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.

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

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)

Rumer Willis discusses her upcoming “Over the Love” tour.

 (Photo Credit: Tyler Shields)

Rumer Willis may be the daughter of Hollywood heavy weights Bruce Willis and Demi Moore however her own career is nothing to be ashamed of having appeared not only in a number of television series and films but she also enjoyed a successful stint on Broadway as well. Rumer’s latest project has her singing front in center on her debut music tour which is being called the “Over the Love” Tour. Media Mikes had the opportunity to talk with Rumer recently about the upcoming tour and her foray in to music.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on your relationship with music and your decision to start performing live?

Rumer Willis: I have been singing since I was very young. I think I spent quite a bit of time coming up with the best way for me to outlet my music. There have been actors and children of successful parents who have tried to come out and do an album after they have been successful at something else. I always wanted to make sure that when I did do that that I did things right. I didn’t try to put something out there just to have something out. I wanted to make sure that how I present myself is truly what I want to share with people. I feel what we are about to do really represents myself.

AL: What can you tell us about your upcoming debut tour?

RW: I got the idea after performing at a place called the Café Carlisle. A friend of mine mentioned that I should think about doing a full tour as he thought it could totally work. I had never really thought that something like that was possible with me carrying the whole thing. When we started looking more in to the idea and things started to come together we got more and more excited. I never thought I could do music like this or that there was an audience for it. Each show should be really great as it won’t just be me up there singing. I plan to talk a little bit about the songs and explain a little bit about what they mean to me.

AL: How did you go about putting your band together and also selecting the songs for the show?

RW: The band is made up of people I have done shows with before and they are all friends of mine. The songs I selected are more cabaret and jazz type songs. Those are where my normal musical interests are. Even on a daily basis I listen to those types of music. I think there is something to be said about music that really captures emotion. All the songs I picked make me feel something when I hear them and hopefully I can deliver the same response to the people in the audience.

AL: How has performing in a band setup compared to you performing on Broadway?

RW: On Broadway along with the singing there is also a lot about acting as well so it’s a package. There are a lot of things to look at during a Broadway show. Everything is moving very fast and is very colorful. When you are doing a show with a band it’s just you. You have to be more vulnerable and be able to connect with the audience. It’s almost like you are having a conversation.

AL: Overall what has been your transition like moving from film to music?

RW: For me in a weird way it never felt like I was transitioning from one thing to another. Both music and acting have always both been my passion. Thankfully I never was really forced to choose one or the other. I do think figuring out which projects to be in and auditioning was a lot easier than figuring out how I wanted to put myself out there as a musician.

AL: Are there plans to do more shows after this first initial run?

RW: With this first tour I wanted to make sure I played enough places to where I could give people a good idea as to what I am about. I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew for a first tour so we are going to be figuring out what works and what doesn’t as we go along. My philosophy for this whole thing is not to get too big for my britches. Just because someone says they are a good singer or puts on a good show doesn’t mean they really are or can. You have to prove to people that you are worth their time. At the end of the day I want people to come out and just be able to have a great time.

AL: With a new season of “Dancing With The Stars” just starting and you being a past Mirror Ball champion what are your predictions for this year?

RW: I think that Val and Laurie are a very strong team. I think that Laurie is very talented and they have a really strong chance of winning. I am definatley behind them one hundred percent.

For a list of tour dates be sure to check out http://www.Overthelovetour.comfor a complete listing and info

Jag 13 of Eat The Turnbuckle discusses the bands latest EP “The Great American Bash Your Head In”

Eat The Turnbuckle is a heavy metal band hailing from Philadelphia, PA. Despite being from “The City of Brotherly Love” the groups sound and stage show which features elements of extreme wrestling couldn’t be further from the cities well know moniker. The band recently released a new EP titled “The Great American Head Bash In” and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with the bands vocalist Jag 13 to discuss the new EP, the group’s intense stage shows and their plans for the remainder of 2016.

Adam Lawton: Is Eat the Turnbuckle a band who wrestles or, wrestler that play in a band?

Jag 13: It’s kind of both honestly. Some of the older guys in the band used to wrestle and Shlak one of our guitarists wrestles now for CZW. For me personally I have always been into both wrestling and music. Philadelphia has always been a great town for wrestling and when I was younger I remember the WWF coming through a lot. I got to see the whole ECW thing come into play as well. With music I think that’s something almost everyone gets in to at a young age so I have been in to both for as long as I can remember.

AL: What can you tell us about the bands most recent EP?

Jag 13: We did “The Great American Bash Your Head In” for our most recent tour. We try and have new material out each time we go on the road. If we know we are going to be heading out at a certain time we start writing and putting things together. This EP has 5 new songs which have been going over really well so far. We only did one show here in the states on this run with the rest of the dates being over in Europe. We did about 22 shows over there and wrapped things up with our performance at this year’s Gwar B-Q inn Virginia. We were actually supposed to do one other show however we had to cancel due to our drummer having a broken ankle. He actually broke it the second day of tour and finally went to the hospital on the fourth day of the tour. He had a cast on but didn’t miss one show. Like a dummy he took the cast off when we got back home and things got messed up even worse.(Laughs)

AL: Speaking of the Gwar B-Q. This was the second time you guys have been asked to play. How did this year’s event differ from the previous year you performed?

Jag 13: The first time we played they had us going on pretty early. Something happened with the doors and we ended up playing to a small group as a lot of people were stuck at the gates. I think the reception from those who saw was really good and the fact that a lot of people who wanted to see us couldn’t helped with us getting asked back this year. This year was off the hook! We played the Slutman Pavilion which was a lot of fun. I think I would prefer playing that stage over one of the bigger stages. We have sort of gotten used to playing on smaller stages but even if we were on the bigger stage things would have definitely spilled over. (Laughs) A bigger stage means we have to do bigger gimmicks!

AL: With your show incorporating extreme/hardcore wrestling elements and references what was the European reception like being that type of wrestling isn’t as common there?

Jag 13: I think those things were why we have caught on so well over there. They don’t have the hardcore and extreme matches in their wrestling shows so this is something new for them. We had people coming up to us after the shows who weren’t fans of the music but they came out to check out the wrestling. We played a lot of smaller countries over there and those people just ate it up. They loved watching the shows. We did a festival in the Czech Republic where they actually got a wring for us. Shlak ended up wrestling the Champ from the league there in a death match. It was in front of about five thousand people and it was just crazy. Both the guys needed to get stitched up afterwards.

AL: What type of planning goes into one of your shows being that not only are you performing musically but you are also including wrestling elements as well?

Jag 13: We argue a lot. (Laughs) Right before the show we sort of get the lay of the land and plan out what we are going to do. At the same time we have work with the venue to make sure we know what we can and can’t do. Like when we did the Gwar B-Q you can’t have any glass. Every show is a little different so we have to just go with the flow. People have been really accommodating. We have all been in bands that have crazy stage shows. That’s how we all came together. Philadelphia has a history of violent shows so we sort of just fit in to that. When things started to get a little more PC within the scene myself and Shlak started gathering guys who still wanted something crazy.

AL: Do you ever feel that the graphic nature of your shows limits your audience?

Jag 13: We have had shows cancelled due to people finding out about our shows and in turn not wanting anything to do with it. At this point I have become so used to that type of thing that it doesn’t bother me. If they don’t want us, they don’t want us. We have a pretty good booking agent who lets all the places know what type of show we put on. Some of the show we have done in the past we just showed up and started going at it. (Laughs) That tended not to work out real well for any one.

AL: With your drumming being laid up with an injury does that end the year for you or do you still have things plans?

Jag 13: We don’t have anything planned until October then after that we don’t anything planned until spring time of next year. We have some bids in on tours that we think will work well for us here in the states so we have our fingers crossed.

For more info on Eat The Turnbuckle be sure to check out the bands official website at www.facebook.com/eattheturnbuckle

Death Valley High frontman Reyka Osburn discusses “CVLT [AS FVK]”

Reyka Osburn is the vocalist/guitarist for the California based goth/rock band Death Valley High. The group is set to release their second full length album on November 4th 2016 titled “CVLT [AS FVK]” and Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Reyka about the albums creation, the addition of guitarist Sean Bivins and the group’s plans for 2016/2017.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the band and how everything came together?

Reyka Osburn: Death Valley High was sort of born out of my previous band Tinfed. Things had sort of begun to get a bit watered down towards the end of it. I wanted to keep doing a project that was going to be darker so eventually Tinfed disbanded and I kept going with the start of Death Valley High. When the band first started I had some people from the previous project on board but when we started playing live was when I started to get new members in the band as I continued to flesh things out. It really just grew from there.

AL: What can you tell us about the band’s new album which has sort of a unique title?

RO: We were looking for something that was us. We were all having sort of a tough time pin pointing where we were at so we thought that by blending the night culture that we love with dance/death rock/goth clubs with the hardcore scene which we also love. “Cvlt [AS Fvk]” was a morphing of several ideas we put together from various ideas.

AL: What has the addition of guitarist Sean Bivins been like for the group?

RO: We had been having Sean come out on tour with us so when it was time to record everything felt very natural. It was great to have Shawn help fill things out while still being able to keep our signature tone but with something a little more. We were able to mix in some more modern tones which were really cool. It was great for us as a band to have all this new stuff put together before going in to record.

AL: How did your partnering with producer Ulrich Wild come about for this record?

RO: Ulrich had approached actually and we just hit it off. He asked what we were looking for which led to us talking about some of his previous work with White Zombie. He told us about how he did those albums and things ended up being a lot of fun. We were able to throw any ideas at him and if it was worthy of keeping he would make it work. Ulrich was willing to give things his best sot to make sure we got what we wanted. I feel you can hear all the work we put into this record and the relationship between the band and Ulrich as well.

AL: How did you go about choosing “Warm Bodies” as the album’s first single?

RO: All the songs are my babies. “Warm Bodies” was one we completed later on in the recording process. We got everything laid out and people started just gravitating towards that song. We started playing the song live to test it out and crowds were definitely in to it so we ran with it. I think there is a bunch of great single worthy tracks on the album which makes me question if this one is the strongest but we have gotten a lot of good feedback thus far with this track.

AL: Have you started to map out any touring plans to support the release?

RO: We have some European things happening along with a few other things which are being scheduled for both this year and next. There are talks of both tours and a few festival dates as well.

For more info on Death Valley High be sure to check out their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/deathvalleyhigh

Binary Code’s Jesse Zuretti discusses the bands latest release “Moonsblood”

Jesse Zuretti is the founding member of the New Jersey based progressive metal band Binary Code. The group recently released their four full-length album titled “Moonsblood” in May of this year and are set to begin touring in support of the release in July. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jesse recently about the new album, his new found writing freedom and about the groups upcoming summer tour.

Ryan Albro: It seems a lot has changed in the band over the last 7 years since your first album was released, most notably, line-up changes. How much would you say the band has changed over that period of time?

Jesse Zuretti: That time period was mostly due to the writing process. This is the first release we have done where I was in control of writing the entire thing. I would say that because it was put into a position of songs get written when they get written instead of forcing them out it took a little bit of time. The end result was songs truer to the mindset that I was in each time they were written. Since nothing was forced it kind of allowed the songs to come at a natural pace, which is for me, in hindsight, a better way for the music to come about in the natural process. My drummer and I at the time used to jam a lot and write songs very quickly because we both had one another to hash things out with. This new stuff comes from me sitting down and very methodically coming up with the songs and being able to emphasize more of a song structure behind it. In my opinion as much as I like the contribution from the whole band it was definitely easier for me to come up with the songs in those moments. In the future there’s going to be a lot more involvement from the guys that are in the band right now. It will be more of a fusion. I think it’s for the best.

RA: What was the recording and writing process like this time around versus your previous releases?

JZ: The last two releases that we did were a combination of DYI mixed with help from a friend of ours who was manning the studio. It was very hands on for me in the recording process the last time. This time it was 100% we had a producer there. He would very uniformly tell me when things were right and wrong. The input from having an outside prospective on the music really helped with getting the best out of the music. It’s always really good to have a second set of ears on something. Having Eyal Levi involved with his music background thrown into the mix with guys who aren’t super musically schooled really made me a better musician at the end because the amount of preparation that goes into recording with Eyal is unbelievable. You go into it and you come out a better musician. In the past we would write a song and then show up to the studio. This time I would write the song and have it pre-produced. That would give me the option of look back at the songs and adding or changing things that I wish I could have done before. I just really got to have my influences shine through a little bit more because it was kind of like a representation of the song writing that I do.

RA: That album art is killer, what can you tell us about that?

JZ: The artist who did it, his name is Acid Toad, he’s an artist from Bangalore. I was blown away when I first saw his artwork. He does everything with paper and ink. I just feel like the market in the progressive metal scene right now in terms of art is very homogenous. There’s a constant flow of similarities between the bands, like everyone is drawing influence from another band. This guy’s artwork is so otherworldly that I thought he would be the guy. We had a lot of amazing guys do art for us and we noticed a lot of it was similar to the style of other bands and we didn’t want to do that. He was awesome, he’s going to do stuff for us in the future without a doubt. I really want to have a relationship with an artist. The influence behind that was the relationship H.R. Giger had with the band Triptykon and their history together. I really wanted to do the same thing with this guy.

RA: What made you to decide to release the album yourselves?

JZ: It came down to whether or not we wanted to continue waiting for a business opportunity to come along to help with the release. We had just been waiting so long. We all decided it was time we did this on our own and it ended up being really exciting for us. I expected to be devastated be the idea of doing this on our own after all this time and it actually was a very exciting thing for us. We’re really happy to be doing it this way. There’s definitely a possibility of it in the future, just at this point we had to make a move.

RA: What are your plans to tour the highly anticipated new material?

JZ: We have a tour that’s being worked out for the end of July into August. We decided instead of wearing ourselves thin with a one month long tour we’re going to have a little space in-between and change it up with different bands. That will be hitting most of the U.S. After that we have something we’re working on with a band from Norway. We’re not really at a point where we can really say who it is, but they’re a band that we’ve played with before. We’re hoping that works out and the line-up for that tour’s killer and if that goes through that will be September. We’re definitely going to be a very busy band over the summer. We put so much work into the music and we waited so long and have been so patient, so the best thing for us is to go out and work as hard as we can.

Comedian Margaret Cho discusses her new album “American Myth”

Actress/Musician/Comedian Margaret Cho is set to release her second music album titled “American Myth” on April 29th. The album is the follow up to her 2010 debut release “Cho Dependent” which help add musician to the artists already impressive skill set. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Margaret recently about the new album, her current project with Amazon.com and about just what happened at The Stress Factory on March 26th.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on your new music album “American Myth”

Margaret Cho: I always write music as it’s something I enjoy and is a part of my life. I worked on a majority of the album with Garrison Starr who is a really great artist and someone I have worked with before. She came down to right with me while I was living in Atlanta and I also had a few sketches of songs that I had done on my own. This is the first record where I actually did all the melodies and composed the pieces. I had never done that in the past which made things really exciting. I think the album is really beautiful.

AL: A lot of the song lyrics seem to be very personal. Can you tell us about writing from that perspective?

MC: A lot of the songs on the album deal with loss and compassion. They deal with a lot of human emotions. The songs are very anthemic as I appreciate a good rock anthem. I also did a memorial song on this album titled “Anna Nicole” which is about Anna Nicole Smith. We recently shot a video for this song as well which feature a variety of Anna Nicole impersonators running around a castle. This will be the third video for a song off the new album as I also did videos for “Come With Me” and “Kill My Rapist”. It was a lot of fun running around a castle filled with hundreds of Anna Nicole impersonators.

AL: What was it about releasing a music album that was more appealing than say a new comedy album from your recently aired comedy special?

MC: The stand show album will be coming out as part of the DVD release of the special. That’s something that will generally always come out. The music album is a very different undertaking. It is something that is very personal to me. Stand Up comedy is also very personal but music is a different part of my work.

AL: Over the past few years you have become very involved with bringing attention to homelessness in various cities here in the U.S. Can you tell us how you got involved in that?

MC: The “Be Robin” events are kind of a way for me to honor the life of Robin Williams and to be an advocate for the homeless population. We have events going on all the time in lots of different cities. I can’t always be at the events because of my schedule but we try to have them whenever I have the chance. They end up just being these big, crazy, fun events. There is actually a documentary about this as well which has been sort of a way for us to bring closure to the grief caused from his passing.

AL: What other projects are you currently working on?

MC: I am working on a pilot for Amazon right now called “Highlands”. The show is a comedy/drama about an Asian-American family involved in the marijuana business. I am working with Liz Sarnoff who has worked on “Lost” and “Deadwood”. She is a real genius. We just finished the script and start shooting soon. Everyone at Amazon has been really wonderful as they let the artist be themselves. They have really given a lot of creative freedom to the project which I feel has been priceless.

AL: You have quite a few live dates lined up can you tell us about those and also give us an update on the recent incident that occurred during your show at

MC: I will be in Detroit during the middle of April and then in Nashville at the beginning of May. As for what happened recently at the Stress Factory Comedy Club I speak about a lot of personal things in my shows. I talk about rape and sexual abuse because I feel it’s important to discuss those things. We are living in an age where as a survivor you don’t have to stay silent. That sometimes can be very confrontational to people and an audience. It can be very upsetting. Some jokes are meant to make you laugh while others are to make you think. As comedians we try to wake people up so there is this weird thing when people get angry but that’s part of the great arc of comedy. I am going to be going back to the Stress Factory for a makeup show with those who were there. I want to do a reenactment of what happened and talk to the audience members about why they got upset. (Laughs) It would be fun to bring in Dr. Phil to moderate. I love comedy so much and don’t want to hurt it or the Stress Factory as it is a really important venue in that it’s an independent club owned by comedians. The place is like a dojo and holy to me so I want to invite everyone back and to work this out. We will buy them dinner and drinks and allow them to have a conversation with one another. I think it could be very funny.

Luke Hemsworth discusses new film “Kill Me Three Times”

Now available on Video On Demand and opening Friday April 10th in New York City, “Kill Me Three Times” is an Australian dark comedy thriller from director Kriv Stenders. The film centers around sniper Charlie Wolfe (an amusingly malicious Simon Pegg) who’s being paid to execute a hit on Alice (Alice Braga), the cheating wife of Jack (Callan Mulvey). Little does Wolfe know that Jack is not the only person out for his target and bloody mayhem and blackmail ensues.

Luke Hemsworth takes on the role of Dylan the tough mechanic with whom Alice is carrying on her affair. I got a chance to speak with Luke on a phone call from LA about the film, working in Australia and his recent stint on Saturday Night Live with younger brothers, Chris and Liam.

Lauren Damon: The film is kind of crazy, who first introduced you to the project?
Luke Hemsworth: That’s a good question, I think someone sent the script and said ‘have a read of this, if you like it, let’s talk more about it’. And of course I read it you know in one go—which  is always a good sign—and then I jumped on Skype with Kriv and you know, we were all on the same page and then from that point we went on and did a chemistry reading with Alice Braga and that obviously went pretty well and here we are!

LD: Was Alice already signed on at that point when you did the chemistry read?
LH: She was signed on. She had been signed on for like five years or ten years or something, she was signed on since she was a little kid I think! [Laughs]

LD: How would you describe your character Dylan?
LH: I would describe him as a loyal, humane puppy dog who is forced to deal with revenge and deals with it pretty well!

LD: Was it more appealing for you that Dylan is one of the characters that is decent and can have a happy ending versus everyone else?
LH: Yeah, it’s an added bonus I think. I haven’t even looked at it from that point of view—the journey is you know, that’s the fun part.

LD: Your journey mostly includes scenes with gunfights and you get a car chase. Did you have  fun making that? Had you experienced that before?
LH: Soooo much fun! I’ve experienced a little bit of that, but yeah…it was a complete blast. I got to do some really good, heisty you know, funny stuff. There wasn’t a day on set I didn’t enjoy and think ‘gee I really wanna be here.”

LD: Particularly was it fun having a big standoff with Simon Pegg’s character?
LH: Yeah, I mean it was great. It was really at the start of what we were doing. I think it was one of my first days was the stand off with Simon Pegg. And we kinda hung out and got to know each other, so yeah, it’s just such an interesting dynamic when that happens. And fortunately Simon is like the coolest guy in the world so we got on really well and we had an awesome time.

LD: Contrary to the bloody fights, you’re really in the most beautiful settings, how was it to shoot on these locations and was that an intentional juxtaposition?
LH: Oh for sure, yeah. The locations became a character in a way, so it was very intentional. For me, it was a huge added bonus to work not only as an actor, but also a human being I got to spend time surfing and you know, playing in an area of my native country, which is exceptionally rugged and beautiful with amazingly grounded people.

LD: Are you still based in Australia generally or have you also moved to Hollywood?
LH: I’ve been here for two years now, yeah, I’d moved before this all happened. And of course you when you make the move, then something’s happening back in Australia or somewhere else. So I spent a little bit of time back in Australia.

LD: So you were in LA when you got this part in Australia?
LH:
I was yeah I got taken back two or three times, I did another project called Infini with Shane Abbess, who directed Gabriel, which also drops very soon—comes out in May I think—which is amazing, another amazing Australian kind of phenomenon which I’m sure we’ll be talking about soon.

LD: I noticed up until recently, you have a lot of television credits, does that affect at all how you approach a project? Do you prefer one or the other?
LH: No, I definitely don’t have—I don’t care one or the other, you kind of approach them both the same. Yeah, definitely approach them both the same. There’s a level of you know, pre-production work and research which goes into each character which goes into each and every day. I think that kind of falls away and hopefully you’re left with something which looks presentable [laughs].

LD: Do you foresee pursing more films going forward?
LH: Umm, yes and no, you know I don’t rule out one or the other. I’m about to start shooting West World for HBO so you know that’s TV but it’s…kind of—

LD: Their slogan is ‘it’s not TV, it’s HBO!’
LH: Yeah! It’s the pinnacle of TV. You know it’s Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Bad Robot are producing so you know it’s a huge project.

LD: If you’re allowed to talk about about that at all, what’s your Westworld role like?
LH: I’m like the head of tech security for the army and it’s the robot part. The human technological side. I can’t give much too away other than that I think.

LD: Thanks! Of course the last time I saw you on US TV, you were on SNL a last month with your brothers, what was that like?
LH: [Laughs] It was great! I mean hilarious. You know a huge kind of notch on the belt for me, definitely. For all of us. Chris did such a wonderful job, incredibly honored to be a part of that process. It was fun.

LD: Is SNL as iconic to Australian viewers as it is here?
LH:  To certain Australians, definitely. Maybe not as much as Americans, but you know I know of it, I definitely hear of  a lot about SNL. Maybe not the same kind of love and mystery that it does here, but definitely a huge honor, absolutely.

Once again, Kill Me Three Times premieres this week at NYC’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema and is still available on VOD. Meanwhile, as Luke said, you can next look for him in Infini, opening on May 8th.

VITAL Emcee discusses his newest mixtape ‘F.A.G.’ (Free of All Guilt)

From California to China to Australia, VITAL Emcee has been crossing oceans to bring literacy and integrity to the hip hop community. Having been putting out albums since the early 2000’s with various projects: Seekret Socyetee’s ‘The Il2 Word’ (2002), 2 Drunk’n Poets ‘Blurry Wisdom’ (2003), he dropped his first solo record in 2006 with ‘The Secrets of the Invisible Man’; followed by ‘Versus-Verses’ in 2010.

The Spring of 2015 has seen the release of his newest mixtape ‘F.A.G.’ (Free of All Guilt). VITAL recently spoke with me about the impetus of this album, and how he finds ways to mix samples of Elton John, Adele, and Pink Floyd with his unrelenting and raw lyrics about sex, strength, bigotry, and the boogeyman.

BCA: How long ago did you first conceive this project? And what was the one major element that was preventing you from starting it?
VE: ‘Free of All Guilt’ was a concept initially envisioned by the Optimist (my producer at the time) back in early 2010. He had said that if anyone can do it and make waves it would be me. He had offered me his full attention within writing and recording in order to put the project out. I jumped on it as I agreed with him, but therein started my own personal internal struggle. I was already out of the closet to my friends and family, but it started to worry me regarding how it would affect my professional life, i.e. VITAL Emcee. I neither wanted to alienate myself or my fan-base so it brought me to a creative stifle. I recorded a few songs for the project but they didn’t seem as genuine as they could be. Looking back on that time, the songs were genuine, I was just still unsure of myself in the position of “gay rapper.” It took blankets of time and experience to finally reconcile my own personal issues to get me back to my “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-punk-rock” mind-state. Everything in due time I guess.

BCA: When compared to your previous two releases, ‘The Secrets of the Invisible Man’, and ‘Versus-Verses’; ‘Free of All Guilt’ undoubtedly has the most pop appeal, and has the ability to reach a wider audience. Yet, the overall theme of ‘F.A.G.’ could be very shocking. Was this intentional? Or was it just a natural progression of your music?
VE: It definitely is an intentional thing. Given the subject matter, I wanted to make it more palatable by mainstream standards, while bridging it with my underground hip hop/punk rock type of mentality. I knew it would kick up a stink and I had to figure how best to present it as a professional artist. I do care about the listener at the end of the day, but I had to do for me. My tastes and convictions have grown since ‘Invisible Man’ and I think there is an adequate reflection of that inherent in this project. In the future, I’ll revisit some of my old themes that I still would like to reinvestigate, but the point being is I was angry during ‘Invisible Man’, searching in ‘VERSUS’ and now here I am full circle with a more solidified renewal of self. Plus, the part of myself that wants to be a star was satiated on this mix-tape. And it will be as the future becomes more tangible.

BCA: Religion, and especially religious imagery, has always been a constant reference in your writings. Is it just you being poetic, or has religion and faith been a big influence in your life?
VE: Religion is a big part of who I am. It’s not something I preach or even genuinely back, but it is a huge part of my foundation as a person. For the record, I despise religion or anything that would make certain “biases” law. Any side of religion has never done any good for anyone. I don’t judge those who find solace in it, I just ask them not to judge me either. We all have our own paths and are entitled to our own opinions. Matter of fact, I really don’t fault the deities in any given religion, it’s the zealots who refuse to study history and act on things with blind faith that I have issues with. There’s no such thing as a greater good, as labels like this strip humanity from the human race and place destiny in the clay palms of a myth. The imagery however has always piqued my interests, just in the way that horror films and certain other elements of pop culture does. I’ve always been intrigued with the dark side of human nature, and being raised as a devout Christian, it permeates my writing. These days, however, I am more into shining a light on those things which make me happy. Those things that make me feel human and make me fight for a lifetime worth living.

BCA: Have you found there to be a regular pattern as to how a track emerges? A lyric first, or a beat, a sample you want to use? Or does it change with each song?
VE: Each track is its own entity and so can come about in its own way. During the embryonic state, I could have an idea I want to explore, or I could just have a line I want to elaborate on and it evolves into a verse and an entire song thereafter. There can be a beat that I’m feeling and I write to that when the mood strikes. I know every artist has their own way about how they do things, but for my workflow, it’s just what approach is deemed best for each particular situation. Obviously with ‘F.A.G.’ the whole concept was decided on before the writing process began, but each song still remained important as a standalone while the skeletal structure for the mix-tape was being put together.

BCA: On ‘F.A.G.’ you use bits of Elton John, Adele, and Pink Floyd; and in previous albums you have made a reference to Iron Maiden. Your taste in music seems to be rather eclectic. Whom in your life do you credit for getting you first interested in music?
VE: Michael Jackson: plain and simple. I don’t think anyone in my generation would answer differently.

BCA: I understand the acknowledgement to Michael Jackson; but is there anyone in your family, or a childhood friend, that inspired you to follow your dreams of writing and making music, or perhaps turned you on to a certain genre of music?
VE: As far as my childhood goes, I was always naturally gravitated toward music. Instead of toys, I would ask my mom for records and tapes. This could have been anything from Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” to Wham! to the LA Dream Team. My older cousin Gary always turned me on to good stuff when I was 6-7 too. He put me onto things like Prince, Morris Day and the Time, Midnight Star and that funky shit that which I still love to this day. Hip-Hop came to me in the form of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. When I first heard “Parents Just Don’t Understand” it changed my life… ‘cuz at 7 years old, those were the truest words I had ever heard. I started paying more attention to Hip Hop music from then on getting into N.W.A. and 2 Live Crew and those things I wasn’t supposed to listen to. Digital Underground comes to mind. That being said though, I also loved the metal music that was introduced to me through my stepfather. That’s why I’m still a fan of guys like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. All of these different ingredients kept brewing into one whole recipe in my later years. As a teenager it was Pac, Quik, OutKast, and Bone Thugs along with countless Bay Area cats. It was Sublime, Pink Floyd and Wu-Tang with the more than occasional catchy pop tune thrown into the mix. Pantera and the Misfits entered the playlist as did bands like AFI and Soilwork. When I met Matt Embree (RX Bandits) and we did the Seekret Socyetee record back in 2002 that was the dude who made me see music as tangible and pursuable. Consequently, he is also the first person I ever came out to, aside from my mother.

BCA: Touching back, you said you were angry during ‘Invisible Man’, and searching during ‘VERSUS’? Where did your anger come from? Who were you angry at? Your own self? And what do you think you were searching for?
VE: Honestly my anger came from insecurity. I was gay and I felt out of place in Hip Hop because of it. No one ever put me on blast or anything like that as it became more and more known within the local scene, but just within my own shoes, I felt different. I had friends and family, but the part of me that had issues as a fledgeling gay man (even though I was out) felt isolated. I had no gay friends and thought I’d be seen as too effeminate in Hip Hop as well as too “straight” for a gay audience. That sounds funny in hindsight, but at the time it was my whole world. That’s why ‘Invisible Man’ was so dark in its exploration of the existence I lived. On top of it all, there was a situation of unrequited love (if you could call it that), and my drug use at the time had gotten out of hand. This all combined into a perfect storm of angst that went into making that record… and I still love that those moments were captured because it was one of the realest and most vivid moments to put that album together. I fancied myself as a modern day Arthur Rimbaud looking for his Verlaine. I wish someone would have told me then to be careful for that wish. When it came time to record ‘VERSUS’, I had found my counterpart and counterpoint and went through all the ups and downs of an unhealthy relationship, eventually ending up in jail for domestic abuse (which was bullshit to no end, but remember this is two men–not a man battering a woman) and ultimately ending the relationship. It tore me apart but I honestly was more complete in my self so I wasn’t as angry as I was with ‘Invisible Man.’ I was emancipated if you will and it made me free to approach ‘VERSUS’ from any angle. It was a renewal, hence the resurrection in the first track. I think I may have been a little too scattered with that record, even though I still think it is well made and well put together. The only direction I had was to assert myself even further as a Hip Hop heavyweight and lyrical legend… two concepts I could give a shit about now, as I’m just me and that’s all I’m able to give. The search brought me to this place inside…and now I’m stronger than ever.

BCA: Final question. Are the gloves off?
VE: The gloves are off and the knuckles are bleeding.

‘F.A.G.’ is available for free at: www.vitalemceeonline.com

Seth Avett discusses new album “Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith”

Singer/Songwriters Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield have combined their talents for the first time on record with the release of “Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith”. The album features 11 stripped down songs handpicked from singer/songwriter Elliot Smith’s diverse catalog. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Seth recently about the creation of the album, the duo’s tour plans and other projects Seth has in the works for 2015.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background info on the album and what was about Elliot Smith’s work that initially appealed to you?
Seth Avett: Elliot Smith is one of those artists that I feel if you are meant to hear his work you will. I think what drew us to him is what draws people to most music. It’s sort of a cascade of beautiful melodies that we have attempted to follow in a very real way. The writing is very honest and it attempts to show you through the lyrics. I have always been drawn to music that does this and I think Elliot is one of the strongest examples of that over the last few decades. How this all sort of came together was that Jessica opened for the Avett Brothers at a show we were doing in Sun Valley, Idaho in 2011. We hung out with Jessica for a few days and on the last day that we were hanging out at the venue it was her and I in a small practice room with just a piano. I started plinking out the chords for the song “Twilight” and Jessica was very into it. I sort of had a moment where I thought everything just sounded amazing. I don’t think I thought of a record at that moment but I could sort of feel things aligning. I had a small hand held recorder with me and made a recording of what we were doing. I ended up listening to that over and over again which got me thinking about what it would be like to do a whole album like that.

AL: How did you go about choosing the tracks from Elliot’s diverse catalog?
SA: I try to always do my best and follow the path of least resistance. We sort of gravitated to songs from later in Elliot’s career with a big focus on songs off of “From a Basement on the Hill”. Jessica and I gravitated towards that album as it was a personal favorite of both of ours however we also wanted to make sure that we represented Elliot’s other works as well. Basically we each brought in 7 or 8 songs and then started to see how they would go together with us singing them. Pretty much what we ended up taking to the recording studio made the album with the exception of the song “L.A.”. That song almost made it. It had really great energy but ultimately we chose not to go the full way with it.

AL: How did you go about balancing your duties as both performer and producer?
SA: Any sort of conflict I might have had I think certainly came more from trying to do the material justice. My production style is more of a non-production type style. I like to let the music take shape and let it go with the flow a little bit. I don’t like thing to feel like I have to make a suggestion or plan for everything. I really enjoyed being able to produce this record and was extremely honored in the fact that Jessica trusted me enough to make those production related calls and to push her performances. Our trust for each other certainly was taken to another level with this project.  From a performer stand point I sort of look at the two roles as one in the same. I love being very hands on and rolling up all of the roles into one and just running with it worked well for me.

AL: Do you find your creative process to be the same working on a project like as compared to your work with The Avett Brothers?

SA: It changes entirely. When I am making music with my brother things tend to trickle down to the band. That process is much more laborious as there are more than just myself giving input or direction. There is a lot of passing back and forth during that creative process. When I am writing for just myself there is less of that back and forth collaboratively. I feel working from both sides’ benefits the overall process as a whole.

AL: Can you tell us about the shows you have planned in support of the release?
SA: The shows are going to have a very stripped down approach. The plan is to only have three performers on the stage. We will have a stand up bassist, acoustic guitar and a pianist/vocalist. The shows will be very intimate and I hope will provide a nice back and forth with the audience. We will be playing a lot of songs of the album as well as some of both mine and Jessica’s solo material. The tour is to support the record but the show its self will not read that like.

AL: Can you tell us about any other plans you have for this year?
SA: It’s going to be a busy year. The band is already chomping at the bit to get out there as the winter is generally our down time. We are fully into making a new record at this point though as couple months back we were in California working on new material. We have already played a few of the new songs which will be on the record live but there should be more new tings starting to surface here shortly. For live shows this is going to be a really great year. We won’t be doing as many shows this year however the shows that we are doing are going to be very special.

Crobot discusses touring and their latest album “Something Supernatural”

I first learned about Crobot in September through my wife, who is attending this year’s ShipRocked Cruise, where Crobot is one of the performing bands. She very excitedly forwarded me the link to the band’s video for “No Where to Hide” and informed me that this was the band to watch for. I clicked the link and as the music proceeded, I glanced at my wife and just mouthed out “Wow!”. Mixing in powerful vocals and groove-centric rhythm, “No Where to Hide” immediately grabbed my attention and had me seeking out more songs. It wasn’t long after that night we heard the same tune being belted out on Sirius/XM’s Octane channel. Again, I turned to my wife and just mouthed out “Wow!”.

Oddly enough, the exclamation of “Wow!” has been reiterated on more than one occasion as we spoke with friends that have either seen Crobot live or sampled some of their music. I don’t think that the short reply was one of surprise, rather, an immediate reaction to how the band’s music made them feel. “Wow!” – like watching the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display for the first time, or seeing a fighter land a crushing knockout blow. The music is impact, full of soul and jolts your insides with electricity. Crobot’s “No Where to Hide” is not a one-hit wonder or $15 song, though. Seemingly every track on the quartet’s first release “Something Supernatural” resonates with energy and heart. Power titles like “Skull of Geronimo” mix an in your face metal chorus with extreme funk during the verses. While more subtle, infectious tunes like “La Mano de Lucifer” drag your mind into stoner rock territory, until Brandon Yeagley unleashes a skull splitting vocal assault in the chorus.

On November 7th, Crobot made their way to the Local 662 in St. Petersburg, FL, and I was fortunate to grab some of their time before their performance. I initially didn’t know what to expect, as I first ran into Brandon and Jake Figueroa outside of the venue’s entrance. A little bit of small talk at first, the typical hokey “welcome to Florida” speak. But as we were joined by Chris Bishop and Paul Figueroa, the conversation transitioned very rapidly. I remember the first question Paul asked me was “Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons?”. A short discussion on role playing games quickly dissolved into laughter, and with that, familiarity was set and the interview began.

Eric Schmitt: How did everything come together for the release of “Something Supernatural” and the tour announcement with Volbeat and Anthrax?
Brandon Yeagley: Well, we recorded in November to December of 2013. Feels really good to have it all out there, walk into a record store and see your record on the shelf. It’s pretty awesome. The Anthrax and Volbeat thing we’ve sort of been hearing about for a little while, and that finally solidified too. It’s going to be a great tour for us.
Chris Bishop: It all just sort of happened by chance, too. Announcing the Volbeat tour and our album release. We didn’t plan that – it just turned out that both were on the same day.

ES: A lot of people are currently looking for the lyrics to the songs on “Something Supernatural.” Listening to them (the songs), you can hear that a lot of them seem to tell their own story. Where did the inspiration come from?
BY: In general, it’s a lot of Sci-Fi and Horror flicks growing up as a kid. Listening to Ozzy and Rainbow, Dio, we were fans that grabbed on to that “mystique”. I’m a product of my environment when it comes to that. I look to guys like Neil Fallon of Clutch, probably the best storyteller of our time, I think, as a lyricist. I really take from what he does and put my own spin on that.

ES: So what’s your favorite horror flick?
BY: Army of Darkness. That was always my favorite.
Jake Figueroa: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
ES: Ooh! Going old school, there!
CB: I’d say the Notebook. (Laughter)
Paul Figueroa: I’ve gotta go with Aliens. I was really little when I saw it – I saw it before I saw the original Alien. And I saw it on laserdisc, actually. That’s how long ago I saw Aliens. That scared the crap out of me!

ES: Describe the process the band went through when putting together a song like “La Mano de Lucifer”. That’s pretty intricate both lyrically and musically.
CB: There was a lot of different riffs going into that (song). It started with the verse/groove riff going on and we were sitting in Brandon’s kitchen playing acoustics and we came up with the turn-arounds and transitions. Jumping from 3 to 4, our sort of “War Pigs” intro and bridge we wanted to throw in there. We started jamming it and it went from there.
JF: I think it was originally an 8 or 9 minute song. It had 2 bridges, 2 choruses –
CB: If you think that (the song on the album) was progressive, you should have heard the version before!
JF: It was all over the place, like Mars Volta shit.
PF: With crappier drumming. (Laughter)

ES: What do you guys consider the best part and worst part of touring?
JF: Probably waking up after getting drunk.
BY: That’s the worst, no matter what.
JF: For me, that’s the best and the worst! (Laughter) Some mornings it’s the best.
CB: We just keep the party going.
JF: Others it just sucks.
CB: The shitters sometimes suck.
ES: Is that from a shit or piss perspective?
CB: Shit – I can piss anywhere. Well, I can actually shit anywhere now. I’ve shit in some of the sketchiest places known to man cuz I can shit fast. That’s the talent I’ve got.
PF: You do have a talent for that!
ES: So it’s like a Shit n’ Run?
CB: I build it up to where it’s explosive, then I’m out! (Laughter)
PF: In fact, when anybody shits within 5 minutes, it’s called a “Bishop”.
CB: Yep, I’ve got my own shit.
JF: It’s like Superman goes into a phone booth, drops a hot deuce, then comes right out. He walks in there as Superman, shits, and Clark Kent comes walking out. (Laughter)
PF: The worst part for me is when the tour ends. It’s just like “boo!”. At least that’s how I feel. The best part of the tour? I guess when it starts then. I love it!
BY: The best part is definitely sweating and shaking our dicks every night. Worst part, definitely running out of weed.

ES: If Crobot were given a live action TV show, similar to the Scooby Doo cartoon premise, who would you want to play you and why?
CB: Phil Anselmo would play me. Just because we look alike when I shave my head.
JF: I was thinking about this the other day, something similar. I would go with John Leguizamo.
BY: I’m gonna say Rick James. Maybe the dead version. Zombie Rick James. Yeah! Imagine what he’d have to say? AAAAAHHHHH! (Laughter)
JF: (to Paul) You should totally have Daphne from Scooby Doo play you!
PF: Was she the lesbian chick with the glasses?
ES: I think that was Velma.
JF: That’s who I meant! Velma!
PF: Yeah, we’ll go with that. Cartoon Velma in human form.

ES: What are you guys looking forward to with upcoming shows like Kink Festival in Orlando and ShipRocked?
JF: Things like Kink Fest I always look forward to because there’s always a little tent where you can get some free booze and everyone pretty much runs around like a madman.
CB: Meaning Jake usually runs around like a madman. (Laughter)
JF: That’s an odd setting where nobody really complains about it, so I like that.
CB: Definitely ShipRocked is going to be awesome. We have a bunch of other stuff coming up that we can’t announce yet, but ShipRocked is definitely going to be awesome. I went to the Bahamas once when I was like 10 years old, that was the last time I was there. I got all my money stolen on the fucking ship. Well, here’s the story – I went with my friend and his grandmother and she had all the cash together. When she was in the casino, she apparently left her purse and when she came back all of her money was stolen. Maybe she gambled it away, I don’t know.
PF: I’m definitely looking forward to that Volbeat/ Anthrax tour. Those will be the biggest venues we’ve ever played at. I don’t think there’s anything I’m not looking forward to. We just have lots of awesomeness going on.
BY: Yeah, what he said. Tomorrow is going to be awesome!
PF: Actually, tomorrow is going to be awesome. The day after, not so much – we have to drive home.

There is a stark contrast between the personalities of Crobot when they hit the stage from when we were conducting the interview. The shit talk (literally) is gone; replaced by four musicians who love to perform. The set list for the performance mirrors the tracks on “Something Supernatural” and the opener, “Legend of the Space Born Killer” immediately injected a tremendous amount of energy to the crowd of the Local 662. Many of these patrons had not heard or seen Crobot perform live before, but were on their feet grooving along. The front of the stage was inhabited by fans of the band who were not averse to reciting the lyrics and getting down with the constant movement of Chris, Brandon and Jake.

By the time the band had reached their radio hit “No Where to Hide,” the crowd was frenzied by the performance. Musically, vocally and physically, you can’t helped but get caught up in the performance. Crobot seemingly telepathically transmits their passion for the music to its audience, and I have to say, it’s easy to start shouting lyrics, stomping feet and throwing your hands in the air during a chorus. It’s as if we were attending a roadside tent revival, and for that night our God was a dirty funk quartet delivering one of the sickest musical performances ever witnessed. Song after song, beat after beat, lyric after lyric, the crowd remained energized and wanting more.

After their performance, the band exited the stage and headed directly towards their merchandise table. They greeted fans both old an new with the same playfulness exhibited during the performance, taking time to speak and take pictures with everyone. It’s very easy to fall in love with the music and the personalities of the bands’ members, two characteristics that will undoubtedly push Crobot quickly towards success. I honestly left the Local 662 that night feeling like I had just spoke to and witnessed greatness in the making. I can only imagine that this was the feeling people got after interviewing the likes of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin early in their careers.

John Waite discusses his new album “Best”

March 13, 1979. A group of friends and I are at the Lakeland (Florida) Civic Center to take in a concert by STYX. The opening band that night is The Baby’s, fronted by singer/songwriter John Waite. As the concert begins, I meet a young lady who surprisingly takes a keen interest in me. As a gentleman never reveals his secrets, I’ll just say that every time I hear the song “Every Time I Think of You”…I think of her.

I recount this story to John Waite as we meet up to talk about his long musical career and the new release of “BEST,” an 18-song collection of Waite’s favorite songs, both as a member of the Babys and Bad English as well as his successful solo career, which includes the huge #1 hit “Missing You.”

Mike Smith: Why did you feel that now was the right time to release a “Best of” collection?
John Waite: Last year I put out an amazing live album. It shook me at how amazingly true it was. It was one of my greatest wishes to be able to put out an album like that while I was still able to sing the way I sing. Having done that I became aware of what songs were included on the live album and wished there were more. To make a long story short, I went to a photography exhibition by Richard Avedon on accident at Christmas. I went and stared at this wall of photos and wondered what they would sound like with music. To see this collection of his favorite photos not only planted the seed…it kicked me up the ass! I went back to England for Christmas with my sketch book and just made notes over a two week period. And then I hit the ground running. I re-cut “Back on My Feet Again” because I thought I could sing it better. I had only written it three hours before I first sang it all those years ago. I wanted to do it “stripped down,” as most of my music is now. I wanted to do it very “spar.” And I’ve always wanted another crack at “Missing You,” because I think it’s a great song. And I think it really has a lot in it when it has “less” in it. It’s a true child of the 80’s for sure…it’s a “singles” mix.

MS: How long did it take you to decide what songs you wanted to include?
JW: I went into the project with 18 songs in mind. Well, 17 really. There is an acoustic song called “I’m Ready” which is just me playing the guitar. It’s a song about reincarnation and I was hesitant about putting it on. But it was so much “me” and so much about my roots. It’s a sweet song, really. And then there are songs like “Bluebird Café” that maybe got away from people. These are the songs I felt were my best. They were the ones that always stuck out to me like a sore thumb and they’re the ones that I like the best. I rang up a friend of mine who played bass and asked him “should I put on this song…should I put on that song” and he said “what are you asking me for…just put on your best!” That was the opinion I got and that was the opinion I took. It’s my life…this is who I am.

MS: Do you have a personal favorite among your own songs?
JW: I think “Bluebird Café” is great because it’s just me and a guitar, with a little violin in the back somewhere. It’s a story. And I like story songs. Those are my roots. I grew up with Western-songs (NOTE: rock and roll, blues – NOT country and western). A song like “Suicide Life” is dark. A really dark song. But it’s also a true story in some ways. It’s my take of being in the belly of Hollywood at night. It’s about the people that inhabit the streets…the ones behind the neon. The society of people that take over when no one is looking. I love singing that song too. All the songs I’ve put on there are ones I love singing the most. So in answering your question, maybe that’s why all 18 songs are on there. They’re the ones that are closest to my heart.

MS: I guess it’s almost like asking a parent which child is his favorite.
JW: Yeah, yeah…absolutely. These are the ones that I’ve put the most heart in to. I wanted to explain where I come from. And the live section features the band playing the living shit out of the songs (laughs). And then there is the duet (NOTE: Waite duets with Allison Krauss on a new version of “Missing You”) which I thought was a great way for the album to go out. I’m very happy with it…it was a very satisfying project. It’s left me looking at my work and knowing what it meant. And it makes me excited to start a new record. I’ve got enough new songs that I could go into the studio today. But I’m putting it off because this record is occupying my time now. I’m sure I could go in and knock it out in two weeks as most of it is going to be acoustic. It’s going to be a very interesting record.

MS: If the album is successful, can you find another 18 songs for a ‘BEST: PART 2”?
JW: No, I wouldn’t do that. These are the songs. I went and re-recorded the ones I felt needed to be re-recorded. I wanted to show off the band, playing live. That is something you’re not going to get, at a high degree, on a “greatest hits” record. There’s the duet…there are some current songs. It’s my take on ME. Like I said, I asked my friend the bass player and this is what I want. It’s like the Richard Avedon photo exhibition. Those were his favorites…his best. I think it would be a bit boring trying to do Volume 2.

MS: What do you have coming up? I know you said you hope to record again shortly. Are you touring this year?
JW: Yes, we’ve gotten a few gigs in this year and we’ve done quite well, actually. The response has been “5 star” caliber reviews. And I’m very pleased with that. Especially with playing the acoustic songs. We have 10 gigs on the book now and we should be done with them by the end of next month. And hopefully we’ll double that or triple that. I just want to keep playing. And then there’s the next album. I think now is the right time to begin it.

MS: Well I hope you make it here to the Midwest. I’ve seen you a few times over the years and you never disappoint.
JW: Thank you. Apparently I’m good luck for you. (laughs and then begins singing) “Every time I think of you…..”

MS: Exactly! When you’re 17 or 18, that’s a memory that stays with you for the rest of your life!
JW: 17 is a magical age. I think it was my favorite year. 17 was the big one!

Lenny Abrahamson discusses “What Richard Did” and “Frank”

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s third feature, What Richard Did, made a great stateside impression when it premiered last month at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival check out our review here and is currently on a limited release here at Cinema Village. Now back in Ireland, Abrahamson took some time out of post-production on his next feature, Frank, to speak to me in further detail on What Richard Did.

Lauren Damon: How was your experience at the Tribeca?
Lenny Abrahamson: It was really good! The film, you know seemed to go down well and we got quite a lot of good press and so generally very pleased with it.

LD: Between the festival, onDemand and now this New York engagement, What Richard Did is getting all different sorts of exposure, any thoughts on that?
LA: I mean it’s a very small release but it’s great because I suppose it has a chance to grow if people like it and maybe it gets taken by arthouse cinemas in other towns and also it’ll be reviewed. So that’s all very important…I’ve made three films, this is the first one that’s had a release in the states and I think you know, it’s great. it’s such an important place to have your films seen. And I like Tribeca as a company as well, they look after you pretty well. I think it’s a good name to be associated with.

LD: Were your first two features also Irish dramas?
LA: They were dramas…and they’d been very successful over this side–certainly critically very successful..Both the first two films won British Evening Standard Film Awards and so they’ve actually done well. It’s just that they’re very–the first two films are very, in terms of like accent and demographic, they’re probably tough for an American audience and because of that you find American cinema exhibitors are really frightened of strong accents. Whereas What Richard Did is more of a middle-class milieu and that makes it I think a bit easier. But they’ve been onDemand and they’ve aired on the Independent Film Channel and that sort of stuff and you know, both were in Toronto and the first film was in Telluride. So they’ve existed in the states, they just never got distribution.
What Richard Did tells the story of a middle class teenager (played by Jack Reynor) who, in a drunken brawl, accidentally kills a romantic rival at a summer party. As Richard, Reynor does a spectacular job at playing an otherwise good-natured teen dealing with the crushing guilt of his life-altering action. This includes a tearful confession to his father.

LD: Jack Reynor told me that you made a lot of on-set decisions with the confession scene, how did that change the film?
LA: Yea, well the peak of the scene is when Richard blurts out that he’s responsible for the killing…and that was never in the script. I mean we changed a lot in the script anyway and the script itself was evolving through the writing process. But you know, once you start shooting a film you just test. You just immediately have to respond to how the stuff feels and you have to look at it. You can’t just stick rigidly to some kind of pre-existing plan and I always like to allow things to evolve. But in that scene particularly, it just felt on the day that there was something sort of bursting to get out in the scene. It happened quite organically, we just kept working on it, working on it, working on it. Shooting it, shooting it, shooting it, until we just felt that Richard had to…in the moment where his guard is down because he’s being held by his father and everything that that means, he allows himself to dissolve a little bit…he becomes more of a boy again. And so he just goes that last little bit and lets it all out in that belief that he has in the instant that this will be cathartic. But it’s not cathartic, it’s dreadful. And it just felt, on the day that felt absolutely right. I can be quite skeptical about you know, people talk about scenes that affect the crew and you know, ‘the whole set really felt something had happened’ and I always think those scenes aren’t great, you know. There’s a kind of illusion that if it feels powerful, it must be amazing and sometimes it’s not. But actually that was one case where it really did feel very strong and it translated onto screen.

LD: Then you also have Richard having a physical breakdown on his own, what was it like on set for that?
LA: We did that–there was always a scene in the script and it didn’t specify in the script really what happened, it was just talked about. I always had this image of Richard on his hands and knees having just woken up in a sort of panic. But while we were shooting we just never got a chance, just given the schedule, we never got a chance to attack that scene really properly. So I decided I would go back after we finished principle photography…Halfway through the cut we went back out to the location and we spent the day there. And I think the way we worked on it was just to develop a kind of physical shape to the scene…I’m a great believer of acting from the outside-in…So rather than talking endlessly about what he was feeling, we just got to a kind of really heightened physical state. And then that brought with it a kind of mental component and Jack found it that way. I mean some actors are different, some actors can think themselves into that state but I tend to feel that starting physically is a–it’s like you know if you kind of intensely enter into the shape of the action. Then a lot of times the kind of interior part comes with it…And we shot it about three times on two cameras, it was really exhausting for Jack. You can tell in the scene. It really felt very good and I think it’s a really important scene in the film.

LD: Did you find yourself wanting the audience to sympathize with Richard through all of this?
LA: Yeah, I mean my sort of view is that we’re all capable of doing sort of awful things and very very few of us are the sort with the kind of bravery you’d need to admit to it if you had the chance of getting away with it. So I would like them to empathize with him just like one should empathize with any other human being I would think. You know, anybody who isn’t a monster. And Richard certainly isn’t a monster. But another way of answering that question is to say I don’t think it’s the director’s job in a film like this to tell people how to feel at all. I think that the important thing is to try to render the situation as truthfully and in as much detail and as much kind of natural veracity as you can achieve…And then if you do that, you allow audiences to enter into that world and then to feel about as they do. I mean of course you make decisions when you cast somebody like Jack, you know there’s instantly kind of warm about him. But there’s also in the way that he played Richard, there are darker aspects too…It’s worth saying that audiences have and audiences will react differently to him. Some people say to me “God, you know, he was chilling and you really did that really well.” And then other people say “He was so beautiful and I cared so much about him and you did that really well” So I think all you can do is try to penetrate as kind of truthfully and deeply as you can as a director. And give as rich an encounter with that world as you can and then you let it go and you let the audience kind of position their own decision inside it.

LD: Did you audition many young actors for Richard?
LA: We did audition a lot of actors for Richard but Jack you know, he just has a certain presence. He’s just absolutely right for that part. When I saw him for the first time, I sort of knew that that would be it. And then we started to adjust the film to fit him, to fit Jack as a person so that we could allow Richard and Jack to overlap. But I didn’t, it wasn’t a hard decision to cast him. I mean it was he’s such an unusually poised young actor. He’s from the right background, he understood the story really well. He knew kids like that. He went to one of those schools. And he’s a really fine actor, I can’t imagine the film working if we hadn’t found him.

LD: Now Jack is going to be in the next Transformers film, were you around him at all when he got that part?
LA: He had said to me that you know, he got had an agent…and then that didn’t work out. He’d been out to the states and he said he was going to go back again…give it another shot. And we were in Toronto together when he was talking about that and I was trying to advise him not to! Because I thought, you know, like so many young actors he would go out there and just get swallowed up. And he had no money and he just had a place to stay just about. I was trying to persuade him he should spend more time in London, but he said to me ‘Look, my plan is to go out to Hollywood and get a three-picture deal…’ I just thought he was deluded! Not that he’s not a great actor. That just doesn’t happen. People are going out there everyday–hordes of kids are arriving there every day and it’s just the reality and the dream are very different. But yea, Jack called me and said ‘I’ve just been cast in Transformers, it’s for a three-picture deal’ and I just thought ‘Well there ya go!’ [Laughs] What do I know? And I’m really delighted for him. Aiming for an autumn release is Abrahamson’s next feature, Frank, which sees Michael Fassbender donning a cartoonish facemask to play an eccentric leader of a band alongside Domhnall 2Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

LD: Where are you with Frank now?
LA: We’re kind of hopefully about six weeks away from locking picture and after that it’s just lots and lots of sound work and music work and that. Exciting.

LD: Is this based on the character of Frank Sidebottom?
LA: That’s the thing, the history of the project. Jon Ronson one of the writers was in the Frank Sidebottom band back in the eighties and that’s how this idea began. But actually the character in our film isn’t Frank Sidebottom anymore. So we’ve just made him up. He’s an American instead of a guy from Manchester. He’s a real musician…He’s not–the original Frank Sidebottom was a kind of alter ego, a kind of comedy persona of this guy, so they’re very different. But there is a kind of visual similarity in that Frank Sidebottom wore a head not a million miles away from the head that Fassbender wears in this film. But it’s a totally imagined film.

LD: What was the casting process like on this film?
LA: Like any film it’s a bit of an adventure when you start. I certainly didn’t anticipate–I mean I was delighted to have Michael in it, he’s fantastic. He’s such a great actor and he’s such a fascinating actor because…there’s a kind of energy, a kind of intensity that comes over. And it comes over in Frank despite the fact that he’s wearing a mask. And you still know it’s him and there’s still that kind of quality to what he does. And having him, it helped us get the rest of the cast to be so great. I mean Domhnall Gleeson who’s a superb young actor and he’s destined for really big things and then Maggie as well who’s amazing you know, really very courageous in what she’s doing in the film. So yeah, it was quite an adventure…

It was a really happy shoot and I think the cast really enjoyed it. And that’s not always the case. You know there was a great sense of camaraderie and a real community at the center of the film and I think the best thing about it is the actors really gel together like a band…What you’re going to hear in the film is what they played on the day. The music is all recorded live. So they actually do work as a band. And that was very exciting.

LD: So the cast did they’re own musical performances?
LA: They sing, they play instruments…it’s the real thing… Michael sings, he plays guitar. Domhnall plays keyboard, sings and Maggie plays crazy synthesizers and sings. And then you have Carla Azar who’s a superb drummer in a band called Autolux she plays with. She also plays with Jack White. So she’s the drummer. And then this brilliant young French actor called Francois Civil who just happens to be a great bass player as well. It made the casting really hard because we wanted to cast people who were musical and who could really play instead of having them mime to playback. Which you can tell when that’s happening by watching. So to get a bunch of people who are great actors but also musicians was a really tricky but I think we managed.

LD: Did the mask on Michael stay on throughout shooting?
LA: No! No, I think he would of died if he had to leave the head on [laughs]…It’s really funny, I’ve been cutting the film now for a while and after a while you’re just working with cut sequences. So you’re not looking at rushes anymore, you’re not looking at you know every take from the beginning to the end so I’ll go through the whole day of you know with the editor and we’ll just be looking at him with the head on but every so often we have to look back to the rushes and look for you know an alternate take or something and then you see him, he takes the head off after “cut” and you think ‘Oh Christ, yes, Fassbender!’ you know? You’ve sort of forgotten that he’s there because the character really works…You really believe the character, you forget he’s there. But yea, I think it took some getting used to and we designed the head around–you know it’s specifically designed for him, but it was hard. Visibility was really poor–and he’s running and doing all sorts of stuff in the film so it’s quite an achievement.

What Richard Did is currently on a limited NYC engagement at Cinema Village as well as onDemand. Check back with Media Mikes this fall for more on “Frank”.