Book Review: “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” By Patty Schemel

“Hit So Hard: A Memoir”
Author: Patty Schemel
Da Capo
Hardcover: 280 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Patty Schemel is a drummer who was at the epicenter of the Seattle grunge scene in the early 1990’s. Schemel is probably best known for her work with the alternative rock band Hole and as a close friend of late Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain. “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” chronicles the coming of age of a musician and drug addict during her times both on and off the road with a band plagued by tragedy during rock n’ rolls last great era of excess. While never losing her sense of humor Schemel recounts her descent into homelessness and crime and the difficult but rewarding path to sobriety after more than twenty attempts to get clean.

Dominating air waves and headlines around the world in the early 90’s was the Courtney Love fronted band Hole. A band with a volatile mixture of energy, chemicals and attitude who in one moment could provide you with some of the most in your face rock n roll to the next minute being on the verge of imploding like a powder keg. Providing the bands driving back beat and contributing heavily to the four pieces volatile makeup was drummer Patty Schemel. Over the course of “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” 280 pages readers for the first time get the behind the scenes, first-hand account of what made Hole such a great/disfunctional band. Beginning with Schemel’s first introduction to drinking at age 11 and, continuing on through her struggles with sexuality and figuring out just where she fit in the book is a roller-coaster ride of angst and self reflection. From her first meeting with a pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain to sharing a house with him and Courtney Love at the height of Nirvana’s success Schemel is candid with her accounts and does not shy away from the intimate details.

No “Hit So Hard” is not just another tell all memoir about sex, drugs and rock n roll. Yes there is plenty of that in this book yet, now matter how tempting or prevalent those subjects might be they surprisingly take a back seat to Schemel’s unique life story. The authors laid back delivery and word choice draws in the reader’s attention and tows a fine line as to not over sensationalize certain things that may cause readers to lose the point of each passage. This book was a breath of fresh air in the ever growing sea of memoir release and with the holidays right around the corner “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” could be the perfect gift for that music lover and or reader in your life.

Book Review: “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” by Mick Wall

“Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses”
Author: Mick Wall
Lesser Gods
Hardcover: 432 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Guns N’ Roses exploded during the 80’s glam metal scene and boldly redefined rock ’n’ roll for a new era. Mick Wall met Guns N’ Roses when the band members lived together in Los Angeles and became a part of their inner circle. Thanks to Wall’s longtime friendship and connections with Guns N’ Roses, he conducted exclusive interviews with all the original members and, for the first time, their original managers, who were in the trenches with Guns N’ Roses (from 1986 to 2004). They share all-new revelations about the band’s rock-star debauchery in the studio, on tour and behind the scenes. “Last of the Giants” is a celebration of Guns N’ Roses: the last of the extraordinary, excessive, not-giving-a-shit rock stars.

Imagine you are a fly on the wall during some of the most pivotal and monumental moments during Guns N’ Roses career. Arguably one of the most legendary rock and roll band in the last 3 decades “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” is the account of that such fly (Mick Wall). Told through third person accounts and candid interviews with members and associates pass and present “Last of the Giants” is brimming over with behind the scenes stories and fresh interviews which shine new light on the bands fame and persona. Probably my favorite part of the book was amidst the chapters were 28 pages of full color photos highlighting the band at various points. These photos are not the same old reprints we have seen time and time again but new fresh photos that helped accentuate the text before and after each section.

“Last of the Giants” gives readers the inside track via behind the scenes firsthand accounts and through newly conducted interviews with those directly involved in some of the most important moments of the bands career. You get all the details and more in the latest offering from Mick Wall. I think I would have been more in to the book if this was an official release from the band however after reading this book you may understand why something of that nature hasn’t come to fruition. That aside no matter how intense of a G N’R fan you might be “Last of the Giants” is worth checking out.

Who is winning the comic book movie war?

The comic boom world is one that’s built on fierce rivalries. And whilst the battles between Batman and The Joker, Superman and Lex Luthor, and Spider-Man and Green Goblin may be pretty epic, they are nothing compared to the showdown between Marvel and DC Comics.

These two legendary companies both started out in the interwar years in the USA. And whilst they leapt to fame through the popularity of their comic book heroes, both brands have been enormously successful in diversifying their revenues in everything from plastic action figures to online casino game licensing.

But it’s the way that Marvel and DC have dominated our cinema screens that’s perhaps the most remarkable aspect of their success stories. And with Disney taking control of Marvel, and Time Warner operating DC, it’s clear that the battle between these two entertainment titans is getting seriously competitive.

Whilst DC Comics’ movies in the 1970s like Superman were massive hits at the box office, a quick look at the biggest grossing comic book films shows that Marvel is definitely in the ascendancy.

With massive blockbusters like The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Spider-Man and Captain America: Civil War all picking up well over $1 billion at the box office, it’s clear that Marvel have a solid strategy in producing big hits.

Not that DC have been lagging far behind with the Dark Knight movies all performing well, and even the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film picking up plenty of money despite the critical misgivings.

So with plenty of history behind them, there’s a huge amount of expectation as to what we can expect from these entertainment studios next. As the Marvel’s Deadpool movie was one of the biggest hits of 2016, it’s no surprise to find that there’s plenty of hype about the sequel with the blog at Lucky Nugget Casino revealing how Josh Brolin has been lined up for a key part in the film.

And with DC Comics following up a successful revamp of the Wonder Woman franchise with a hugely anticipated Justice League movie later this year, it seems as though the battle between these two studios is only going to get more intense.

But although there is plenty of fun to be had in discussing whether DC or Marvel actually give us the best comic books, movies and online casino games, perhaps in the spirit of the recent Comic Con, we have to agree that they both are equally awesome!

Book Review: America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World” by Corey Taylor

America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World”
Author: Corey Taylor
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 256 pages

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars

In America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World”, Slipknot/Stone Sour lead singer Corey Taylor directs his signature combination of humor and outrage at today’s America, sparing no one along the way. Taylor doesn’t shy away from thorny issues as he draws a brutally honest portrait of his country, outlining the good, the bad, the unflattering and the patriotic. Whether it’s politics or social media, race or pop culture, religion or reality TV, “America 51” digs deep into the roots of contemporary America.

The 4th book from singer turned best-selling author Corey Taylor titled America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World” is easily the brashest in your face collection of rants from the out spoken front-man. Having struggled my way through Taylor’s last two literary offerings l was a touch apprehensive about subjecting myself to another 256 pages of rambling. However being a long time fan of both Slipknot and Stone Sour I was willing to still give this book a shot. Within the first several chapters I could see that this book was going to be just like the others as Taylor becomes so wrapped up in his thoughts that he quickly loses site of the actual. I found this to very distracting and despite Taylor’s off the wall comedic jabs at society and his take on the current political climate there were just too many thoughts going on at one time causing the book to come off as very unorganized and poorly edited.

If you liked Corey’s previous three books then there is no doubt in my mind that “America 51” will fit right in with your collection as by now you have become a custom to the author’s chaotic style. However, if you are looking for this to be your first exposure to Corey Taylor outside of his music then you may want to hold up and check out some of his earlier works first.

Book Review: “From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars” by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

“From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars”
Author: Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 204 pages

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When Virginia Hanlon Grohl first saw her son perform in front of thousands of screaming fans she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son’s star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children’s fame? Did they worry about their children’s livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children’s passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?

All those answers and more are contained in “From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars”. Over the course of the books 204 pages you get a unique behind the scenes look like never before. However not from the stars themselves but from their mothers! Yes that’s right their mothers. Along with author Hanlon Grohl own story of motherhood we hear from other moms including Verna Griffin (Dr. Dre), Janis Winehouse (Amy Winehouse), Hester Diamond (Mike D of the Beastie Boys) and Bettye Moses and Harriette Brown (mother & step mother of Zac Brown) as they recount the years before, during and after their sons and daughters became house hold names. I don’t recall a book like this ever being released which adds to the appeal because who is better to ask about those earlier childhood years than one’s own mom.

The candid firsthand accounts are what really kept me turning page after page. “From Cradle to Stage” is a fun, fast read unlike any biography I have come across before. While the book does a great job showcasing several mothers’ journeys its underlying story about the bond between parents and children is its greatest attribute. Not only is this a great read for parents but also for anyone looking for a different look at some of music’s biggest artists and the moms who impacted their lives.

Book Review “Nella the Princess Knight” by Christine Ricci

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Nella the Princess Knight” is the latest new animated preschool series to come out of Nick Jr. This show quickly became one of my 5 year old’s favorite series. The show is cheesy and drives me nuts personally but my girl loves it and that is all that matters to me. This is the first book in the “Nella the Princess Knight” series and tells the story of “Nella’s Unicorn Rescue”. Since receiving this book, it has become a staple for my daughter at bedtime. If your kids has discovered this show I would recommend the book for sure…and if you haven’t discovered the show my daughter would highly recommend it.

Keeping it with the family, the story is written by Christine Ricci, which is a curriculum consultant on Nick Jr. shows like “Blaze and the Monster Machines” and “Team Umizoomi”. The show is cute and works well for kids because it focuses on relationship development and positive messaging for preschoolers and promotes them to be courageous. That is a message that I want my daughter to have as she is soaking up everything around her and growing up. I look forward to future books from Random House Books for Young Readers and I hope they continue this series for “Nella the Princess Knight” for a while!

Book Review: “Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol”

“Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol”
Author: Steve Jones
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 308 pages

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol” recounts the life and times of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. Through the nihilistic songs, amphetamine-fueled music, and influential fashion that turned a one-time street urchin into a founding member of a genre-defining band “Lonely Boy” offers a truly in-depth portrait of one of punk’s founding fathers.

For anyone with even the smallest bit of knowledge related to Steve Jones and his band The Sex Pistols I don’t have to tell you what to expect from “Lonely Boy”. Sex, drugs and rock and roll it’s all here told directly from the man who lived and breathed it. Throughout the books 308 pages Jones takes the reader on a cringe worthy ride that starts off with detailed accounts of Jones traumatic childhood which was rout with abuse and neglect. As the book progresses the reader is treated to firsthand accounts of the early incarnation of The Sex Pistols and how it morphed into what the world would see as the band were made into the poster boys of punk rock for generations to come.

Not just your everyday run of the mill biography. “Lonely Boy” delves much deeper than other books in the genre. Jones forges straight on into rough waters as he recounts the events that would shape who he has become today. From the ups and downs his band The Sex Pistols created to his struggles with severe drug addiction this book is not for the queasy as it probably as real as one can get. At times I found the stories to wander and be a bit lengthy however pushing through there was always light at the end of the tunnel as each chapter blended nicely into the next. Also worth noting are the photos which are included in the book. Many of them were ones I had not seen before only adding to the books unique story and making “Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol” is a must read for any and all music fans.

Theatre Review: “The Book of Mormon”

Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

If you are a listener to our “Behind the Mikes” podcast (and if not, why aren’t you) you’ll recall that a few weeks ago we were talking about the most recent great original film musical. Not something like “Dreamgirls” or “Les Miserables,” which were translated from the Broadway stage, but a musical written just for the movies. The first one that popped into my mind was 1999’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” From it’s opening song to it’s grand finale’, the film tells it’s story through virtually every style of music known to man. To say that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are talented would be an understatement. 12 years later, Parker and Stone teamed up with “Avenue Q” co-composer/co-lyricist Robert Lopez and have created one of the most entertaining and inspirational shows in Broadway history. “The Book of Mormon.”

In Utah a group of young men wait patiently. They have all spent months studying to go abroad to spread the word of God through their ministry, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Or, as they are more commonly referred to, the Mormons. As each pair of boys is named they learn their destinations. Japan. Norway. France. Exotic places all. Finally, only Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs), the highest regarded person in the group, and Elder Cunningham (Chad Burris), who is pretty much the opposite of Elder Price, are left. They soon find themselves teamed up and heading for beautiful….Africa. Two years in the jungles fighting aids and poverty. Woo hoo!

There isn’t a lot you can say for a musical that contains four letter words, Darth Vader and an image of a Hell that contains both Hitler AND Johnnie Cochran except this: IT’S BRILLIANT! The songs are both clever and catchy and the cast spectacular. Even the story, which many reading this may think mocks the Mormon faith, is uplifting. That’s a trifecta that very few shows ever hit.

As Elder Price, Gibbs brings a wide-eyed youthful joy to the role. He KNOWS that Heavenly Father is on his side. I was surprised to learn that Mr. Burris was actually the understudy for the actor scheduled to play Elder Cunningham. He was both funny and touching in his performance. And, if anyone ever decides to do a bio-pic on the late Chris Farley, I would hope that Burris would get an audition. He brings the kind of energy and innocence to the role as well as Farley ever did in his film performances. Other cast standouts include Bryce Charles (another stand-in) as Nabulungi and Sterling Jarvis as Mafala. The ensemble cast was also spot on, a tribute to the kind of shows that the Broadway Across America consistently bring to Kansas City.

Of course since, according to the show, the Garden of Eden IS located in Jackson County, Missouri, maybe the show got a little nudge from Heavenly Father!

The tour continues on through August 2017. Here are a list of it’s next few destinations:

December 13 – 18, 2016 Fayetteville
December 20 – 31, 2016 Dallas
January 3 – 15, 2017 Houston
January 17 – 22, 2017 Jacksonville
January 24 – 29, 2017 Ft. Meyers
January 31 – February 5, 2017 Greenville

Book Review “The Art of Moana”

Series: Art of
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
November 15, 2016

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Let me start with the fact that “Moana” is my favorite film of 2016. It is a beautiful movie with beautiful songs. The colors are just jaw-dropping and the design is a work of art. “The Art of Moana” is the latest title from Chronicle Books that dives into the stunning artwork going behind-the-scenes in “Moana” with some outstanding character designs, storyboards, colorscripts, and much more. If you loved this film then this book will only make you love it more

Official Film Premise: Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world ventured across the Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped—and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Moana is a CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui and together they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed adventure, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.

When I see that Chronicle is releasing a new Art of Book, I go wild because they really know how to put together an amazing book. I really enjoyed the exploration of what was or could have been in this book and how certain characters and aspects of the film have developed over the years. Other than just the photos, the text in the book delivers a nice story to complement them and educate you on the process as well. This movie is simply beautiful and the book is a perfect companion to the film.

New Book Series Ancient Aliens: Marradians and Anunnaki by Acclaimed Authors Ilil Arbel and Gary Morgenstein

WHO WERE THE MARRADIANS? 

FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE SHOCKING TRUTH BEHIND

THE EXTRATERRESTRIALS WHO CHANGED HUMANITY FOREVER 

NEW BOOK SERIES ANCIENT ALIENS: MARRADIANS AND ANUNNAKI  BY ACCLAIMED AUTHORS ILIL ARBEL AND GARY MORGENSTEIN  

NEW YORK – November 10, 2016 – Who were the Marradians? Long forgotten, these ancient aliens profoundly shaped humanity’s evolution through inter-breeding and advanced science and technology. It’s a story that’s been suppressed – until now.

The new book series Ancient Aliens: Marradians and Anunnaki from acclaimed exraterrestrial expert Ilil Arbel, Ph.D, and science fiction writer Gary Morgenstein will, for the very first time, reveal how the Marradians changed the course of mankind‘s history while battling their bitter rivals and cousins, the Anunnaki – with Earth the pawn in this galactic struggle.

Arbel and Morgenstein will use ancient texts and new research to finally bring to life the history, culture, traditions, religion, politics, food, science, technology, songs, sexual practices and customs of this previously obscure alien race, who’ve been misnamed The Grays by global intelligence services to hide the extraterrestrials‘ existence.

The first volume, Extraterrestrial Holidays, will teleport readers inside the worlds of the Marradians and Anunnaki through their holidays, from deity Cimric’s birthday, the Miracle of Egok the Cross-Limbed, the Sh‘ Holidays of Awe, as well as New Year’s and Breeding celebrations..

To blunt any attempts to subvert the truth, the authors are revealing select chapters before the official date of publication. The first selection, Ashar Marrad, about the Marradian day of thanks, will be available on November 15, 2016 at http://madmelsavestheworld.com/marradian-and-anunnaki-books/.

ILIL ARBEL is the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books, including factual biographies of alien hybrids (descendants of Anunnaki), as well as extensive research on both the Anunnaki and the Marradians. In addition to biographies, memoirs, novels, mythology/folklore, and metaphysics, Arbel has contributed numerous short stories and articles on the subjects of natural history, personal histories, biography, health, education, social commentaries, and Judaic myths to many publications. Arbel has a Ph.D. in liberal arts and has lived and studied in Tel Aviv, Paris, and New York.

GARY MORGENSTEIN most recently wrote the critically acclaimed off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem – Ayn Rand Meets Hunger Games. His plays range from A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx and Right on Target to Ponzi Man, and his novels include Jesse’s Girl, under option to actress Ksenia Solo’s (Orphan Black) production company OnFireFilms, Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. He is currently completing the first novel in his science fiction trilogy, set on the eve of the 22nd Century after the United States lost World War Three.

 

The popular sci-fi radio drama series, Mad Mel and the Marradians, is based on the stories of the Marradians and can be heard at madmelsavestheworld.com and iTunes.

Please visit us at @madmelsaves

For further information contact:

Gary Morgenstein/garythewriter1@gmail.com

 

 

Book Review: “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

“Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

Author: Laura Jane Grace w/ Dan Ozzi
Hachette Books
Hardcover 320

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Tranny” is the intimate story of Against Me!’s enigmatic founder, weaving narrative of the band’s history, as well as Grace’s, with dozens of never before seen entries from the piles of journals Grace kept. More than a typical music memoir about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll “Tranny” is an inside look at one of the most remarkable stories in the history of rock.

Like the in your face title suggests “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout” pulls no punches and is direct and extremely real in its approach. First time Author Laura Jane Grace paints a gritty picture of her unique journey not only through her transition from male to female but also the path her and her band mates took as they navigated a completely different type of transition being that of moving from small independent records labels to the major label markets. From an outsider looking this may seem like a no brainer however Grace does a great job of describing the bands hardships as it clearly was not all big checks, fancy cars and massive notoriety.

“Tranny” is a real life account of two very different types of transitions. The two run parallel with one another providing an interesting continuity which keeps the reader’s attention page after page. The realness taken from Grace’s journal entries do a tremendous job and showcasing the inter turmoil she felt not only as an artist in a changing music market but also on a direct personal level as it relates to her own internal and external transformation from male to female. You will be extremely hard pressed to find another story like that of Laura Jane Grace’s “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”.

Book Review “Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale”

Authors: Nick Nunziata, Mark Cotta Vaz
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Harper Design
Release Date: October 18, 2016

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

This seems to be the year of “Pan’s Labyrinth” getting a resurgence. The film is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary (can’t believe that it has been that long already). This film has been one of my favorites and one of the best from Guillermo Del Toro. When it comes to a visual eye, he is the man to deliver and this film is overloading with beauty and style. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale” gives us an exclusive look into the making of this wonderful modern marvel and does not disappoint. It also is stocked tight with a foreword by Guillermo Del Toro himself. I love his passion and it shows how much work and effort in each one of his films. This is a must owe book for any fan of “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

Official Premise: To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this acclaimed fantasy, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinthprovides the definitive account of the film’s creation. Written in close collaboration with the director, this volume covers everything from del Toro’s initial musings, through to the film’s haunting creature designs, the hugely challenging shoot, and the overwhelming critical and fan reaction upon the its release.

The book dives deep into the production of this amazing movie with some beautiful concept art and rare set photos. If you are looking for the ultimate behind-the-scenes look into Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth then look no further than this book! It is not just pretty photos though this book also has interviews with the film stars Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdu, and Doug Jones and also key players like producers Alfonso Cuarón and Bertha Navarro; and director of photography Guillermo Navarro. This film is a classic and this book represents it perfectly!

Book Review “The Art of Trolls”

Author: Jerry Schmitz
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Cameron + Company
Release Date: October 11, 2016

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

If you had seen the movie “Trolls”, it is colorful and a ton of fun! I know that the “Art of” book would have to be equally as filled with color and excitement to make me happy…and it was and more! Looking through this book each page explodes with energy and vivid color. I was cracking up as my 4 year old looked with me and was making comments on all the other designs for each character on whether she liked them or not. I was actually able to share this with her because she already knows and loves this film and its characters. Highly recommended if you enjoyed the film and looking for an inside look into the making of process

Official Premise: Based on the popular troll dolls created by Thomas Dam, Trolls is a 3-D computer-animated musical comedy from DreamWorks Animation, directed by Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After). Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is an upbeat, if slightly naïve, Troll who inherits her crown on the day her people face the first challenge that can’t be solved with a song or a hug. Accompanied by Branch (Justin Timberlake), they venture out on a quest that tests their strength. Full of playful designs, The Art of Trolls showcases hundreds of pieces of concept and production art to illustrate how DreamWorks’ team of talented artists created an enchanting reinterpretation of the Trolls phenomenon that has gripped popular culture for decades.

The author of the book is Jerry Schmitz, who is no stranger to Art of books. He has done previously “The Art and Making of the Peanuts Movie”, which coincidentally was another that I shared (and loved) with my daughter last year. He also authored “The Art of Shrek Forever After”, which is cool be because the director of “Trolls”, Mike Mitchell, also directed “Shrek Forever After”, so that is a cool connection between those titles and films. Jerry delivers a great combination of art and making of with this book and delivers a book that not only adults but also kids as well.

John Doe discusses his new album “The Westerner” and his book “Under the Big Black Sun”

(Photo Credit: Jim Herrington)

John Doe is a singer, songwriter, poet and actor. He is probably best known for his work with the seminal Los Angeles punk band X which formed in the mid 1970’s. 2016 has been a busy for year for Doe as earlier this year he released his first solo album in five years titled “The Westerner” along with a book chronicling the L.A. punk scene titled “Under the Big Black Sun”. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with John recently before his performance in Ithaca, NY about the idea behind his new album and what it was like revisiting the stories contained in his book.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “The Westerner”?

John Doe: My friend Michael Blake who wrote “Dances with Wolves” and several other books was like a brother to me. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and over time couldn’t remember anything. It bugged the hell out of him but we remained close through everything and I would always go up and visit him. We influenced each other a lot in art and writing. Howe Gelb and I were reconnecting around the same as I was writing songs about Michael and using him as a character. I like what Howe has done with different peoples sound as well as his own in Giant Sand. He has really refocused the sound coming out of the Tucson area. I wanted the songs to have space and reverb so working down there seemed like the natural way to go. I had the title “The Westerner” sort in my mind as someone sent me a Doors record. The Doors were also Michaels favorite band so I began looking up stuff on them and my connection with that band goes way back. I was searching the internet and found an image done for one of their record store day releases. Shepard Fairey is the artist who did the piece and he and I have been friends for some time so I asked if he would redo the piece for me and he said yes. The original photo was shot at the Rose Bud Reservation by Aaron Huey who has an organization called “Protect the Sacred”. This was one of Michael’s main charities so it was great to be able to tie all this stuff in with the album. The album is a tribute album but it’s not sad.

AL: Was the idea to do a new solo album already in your thoughts prior to Michael becoming ill?

JD: Everything happened very organically. These days I sort of sit back and look at my watch and say “Holy shit it’s been 4 years since I made a new record” (Laughs). I always am writing bits and pieces of things but it just so happened that Michael was on my mind and I started to see how things were happening and I began tailoring things with what was going on. I loved the song Exene wrote called “Alone in Arizona”. It seemed to be kind of about Michael even though it really wasn’t. I am a big fan of Chan Marshall especially her albums “The Greatest” and “Sun”. I started doing the song “A Little Help” and realized it was similar to “The Greatest” and asked Chan if she would sing on it with me. With the song “Go Baby Go” I reached out to Debbie Harry as X had toured with Blondie and I had asked her before that if I ever had something I thought she would be good for would she do it. That song is a fun rock song and it worked out great. I am very fortunate that I am still around and that people want to come and play.

AL: Having been in the music industry for some time now aside from digitalization and the internet what has been the most notable change?

JD: MTV was really big when it first came out. All the other stuff out there I don’t really concern myself with. I have Instagram and my manager does Facebook so I have a small to moderate presence with social media but if people really want to see me then I think they should come out to show as I am generally hanging around. There is so much great music out there these days that it’s hard to rise above the static. Think of the old music business like an hour glass. You had the music at the top, at the pinching point was the business at the bottom was the public. Over time the shape of the industry changes to where now it’s square. There is just so much stuff flooding people ears these days.

AL: What can you tell us about your new book “Under the Big Black Sun”?

JD: Tom DeSavia who is the co-author and my sweet heart were both telling me that I should write a book. I thought it was going to be just too much work so I didn’t really pay attention to them. One day I had this brilliant idea about how the scene in L.A. was about community and collaboration. With that I knew that I wouldn’t have to write this book all by myself or suffer the pain if people didn’t like it I could just blame it on somebody else. (Laughs) I didn’t have to be the authority on things. I liked book such as “Please Kill Me” and “We Got the Neutron Bomb” however there is not a lot of fact checking that goes into oral histories. Los Angeles was sort of a romantic place in that era so I thought it was important to have it be its own character. I really feel that everything that is Los Angeles from the weather to the cars affected the way the music sounded. After Tom and I decided to do it we got a book deal and things became real. We got paid a pretty good advance and then we knew we really had to go through with it. We started getting people together and selecting topics based on what was important to that scene and what would make people care. The big one was it was that what happened was a cultural revolution. That was Exene’s big part of the book. Dave Alvin was part of the roots scene which got pulled into punk rock so he is the expert there so, that’s where he tells his story from. Robert Lopez was in a Latino band called The Zeroes. He was not out at this time but he was obviously gay so he was able to talk about that aspect of things. Jane Wiedlin talks about where people lived and how that played a role. By doing things this way we were able to give the book a much broader perspective.

AL: The book shines a light on the L.A. punk scene as it was/is often overshadowed by what was going on in New York and London around the same time. Can you tell us a little about that?

JD: I think at some point the media picked up on The Sex Pistols and few other bands that were young and/or un-experienced who said “Fuck You”. The media then said “Ok, Fuck you” which caused them to not cover things as much. When the L.A. scene finally came around about a year and a half later they possibly had enough images and maybe had made up their mind that we weren’t going to play ball. I think bands like Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones just wanted to be part of music and have a career. That’s what we wanted also. It wasn’t until the hardcore scene that people felt like they had been abandoned leading to bands doing things on their own. That’s when labels like SST started popping up. Everyone had sort of a chip on their shoulder and over time L.A. punk has started to carve out its own niche which has been good. Twenty or thirty years ago I would have probably been pretty bent out of shape about how the L.A. scene was looked upon but these days I couldn’t care less.

AL: Was there a present rivalry between the two coasts/scenes because of this?

JD: Sure. I think there was a healthy rivalry between New York and L.A. and L.A. and San Francisco but it wasn’t anything to wild. I do remember Exene getting into a fight with Handsome Dick from The Dictators once. (Laughs) What we loved about the whole thing was that almost all of those bands came out to Los Angeles to play at The Whiskey. We saw The Ramones, Blondie, The Damned, Television and a few others who played out our way regularly.

AL: What was it like for X when they would travel to the east coast?

JD: It was rough at first. Exene’s sister got us three shows in NYC in 1978 after we put out our first single. We basically drove from L.A. to New York with all of our gear, played three shows and then drove home. There is a little of that in the book but it was sort of a lukewarm reception. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein came to the shows at Studio 57 and later on we got to be pals with The Ramones. It took a little while because everyone thought L.A. was just swimming pools and Farrah Fawcett. You weren’t just given a Mercedes when you moved there. It was a pretty hard scramble. It was cheap to live there at the time though so there were a lot of young people with nothing to do but create stuff.

AL: What was it like revisiting a lot of the memories from that time period, especially the ones around the time of the death of Exene’s sister?

JD: That specific event wasn’t hard to dig into as I had experienced it so deeply in the beginning. It changed everything for Exene and by relation me too. It wasn’t too hard to look back. I don’t necessarily wish I had kept diaries or anything. It might have been good? You sort of start channeling towards a certain direction and things start to come back. I think it’s all about the details. I worked with everyone who wrote for the book and I always asked for more details. I think everyone was happy to tell their story and I was surprised by quite a few of them.

AL: With your current solo tour coming to end do you have planned for the coming year?

JD: The fortieth anniversary of X is coming up next year. We have the initial schedule which consists of around one hundred shows! Usually we do between thirty and fifty shows a year so this is quite a bit more. I think it’s great! Forty years ago we put a big investment into the bank of punk rock. At the time everyone though it was bullshit but we all have been able to make pretty good careers out of that initial investment. We are one of the few remaining punk bands from that time with its original members. Everyone is healthy now which is really great. We also will be looking to put out some live material and if Exene will write some more lyrics will put out some new songs as well. (Laughs)

Book Review: “I Am Brian Wilson”

“I Am Brian Wilson”
Author: Brian Wilson w/ Ben Greenman
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 307 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

In October Da Capo press released “I Am Brian Wilson” the in-depth story of Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson. Together with writer Ben Greenman the enigmatic Wilson documents the poetic lyricism, inspiration and creativity behind his vast discography while at the same time showing a man who is over-time coming to terms with his past.

After reading just one chapter of “I Am Brian Wilson” I wanted more. Over the course of the books 307 pages Wilson and Greenman delve deeper than anyone has ever been as they recount the life and times of one of music’s most reclusive figures. This book is simply not a tell-all as it relates to the Beach Boys. Though that might disappoint some readers for others it will be a breath of fresh air and shine the light on a number of areas related to Wilson and his music. The writer is extremely candid about all subjects ranging to his relationships with Beach Boy members past and present, the failed and subsequent revival of the album “SMiLE” and also about his long struggle with mental illness. No stone is left unturned as the man who penned such classics as “I Get Around”, Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Good Vibrations” talks about some of his biggest insecurities and how he has been able to battle his internal demons during several rough patches in an effort to be able to keep doing what he loves to do.

You aren’t going to find any other story like that of Brian Wilson’s. Very rarely if ever will you find a person with Brian’s notoriety be as truthful and forth coming as he is in this book. “I Am Brian Wilson” is an emotional roller coaster for both the story teller and the reader making this one ride that is definitely worth the price of admission.