a lot of things going on that were dysfunctional for the band. Looking back having been removed from the situation for almost 20 years now, I was a difficult young man to deal with at times. Here I am the lead singer of one of the most influential/popular punk rock band of all time. I was difficult at times. With that being said I contributed an awful lot of work to that bands vision, soul and direction. I was very much a huge reason the team we started off as was experiencing so much success. After the “American Psycho” album especially I wasn’t really being respected for what I brought to the band. I was being treated like and unruly, bothersome kid. If I said something that wasn’t liked I was told that if I didn’t like what was going on I could go home as there were a 100 people willing to take my place. That didn’t make me feel very special. That was a very disrespectful place for those core guys to take. Things were a real mess at the end. Guys didn’t talk or stand up for each so everyone was practically alienated from one another. We weren’t a team anymore with the same goal in mind. Things were just a mess. I decided to give it all up so I could keep my integrity and not be some sort of yes man for a thing I helped build. Everything aside when the four of us were together we were a great band. When we were a unit we working together we were great! It’s sad and unfortunate that things drove us apart.

AL: After the Misfits you started a solo career and also working with other artists such as Marky Ramone. What was it like being out from under a band and being able to do your own thing?

MG: It was very tough at first. I worked with Dr. Chud still for a bit after we left the Misfits but it was hard. That was a starting over point for me. By the time I started working with Marky I very confident in my ability and I was in great shape. I had it in my mind that there was no other person aside from Joey that could sing those songs as good as me. That was a highlight of my career for sure. Getting to perform and talk with Marky was just great. To be around that crew was very special. I remember when all those guys were alive and still the Ramones. Being from New Jersey I was in the same circle as all those guys. They were always around so all those years later to be the guy with Marky and be privy to certain conversations it was an incredible time for me. We were a great band.

AL: In April you released your first live DVD titled “Black Thorn 51 Live” can you tell us about that?

MG: We filmed that in Queens, NY as a three piece. Mikey Pain is playing bass and Tony Baptist is on drums. There had been a shortage of high quality, high produced videos of us performing that I felt like we needed to put something out. We taped the show and after listening to it we felt it sounded really good so we pulled the trigger. This is the tip of the iceberg for what is coming. Right now I am focusing on a major uptick in video production and content across my social sites including my new official site that is being built. There’s going to be a lot more content coming out. I am feeling a momentum with my career right now that making for an exciting time. A lot of my stuff has been very scattered which I think has made it harder for people to grasp what I am doing so I am working on consolidating all of that in hopes of providing a clearer vision for people.

AL: You have started appearing in a number of short films recently. Can you tell us about that?

MG: A couple years ago I partnered with Mark Allen Stuart to create a company called Hydraulic Entertainment. That’s where all my past records live. There is a ton of music we produced through that company. Most of the films that have been done are ones that Mark has come up with. He would write and produce them and then I would appear in them. For me as an artist I was able to step away from the writing role and jump into the acting side of things. We have started with short films to help us get our feet wet in an effort to create bigger things. There is defiantly a lot more to come. I am working on a project right now that has me both behind and in front of the camera. We have a lot of talented, motivated people in the industry with us on this. It’s pretty exciting.

AL: For you was it film or music that grabbed your attention/interest first?

MG: I think it was music first for me. My earliest memories related to music come from listening to records and the radio with my uncle. I always remember music having a profound effect on me. When I listen to music as strange as it may sound it’s almost like I can see it. It stirs something inside me that causes all these other internal things to start up. Acting quickly followed but things have just been all encompassing really. I have always had this urge to communicate.

AL: Can you tell us about the “Beginning of the End” tour you just kicked off?

MG: This is a very large tour. We are going to be trying to cover as much ground as we can in an effort to raise my visibility within the industry and get myself in front of fans who might not realize what I have been doing as of late. I have found there’s a good chunk of people who the last time they saw me was 1999. This new show is a powerful, physical assault. We are playing all of the legacy Misfits songs that people love. We are playing tons of songs from the “American Psycho” and “Famous Monsters” albums. We are doing around 30 songs a night and I have brought back the make-up to help showcase the story I try to create each night over the course of our set. If fans want to meet me I am super accessible at each show as I enjoy meeting and talking with everyone so please come out and say hello.

For a complete list of tour dates visit Michale’s Official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Michale.Graves

Tetrarch guitarist Diamond Rowe talks about the bands new album “Freak”

Photo By: Jeremy Saffer

The Atlanta, GA based Nu-Metalcore band Tetrarch are set to release a brand new full-length album on September 29th titled “Freak”. The band is currently out on the road with Devil Driver and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with guitarist Diamond Rowe about the creation of new album, the bands plans for the remainder of 2017 and got her thoughts about being a female guitarist in the heavy metal scene.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the formation of the band?

Diamond Rowe: I started Tetrarch with my best friend while we were still in high school. It took us a little while to hone our sound and really figure out what it was we were going for but things came together and from there we just started touring. Our sound is a mixture of early Nu-Metal with a few modern elements.

AL: Did/Do you ever have any reservations about being a female guitarist in a scene that is predominantly men?

DR: When I started playing guitar and playing in bands I never honestly thought about the fact that I was a female playing metal music. I didn’t see it as anything really different. It wasn’t until people started bringing it to my attention that I noticed this was something different. I was never nervous or hand any reservations as I just did what I could to make the band work and get better at guitar. With they’re not being a lot of females out there playing metal it’s kind of cool to be somewhat influential. We are starting to see a few more females come up in the metal world however there still aren’t a lot of African-American females performing in bands. Being a female metal guitarist I think people might expect you to not be that good (Laughs) so I just go out there and really try to be the best as I can at my instrument.

AL: Can you tell us about the band’s new album “Freak”?

DR: We had never done a full-length release prior to this record. In this day and age it’s not really necessary to release more than one or two songs at a time via an EP. We wanted to do something different this time so we could give people more of who we are. As we were writing I noticed we were getting a lot of influence from more than just metal music and that there were quite a few different music elements present. Lyrically a lot of the subject matter is about weird things and/or embracing differences. We started looking at being weird in a positive way as opposed to negatively. The title “Freak” really came out of that approach.

AL: How did the bands creative process work this time around and, what was it like working with Producer Dave Otera?

DR: Josh Fore and I the predominant writers in the group. We live together so it seems we are always working on something. One of us might start out with a riff and then the other builds on or vice versa. Once we have the basics of a full song will take it to the other guys and they will put their spin on it. Dave actually mixed one of our first EP’s. People had said they really liked the sound so we knew he was someone we wanted to work with again. When it came time to do this record he was someone who came up naturally during the selection process of where to go. Dave is a big name in the death metal scene so working with him certainly brought a new/different perspective to things. Dave was excited to work with the band as we were something a little different for him and things went well. Dave is very easy to work with and made things comfortable.

AL: The band is out until till late September, What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year and going forward in to 2018?

DR: We will be out on this run of shows for a couple more weeks with Devil Driver. After that we return home for a few days and then we head out with Devil Driver for a few west coast dates. We also will be shooting a couple videos in that time as well. The album comes out September 29th and we will be doing a festival show in Texas in November and we might possibly do a short run shows towards the end of November. Once the New Year starts we will be out there in full force pushing this album.

For more info on Tetrarch you can visit their official website at www.Tetrarchmusic.com

Bruce Campbell Talks About His New Book and His Traveling Game Show

If you’re not aware of Bruce Campbell you may have stumbled onto this web site in error.

A working actor for four decades, Campbell is probably best known for his role of Ash in the “Evil Dead” films and TV series, but has also turned in fine performances in such films as “Bubba Ho-Tep,” Congo” and the television series “Burn Notice.” Mr. Campbell is also an author, currently touring the country in support of his third and latest book “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.”

He’s promoting his book and hosting his interactive game show, “The Last Fan Standing,” at the Kansas City Alamo Draft House. While traveling the country to promote his work, Mr. Campbell took a few moments out of his busy schedule to speak with Media Mikes!

Mike Smith: You note in your new book that you’re now at a time in your career where it’s easier to say no to a role. Was there ever a role in the past that you regret not accepting?

Bruce Campbell: Nope. Nope. Because if you don’t like the work that is on the page you’re not going to like the work that is on the stage, as they say. Which means if you didn’t like it on paper you’re not going to like the finished film. That’s the blueprint for the movie…the script. I mean I’ve never turned anything down and later went, “Wow, they made that piece of shit turn out pretty good!” (laughs) I always feel confident that when I turn material down it’s because it’s not strong material. That’s the best way to go, instead of thinking “you know, maybe that director can turn it around” or “that actor could be good in that crappy part.” So now I intuitively go to the script now and if the script isn’t good I’m not going to do it.

MS: You note in the book that, while working on “Spider-man 3,” Toby McGuire tongue-in-cheek commented that “we can’t make a Spider-man movie without Bruce Campbell!” Were you approached to appear in either of the re-boots?

BC:
No I wasn’t. And I wouldn’t have anyway because if Sam’s not doing it I’m not doing it. (NOTE: Mr. Campbell has collaborated no less then nine times with director Sam Raimi. He is also a favorite of the Coen Brothers).

MS: Can you tell us what fans can expect when the participate in your interactive game show “The Last Fan Standing?”

BC: It’s a really fun show. My buddy Steve Sellery had called me and wanted me to come host a game show for the troops. He works for the military. So I went to a base in San Antonio with this game. The format is that everyone in the audience has a clicker. Everybody plays. We don’t weed anybody out. We don’t hand select. We don’t vet anybody. They could be an idiot when they get up there. (laughs) We begin with some preliminary rounds. It’s a regular game show format but it’s different in that it’s a game show for geeks. We have questions like “How much does Thor’s hammer weigh?” Questions that only geeks would know. But after I thought of a trivia show for the troops I told Steve that this would translate perfectly into my world. We’ve done it dozens of times and now we’re taking it on the road to 17 or so cities. (NOTE: Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, is said to have been forged from the inside of a star, which would make it pretty damn heavy. Some comics have it being made of Uru, a metal found only on Asgard. The Uru version is said to weigh 42.3 pounds)

MS: Your new books ends with the words END OF CHAPTER TWO. Are you gathering new stories now for CHAPTER THREE?

BC: Every day. Every day, my friend. Every day is a new adventure! I’m thinking that in 15 years I’ll publish my final confessions. That will be MY George Lucas trilogy.

Jerry Pearce Talks About the Great American Songbook

 

When I first heard Jerry Pearce sing I couldn’t believe my ears. Neither could my wife, who asked me if I was listening to the Sinatra channel on my Sirius/XM radio. It wasn’t the “Chairman of the Board” we were listening to, but a talented young man about to make his New York City debut August 18th. Mr. Pearce took some time out of his day to talk to me about the music he has loved since he was a child.

Mike Smith:
You’re awfully young to have such an appreciation for these songs. How did you get interested in this musical genre’?

Jerry Pearce: My grandfather was a truck driver for 30 years. When he retired he took a job “under the table” and delivered stuff with his own truck. I would ride in the truck with him and he would play the same Sinatra CD over and over and over. Somehow it got stuck in my head.

MS: This gig you have coming up…how did it come about?

JP: I had performed in two concerts. One last December and one in May which were put on by a non-profit organization to promote music education for children. I then took part in a Frank Sinatra contest that was held in Hoboken, New Jersey (Sinatra’s home town) in June and won 1st Prize. A friend of mine named Gary Wilner, who is a singer and ventriloquist, sent a clip of my performance to the owner of the Metropolitan Room in New York City. The owner called me and within a week we had set up a date.

MS: Hoboken? That’s pretty bold, singing Sinatra in his hometown. That’s like going to Freehold, New Jersey and singing Springsteen!

JP: (laughing) I know, right.

MS: When you sing are you intentionally trying to sound like Sinatra or is that your normal voice?

JP: That’s my voice. I really don’t try to imitate anyone. I have been told often that I sound like Sinatra but I’ve also been told a couple of times that I sound like Perry Como, which is very flattering.

MS: All you need is a sweater.

JP: (laughs) Right. (NOTE: Besides an amazing voice, Perry Como was known for almost always wearing a Cardigan sweater).

MS: Tell me about your gig this Friday night.

JP: It’s basically a tribute to THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK. It will be held at the Metropolitan Room on West 22nd Street in New York City. Of course I’ll be honoring Sinatra, who is my favorite singer, but I will also be paying tribute to the great songwriters of the era. What they wrote was poetry. And I’m hoping to keep their music and their personalities in the spotlight.

The Cast and Director of Netflix’s Okja

Have you met Okja? The titular “super pig” is at the heart of Director Bong Joon Ho’s newest feature which is currently streaming on Netflix. The imaginative film follows Okja, a creature genetically engineered by the shady Mirando Corporation (headed by a boundlessly enthusiastic Tilda Swinton) as a source of new consumable meat product. In a longterm PR move, this super pig is farm-raised by a young girl in Korea named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) until, unbeknownst to Mija, she is scheduled to make her big trip to NYC where Mirando aims to cash in on their investment. What follows is a wild journey to the city where Mija encounters a radical PETA-like eco-group, the ALF, as well as some harsh realities of this film’s version of the terrifying food industry.

Last month, cast members Tilda Swinton, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Lily Collins, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Giancarlo Esposito gathered in New York along with Director Bong to give their insight on making the film and its message.

Some minor spoilers

Seo-Hyun Ahn carries the film as Mija, an acting and physical feat, her and Director Bong spoke via translators about developing her performance:

Ahn: [I] was always thinking how Mija would perceive all of the things that are happening and [I] would say [I] was there as an intermediate state and Director Bong helped [me] constantly think about why would Mija do this? And what would Mija think? That sort of helped [me] in maximizing how Mija would think in the story.

Director Bong: Ahn is very experienced and she’s very energetic and focused. So She has enough energy to confront Tilda or Paul. And because of this high energy whenever we were shooting the scenic mountain scenes, [I] tried to distract Mija as best as [I] could. Whenever [Ahn] was focusing on the script, [I] would distract her by talking about catering and talking about snacks in the snack corner. [I] did [my] best to distract her as best as possible because if you try too hard then there are times that the performance doesn’t come out right. And because there are so many great actors and actresses around, she might have been pressured into giving a poor performance. [I] did [my] best to try to relax her as much as possible.

As Lucy Mirando, and later Nancy Mirando, Tilda Swinton enjoyed working with her Snowpiercer Director Bong:

Swinton: It’s a very simple and relaxed business when working with someone like Director Bong who invites a kind of playfulness and as he just described , a kind of relaxedness in all his company, not just the performers, but in all departments. What he knows…is he wants people to be relaxed and really bring something fresh and creative. And that’s an environment that I love. It’s like a kind of playpen, it’s like a sandbox to me, it’s like kindergarten. Especially working with him, he’s my playmate.

The Mirando sisters are reminiscent in their emphatic, almost cult-leader like energy of Swinton’s Snowpiercer character Mason, she discussed their similarities:

Swinton: Yes we worked on Snowpiercer together, Director Bong and I, and we kind of whipped up this insane burlesque, Mason, who is supposed to be beyond any reality but as it happens, it seems that we were behind the curve [laughs] With this one we wanted to come at the idea of a fool-clown-villain in a slightly different way. We wanted to find different ways—the different faces of high capitalism and exploitation. And so we decided in fact to split it in fact, either into a schizophrenic—I mean I sometimes wonder whether there are two people here, whether actually there isn’t one. You know because let’s face it when Lucy fades away, Nancy appears and vice-versa. So we wanted to look at two different ways of messing the world up. So we have Nancy, who is the—she doesn’t fall far from the tree of their toxic, horrendous father. And then Lucy, who is so determined to be different. She’s driving 180 degrees away from Nancy and trying to be all user-friendly and “woke” and squeaky clean. And lovable. So it was an opportunity to look at these two different faces. But I suppose you know, especially when you’re working together and your collaboration over projects, the conversation is kind of the same conversation that just evolves and goes into a whole new area. All sorts of conversations we had about Mason just sort of moved into conversations about the Mirandos. So yeah, they are cousins of a sort. And they ALL have teeth. [Laughs]

Director Bong is no stranger to centralizing creatures as metaphors in his stories, after his successful feature The Host, and he spoke about using them in that way:

Director Bong: [I’m] always drawn into creature films and creatures. However in The Host, the creature was a monster who attacked people and in Okja the creature is a very intimate friend of the protagonist Mija. They sleep together, they have a lot of interaction, they hug each other and because of this interaction, it required a lot of cutting edge visual effects work which was [my] first challenge. So it’s a pig and now in retrospect [I’m] wondering when [I contemplate why I] chose a pig as the animal. [I think] there’s no better animal than the pig that humans associate with food. Ham, sausage, jerky, etc etc. But in reality, pigs are very delicate, sophisticated and smart and obviously clean. [I think] that the way the two perspectives we have when we look at animals are all coalesced inside a pig. Through the one perspective, we look at animals as family and friends, as pets. And the other perspective is when we look at animals as food. And [I believe] these two perspectives co-exist inside a pig. In our every day lives, people try to separate these two universes apart. We play with our pets in the day and at night, we have a steak dinner. But in this film, we try to merge those two universes together and try to create this sense of discomfort…A creature film is a very effective tool to create special commentary and to get commentary in the world that we live in.

Lily Collins and Steven Yeun are both play part of the fictional eco-group led by Paul Dano and they talked about their views of such groups and animal rights activism in light of doing the film:

Collins: I’ve always been weirdly interested in food documentaries so during the prep of this movie, I watched more and Director Bong gave us all this ALF handbook. We saw lots of really difficult images of animals and treatment and the facilities…And I’m not a red-meat eater anyway, so it wasn’t that I changed my food habits or my eating habits but I definitely became more of a conscious consumer in many other types of products. I think the great thing about this film though is that it speaks to so many different types of themes—you know, nutrition and environment, politics, love, innocence lost. There’s just so many different things to be taken from this film that I think are dealt with in a way that never tutorialized [sic], but always just prompts conversations…I think what Director Bong is amazing at is taking so many different things and presenting them to you. Never telling you how to think, but if you leave the theater thinking something, we’ve done our job right.

Yeun: …I really enjoyed working with director Bong. Mostly because he likes to just tell it to you how it is, with all the gray. And so, when you get to dive into [something] like the ALF, I know that we were playing a characterization of people that are really doing stuff like this, but I feel like one thing it sheds a light on–at least for myself–was why does an individual sign up for something like this? And they’re all different. Especially in our little subgroup of the ALF. Every single character had a different reason for being there. Or had different ethics that were willing to go far or less than the other person next to them. And I think it an interesting study in that regard because sometimes you see the ALF, as they intend, to just be this giant glob organization, or anything in that way. But when you pick apart the specific individuals that take part in something like this it’s interesting to see that not all the interests necessarily align.

Animal rights groups in real life sometimes draw criticism for their tactics and in this film we see the ALF arguing for non-violence while taking part in it, Director Bong on that contradiction:

Director Bong: There’s definitely a level of contradiction within the group ALF. Even in the film, the ALF shout that they hate violence but you can see throughout the film that they constantly inflict it. They have a very noble cause and you can understand the cause. But the film also portrays them to at times [to] look foolish and portray them making very human mistakes. Simply put, [I think] they’re humans just like us. Even Lucy Mirando. She doesn’t feel like she’s a pure villain or villainess in the pure sense. She also has flaws and a fragility. There’s a moment in the dressing room scene where Lucy talks to Frank and she raises the super pig jerky and says ‘its a shame that we have to tell these little white lies’… That was an honest moment on her part. Whether that be the Mirando Corporation or the ALF members, [I want] to embrace them within the boundaries of humanity where they have flaws or they make mistakes. Actually every character in this movie is pathetic except Mija and Okja.

Dano: And how complicated it is to put a beautiful young girl in the middle of all that contradiction, you know? it’s really one of the special things about the story….I like that the film to me, even though it has many topical issues, I don’t think it’s overly preaching. It’s too complicated for that. Even Mija eats chicken stew, or catches the fish and throws the little fish back in. That’s such an important detail for this film to be true. And even though it has a fantasy animation-comic-book-graphic-novel sort of level to it, I like the truth in the contradictions.

Finally the cast gave their initial response to this project:

Collins:…You know, you sit down with Director Bong–my first meeting with director Bong was at 11am and he orders ice cream and starts talking about this pig, and I go ‘OK, I think I know what I’m signing on for!?’ [Laughs] And I fell in love with the idea that he could see me as this character and I don’t think a lot of people would have been able to see me as someone like this. But it’s so much. It’s a love story, it’s a drama, it’s a comedy, it’s an action movie, it’s a fantasy movie. It’s kind of everything you’ve ever wanted to see in one movie. And yeah…It was a moment of enlightenment really, when you read it.

Giancarlo Esposito: For me it was in many ways a return to innocence. Odd for me to say after having played [Mirando corporation lackey] Frank Dawson, but this story is so absolutely beautiful in its very connected relationship message. It doesn’t matter what that relationship is. It could be a child with their goldfish in the tank who is their best friend, or it could be Okja. But that warmth, that sensitivity and that understanding that’s developed in that relationship, for me, guided me back to thinking about my loss of innocence. When did I grow up? And how could I unlearn that growing up and see the world in a new light? Many times we are so smart, that we are ignorant and they say that education is learned ignorance. We, as performers who fantasize about telling our stories, that will make a comment on our–a social comment, a political comment, an artistic comment– through our creativity, are gifted with our ultimate gift to still remain somewhere in our heart and soul, that beautiful child that Mija is.

Swinton: I didn’t read the script for a long time because I was privileged to be a part of the cloud of the idea before it ever came to script stage. I remember very clearly Director Bong, when we went to Seoul for the premiere of Snowpiercer, he drove us to the airport the following day and leaned over the back of the seat of the car and showed me this drawing of the pig and the girl and that was it. That was three years before there was a script. But even before that moment, I have to say that one of the bonds we share is a great love of the master Hayao Miyazaki, in particular My Neighbor Totoro, and in fact we regularly sing the Totoro theme tune. It’s a thing we do. And so, the second I saw this drawing, I saw that. I this as an opportunity to fill to that homage. But also we talked about the twin sisters in Spirited Away, which I think was the seed of the Mirando sisters. Yeah, so I was, you know, I was in before it existed. Put it that way.

Conference has been edited for length and clarity. Okja is available to stream now on Netflix.

Singer Michael Monroe Talks New Compilation Album “The Best”

Legendary Hanoi Rocks singer and solo artist Michael Monroe is set to release “The Best” a 2 disc retrospective compilation showcasing tracks from the Finish rockers 10 album solo career along with a handful of unreleased tracks and a new single. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Michael recently about the release and also about the work he and his band are doing for their next studio album.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your new collection release titled “The Best” and how you went about selecting which tracks from your catalog would be included?

Michael Monroe: There was a time limit to get everything figured out so basically what I did was choose two songs from each of my solo releases. I did choose to include 4 songs from “Demolition 23” as that material has not been available for almost 20 years now. From that record alone we included “Nothings Alright”, ”Hammersmith Palais”, “You Crucified Me” and “Deadtime Stories” which is a very special one. That song is dedicated to Stiv Bators and the lyrics and everything are in homage to him. A lot of the songs that appear were originally released as singles with accompanying videos. The “Nights Are So Long” album didn’t have either of those so I chose “It’s A Lie”. The version included on this compilation was originally recorded in 1985 and features a duet with me and Stiv. This was done right around the time that I was thinking of starting a solo career. It previously had only been released as a bonus track in the States and Germany with the “Piece of Mind” album. This is a much better version that one I did by myself for the album due to Stiv not being able to make it to the studio. That stuff is all included on disc 1. Disc 2 of the set features tracks from my three most recent albums “Sensory Overdrive”, “Horns and Halos” and “Blackout States” as well as a few other tracks including a cover of “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf which features Slash. Slash is someone who has always been great to me and was really significant during my solo years so I wanted to include a piece of that. Ultimately fans will get a two disc set featuring 29 tracks including the new single “One Foot Outta the Grave”, 4 unreleased tracks, a handful of bonus songs and a few songs from each album. I think fans will really enjoy what we have put together.

AL: Was this material all remixed and re-mastered or are these the original versions of each song?

MM: We really didn’t do much in the way of re-mastering. We did bring up levels on some of the older recordings and we tweaked things a little here and there so each track matched. When you’re pulling songs from different albums for a compilation like this you have to make sure they are all have a consistent sound. Svante Forsback who masters a lot of the records made in Finland did a great job with this. He wasn’t trying to make something sound like a certain era he was just out to get the best sound possible for each song.

AL: What was it like revisiting a lot of this material?

MM: I think it was a healthy thing to do. I got to look back at my career thus far and it put things in perspective for me. I think “The Best” is a really great representation of what I have done as a solo artist. It in a way was like doing an autobiography. Looking back I may not be the biggest or most famous but not everyone has to be that. As long as I have my integrity and never compromise for the wrong reasons and keep making quality material that’s all I need. I think a lot of this material really stands the test of time unlike today with a lot of things where after 20 years or so it just doesn’t hold up.

AL: Were the unreleased tracks ones that you have had for awhile or are they fairly recent compositions?

MM: We had “Fist Full of Dynamite” and “Simple Town” left over from the last album sessions. They were supposed to be used as bonus tracks before now however that weren’t needed. “One Foot Outta the Grave” is a pretty fresh song. That was recorded in February in Helsinki. The others material was stuff I had around on tape.

AL: Can you tell us about the new studio album you are currently working on?

MM: We have a lot of creative energy in this band. I have given everyone the freedom to write as much as they would like and then we pick the best material to record. We don’t let any egos get in the way. This band has been together for seven years now and we all know each other really well. Steve Conte and Rich Jones are really great songwriters. I don’t have to be the only one writing lyrics as these guys are capable of writing stuff that I instantly relate to. Depending on the situation we may write together or alone as we each live somewhere else in the world. There is never a lack of songs which makes things easy when it is time do a new record. We write then we pick the best songs and go in and record.

AL: Are there any plans for you and the band to tour this year?

MM: We are going to be doing some date in the UK in December. At the moment we’re going through a management change as in the past few years I haven’t had proper management. Hopefully by making these changes we will be able to tour more. We have done some smaller shows in the States over the past couple years but to really get noticed outside of New York or Los Angeles you have to be on one of the bigger tours. The plan is to keep doing what we are doing and hopefully we will catch some breaks. I have had some pretty bad luck throughout my career but I don’t let that get me down and am looking forward to the future.

For more info on Michael Monroe you can visit www.michaelmonroe.com

M.O.D. Vocalist Billy Milano Talks About the Bands New Album “Busted, Broke & American”

Billy Milano is the outspoken vocalist for the legendary hardcore/thrash band M.O.D. On July 7th the group will release its 10th full-length studio album titled “Busted, Broke & American” via Megaforce Records. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Billy recently about the album which was an extremely personal record Milano as well as his thoughts on the current state of hardcore and the possibility of this being the group’s final album.

Adam Lawton: M.O.D. went through a couple rough patches during the making of the new album which was originally slated to be released a couple years ago. Can you tell us about that?

Billy Milano: I have never been one of those guys that say’s I “have” to do something because of music. A lot of people know me from music but that’s not all of who I am. I did the “Red, White and Screwed” album in 2007 and then toured it for a year and a half. During that time one of the things I realized was that I had been forcing myself into a position I didn’t want to be in. I needed some time for myself as I just didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the band it’s just that I generally do about a two year run with a group of guys and then that’s it. People change and I tend to get angsty unless, they bring something to the table. I don’t agree with people being involved in my life that are all encompassing. I am an adult and want to be able to go and live my life how I want to without any interference. When I came back from California in 2012 after the first sessions for this album there was a myriad of problems. There were guys in the band I was tired off, the producer I was working with wasn’t the right guy for the job and what we ended up with didn’t work for me. I took about a whole year off after this. Also at this time my dog Buster was very sick. To watch him go through what he did was heart breaking and I couldn’t leave him. I started playing guitar again at this time and that’s when this record started to come to life.

AL: The band is back with Megaforce Records. Can you tell us how that relationship came back together?

BM: I had started working on the record again and it was starting to turn out special. I had a couple labels that were interested at the time and out of nowhere Missy the owner of Megaforce calls me up to talk about doing a 30th anniversary edition for the “U.S.A. for M.O.D.” record. I thought that would be really cool and while we were talking I asked her if she would be interested in hearing the new record. I played it for her and she liked what she heard. From there we decided to work together on this record and also to re-release three M.O.D. records from our back catalog. Megaforce has been very good to us and the packaging has come out amazing.

AL: What are your thoughts on the recent upswing that hardcore music is experiencing right now and, where do you feel M.O.D. fits in with today’s music scene?

BM: A lot of people have always looked at M.O.D. and wondered what is it? If you listen to the records it’s not hardcore, thrash or punk. It’s got a little bit of everything in it. I think it has a hardcore punk attitude which is something I myself have always been, a New York Hardcore Skinhead even as hairy as I am now I still consider myself that. (Laughs) When we would start putting together a tour I would think to myself about bands who we could tour with and it was hard because there was no one else really like M.O.D. We just didn’t fit any one specific category. M.O.D. has a core group of fans and I accept that because that is what I have offered. I have only offered a cursorary involvement with M.O.D. live around the world because I feel there are other things in my life that take precedent. That’s not what musicians who are successful think like. In my case growing up in an Italian family with 11 brothers and sisters with tight nit community around us gave me a different attitude towards things. As to addressing where M.O.D. fits on the tooth of the gear to this day this is something I still can’t answer. I know we have a great record coming out to go along with some of the other great records we have put out in the past. “Busted, Broke & American” is a very memorable record. I think it’s coming to a point where it wasn’t the timing of other things going on that might be good for it as much as it was the timing of where I am at. Things are coexisting together and that’s something you just can’t plan. It just happens. I have always just been Billy Milano. There are a lot of hardcore bands out there doing reunions and playing shows right now and I think a lot of that has to do with the vinyl market. Bands are able to release their back catalogs for the first time on vinyl and getting deals based on that which allows them then to put out new music. The anniversary of “U.S.A For M.O.D” and the history M.O.D. had with Megaforce Records certainly helped me get this new record out and I am grateful for that.

AL: You stated in a press release that “Busted, Broke & American” very well could be M.O.D.’s last album. Is that still the case as we get closer to the July 7 release date?

BM: Yes, Absolutely! Do I think I could write another record like? No. Too much pain went into this record. Watching my dog die while writing this and learning how to play guitar again was just awful. At my age the stress that comes along with doing a record is not something I want to deal with. This was a very personal record to me and I put a lot into it. I mixed this thing seven times because it was so personal. It was Busters record. I don’t think I am doing another record. Will I do a single or an EP? Sure. I think I can write a few great songs every one or two years and put out an EP with somebody. It would be cool to do something with M.O.D. and maybe some unsigned punk bands and put that stuff out and expose people to new music. For me that would be a better legacy than a follow up record. I have always tried to help unsigned people. I have brought in unknown musicians to my records because I wanted to bring people into that pool of the music industry.

AL: Are there any plans to perform the new album live?

BM: I have no live shows planned at this moment. We haven’t even been able to rehearse as we are minus a drummer at this moment. I had a guy lined up but due to some personal things he was not able to keep going with us. We will find a drummer eventually. There are always guys out there that want to get paid to play. Our music isn’t Rush or Dream Theater. Maybe more like “Mystery Science 3000 Theater” but not those other groups. (Laughs) When we are ready will be out there ripping it. In the mean time I am focusing on two books I am writing. The first one is my personal book and the second is a cook book which I am doing for my mom. I have another band I am working with called “Billy Be Damned”. I play rhythm guitar in that band. If I had to describe it, it would be a mixture of The Pogues meets Stiff Little Fingers meets the Clash and Foo Fighters. It’s heavy but it’s not metal.

Be sure to check out our exclusive review of “Busted, Broken & American” here. And for more info on Billy and M.O.D. head over to www.milanomosh.com

Waylon Reavis discusses his new band A Killers Confession

Former Mushroomhead vocalist Waylon Reavis has returned with an exciting new band, A Killer’s Confession. Never being afraid to speak his mind or shy away from certain topics Reavis and company come out swinging with their debut release titled “Unbroken”. Media Mikes caught up with the singer recently to discuss the new album prior to the bands performance in Syracuse, NY.

Ryan Albro: How did A Killer’s Confession come together?

Waylon Reavis: Last year, I told everybody I wanted to sing on other band’s albums. What people didn’t realize was is I was actually scouting for talent. I had started working on some things and got to the absolute last track I was going to record from a Dark Lit Sky. It’s called A Killer’s Confession. This is the song Brian “Head” Welch from Korn ended up playing on. I had said to Brian if I could make this into a band would you produce it. Brian said he didn’t have the gift of producing but he’d play on it. In my mind I said, “that’ll work!” That was what told me this was the band. I’ve got the best group possible. I love this band. I’ve known JP since Three Quarters Dead. He was my first bass player. The bass player I have now was my bass player since day one. I can’t love those guys enough.

RA: What inspired you to blend so many styles of music into your own music?

WR: A lot of bad shit has happened to us. A lot of people are trying to stop the band from happening, but I don’t think you can. A.K.C. is doing it’s own thing. We are not really against any band, my former band included. Some people might see it otherwise, but we’re not here to cause drama. We’re here to just be a band. The fans are speaking for themselves. We’re not out here begging for nothing and you either like us or you don’t. People like what we’re doing because we’re bringing back Nu-Metal with elements of new school. We took everything we loved from the 90’s and then everything we love in modern music and put that stuff together. We want to take every genre and put it together to make a brand new sound. Taking aspects of say Math Metal and Thrash Metal and combining it to create a cohesive metal band. I’ve always been a chameleon with my vocal style. Everyone knows what I sound like when I’m singing, but I also can do a lot of other styles. Metal has branched off to so many different sub-genres; it’s time for a band to bring those all together. It’s great to have Korn’s stamp of approval on us, but that’s not enough. We want to go out there and do it like Korn did back in the day and speak our message. We want to speak against social media and inspire people to be more of an individual. We’re going to push all boundaries. We’re not afraid to say what’s on our minds. We’re going to teach people how to be tough. If you lose, you need to learn and come back even stronger. America’s divided right now. We’re a multi-racial band. We’re against anything separating people, race, and gender. We love everyone but we want people to understand that we have message. We want people to be tough Americans again.

RA: What inspires the raw energy in your music?

WR: My songs are reality; they’re what plague me from day to day. For example, the song “1080p” is about my problem with social media. A Killer’s Confession is about me and my other personality. That is the battle of Ying and Yang. That song is about those conversations and battles that you have with yourselves. These issues come to the forefront in my writing. These are real emotions on this album. My mother always told me that strength lies in the dark. If you’re shoved into the dark learn and become stronger from it and that’s what I’ve done for the last year.

RA: What drives you to put on such a great live performance?

WR: I love the fans. I understand what it’s like to go out there and work 9-5 for nothing, just to pay your bills. You give me an hour out of your life to take that away. I owe it to you to take that burden off of you. I have to, you made my dreams come true.

RA: What can we expect coming next from the band?

WR: We have started writing for a new and we have some more tours coming up. You’re going to see a lot of A Killer’s Confession. We’re putting out an album in 2018 and after that, an album a year for the next ten years. We’re going to do ten albums, ending in 2027. We’re also going to have a new live show coming that’s something nobody else has ever done before.

For more info on A Killers Confession head over to www.akillersconfession.com

Tim Thomerson talks about his new film “Asylum of Darkness” and some of old favorites

Even if you don’t recognize the name, believe me when I say you know Tim Thomerson. From the hilarious television show “Quark” to supporting roles in such films as “Iron Eagle,” “Rhinestone,” “Near Dark” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” to his starring performance as Jack Deth in the highly popular “Trancers” series, he has made good movies better and bad movies watchable.

While promoting his latest film, “Asylum of Darkness,” Mr. Thomerson took the time to talk about his long career and even indulged me in talking about some of my favorite films/performances of his.

Mike Smith: Can you give our readers a short introduction to your character in “Asylum of Darkness?”

Tim Thomerson: I play a detective named Kesler, which is a name director Jay Woelfel uses in many of his films (this is not the first time Mr. Thomerson has played a character with that name).

MS: Are those the roles you tend to gravitate too? Cop or soldier or someone else in authority?

TT: It’s really the paycheck that gravitates me to a role, you understand? (laughs) Any kind of money that they will give me that allows me to do what I like to do will count. No, no. I’ve known Jay for a long time and he’s a good guy to work with. Very easy to work with. I know his cameraman and I’ve done three movies with him. He knows my work and it was a pretty easy character to play for me. I just threw another trench coat on and parted my hair on the other side and wore glasses. I’m pretty sure in some scenes I’m wearing glasses. Probably because I’m reading my script off-camera. Like Brando. (laughs)

MS: It worked for him.

TT: It sure did, didn’t it!

MS: “Asylum of Darkness” features one of Richard Hatch’s last performances. How was he to work with?

TT: Richard was a good guy. I knew him for a long time. We had done a film together called “Unseen Evil,” which Jay had also directed. That was the first time I had met Richard. I knew who he was from “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Battlestar Galactica.” We’re both from California and he was an old-time surfer. I surf so we struck up a friendship. He was a real cool guy to be around. I would see him all the times at conventions and we would talk. He was a very mellow guy. The quintessential California person. The “Jeff Bridges” guy. Not from “The Big Lebowski” but Jeff in real life.

MS: I’ve got what I consider five of your best roles in films that fans may have missed but are definitely worth seeing. But before we talk about them, do you have a favorite role or performance of yours that you’re most proud of?

TT: Typically I never watch my work. If I happen to catch something, or if there is something I want to see to make sure I pulled it off…was I good in it or was I shitty in it? Did I do it how I was trained? (NOTE: Mr. Thomerson studied with the great Stella Adler for four years. Among her other students: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Elaine Stritch and Harvey Keitel). I guess one of my favorite roles was a character I did on “Hill Street Blues,” where I played a slum-lord named Nat Rikers. The role was the farthest I’d ever gotten from myself. I worked really hard to become this character. That’s one of my favorite guys. Then there was a little movie I did that Bryan Cranston directed called “Last Chance,” where I played an alcoholic writer, kind of an Ernest Hemingway-type guy. He gets writer’s block and gets back on the booze. He goes to A A and becomes a truck driver. Bryan and his wife produced it and we shot it out in the desert outside Palm Springs in a place known as “Methadonia” because there are so many meth labs out there. It’s a good little movie about a guy who’s involved with a girl who’s stuck in a bad marriage. But working for Bryan, and the direction that he gave me, like I said I usually don’t sit and watch my stuff, but the best direction I got from him…I was kind of stuck because I usually play bad guys or comedy guys. But this was a real person and I had to drop all of the “tough guy” snarls and just BE this guy. So Bryan told me, ‘just say the words. Just talk.’ And I thought, “Wow!” Nobody had ever told me that before. Bryan took the time to say that and that’s all he had to say. So that is also one of my favorites. Those are two of the things that I actually saw and I said to myself, “I believe that guy is real.”

MM: OK, I’m going to give you the title of a television show or film that you appeared in and just give me the first memory that comes to mind.

TT: I’m ready.

MM: “Quark.”

TT: Oh man, that was fun. That was a lot of fun. It was really one of my first jobs. I mean a legit job. I had been doing stand-up for awhile and I think I had just done “Car Wash” before that. It was so much fun. We only did eight episodes. It was great to work with Richard Benjamin. Buck Henry created the show and wrote some of them. It was the first time I got to work with Geoffrey Lewis, the great character actor, and Henry Silva. And I got to work with Ross Martin, who was great. It was a fun show to do and it was fun to play that silly character. And it was pretty hip stuff. And it was funny. I mean, even doing it was funny. Richard Benjamin was such a funny person. And we had great directors. Directors who had been doing television comedy since the beginning. We had Hy Averback, who had done “Sgt Bilko” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It was the 1970s but we had guys that had been working since the 50s and 60s. Everybody laughed on the show. The crew and the cast. It was fun. Really fun.

MM: “Carny”

TT: “Carny??” Nobody knows that movie. Any time you get to work with Gary Busey it’s going to be a trip. There were a lot of really fine actors in that film. Robbie Robertson wasn’t too bad for his first film, but we had Jodie Foster and Ken McMillian and Craig Wasson. We filmed it in Savannah, Georgia at a real carnival. We worked nights. For two months. And two months of night work – in Savannah, Georgia in the deep South – can make you crazy. Working on that movie was fun. I had known Gary so to work with him was fun. He was a real good guy. It’s so funny you picked that one. Nobody knows that movie, which is a shame because it’s a well shot movie. Jodie was still a youngster so, when we were filming at night, they’d shoot her stuff then shoo her off the set. Get her away from the insanity! Because when you work until 4 or 5 in the morning, that’s when the party started. Bunch of stunt guys and crazy electricians. It was pretty nuts. I had a lot of fun on that movie.

MM: “Honkytonk Man”

TT: Well, of course, I got to work with Clint (Eastwood). That was a mind blower for me because I’d always been a fan. And, of course, he was so cool. We shot it on the east side of the Sierras in the oldest city in California called Genoa. Working with Eastwood….I mean it goes by so fast. (Does a pretty good Clint Eastwood impression) “All right Tim, we’re going to shoot your close-up. Step on in here. Are you ready?” I said, ‘yes sir, I am” and we did one take. That was it man. We were gone. He flew me in and flew me out. What was fun about working on that movie was that Clint’s son, Kyle, was also in it. Years later I was skiing on a mountain one day when a guy ski’d up to me and said (gruff voice), “Hey, how you doing?” And of course, it was Clint and his son. I didn’t recognize him at first because he had a buzz haircut because he was working on “Heartbreak Ridge.” He had the G.I. Joe cut, you know? And I kept standing there thinking, ‘what is this big guy looking at me?” Then I recognized Kyle. The guy I was skiing with said, “You know Clint Eastwood?” And I just said, “Yeah.” It was just a great experience. I also worked on a movie he produced called “Ratboy” that Sondra Locke directed. It was just fun being around him, no matter how little the time was. And talk about a quiet set. No bullshit…everybody doing their job. That really impressed me.

MM: Finally, one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t know WHY I love this movie so much. “Rhinestone.”

TT: (bursts out laughing for quite a long time) Did you just say “Rhinestone?” You’re not from Kansas City. You must be from Dixie.

MM: I grew up in Tampa so maybe that helps.

TT: I’ve got to tell you, I once was told that “Rhinestone” and another film I was in, were called the worst movies of the 1980s. (NOTE: I’m thinking the other film was “Metalstorm,” a 3D extravaganza that is pretty much on every “Worst Films” list. But I got to work with Dick Farnsworth. Dolly Parton. Stallone gave me the job. I never knew that until years later when his brother, Frank, told me that. I’d known Frank for a while and one night he said to me, “you know, my brother gave you that job in “Rhinestone.” And I was like, “are you shitting me?” And he said, “uh uh.” Then one time, later, Sly walked up to me and said (Mr. Thomerson also does a fine Sylvester Stallone impression) “I really like what you did in that ‘Trancers” movie. It was a great set. Not complicated. No drama. We knew each other’s beats and rehearsed if. And then Dolly…you just don’t get any better than her, she’s such a neat lady. That was a lot of fun. And the fact that I got to work with Richard Farnsworth. Such a great man to work with.