Singer Michael Monroe Talks New Compilation Album “The Best”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singer Amy Lee of Evanescence talks about her new single “Speak to Me”

Amy Lee is the co-founder/lead singer for the Grammy Award winning rock group Evanescence. Lee has also participated in numerous other musical projects and has performed as a solo artist. Amy’s latest release is for the film “Voice From the Stone” starring Emilia Clarke and Marton Csokas. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Amy recently about the film, her experience at Skywalker Ranch and what’s in-store for Evanescence this year.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your new single “Speak to Me”?

Amy Lee: This was quite different for me. Writing a song comes from a lot of different places. This one has a really cool and unique story. It was written for the film “Voice From the Stone” which I got to actually see before writing the song. I really loved the film as it made feel so many different things. Being a new mother I was really able to connect with the film main theme as it centers on the bond between mother and son. For me to watch that and relate it to the new huge inspiration in my life I instantly knew it was something I wanted to do. I spoke on the phone with the film’s director Eric Howell and Michael Wandmacher the films composer and we had a great talk about the directional idea and once we were off the phone I went straight to the piano and came up with the initial idea. That doesn’t always happen with me. Sometimes I can go months waiting for an idea to come that I feel is good enough to move forward with. Working on this track was a very inspiring experience.

AL: Were you basing your idea on a portion of the films score or
was it something completely separate from that?

Amy: When I saw the film the score was there but it wasn’t completely finished. They weren’t looking for me to do anything related to the score. They wanted me to write the one and only song in the film which has lyrics. It was helpful to see the visuals and hear some of what was going on as it helped me envision the finished product.

AL: Was this your first time writing for a film?

Amy: I have actually written quite a few things for movies however, most of the time it hasn’t made it through all of the different doors you have to go through to get to the final product. (Laughs) There have been several things that have made it though. In 2014 I did my first score which was a much bigger undertaking as opposed to doing just one song when I worked with David Eggar on the movie “War Story”. There’s another film titled “Blind” coming out later this year that I worked on the score for as well. My experience working on this latest film was very unique as I was able to travel to Italy and visit the filming locations and I was also invited out to Skywalker Ranch in California while they were mastering parts of the film. That was just a dream come true!

AL: Do you ever find differences between writing solo/Evanescence material and music for films?

Amy: Definitely. When I am writing for Evanescence or for my solo stuff and I am writing something that is supposed to represent me. I have these expectations I set for myself to ensure that whatever I do represents who I am. From the lyrics to the music I want it to showcase me. Luckily there are lots of sides of who we are so I get the chance to go down a lot of roads. When you are writing for something like a movie where you are trying to represent the emotions of a character you have to put yourself in that place and try to speak artistically from that view point. Even though it’s someone else’s emotions you are their voice and vehicle. This is different but it’s a nice change as you are allowed to make other choices

AL: What was it like being able to work at Skywalker Ranch?

Amy: After showing my idea to everyone a couple days after our initial talk and them really liking it I was invited to the Ranch to record. I had never been away from my son at the time as he was only thirteen months old. I had to really think about things as it was such a great opportunity but living in New York I would have to fly across the country to California and leave my baby for the first time ever. We hadn’t even had just a single overnight away from one another at this point. After deciding to do it things really couldn’t have been more perfect. Being away put me emotionally in the right place to write the song as I was dealing with separation which was something the song needed. It was just perfect. The ranch is such a great place for creation. There recording studio is the most immaculate place I have ever seen. I actually stayed there and when you are a guest you get stay in your own private cottage with a bike you can ride from place to place on. The one night I was there I had this idea in the middle of the night so I rode my bike down to the studio and just started working. It was the perfect free space to work. Any chance I get to work there again I will certainly take it.

AL: Can you give us an update on your solo work and what is going on with Evanescence?

Amy: About a month ago I released a new solo song called “What Exists”. Looking at my solo releases I feel like I have released more than I actually have. (Laughs) I certainly feel like I have done a lot. I have done a lot of covers. Doing covers is something you can put your own style to without the pressure of having to write a song. I did some of those covers for Disney a few years back. Evanescence has started touring again and we are gearing up to start next month. We will be in South America for a few weeks then we go to Europe. We are working on a bigger project right now which I can’t talk about just yet but we will be releasing something this year. I am very excited!

AL: Any other projects you would like to mention that you have been working on?

Amy: I worked on the score for an independent film titled “Blind”. The film stars Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore. I am not sure of the exact release date for it but I believe it should be coming out this summer, possibly fall. It was a different type of project for me. I didn’t do the soundtrack but as there was a need for music David Eggar would call me. It’s a very different film than “War Story”. For me it’s really fun to be able to work on different things as I get to learn about different genres of music or how to play a different way. There are different feelings which come along with all of that. It’s great to be able to find new collaborators and projects as you are giving yourself the space and a reason to try new things which I think can only be good for you.

Country singer Hudson Moore talks about new movie “Sweetwater”

If Hudson Moore had his way he’d be making movies. After three years as a film major at the University of Texas he put his love for films on hold to follow another passion: music. The 22-year old native Texan has since opened for such major acts as ZZ Top, Trace Adkins, Alan Jackson and Rascal Flatts. This week he takes another step in his career with the release this week of the new film “Sweetwater,” starring Ed Harris and January Jones. Moore was given the chance to write an original song for the film and jumped at it. While on tour (his next stop is in Lubbock, Texas – the birthplace of Buddy Holly – on October 18), Hudson took some time to talk with Media Mikes about music, hard work and the opportunities of sitting off stage.

Mike Smith: What is it inside that made you want to pursue music as more than a hobby? Where did the passion come from to decide to make it a career?
Hudson Moore: First you definitely have to have the passion for it, obviously. You have to love it. Second you have to have the determination to work hard…to make it work. There are so many talented people out there. It often comes down to your work effort, your grit and your perseverance. Anybody who has done this knows it’s not an easy road. It’s a hard road…it’s a long road. But it can be very rewarding. I’m a firm believer in that if you work hard enough at something you’ll eventually succeed at it. That’s my view. It can take some time. Some people blow up right away. Some can take thirty years to get recognition. It’s a gamble.

MS: Can you remember when you wrote your first song?
HM: I do. I wrote my first song when I was sixteen years old. My first full song.

MS: Early this year the Country Music Academy named you one of the artists who is “New To Watch” in country music. As a musician at the beginning of his career does that put a little pressure on you when you perform?
HM: You can’t really put too much stock in those things. I’m always flattered whenever anyone says kind things about me. But honestly, I just keep on moving down the road. But as an artist I think I do perform better under pressure. It can be good for you. You have to raise the bar and be your best. So honestly, I enjoy being in the spotlight and having that pressure to perform.

MS: You’ve opened for some major acts – from ZZ Top to Rascal Flatts. When you’re done with your set do you stand backstage and watch them as a fan or do you study them as a fellow performer?
HM: I watch them as a fan! Some of the bands I’ve opened up for I’ve really admired. ZZ Top…Alan Jackson…Rascal Flatts. Then there are the Texas guys, like the Eli Young Band. For me I enjoy the show and I get great exposure. And I do sit back and watch and try to learn all I can about being an entertainer and how I can become a better performer. It’s almost like a master class. I get to sit beside the stage and watch these great bands do their thing. It’s a real blessing.

MS: You contributed an original song (“The Cold, Gray Light of Dawn”) to the new film “Sweetwater.” How does that process work? Do they give you a script…show you the movie…?
HM: My brother, Tucker, is a producer on the film and he called me and asked me if I would write an original song for the film and I said, “sure.” That’s something I’d always wanted to do. He gave me a rough cut of the film on DVD and I watched it with my friend Wally Wilson, who helped me write the song. We watched it in a motel room in Austin, Texas while we were out of town. We had a week to write the song, record it, master it and get it to the director so it was really a time crunch. We watched the film and, honestly, within an hour and a half, we had our song. It was one of those days were everything was kind of lining up. We were so inspired by the film that the song kind of wrote itself.

MS: What are you working on next?
HM: I have a new album coming out next month called “True Love.” It’s something I’ve been working on for a while now when I haven’t been touring and I’m excited to get it out. I’m also writing songs in Nashville and at home in Texas for my third album. So I’m putting an album out, working on the next one and touring. It’s busy but that’s the way I like it.

To hear Hudson Moore’s music or to see him on tour, go to http://hudsonmoore.net/home/

Country singer, JT Hodges chats about his debut self-titled album

JT Hodges is a country singer known best for his singles “Hunt You Down” and “Goodbyes Make You Mine”. He recently released his debut self-titled album and is hitting the road soon touring. Media Mikes got a chance to chat with JT again about this debut album and the inspiration behind it.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how it feels to finally have this album released?
JT Hodges: It is a breath of fresh air, for one. You spend the whole year working a few different singles that is all that people have to go by. I have said from the beginning that if you are fan or not of this song, wait till the record comes out. I feel that there is a song for everyone on the record. It is very diverse and I just don’t do one thing. What I do though is all within the frame of the style. It’s what I have been doing over the years and will only to continue to grow and expand from it. I am just happy the first album is out and people can decide for themselves what they like.

MG: I thought “Hunt You Down” was a great track but I think you outdid youself with each track on the album.
JH: Well dude, that means a lot man!. In the world we have today everything is subjective but if the majority of the comments are positive, that is always great to hear.

MG: Has any of this CD release madness been overwhelming at all for you?
JH: No, I really love it. Thank God for social media. I have made a lot of great friends in radio. Radio has really kind to me. We have been lucky to get a few songs out there already. I just love all the social media and a good way for me to get the word out.

MG: When we last spoke in October of 2011 you mentioned “Hunt You Down” was found on Beale street, tell us about where the rest of the album was discovered?
JH: Honestly if we had all day I could do through each song and tell you. Really a lot of them are going back to almost 10 years ago. When I was in thee writers room, just thinking about a mood and it transports you back to a specific time in your life and different situations. That probably means that you are going to write a real song that day. The majority of the songs on the record really bared that process for me. There are also some observation songs like “Sleepy Little Town”. It was just an image for me just driving through this small town. There are a lot of things that go a little astray in life and we deal with them. That song is just three separate stories exposing secrets that everyone finds out about since they are in this small town. All across the board with the record, each track is very personal to me. When you are writing a record you realize that you are not the only one going through heartbreak or have some hard times. You find out you are not only writing it for yourself but also for your listener.

MG: What do you think will be the next single for this album?
JH: The next single is “Sleepy Little Town”. It is going to be released to radio on September 10th.

MG: Are you hitting the road soon and if so where and with you?
JH: We have got a few potential tour plans. Fingers crossed those are going to work out. A lot of the shows are being booked for the Fall. I traveled the country this year and played a lot of show. We are building one fan at a time and having a blast doing it.

Monkees singer Davy Jones dead at age 66.

On February 9, 1964, over 40% of America was tuned into the “Ed Sullivan Show.” There they were treated to an English musical guest that, a few years later, would become one of the biggest teen idols of all time. No, it wasn’t the Beatles (though they were on the show as well). It was 18 year old Davy Jones, who was appearing on the show along with the cast of the musical “Oliver!”

Born on December 30, 1945 in Lancashire, England, Jones began acting at the age of 11 and, in 1961, began appearing in the long running television soap opera “Coronation Street.” That was the first year of the show which is STILL running 51 years later. When his mother passed away he left acting and began training as a jockey. He was 14.

A friend of his trainer recommended Jones to a friend who was looking for young boys to appear in the musical “Oliver!” Jones was hired and soon found himself starring as the Artful Dodger. He later reprised the role when the show came to Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination. Based on his appearance on the Sullivan show Jones was signed to a contract with Screen Gems. A few television appearances followed as did a few independently released singles.

Being under contract proved helpful for Jones when, in 1965, the studio began a search for “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” The studio already had Jones in mind. Musicians from all over came to audition. Among those who didn’t make it: Stephen Stills and Harry Nillson. It’s also been rumored that Charles Manson auditioned but later checking showed he was in prison at the time. Along with Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, Jones became a part of The Monkees, television’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles. The show ran for only two seasons (it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Program in year one) but the band kept recording, in various phases, until 1971. The Monkees sold more then 65 million albums and singles. Jones sang lead on such hits as “Daydream Believer,” “Valerie” and “I Wanna Be Free.”

After the Monkees disbanded Jones continued to act and record. He also reunited with the Monkees for several reunion tours. I saw the band, sans Nesmith, in 1986 and had the good fortune of meeting the band and having several albums signed. I also saw him on stage as Vince Fontaine in a touring production of “Grease.” Younger generations may know Jones from his vocal work on “Spongebob Squarepants” or his appearance in “The Brady Bunch Movie.” In the late 1960s another singer named David Jones decided to change his name to avoid confusion. We know him today as David Bowie.

Jones is survived by his third wife, Jessica, and four daughters.